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Only For Her Dragon (Dragon Guard Series Book 6)

By:Julia Mills

CHAPTER ONE

“We haven’t had this much to drink since college,” Charlie slurred as her head fell to the side. “And I still have the incriminating photos to prove it,” she giggled. “I wonder what your hubby would think of that.”

“Oh, you know Lance, he’d just ask for a repeat performance,” her best friend, Samantha, chuckled.

That was the problem…

Charlie didn’t know Lance, at least not like she thought she did. And what hurt the most was that she felt like she didn’t know Sam anymore either. There’d been a time when they’d shared everything, a time when the longest they could go without talking was twenty-four hours. When Sam married Lance Kavanaugh a little over a year ago, that all changed.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, things got exponentially more complicated a couple of weeks ago.

The guy who said ‘Life changes in the blink of an eye’ definitely knew what he was talking about. One minute Charlie had been kissing the sexiest man she’d ever met, and the next she had been looking at a dragon…a freakin’ dragon.

Of course, Aaron had told her to go back to the party before he’d sped away, but Dr. Charlene Gallagher did not take orders. She’d followed the man that continued to haunt her dreams at what she thought was a safe distance. Running in heels across the forest floor, barely able to see his back, Charlie had seriously doubted her judgment. That was before she heard the sounds of someone in distress. As the daughter of a policeman,and a trained doctor, she’d rushed headlong into the clearing.

It had taken her brain a second to process what was in front of her….and when it did, she absolutely could not believe her eyes.

There stood Sam, alongside her new family, looking at a mythical creature. They all seemed somewhat stunned, but for the most part, not near as freaked as Charlie felt.

Is it still considered mythical if I saw it with my own eyes? A question she still pondered.

Too much wine…think about it tomorrow.

Charlie had done the only thing she could. She’d run…far and fast… to her car. Then she drove like Danica Patrick straight to her condo. Once inside, with all four locks secured and the curtains drawn, she’d taken her first real breath. The floodgates had opened, and for the next twelve hours, she alternated between screaming, crying, and cursing.

The sun rose as she stared out her bedroom window, too drained to move. Sleep finally came…. and so did the dreams. Erotic dreams of passionate kisses and eyes as blue as the ocean, which then turned to dreams of dragons and knights fighting battles she’d only ever read about. Fortunately, her cell phone rang three hours later. Unfortunately, Sam’s name came across the display. Charlie hit ignore.

And she hit ignore every hour on the hour for the next two days.

The morning of the third day, she called the hospital where she and Sam were both residents. Told them she had a family emergency and needed time off. When the woman in Human Resources informed her that she had accrued six weeks of leave, all Charlie could do was sigh…it didn’t seem like enough.

Mustering up her courage, she then called Sam. Curt and to the point, Charlie said, “Staying at the cottage. Do not come. I’ll call when I’m ready.”

It was probably a dick move since the house was Sam’s, but Charlie couldn’t care. Hitting the button to disconnect the call, she dropped her cell on the couch and once again fell into a mess of tears and anger.

The two weeks that followed royally sucked! After a combined eleven years of college, medical school, and residency, Charlie had never taken off more than two days in a row. Not to mention, she always talked to Sam.

Then there was the matter of Aaron O’Brien, the stupid jerk that made her pulse race and her temperature rise. The asshole whose kiss she couldn’t forget. The moron whose lips had branded her, leaving her yearning for more. The idiot she had seen running around the lake behind the house a few times.

Even though he’s the last man on earth I want to see. Yeah…I’m the biggest liar ever.

About a week after what Charlie referred to as ‘the incident’, she started walking to pass the time. Exercise had always been a four-letter word, but how many times could she read the same magazines or watch the same reruns? She knew whom every Bachelor had slept with and every plate Gordon Ramsay had thrown by heart.

On the morning of the third day of her new walking program, she found the large terracotta pot on Sam’s redwood deck filled with daisies, one of her favorite flowers. She chalked it up to Lance trying to apologize for his wife.

Sweet gesture.

Not wanting their kindness to go to waste, she began taking care of them.

Four days later a brand new rose bush was miraculously growing on the side of the barbeque pit. It had been so expertly planted that it took Charlie an extra look to realize it hadn’t been there the day before. What baffled her more than the fact that someone was bringing her beautiful flowers, were the incredibly large blooms… out of season. It was as though their beauty was just for her.

Laughing aloud at her own ridiculous thoughts, Charlie continued on her walk, chastising herself for thinking anything was weird after what she’d witnessed. Returning home, she decided that if anything else unexplained happened, she’d have to break down and call Sam. Enough was enough. None of it made sense. Her best friend was a sweetheart but had never been one to give flowers or anything of the sort. Charlie was still pissed, but if Samantha was willing to go so far as to anonymously leave presents, then it was time to try and mend fences.

The next morning she had coffee and a bagel, perused the newspaper, and then headed out. She looked and looked, even walked around each tree, but there were no new flowers, not a bud, not a petal…nothing.

The same was true for the next five days.

Convincing herself it was for the best Charlie resumed her routine. Forgiving Sam was something she knew she had to do, but it still hurt to have been kept in the dark about something so monumentally important. Even after all the explanation filled voicemails, some that revealed more secrets, she just wasn’t ready to move on. There was no denying she missed everyone, some more than others, but she wasn’t at the point of rational discussion, so she ignored. It was just easier.

Day fifteen was exhausting. Who knew relaxing could take so much out of a girl? Charlie hadn’t been sleeping well and the days seem to stretch on forever. There was no work and no one to talk to. Then there had been all the times her cell phone had rung. It was beginning to get harder and harder to ignore her friend. Checking her call log, she counted fifteen missed calls in all. Mostly from Sam, but some were from a number she didn’t recognize.

Giving in, mostly because she couldn’t take the solitude one moment longer, Charlie picked up the phone and called Sam. Whatever residual anger she felt melted away when Sam’s daughter, Sydney, answered the phone. “Hey, Aunt Charlie! You still mad?”

Chuckling despite herself, Charlie answered, “No, sweetheart, I’m not mad anymore.”

No sooner had the words left her mouth than squeals of delight filled the earpiece. The sounds of tennis shoes slapping against hardwood floors had Charlie picturing her adopted niece running through the house as she screamed. “Mom! Mom! It’s Aunt Charlie! She’s not mad anymore! She’s on your cell phone!”

In less than a minute, Samantha said a tentative hello. There were exactly fifteen point two seconds of awkward silence, two more minutes of apologies, and then the friends truly started talking. They discussed, argued, and cried until both cell phones beeped at their loss of charge. Right before her phone died, Charlie told Sam to grab something alcoholic and head her way.

Four hours and two bottles of wine later, the two friends had rehashed many things, starting as far back as the first day they met. However, the ladies were still kind of dancing around the moment Charlie had unwittingly witnessed a living, breathing dragon. The reason for all the secrecy made sense, but it still stung that Sam hadn’t trusted her and she couldn’t keep from saying it for about the tenth time.

“You know I love you like a sister… and I forgive you… but my feelings are still hurt. Did you really think you couldn’t trust me?” Charlie asked, working hard to focus after all the wine.

Sam shook her head. “Dammit, Charlie, you know I trust you with my life…with my child’s life. You just have to understand…it was part of the deal. When I vowed to love Lance forever, I also vowed to keep his secrets. And the secrets of his people. Nothing against you, Charlie, nothing at all. It was something I had to do. Had it been up to me, you would’ve known everything right after I did.”

Charlie could hear the honesty in Sam’s voice, along with the burden of all the secrecy and all her leftover frustration simply vanished. “I forgive you,” she whispered. Then added, “And I hope you forgive me for being so pigheaded.”

Sam snickered as she rose from her chair, stumbled in Charlie’s direction, and all but fell in her lap before hugging her tight. “Pigheaded is what I’ve come to expect from you. Wouldn’t have you any other way.”

The two laughed until tears streamed down their faces. It was Charlie that regained enough composure to speak first. “Whatever Mrs. Dragon Lady! Let’s get some of that pizza they delivered an hour ago. I’m sure it’s good, cold, and greasy by now.”

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