The Dragon Collective - Jessie Donovan

Chapter One

Catherine "Cat" MacAllister sat at the large table in one of the rooms of the newly rebuilt great hall on Lochguard and tried to sketch out her latest painting idea while simultaneously keeping an eye on the female opposite her.

One of her many jobs inside the clan was to help the poor lass named Aimee King, one who'd suffered abuse by a former dragon leader down south in England on Clan Skyhunter. She'd been sent to Lochguard to heal, and art therapy had been working well over the past few months, helping to calm her down for longer and longer periods of time.

True, the female wasn't any sort of brilliant artist, but she relaxed as she filled in the paint-by-numbers project Cat had created. So much so that it was hard to remember the lass had suffered so much while still so young, not to mention the fact she had a silent dragon.

Which, to a dragon-shifter, was akin to missing half of one's soul.

Cat could feel her own inner beast stirring inside her mind as if to reassure Cat she was still there, but her dragon knew better than to talk. When her inner beast spoke, Cat's pupils changed to slits temporarily. And flashing dragon eyes sometimes still scared Aimee—related to something that had happened to her while Aimee had been imprisoned, although the female didn't talk about it—and not even Cat's rather chatty dragon would risk spooking the poor female.

Especially since Cat would soon become even busier and didn't want someone to have to start from ground zero when it came to building trust with Aimee.

Besides helping at her mother's restaurant, Cat's own art projects, art lessons with the children, and her sessions with Aimee, she would soon be working with a human male named Lachlan MacKintosh.

Aye, she looked forward to the month-long joint art project between humans and dragon-shifters. But she was a wee bit worried about saying something she shouldn't to the male in charge.

Or, at least, she'd always had a problem with that during their past meetings.

Her dragon moved again, and for once, Cat wished she could speak to her inner beast beyond murmuring, Soon, inside her mind.

She watched Aimee dip her paintbrush into a dark blue just as the door banged open and her younger brother Connor barged in. "Cat—"

Cat barely noticed her brother and instead focused on Aimee.

The lass had trouble around males.

But instead of running to the far side of the room, Aimee stared at Connor. Her brother stared back.

Knowing how Connor wouldn't stay quiet for long—no one in her family could—she stood and shooed him out the door. She grabbed the doorknob and looked at Aimee. "I'll be right back, aye?"

Once the other female nodded, Cat shut the door and said in a scolding whisper, "What the bloody hell were you doing? You know not to barge in when I'm with her."

Connor crossed his arms over his chest. "It's Tuesday, not Thursday, so how the hell was I to know she'd be in there with you?"

She frowned. "Since when do you know my schedule?"

He raised his brows. "Since when don't you know mine?"

She grumbled, "That's different. If I don't keep track of you lot, then trouble is bound to happen."

He growled, "I'm not fifteen anymore, Cat. Stop treating me like a lad green behind the ears."

Her inner dragon spoke up. He has a point.

Now you decide to start talking?

Her beast sniffed. Aimee's not here, so why not?

Ignoring her dragon, she took a deep breath and murmured, "Sorry. Old habits die hard, and all that."

He grinned, and Cat nearly groaned. There was no way her brother wouldn't tease her about her apology at some point. Or, more likely, use it as proof that he was indeed the male of the house, being the eldest male of the siblings.

In other words, Connor would become even more insufferable than normal.

Needing to change the topic, she asked, "So why did you barge in like that? I hope there's a good reason, or I may have to take my apology back."

Uncrossing his arms, he rocked back on his heels, his grin growing wider. "As if I'd let that happen."

She growled, "Connor."

He shrugged. "Fine. The human male arrived, that DDA bloke, and he's waiting for you at Finn's house. You're supposed to go meet him about something or other, as soon as possible. They didn't tell me the details."

Finn was Lochguard's clan leader, which meant she couldn't say no or delay going until Aimee's session was finished. "Just