Dragon’s Heart

Dragon's Heart, book 3 of the DragonFate series of paranormal romances by Deborah Cooke

Her kiss will rock his world…

Dragon-shifter Rhys believes in what he can hold in his talons. A chef with his own restaurant, he is organized and practical, and dislikes surprises. When his firestorm sparks in the realm of Fae, he’s sure it’s an illusion and isn’t going to be seduced by a fake destined mate—even if the kiss of that beautiful selkie melts his very soul.

Lila would do anything to save her kind from extinction, even entreat a dragon shifter to join the battle against the Queen of the Fae. But Rhys is unlike any male she’s known before—he’s unmoved by her kiss and even her surrender to the combustible attraction between them. There’s only one way to convince him to fight, and that’s to conceive his son—even though bearing a child will cost Lila everything she holds dear.

Rhys is awed by Lila’s sacrifice and determined to retrieve everything she’s lost—and not just for the sake of their unborn son. As they plunge into unknown realms with only each other to rely upon, will their combined forces be sufficient to triumph—or will they be forced to surrender even more?

Coming May 26, 2020

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An excerpt from Dragon’s Heart:

Monday, October 28, 2019—Manhattan

Rhys watched in astonishment as the portal opened in the wall of the bar called Bones. What he saw made no sense at all: never mind that the Pyr were in the company of vampires and a werewolf with attitude who wanted to make an alliance. Kristofer’s firestorm had ignited, his mate had vanished through a solid brick wall, then Kade had drawn a doorway on the wall and it had opened.

He wasn’t nearly drunk enough to be imagining things.

In fact, Rhys didn’t think it was possible to be drunk enough to have hallucinations like this. It must be really happening. There didn’t seem to be anything beyond the door that had opened in the wall, just darkness and the glow of Kristofer’s firestorm.

Kristofer was already heading for the doorway, a flame dancing on his fingertip. It was a beacon, leading him to his destined mate and Rhys knew Kristofer would feel compelled to follow it.

Rhys would have hesitated and asked questions, but he was the skeptic of the group of friends. Kristofer was the believer—but he’d have Kristofer’s back. Rhys wouldn’t have gone through that door voluntarily for himself, but he’d go without hesitation in support of a friend.

Alasdair had stepped back with caution, while Hadrian, also in his dragon form, was stepping over the threshold right behind Kristofer. Kade was staring down at the pen he’d used to make the doorway, as if he was astonished by its powers, too. Rhys heard Theo shout in old-speak, but he had to stay with Kristofer.

There was no telling what they’d find on the other side.

He was glad to be in his dragon form.

Rhys stepped through the doorway and felt an icy shiver slip over him. He spread his wings, sensing that the ground fell away beneath him and took flight. There was no sign of either Kristofer or Hadrian and he turned in the air when he realized he couldn’t even see the light of the firestorm anymore. He looked back toward the door and the bar.

There was no door.

He was surrounded by darkness and all alone.

Rhys didn’t panic. That was how others made mistakes. He remained calm and flew onward in the same direction. It only made sense that he’d catch up to the others. Kristofer might have raced on ahead to meet his mate, and Rhys already knew that Kristofer was faster than he was. To his relief, something glimmered ahead and he assumed it was the firestorm. He swooped low, hoping he arrived in time to help Kristofer, only to discover that the glimmer was moonlight reflected on the sea.

What sea?

He should be in the building adjacent to the bar, in Manhattan. What was going on?

Rhys flew in a wide circle, unable to explain his situation. He blinked. He shook his head. He even dipped his toes in the water, but nothing changed. The illusion, if it was one, was consistent.

There was a splash in the distance and he barely heard it, even with his keen Pyr hearing. Rhys raced toward it silently, flying close to the surface of the water to avoid detection. He swooped down toward the water when he glimpsed a dark silhouette, but it disappeared beneath the surface.

Rhys dove into the water, seeking his companions.

To his astonishment, a spark lit at the end of his talon. It glowed, radiant even in the water, which only gave him more questions. The flame sent a heat through him that couldn’t be denied, heating him as well as filling him with desire.

But it was supposed to be Kristofer’s firestorm.

Was his own destined mate nearby?

The flame was brighter when he held his claw down toward the dark depths. Rhys returned to the surface, took a deep breath, and dove. He held his talon before himself, following the glow like a beacon.

He had to know.

He caught a glimpse of movement and the sight astonished him. Was that a seal? Whatever it was, the light was brighter in proximity to it. Rhys pursued the creature, his chest tight. He didn’t dare return to the surface and lose sight of his prey. He had a strange conviction that if he did, he’d never find his way back again.

The light drove him on, but whatever he chased had no intention of being caught. Rhys swam as quickly as he could, ducking around coral and rocks, swimming deeper and deeper. The water became as dark as midnight, the glow of the firestorm startling eels and fish that never saw such bright light. He followed it with determination and just when Rhys thought his lungs would burst, the light flared to golden brilliance in the entry to a cave.

He reached inside, knowing he could manage only one grab before he had to return to the surface. His talons closed around something—or someone. It felt suspiciously like a woman’s waist and the contact sent a fire through his veins that could only be the result of the firestorm. She struggled and squirmed, but she had to be in need of air, too. Rhys knew that people who were drowning often fought their saviors. He gripped her with resolve and surged toward the surface.

On the way, he changed to his human form, reasoning that he could still hold on to her but would require less air. The water was lit with a blue shimmer during his transformation, then he locked one arm around his mate’s waist and used the other to haul himself toward the surface.

He broke the surface with a gasp and took a greedy gulp of air.

He held a seal, a creature with large dark eyes that stared back at him fearlessly. Rhys would have thought he’d made a mistake if it hadn’t been for the thousands of little sparks of the firestorm, the tiny blazes that illuminated every point of contact between them.

This was his mate?

She trembled in his grip and he saw a blue shimmer that was more than familiar. He watched, incredulous, as her shape began to change. He held tightly, uncertain what she would become but having his hopes.

She became a woman, a naked one, with fair skin and long dark hair that hung down her back, slick and wet. Her eyes remained thickly lashed and expressive, just as dark and mysterious as those of the seal. She braced her hands on his shoulders and pushed, flames erupting from the flats of her palms against his skin.

“Let me go!” she said, struggling against him. “I have to hide!”

Rhys changed shape again, soaring high into the sky with her captive in his arms. He wanted to kiss her, to seduce her, to pleasure her—but she seemed to have the opposite reaction to his presence. She fought him hard, but without success.

“Can’t you feel the heat of the firestorm?” he demanded when they were high above the sea.

“The firestorm?” Her tone became curious and she stopped struggling. She laid a hand upon his chest, testing, and the light flared to brilliance between her hand and his scales. They caught their breath simultaneously and Rhys felt the acceleration of her heartbeat. His own matched its pace, a sensation that left him dizzy and he flew in a spiral with his eyes closed, wallowing in the pleasure of her touch.

To his surprise, she laughed. It was a wonderful sound, like a thousand silver bells, and he opened his eyes to consider her.

“So, this is how a dragon is brought to his knees,” she said, teasing him.

“Absolutely,” he agreed easily, not at all like his usual self. “You’re beautiful.” He meant it. Even without the firestorm, he would have been struck by her beauty.

She was naked, so he could see a lot of her skin. As he glanced down, her nipples tightened but she didn’t blush or avert her gaze.

“What are you?”

“A selkie.” She blinked away tears as Rhys recalled old stories he’d heard of her kind.

“I didn’t think selkies were real.”

“We nearly aren’t,” she replied, a little sharply, then smiled at him. “I was pretty sure dragons weren’t real,” she continued with humor. She ran a hand over his scaled chest, feeding the fire within him. “But you look pretty solid.”

“I am.” They were flying over the water, but Rhys heard waves on a beach ahead of them. He changed his course, wanting a kiss.

“Turn out the light!” she urged. “We don’t want to be seen.”

Rhys thought it was strange that she was shy, but he couldn’t do what she wanted anyway. “There’s only one thing that extinguishes the light of the firestorm.”

She started to ask, then their gazes met and he saw that she understood. “You’re kidding me.”

Rhys didn’t answer her, but soared for the beach, landing with a flourish. He felt filled with new power and grace, and he knew his shift to human form was perfect. He landed on his feet in the shallows with his mate cradled in his arms.

“Wow,” she said, running a hand over his shoulder as if she couldn’t stop herself. Her eyes sparkled as she met his gaze. “Although the red and silver scales were very striking.”

Rhys grinned. “I’m glad you approve.”

There was a distant boom of thunder and she spared a panicked glance upward. “I have to go.” She wriggled against him again. If she wanted him to release her, the movement had exactly the opposite effect.

“It’s just a storm,” he said, trying to soothe her.

“It certainly is,” she said, her eyes flashing.

Rhys tightened his grip upon her, bent his head and captured her lips beneath his own.

“Oh,” she murmured and he swallowed the sound, slanting his mouth over hers to deepen his kiss. She made a little growl in her throat, as if she couldn’t decide whether to be annoyed with him or to surrender. Then she sighed and melted against him, parting her lips to welcome him.

Rhys was glad she decided in a hurry. He liked decisive women who knew what they wanted. She wrapped her arms around his neck, taking control of the kiss in a thrilling way. The firestorm blazed through him, setting his very blood on fire, hot and hungry and demanding, just the way they’d always said it would be. Desire obliterated every other thought from his mind. Rhys was aware of nothing but his mate and her perfection.

And her kiss.

He felt her fingers lock into his hair, realized that she’d arched her back to rub her breasts against his chest, and felt the tip of her teasing tongue. This time, it was Rhys who growled in frustration. He pivoted without breaking their kiss and headed for the beach.

He had time to wonder how exactly this would work, then she kicked hard. She surprised him enough with her sudden powerful move that he loosened his grip.

She splashed into the water, diving for the depths again.

“No!” Rhys roared and dove after her. He saw a shimmer in the water ahead of him and knew what it meant. He snatched and caught the tip of her tail in one hand, and she paused to look back at him. She had half-changed, her lower body the tail of a seal, but her upper body still human. She was like a mermaid but not. Her hair swirled around her and her gaze softened, the light of the firestorm glowing all around them. She reached back and touched his hand, so lithe and lovely that his heart squeezed.

“Let me go,” she whispered, and he was amazed that she could talk beneath the water. There was an entreaty in her gaze. “She’ll kill me if she sees me.”

Who? Rhys couldn’t ask the question, but she must have understood. She shook her head and looked as disappointed as he felt.

“I can’t say her name. I won’t say it,” she said with ferocity. Then she smiled at him. “If she didn’t hunt me, I’d let you tell me about your firestorm, dragon man.” She swam closer and Rhys released her tail, unable to bear the idea of her being injured because of him. She touched her lips to his cheek. “Thank you for that kiss,” she whispered, then with a flick of her tail, she was gone. He saw her pale skin disappear and knew she’d completed the shift to her other form, then he had to take a breath of air. He surged for the surface, his chest tight, wishing he had the ability to swim after her and change her mind.

There was a brilliant flash of light above the water just as Rhys broke the surface again. It cracked like lightning, illuminating the surface of the sea and the beach as if it was midday. He saw a pair of high-heeled purple sandals at the high tide mark on the beach, but there was no one else in sight. He turned in place, wondering who had abandoned the shoes, as the light faded away.

Then the lightning flashed again, cracking loudly as it struck him between his shoulders. He cried out at the searing pain that shot through him and closed his eyes as the world spun. He summoned the change but his body betrayed him and he remained in human form.

He couldn’t shift.

Rhys did panic then. Nothing interfered with his ability to change forms, and his hidden dragon gave him the confidence to face any foe.

But he couldn’t shift. It was terrifying.

There was a red string knotted around his wrist, one that burned. Even though it was thin, he couldn’t snap it. He was in court of glittering Fae, Hadrian sprawled beside him with a similar string on his wrist. He was soaking wet and his clothes smelled of salt water, but there was no spark of the firestorm.

Where was Kristofer?

Then the music started, infectious merry music, and his feet began to twitch of their own accord. He found himself on his feet and dancing a jig without having made any decision to do so. Hadrian awakened and lunged to his feet, seizing Rhys’ hands as he joined the dance. The two of them circled, dancing hard and fast, against their will. The court around them blurred into streaks of silver and red, the music melded with raucous laughter, and his feet began to hurt. He was breathless, his heart thundering, but he couldn’t stop dancing. The red cord burned and the music went on and on and on.

All the while, he wondered about the selkie and her kiss—and whether he would ever see her again.

Excerpt from Dragon’s Heart Copyright ©2019 Deborah A. Cooke