Dakota Drudeson has been working for the Shifter Council for over fifty years. In all that time, he’s believed that dragons—real dragons—either have never been real, or they’d died out centuries before. Imagine his surprise when his boss allows it to slip that dragons are alive, well, and there’s even one working at Shifter Council Headquarters—a dishwasher named Charon, whom Dakota has always thought was human.
Watching Charon every chance he gets, Dakota quickly becomes infatuated with the small male. The fact that his boss has warned him that Charon’s short, slender, blond frame isn’t what he truly looks like doesn’t concern him at all. Even the fact that the man’s smell doesn’t trigger interest from Dakota’s Komodo dragon doesn’t deter Dakota. He wants to earn Charon’s trust and see his dragon.
Due to Dakota’s promise to never reveal that he knows Charon is indeed a dragon, he can’t even explain his odd obsession to his brothers. When Dakota finally gets his chance to admire Charon’s gorgeous, metallic-purple dragon form, the man’s true scent rocks him. Charon is his mate.
So when Dakota reveals himself, why doesn’t Charon recognize him, too?
“Why are you staring at the kitchen doors? Miggs shouldn’t be out with the cupcakes for another seven minutes.”
Dakota Drudeson yanked his attention away from the double swinging doors. They led to the huge kitchens that pumped out food at Shifter Council Headquarters. Anyone who worked for or on the council had access to free meals there whenever they wished.
Considering shifters and other paranormals normally had pretty large appetites, Dakota knew that meant there were a number of people who worked in there.
Turning to look at his eldest brother, Delanrue—Del to family and close friends—Dakota knew the other Komodo dragon shifter referred to his Fate-given mate, Miggs—an uber-cute guinea pig shifter and the light of Del’s life. He forced a smile and nodded, trying to figure out how to explain that the raspberry cupcakes Miggs was preparing for them, while delicious, were not what had his attention fixated on the kitchens. Instead, Dakota was trying to figure out a way to spot someone else, instead.
Ever since taking a mission with his boss—Head Enforcer Mycroft—Dakota had become fascinated with the man. Mycroft had let it slip that Charon wasn’t actually a human, even though he smelled like one. Instead, the lean blond was actually a dragon.
Like, a real one, not a Komodo dragon shifter like me.
Mycroft had also sworn him to secrecy.
Still, Dakota had never lied to his brother, and the uncomfortable prickle at the back of his neck told him that his silence felt like a lie by omission.
For the longest time—over one hundred sixty years—it had just been Dakota and his two brothers. It had been them against the world.
Their parents had been killed when he’d been young, and Del had raised him as well as Dane, their middle brother. While Dakota hadn’t understood it at the time, Del had needed to grow up fast because their Komodo dragon bank hadn’t been an exceptionally warm and fuzzy place.
It hadn’t taken more than a few years before the dominance of Del’s Komodo increased exponentially—probably due to his rising need to protect his younger brothers—and at a very young age—for a shifter, anyway—he’d earned the rank of enforcer.
Dakota knew that he hadn’t been the only one with a case of hero worship on his big bro. He and Dane had discussed it a time or ten while growing up—about how badass Del was. When Del had moved from being an enforcer for their bank to being an enforcer for the Shifter Council, they’d worked hard to follow in his footsteps.
Of course, when Del transitioned to being an interrogator, they’d both congratulated him on his new position and wished him well. However, they hadn’t been interested in that. That job required a certain type of personality, and they knew they didn’t have it, and that was okay.
“Dakota?” Del rumbled, returning his attention to his brother. “Why are you staring at the doors?”
After another glance toward the double doors, Dakota focused on Del and admitted, “I’m actually hoping for a glimpse of Charon.”
Del’s eyes narrowed even as he managed to arch one eyebrow. “Charon,” he repeated. “The little dishwasher?”
Dakota nodded. “Yeah.”
While Mycroft had told Dakota that what everyone saw wasn’t actually Charon’s true form, he couldn’t share that either. He hated keeping secrets from his brothers, but a promise was a promise. Dakota figured that trumped never keeping secrets from his brothers.
Wonder what he really looks like.
When Del narrowed his eyes even more, pinning Dakota with his intense stare, it took every bit of self-control Dakota possessed to keep from shifting uncomfortably in his seat…or opening his trap and blurting out the truth.
“Why?” Del asked as he relaxed back in his chair and crossed his arms over his chest.
Dakota couldn’t truly say for certain. Well, he knew part of it, anyway, but he couldn’t share it with Del. He had been of the mind that dragons were either extinct or had never been real to begin with.
But I was wrong.
Now, Dakota desperately wanted to see one. To do that, he had to befriend Charon, then figure out how to earn his trust. Dakota figured, only then could he admit that he knew Charon was more than he seemed. Maybe after that, Dakota could convince the pretty man to show him his dragon.
Except, Dakota had been trying to figure out how to meet Charon for several weeks. In all that time, he’d never seen the dishwasher exit the kitchen. He hadn’t even been able to track him through the back corridors that he obviously used to get to and from his job.
Dakota had always thought Charon was human, and he didn’t recall what the man’s scent was. In order to track him, he would need to get close to Charon so he could get a real good lock on his smell. Then he could—
Wait a damn minute.
Jumping to his feet, Dakota grinned broadly at Del. “I think I’ll go help Miggs carry the cupcakes.”
Then Dakota strode briskly toward the kitchen doors.
Just as Dakota reached them, he felt a big hand clamp onto his shoulder. He turned, frowning. Seeing Del’s narrow-eyed gaze, Dakota quickly morphed his features into a wide smile.
“Dakota, I know it’s been a long time, but we discussed this,” Del rumbled, his voice low and full of warning. “You don’t shit where you work.”
Dakota opened his mouth, then closed it again. “I’m not,” he quickly assured. “I won’t.”
He understood his brother’s concern. Sleeping with someone at work, someone not his fated mate, could make life extremely uncomfortable. While he thought Charon was cute, getting the man into bed wasn’t his goal.
Even if the thought of it is damn tempting.