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The Lonely Dragon

ManLoveRomance Press LLC

Heat Rating: SIZZLING
Word Count: 72,000
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A lonely dragon trapped on an enchanted mountain waits for the day his mate will save him.

Banished by his cruel father, Rowan has been trapped on an enchanted mountain for over two hundred years. Unable to leave unless he gives up his magic, Rowan fears he will be alone his entire existence.

Gideon, a pilot, has been on the run after his mother was murdered and her attackers tried to kill him as well. He soon finds out his life is full of secrets and lies.

Fate and prophecy have much in store for them, though they don't know it yet. Can the two of them overcome it all and find love together?

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Excerpt

Prologue

Scotland, 1793

Bounding down the stairs of the keep, Rowan had a grin on his face. He was eager to see Ewan again. He'd have to sneak out, but he'd discovered a secret tunnel that led out into the woods. From there it wasn't far to the village. They always met in an abandoned woodman's hut, away from prying eyes. If they were to be found out, Ewan would surely be hanged. Rowan, himself a prince, might escape a noose, but what Cathal would do to him likely would be a far worse fate than death. He shuddered at the thought.

He skidded to a stop as he saw Lachlan, his father's goon in the courtyard. He pointed at Rowan. "Lord Cathal awaits your presence. You are to meet him now in his study."

"For what purpose?" Rowan demanded to know, crossing his arms over his chest.

Lachlan glared. "You can either go there or I can drag you."

"I would like to see you try." Rowan smirked, then stomped past the brute and headed to his father's study. The sooner he got this over with, the sooner he could get to Ewan. The young man was beautiful, sweet and deserving of a better life than the one he had. A blacksmith's apprentice, he toiled every day, and Rowan wanted to take him away from it all. They had met when Rowan had a sword crafted. A few looks and Rowan had quickly seduced the younger man. He wished they could go to some remote place and live a life of contentment together. Would Ewan want that? Would he even accept him if Rowan told him his secret? He wasn't sure which is why he hadn't told Ewan. Besides, their trysts didn't leave them much time for talking; they stole moments whenever they could. Still, it wasn't enough. Rowan wanted more. He always did, but fate had never been kind to him.

He'd lost his mother at a young age, his father was a monster, and being who he was, he was likely never going to have a true mate. With Ewan though he had found some happiness.

He wondered why he was being summoned. Cathal had been acting odder than usual as of late, his mood even darker and foul to all but Rowan's sister, Eloise. She had always been the favourite. Still, he adored his young sister. She was so full of life and reminded him of his mother.

He knocked briefly but didn't bother to wait as he walked inside. Cathal was at his desk, writing a letter. He briefly glanced up, scowled, then returned to his business. Rowan was forced to wait, impatiently, until he pressed his seal to the parchment and laid the quill down.

"Rowan, I have allowed you to get away with much lately." He steepled his fingers. "Fighting Lachlan--"

Even though it wasn't wise to interrupt, Rowan blurted, "You gave permission for Tavish to leave! Then that cur--"

"Enough!" his father roared, getting to his feet. "No more of this nonsense. You are a prince, heir to the throne. You cannot continue on the way you have. Our kind needs you to take responsibility." His father stepped forward. "Ailsa is your betrothed and you are to marry. To carry on our tradition, to ensure the survival of our kind."

Rowan shook his head. It was tragic there were so few dragons left in the world, but he could not bear this burden. He would not be a broodmare for his kind. His heart would not allow it. And neither would his body for that matter. Women held no interest for him. "I will not," he defied.

"I thought as much." His father sneered. "You thought you were so clever, that you were unnoticed. You were seen with that...that boy! A human no less!"

Rowan paled, his palms were sweaty, and the blood pounded in his ears. Could he deny it? Should he?

"Do you deny your unnatural attraction for him?" his father demanded.

"It is not unnatural! Love could never be," Rowan said, crossing his arms and staring his father down. He didn't feel nearly as courageous as he hoped he appeared to be.

"It ends, or I will act and you will not like it." Cathal pointed at him. "You will not be the ruin of what I have fought so hard to achieve. You will not make me lose everything."

"Then I will leave! I hate it here. My life is miserable." Rowan turned to go. He wasn't sure he could leave Eloise, but he had to protect Ewan. And he had to escape this hell.

"Ewan was taken away last night. Beaten and spelled with amnesia, he will have no memory of you." Cathal smirked. "I warned you many times not to cross me, son."

"No!" Rowan roared and advanced on his father. The study door burst open, and his grandfather and father hurled spells at him before he could blink. And then he knew no more.

****

Waking in a daze, Rowan discovered he was bound in iron chains, his body in agony. He couldn't fight or escape. He could do nothing as his father brought him to a mountain in the Highlands. He was tossed into a cave, his father in his dragon form, fiery red and looming over him, daring him to say something.

"Apologise and agree to marry Ailsa," his father said, voice rumbling. "If you do we can pretend this never happened."

Pretend they had not attacked him, bound him, and took him to the middle of nowhere to likely die? "No, I cannot. If I am to die, then so be it."

"I will not kill my own son!" His father grabbed him, shaking his human body in his taloned grip. Fire hot pain ripped through Rowan. "I will, however, keep you here until you come to your senses."

"Here?" He glanced around in horror. No comforts of home, no family, no shelter to rest in, how was he to survive? It was freezing. What he wouldn't give to nurse his wounds in front of a roaring fire. Perhaps all he had to do was let his father leave him. He could remove the iron chains somehow and fly away. As far away as possible, maybe even find Ewan and undo the spell. He would have to get Eloise too. She wasn't safe. They both needed to get far away from Cathal.

"Here." His father set him down and moved back. "The mountain is enchanted. None will see it. You are here alone. And here you will stay until I deem otherwise."

"No, please, Father!" He could not do this; he would not. Surely, he would not condemn Rowan to such a fate? "Please."

"You have left me no choice. You are a shame, a disappointment. I had such hopes for you, and now it has come to this."

"I will not stay here!" he roared, anger rising up along with the hurt.

"Yes, you will. You cross the barrier and your powers will be stripped away."

Tears filled his eyes. If he lost his magic, he could not shift. If he could not be a dragon, it would kill him. Could his father be any crueller? "Please, do not do this," he begged. "Please. I cannot change who I am. I am a dragon. I am a man who loves another. Neither can be changed. You cannot punish me and imprison me for that."

"I can." His father's talon cut through the shackles. "I am not cruel. There is a cabin here, I brought your books. You will have time to think and come around. Until then, I will come once a year and see if your mind has changed."

Too weak from the pain, Rowan couldn't move, though he was free. "Come all you want. I will not change."

His father left the cave without a backward glance. Stumbling to his feet, Rowan cried out, "I hate you, Father. I will never forgive you!"

Curling into a ball, exhausted and in agony, Rowan sobbed and pleaded for help that he knew wouldn't come. What was he going to do now? Live here forever? Alone? He knew of dragons who had isolated themselves and had been driven mad by doing so. That could happen to him.

And then he remembered a memory of his mother before she'd died. It was painful to think of her, so he tended to keep those memories pushed down. Now, he thought back. She'd helped save a young boy, a friend of his, and he'd known then he wasn't like the other boys. He'd cried as he'd admitted this to her, fearful he would never find a mate. But she had merely hugged him and told him, "You are a special dragon. You are my handsome son. And love will find you when it is meant to. Love is simply love and can never be wrong, always remember that."

Rowan shifted into his dragon form to heal, then closed his eyes. He would regain his strength, rest a bit, then find that cabin. From there, he'd figure out the rest. He'd find some way off this mountain. He decided to hold onto the hope his mother had once given him. His mate was out there somewhere. Maybe one day if he couldn't get to his mate, his mate would find his way to him.

Chapter One

50 Years Later...

Scotland, 1843

Rowan left his cabin and headed down the trail he'd made. He'd had a great deal of time to carve a home out of the mountain and make this place his own. He knew every nook and cranny now. Where the stream held the most fish, where the stags tended to wander into the magical perimeter, all the best areas to hunt and forage. It had been necessary. He was a dragon with no small appetite. Though he'd learned to get by on less. It also helped that today was the day Eloise was bringing him supplies. She did not dare cross their father, but she helped him in secret, though Rowan suspected the bastard knew and simply allowed it. Every month, she brought foodstuffs, bread, cheeses, dessert cakes, and other necessities. She always brought him new books as well. He could handle not having so much to eat; he could not deal with not having his precious stories.

It might be a prison, but...he turned back to admire his cabin. No longer a shack, he'd used magic, sweat, and hard labour to turn it into a beautiful home. The main room in the house had floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and a fireplace. There he read day and night, escaping far away and dreaming of exotic lands.

Fifty years tomorrow. He couldn't believe it. He started down the trail, wondering when Cathal would show. Oftentimes lately he thought he might break down and give in to his father's request simply to have his freedom back. He planned ways he could run afterward. Take to the skies and fly as far as he could until he no longer had to fear Cathal's wrath. Could he do it? He didn't believe he could, not with the two older dragons keeping him captive. They would surely kill him if he attempted to flee. Besides which, it was clear to him now, Cathal had every intention of keeping him for eternity. He was not sure why, but he knew it had to be more than his love for men. Some dark purpose was tying him here. Perhaps Cathal worried he would steal the throne from him. That was honestly the last thing Rowan wanted. He wanted a simple life like he had, but with friends and a mate.

He hopped the stream and approached the magical barrier. He gazed up and watched Eloise swoop down, her red dragon scales reflecting the morning's sunlight. She grinned and slid the rope from her neck that had multiple bags attached to it.

She shifted back to her human form. Long red hair plaited in a braid and green eyes shimmering, she was beautiful in an emerald dress and cloak. "Hello, brother dear."

"Sweet sister." Rowan grinned, wishing he could reach across and hug her. Still, it did his troubled heart good to see her.

Eloise used magic to push the bags through the barrier, and Rowan waved his own hand to bring them closer. When she left, he would shift and carry them back to his cabin.

"Thank you. How are you?"

Eloise clapped her hands and then sat down. Rowan mirrored her position, both as close to the perimeter as they could be without crossing it. "I have news!"

"Do tell."

"I found my mate, Rowan! We're to be bonded in three days." Eloise beamed at him, a dreamy look on her face. "Hendrik's from Norway and his grandmother had a vision so he came to find me. Can you believe it?"

"What a wonder!" Rowan was truly happy for his sister. He stuffed down the tiny part of him that was slightly jealous. Why had his mate not found him yet? He ignored that thought and focused on Eloise. "I am glad the two of you have found one another." Gladder still Eloise would hopefully soon be away from Cathal and his manipulations. She was so naïve and trusting when it came to their father, he only wished he could warn Hendrik of him and his dark ways.

Eloise twisted her hands. "Maybe you could...I wish...oh, Rowan, I want you there at the ceremony!"

"And I wish I could be there, truly." It broke his heart knowing he would miss it.

"You could speak to Father and I will too. Grandfather's away in Germany. Perhaps you two could speak civilly and end this. It has gone on for long enough."

Rowan tamped down on his anger. "I am a prisoner here, Eloise! I did nothing, and yet for fifty years I have been held captive here with my life in the balance. You think we can simply discuss it and all will be well?"

Tears glistened in Eloise's eyes, and Rowan felt guilt stab at him. She didn't deserve his rage. "You broke our kind and human law. You were with another man. You could have been killed for that! Father saved you and put you here in protection. He told me others wanted you to answer for your crimes. Time has passed now, and it will be forgotten. Ailsa is married. You can return home, find your mate, and put this all behind you."

"I cannot." Rowan shook his head. "You do not understand, sister. I cannot change who I am. I cannot marry and be a broodmare. I will not do it. And whatever Cathal told you is a lie. The only two who knew of my so-called crime were him and Grandfather--"

"Lachlan knew! He followed you," Eloise interrupted.

A missing piece of the puzzle clicked into place for Rowan. Lachlan, the cur, had likely been sore after Rowan had bested him in a fight. Either that or he was following orders to spy on him. "Fine, it does not matter," he lied. "The point is, I am who I am. Cathal knows that and has a purpose for keeping me here. He's never going to let me leave."

"Won't you try for me at least?" Eloise pleaded. "Rowan, Hendrik wants us to travel to Norway, he wants me to meet his family. I could be gone for months. I do not want to leave you here."

Rowan's heart sank. "You must. Go and be well. You deserve that, and I want you to have it. I will manage here. Visit me again when you can." He stood up, fighting a wave of desolation.

"Brother--"

"Eloise, that bond for Hendrik, can you tell me what you feel?"

"It's indescribable, but I have never felt anything like it. I'm content, and I feel whole now. Why do you ask?" She rose as well, her gaze on him.

"Because that is what I want," Rowan said roughly. "Maybe you and everyone else cannot believe two dragon males can be bonded, but I do. I'm holding onto that hope. And I'll wait here for as long as I have to. I will not change who I am or trade one prison for another." He blinked back tears. "All I ask is you love me as your brother and continue to visit when you can."

A tear slid down Eloise's cheek. "I will, I promise. I'm not sure I understand, but you are my brother and I am here for you. I will tell Hendrik we must stay close."

"No, I will not be a burden. I have got a garden. I have plenty to hunt here. Go and when you come back, you can tell me all about it."

"Are you certain?"

"Yes, you have my blessing and love."

She smiled and blew him a kiss. "I will see you soon, brother."

"Until then, sister."

He watched her shift to her dragon form and soar into the sky, his heart shattering into pieces. He was well and truly all alone now. How was he going to survive until she returned?

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