Author Charlie Richards
Now Available at eXtasy Books!
For a Dragon's Healing
Highland Dragons: Book Six
Two men. One wants to be whole again. One redefines the meaning of being whole.
Upon learning from his son that his chieftain plans to force his daughter to wed a stranger, Achaius McCord flees with his family. In order to escape, he spends hours clinging to a dragon's neck, aggravating his crippled thigh muscles. He spends the first few days in his new home flat on his back, and when he finally regains his feet, he's constantly asked if he needs help...with everything. All Achaius wants is for everyone to stop coddling him. While he knows he's no longer in his prime, he's not an invalid. Then, he learns the true reason everyone is being so nice. He is what the dragons consider an asda, a human capable of bonding with a dragon, affording them status and companionship. Having lived as a cripple for nearly a decade, Achaius knows he's looked down on and pitied by his fellow man. Why would anyone want him as their companion?
Excerpt - For a Dragon's Healing
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“Is there something I can help you with?” Curzon asked softly, stopping several feet away from the man.
The human glared at him. “Aye. Ye can nay ask if I need help. I doona need help,” he snapped. “I be just sittin’ here. What could I possibly need help with?”
Curzon realized he’d said exactly the wrong thing. Evidently, this human had been asked that one too many times already. Taking into consideration his whispered words to the horse, Curzon nodded slowly as he took a couple of steps closer.
Finally, the man’s scent overpowered the smell of horse, hay, leather, and the lye soap he’d been using to clean the equipment. Curzon leaned against the wall as he processed the fact that this irritated human was an asda. Plus, judging from the lack of a dragon’s scent on him, he was unclaimed. That, at least, explained why dragons would constantly be asking if he needed anything.
“Then mayhap ye’d want to help me,” Curzon offered.
The words were out of Curzon’s mouth before he’d even realized he was going to say them, surprising himself. He’d always been a solitary person. Why was he asking for this man’s help? Just as quickly, Curzon realized the answer. While only half dragon, he still could not resist appeasing an unclaimed asda, as ridiculous as the idea of the man choosing him seemed.
His eyes narrowing, the human appeared disbelieving. “Help ye how?”
“Come with me and I’ll show you,” Curzon told him. “Or feel free to relax there as long as you wish.”
Curzon began to turn away, ready to return to the equipment room and cleaning the leather. Watching the human, he wondered if the man would follow him. He knew it shouldn’t matter to him either way, but his instinct to please the asda still rode him hard.
“I can help ye,” the human claimed gruffly.
“I’m Curzon of Pogue,” he introduced himself. “It’s not glamorous work,” he warned. “But it must be done.”
As Curzon watched, the human nodded and picked up a crutch that had been leaning against the stall wall. He hadn’t even noticed it, having been so focused on the man sitting on the crate. Watching the asda struggle to rise, Curzon bit back his instinctual urge to offer a hand, knowing the man wouldn’t appreciate it.
Curzon realized the man’s right leg didn’t work quite right. As he watched the kilted male gain his balance, Curzon swept his gaze over him. The human had wide shoulders, and a well-muscled torso half hidden by the drape of his great kilt. His left calf was thick with muscle, while his right was thinner, his foot pigeon-toed.
While he wondered just what part of the man’s leg was injured, Curzon wouldn’t ask. Besides, in his opinion, the fact that he had an injury didn’t detract from the man’s appeal. Instead, it bespoke of his strength of will that he kept going day after day.
“I am Achaius McCord,” the man, Achaius, responded once he had his balance. “I spent a score of years as a sheepherder,” he revealed, the corner of his mouth curving into a smirk. “I am well acquainted with shitey work.”
Curzon chuckled roughly, grinning. “Aye, dealing with any animal means you deal with plenty of shite.” He tilted his head toward the back room and added, “Come, then.”
Leading the way into the back room, Curzon pushed the stool he’d been sitting on toward Achaius, who stood in the doorway glancing around. “Have a seat,” he ordered. “If you’ve worked with animals, then you must be familiar with cleaning and fixing equipment.”
“I am,” Achaius confirmed as he limped to the bucket and eased down on it.
“What would you like then?” Curzon asked, “Cleaning or mending?”
Achaius peered at the workbench where Curzon had spread his supplies. He leaned down and grabbed the wet cloth which rested half in and half out of the bucket of soapy water. After wringing it out, Achaius picked up the leather strap Curzon had been cleaning earlier.
Curzon nodded. Flipping over a bucket he used for distributing grain, he settled onto it. He picked up a bone needle in one hand and a length of thread in the other, then slid it onto the needle.
As Curzon stitched a patch onto a saddle pad, he occasionally glanced at the human. He had questions, so many questions, but knew he didn’t have a right to ask them. Curzon resigned himself with the knowledge that, for the moment anyway, he’d given Achaius a place to hide and something to do.
“So, are ye a dragon like them?” Achaius asked suddenly. He waved the damp cloth absently for a few seconds before adding, “I doona know what ye call yerselves. I think of ye as dragon-men.”
Curzon smiled at Achaius’ words. He nodded slowly, swallowing his urge to chuckle. “It’s not a bad name for us, I suppose,” he rumbled. “But don’t let too many others hear you call us that. They may take offense.” He grinned at Achaius’ questioning expression. “We just call ourselves dragons, even though we can take on a human skin.”
“So ye’re like them?” Achaius pressed.
Shaking his head slowly, Curzon murmured, “Aye…and nay.”