An Impossible Marriage

“So you are saying,” she paused, studying him with her great golden eyes, “that you will not, perhaps five or ten or fifteen years from now, suddenly decide that being married to a dragon is too hard and drive me from your castle?”

“I will not,” Ean said.

“And what about when I still haven’t come to your bed twenty years from now? When I refuse to give you children? When your people cry out because I eat too many cattle and your advisors all tell you that your kingdom will fail if you do not have an heir?” With each phrase she growled, and steam rose from her nostrils, and she ground the floor with her claws leaving gouges in the stone as deep as one of Ean’s hands.

Ean stared up into her eyes for a long moment, searching for the woman he had once caught staring down at a lively village with heartbroken longing.

“As my God is my strength, even then I will be your husband, and you will have your place in my arms and my home.”

Ember brought her great head down until her her nose was inches from the king’s. She bared her fangs, each as long as one of his forearms, and stared directly into his face, searching him for the lie that had to be there. The fear rose off him like a fog, but none of it was in his eyes, and there was no lie.

He meant what he said.

“Why?” she asked.

“Ember. Beloved. Do you want a home, and a family, and a soft bed to sleep in, and food that you don’t have to steal, and to be safe to walk as a woman, or to fly as a dragon, without any fear that someone will come and try to kill you? Come back to your castle and live with me. Be safe, and be free.”

“And what about us? Will you continue trying to win my heart?”

“Of course.”

She barked with disdain.

“Idiot! Very well. If you wish to throw away your kingdom for my sake, so be it. I will enjoy your cattle and your gardens and your soft bed until your people turn on you for it.”

She turned her back on him and shrank, in a few moments going from the size of a house to smaller than Ean himself, shielding her naked body from his sight with a pair of wings that didn’t disappear until she had gathered up the one dress she brought with her and covered herself with it.

When Ember turned back and again looked on Ean with a human face he smiled, wide and stupid and yet with a gaze that pinned her in place with its awareness.

“It would be worth losing all that if it convinced you to give me yourself.”

For just one moment her heart ached, and a shiver passed through her slender form.

Then she pulled herself back into control and brushed past him.

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