Her kiss will shatter realms…
Dragon shifter and artisan blacksmith Hadrian is determined to strength his fellow Pyr warriors in the battle against the Fae by making them talons of steel. He won’t be seduced by the sensual promise of what has to be a fake firestorm—even to help a beautiful warrior escape the clutches of the Fae Queen.
Rania is a swan-maiden and Fae assassin, compelled to serve the Dark Queen’s will in exchange for her own survival. Hadrian is the last of the dozen assigned victims that will fulfill her revolting bargain, but this dragon shifter isn’t easy to kill. It’s more than dragon vitality that helps him survive her lethal kiss, but Rania won’t surrender to his potent touch for any price when her own life hangs in the balance.
Compelled to join forces against the Dark Queen’s deceit, can Hadrian and Rania overcome their distrust of each other to defeat a common foe? Can Hadrian unfurl the painful secrets of Rania’s past to give them a future? When worlds collide and barriers are destroyed, can love conquer the obstacles between these destined mates?
Coming October 27, 2020
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An excerpt from Dragon’s Mate
Hadrian MacEwan should be dead.
No one had ever escaped Rania’s kiss of death before, but she supposed there had to be a first time. It figured that the failure would happen when she was fulfilling her final obligation to Maeve, when she was on the cusp of freedom. How many centuries had it been? She’d anticipated some kind of Fae trickery, some sleight of hand to keep her from being released—Maeve was deviously clever, after all—but Rania hadn’t expected her own abilities to fall short.
Assassination was the only thing she did well.
But not this time. The Pyr had recovered, not only from injuries that should have been mortal in themselves, but he’d also evaded the price of her kiss of death.
Was it the selkie’s fault? A good healer could counter many charms and undermine many toxins.
Had Rania made a mistake? She’d reviewed their meeting a hundred times. She’d been surprised that the dragon shifter was so handsome, then startled by the flash of light he’d called a firestorm. Had she been shaken enough to make a mistake? It was hard to imagine. She’d become known for her ruthless efficiency.
But it had been tempting to give him more of a kiss, not just one on the cheek. She hadn’t even seen him at his best and she knew it. He’d been unconscious when she found him, hit on the back of the head. But there was no mistaking the fire and the ice in him. She’d wanted to slip her fingers into the unruly auburn waves of his hair, to caress the square line of his jaw, to caress the firm line of his lips. He was tall and broad, a warrior even in his human form, and she’d been intrigued even before he opened his eyes.
They were brown, but a thousand warm hues of gold and brown, even with some flicks of gold. There was humor in that gaze and intelligence, too, and his eyes had lit with admiration when he surveyed her own face. The way he had smiled, just a little, had caught at her heart and nearly stopped her from doing what had to done.
When this was over, Rania would seduce a hundred men with brown eyes, even though she had a feeling it wouldn’t be the same.
“The firestorm,” he’d called it when light sparked between them and there has been awe in his voice. She’d learned since that the firestorm was the mating sign of his kind, the Pyr, the mark of one dragon shifter finding the woman who could bear his son. Even then, even when he was a complete stranger and her intended victim, she couldn’t disappoint him with the truth.
He had a power to influence her. Maybe that was Maeve’s trick. Maybe that was how the Dark Queen would keep Rania from fulfilling the terms of her imprisonment.
But all mortals died. She had to be able to kill Hadrian.
Even though, he still lived, and that meant Rania was still in thrall to Maeve. The Fae spies had said that Hadrian MacEwan would return to his smithy in Northumberland this very day so she awaited him in his own lair.
A blacksmith’s workshop was the last place Rania wanted to be. The only good thing about his home was that it was located in the country. He’d taken over an old mill, converting it to both studio and home, and a river ran merrily alongside it. Rania could hear the birds and the wind, too. She’d never yet adjusted to the modern world, though she supposed she’d have time to do that once her bargain with Maeve was done.
Once Hadrian was dead.
She’s manifested inside Hadrian’s lair and had already explored it thoroughly. It was simply furnished and comfortable. She concluded that he was a man of simple tastes and pleasures, one with a respect for tradition and history. He was tidy. He lived alone. He read books and did horrible blacksmith things in the workshop she refused to even enter.
She shivered at the smell of iron and ash. That alone should make him easy to kill.
His occupation was why she’d chosen him of all the Pyr.
Rania paced and wished he’d hurry. It was already past noon. She was agitated and tried to calm herself.
This time, she wouldn’t make a mistake.
When she heard an approaching car, she froze, listening.
When it parked outside the studio, she hid, retreating to his bedroom, and stood silent as she waited.
It would all be over soon. Maeve would cross out the name of another dragon shifter from her inventory and Rania would finally be free.
* * *
Hadrian was relieved to be home. As much as he loved his fellow Pyr, he’d had enough adventure to suit him for a while with two back-to-back firestorms. He wanted to sleep in his own bed, return to the rhythm of his life and do some solid work that would make a difference. He’d stopped at the post office on his way home, hoping the parcel had arrived from Donovan, and was glad to learn that it had.
He’d heard so much about Donovan’s gloves, but had never had the chance to examine them closely. Quinn had told him more about their construction at Kristofer’s place, and Hadrian was determined to improve upon them. As far as he was concerned, if the Pyr were fighting the Fae for their survival, talons of steel were exactly what they all needed. The Fae couldn’t abide steel and after his imprisonment in Maeve’s realm, Hadrian was ready for some payback.
He wanted the ability to slice Fae warriors to ribbons and he wanted it immediately.
There was no telling when a Fae portal would open and trouble would start again. Thanks to Lila, Rhys’ mate, and Balthasar, his feet had healed, the bump was gone on the back of his head and the slashes to his gut from his fight with Embron were healed as well. Hadrian was determined to stay healthy and whole for the duration.
The mill he’d bought was constructed in an L, which made the division between home and work easy. He’s built his studio in the larger arm of the L and his home in the other. At their junction was his office and a formidable barrier of dragonsmoke buttressing the entrance to his lair and home
His lair had one large main room, with a high ceiling and exposed brick walls. The kitchen was at one end, immediately by the door, and there was a big fireplace on the opposite wall. There was an arch on the right of the fireplace, leading to his bedroom, and a door between it and the washroom in the back corner. Windows on the right gave a view of the river that had originally provided power to the mill.
Hadrian paused in the kitchen and took a deep breath. His dragonsmoke was undisturbed, although the protective barrier had faded a bit in his absence. He’d have to fortify it before the end of the day. There was a bit of dust on everything, since he’d been gone more than a month, and he knew that whatever was left in the fridge wouldn’t be edible. He’d picked up a few groceries in town for that very reason.
Strangely enough, he had the sense that he wasn’t alone. How could that be? How could anyone be in his lair without having crossed his dragonsmoke?
He shook his head, thinking that recent events had made him paranoid. Being tortured by the Fae Queen might do that to a dragon.
Hadrian opened the box on the kitchen counter, only giving Donovan’s note the barest glance. He wanted to see the gloves and they didn’t disappoint. They were even more amazing than he’d expected. They were made of fine leather, the long sharp talons extending from each fingertip. The steel continued from each finger across the back of each glove for strength, and the talons were hinged, like long fingers. They were also sharp, essentially five blades on each hand.
Hadrian tugged them on, moving his fingers and admiring their flexibility. Sunlight shone through the kitchen windows and glinted on the lethal blades.
Donovan said that he could carry them through the shift, and make them part of his dragon armor. He’d explained to Hadrian that he didn’t fold them away with his clothes: in his dragon form, they merged with his claws, lengthening them into swords.
Hadrian couldn’t wait to see that. He left the box in the kitchen and moved into the center of the large living space. He called to the shift and savored the brilliant shimmer of blue light that heralded his change between forms. He thought of Donovan’s advice and tried to follow it as he shifted. It felt good to be in his dragon form, his tail brushing against the kitchen counter, his wings almost reaching the high ceiling of the lair.
He wanted to roar with satisfaction when he saw that Donovan’s strategy had worked. The steel blades were part of his front talons, and when he slashed with one claw, they whistled through the air. Hadrian laughed and slashed again. His first project would be making a dozen pairs of these to outfit the Pyr.
Then he stilled and inhaled slowly. His senses were more keen in his dragon form and he knew without doubt that there was an intruder in his lair.
But she was there. He smelled her skin.
Then Hadrian felt the faint tickle of a cold flame and desire stirred within him.
It was same light that had sparked when he’d had the vision of that woman at Rhys’ place, the one who had kissed his cheek. She’d said then that she’d been looking for him. Lila, Rhys’ mate, said that she’d given him a kiss of death.
He’d thought it was a dream, but it was another fake firestorm, just like Kristofer’s had been at first.
How dare anyone taint the most anticipated moment of any Pyr’s life?
Looking for him. She was hunting him, and he wasn’t going to be easy prey.
Hadrian took another breath, straining his ears to listen at the same time. She was in his lair. He didn’t know how and he didn’t know why, but this time, she’d be the one surprised.
He shifted silently back to his human form, keeping the gloves on, then eased toward the bedroom. The light brightened, but it wasn’t golden like a firestorm. It was the cold light of a winter morning, and it didn’t cast a warm glow either. Its appearance filled Hadrian turned the blood in his veins to ice and that filled him with cold fury.
She’d given him a kiss of death.
It wouldn’t happen twice.
Copyright ©2020 Deborah A. Cooke