Hearts of Destiny
Kay Doherty © 2020
All Rights Reserved
Duray Horde Vault
After adjusting the stack of scrolls tucked beneath his arm, Matthias opened the door to the vaults and headed down the stairs. He had no idea what was contained in the newest additions to the horde library, but Sadie had insisted he take them, look through them, and archive them appropriately. The sheer number of scrolls he was carrying guaranteed weeks of sequestered reading, and he was looking forward to it. Matthias often disappeared for days within the vault stacks, and no one cared. He was moody and antisocial at the best of times and preferred his own company to that of other dragons.
At the back of the library, he dropped the scrolls unceremoniously on top of the desk he’d claimed as his, decades ago. Since no one came down to the vaults, no one had challenged his claim. As far as the horde was concerned, the vaults were Matthias’s domain. The soft thump of little feet echoed in the cavernous space, dulled slightly by the papers and leather-bound tomes that filled the shelving. Matthias knew who those steps belonged to, and his disposition lightened a bit. Sadie’s son had a thirst for knowledge that Matthias admired, even if it did mean his quiet sanctuary was invaded on a regular basis by the child.
“What are you doing down here, Luca?”
The fledgling hefted a book that was nearly a third his size, and Matthias recognized it as an old human-written story about a witch. He wasn’t sure it was an appropriate choice for a fledgling of just eight years to read, but he’d learned early on that Luca was not an ordinary little dragon. There was something special about him: something that reminded Matthias of the child he’d raised centuries before.
“Nothing in that book is factual,” Matthias told the boy.
“That’s good, because the witch ate the kids.” Luca winced before turning around and disappearing into the shelving.
“Don’t make me come behind you and straighten up,” Matthias ordered, his voice carrying through the room despite him not raising it the slightest bit.
Twenty entirely-too-quiet minutes passed before Matthias rose from his chair to go check on Luca. He found the book the boy had brought back exactly where it should be, but Luca wasn’t there. Returning to the main aisle, Matthias glanced down each row as he passed until he finally found Luca sitting on the floor with his back against the stone wall with a book opened across his little legs.
“This isn’t a row you’re allowed to be in,” Matthias said, shocking the little boy who was clearly immersed in what he was reading.
Matthias squatted in front of him, closed the book, and willed the panic he felt explode in his chest to not show on his face as he pulled the book from Luca’s grasp. He stood and placed the tome well above the boy’s head. Luca was entirely too curious for his own good.
“But I liked that story,” Luca complained. “It had a dragon married to a wolf, and I didn’t know that could happen, and I want to see what happens next.”
Matthias swallowed thickly. Luca thought he was reading a fictional story, but Matthias knew all too well that the Chevalier family had been real, and he’d be damned if he put the idea of interspecies matings into the head of the horde matriarch’s son. Pushing the memory of his own interspecies mating to the back of his mind—because what did it matter anymore?—he looked down at the fledgling.
He steered the boy into a more appropriate area of the vaults to be explored and then returned to the tome he’d confiscated. Pulling it off the shelf, Matthias thumbed through page after page of his own historical account of the Chevalier, removed the most informative and thereby damaging chapters, and then replaced it on the shelf. Luca was only going to get older, taller, and more curious with age. Matthias wouldn’t risk him finding the book again.
Later that night, after darkness had fallen and the compound had grown silent with slumber, Matthias burned one of the last firsthand accounts of the Chevalier—his own. Why he’d thought it was a good idea to put that horror down on paper, he’d never understand. Youthful folly. All that was left to do was locate and obtain Alietta’s journal, the final remaining written history of the family and subsequent events Matthias had yet to destroy. For now, he was content knowing the only memory of the Chevalier that existed in the Duray Horde was now locked safely away inside his head; a place no amount of childhood curiosity could penetrate.
“Claim me as your mate.”
Matthias stared at his defiant young mate. Brown eyes blazing, mouth set into a smug line, Ean looked directly into Matthias’s eyes as he made his demand. Damn, he made a pretty picture. Ean may be the oldest of all the wolf shifters in the pack, but to a dragon pushing five hundred, he was still so young. Matthias wouldn’t trade Ean’s hot-headed temper for anything. Strong personalities such as Ean’s turned him on, which meant he was constantly fighting his arousal. Crossing his arms over his chest, Alietta’s journal securely in his hand, he watched Ean’s eyes narrow as he took his time to respond.
“Is that truly what you want?” Matthias asked. “To be claimed under duress?”
Ean’s defiance melted into distress; the heat in his eyes subsiding. Apparently, his pretty little wolf hadn’t thought the demand completely through. Matthias, however, didn’t want his past mistakes dangled in front of Tanner or the rest of the pack just yet. He still hadn’t decided how he was going to handle the situation, and he needed Ean to keep his secret. At least for a little longer. The wolf shifter walked around the desk. Matthias thought he would head straight for the door, but instead, Ean stopped in front of him.
“Why don’t you want me?” he asked.
The pain in Ean’s voice stabbed Matthias through the heart. Taking a mate wasn’t something he was ready to do, and tying someone so young and innocent to someone as damaged as him wasn’t right, but Ean didn’t know that. One day, he would. Ean may have thought he’d just discovered everything his pack was searching for, but the horrible truth had yet to be disclosed. Ean hadn’t been far enough into the journal to truly understand Matthias’s deceit. Something deep inside, probably his dragon who ached to be with his mate, wouldn’t allow Matthias to leave Ean in such a state. He stepped closer to the wolf and lowered his head so their noses were nearly touching.
“I do want you, little boy,” Matthias said.
Ean’s features smoothed out, his lips parted, and he reached for Matthias, but Matthias stepped back, and Ean lowered his hand before making contact.
“Patience,” Matthias said as he stepped around the desk. He needed the mahogany barrier between him and his mate to prevent himself from dragging the wolf to the floor.
Ean braced his hands on the desk. “I won’t keep this information to myself for long, dragon. The pack deserves to know—”
“And they will,” Matthias interrupted. “There are still things I need to prove before I lay it out for all to see. Past decisions, actions, ancient spells: the consequences have a way of taking on a life of their own when left unattended.”
Ean sighed heavily and dipped his head. Matthias silently admired the wolf as Ean stared at the desktop between his hands, weighing his thoughts. Nothing was more attractive to Matthias than an intelligent man. He didn’t always agree with Ean’s actions, but the Pack Beta was a very smart man. Ean straightened and ran his fingers through his short brown hair before putting his hands on his hips.
“Fine,” Ean said. “But, as I said, I won’t keep quiet for long.”
“Good. Now claim me as your mate.”
Fire once again erupted in Ean’s eyes as he glared at Matthias. It took everything he had not to smile at the wolf. Intelligent, strong-willed, and far too young. While Matthias was attracted to the boy, and occasionally entertained the idea of joining him in bed at night, he had no intention of ever claiming another mate. The idea of a second chance to get things right was a wondrous proposition, but Matthias knew he was unworthy of such a thing. Ean deserved better, but for the moment he didn’t know it. Matthias was in no rush to show him either. Like the horrible person he knew himself to be, Matthias would let Ean continue to think he was just a stubborn old dragon, rather than the fucked-up mess he truly was.
“Why not?” Ean growled. “You said you wanted me.”
“Wanting to pin you beneath me and fucking you is not the same as claiming you.”
Ean’s fangs descended as he emitted a second animalistic growl, and Matthias went hard in his pants. Ean was flashing his temper, which was a damn sexy sight. Completely unaware of Matthias’s sexual arousal, Ean spun on his heel and stomped out of the library. He slammed the door shut behind him, blessedly leaving Matthias alone to deal with his turbulent thoughts and hard dick. Taking care of himself wasn’t something he would be indulging in at the moment. He’d been doing that far too often of late, since unexpectedly meeting Ean several months before, and it was becoming more difficult. His hand simply wasn’t what he or his dragon wanted.
Taking a seat in Luca’s plush office chair, Matthias set the journal down and heaved a big sigh. He’d kept himself hidden away for centuries, first in the Duray Horde archives and recently up in Luca’s private library, for this very reason. He didn’t want to risk finding his true mate. If he had known coming to aid Luca, a young dragon he thought of as a son, would land him in the exact situation he’d spent the majority of his life trying to avoid, he would have left the damn fledgling to his own devices. Looking back, that’s exactly what he should have done.
In the beginning, he had entertained the idea of walking away from Luca and his little interspecies pack. The longer he had stayed, though, the less likely it became he would ever leave. Alietta had been his lover, a sorceress he had thought was his mate, but after meeting Ean he knew what a true mate was. He could never walk away from Ean…not for long. Matthias would inevitably be drawn back to the handsome, young wolf shifter. His dragon would demand it. Given the amount of trouble Ean and his pack continued to get into, it was probably wise for Matthias to stay. Someone had to look out for the impetuous boy.