Dragon's Fire

By: Lili Zander & Rory Reynolds

A Reverse Harem Romance


1





Aria





I’m not a people person. I’ve a comically large collection of t-shirts to prove it. T-shirts with slogans like ‘Go away, I’m introverting,’ ‘A large group of people is called No Thanks,’ and my personal favorite, ‘I hate people and bras.’

That last one, I’m too chicken to wear outside the house.

Which is why I’m extra-annoyed that Pieter has insisted on accompanying me tonight. I do my best thieving alone, damn it.

Speaking of Pieter, he stumbles against a desk, and I turn to glare at him. “Tell me why you’re here again?” I mutter in irritation.

It’s a rhetorical question, but the tattoo artist answers anyway. “I’ve already told you why a hundred times,” he bites out, his tone just as annoyed as mine. “Unless you became an expert on dragon blood overnight and forgot to tell me?”

Sadly, no. I’m 100% Norm. I could be staring at a vat full of the precious commodity, and I wouldn’t have a clue.

It’s after midnight, and there’s not a single person in sight. The two of us are in the research section of MagLab, one of the largest private blood banks in the country. According to Pieter’s informant, they’ve just received a shipment of dragon blood.

I’m here to steal it.

Dragon blood—rare and magical—is almost impossible to come by, and the three pints that MagLab has hidden away somewhere in this building are worth more than a quarter million dollars on the open market. Not that I’ll ever see that kind of money, of course. I’m a thief-for-hire. If I get Pieter Van Den Berg safely into and out of the lab, he’ll pay me five thousand dollars.

Which is fine by me. There aren’t a lot of fences with the balls to cross the fearsome magical lizards.

“They don’t have a lot of security.” The voice in my ear is Silas Archer, the closest thing I have to a father. Rogue wolf shifter, genius hacker, and former master thief, Silas has taught me everything I know. “I’ve disabled the alarms on the main laboratory door.”

“You’re a rock star, Silas.”

He grunts. “My spidey senses are tingling, Aria,” he warns. “That code was a little too easy to crack. They should have more than two guards at the front. Get in, get the stuff, get out. I have a bad feeling about this job.”

A smile curves at my lips. Silas loathes that I’m following in his footsteps. My mentor worries like it’s an Olympic sport. “So what’s new?” I quip. “You have a bad feeling about every single one of my jobs.”

I hold my stolen access card—male scientists are pathetically easy to seduce—in front of the reader, and the light turns green as the lab doors unlock. “Bingo. Card works like a charm.”

Pushing open the double doors, I pause in the doorway, putting up my hand to stop Pieter from barreling in. “Wait.” Fucking amateurs. I count under my breath to thirty, listening intently for any whisper of sound, but the only thing I can hear is the dim whine of the overhead fluorescent lights. “Clear.”

“Drama queen.” Pieter, looking as offended as Silas’ cat Madam Buttface, stalks toward the stainless-steel refrigerators lining the back walls and throws them open, revealing shelf after shelf of plastic bags filled with blood, each one neatly labeled with a serial number and nothing else.

My heart sinks. “Umm, Silas? How much blood were these guys supposed to have?”

“Why?” His voice sharpens. “They should be down to a two-day supply.”

I catch a glimpse of Pieter’s face. It’s deathly pale. Fuck. He’s about to lose his shit. “There’s at least a month’s supply here,” I reply. “Judging by Pieter’s reaction, it’s all shifter blood.”

“Fuck,” Silas swears on his end. “He’s not going to be able to sense the dragon blood. Too much noise.”

Pieter reaches into the refrigerator and pulls out a bag at random, holding it to his nose and inhaling deeply. He’s not a shifter, but somewhere in his family history, there’s a magical being or two, because the South African tattoo artist can work with magic, incorporating it into his ink. I watch him hopefully, but it’s to no avail. He shakes his head. “My senses are too clouded,” he says, his voice pitched high with nerves. “The guards will be back in this wing in another five minutes. We don’t have enough time.” He sighs regretfully. “Let’s get out of here, Aria.”

He’s a good guy, but he’s also a slippery bastard. If we leave here without the dragon blood, I know, as surely as my name is Aria Archer, that I won’t get paid. Leaving isn’t an option. “Silas, the bags have a serial number on them. Can you hack into their database?”

“Nope,” he replies at once, his voice regretful. “I’ve already tried. Their research database is locked down tighter than Fort Knox. Whatever they’re doing, they don’t want people to find out about it.”

Shit. Maybe Pieter is right. Maybe we should walk away.

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