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Kim McDougall Author

Excerpt: Dragons Don't Eat Meat

I took a specimen box from my pack and carefully scooped up one of the dead creatures. 

“Only you would bring a cockroach home as a souvenir,” Mason said from behind me.

“Not a roach. A shusher.” I stood and showed him the creature in the plexiglass container. “I’ve never seen one before, have you?” 

“No.”

“We were visited by a migrating horde of them last night.”

“Yes, I know.”

“You mean, you’re aware when you go…” I still wasn’t comfortable with the gargoyle terminology.

“When I’m inanimate?”

I nodded.

“My senses are dulled. Sort of like being underwater. But I can still feel, hear, and see light.”

“Oh.” By the All-father, I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me right there. He knew I’d groped his face!

Mason grinned, enjoying my embarrassment. He took my hand and laid it on his cheek. His skin was warm and pliant. His five-day beard tickled my hand as he leaned into it, then he turned and kissed my palm.

“You can touch me any time, day or night.”

I yanked my hand away. I wouldn’t fall for that again. Mason was a terrible flirt, but he wasn’t looking for more. His disappearing act after our first kiss last year proved that. And my heart wouldn’t accept less.

I studied the dead shusher again to avoid the too-close-for-comfort conversation.

“It’s kind of beautiful, don’t you think?”

Mason barely glanced at the creature.

“You’re a very strange woman, Kyra Greene.”

“You don’t know the half of it.”

He watched me with his odd, intense gaze. 

Tell me that you want to know more! 

My thoughts screamed so loud in my head, Mason must have heard them. But he just smiled sadly and turned away.

“Why do you do that?” I asked, stopping him.

“Do what?”

“Flirt with me. You made it clear you don’t want a relationship.” 

“There are relationships and there are relations.” His eyebrows waggled. “Carnal relations.”

If I wasn’t so annoyed by his hot and cold blustering, I would have laughed.

“In my experience, carnal relations usually lead to relationships.”

“Then you’re doing it wrong.”

“I see.”

He lost his grin.

“It really bothers you, doesn’t it? That I never contacted you after our encounter with the troll.” 

I folded my arms and tried to look noncommittal.

“I’m sorry.” He reached for me, but stopped before actually taking my hand. “I know mortals get attached easily. It’s just not a good idea for you to attach yourself to me.”

“You think I’m mortal?”

Mason shrugged. “You said yourself, your heritage is a mixed bag. But you don’t have that world weary look an immortal gets.”

“Oh, I have been plenty weary of this world. How old do you think I am?” 

“There’s no good answer to that question.”

“I’m seventy-eight.” I had the pleasure of watching his jaw drop. “But I spent forty-six of those years in Asgard eating the Golden Apples of eternal life. They kept my complexion clear.” I smiled fiercely.

Mason considered me for several long seconds.

“But without the apples, you’ll age just like anyone else, right?” 

It was a good question, one I had pondered a lot in my younger days. The question of my lifespan was complex, but had long ago decided not to dwell on it. No one was truly immortal. Death could come for any of us at any time. If my Aesir genes meant that sickness and age wouldn’t touch me, I could still have my throat cut in a dark alley one night. Life was precious no matter what, and I tried to live by that rule.

I shrugged. “I like to take a wait-and-see approach to immortality.”

His expression froze somewhere between curiosity and horror.

“Does that bother you? I might get old and wrinkly while you stay forever young and...” I stopped myself from saying “hot” but he saw it in my eyes and grinned.

“Even your wrinkles would be beautiful.” His hand snuck around the back of my neck where his thumb found the vulnerable hollow. “But I have outlived three wives and ten children. I won’t do it again.”

He turned and went back to camp, leaving me with the feel of his touch blazing along my skin.
I felt sorry for him. How lonely to be so closed off. But really, was I any better? How many men had I truly let into my life? Oh, I’d had flings, sexual encounters that filled a base need, but no real connections. I’d filled my life with furred and feathered relationships instead.

“Hey, old man,” I called out. He stopped but didn’t turn around.

“Maybe we can revisit this conversation in a few hundred years, if I’m still around.”

“Maybe we can.”