Truth or Dragon
Dragon Games, Book 2
by CJ England
Ebook ISBN: 07681-02477
[ New Adult Dragon Romance, MF ]
One night stands aren’t Lucina’s style, but when Ryuu didn’t show the next day for their date at the Christmas arcade, she thought that was all the previous night had been to Ryuu. Yet she can’t convince her heart of that.
While shivering in her extremely expensive high-heeled boots, Lucina Bell glanced once again at her watch. Damn it, he was late. Really late. Like over an hour late. Tightening her lips, she gave a growl of irritation. Both at Ryuu and at herself. It had been just over twenty-four hours, yet she missed him horribly. Which wasn’t like her at all. She’d never met a man she couldn’t walk away from easily. Until now.
Why hadn’t he come?
She forced herself to ignore the hurt curling around her heart. There could be a reason he wasn’t where they’d agreed to meet. Maybe he got caught in traffic. Or since he was a foreigner, maybe he’d gotten lost. Maybe he didn’t know where Leicester Square was. After all, it was decked out in its Christmas Carnival finery, so it might not be recognizable.
And now, she thought with a derisive snort, she was just making excuses.
Spinning around, she headed to the nearest tube station, swearing copiously under her breath. Ryuu Tatsuya was a dead man. She would crush him like a bug. She didn’t care that he was her best friend’s fiancé’s best friend. So what if her killing him made them all uncomfortable at parties. Not even someone as hot as Ryuu could stand her up and get away with it.
Taking a deep breath, she pushed away the ever-present fatigue she seemed to fight lately. It had gotten worse over the last few days. She’d had some weird mood swings. Couldn’t seem to keep up the happy-go-lucky attitude she’d been born with.
But at Eadlin’s Christmas Eve party she’d really struggled. Even with all the fun and food and good-time friends, there’d still been something missing. Instead of feeling happy and excited, she’d felt a bit edgy, tired and a lot impatient. Like she was waiting for something to happen. And that restless feeling so wasn’t like her. She was more of an in-the-moment sort of gal.
But for the life of her she hadn’t been able to break out of it. She’d tried competing in the games but had gotten dizzy when playing Blind Man’s Bluff. She’d tried laughing and chatting with friends while having dinner, but her stomach had rolled every time she thought about putting something in her mouth. As a last resort, she’d even threatened to get up on stage with the band and sing, even though everyone knew she couldn’t carry a tune if she was given a golden-handled bucket. But a blinding headache stopped that idea in its tracks. Something was majorly wrong. And Lucina had been pretty sure she knew what it was.
“Damn it, Eadlin,” she’d sworn to herself. “Now you’ve got me doing it. Looking for my very own stranger. My Mr. Handsome and Mysterious. Your great-great-great ancestor found hers, you’re looking for yours, and now I want to find mine. So much I’m sick over it.”
She’d shaken her head. “Me! Footloose and fancy free me. Lucina in the sky looking for diamonds, me. It’s as easy to fall in love with a rich guy than a poor guy, me. It is to laugh.” She’d sighed. “So why aren’t I laughing?”
Looking back at the revelation now, she knew exactly why she wasn’t laughing. She wanted to at least care about the man she married. And if the guy didn’t make her panties go wet, then it just wasn’t worth it. She’d rather go hungry than settle for anything less than fireworks in bed. Life was too bloody short for boring.
But finding that special someone wouldn’t be that easy for her. She couldn’t just throw a fancy party and expect him to appear. She wasn’t like Eadlin who’d done what she could and let fate handle the rest. Lucina was way more hands-on. Or, as one past boyfriend complained, too bossy and unpredictable. Too restless to be comfortable with. He’d told her no man would want to take on a woman he couldn’t understand or control. She snorted delicately at the memory. Needless to say, it had been the last time she’d ever seen that particular idiot again.
So she was a little outrageous and different. Maybe a bit too free spirited and impulsive. So what? She liked herself that way. As an author of children’s fantasy stories, it gave her a lot of joy to look for the fantastical and weird in the world around her. While the parents may not be impressed with her “frivolous” career –they forced her to write under a pen name so not to taint their own –if the fans of her latest elf, dragon and changeling series were anything to go by, her odd take on life was appreciated. At least by kids between the ages of seven and twelve.
Then why couldn’t she find a guy who appreciated her weirdness? And why did she think her mysterious stranger –if she actually had one –would be different than anyone else’s?
The thought made her tired all over again, but that wasn’t anything new. She’d been so exhausted this morning, she’d been tempted to sleep in, but she’d been bound and determined to keep this date with Ryuu.
“So just how’d that work out for you, Luce?” she murmured, blinking away tears. But even after the moisture was gone, her eyes were so blurry she could barely see the street in front of her.
Everything ached, she realized. Her head, her stomach, her feet –why had she worn such insanely uncomfortable shoes, other than they made her legs look absolutely amazing. And now to add to her misery, her heart was aching like a sore tooth.
Why hadn’t he come?
Lucina sniffed loudly, furious that she’d allowed Ryuu to get to her this way. She hadn’t expected to care so much for him after just one night together, but she’d thought he’d felt something as well. Otherwise, why ask her out on a date? After all, she hadn’t played hard to get. He’d already gotten everything he could want.
Shame filled her at the memory. Even though she talked a good game, she really wasn’t the type of girl to fall into a man’s arms after knowing him for less than an hour. But there was just something about Ryuu. Something special that cut through all the usual song and dance and had her jumping into bed –or in this case, the butler’s pantry –as soon as she’d tasted his kiss.
Or maybe she’d just been carried away by the romance of the evening. Seeing her best friend find her special someone had set off a yearning within Lucina she hadn’t even admitted to herself. Until now.
She wanted it. That romance… that desire. The connection. She wanted a man to look at her with the same need and desperation that Lord Drayce had in his eyes when he’d looked at Eadlin. They’d met, kissed and become engaged within a few hours of seeing each other for the first time. Now that was romantic.
But no matter how crazy it seemed, Lucina longed to find someone, too. She wasn’t jealous of Eadlin… much. No, she wished her friend all the happiness in the world. She just wanted the same for herself.
For a brief, exciting moment, she thought she’d found it in Ryuu. The heat and need in his eyes had been real. Or so she’d imagined. But apparently, it had all been a ruse. He’d pretended to like her just so he could get into her pants… or candy canes. And that knowledge — surprisingly — was breaking her heart.
She stumbled slightly as she turned the corner and on to Cranbourn Street. Jesus, she was tired. She hadn’t been sleeping or eating well. Her stomach seemed to hurt as much as her head. “Maybe I’m getting an ulcer,” she muttered. “That would be the perfect ending to this whole miserable story.”
At least she’d lost that extra weight she’d been struggling with. Though she’d lost far more than the five pounds on her to-do list. More like fifteen. Lucina had noted the loss when she’d had to take a few candy canes off her dress so it actually fit properly. Much more of that and she’d be nothing but skin, bones and wrappers.
Why hadn’t he come?
The question went around and around in her mind, making her head ache even worse. She’d thought Ryuu was different. Thought his words of need and desire had been more than just the heat of the moment. After all, they’d spent most of Christmas Eve night wrapped in each other’s arms.
And when the first morning light had shone under the pantry door, when the house had gone still and quiet, they’d tiptoed out of their love nest and literally run into Drayce and Eadlin kissing in the hallway. When informed of Eadlin and Drayce’s engagement, she’d been overjoyed her friend had at last found love. And even more happy for herself when Ryuu had pulled her aside, kissed her gently and asked her out for a date.
One he apparently had no intention of keeping.
Wiping away sudden tears, she shivered and huddled deeper into her heavy coat. Why was it so damn cold out here? Her fingers and toes were freezing. Hell, her face had gone completely numb.
She glanced around at the other people as they passed her by. They didn’t seem to be nearly as uncomfortable as she was. Lucina swallowed down a sudden overwhelming flare of nausea. Great. All she needed was to be ill on the streets of London. The parents would have a field day with that tidbit on the news.
Stumbling again, she veered quickly into nearby Cranbourn Alley. It was off the beaten path, and if she was going to be sick, she didn’t want an audience. Staggering behind a dented dumpster, she leaned against the nearest brick building, allowing her forehead to press against the icy cold wall. Taking deep breaths, she waited for the nausea to pass.
Damn Ryuu. If he hadn’t blown her off, they could be enjoying a hot toddy at the pub or, better yet, if he hadn’t asked her out in the first place, she’d be home, safe and warm and not standing in a smelly alley trying hard not to throw up. If this was what falling for someone was like, Eadlin could have it.
Minutes passed with no relief, and Lucina couldn’t shake the sudden worry that something more serious was going on than a broken heart. Spots danced before her eyes, and her legs trembled as if they could barely hold her up.
Fear lanced through her. She wasn’t just heartsick. She was sick sick. Really and most sincerely sick. She wasn’t sure what was happening to her, but it was bad, and she abruptly wished she hadn’t been so worried about privacy. Forcing herself away from the wall, she turned to go back toward the street and the help she now knew she needed.
But it was too late. The nausea and weakness increased, and without warning, the spots that had been dancing, morphed into total darkness. Lucina took a single step and crashed to the ground. The last thought she had as she lay there bruised and broken on the cold cobblestones was… Why hadn’t Ryuu come?