Smoke and Fire(6)

By: Donna Grant

Her eyes snapped open. How had he moved so quickly without her hearing him? Kinsey dropped her hands to her sides and shook her head.

Having him so close was a reminder of how she used to feel safe and loved with him. That was before she saw the real him. “Tell me this isn’t really happening. Tell me it’s all fake.”

“It’s real,” Ryder said. He lifted his hand to touch her cheek, but stopped at the last moment. “This is my life, Kinsey. This is where I live and work. These people are my family.”

“Dragons?” she whispered.


Kinsey didn’t know what to say. She’d seen Ryder, the real Ryder. A massive, flying, fire-breathing monster that dove from the sky with scales the color of smoke, and blending in with the night.

“You were never supposed to know that was me,” he said. “Then I saw one of the Dark go after you. I couldna attack him without hurting you unless I was in this form.”

She wanted to touch him. There had always been something about being in his arms that made her feel as if she could tackle anything and the world wouldn’t dare get in her way.

“How long have you been a … dragon?” she asked.

His eyes looked away for a second. “The exact time doesna matter. Just know it’s been for a verra long time.”

“How long?” she pressed. There had been something in his words, something that told her he hadn’t told her everything.

Ryder studied her for a long time. Then he said, “Millions of years.”

Kinsey gave a dry laugh. “Nice one. The truth, please.”

“That is the truth,” Dmitri said with his back still to them.

She looked from Ryder to Dmitri and then back to Ryder. “Millions?”

“We can no’ die.”

“Immortal?” she whispered in awe.


Kinsey put her hand to her throat as it all came into focus. “You were never going to tell me about who and what you are, were you?”

Ryder gave a single shake of his head.

She wanted to cry. All the old feelings welled up just like when he’d left her. “I thought we had something special. I thought you were The One. I saw my life with you by my side. You let me think that. You let me fall in love with you.”

“Kinsey,” he began.

“Then you left. You left me standing on the sidewalk, waiting for you to show for our lunch date.” She sniffed back her tears, anger beginning to bubble. “You canceled your mobile and your e-mail account. You made sure I couldn’t get in touch with you in any way. I thought I did something to push you away.”

Ryder grasped her arms. “Never,” he said adamantly.

She shoved him away with all her might. He couldn’t touch her, because when he did, she forgot all the bad and focused on how he’d once made her feel. “Now I know it wasn’t me. It was you. Is this what your kind does? They get involved with us mere humans and make us fall in love, then you leave? Do you laugh at how we have to scrape ourselves off the pavement and try to live again?”

“It killed me to leave you!” Ryder yelled.

“I doubt it.”

Kinsey grabbed her purse and bag and walked to the door. If she had to tear it down with her bare hands, she was going to walk out.

But the door opened when she turned the knob.

It was time for her to blow this joint and put Ryder in her rearview mirror for good.


Ryder intentionally let her leave the computer room. He followed her into the corridor and toward the stairs. Kinsey’s black boots made little sound on the thick rug over the hardwood.

She looked back at him as she descended the stairs. “I can find my way out.”

Ryder didn’t bother to comment. He wasn’t following her because he worried she would get lost. He was following her to make sure she didn’t run into Con. Her leaving wasn’t an option, not after learning the work order had her name on it.

He lengthened his strides and came even with her in the foyer. Ryder opened the front door. She met his gaze as she walked past him, and then came to a dead stop when she saw the sleet.

It was no freak storm. No, this was all the work of Arian. No doubt Tristan or Dmitri had told him to keep Kinsey on the estate.

When Kinsey started to walk from the shelter of the overhang, Ryder stopped her. At her cold look, he released her and held up his hands. “Easy. I doona think getting wet in this cold is wise.”

“Because I’m human and can die?” she asked saucily.

“Aye. That’s exactly why.”

Some of the fire went out of her. Kinsey adjusted the bag on her shoulder. “I can’t be near you.”

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