She realized that time had gotten away from her; she was long overdue to be back at Duncan’s side. Aurora hadn’t even made it to within sight of the gate when someone shouted, “Witch! The one that got away!” and she was cut off from the safety of the castle. These were supposed to be her people, but she didn’t think they wanted to hear that.
Aurora turned to run the other way; perhaps if she could get around the crowd, she could duck into some small, dark place to hide and after the fervor calmed down, she could recast the spell. She felt fingers at her back, trying to get hold of her hair. She put on a burst of speed and managed to gain ground. Time and again, she had to switch directions to get away from the ever-growing mob. She glanced over her shoulder as she rounded the end of the building and into a main street when she collided with the solid mass that was Duncan… and he was angry.
She wrapped her arms around him. “Duncan.” She felt tears of relief sting her eyes.
One hand wrapped her in his embrace while the other connected sharply with her backside.
“Aye,” he growled.
Before he could say much more, the crowd converged on them. Aurora heard and saw the men who accompanied them draw their weapons as Duncan pushed her behind him. The crowd had them surrounded.
“What cause do you have to harass my mate?” he challenged.
“She’s a witch! She’s to burn.”
Duncan snorted. “Hardly. She burns for me, but no other. And your lady is no witch, she is a sorceress from a long line of magick wielders. Ask yourselves if she meant to injure you, why did she do nothing to harm anyone when she escaped or when you chased her?”
“They say you have turned her to become dragon and the legends say she will lose her powers,” called a man from the outer fringe of the mob.
“Then she could have burned all of you.” Duncan let that sit before continuing, “She has never raised a hand to any of you except to help and yet you condemn her because some of your crops failed? Some of those who didn’t seek her help died? You had a poor day fishing? Aurora had nothing to do with that and when a boy was badly injured, she saved his life even as his mother cursed her. The healer says without Aurora’s help, the boy would have died.”
“Maybe she caused the injury to play you false,” called another heckler.
Duncan shook his head. “If you will allow your fear to rule over reason, then fear me,” he said as he shifted from man to dragon and sent a plume of fire into the sky, causing the entire crowd to move back. “Aurora is my true heart; my mate.”
“But she tried to kill you…”
“Drakaina are often fractious when first mated. They are strong, proud, and willful and take some time and taming to settle into their role but settle she will.”
Just as swiftly and smoothly as he had shifted from man to dragon, he returned to his human form and donned a kilt that was proffered by Angus. Turning his back on the angry crowd, he tossed Aurora over his shoulder and landed another resounding blow to her bottom before striding up to the castle. When she tried to protest his treatment of her, his response was to swat her again—each blow being more painful than the last.
He marched through their keep, up the main staircase, and down the hallway. Shoving the door to their chambers open, he unceremoniously dumped her onto their bed before returning to the door and closing it.
“Have you no common sense?” he bellowed.
Aurora rolled off the bed so that it stood as a barrier between them.
“I will not be made your prisoner or your whore!” she snarled.
“My what? When have I ever made you feel that you were anything less than my mate? Did someone in the village call you that?”
“Why shouldn’t they?” she cried, not sure why she was so angry with him or what it was she wanted from him. “You wake up and see a woman and your first thought was to slake your lust.”
“Slake my lust?” he chuckled, enraging her further. “You seem to have forgotten, my drakaina, that when first we met, you had a dragon fire-forged blade and sought my death. My first thought was to ensure my survival. It was only after seeing the beauty of my would-be assassin and scenting her arousal that I sought to take her beneath me and make her mine.”
“Don’t you laugh at me,” she said, trying to thrust him away with magick.
It failed, as she knew it would. She was not able to call upon her power as she would have with anyone other than Duncan. It was frustrating and vexing—her magick had been a part of her from the day she was born.
“That is enough, Aurora,” he commanded, his amusement fading. “You have openly challenged the authority of your lord and master, and you will pay the price for your disobedience. What would you have done had I not rescued you from the mob?”
“I would have defended myself or cast a spell that allowed me to elude them. Unlike you, there is nothing to prevent me from using my magick against them.”
“Unfortunately for you, your magick can do nothing against your true heart. And as I am he and deem you in need of correction, we will see to your punishment before we join our people for the evening meal. You will conduct yourself in accordance with your role as my mate and the lady of this castle.”
Duncan was far quicker than a man his size should be. Instead of walking around the bed to get to her, he simply stepped up onto the bed and walked across it, sitting down on the edge and pulling her across his hard thighs. Aurora struggled and tried to squirm her way off his lap. He merely pinned her in place before drawing her skirt up to expose her backside. He rubbed it affectionately before bringing his hand down in a decidedly harsh manner, the first strike sending waves of heat and pain radiating out from the actual site of the impact.
His hand came down repeatedly, covering her entire backside. She wriggled and wailed but couldn’t make him stop; trying to ward off the blows only made him catch her hands and pin them behind her back. Nothing she did even caused a break in the rhythm of the punishment he seemed intent on inflicting. Duncan’s hand delivered blow after stinging blow. Duncan had spanked her before, but this time it felt different. The other times had only been physical; this was far more intense and deeply felt.
Over and over his hand descended on her bottom, forcing her to abandon her stoicism and cry out. Aurora realized that each swat increased the pain exponentially… it continued to build upon itself until all the fear from being chased by the mob and anger at Duncan and at Burkis fled, and in its place feeling, and with it need, blossomed. She continued to squirm and fight, but realized her fighting was futile and that Duncan would punish her as he deemed fit and proper.
Finally, he paused and loosened his grip. Aurora was able to twist around so she was on her back and threw a punch, connecting with his nose with a satisfying crack. Duncan roared, more with outrage than pain. He pulled her up as he stood and retaliated by tossing her onto her belly on the bed. Rucking her skirt back up above her waist, he slapped her ass with even more sting, pinning her arms behind her in the small of her back, effectively trapping her. He slipped his hand between her legs and penetrated her already pulsing core with two fingers.
Aurora gasped but wasn’t sure if it was in indignation or arousal. She hoped it was the former, but feared it was the latter. She had trouble justifying how wildly aroused she became each time he spanked her.
“Aurora,” he groaned.
“Duncan… please,” she whimpered, throwing caution and pride to the wind and capitulating to a need that had been smoldering since the moment she had collided with him in the village and that had burst into a bright flame as he spanked her.
Stepping behind her, he spread her legs as she arched her back, offering herself to him. From the corner of her eye, she could see him lifting his kilt out of the way and knew she should protest… do something to stop this, but she couldn’t find it within herself to do so. She was more turned on than she’d ever been, and she desperately wanted Duncan to finish what he’d started. Spreading her legs, he guided his cock to the entrance of her sheath and then surged forward, completely engulfing himself in her warmth, moaning as he did so.
Aurora whined softly and winced from the contact his groin made with her punished ass.
“You’d better learn that this is what happens to naughty drakaina who get their bottoms spanked and then their pussies fucked. This isn’t the first time I’ve taken you with a bright red backside, and it damn sure won’t be the last.”
Duncan thrust into her in a powerful rhythm that made her inner walls shake and quiver. She tried to understand how she could find his spanking her so arousing that she took such intense pleasure from his treatment. She tried to convince herself that it was wrong. But something at the back of her mind whispered that it wasn’t and that she knew it wasn’t. Aurora knew she needed him in a way she had never needed anything else in her life. As her own breathing sped up, she could hear Duncan grunting from the exertion and pleasure he was both taking and giving. She felt her pussy trembling and contracting all up and down his length as her climax crashed down on her.
Duncan didn’t let up, didn’t let her recover from the enormity of what he was doing. He continued thrusting in and out of her and demanding she surrender to his dominant possession. He withdrew almost completely from her heated sheath and she felt the dragon’s tongue separate from his cock and steal its way up to her bottom hole, penetrating her there. Burkis had said this was wrong, but how could it be when it felt so right?
Aurora began to pant as Duncan settled into a strong rhythm with both portions of his staff—the main column and the ridge that separated from it. Any control of her response was removed as she approached the edge of another climax. As she tumbled into the abyss, Duncan stroked her faster and harder. Giving one last brutal thrust with his cock as the dragon’s tongue embedded itself into her most tender flesh, he sent her careening over the edge, screaming in ecstasy as both pussy and back passage spasmed and clamped down. She writhed in his hold as he held her still, spilling himself deep inside her, her cunt greedily milking his cock, as he savored her response.
Duncan uncoupled from her, some of his seed leaking from her well-used cunt onto the inside of her thighs as the dragon’s tongue receded and wound its way back around his cock. He remained standing behind her between her spread legs, not saying a word.
Suddenly, the anger and adrenaline that resulted from her confrontations with Burkis, the mob, and Duncan himself evaporated and left her feeling like a balloon that had been pricked with a pin, resulting in all the air escaping. Aurora drew herself up onto the bed and curled into a small ball.
“I failed,” she wept.
She could sense Duncan moving. In truth she wanted nothing more than to throw herself into his arms and let his commanding presence soothe her fears and quiet her mind. She wanted to revel in his predatory lovemaking, forgetting anything other than the rapture she found in his embrace.
Duncan sat down on the edge of the bed and drew her into his lap.
“You have failed at nothing other than obeying me and as you have been punished, that failure will be forgiven and forgotten.”
Aurora wasn’t sure whether to laugh, cry, or rail at his high-handedness or welcome his steadying influence. Who was he? What had really happened all those centuries ago? And if he had a hand in Neeva’s death, hadn’t he paid a price for that?
“Is that your response to anything I do that you don’t like?” she challenged
“Careful, my true heart. You might want to think about how you speak to me. But to answer your question, you can expect to be spanked or worse when you disobey me. Do you realize that there were those in the crowd who would have gladly tied you to a stake and burned you?”
“Do you think my magick is so weak that I couldn’t have protected myself?”
Duncan shook his head. “I believe you might have used magick to evade being captured by them or helping you to escape again, but you would not have used it against them.”
“What makes you so sure?”
“Because you didn’t do it before, and you didn’t turn on them. You chose to try and flee rather than harm them. You are not evil, Aurora, nor have you failed in any way. You are behaving as most drakaina do.”
“I am not drakaina.”
“But you are. For many shifters, transitioning from human to shifter is dangerous for the one making the transition and can be frightening and painful. The change from human to dragon is far more subtle and is easily missed. I can sense the change in you. I suspect that had you been truly threatened by the villagers earlier today, chances are your drakaina would have made herself known.”
Aurora shook her head. “I don’t feel any differently.”
“As I said, subtle. Still your mind, my drakaina. Do you not feel her lurking there? Does she not seek to bond with you and share her strength?”
Aurora did as he asked and tried to quiet her thoughts. Duncan stroked her spine and began to breathe in rhythm with her, controlling and calming her disquiet as he hummed quietly. She sighed and relaxed against him. While he was skilled at arousing her, her mate was proving to be equally adept at soothing her and allowing her to feel his strength surround her.
There, as he had predicted, at the back of her consciousness was an enormously powerful drakaina of the most amazing color. The main color of her scales was the same clear, azure blue as Duncan’s, but they were outlined in a deep indigo. The idea of bonding with the dragon was no longer frightening.
“Do you feel her?” he whispered.
“Then call her to you. Invite her to become one with you and take your place as the third drakaina.”
Aurora did as he bid and could feel the dragon portion of her being surge forward and become a part of her deepest, truest self.
“Have I lost my magick?” she asked.
He nodded. “Most likely. I would suspect that it will take longer for you than for most as your power is greater, and perhaps you will not lose it altogether. I know that is a heavy price for you to pay, but I would see your belly swell with our offspring.”
“Will I be able to fly? To breathe fire?” she said, brightening.
“Aye,” he said, smiling, hearing the delight in her voice. “And to shift not only to your dragon, but to any form that has a beating heart.”
“Is it difficult to learn to fly?” she asked, a plan starting to formulate in her mind. A way up to the cavern where the dragons had slept and where Burkis said she could find answers to the doubts and questions that plagued her mind. It would have to be soon, before her powers deserted her.
“No. But you are not to try without my being there. Taking to the skies tends to be intuitive, but controlling your flight and landing requires time and patience to master. You are not to attempt it without me.”
“What about shifting itself?”
“That too is mostly instinctual but can take some practice to do it easily. Merely call your drakaina forward and relinquish control to her. She will defend you against anyone who seeks to harm you unless you hold her back.”
“So, you will no longer be able to spank me?” she teased.
“Nay, my drakaina. You cannot use your dragon or any other form against me.”
Duncan rumbled at her, “Says the dragon to whom you are mated. You can shift to another form to try and evade me, but I will always be bigger, stronger, and faster. And fire, like your magick, will fail you where I am concerned.”
“I don’t know that I believe you about the fire,” she said, thinking of Míorúilt. “There are stories of drakaina using fire against their male counterparts.”
He nodded. “Drakaina-born could breathe fire against their mates but turned drakaina cannot. But even if it were possible, the price you paid for doing so would not be worth it.”
“To be able to keep you from spanking me?”
“Only to get a welting?” he said, raising his eyebrow at her in warning.
Aurora snuggled into him. “Will I ever be able to escape you?”
“Do you truly wish to?” he asked quietly.
“Truthfully? I think if I could happily stay locked away with you forever, I would.”
“Give them time, Aurora. They will come to see you as you are, their lady and a woman of great courage, beauty, and generosity. It will be fine… you’ll see.” He helped her off his lap. “Now, come, my naughty drakaina, I need to finish meeting with our men. I had to leave them to chase down my errant mate and deal with her.”
Aurora rolled her eyes. “They will all know how you dealt with me, won’t they?”
“That should not concern you for they would deal with their mates in the same way. Straighten your skirt and we will go down to meet with them.”
“Can’t I just stay up here and get cleaned up before joining you in the great hall for the evening meal?”
Duncan shook his head. “Nay, lass, if they are to begin accepting you as one of them, they need to know you are subject to my authority in the same way the other females are to their husbands or guardians. If you find it embarrassing to think of their knowing that you were punished, I would suggest you get better about obeying me. There may well come a time, Aurora, that I choose to administer all or part of your discipline in front of others. Magick wielder, dragon-shifter, or just plain female, you will be seen to obey me.”
He held out his hand to her and waited. Reluctantly, she took his hand and they started down the stairs.
Once Duncan was seated at the head of the table in his war council with her ensconced on his knee, she allowed her mind to drift. She still found it hard to reconcile the man who could fuck her to such dizzying heights and share his heart with her with the monster that Burkis described. And yet, she owed Burkis everything. The old crone had taken her into her home when her mother had died and had taught her to wield magick and what it was to be a sorceress.
The more she thought about it, the more she believed if she was to know the truth, she needed to return to the cave. The fact that she was now a dragon meant she could fly herself to cave to see if she could find the veil between the planes of existence. Could she see into the past? Could she ask Neeva? And if she pierced the veil, could the shifter that had almost defeated the dragons return? Could Neeva return? If she did, would Duncan cast her aside? Could she communicate with Elspeth? Wouldn’t she be the one to tell her the truth?
Aurora could feel her agitation begin to abate as Duncan emitted a deep, soothing thrumming that only she could hear. He continued to speak with his men, all the while rubbing her back and seeking to comfort her. She snuggled deeper into his embrace, smiling when he kissed her temple without seeming to think about it. Listening to the steady rhythm of his heart, Aurora knew what she had to do.
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