Why Not Tonight (Happily Inc. #3)

Why Not Tonight (Happily Inc. #3)

Susan Mallery


NATALIE KALETA DROVE up the mountain, prepared to beard the dragon in his lair. She was brave, she was fearless, she was on a mission. Only was “beard a dragon in his lair” right? Did dragons have beards? And if they did, was it just boy dragons or did the girls have to deal with a beard, as well, which seemed desperately unfair.

Okay, so the dragon-beard issue was questionable, but she was totally sure about the lairs. Dragons had lairs. Cool-looking caves with secret rooms and hidden treasures and maybe a chandelier because a chandelier would look great in a lair and the light would bounce off the dragon scales in a really beautiful way.

Although electricity was an issue. It wasn’t as if the dragon could call the local utility company and get a line brought in. How would they use a phone with their little claw-hands and how would they pay for a phone, for that matter?

Candles could work. Dragons were tall enough to be able to light the candles and replace them when needed... Still, if a dragon couldn’t buy a phone, how would she buy candles? Unless she made them. It wasn’t that hard. Natalie had taken a class once, when she’d been wanting to experiment with wax in her art.

Okay, so a candle chandelier with a beardless girl dragon and no cell phone.

Her mental image reestablished, she turned off the main highway when her phone told her to and headed up the mountain. In the rain. Although rain in no way described how much water was falling. Monsoon was more like it. It was late August and still the season for crazy rain in the desert.

Natalie’s tired, battered twenty-five-year-old Volvo wheezed as the road got steeper. She downshifted, offered silent words of encouragement and wished for a dragon to give her car a little push...or her a ride.

“You can do it,” she told her car, hoping she wasn’t lying because she did not want to get stuck on the side of a mountain, in the rain or, frankly, any other time. Seriously, when was it convenient to get stuck by the side of the road?

Natalie turned right when instructed. The road narrowed and the rain came down in even bigger buckets.

This was no fun, she thought, driving more slowly, less by choice than by the limitations of her taxed car engine. She shouldn’t have volunteered to go check on Ronan, only someone had to. No one had heard from him in almost a week and he wasn’t answering her texts.

Ronan Mitchell disappearing into his work at his house for days at a time wasn’t uncommon, but no matter what, he always answered her texts. As the part-time office manager for the Willow Gallery, Natalie was responsible for all the local artists. All three of them. Nick and Mathias were never any trouble, but Ronan was a giant, somewhat good-looking pain in her butt.

Oh, sure, his work was amazing. What he could do with glass—turning something that should be static and not that interesting into movement and beauty—was astonishing. She could spend hours watching him create. But he wasn’t very friendly and, more significant to her, when he disappeared like this he stopped communicating to the point that she had to text with a very pointed, Are you home sulking or are you dead? Which always got a response. Only not for the past five days.

As far as anyone knew, he hadn’t taken a trip. Ronan wasn’t big on travel, and when he did, it was for work, so the gallery would know. His brothers had no knowledge of anything other than his normal reclusiveness, or as she liked to call it, brooding artist pouting.

She’d tried to talk her boss into checking on him, but Atsuko had only laughed and told Natalie to keep track of the miles so she could be reimbursed. Which was why Natalie was still driving up, up, up in a horrendous downpour and wishing there were indeed dragons. Or bigger guardrails should her tires lose their grip.

“Just a little farther,” she whispered.

She’d only been to Ronan’s a couple of times. Once to deliver some packages—yes, being the office manager of a gallery came with mind-boggling responsibility—and once to take a piece of his art back to the gallery. Both tasks had been accomplished without him having to let her inside his gorgeous house. If she arrived in one piece, she was going to insist on a tour...and maybe a snack. Honestly, it was the least the man could do after not admitting he wasn’t dead.

Unless he was.

Natalie didn’t want to think about that but why else would he not answer her? Maybe he was hurt, she thought, although was that better? If he was so injured he couldn’t text her back, then there might be blood, and while she had many excellent qualities, the ability to deal with blood was not one of them.

“I’m fine,” she told herself, trying to ignore the bile rising in her throat. “There’s no blood. Just rain. Look!”

She gripped the steering wheel with both hands as she continued up and up, the water racing down the road in the opposite direction, lightning flashing in the sky. She slowed even more, her car complaining loudly. An unfortunate knocking began from somewhere in the engine area. An ominous red light flashed on her dashboard.

She was pretty sure she was close to his house. Nothing looked the same in the driving rain but she was confident that just around the bend in front of her was—

She screamed as her car hit a river of mud and started to slide off the road. She’d barely begun to panic when she slammed into something hard and unmoving. Her body jerked, the car engine died and there was only the sound of the rain.

Susan Mallery's Books