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“No.” He kneeled at the edge of the nest, straddling her legs so she couldn’t rise, and pushed her back with his free hand. “We’re not drinking it.”

She eyed the fire extinguisher that he was cradling like a baby. “What exactlyarewe doing with it?”

“Do you trust me to keep you safe?”

“Of course.” She did. She’d realized over the last few months that, though she hadn’t had the instant recognition of her mate that he had, she’d known from the beginning that he was good to his core. And he’d proven his trustworthiness every day since.

“Good girl. You’re going to like this trick, I promise.” His wide, dragonish grin did something to her, melting her insides like candle wax.

“Is it a tongue trick?” she asked hopefully.

“Maaaaybe.” He dragged out the word, made it full of mischief, telling her that it was definitely a tongue trick. She squirmed in the soft bedding, pressing her thighs together as he set aside the fire extinguisher and ice bucket and deftly spread the blanket out beside her. In one effortless motion, he scooped her up and deposited her in the center of it.

She looked around, bemused. “Are we really getting that messy?”

“Not messy,” he nearly purred. “Hot.It’s fireproof.”

“Oh.Oh.” Her adrenaline spiked. He’d used his flames to grill burgers and light candles plenty of times since she moved in with him, but this was the first time he was going to use his flames onher.

“Any point you want to stop, I’ll stop,” he said, shedding his shirt before prowling forward so his body covered hers. He licked up the side of her neck to her ear, his voice dropping to a whisper that made every hair on her body stand on end. “I have excellent control. You have nothing to fear, love.”

She slid her hands over his bare arms and shoulders, stroking over his hot, scaled skin. “I’m not afraid.” Her voice came out quavering and breathless, undermining her words, and he huffed a laugh.

He sat back, methodically unbuttoning her blouse and pushing it open to reveal her freckled chest and practical, gray bra. From the look on his face, it might as well have been fancy lingerie. He reverently traced the upper contours where the fabric met her skin, dipping his fingers into her cleavage along the way, before removing it and setting it aside. He did the same with her jeans and panties and then plucked the flat liquor bottle out of the ice bucket.

“This is gonna be cold,” he warned, seconds before he wedged the narrow side against her pussy so it was directly pressed against her most sensitive parts, the bottle’s neck sticking up obscenely between her legs.

Her back arched involuntarily at the unexpected change in temperature, all her breath disappearing from her lungs as her thighs clamped around the bottle. It was freezing, hard against her heated flesh, and unbearably erotic.

Tairon’s hands spanned her waist, thumbs moving in soothing circles over her stomach as he chuckled under his breath. “Poor thing. Need me to warm you up now?”

“Uh huh,” she gasped out, trying to release the bottle. He wrapped his tail around her ankles, pinning her legs firmly together, and bent over her to lick around the curved sides of the bottle where it met her tender skin. His clever tongue delved between the two, the difference in the temperature and texture providing a delicious contrast as its forked tip tugged at her clit. After the cold press of the glass, his touch felt like fire even though it was just his body heat.

He tortured her like this until the bottle warmed. When she was able to relax enough that her back hit the blanket, he tugged the bottle from between her legs and plunged it back into the bucket of ice. She groaned in spite of herself—he wasn’t done with her by a long shot. She was already sweating, and he’d barely done anything.

“I’m not going to make it to the end of this,” she said, laughing.

He crawled up her body to lick across the seam of her mouth. Then he licked her forehead and both eyelids before returning to her mouth, kissing her with little slips of his tongue and nips of his teeth until her laughter turned into moans and she could feel her pulse pounding in her lips. He raised his head to speak in an uncharacteristically stern voice. “There is no end to this. This is forever. And now I’m going to show you what it means to be mated to a dragon.”

“We’re mated? That sounds…official.”

He ran his nose down her neck. “We’ve been mated since I caught your scent. Our fates twined together even before that. Remember when you applied to Otherworld Academy? They knew from your blood test that you had a fated mate. That’s why the admissions department turned you away from the regular program.”

“They knew?” She gasped, jerking under him. “Jamesknew? Why didn’t he say anything? Why did heask me out?”

Tairon’s lip curled. “Because he wanted a short-term relationship? Because you were cute and vulnerable?” He shook his head. “I can’t pretend to understand why he did what he did, but keeping the test results secret is Academy policy. The test doesn’t show who your mate is, only that your blood is marked. Imagine if they told you that you had a mate, but he or she was still on the other side of the Breach? It’d be disappointing and confusing if you were constantly searching but couldn’t find them.”

The thought of never meeting Tairon chilled her. She shuddered, wrapping her legs around his. He nosed the side of her neck, warming her again. But the more she thought about it, the angrier she got.

“I can’t believe he knew I was fated to be with someone else and didn’t say a word. Heknewwe’d never work out, and he let me fall in love with him. He should have told me. Youbothshould have told me, damn it. Think of all that time you wasted waiting for me.”

“You loved him. You weren’t ready to hear it.” He brushed a kiss in the center of her forehead. “It wasn’t a waste of time to wait for you. And you didn’t waste time, either. You’ve been doing amazing things. If you still want to attend the Academy, fated mates are automatically admitted to a special accelerated program. The degree they grant will allow to you cross the Breach and meet my family, if you want to.”

She touched his face gently, running her fingertips over the unique surfaces of his dragonish features. “Of course I want to meet them, if you think they won’t mind that I’m human.”

“They’ll love you. You’d get to see me in my feral form, too,” he said, a teasing note in his voice as he pretended to nip her fingers. “Are you sure you wantthat? Extra horns, extra teeth, wings, extra other parts…”

“You have wings in the other realm?!” Her hands went automatically to his bare back, feeling for where they’d be.

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