"Do you remember when we first met?" Monica smiled at him.
He nodded. "Yeah, you were being mauled by the groupies. I pulled you from the horde of people and into the dressing room. You'd gotten elbowed in the face and had a black eye. I stuck my beer bottle on it to ease your pain. We talked for a little bit before the guys barged in and your three friends whisked you away. After that I couldn't get you out of my head. Then you were at my next show and we got to talking. We've been friends ever since."
She nodded. "Yeah. You came to my rescue. I've always appreciated that." Her hands slid over her face, and she shook her head. Haden needed to know what was going on inside of her head. Is she going to reject me? Her approval of him was all that mattered. Nothing else of what his destiny foretold had prepared him for her. They had always been friends, but there were times he had fantasized about them being together.
"Appreciation? Is friendship all you feel for me?"
Monica bit her lip. She glanced away and then studied her hands. He noticed she wore a silver and amber ring. It glowed in the light and reminded him of dragon fire the longer he stared at it. The flames danced inside of the amber and in his heart for her. It didn't matter what the others said. She was the one who he wanted to be with. To taste all of her and touch her soft skin.
"You know it's not." Her answer came out in the barest whisper. "But--"
"It's complicated, Haden."
"Because I'm on the road all the time? Because women are throwing themselves at me? Because I spend tons of time in the studio? If it were just you and me, I'd tell the girls no. I'd dedicate myself to you."
Tears fell down her cheeks. She put up a hand to silence him. "No. It's none of that. You and I are friends. That's what our relationship has been. Just friends."
"So you don't want this."
"I didn't say that."
"Then tell me what's bothering you so much. If we both want this, then what's the problem?" If she had hurdles, what was she going to think of his complications? His difficulties were that he was of a dissimilar species from her and from another realm. Maybe it was better if their complications kept them apart. "Forget I ever brought it up."
She took his hand and kissed the inside of his palm. "Do you want to forget it?"
He heard the longing in her voice. Maybe they could work it out. "No. I just don't want to ruin what we have. If the impediments will ruin our friendship, then I don't want to jeopardize it. Nothing is worth that."
"It won't. Forget about the other circumstances. They don't matter."
Haden's heart melted when she said that. Whatever she was struggling with, she seemed to have resolved it. He took her other hand, brought it to his lips, and kissed the back of it. He dragged his lips along her silky skin and listened to her pull in a long breath. She trembled underneath him. He trailed his hands along her thighs until he enclosed her waist and rested his head on her stomach. Monica's hand slid through his hair. He walked his fingers over her thighs and then slipped his fingers underneath her shirt, pulling it up ever so slightly. He brushed his lips over her stomach. Monica jumped and giggled.
"Sorry." Haden looked up into her beautiful eyes.
"That's okay. I'm just ticklish."
"I didn't know that about you."
She smiled and pulled him upward to her mouth. Once Haden met those sweet lips, he knew they were sealing a pact he couldn't break. Even if there was some betrothal contract to a dragon that didn't exist, he couldn't leave Monica behind when they had to leave this realm once and for all. The meeting of the other elemental dragons wasn't for another two years. That meant he had time to develop the relationship he yearned for with Monica. She would be able to understand what he truly was. But he couldn't reveal that right away.