It had been three days since I had put Odessa in her own area o f the cave for sleep. I imagined she spent many nights in front of other humans and vampires watching her every move. I prepared a room meant for storage, just extra furs, baskets, and dried meats to get me through the winter months. Odessa slept contently in my nest our first day back and gave me plenty of time to surprise her.
As much as I wanted to keep her in my nest, this would be for the best for her. Eventually, I hope to get her into mine more permanently.
The back cave dwelling was dark, but the fire area I had created would keep her warm through the night. My dragon disagreed with me, wanting to keep her in our own nest. Having her so close the night in the treehouse gave him rest; h e purred contentedly, watching her eyes close gently. Odessa’s soft features nestled into the cloud-like pillow, her hair scattered about her face. My finger had traced her cheek numerous times, my dragon pushing me to climb onto the sizeable downy nest to be with her.
I could not scare her away, not when I just got her back. My dragon continued to fight with me. He wanted reassurance, to hold her and keep her safe. He was worried for her warmth, but the satisfied way she slept, I knew she was fine. The furs I had placed on Odessa’s new nest were nothing but the best I had. Some from the Eskaski, the same animal she screamed at when I chopped off the male’s head for our meal.
That I should have thought of, her kind may not be used to seeing animals cut open and drained of their innards to prepare for a portion of food. Odessa’s ways of life and mine were different, completely different worlds even. My heart raced when she screamed, fearing she would surely want to leave me now. Her eyes only held understanding once she realized the animal’s purpose. Odessa had learned to adapt quickly to her surroundings, but I didn’t want her to adapt; I wanted her to overcome. If she didn’t like something, I wanted to know it. Making her comfortable, making sure she did not want to leave, was my dragon’s priority. Right now, if she wanted to go, I don’t think I could let her.
Razak was an intelligent animal, although a bit needy when it came to Odessa. My own dragon would kill him in an instant if he started to pull her attention away from us. However, his own fascination to help feed my fawn gave me the greatest gift to give her.
Dragons often gave gifts to their mates; I had seen it many times with my stepfather and mother. He would help the Moon Kingdom with rogues or demons that would escape the underworld. Each body he would bring to the Queen, she would reward them with anything they wanted. Male dragons asked for jewels to decorate their mates. I had never fought after rogues, I had no mate to give them to, I had no hoard hidden away like many. Living my life in peace, away from other supernaturals, was what I did. Not unless I needed money for better weapons, soap, and oils. I had fought many times in the underground shifter fighting rings.
It had been many years since I had been to a fight. Now that I had Odessa, I wanted to shower her with gifts. One day I will have the courage to ask her to be my mate and then I will gift her with as many jewels I could find, even if it meant going to fight again.
For now, to show her my devotion for her, I would give her the Eskaski fur, the purest fur. This fur was resistant to stains, dirt, and debris, but most of all, it was known for its warmth. Eskaski’s roamed the tops of mountains, with one being so close to us it meant winter was coming, ready to coat the forest with a dusting of the white iridescent powder. Odessa would need warmer clothes. The clothes we had taken from King Orion and Queen Willa’s secret hideaway would not keep her warm. I had thought to bring more clothes, Her Highness was thoughtful and kind, but I wanted to provide Odessa, not take from another.
If we meet other supernaturals while Odessa wore this fur, they would be envious. They would know the difficulty of hunting a creature such as the Eskaskis. I had taught Razak well, only attacking the spot underneath the neck, which causes them to fall limp while being carried. The fur was, untouched, with no holes in the leather and no blood. The only liquid that could stain the fur was its own blood, causing it to be ruined immediately.
I let my half-smile cross my face. It would be perfect for her to wear. Her own eyes shined with mirth as she felt the thick luscious fur. It was perfect, just like her.
Odessa hobbled in, leaning on the cave entrance. I had hoped her scratches, bruises, and ankle would have made progress the past three days, but there was none. Her eyes were darker, and her face was puffy. “Good Morning Prince Charming,” she gave a smile that didn’t reach her eyes like it usually did. Like the past few mornings, I walked to her, picking her up with an arm under her legs and another behind her back. Instead of putting her on the new chair, I had made her yesterday, I put her in my nest.
“Thank you,” she let out a quiet yawn. My fingers went to work, pulling the bandages off her cuts. They were the same, n o healing. I couldn’t understand what I could be doing wrong; the salve could help get rid of the body’s infections quickly. Was it because she was not a shifter? Not of this world?
Odessa let out a long yawn, her eyes sunk deeper into her face. Her eyes are red with weariness. Odessa was not alright; she was becoming worse. Her eyes fluttered; her body relaxed entirely until she sunk into the furs of my bed. Pulling at my hair, I paced the room. What could be causing her not to get any better?
Moving the drapes, falling back into her hollowed-out cave, there was nothing a miss. The fire’s embers will still warm; there was no dampness, no drips that came from the top of the rocks. Her bed was in perfect condition, the furs spread tightly across, ready to be slept in. My hand touched the nest; it was soft, soft enough for her body to mold into it. Everything was for a good sleep.
The furs were cold. Odessa had just left the furs of the nest, and there was no warmth. My scarred hands moved across the furs, trying to find where her body had laid. In between the furs, I was met with nothing but cold. Crawling fully onto the nest, I could not even smell her scent.
Odessa did not sleep here. The smell was faint, too faint for having just risen. My dragon’s tongue seeped through my lips, smelling the area. The rugs I had placed on the floor to keep her feet warm had traces of her passing through. Turning to the corner of the room, her scent was more potent. It was away from the fire, away from the warmth of the bed. Not wanting to be correct, I hesitated until I finally placed my hand on the rock. Expecting it to be cold, wanting it to be cold, I felt her warmth.
She had slept on the floor.
Was my nest not good enough she would rather sleep on rocks? Her soft body would find this repulsive she deserved more than this. What was wrong with what I provided her? I growled loudly; Razak came inside, his head ducked low. My fangs elongated; my dragon was angry Odessa wouldn’t accept our nest. This was for her, the best I had, the best wasn’t good enough.
I had to be good enough. There was no other way.
Realizing I couldn’t leave the cave, I couldn’t speak to her without her thinking the worse; my claw extended. Scratching the cave wall, the heat of the swipe caused sparks to fly across the room. Breathing heavy, I stomped out, trying to rein in my anger. Odessa was sick because I couldn’t provide; she could not get adequate rest.
What had I done wrong so that a human would reject my gift?
My dragon breathed heavily over her bed, watching her sleep. My fawn will sleep in my nest but not hers? My heart stopped. Did she want my nest? I wiped my mouth, feeling venom drip down my beard. Surely not; she would like her own space. Humans did not become attached to others so quickly, especially when there was no mating bond, did they?
Odessa stirred; a strangled whimper cried from her chest. Eyes shut tight, her fists pulling at the furs, her eyes shot open, breathing heavily. “Creed,” she breathed breathlessly. “I’m sorry, I must have dozed off. Everything alright?” My own heavy breathing startled her, but her gaze never left mine.
Sighing, I sat on the side of the bed. How could I convey to her I knew she wasn’t sleeping? That she denied my gift to her and how it hurt me? Odessa wouldn’t have known; she couldn’t know that a dragon’s ego could be damaged by rejecting
something as a nest. The nest was a home, a sanctuary for a dragon to feel safe. He shuffled backward into my body, not wanting to know the reason.
Picking her up, I pulled her to my chest; her head rested contentedly while I took her back behind the cloaked door. Her heart began to race, pulling away from me, looking around, not understanding where we were going. Striding back into her chamber, I sat her on the bed. “I’m not tired,” she shook her head, trying to get back up. Odessa did not even want to lay on the nest. I pointed to her and to the bed, she complied, but the pleading look in her eyes let me know she didn’t like it.
I walked to the opposite side of the room; her eyes looked over, pondering what I planned. I pointed to her and to the spot I knew where she lay. Her body stiffened, arms rubbing across each other, holding herself tight. Pointing again, she shook her head.
Odessa hid something from me; she knew what I spoke of and what I was trying to convey to her. Why did she not sleep in the nest I supplied? Taking giant strides to her, I sat beside her. It was the perfect size for her body, not near big enough t o fit mine. Odessa’s head would not turn to look at me, her nails piercing into her skin.
Pulling at her hand, she leaned away from me. My dragon growled, causing Odessa to jump slightly. Breathing deeply, I laid my hand on hers, trying to pry her fingers from her skin.
“Odessa,” my voice growled lowly. Making my voice as soft as possible caused more pain, but I still did not want to frighten her. We had become comfortable with one another, but now she was afraid.
Odessa’s amethyst eyes came to mine; the glassiness held sorrow and pain. My hand tightened around hers. “I’m sorry,” she whispered. “You made me a beautiful bed and my own room,” her tears retreated back into her eyes.
“I’m just scared,” her throat automatically gulped. “I’ve been having nightmares, so I do not fall asleep; I sit on the cold ground and stay awake.” How could I have been so stupid not t o see the signs the first night? Her mouth said one thing, but her body said another. She was uncomfortable from the very beginning
“This bed, the furs, the room, it was all so beautiful. You made it for me, and you were so proud, and I was so grateful,” Odessa sniffed. “I wanted to show you I appreciated it but,” she shrugged her shoulders. “I goofed up not telling you the truth. I just wanted to see you happy too.”
I gave a half-smile, letting her know it was alright. Odessa had a voice, and she still failed to communicate with me.
“It just, it reminds me a lot of the cell I was in. Sometimes the cave makes wind noises that sound like whispers. Whispers that would try and pull my arm out of my cage and drink my blood before I went to the Duke,” she cringed.
I wanted to keep her safe, give her something she would appreciate, and I only made things worse for her. Gripping my braids on my scalp, I pulled them harshly. A nasty habit I had acquired as a young dragon. Odessa’s hands pulled my arm down. “Don’t,” a small breathless whisper escaped her lips.” Don’t do that. I was so happy you gifted this to me. You’ve done so much I couldn’t deny it, Creed. I just think I sleep better with you in the same room.” My self-defeating conscious and my dragon cursing me stopped in an instant.
She felt safe enough to be around me while she slept? No fear o f my beast waking and hurting her? Not even Razak would sleep near me; he slept close to the cave exit to leave if my dragon decided to stir in the night. Perhaps she didn’t know, but the beast would never hurt someone as caring as Odessa.
Picking her up, I led her back into the common area of the cave. My large nest lay unattended with clean furs. Odessa had not healed because she would not let her body rest, and again with the communication we did not share caused pain to her.
Getting my voice fixed had never been a priority, not since my brother took it away. The lies he told the tribe about me and them believing, it was best to not speak. Now I had a reason, and she wanted me to speak. I would make it so, just for her, but I would talk to no one else. Only she deserved it.
“Sleep,” My dragon spoke, laying her into the nest. It was still early, too early to rise, especially since she had not slept. Tucking her into the furs, I turned to tend the fire, but her hand pulled me back.
“Stay a little?” her voice hung through the air. “I know you will keep the vampires away if you are here.” A blush kept up her cheeks, her fingers began to let go of my calloused hands, but I gripped them tightly, followed by my forehead kissing hers.
Touching foreheads was a sign of affection amongst dragons. Odessa wouldn’t understand it yet, but her accepting it burned my heart with an eternal flame. My dragon roared inside me, wanting nothing more to make her ours. In time, I certainly hope so.
Crawling into the nest, I lay beside her, not wanting to put pressure that she needed to touch me. Still, to my delight, her body scooted closer to mine, so close I thought my heart would beat out of my chest.
“Thank you, Creed,” she yawned, her body facing mine. The beast inside took over; he rolled to her, pulling her into our chest. The vibrations, the purring we had of contentment, made Odessa nestle closer. “So warm,” she muttered before she fell asleep.