"So, who are you and whatcha doing in my room? I mean not that I'm complaining. You're hot and I could use a distraction, but yeah, I don't know you." I might have flung my dirty clothes under the mattress had I known Mr Tall, Dark, and Sexy would me crashing my cram session, but it's not like I'm psychic.

The blue in his eyes flashes behind a dark frame of thick lashes. "Meara, I don't have time for this. I know it's been twenty years but seriously. I am your husband and Echelon needs you so your little vacation is over."

"Cool. Cool. So is this some kind of frat initiation or are you a hardcore gamer? Cosplay isn't really my thing, but..." Accents sure are my thing and his hint of Irish brogue is beyond distracting. It doesn't sound fake either. Senior year and I'm still not used to the influx of hot weirdos who parade around campus during rush week. I hadn't heard about any foreign guys except the Columbian brothers and a few Canadians who drove me insane by ending every other sentence with aye. It's odd that Mr Hottie would choose my room to wander into, but I'm not going to argue with sexy, "My name's Laney by the way."

"You still talk too much, Meara, and there isn't time. I've come to take you back and join with you so we can unite the kingdoms before your sister is crowned queen and breaks the treaty. There's no time to mess around." His tone charges the air between us. Why do I always go for the bad boys? Why can't my knees go weak at the sight of a thin little nerd the way my roommate's do? Because, thin little nerds don't demand anything and there's something sexy about a man who knows what he wants. "The enchantment will end soon. Now, come on."

"Okay, I admire your crazy commitment to this whole thing but I have a Slaughter final in the morning for this crazy stupid summer class and I'm still about 90% sure it's going to kill my GPA." If the woman had a brain like the rest of us lowly mortals she would understand that essay exams are the leading cause of college drop outs. Maybe I'm making that stat up, but I'm sure it's in the top five reasons. This summer class has addled my brain. It's probably a lack of cookie dough. I'm studying and my brain needs sugar to think and avoid random conversations with hauntingly attractive men.

"I'll leave one of my men behind to handle any affairs you have." His jaw flexes with aggravation as a firm hand dwarfs my shoulder with a sting of electricity. Men? There are more of them? My brain tells me to move away from the pulsating energy of his touch, but my body is very curious if his fingers would have the same effect on other areas.

Normally I would just go with this lust burning through my veins. I'd use him as a distraction from this college career ending exam and give him something to write about in his journal tonight. He's different though and this lust has an edge, a dangerous need I can't give in to. "Perfect. Right, yeah. You do that. I'm just gonna stay here and study."

His thick arms barricade his lean chest, "Meara we have no time. Echelon is in danger. Even if you refuse to forgive me, you have a duty to your people and your lands. What is wrong with you?"

"Far less than is wrong with you dude." Hot or not, the guy's got issues. I have enough issues on my own.

"Can you still fly a dragon?" Serious issues. More issues than me and I've been in therapy since I was six.

"Why? Do you have one in your pocket or something?" Where is that crazy intruder kit I made last semester? I'm starting to feel a strong urge to mace him. It's got to be here somewhere. Who knew organization was actually a safety precaution? Perhaps it's become a victim of the black hole that swallowed my closet.

He laughs obviously finding amusement in his own insanity. This is what happens when the student services reps get accommodation happy. You get fruit nuts invading girls' dorms and asking them about their dragon flying abilities. Maybe it's a metaphor. "Zayln's outside. I had to leave him at the edge of the woods. Though many of the humans I passed seem pretty fond of mind altering herbs, so it may have been an unnecessary precaution."

"Zayln? You brought my teddy bear? Look I don't know what medication you forgot to take, but you should go." Creepy stalker. Jess must be paying me back for that whole frozen toothbrush prank. He's probably some thespian hoping to gain support in his quest for a leading role in the fall production of…of whatever it was the student newsletter listed.

"We have plenty of time to argue on the way. Now move. You owe me at least this much for leaving directly after promising forever."

"I'm about six seconds from blowing my rape whistle so you'd better-"


My next breath is forced from my chest as he flings me over his broad shoulder and storms out of the dorm. Typically, this scene would be a spectacle, but everyone's frozen in the wake of his enchanting sapphire gaze. I'm too memorized by the uncharacteristically quiet quad to even bother fighting him. Jess is far better at pranks than I thought. A streak of emerald blends into an iridescent black, snaring my attention and shadowing the ground as a majestic dragon swoops before us, offering his back to Kieran with what can only be described as a smile. Zayln. Oh my gosh, the dreams. They're back and this time I didn't even know I was sleeping.

As he swings me onto the winged creature's back, I take quiet note of the increased details of my dream and the unexpected change in content. Normally I can't smell the soft scent of spring in the emerald sheen of the dragon's scales. I can't feel the solid weight of the chiseled man before me. I can't wrap my arms around his trim waist and breathe in the deep aroma of evergreen and spice, warm spice that reminds me of the one Christmas that I spent with a family, one I pretended could be mine. That familiar pang of loss plucks at my chest, my breath catching in my lungs as the ground fades from view. How can an imagined rescue from an undefined threat feel like home? How can I drown in something so akin to a memory so many years after the dreams stopped? His thighs tense against the light brush of my pinky. So real.

"I looked for you. Ten years searching the globe. I used my every connection. You left without even a note and I looked." His voice strains with an ache my heart knows well. Helplessness leaks from each word bathing the guarded tone in longing, "Why did you keep me from finding you? What happened to us? I waited for you. I would have continued waiting, but your mother is turning and Echelon needs you. I...I had to find you."

The dull edge of betrayal deepens the inexplicable sense of guilt tearing at my soul. There's a secret chained in his eyes that's begging for release. I need to wake up before I decide to stay with him, decide to sacrifice myself for his wounds. Imaginary heroes don't need goodbyes or explanations, yet my lips beg for his skin, pleading for me to sear his memory into every pathway in my brain. The taut flesh flames against my kiss, burning its way down my arm and etching itself into the odd birthmark on my inner wrist. Faint purple lines creep across my veins outlining a shadow of something primal, something so deeply ingrained in my subconscious that another touch, another jolt of sweet, addictive pain, may well slice through my last tether to reality. My body whispers goodbye as my mind pulls it away from him.

A bruising clamp accompanies a harsh bark, "What the heck are you doing? I get that you're not happy to see me, but I'm not about to explain to the queen how I finally found you and then let you plummet to your death! Get your butt in the saddle and hang on or I swear, I'll strap you to this dragon and let you find your own way out of the restraints once we're on the island."

My therapist would say that the intense attraction I am currently feeling in my belly is related to my feelings of abandonment and issues with authority. I'll bet she'd have something else to say if those arresting cerulean eyes were fixed on her. She'd feel the pull of his mind on her limbs, locking her to his mass of security, and she would give up all desire to argue too. She'd probably even say that if the skeletons in your closet insist on coming out, you should at least ask how they've been. Even if she wouldn't, she isn't here so I don't much care what she would do if she were suddenly straddling a sexy man whose body fit hers in all the right places. Since my dreams seem compelled to drive me mad, I might as well see just how crazy my imagination can get. "You said we're married?"

Each muscle in his back tenses under the weight of the question, "Technically. We didn't join before you disappeared, but we vowed our souls. I would have apologized you know. I know we fought and I was being an ogre, but I would have come back and apologized. "

I have no clue what he's talking about, but it sounds far too deep to be discussed on the back of a dragon somewhere over the Pacific. "How do we stay off the radar? I mean, it seems like some anti-warcraft missile would have shot us down by now unless we're too low. Which...how can people not see us? Dragons aren't exactly the most inconspicuous way to travel."

He casts a concerned glance behind him, "Are you serious?"

"I don't remember anything. I mean not really. The dreams have always been a bit blurry." Maybe the doctor was right and I need to up my anxiety medication. I don't feel anxious though, just curious. "Remind me."

"They aren't dreams. They're memories, Meara."

"Right. Of course. Uh, while we're talking memories. Why do you keep calling me Meara? My name is Delaney. I used to hate it too, but it grows on you and since this is my dream I really think you should use my actual name."

"Your name is Meara, guardian of Echelon, leader of the Circle. We have a three hour ride to the island, do you really want to argue with me about this now?" His tone sharpens with a flick of two fingers signaling the two men flanking our sides to build space between our dragons. The question settles softly in the furrow of his brow. A deep sigh rumbles from his chest. "What happened to you?"

The caress of his fingers against my hand is too intoxicating to give up, "Kieran, you just kidnapped me from my dorm and are now flying me to some island via dragon like some fantasy serial killer who refuses to call me by my name. I seriously need to figure out if this dream means something or it's just the product of too much caffeine and peanut butter so just humor me."

"It's not a dream. You really are a princess of Echelon and one of the protectors. I...this would be so much easier if we had joined before you took off. I needed more time. You can't just drop a story like that on a man moments after a ceremony and not expect resistance. I would have come around. I just needed you to give me some time."

"Joined?" Out of that tangled mess, that's the part I choose to focus on. "You want me to believe I married you and then left before our wedding night? That just would not happen. Crazy as you are, you're still hot. I would not have left all that before at least sharing one night."

"It's good to know we're both appalled by your lack of decency. I will not make the same mistake again. As soon as we return to the island, we'll fuse our souls and I'll claim you. Then you can share my memories and give up this ridiculous pretense of ignorance."

Did he just call me ignorant? Because I think he's insane? Of course, why not? I'm trying to make sense of an irrational man. Share memories? Brilliant. Who needs to chat when you can just upload memories into your beloved's brain via their...my gosh, takes that whole soulmate thing to another level. The man is good. I'll give him points for creativity when it comes to trying to get in my pants. He's also incredibly angry which in some deranged way only fuels my attraction. He doesn't need to know that though. "I'm trying to have a serious conversation and all you can come up with is some line to get in my pants."

"I'm not doing anything with your pants. You're the one who insists on being stubborn, as usual."

I can see why he thinks I left.

"We need to see Cirra. She'll know how to help."

"Who's Cirra?"

"One of your circle."

Gee thanks captain obvious, that just clears everything up. "You said my mother, the...er...queen is changing? Let's focus on that a minute."

Regret clouds his eyes like the front of a thunderstorm, "I'm sorry, I should have eased you into the news. It's part of why I had to find you. The illness is spreading. At first it just stole their strength and only affected the druids. Then it started changing them and spreading to the satyrs and water sprites. Cirra's father-in-law rooted a few weeks ago. That's when she and the other circle members broke me out and sent me to find you."

"Wait, go back, broke you out? Of what?" Please tell me I am not engaged to some fugitive elf. Oh but that look…I am. I am so married to a delinquent. Great to see that my taste in elves is no better than my taste in human men. Perfect. Less than thirty minutes in wacky dreamland with the man and I'm already talking like I believe him about this all being real rather than just a quick mental escape from another boring day trying to convince myself that quitting college will not work out as well for me as it did some of the tech moguls.

"You really don't know? Wow. What did they do to you? Okay, well, after you disappeared and I returned from my search without you, Kali became convinced that you had been kidnapped and were being held under a strong enchantment. She believed the treaty and our betrothal were part of a ruse and our real plan was to overthrow the fairies and take Ailsa and Quinlan for our own. At first she just exhaled all elves back to Elah, but recently, Cirra went to her with visions. Teagan and Bryn began searching, but they knew I was still the best option for finding you so they captured me and held me in the dungeon. Things were...well, no matter. Cirra had another vision and freed me to find you."

My vision spins with the overload of information. It makes no sense, yet his eyes beg me to believe. My body aching with each detail, I plead, "Stop. Stop. My head hurts. I...this can't be. I..."

The dragon glances back as my heart races in my suddenly tight chest cavity. He slows, the sharp wind becoming a cool breeze on my face, ice to my fire. It's like he can feel the panic rising.

Kieran's hand touches my birthmark sending a streak of pain through my arm. I jerk away from the heat, but his hold only tightens, "Wait, give it a moment. The pain will stop."

The purple lines sizzle with a deafening agony until the cloud of darkness snakes into my lungs choking out the last of my cries.