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Jewel lay fully clothed in the crook of Gray's arms. She had wanted to stay naked with him all night, but he'd insisted they be prepared for any unwanted nighttime visitors.

Right now, his deep, relaxed breathing assured her that he slept peacefully. Her body was sated and relaxed, but her mind refused to quiet. What they'd done together had been wonderful. So wonderfully satisfying. When he'd bit her, oh, the pleasure! Nearly too much to bear. But something about their couplings was beginning to bother her.

He didn't linger over her body like he did with other women. He took her savagely, quickly. He didn't whisper erotic words in her ear; he grunted and growled and uttered guttural things. She'd loved it, gods, she loved it, but she couldn't help but worry that perhaps he didn't like her as well as he'd liked the others.

Jewel sighed and forced herself to sleep. He was here, in her arms, and he did care for her. That would have to be enough for now.

Gray slowly came to wakefulness, images of making love with Jewel fresh in his mind. He lay on a mossy riverbank, his woman tucked securely in his arms. He loved the way he'd gone wild for her. He loved the way she'd gone wild for him, loved the way she'd clawed and bit at him. Loved the way she'd ferally growled his name.

He loved her. Period.

He wasn't going home without her. He'd find a way to take her with him; he had to find a way. He couldn't live without her. She might even now be carrying his child; they'd taken no precautions, this time or before. Maybe Atlantean and human could procreate, maybe they couldn't, but he liked the thought of his woman bearing his child.

Either way, he had to go back, which meant she had to go with him; he couldn't stay here and allow OBI to send in another agent. The only reason they hadn't yet - or had they? Damn, he just didn't know. They wanted as few people as possible to know about the jewel. Hopefully that concern was holding them back. They wouldn't want to take a chance that another government would learn about it.

Later, he and Jewel were going to have themselves a serious conversation. Was she the Jewel of Dunamis? If not, what was her connection? And there was a connection, he knew there was.

Constantly he wavered between yes and no. Yes, she was Dunamis. No, she wasn't. She was a woman, for Christ's sake, a living, breathing, sensual woman. Not a stone. But she could predict when their enemy approached, knew that enemy's battle plan, as well. She could read minds and knew truth from lie.

Everything Dunamis could do.

Shit! Frustrated, he raked a hand through his hair. "Do not move again, human."

The deep, raspy voice echoed through the darkness. Remaining perfectly still, Gray sent his gaze throughout the night. He'd been so lost in his musing, he'd allowed someone to sneak up on him. Fucking hell!

Soon he spotted the intruder as clearly as if the sun glowed overhead. His blood ran cold. The golden-eyed warrior had a sword pointed at his heart.

"Let the woman go," he said. Slowly he shifted, pressing his skin against the blade's tip. It pricked and stung, but he was able to settle Jewel beneath him, guarding her with his body. Slowly, so slowly, he inched his hand to his waist and the blade strapped there. "And maybe I'll let you live."

The dark-haired warrior chuckled. "I like your spirit, human. Or vampire? Or demon? You smell of all three. Now, awaken the woman. I wish to speak with her."

"I'm awake, Renard."

Gray released a breath he hadn't known he'd been holding. Jewel sounded calm, completely unafraid, and the fact that she knew the warrior by name eased his worry for her safety. That didn't stop him from gripping his blade and holding it at the ready.

"Remove your weapon from Gray, please," she said, sitting up. "If you hurt him, I will find a way to make your life miserable for all eternity."

Noticing the way her white robe flowed over her exquisite curves, Gray was immensely grateful he'd insisted that they dress after their explosive lovemaking in the river. He wanted no one viewing her nakedness but himself.

The warrior Renard did as commanded and sheathed his weapon with a long, drawn-out sigh. "Am I allowed to have no fun?"

"Not with my man, no."

Gray liked those words on her lips.

 

"Did you come to steal me away?" she asked. "Actually, no."

Jewel relaxed. "Truth," she said.

Gray jumped to his feet, not wanting the brute to have any type of advantage. "You want to explain why you're here and threatening me at sword point?" he asked, keeping his voice conversational.

The large warrior, who stood as tall as Gray, grinned. "Not particularly, no."

"Renard," Jewel said, her expression as stern as a schoolteacher. "Tell us, or I'll read your mind. Then I'll tell all your secrets."

He shuddered. "First, you enter dragon territory. Then we see you in the Inner City with Mere following you. Then demons attack you, and if that isn't enough, we see the vampires save you. Have you joined with them?" The question lashed out, sharpened with a dangerous edge.

"Of course not."

"Then tell us, please, what is going on."

"We? Us?" Gray demanded, already scanning the forest.

Light began to seep from the crystal dome, chasing away the shadows as four other hulking warriors stepped from behind the trees. Gray rolled his eyes. Not only had one man sneaked up on him, but four of his friends had, as well. Why not post a sign on the trees that read, Human This Way. Follow Path.

Jewel squealed happily, jumping to her feet. She raced over to the men, throwing herself in their arms one by one.

"Jewel!" He started to go after her, every possessive and protective bone in body shouting a protest. He wanted to jerk her away from them, but he didn't. He forced himself to remain in place, entranced by the sight of her happiness. The men were gentle with her as they passed her from one to the other.

He didn't like anyone else - especially these testosterone filled warriors - putting their hands on his woman. And she was his. She'd purred her love and he'd claimed her, so she might as well get used to it.

When had he become such an alpha?

Renard's golden eyes lit with amusement. "Lucky for you she doesn't want to part with you."

He crossed his arms over his chest. "Exactly how long have you been hanging around here?"

Smile growing, the warrior said, "We gave you privacy for your mating, if that's what you want to know." His amusement died quickly, however. "What kind of creature are you?"

Gray shrugged, not about to answer or explain. "Jewel," he called, done with the stranger. She'd been away from him for too long. "Come here. Please."

Steps light, she reclaimed her position at his side. Her expression radiated bright, illuminant bliss. "These men belong to Darius en Kragin," she explained. "He's the king of the dragons, and the dragons are the closet things I've ever had to friends."

He almost groaned. He did frown. "Dragons?" Too easily he remembered how one of their race had welcomed him those first few nights in Atlantis.

"These men are honorable." She looked to the tallest blond. "How is Darius and his new bride?" The warrior, Brand, raised sandy brows, saying pointedly, "You will soon see for yourself."

Her smile faded. "Renard said you were not here to steal me. There was truth in his words." "I will not steal you. You will simply come with me willingly."

"No," Gray said. "We won't."

"We need to reach the Temple of Cronus," Jewel added.

"The Temple of - " Renard, who now stood next to the blond, frowned. "The temple was destroyed months ago when humans came through the portal."

Jewel's body went completely still, her lungs refusing to take in air. Surely he was mistaken. Surely she would have known, have felt something. "You're wrong," she managed to gasp.

"It was decimated, and there is nothing left. I speak true."

Yes, he did, she realized, her stomach knotting painfully. An image of crumpled stone flashed in her mind, and she almost cried out. This was what her feeling of foreboding had been about when she'd asked Gray to take her to the temple. She'd ignored it, had refused to contemplate it because then she would have had to give up hope of finding her father.

But all this time, her hopes had been for nothing. She raised a shaky hand to her mouth, covering her trembling lips. She wanted a family so desperately, wanted to find her father and feel his arms around her. She wanted something like Gray had with his brothers and sister.

A strong arm wrapped around her waist and tugged her into an equally strong chest. Gray's masculine scent reached her nose. "I'm here, baby."

White-hot tears burned her eyes, and the trembling spread to her chin. Sinking into him, she drew from his strength and swallowed back her anguish. She would not break down emotionally in front of these men. She was strong, damn it. She would survive. Right now she had Gray, and she would cherish their short time together, letting nothing taint it.

She gave him a lingering hug, then forced herself to disengage. She faced Brand squarely. "Why does Darius wish to see me?" There. Switching the conversation to the dragon king almost, almost drowned the knowledge that she'd never find her father.

Brand tsked under his tongue. "You know only he can tell you that. Are you ready to leave?"

Gray stiffened, and she knew his blood was heating, preparing his body for battle.

"I have promised to do something for Gray," she said, "and that promise comes before your king." "Whatever it is you must do for your man, you can do at our palace."

Yes, she could, she realized with both joy and dejection. That would give her more time with Gray, and she grasped onto the reprieve. She faced him. "I know you're in a hurry to find Dunamis," she whispered, "and I know your people need you back, but can you stay? For one more day?" Sucking in a breath, she added, "Dunamis will be yours now or later, whichever you decide."

He searched her face, his expression guarded. She expected him to ask how he could acquire the stone now that Cronus was destroyed but he didn't. He nodded and said, "One more day."

Relief swept through her, blanketing her sorrow and her fear. "Thank you." "Gentlemen," he said, never taking his gaze from her. "It appears we will be joining you."

"Too bad you agreed so easily," one of the dragons said, the tallest of the group. "I would have loved to convince you some other way." The man actually sounded disappointed.

"You will be safe with the dragons." Jewel linked her fingers with Gray's. "They are a fierce lot, but very protective and Darius - " She paused, her words grinding to a halt. A dark premonition slithered through her mind. "Darius is in trouble."

The dragons didn't question her knowledge of this. They knew her powers firsthand and knew she never lied. Simultaneously they roared, growing wider and larger, morphing into their dragon forms, claws, tails and wings sprouting from their bodies and ripping away their clothing. Scales replaced skin, sharp fangs replaced teeth. Fire spewed from their mouths.

Gray tried to grab her and push her behind him.

"It's all right," she said. "They will not hurt us."

"My God. I've seen some weird shit, but this... "

"They will fly us to the dragon palace." She guided him forward. "Climb on and enjoy the ride."

"Dear God." He grabbed his backpack from the ground and slung it over his shoulder before tentatively climbing on the dragon's back. Thankfully it remained unmoving, allowing him to settle on top. His every action was slow and measured.

"What's taking you so long?" Jewel's lips twitched, a smile clinging to the edges.

That smile eased the ache in his stomach, an ache that roared to life when she'd been told about Cronus, and he'd watched her go pale, watched tears fall from her eyes. He'd been helpless to do anything for her.

"Like I really want to touch something I'm not supposed to. I'm thinking we should walk." Even as he spoke, he was swinging his leg around, ready to hop off.

She laughed, the erotic sound of it washing over him in sensual waves. "You are such a man. Just remember, the quicker we get there, the quicker I can have my wicked way with you."

Faster than she could blink, he reached down, grabbed her arm, and hoisted her behind him. "Kick it into gear, Brand. We're ready for takeoff."

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