I gasp at his comment, but a playful smile plays along his lips and his eyes change to something horse-like, before becoming man like again.
He nods and I hear Aunt Em’s voice in my head. “Same thing, different name,” she tells me.
“You’re… sure?” I ask him, and Athanasios just nods at me.
“I can see you may have lots to talk about,” Aunt Em says and makes to leave.
“No!” My mind calls to her. “I don’t know what to say to him! I don’t want this!” Aunt Em walks to me and smiles, cupping my face in her soft, worn hands.
“You’ll work it out,” she tells me softly, kissing me on the forehead. Then James nods to Athanasios and they leave. They leave me in a room with a dragon shifter: alone.
“You have no need to worry, I will not touch or harm you, ever,” he rumbles, sending a reassuring wave out to me. “Not without your consent,” I swallow; I’ve never been alone with a man, not of his age before. Certainly not one I’ve been attracted to and I’m not sure if I like what I’m feeling.
“Why now?!” I ask him, taking the seat he indicates I should sit on. I do, carefully. “Are you still hurt?” I ask, remembering why I need to be careful, and his eyebrows raise. He knows we’re fated, he must know that I can feel his injury.
“How did you know I was hurt?” He asks and I hesitate a moment before I show him. He swears, then lifts his shirt to show me similar bruising and the exact same claw marks. “Merrick was not quiet when I found him. He’s in the dungeon now,” he tells me, spitting out Merrick’s name like it’s poison.
“You found him!?” Athanasios nods in response, anger rolling off him in waves.
“I will not let a crime like that go unpunished. I am sorry you were hurt too, though why…” He trails off, wincing as he folds himself in a chair.
“This fated mate thing, I think. We call it the ‘red string of fate’,” I offer. He nods. “It usually happens when we touch or it starts at that point. But I don’t think you touched me, I certainly didn’t touch you,” I begin to ramble, my nerves taking over. Athanasios kneels before me and places a finger upon my mouth, silencing me as he holds my smaller hand in his. Now I know he’s touched me.
“It’s okay, ómorfi,” he tells me and I begin to take in many breaths, not many getting out. “Breathe, you are okay,” and he sends a calming wave over me, which helps.
“Why now? Your kind has been gone for thousands of years,” I whisper, finding my voice. He sighs and sits back in the chair, taking up the whole width of it.
“We are not sure… I was a part of the first wave to wake up, there were six of us in total. Now,”
“Now there are over thirty of you,” I whisper. He shakes his head.
“Nearly one hundred are now awake,” and my eyebrows rise. “When you dropped into our meeting, you took us by surprise, but we could sense your magic. Some retreated into the shadows or returned home. What we were not sure of, is why you appeared. I could see you were an astral projection, but I could not take my eyes from you.” Just like he cannot take his eyes from me now. Nor mine from him.
“I was asleep, then the dream I was having became so life-like, and I knew I had projected…” I offer.
“We had been talking, some of us, in general, at the end. Some mates awoke together, many did not. I do not recall talking about it, but maybe…” he hesitates.
“You wanted to find me?” I suggest and he nods.
“I felt my soul reach out into the void, then, I had a desire to find my fated mate, having never found her before…,” he waves at me. I grin.
“You need to be careful what you wish for, Athanasios,” I scold him gently with a smile. He smirks at me, his eyes changing back and forth between dragon and man. I feel the power he’s trying to suppress, his dragon must be saying all sorts to him. I answer his call, letting my power come forth, knowing that my magic is why we met, initially.
There’s a pleasing rumble coming from him, then a wave of pride washes over me.
Feed me, Fated Mate
He eases back the wave of pride and stands, holding out a hand for me.
“I feel that it’s time for me to take care of you,” he tells me and as I stand, my stomach grumbles, making me go a little red. His dragon hearing must have heard my stomach long before I did.
“Err… I didn’t get a chance to eat, yet. We have been busy,” I tell him and he scowls.
“Then let’s eat together, ómorfi,” he tells me.
“What does that word mean? You’ve called me it every time we’ve met,” I ask him as he holds the door open for me.
“It means, beautiful,” he whispers to me as I walk past him. His breath on my neck makes me shiver as he comes in close, towering over me, but it’s not threatening.
Not from here
“Where do you call home?” I ask as we walk down to the main hall. It’s full of people, some refugees from Merrick’s attack are grouped together and they come up to me, thanking me for helping them. Then they thank Athanasios for capturing Merrick before they leave us to gather our meal and eat. “Greece, to answer your question, my fated one.” Athanasios smiles as I find us a seat and he sits beside me. Every time a man walks past us, he gets defensive. After a while, it gets annoying and I fidget, unable to eat more.
“Are you well, Ava?” He asks and I don’t want to admit that I don’t want to be here now, I don’t like the possessive nature he’s displaying. These wolves are curious about him; they’ve known me since I was five. Their interest is nothing to do with me. He sighs, rubbing his hands over his face. “I, apologise,” he tells me and takes my hand. “I am not used to…” he motions between us. Smiling weakly, I try to hide how uncomfortable I now feel.
“I need to travel home, soon,” he tells me and I snap my head up. “And I would like you to come with me, but ómorfi, before you agree to come with me, please…” His voice is low and quiet, but confident and sure. “Be honest with me. I have been asleep for so long,” he looks around. “And I require you to be honest if I do things…” he shrugs. “That makes you nervous of me. Or not acceptable.”
The uneasiness in my stomach may be down to him, but I think his own is adding to mine. Being emotionally empathic can be a pain sometimes. And I can only nod in reply.
“How long have you been awake?” I ask, expecting days, or even weeks as his reply.
“Just under six months. It takes a while for us to recover from such a deep sleep, and we have much to learn about this new world.” He smiles gently at me and I return it.
“Can you always hear my thoughts?” I ask. The only touch we’ve shared is when he placed his finger on my mouth to stop my nervous babbling. Then I see his hand holding mine, simple gestures connect us, making the bond stronger. He shakes his head.
“I heard your thoughts about the men walking past, and you’re right. They’re curious about me, not you,” he smiles at me. “I will try not to be so… possessive of my fated mate,” he reminds me. I squirm at his use of that title, but I know it’s one I’m going to have to get used to.
“Some of them are scared of me, more so when the blades come out,” I inform him with a smile on my lips. He nods and lifts his head as Alpha James and Aunt Em come over to our table.
“Athanasios, Ava,” James begins, looking at us in turn. “The minister has arrived.”