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Dragon Rider

Landlocked Heart

Less Than Three Press LLC

Heat Rating: SENSUAL
Word Count: 40,000
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The road to Ben and Lyle's wedding is proving a bumpy one. Ben hasn't even told his family he's getting hitched to a shapeshifting merman, and he's not the only one worried. When Lyle's tearaway sister, Cully, whisks Lyle away on the merfolk equivalent of a stag do, she questions whether marriage is what Lyle needs anyhow. A merman should roam the seas and seek adventure, not work in an ice-cream parlour and worry about the rent.

With rumours flying among merfolk that Lyle is a dragon shifter, adventure seeks out Lyle, whether he wants it or not. Cully and Ben must set their differences aside to save Lyle from a gang wishing to steal his magical powers, which are in reality waning, possibly life-threateningly so. Lyle soon realizes it's going to take a miracle for him to make it to the wedding, forcing Ben to embrace magic and become something other an "ordinary" guy...

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Ben twisted around in the cramped changing cubical. Examining himself in the mirror, he sighed.

His three-piece suit was a bright kingfisher blue, the fit slightly too snug. Ben looked like he always did in posh gear—more student nervous for the graduation ball than dashing groom kitted out for the greatest day of his life. If he paired the suit with a plain shirt and kept the rest of the outfit conventional, he might just pull it off.

Though he’d a sneaking feeling the merman changing in the adjacent booth would protest bitterly at the idea of being “conventional” on their wedding day.

“Ta-da!” said Lyle, swishing back the curtain of Ben’s cubical and presenting himself. In fully human form—all six-feet-one of it—Lyle struck a deliberately over-the-top pose with his chin jutted and his hands on his snakelike hips. He wore the same blue suit as Ben, tailored skin-tight, and he’d paired it with a tangerine shirt with paisley swirls.

And, oh sweet heavens, he’d found some maroon shoes with pointed toes. These almost matched the claret streaks in his long auburn hair, but shouted obtusely at the orange in his shirt. The walls, mirrored on three sides, reflected Lyle in all his glory from the dressing room to infinity.

“Benjamin, you look delicious!” Lyle grinned, feral. “Then again, you always do. What are your thoughts on me?”

“You look great, but…” Ben tugged at his collar, beginning to sweat for more reasons than he’d dare count.

The heating in the stuffy suit-hire shop blasted, and his garb was a size too small for comfort. Moreover, despite or even because of, Lyle’s ridiculous outfit, which hugged each contour of his lean musculature, Lyle looked hotter than hellfire. This rendered Ben’s trousers a tad restrictive around the crotch, yet that was the least—and most pleasant—of his worries.

“But what?” Lyle entered Ben’s cubical, tugging the curtain closed behind him. He grasped Ben and pulled him close. “Maybe this kind of suit is more you than me, eh?”

With Lyle so near, his breath scorching Ben’s already burning face, the remainder of Ben’s blood headed south fast. He exhaled long and slow, distracting himself with his woes.

“You know the issue.” Ben dipped his gaze to avoid Lyle’s narrowing blue-lilac eyes. “I want you to wear something that makes you happy. But my family and a ton of guests will be at this wedding. If you turn up in something too suggestive, and then, uh…”

Lyle huffed sharply, though took pity on Ben’s stammering inability to spit out the truth. “You’re worried I’m going to lose control of my shapeshifting magic and my fins will pop out and terrify your nieces. And cost you a fortune in suit repairs. It won’t happen, I promise. Can’t you trust me on this?”

Ben suppressed a wince. He’d striven to be laid back about money and life in general lately. But still, the only reason they could afford Lyle’s dream wedding venue overlooking the sea—let alone the fireworks, honeymoon suite, and the rest of Lyle’s wish list—was because Ben’s parents were helping pay. He had to at least try and keep the affair family friendly.

“It is a winter wedding,” Ben pointed out. “You could wear a bit of a looser jacket. Or maybe if we went for top hat and tailcoats that would help, or something even more substantial—”

“I’m not getting married in a dirty-old-man raincoat!” Lyle contradicted his lashing words by grasping Ben’s arse and squeezing with enthusiasm. “Come on, darling, I know your lovely parents are helping out, but this is our wedding day. Don’t you want me to look as good as you do?”

Ben wanted to tell Lyle he’d always look better than Ben ever could, even if clad in a bin bag. With Lyle fondling him, all he could murmur was, “Yes, of course.” Then Lyle brushed Ben’s mouth with his. Lyle’s lips were soft, slightly chapped from the cold outside, and tasted faintly of honeyed cereal. Even Ben’s fears of being discovered coupling in the changing room briefly fled.

Encountering no resistance from Ben, Lyle worked the kiss, kindling electric sensations with his tongue which bolted straight to Ben’s core. Ben melted into it, enjoying Lyle’s enthusiasm. Could this awesome kiss be magically charged?

Lyle had displayed an increased zest for everything in life of late, even sex, which he’d never exactly shied from. Ben figured it was because Lyle had been living by the seaside for nearly six months now and bathed in the ocean at least once a day. His magical energies, depleted by nearly two centuries being landlocked, had surely been restored. Although he still suffered faint spells after too much magical exertion… and those awkward shapeshifting malfunctions.

Whatever the reason for Lyle’s vigour, Ben loved the results. Returning the kiss with interest, he squeezed his hands up inside Lyle’s shirt, enjoying Lyle’s sleek lines, while also missing those tentacle-like fins Lyle possessed when in his natural form, just a little. Who wouldn’t?

Yet Ben still didn’t have a notion how to explain Lyle’s merman identity to his family when they visited this week…

Clearly sensing the moment had passed, Lyle broke the kiss and leaned down to press his forehead to Ben’s. “I’ve been thinking,” said Lyle. “I’m not sure a hired suit is for me. You go ahead and get whatever makes you look super, but it might be more fun—and cheaper—for me to make my own outfit.”

“Okay,” said Ben, uneasy. Lyle had been teaching himself to sew, partially to provide a new medium for his ocean-inspired artwork, but mainly to repair the outfits he’d wrecked with his fin-related mishaps. Lyle had shown promise, though Ben feared he wasn’t up to high-class seamstress work yet.

“I bought something to inspire me.” It was Lyle’s turn to sound apprehensive. “Want to see?”

“Fine, but we’d better make it quick. The salesman will be back soon, and we need to make a decision for him sometime this century.”

Lyle had bounded out and then back into Ben’s cubical, now carrying a small paper bag, all before Ben finished speaking. Behind the closed curtain, Lyle peeled down his trousers, stripping himself to his briefs prior to removing his shirt. Ben couldn’t help enjoying the show. It was also impossible to avoid touching Lyle’s cute arse as he bent over in the cramped space. When Lyle retrieved what appeared to be a scrap of flimsy black silk, Ben’s brows shot up in query.

“What’s that?”

Lyle answered Ben with an enigmatic half-moon smile and shook out the fabric to reveal a lace-trimmed black negligee, which he slipped over his head.

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