Claws by Sean Michael

Claws by Sean Michael

Claws

Shifter Rescue, Book 2

by Sean Michael

Changeling Press

Ebook ISBN: 07526-02427

[ Dragon Romance, MM ]

Now that Drill is Az, the dragon shifter’s keeper, it’s time for them to move out of the basement. Being the owner’s brother has some perks and Pirou has renovated their rooms to include everything that could make a dragon shifter and a master happy. With a place of their own, Az and Drill are free to explore each other and their special relationship.

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Chapter One


It was the middle of the night, and Pirou had cleared the hallways of the Old Tavern Club so Drill and Az could move from the basement to their new rooms on the top floor. The club, a front for the shifter rescue organization Pirou managed, was empty at three a.m. and in the upper floors of the building, where many of their rescues lived, the residents were all in their apartments.

Drill was eager to get the dragon-rescue he’d claimed as his own, Az, out of their little room underground to one of the rooms on a higher floor where they’d have more room, sunlight and a view. A full fridge so Pirou didn’t have to have more meat delivered to them three times a day. A huge bed, big sofas and chairs. A tub. He knew Az very badly wanted to bathe in water, and he was eager to share that with his dragon.

Now that the time to make the move was approaching, Az was, of course, hiding under the bed, and chewing his claws.

The knock at the door signaled that they were ready to go.

“We’ll be right there, Pirou,” Drill said softly through the door. Then he bent and looked under the bed. “Don’t be afraid, Az.”

“I can stay here in the safe,” Az insisted.

“It’ll be safe upstairs, too, Az. And in the halls, because you’ll be with me.” He couldn’t blame Az, really — the last time he’d been out in the open, he’d been taken by the slavers. Whereas he’d been safe here from the moment Pirou had rescued him.

Az hid his face.

“You need to come, Az. Trust me.” That was the most important thing, of course. That Az trust him. It would always be the most important thing, no matter what the situation.

“I do, Keeper, but I’m scared,” Az admitted.

“I know. But there’s a huge tub waiting for you. A bigger bed. Sunlight.” Drill knew these things would all be incentives.

“Sunlight.” Az breathed the word like it was sacred.

“Yes, Az. Right now there are stars.”

Drill wondered, could his dragon do stairs or did he need to be human for that?

“Do you know what stairs are?” he asked.

“Yes. Yes, Keeper.”

“Okay. Good. Good. There are five flights.” If Az couldn’t work stairs they would risk meeting someone in the elevators, but the stairs would be better. Quieter, private.

“Flights?”

He kept forgetting Az had no concept of so many of things he — and most of the population — took for granted. The results of spending his entire life in seclusion from humans. “Sections. There are five sets of stairs.”

“And no one will take me away and poke me with needles?” Az asked.

“No.” Just the thought made Drill growl. “I will kill anyone who tries.” He would let his bear-wolf out and tear them to pieces.

Az slowly crawled out from under the bed.

“Oh, you’re definitely going to need a bath when we get home.” Drill brushed dust from Az’s scales.

“A water bath?” Az asked.

“Yes, my dragon. A water bath we can share together.”

Az’s eyes went wide, sparkling. There. Now they had motivation.

Drill nodded. “A real water bath, Az. Wanna?”

Az nodded. “Uh-huh.”

“Let’s go then.”

Drill opened the door and motioned for Az to come out with him. Az followed him, staying close, eyes huge and watching. He rubbed Az’s head as they got to the first set of stairs. “Okay. Five sets of eighteen stairs. There shouldn’t be anyone in the stairwell.”

Pirou had promised the way was clear, all the way up.

“Five eighteens. Ninety stairs.”

“Hey, you’re fast. I think that’s right, too.” Drill was a little slower, but Az’s math was right.

Az nodded, then zipped up the stairs, counting quickly. It made Drill blink, then he gave chase. His dragon had so many surprises in him. So many. He kept following the wicked-looking tail, never quite managing to catch up.

Az landed on the top stair. “Ninety!” His dragon was not the least bit out of breath, but Drill was panting pretty well.

“Good job, Az.”

Az trilled softly, obviously pleased.

Drill rubbed Az’s head, stroked along his back, then knocked on the door out of the stairwell. “Is the corridor clear, Pirou?”

“It is,” Pirou called through the stairwell door. “Come on, you’ll share this floor with the boss.”

Drill opened the hall door and drew Az through it. The only one in the corridor was Pirou, an encouraging smile on his face.

“The boss is my brother,” Drill told Az. “He’s… not as good people as Pirou here, but we can trust him.”

“Not good?” Az asked, frowning.

Pirou fluttered. “He’s perfect.”

Drill rolled his eyes. “I love my brother, but he’s my brother. There’s nothing wrong with him, but he’s far from perfect. Unless you’re Pirou.”

“He is Pirou’s keeper?” Az asked as they followed Pirou to a door that had to be to their rooms.

Drill looked at Pirou, one eyebrow raised. Privately, he thought Pirou would very much like his brother to be exactly that. Keeper, master, sir, Dom, however you wanted to put it.

“I’ll unlock your door for you.” Pirou punched in the key on the number pad.

“You don’t have an answer for Az?” Drill grinned and turned to his dragon. “Pirou would like my brother to be his keeper.”

“Oh.” Az went to Pirou, wrapped around him. “If you know it, you should claim him. Bite him.”

Oh, fuck, that was the sweetest thing Drill had ever seen.

“I know it’s scary, but keepers are very important,” Az told Pirou.

“He’s right, Pirou. Besides, that was how Az got me.” Drill still had the bite marks on his hand, though they didn’t hurt at all.

Pirou was about a thousand shades of red. “I’ll keep that in mind, Az. Thank you.”

Az fluttered and beamed. Drill stroked Az’s spine, pleased his dragon was being friendly with Pirou.

“Come on, let’s see your beautiful new space!” Pirou opened the door with a flourish and went in.

Nodding, Drill followed Pirou, aware that his dragon was right on his heels. The doors opened into a space that was pure magic. Huge windows, open spaces with soft furniture that nonetheless looked sturdy enough.

“Oh, Pirou. This is awesome.” Drill made a big circle, looking at everything.

Instead of a bunch of smaller rooms, it was one huge room with a kitchen at the far right, separated from the rest of the place by a bar with four stools next to it. There were doors on the left side that he guessed were the bedroom and the bathroom.

“You have a bedroom with a playroom behind. The bedroom has a balcony.” Pirou told them.

“And a large tub in the bathroom?” Drill knew how eager Az was to bathe.

“I…” Pirou hesitated.

Oh, no. Drill had promised Az a tub large enough for them to bathe in together. He knew with as big as Az was in his dragon form it had been a huge request, and he’d been counting on it.

“Come see.” Pirou opened the bathroom door and Drill could simply kiss the man. That wasn’t a tub. That was a small swimming pool.

“Oh, Az, come here. You have to see this. You have to. And if I didn’t think my dragon would bite you if I did, I’d kiss you, Pirou.”

“You’re pleased?” Pirou asked.

The entire room matched Az’s eyes and it had a swimming pool in it. How could he not be pleased?

“You’ve outdone yourself. I’ll be sure to tell my brother that you are a treasure and if he ever lets you leave I’ll have to beat him.”

“Oh, Master.” Pirou was blushing again. “You’re an angel. Az? It’s good.”

Az simply stared at the water.

“I think that means it’s good, Pirou.” Drill spared a smile for Pirou but his attention was mostly on Az. “Seriously, he’s been wanting this so much. Would it be rude if I hurried you out? We’d love to have you for dinner — in a few days.”

“Go. Or stay.” Pirou threw up his hands and laughed. “You know what I mean. The refrigerator is stocked for you. Have a lovely evening.”

“Thank you so much, really.” Drill might have been doing Pirou a favor by taking on Az, but Pirou had returned that favor a hundred times over.

Az, for his part, never looked away from the water, just vibrating.

As soon as Pirou left, Drill began stripping, eager to share the pool with his dragon. “Okay, Az. It’s just you and me now. Go ahead.”

“Yes? Yes, Keeper?” Az looked like he would explode if he didn’t get to go into the pool very soon.

“Yes. Get in the pool. Bathe.”

Az kissed him and then barreled toward the water, leaping in and spinning around and around. Oh, God. Look at that. Drill stood at the edge, just staring. Az went from one end to another, immersing himself, tail lashing. Drill could see Az’s joy. He could feel it even.

Finally Az raised his head, smiling for him. “Keeper! Come on!”

Laughing, Drill sat on the edge and then slid into the pool. The water was clear and cool and Az whipped around him, sliding against him. Reaching out on one pass, he grabbed hold of the scales along Az’s back. Az carried him, dragging them through the water. Oh, fuck, it was made entirely of magic.

“Oh, Keeper.” Az nuzzled him. “Better. Good.”

“You’re happy, yeah?” That was what mattered.

“Yes, Keeper. So happy.”

“Then I’m happy.” Drill floated in the little pool.

Az swam and swam, then crawled onto the edge. Looking up at the ceiling, Drill noticed a light by the edge, where soft, spongy tiles lined the floor. Getting out, he flicked a switch, a warming lamp flooding the area with light and heat.

“Do you like basking, Az?”

“Oh…” Az crawled over, stretching under the light.

“That’s a yes.” Drill had noticed a huge window seat in the living room, too. It looked like they would put that to good use.

“Keeper.” Az blinked at him, slowly.

“You want some company, Az?” His animal form could lie in the light for a while.

“Please. Please, Keeper.”

“Give me a second.” He closed his eyes and thought of wolf and bear and instincts over intellect and humanity. His bones and muscles shifted and then he was his bear-wolf self.

Az trilled for him, offering him room. He went and lay with his dragon, making low noises in his throat. Az groomed him, stroking his fur with careful fingers. Drill licked Az’s muzzle, but otherwise let his dragon groom him. It soothed him, down in his bones.

He put his head down on his paws and let his eyes drop closed. He was a very lucky bear-dog.

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