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       Dragos Goes to Washington, p.1

         Part #8.50 of Elder Races series by Thea Harrison
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Dragos Goes to Washington

  Dragos Goes to Washington

  (A Story of the Elder Races)

  Thea Harrison

  Dragos Cuelebre, Lord of the Wyr, needs to throw a party without maiming anyone.

  That isn’t exactly as easy as it might sound. After the destructive events of the last eighteen months, the Elder Races are heading to Washington D.C. to foster peace with humankind. Not known for his diplomacy skills, Dragos must rely on his mate Pia to help navigate a battlefield of words and polite smiles rather than claws. With Dragos’s mating instinct riding close to the surface, his temper is more volatile than ever and the threat of violence hovers in the air.

  Then the human spouse of a prominent politician winds up murdered and Dragos and Pia must race against time to hunt down those behind it before they are held responsible for the crime.

  For fans of DRAGON BOUND and LORD’S FALL, the latest novella in the Elder Races holds passion, peril, political intrigue, and revelations that will change Dragos and Pia’s lives forever.

  DRAGOS GOES TO WASHINGTON is the first part of a three-story series about Dragos, Pia, and their son Liam. Each story stands alone, but fans might want to read all three in order as they will be released: DRAGOS GOES TO WASHINGTON, PIA DOES HOLLYWOOD, and LIAM TAKES MANHATTAN.

  Dragos Goes to Washington

  Copyright © 2015 by Teddy Harrison LLC

  ISBN 10: 0990666158

  ISBN 13: 978-0-9906661-5-8

  Digital Edition

  Cover Art © Frauke Spanuthe

  This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locale or organizations is entirely coincidental.

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced, scanned or distributed in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

  Table of Contents

  Title Page

  About the Book

  Copyright Page

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  About the Author

  Also available

  Look for these titles from Thea Harrison

  Chapter One

  Dragos’s denim-clad, hard thigh slid against Pia’s as he sprawled back in his seat.

  She wasn’t wearing jeans. She wore shorts, and the small abrasive friction on her skin sent a frisson of sexual awareness thrumming through her body.

  It was always that way between them. Heat shimmered whenever they were near each other, invisible yet intense. He burned up her world, until there was nothing else, nobody else but him.

  The dragon would have been pleased to know it. Probably too pleased. He was demanding and possessive at the best of times, so she had no intention of telling him. He was in danger of becoming too complacent as it was.

  The thought made her smile to herself. They must look very prosaic as they sat in the bleachers, just like the other parents, watching Liam practice on the football field with his teammates.

  The kids were so adorable. Still in elementary school, their helmets were too big, their slim bodies undeveloped. Most were boys, but there were four intense girls on the field as well.

  Other people were present and watching, several parents along with some of the other schoolchildren. Pia’s heart constricted as her gaze lingered on one mother with two preschool children.

  The mother handed a portable container of yogurt to the oldest, a delicate girl around three years old, who twirled to make the gauzy skirt of her sundress flare as she sucked on the mouthpiece of the container. She wore sparkly pink heart-shaped glasses. The smallest was a cheerful, fat baby in a stroller, wearing a floppy sunhat. Around six or seven months old, the baby gnawed busily on a teething biscuit.

  The other parents were present to support the earnest players on the field, as they waited for football practice to end so they could take their children home.

  She and Dragos were watching the practice to make sure they hadn’t made a mistake in letting Liam join the team.

  Since the school year had started, he’d had another growth spurt. It wasn’t unusual for predator Wyr to grow at a faster rate than herbivores, but Liam’s growth rate went far beyond that of a normal predator Wyr child. To minimize the strangeness of the situation for both Liam and his classmates, they had changed schools when they moved him up from first grade to fifth. The new elementary school was farther from home, but Pia didn’t mind the extra driving time.

  Sometimes she sent Eva ahead with the SUV, let Liam shapeshift into his dragon form, and rode on his shoulders as he flew the route to school. It was exactly as they had once said to each other—as soon as Liam had grown too big to ride her Wyr form, she could ride his.

  The morning flights were their little secret. She was certain Dragos wouldn’t approve, but Liam was so nervous at having a passenger who couldn’t fly on her own that he flew slowly and with extreme care. Also, between the two of them, they had serious cloaking skills, so she always felt quite safe.

  Once they reached a prearranged spot where they met Eva, behind a sheltered copse of trees out of sight from the road, Liam landed and shifted back into a boy. Pia would take the wheel and drive sedately the rest of the route, just like a normal mom taking her normal child to a normal school. They often giggled about that together.

  Liam appeared to have adjusted well to the change in schools, and was so excited about the thought of joining the football team, that Pia hadn’t had the heart to say no, even though she knew, watching him, that he was much faster and more powerful than any other child on the field.

  That didn’t dim his transparent joy at playing the game. She noted with approval how carefully he paced himself to match the other children’s abilities.

  “I think he’s going to be fine, don’t you?” She turned to Dragos.

  “He’s fine, as long as he doesn’t lose his temper. He could hurt one of those other kids all too easily.”

  Dragos’s voice was logical and matter-of-fact. He sounded like he was discussing the relative strengths and weakness of one of his sentinels.

  She frowned at him. He had stretched out his long frame so that he sprawled over three aisles, leaning his elbows on the row of bleachers behind them with his boots propped on the row below.

  The afternoon was bright and hot for early autumn, but Dragos never wore sunglasses as protection from the sun. He only wore them when he wanted to put a barrier between him and other people. They sat some distance from everybody else, so he had folded his sunglasses and tucked them into the pocket of his shirt.

  Dressed in a plain gray polo shirt and jeans, his silken black hair and dark bronze skin appeared more burnished than ever. His gold eyes gleamed thoughtfully under straight, lowered brows. The only part of him that did not tan was the pale, thin scar that slashed across one brow.

  The dragon was a creature of fire, and Dragos never burned, no matter how long he stayed out in the sun, while Pia had to constantly wear sunscreen on her pale skin, along with a baseball cap and sunglasses.

  Suppressing an envious sigh, she said, “I hear what you’re saying, but I don’t think it’s fair to judge him on what-ifs. He’s a good, careful boy. If he says he can handle it, I think we have to believe him. We can’t give him the experience of a happy childhood, brief though it may be, if we’re alwa
ys limiting what he can have or do. He would only grow to resent us, and rightfully so.”

  Dragos remained silent for a long moment. As usual, it was impossible to tell what he was thinking by the impassive expression on his hard features. After a time, he said, “He’s advancing faster than we thought he would.”

  Unsure of where he was going with that statement, she replied cautiously, “I know.”

  Her husband sucked a tooth, the set of his mouth slanting as if he tasted something sour. His gold gaze cut sideways to her. “He’s not going to be a boy too much longer. Maybe we should let him have that dog he wanted.”

  “Let him . . .” Her voice trailed away as she stared at him. “But you’ve always been so adamant against getting a dog.”

  He lifted one massive shoulder, powerful muscles rippling underneath the smooth gray surface of his shirt. “Yeah, well, I’ve thought about it some more and changed my mind. It would have to be a puppy, from a breed that’s known for being calm, so we can train it not to panic whenever it’s around me, Liam, or any of the sentinels.”

  Dragos truly did not understand the desire to have a pet. It was, he said, like how he couldn’t understand Liam’s love for the toy bunny he’d had since he was a baby.

  Now, Liam had declared he was much too old for the bunny, although he still insisted on keeping it in his closet. If Liam wasn’t so adamant on keeping it close, Pia would have stolen it from him by now.

  She loved that bunny, tattered ears and all. She loved remembering how Liam had chewed on those ears as he was teething.

  “What about when Liam’s old enough to leave home?” she asked, giving back to Dragos his strongest argument. “That’s going to happen faster than we could have thought. What are we going do with the dog then?”

  He shrugged again. “I don’t know. We can cross that bridge when we come to it.”

  Dragos tried so hard. Parenting was new to them both, especially parenting such a magically gifted child. But somehow it was different for Dragos. Pia was younger. In a lot of ways, she was more adaptable.

  Dragos was . . . Well, to be honest, she wasn’t sure how old he was. She just knew he was very old.

  But he worked hard at overcoming that obstacle. As frightening and ruthless as he could be, he was an amazing father.

  Her gaze drifted back to the happy, fat little baby in the stroller, and her heart constricted again. A strange, unknown force built in her chest, until she couldn’t contain it any longer.

  “I want another one.” The words burst out of her before she had time to consider them, spilling out of a deep well of need she had barely acknowledged in herself.

  “You want another what?” Dragos asked.

  This wasn’t the time to talk about such an emotionally charged subject. She tried to bite the words back, but they tumbled out anyway. “A baby. I want another baby.”

  “You want . . .” He stopped and started again, speaking his words with care. “You want to talk about that here?”

  The astonished look on his face was too much to take. The details of the sunny late afternoon blurred as tears filled her eyes. Quickly, before Dragos could see her expression, she whipped around to face forward.

  “No, of course not.” Her voice shook. “I shouldn’t have said that. It just fell out of my mouth.”

  He straightened from his slouching position.

  If he touched her or showed any sign of gentleness, she could feel the tears would turn into a geyser, and she really didn’t want to burst into tears in public. She really didn’t.

  What the hell, self?

  Bolting upright, she slid away from him as she stuttered, “F-football practice is almost over—why don’t you wait here for Liam, and I’ll meet you both at the car?”

  “Pia,” Dragos said, the gold of his eyes flaring to incandescence. Clearly he didn’t like that suggestion in the slightest.

  Telepathically, she said, Dragos, it’s all right. I’m having an emotional moment. I didn’t expect it. It came out of nowhere, and I’m a little embarrassed by it. I’d like to take a few moments to compose myself. Please.

  After a moment, he growled, We’re still going to talk about this.

  Of course we will. Just not in public, okay? Backing farther away, she headed down the wide concrete steps.

  As she walked away, she could feel his fierce energy boiling at her back. He hated it when she cried, and he would doubly hate the fact that she asked him to stay behind.

  But he would do it, because she asked it of him. Because he loved her.

  Aside from the small fact that he could be the most terrifying creature she’d ever laid eyes on, he was an excellent husband and mate as well as a father.

  She reached the ground level. Just before she turned the corner, she looked back up at him.

  No longer in a relaxed sprawl across the bleachers, he sat forward, bracing his elbows on his knees, his dark head angled toward her. He had put on his sunglasses, no doubt to hide the incandescence spilling from his gaze, and his jawline was tight. It made his hard, ruthless features look even fiercer.

  Suddenly she noticed the incongruities in the scene.

  It was a perfect suburban setting, on a perfect suburban day. Tame, emerald green fields rolled toward the town in the distance. The aged Adirondacks Mountains provided a picturesque backdrop.

  The coach’s whistle sounded over shouts and calls from the children. They ran toward him and stood in the group looking up as he talked to them.

  Pia had been wrong about nobody paying attention to them.

  Nobody had been paying attention to her.

  Everybody paid attention to Dragos. As she glanced around, she saw several other adults peek up at where he sat, some distance away from anyone else.

  He was the anomaly in the perfect suburban setting. He was a lion sprawling in the midst of a flock of plump, clucking pigeons, a dark, brutally elegant Mephistopheles taking a silent stroll through a placid country church, and some instinctive part of them knew it. A couple of the women looked frankly covetous. One in particular looked covetous and a little afraid at the same time.

  As that described to a T the beginning of her relationship with Dragos, she understood exactly how that woman felt.

  Pia didn’t like to think of the lonely days when she had been forced to steal from Dragos, leave her life behind and go on the run. Those early days before she and Dragos had developed feelings for each other were some of her most uncomfortable memories.

  She had been so frightened of him. Then, when she had met him, she had been so frightened and attracted to him at the same time, she had been one confused cookie.

  He had been just as confused—angry at the theft, mistrustful, and sexually drawn to her at the same time. When he had first found her and tackled her on the beach, he had fingered her hair while examining her with that laser-sharp focus of his, and his erection had pressed against her hip.

  So, is that your long scaly reptilian tail, or are you just happy to see me?

  It had been the first thing she had ever said to him.

  How on earth did we find ourselves here, of all places? she wondered as she looked around.

  All at once the humor in the perfect suburban scene struck her. As she walked toward their Cadillac Escalade, she found herself laughing and wiping her face at the same time.

  On the trip home, Dragos remained silent.

  Liam was full of excited chatter about his day, and the football practice, so he didn’t notice anything odd.

  However, Pia was excruciatingly aware of how quiet Dragos was. Nerves closed up her throat, and she responded to Liam just enough to keep the boy’s momentum going, while she sneaked glances over at Dragos’s hard, unrevealing profile.

  He still wore his sunglasses. He wasn’t hiding the expression in his eyes from her, was he? Biting her lip, she stared out her window at the passing scenery.

  When they reached the house, they walked inside through the kitchen. Dragos told
Liam, “Get yourself a snack. Your mom and I have something we need to discuss, so we’re going up to our suite. We’ll see you at supper.”

  “Sure.” Liam glanced from Dragos to her. “Can I go swimming in the lake?”

  Even though they had an Olympic-sized, heated swimming pool, Liam preferred swimming in the lake because he liked to dive for fish. Clearing her throat, she said, “Go right ahead. Let Hugh know, so he can go with you.”

  “Okay!” He opened the door to the fridge and stuck his head inside.

  Turning to leave, Pia walked through the ground floor and climbed the stairs on shaky legs. She knew exactly when Dragos left the kitchen to follow her, and not because she heard him. Even for such a big man, he could move in complete silence when he chose.

  She could feel the heat of his Power when he came around the bottom of the stairs and drew closer. She picked up her pace until she was almost running down the hall. Leaving the suite door open, she looked around their untidy bedroom.

  Clothes were strewn on the king-sized bed, suits for Dragos to wear, and her own outfits that she had laid along the edges of the bed and dropped various pieces of matching jewelry on top. None of her outfits were from Target, not for this trip.

  She had forgotten that she was in the middle of packing. Sighing, she walked into her closet and dragged her largest suitcase off the shelf. As she walked back into the bedroom, Dragos stood in the middle of the floor, his hands on his hips, watching her. He had finally taken his sunglasses off.

  Not quite looking at his face, she asked, “How long are we going to be in D.C. again?”

  “I’m waiting on confirmation now, but it might be eight days, depending on when the demesne leaders meet,” he said. “You should count on at least a week.”

  Packing for a week’s stay in D.C. wasn’t like packing for a week on vacation. She did some quick mental calculations.

  She wouldn’t be attending any demesne meetings between the leaders, so she dismissed that as irrelevant. Seven days, with possibly three functions a day, meant she needed to think about taking as many as twenty-one outfits, and seven of those outfits needed to be evening wear. She might be able to get away with wearing the same outfit throughout the day, but she couldn’t count on it.

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