Dragon Unearthed by Ishabelle Torry

Chapter 3

Jemma

I stare at the iPad screen, randomly scrolling from side to side, and not really reading any of my notes. Eric’s sudden appearance still has me rattled, and I simply can’t concentrate. Anger. Resentment. Fear. They all choke me. How dare he show his stupid face at my dig…or worse—what if he is trying to steal more of my work? It dawns on me that I never really got the reason why he was here, other than to “protect his investment.” Red flags flash before my eyes. I can feel my cheeks inflame and my nostrils flare.

I toss the iPad to the cot and snag the suitcase out from under it. Without a care, I dump the contents on the dirt floor and rummage through the pile until I find the manila envelope containing my contract. With shaky hands, I remove the documents, immediately seeking out the signatures of the parties involved in the financial section. It’s signed Rhonda Yule. Why does that name sound so familiar?

Pulling the cellphone from the back of my jean pocket, I hold it in the air a billion different ways. No damn signal. Ughh. Of course, why would there be signal in the middle of nowhere New Mexico? It wasn’t as if the roaming elk needed to make a phone call or text their BFF. I stare at the name harder, as if that will trigger my memory any faster. Rhonda Yule. David’s signature fills the line below. “Ohh!” I gush excitedly. David brokered this contract. He would surely know who the hell this lady benefactor was and if she had any connection to my scumbag ex.

With contract in hand, I step outside of my tent. The night air hits my skin. After being holed up in a cave all day in one hundred degree weather, the cool wind is more than welcomed. I raise my arms above my head and stretch vigorously, relishing the pull and spread of sore muscles. “Please don’t let that douche be involved in this dig,” I whisper to the stars above. “I just don’t think I can do it again.” I exhale and inhale deeply. Might as well get it over with and find out for sure.

I make my way down the dirt trail toward the men’s camp. As the only female on all the crews, I am stuck in the back behind the men. Not that I mind too much really. I prefer the solitude and extra privacy. Well, as much privacy as living in a tent on the side of the road can give. The fire burning at the center of the camp ahead illuminates a few of the men’s outlines as they walk about. David’s tent is off to the left, if memory serves me right.

“Hell-oh!”

I whirl around, clutching the paperwork to my chest and gasp for air. “What the hell, man? Are you trying to give me a heart attack?” I squint to see beneath the pale moonlight, but it’s a rather dark, cloudy night and all I can make out is his outline—his really large outline. I can’t recall anyone on any of the teams being so gigantic. He has to be at least 6’4, and damn, is he wide. My stomach lurches, a deep burning in the pit of my stomach roils to life. Crossing my arms across my lower abdomen, I stumble backwards. “Don’t sneak up on people like that,” I scold him and resume my walk to the camp.

“P…please,” he calls out.

My step falters. Something in his tone sedates me as if I have been drugged, and my limbs grow lethargic. I slowly turn around, anxious as I hear his footsteps approach. His every step closer brings more heat to my stomach, which is starting to radiate outward throughout my entire body.

“Please…” he says once more, just a pitch above a whisper.

“Who are you?” I manage to ask. He’s standing before me now, fully. I can make out the details of his angular face and strong chin. His nose is straight, and his lips a perfect bow. The dim nighttime lighting washes over his bare torso. I can’t help but look lower, and discover he’s completely ass naked…and HOTDAMN is he well off. But his nudity isn’t the most awkward part of this creepy meeting. Nope. It’s the glimmering green scales along his shoulder blades and arms reflecting beneath the moonlight like a kaleidoscope.

Stumbling away, I rasp out, “What the fuck are you?” Lizard Man reaches out, his palm hovering above my shoulder as if he’s afraid to touch me. As soon as he begins to lower his hand, I jerk away and repeat my question. “What the fuck are you? Answer me!”

My gaze darts toward the encampment and the blazing fire. I should scream for help, but my mouth clamps shut as my skin further ignites. I feel like I am about to burst into flames. A deep rolling in my gut takes me by surprise. It’s like I’m hungry, famished, and my stomach is demanding food. But not food. I couldn’t be hungry. I just ate a bit ago with Finn.

He pulls his arm back and drops it to his side. Emerald eyes gleam back at me. He then points to himself. “Kai of the Drakkonian.” A half ass grin tilts those temptingly lush lips as he now points to me. “Mate.”

All logical processes stop in my brain as I focus on that one little word. Mate. It has its own connotation and doesn’t need further explanation. Not to mention, the erection jutting from his pelvic region is all the detail I need to understand his meaning. Flight-or-Fight kicks in and it’s time to run like hell. “The hell I am!” I shout as I make a break for it the other direction, back to my tent. I race inside, remembering the knife in my back pocket. I yank it out and flip the blade open. “Ohh damn me…” Why hadn’t I run toward the camp, ya know, where all the other people were? Cautiously, I open the tent flap and peek outside. Maybe I can still make it, while shouting the whole way. Someone was sure to hear me in the openness. One…two…three…

I run from the tent, only to smack into what feels like the Great Wall of China.

Lizard Man presses me into his chest, inhaling deeply as he sniffs my head. “Mate.”

I shove away from him, surprised at how easily he releases me. I raise the knife up, waving it around with intent. “Back off, reptilian dude,” I warn, doing my best to put forth a brave face. Which is really hard to do when you’re terrified to death and afraid you’re about to pee yourself. Regardless, I stand my ground and project the bravery I surely don’t feel, like some born again Xena: Warrior Princess. “I don’t know what kinda freaky shit you’re into, but I want no part of it. So vamoose, or else…”

His gaze bounces between me and the knife, then he snorts, and a low growl reverberates in his chest. With one swift movement, he knocks the weapon from my hand, and it hits the ground somewhere off to the side. “Mate,” he says, only this time it comes out harsh, firm.

He attempts to grab my shoulder, and I instinctively smack his hands. “No!” I reply just as firmly. “No mate.” I motion with my hands for him to leave. “Go. Shoo. And put some damn pants on at least, man.” My own brazenness shocks me for a second. For all I know, this stark-naked man could be a lunatic about to commit his annual naked murder of the year. He looks down at his jutting erection and grins, and I know for sure he understands what I am saying. My gaze inadvertently drops to his cock. When he thrusts his hips forward like some Las Vegas Elvis on tour, I hurriedly turn my head.

“Mate,” he repeats.

I shake my head and point to his bottom half, resisting the urge to look at his well-endowed package… again. “Pants,” I reaffirm, but truthfully, I’m not too sure I mean it. For all the headache he’s caused me tonight, he’s surely stirred my female bits and perhaps a few inappropriate, but oh so hot, fantasies.

Still wearing that smarmy smirk, he glances down at his own nudity and then back up at me, shooting me a look that clearly says, “Are you sure?”

Crossing my arms across my chest, I tap one impatient foot. “Pants.”

He grunts his disagreement as he reaches behind his ear. I swear to God there’s some sort of tendril wriggling around, but surely it’s a play of the moonlight. A bright red dot lights up where his finger touches, and within seconds, a pair of jeans materialize to cover his lower half. “What the actual fuck?” I stumble backwards. “How did you do that?”

He moves in a few steps, and despite the intense reaction of my gut warning me to run away, I stand there, waiting for an answer. The scales on his skin begin to shimmer, iridescent hues of green, blue, and purple. The transitioning colors hold me captive for several seconds as my brain tries to process what my eyes are seeing. Realization dawns on me, smacking me in the face with a wondrous yet terrifying truth. “Holy shit. You’re not even human…”