About Blowing Smoke
Author: Sean Michael
Word Count: 50000
Page Count (pdf): 178
Date Published: February 15, 2017
Publisher: Sean Michael
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Paranormal
Series name and number: n/a
Do dragons have soul mates?
Brinley Adams is pleased to get a job as assistant to elusive and reclusive billionaire Lindrom Drage. That the job requires him to live in the man’s home in the country is only a bonus. While he’s not exactly running away, he’s trying to leave behind a crazy, stalking ex, and Drage’s isolated home might be just the place to hide.
Lindrom Drage, known at home as Dragon, just wants an assistant who works out for longer than a month or two. He’s already gone through several in the last year, and he wants someone who can do the job and put up with his refusal to deal with anything that takes him out of his home. But when he meets Brin, he suddenly wants so much more than just a work assistant.
Brin doesn’t know his boss is actually a dragon. The trick is going to be convincing Brin that neither of them is crazy, and that not only are dragons real, so are soul mates.
This book is a reprint. The publisher has changed.
Brinley Adams looked at the huge wall, at the gate made to keep people out, and the grounds which seemed to be like something from a fairy story—rows after rows of red roses, with a path leading into the darkness, he assumed toward the mansion. He’d spent a fortune on the taxi to get here, the place well out of town with nothing around it for miles.
Oh, man. He wasn’t ready for this. He’d thought he was. Hell, he’d researched Dragon for weeks—the companies, the corporate takeovers, every single ounce of information anyone had ever whispered online about the reclusive billionaire. Aside from the public information about his business dealings, there was surprisingly little to learn.
He’d had five phone interviews, and three in-person interviews with the man’s business managers. The final one with a sharp-eyed woman who’d made him sign a non-disclosure agreement before she’d even interviewed him, then another, more binding one, when she offered him the job.
Now he was here. Shit. He swallowed hard and forced himself to take some deep breaths. He finally gathered up the nerve to hit the button on the intercom.
There was no answer for long enough that he was contemplating either pressing the button again or just leaving altogether. He could start walking and see if it got him back to civilization enough to find another taxi or a bus or something.
“What?” The voice was impatient. Annoyed.
Brin swallowed again, took another breath, and went for it. “Good afternoon. I’m Brinley Adams, the new personal assistant. I was told to report here at one.” It was ten till. Given he’d had no clue just how long it was going to take him to get here, he thought he’d done well.
“You’re early.” It came at him like an accusation.
“Yes, Sir.” His father had always stressed punctuality as a virtue, both in business and personal dealings. It was better to be ten minutes early than even a minute late.
There was a grunt, then, “How unusual. Show me your ID. Just hold it up to the camera on your right.”
“Yes, Sir.” Brin pulled his license out of his wallet and held it up. He looked good, he knew he did. Professional, but classy. On trend, but not chic. Neat and in no way a challenge. His driver’s license photo reflected that as well.
Another grunt sounded, then a buzzer, the gate unlocking with a loud thunk. “Come straight up to the house and make sure you shut the gate firmly behind you.”
He grabbed his suitcase and his laptop bag. The rest of his things would come via mail once he knew this was going to work out. It wasn’t like he had tons of stuff. Four boxes. He’d pared down. It hade been made clear in his interviews that room and board were included along with a generous salary and that he would not need to bring a lot with him. The implication had in fact been that the less he had to bring, the better.
Brin slipped through the huge gate, then put down his bags and made sure to pull the gate shut behind him. He had to pull hard as the gate was heavier than it looked, which was a good trick as it looked pretty damn heavy. The lock latched with an almost ominous sound. The path already seemed darker now that he was on this side of the gate, too. He shook his head to dispel the doom and gloom gathering around him—it was all in his head. He picked up his two bags again and squared his shoulders.
This was it.
Brin took the path that ran next to the long driveway, the roses giving way to trees that joined a couple feet above his head, making a ceiling of sorts, letting the sunshine through in patches, enough to light the way but not enough to be called bright. He was fascinated by the canopy formed by the branches, way above his head. Wow. It was like… like a fortress.
Dragon—real name Lindorm Drage—had the reputation for being a recluse. There were no pictures of the man anywhere, and this whole driveway into darkness and covered by a tree-roof just added to the mystery.
The path curved slightly to the left and became overgrown, forcing him over onto the road, which did not look particularly well-used in its own right. He looked back, but the curve in the road had been enough to put the gate and the public road beyond it out of sight. No sight of the house in front of him yet, either. It increased the sensation of being in a fairy tale, and again he had to shake off the notion. This was just an ill-used road and an overgrown forest, not some scary path to a witch’s lair, and he wasn’t some innocent who should have been leaving a trail of breadcrumbs behind him. Although, he had to admit, the lack of birdsong made him think that at least if he had left a breadcrumb trail, it wouldn’t have been eaten.
He kept going, his bags growing heavier as he walked and walked. He was soon glad for the lack of sun and the cool breezes that danced in the shade of the tress, keeping him from overheating.
The road underfoot became untidier. He looked back again, startled to realize it didn’t really seem like he was following any sort of path—there appeared to be only trees and brush behind him, as if the overgrown road had become even more so in the time that it had taken him to travel it. He faced forward, continuing gamely on, though his steps were a touch more hesitant now. Just when he was sure he must have slipped off the path altogether and was wandering aimlessly through the forest, he came upon the house.
It looked more like a castle than anything else, made from large stones with a huge tower in the middle that rose a whole story higher than the rest of the place. The front doors were a dark wood, banded with steel bars across it. He was almost surprised that there was no drawbridge over a moat, but the place lacked both. There were, however, two gargoyles guarding the front steps leading up to the massive, and intimidating, door, and another gargoyle head was the knocker. There was no bell.
Wow. Was this place even real?
Brin reached up to knock, the world feeling off center, like he was falling and, for a moment, he thought the gargoyle on the door knocker was going to bite him. He drew his hand back, but the life he’d momentarily seen in the eyes of the thing was gone as if it had never been there. Which, of course, it totally hadn’t been. This was a metal door knocker, for Christ’s sake, not some stone gargoyle guarding the door from anyone who wished to gain entrance. He shook himself and reached out again. He was being ridiculous, letting the atmosphere spook him unnecessarily. He wanted this job. He needed it. He’d gone through a barrage of interviews to get it and he was not going to psych himself out of it at the last minute. Besides, when he looked back, there was barely anything that could be construed as a path behind him and he had no idea whether he could find his way out again without some guidance.
He grabbed the head of the gargoyle and banged the knocker firmly against the door. The sound it made was deep and echoed within the house. Was this like hazing? Seriously? Who really lived like this? It was like a haunted house at Disney or something.
The door opened with a lot of groaning and creaking, a huge man standing in the entrance. Brin knew immediately it was Dragon, even though he’d never seen the man before—there wasn’t a single photograph of Lindorm Drage anywhere online. And Brin had to admit he suddenly felt silly for letting the atmosphere spook him. Sure, the man was tall and broad and somewhat intimidating, but he wore jeans, a baby-blue tank top, and sported bare feet. Not exactly the baby-eating feudal lord he’d imagined might live in a place like this.
“Good afternoon, Sir.” Brin smiled, put down his suitcase, and offered one hand.