Summer Heat - Charlie Richards

Chapter One

“Are you certain of this, Your Majesty?”

King Leortis Vermilion cast a cold, narrow-eyed glare at his friend and head royal guard—Vicar Rhomes. “If you ask me that one more time, Vicar, I will demote you.” Upon seeing the dark-skinned man’s black eyes widen, Leortis asked mildly, “Why do you keep asking me that?”

That was his third time, after all.

“My apologies, King Leortis,” Vicar replied as he glanced out the window of the SUV-style limousine. “After hearing how Ruldin is contesting Leonidas’s right to be your heir, I’m just surprised you’re leaving the castle right now.”

Snorting, Leortis shook his head. “Ruldin is a fool. Not only would he be a lousy king, but his bid for the throne will never work.” He smirked at Vicar. “Why would dragons accept my younger half-brother as a ruler, who’s known for impetuous decisions and shady dealings, even if they’ve never been proven, instead of my direct heir, who has been groomed for the position and is very well respected by many?” Leortis couldn’t understand why his half-brother thought he had a chance. “There are so few backing Ruldin’s desires, I’m surprised no one has laughed in his face, yet.”

“Only his relationship with you has stopped many,” Vicar pointed out.

“Then I’ll have to remind others that I have no relationship with Ruldin.” Leortis tapped his chin with one finger thoughtfully. “Send out a notice that I’ll be making an announcement at ten o’clock tomorrow morning. Everyone available should be on our secure line.”

Leortis loved modern technology, even though his dragon wasn’t too pleased that half their wealth was tied up in electronic figures. Still, he kept a massive cavern full of gold and gems to keep his other self happy. If he were honest, Leortis enjoyed rolling in his wealth, too.

“Will do, Sire,” Vicar replied, pulling out his phone and beginning to type on the device. As he did so, he commented, “So... Agnoroth. If you don’t mind my asking, why choose him? Some of the others have a much higher standing in our society.”

“Exactly.” Leortis grinned widely, pleased with his plan. “I have every right to drop in and check on the well-being of a dragon who recently finished his restitution to another.”

“Recently?” Vicar smirked at him, something he wouldn’t have done if anyone else was in the cabin of the vehicle with them. “It was almost a year ago.”

Leortis arched his brow as he pointed out, “I’m almost two thousand years old, Vicar. A year is nothing.”

Vicar chuckled, the sound deep and low. “There is that.”

Nodding absently, Leortis returned his attention to the window. He knew Vicar was nearing his millennial, so the fellow dragon shifter understood. Staring at the passing scenery, he turned his thoughts to why he was making this trip.

Over the last few years, four human friends had turned out to be mates of dragons. While he would never begrudge a fellow shifter finding his one and only, a blessing of Fate, at his age, he wanted some of that for himself. To that end, he’d decided to meet these humans.

What is it about them that drew Fate’s attention and gifted them with dragon mates?

Leortis couldn’t even guess until he met them. That was why he was stopping at the home of Agnoroth. The air dragon had helped another dragon kidnap the mate of one of Leortis’s trackers. Since it was done under duress—the other dragon had held some treasure Agnoroth owned as leverage—and Agnoroth’s half-brother, Kazeem, had spoken on his behalf, he’d been sentenced to restitution in the form of working six months in the king’s orchards.

Agnoroth had done his work competently and quietly. Then he’d left. From what Leortis had heard, Agnoroth had spent a couple of months tracking down, then wooing, his mate. That had been nearly ten months before.

The screen separating him and Vicar from his driver—Warzer—began to lower, catching his attention. “We’re here, Sire,” the male stated, his deep voice easily carrying within the enclosed space.

“Good.” Leortis peered out the tinted windows at the expansive lawn beyond the gate. As much as he wished he could have just landed in dragon form behind the fencing, that way he could have seen Agnoroth’s expression when he’d arrived, Leortis knew flying as a dragon in broad daylight was a big no-no. While his scales were a pale shade of brown, even flying in at night would have been risky, due to how populated the area was. Giving Warzer a grin, he ordered, “Let him know I’m here.”