Matthew finds himself at loose ends when the kind man he’s spent years serving passes away. He has few skills and fewer options, and he soon finds others wanting to take advantage of that. When help comes from the last place he’d have expected, Matthew puts his faith in a man he’s heard dozens of contradictory stories about.
Aiden has always been an outcast. He’s the illegitimate son who was loved more than the legitimate ones, and the fact he’s a dragon shifter and magic wielder makes some fear him and others hate him. He takes a chance when he realizes an old enemy has nefarious plans, and he ends up leaving with Matthew in tow, his heart unexpectedly joyful at the thought of making a new friend.
Surprises find them wherever they go, and soon both of them are wondering if the gods of Arizia are responsible for the winding roads that led them to each other.
Matthew hefted his trunk in both hands and left his room for the final time. He’d eaten breakfast as early as possible, not wanting to keep Aiden waiting. The halls were quiet, almost eerily so, as he made his way down to the foyer.
He stopped short when Olin turned a corner and spotted him. The advocate seemed to hesitate and then he looked around before striding over to him. Yet he kept his distance once they were face to face. Was Olin afraid of what Aiden might do? Part of Matthew hoped so.
Olin gave him a joyless smile. “Proud of yourself, aren’t you? I knew you’d submit easily enough for the right cock. And I hear the dragon has an impressive one, as I’m sure you learned last night.”
Matthew wanted to rush away but found courage somehow. “Don’t talk about him that way. He’s not like you. Nothing like that has or will happen.” The idea of being in Aiden’s bed had lingered with him the night before as he tried to get to sleep, but not because of anything Aiden had done or said.
“Oh, is that so? He’s a dragon, boy. A beast with a taste for rutting and young, tender flesh. They love to collect beautiful things, and I’d bet a golden-haired treasure like yourself just suits his tastes. I’m sure you’ll spend your days draped in the finest silks, your body oiled to gleaming perfection and always ready for his touch.”
Matthew set his trunk down with a loud clink and advanced toward Olin. “Why is it disgusting men like you can’t imagine that anyone in this world is good? He gave away all that money and property. And he helped me without knowing anything about me.”
“He saw you were beautiful and watched you. That’s how he noticed your name wasn’t called.” He crossed his arms. “There was no deal beforehand. I couldn’t prove it, but the look on your face now tells me I’m right.”
Matthew stood up taller and tried to adjust his expression, not knowing if something in his face really had given that part away. Perhaps Olin only suspected and was fishing for information. “He still helped a complete stranger. Why can’t you believe that some people are good? That they want to help others? Vane Reynard had the same good heart.”
“Good heart? Aiden? No dragon has a good heart, and Reynard? He likely desired you as well. Only problem was he became impotent in his last years.” A disgusting smile spread Olin’s lips. “But I’m sure he enjoyed looking at you. Keeping you all to himself, alone in his study.”
“Take that back. Vane Reynard was a good man. Like a father.”
“Everyone wants something, and I guarantee you, that beast only wants you to sate his lust. He will not be gentle as he uses you—creatures like him never are—and he will take his pleasure from every inch of your flesh and then cast you aside.”
Years of submitting to his supposed “betters” and Olin’s revolting words had his blood boiling, and Matthew lashed out before he could stop himself. He slapped the old man, who then came at him and grabbed him by the wrist, squeezing harder than Matthew had expected him to be able to.
“You impudent piece of gypsy trash!”
Time seemed to slow down as smoke billowed around Olin. When it cleared, Aiden stood there beside the advocate, his hand around Olin’s throat. Green scales faintly showed through his skin, and three-inch claws had extended from the tips of his fingers.
“Let go of him,” Aiden said in a voice that rumbled like thunder and seemed to echo the entire length of the hallway.