They don’t know how bad it could be.
That thought circled Lucian’s mind like a vulture awaiting the stink of death. His dark mood must have found a home on his face because the hulking bouncer at the door—shifter, by the smell of him—hastened to step back and clear a path. The club pulsed with blue neon light, floor-vibrating music, and the sway of bodies drenched in sweat and sex. The bar was pure glass, lit from within by electric tubes—very modern, but it cast an eerie light across the dance floor and threw plenty of shadows for the brief, anonymous couplings that perfumed the room. Each tendril of scent told the story of lovers hidden in the dark. Sexually inexperienced and old hands alike. Humans seeking shifters to bang. Shifters hungering for a quick release. Their need had been held back by months of strife, but the hate-filled threats and deadly bombings had finally come to an end. What better way to celebrate than the grand opening of Shift Right, the first licensed, openly-shifter bar in Seattle?
The hot press of bodies said business was good.
Which Lucian fully expected—after all, he funded the enterprise, hoping shifters and humans would learn to get along. Or just fuck each other. Whatever it took to settle peace on his city once again. The mortal world had enough troubles without stirring up things that might spill over into the immortal realm. These happily grinding patrons had no clue about the unseen forces at play all around them—and it was Lucian’s job to keep it that way.
The owner of the bar suddenly appeared at his elbow. The man was small compared to Lucian’s large frame, and his trim black silks shimmered with blue light. “I’m so delighted you could make it to the Grand Opening, Mr. Smoke!”
“Please, call me Lucian.” He took the man’s offered hand, careful not to crush it. Humans were so delicate. “I’d say my investment is safe. Business is certainly… thriving.”
“Yes! I couldn’t be more pleased,” the bar owner effused in a way that set Lucian’s teeth on edge, but he just nodded in return.
Lucian wasn’t a dragon to waste treasure, but he would’ve funded the new bar regardless of its potential return. Seattle needed to get back on its feet. He and his brothers had watched the hatred convulse from afar, hoping the humans and his cousins-in-shifting, the wolves, could settle their differences without intervention. Or an excess of bloodshed. Interference created its own problems—keeping the mortal and immortal worlds separate was best accomplished when the humans were blissfully unaware. Or at least skeptically unbelieving. If they couldn’t handle knowing that a few wolves and witches existed in their midst—
“…which I thought was impractical, but it turned out fantastic!” The bar owner was still speaking, droning on about something. “This is just the beginning, Mr. Smoke, I promise. Together, we could expand…”
Together? Lucian arched an eyebrow but said nothing.
“…and then open more clubs downtown, then the suburbs and the…”
The man kept going—he was the kind of human who could make an immortal wish for an early grave—but Lucian just ignored him, sweeping his gaze over the dance floor. He appreciated a shiny investment as much as the next dragon, but he was only here to make an appearance. The rampant sexual energy of the place stirred his blood in a way that was painful—his own needs had gone unsatisfied for far too long. Spending time in a room like this, filled with warm pulsing bodies and a heady pheromone cocktail… it was mostly humans and wolves, but Lucian caught a whiff of dragon even before his brother, Leonidas, stepped out of a dark alcove and into a white-hot spot of light on the dance floor.
“Please excuse me,” Lucian said to the bar owner. Then he turned his back on his brother and strode away from him, toward the entrance.
“Right. Of course! Great to see you! Please stop by…” The drone of his voice was swallowed by the music.
Lucian’s path to the door lay through a myriad of bodies clutching drink-filled glasses in sweaty hands. Even with half of them shifters, he towered over them. His glare had the intended effect—an unconscious shuffling out of the way of the predator in their midst—but it wasn’t fast enough. His brother caught him at the end of the bar.
“You made it,” Leonidas said from behind him.
Lucian debated ignoring him but turned to face the bar instead. He signaled the bartender, a pretty, petite blonde woman who was thoroughly human but had the scent of at least two shifters on her already. “Double scotch, neat,” he ordered.
Leonidas leaned into the bar next to him, propping his elbow on the blue glass and grinning. “I hope you don’t mind, brother, but I started without you.”