Authors: Kelly Lucille
Copyright 2014 Kelly Lucille
All Rights Reserve
Melly stood at the top of the cliff and watched as the blood covered the moon in drips.
The wind was silent and the air stale and empty of life. She felt encased in an invisible box, as if she could put out her hands and touch glass she could not see. The light was leaving. All around the dragon valley, the sparkle was diminishing until the land was leeched of magic. All goodness and life had flown far afield, and even the wind refused to come close.
She tried to catch her breath
, but there was nothing to suck in that gave sustenance.
She felt a brutal yank
of her hair and was pulled around to face the blood mage, his eyes red with stolen power.
You cannot hide from me forever. I will burn the world down and find you among the ashes if I must.”
She tried to speak and deny his claim, shaking her head a
gainst the hold he had on her, but there was no air. She was powerless.
Come to me and the punishment will be light.”
She tried to yell, scream, anything
, but there was nothing.
Come to me. You don’t belong with them.”
Melisande woke with a scream on her lips, and had never been so happy to hear it echo.
a commotion at the door before it burst open. She was shocked to see a strange male shove in with a ferocious roar. She gasped and pulled her blankets up to cover her nightdress.
He was massive, as tall as Eben Kinkaid, who towered over her five
-foot-two height by nearly two feet. His hair was tied back and fell nearly to his waist. As black as Eben’s, but where Eben’s was an iridescent black that shimmered with every color, this dragon’s hair seemed to absorb all the light around him. Rugged and hard, his eyes were a cold quicksilver that shimmered with dragon fire; he was by far the most unnerving man she had ever seen. Out of instinct, she called the wind and it came with a whoosh through the balcony doors. The strange dragon found himself airborne a second later and hit the wall beside the bedroom door with a crash. The bedroom door where Eben Kinkaid was holding onto the doorjamb to keep from being swept away.
She halted the wind as soon as she saw him
, but it was too late—the other dragon roared again, a great dragon battle cry and shifted to an obsidian dragon, as beautiful as it was terrifying.
He did not come for her but looked around the room with quicksilver eyes that seemed to swirl and shimmer in the dark.
He was intent on finding his prey, and Melisande’s mouth went bone dry when he suddenly turned those shimmering silver eyes her way.
Eben stepped between them.
“You are unharmed?”
Melly cleared her throat and finally unfroze herself.
Her voice was an embarrassed little whisper in the dark. “Yes, Eben. I am so very sorry. I had a ... dream. I did not mean to attack you or ...” She looked behind him. “Your friend.”
Eben studied her with antique gold eyes
, full of age and power. She knew he missed nothing of her fear or insignificance with those eyes. He turned to the black dragon. There was just the smallest touch of humor in his voice when he spoke, but for Eben, this might as well have been laughing aloud. “I believe you can change back now. I do not think she means to harm you.”
While the ferocious dragon switched back to the terrifying
warrior, Melly stood and slipped on her robe. She was not going to sit cowering in the bed in her nightgown if she could help it.
She was just pulling her long red gold hair from the collar with a flip when she turned and met the other set of dragon eyes.
—this one the cold silver of a frozen lake by starlight. She froze all over again. If Eben had eyes that looked right through you, this man, this dragon, consumed with a glance. Even as she watched, those eyes seemed to turn molten and fire.
She swallowed, aware that she was in the thinnest white cotton nightdress and robe.
Covered to her ankles, she felt very keenly that she wore nothing underneath it.
Eben spoke into the loaded
silence; his voice had lost the teasing quality and was now granite hard. “Melisande of House of Fire and Water, may I introduce General Solan Fire-Eater.” At the sound of his name, she felt the wind swirling at her feet shoot up and dart around the room like a small tsunami. Eben Kinkaid seemed not to notice, intent on finishing his introduction and making his point. “General Solan. My mate’s sister is claimed by this house and under my protection.”
Melly silenced the wind with a twitch of the fingers at her side
, aware as she did so that the predator across from her caught even the smallest movement she made. He seemed to pay particular attention to the way the wind flipped her hair. She blushed under that daunting gaze; her light skin gave her emotions away almost as much as the swirling winds did. She pushed her hair behind her ear, attempting to tame at least that much. She could call the wind when she needed to, but when it was in a playful mood, it rarely heeded her call to stop.
General Solan.” Eben’s voice seemed to echo with the push of magic he sent toward the general. Even Melly could feel it from where she stood, but the dragon general seemed intent on ignoring the call, and Eben Kinkaid was not a man used to being ignored, most definitely not in his own home.
Melly heard the whisper on the wind and tilted her head automatically to hear it better. The General followed the movement like the predator he was. She licked her lips and his pupils seemed to snap and flicker. Eben Kinkaid saw all of it, and from the way the room heated around her, he did not care for the General’s fixed stare. She needed to act fast or bad things would happen.
You are the General Solan who stood with my sister against the council?” Her voice was breathy, despite every attempt to sound sure of herself.
I am.” His voice was like the obsidian his dragon resembled. Hard with sharp edges. But he was making an effort, she thought, to soften it for her sake.
You helped to destroy the blood mages, and my sister tells me that you have always treated her with respect when she came before the council.”
Thank you for that, and I am sorry for throwing you against the wall. I was startled by the appearance of a strange dragon warrior in my room.”
He bowed his head with the smallest nod of respect.
“It was a most impressive display.”
She smiled, aware that sometime during their
talk, Eben had lost his battle-ready aggression, and General Solan Fire-Eater had locked down whatever predatory instinct he had been fighting. “As was your dragon. Should I ever have a real enemy to fight and not just nightmares, I have no doubt the sight of General Solan Fire-Eater and Eben Kinkaid bursting in would scare them away most hurriedly.”
Should there ever be a true enemy to vanquish my lady, I have no doubt we will find him far afield, swirling amongst the trees with a sore head.”
That made her laugh, and the wind danced across the drapes as if it liked the sound.
Who would have thought General Solan Fire-Eater had a sense of humor?
Not Eben Kinkaid
, apparently, because he was staring at the general like he had never seen him before. “Perhaps, if there is no danger, we can retire to the war room and finish our discussion.” He turned to Melly and his voice softened. “Should I awaken my mate and send her to you?”
No!” It burst out of her mouth too quickly to be believed, so she pressed her lips together, then tried again in a calm voice. “I would prefer not to worry my sister over such a small thing, and I am not a child in need of coddling.”
He bowed his head in acknowledgme
nt and then turned to lead the general from the room.
General Solan hesitated,
seeming to come to a decision; he stepped forward and bowed low before Melisande. “Should you ever have need, milady, you may call on me. I would sacrifice much to see you safe and without nightmares to wake you screaming.”
Melisande opened her mouth to speak
, having no idea what to say to that, but Solan was already striding with purpose from the room.
She snapped her mouth closed and looked from the em
pty doorway to Eben Kinkaid. He frowned, watching the big man walk out, before shaking his head. Finally, he turned to nod respectfully at Melisande and followed.
When the door closed behind
them, Melly dropped gracelessly down to sit on the bed. The wind swirled in great eddies around her, seeming in a frenzy. “I know. I was scared as well. He is quite the most formidable dragon.”
enough, there were no more nightmares after that. Only dreams of dark nights and silver starlight on ice.
Eben Kinkaid had created his home in the Forsaken Mountain long ago. As the oldest dragon of memory and the Council’s executioner, he was a force to be reckoned with, as his war room showed very clearly. In addition to the riches and magic that veined the walls throughout the cavernous room, there was a significant supply of weaponry that he had collected over the years. Many thousands of years. Though in Solan’s memory, Kinkaid had never needed to actually use a weapon to kill. A map graced one wall and showed the height and breadth of the land. In addition, another wall housed the books recording the living history of dragon kind. It was a most impressive display of wealth, practicality, and power. Much like the man himself.
When General Solan followed
Kincaid from the room of his mate’s sister, he was aware that he had trespassed on a treasure Kinkaid considered his to protect. But he could have no more stopped his reaction to the beautiful little mage than he could stop breathing. Looking at Kinkaid’s set back and feeling the power press around him, he was sure Kinkaid planned to help him with one or the other. He was not a man to play by either word or action.
Is Melisande your mate?” He asked it directly, and Solan would have given anything to give a different answer.
I do not know.”
Then she is not.” Eben turned and looked at the General with hard eyes. “If she was, you would have no doubt.”
I am ... drawn to her.”
As would any unmated male be, but she is not a plaything, and you will keep your distance.”
Solan felt the power in the room escalate until it was a driving force against his head.
His power answered. It rose around him like a cloud and hit Kinkaid’s with an almost audible clang.
I do not believe that a fight between us would end well for either of us.” Solan growled out the warning, watching Kinkaid’s eyes glow brighter as his power flexed around him. His own answered in kind. “Nor do I intend to disrespect your house. She is not a plaything, and I would hunt down any man who tried to make her one.” He felt the lessening of tension and was compelled to give at least a small warning of his intentions. He met the other dragon’s eyes and wondered if he looked at his own death there even as he spoke the truth. “But if she calls I will come.”
Dragons gained power with age and Eben Kinkaid was the o
ldest of them still living. Known as their greatest hunter and the council’s executioner, there was not a dragon alive who had not been raised on stories of his power and ruthlessness, but General Solan Fire-Eater was first and foremost a soldier. If there was a fight between them, it would not be a hunt but a war. It could go either way.
And you believe she will call to you?”
he wished he had a different answer to give. “No.”
Yet you bait me with the possibility?”
I warn you of my susceptibility where she is concerned. As I said, I would not dishonor your house, or my own.”
You are so drawn to her that you would court your own death?”
dragons, both men of honor and action. Neither would back down nor look away from the other. Finally, Eben smiled a cold predatory smile. “So be it. You have stated your intentions; now I will state mine. If she calls to you, I will not interfere. As she herself said, she is not a child to be coddled. But, until that happens, as you are not her mate, you will respect the distance I place between you. There are reasons for her nightmares, and I would not see her hurt again.”
At his words Solan felt his body seize and his power build inside him until he felt that if he unclenched his
teeth, he would breathe enough fire to burn the Forsaken Mountain down around them both. “Again?” The edge of his voice had turned to a glass edge that cut. “Hurt again?”
Before he could rip a hole in the
world, a feminine voice spoke from the doorway.
What in the world is going on down here? I can feel the power spikes from the East tower.” At the entrance of his mate, Eben Kinkaid shifted with the quick grace of a panther to stand between her and the angry dragon before him.
Solan tried to get a grip on his escalating anger.
She looked a great deal like her sister, though her hair was brown with a dragon-gold shimmer, not red-gold, and she was taller by a good half a foot. They shared the grass green eyes, though like the hair, hers showed her mated state by the specks of dragon gold that glowed there. She did not have the same softness of spirit that shone from Melisande; rather, she reminded one of a fierce little bird.
A second voice joined the first
, this one the woman’s other mate who stood with her, his body also between her and Solan. “Not to mention the headaches you are all sharing so generously along with your power plays.”
Ladon had joined the council recently. As the last direct descendant to a once powerful dragon monarchy, he had two titles: Prince for the traditional place he would have held in the Rite of Kings, and Lord for his position on the council. Despite his youth, he was fast becoming a voice of authority there. Unlike the dark coloring and brooding spirit that was Eben Kinkaid, he had cool blue eyes, and the gold-bronze hair coloring of the house of fire. Like fire, he could be playful and teasing, or burn a man with a few words. Solan had learned to respect him in the short time he had been with the council. Even with his less-than-serious nature, he got things done, and was an honorable dragon.
Seeing the th
ree of them together brought Solan to his senses. He would not wish to harm any of this house.
He breathed out a calming breath and bowed to the Lady Morgan.
“My apologies.” He met Eben Kinkaid’s eyes. “I would not knowingly bring pain to any who resided here.”
Eben tipped his chin slightly in acknowledgments.
“I think we have discussed this enough for today, General. Mayhap we will both have clearer heads tomorrow and can find an answer to the mage issue then.”
You two were discussing mage’s and you didn’t bother to invite one to the party?”
I did come originally to get your input.” Solan said, nodding to the mage. “But I believe you had already retired for the evening.”
We would have brought you in on it tomorrow, Shameaa.” Kinkaid assured her with a caress of his palm down her cheek. “We were not keeping you out of it purposefully.”
At witnessing the tender way he touched hi
s small mate, Solan shook his head. It always amazed him to see the fierce Eben Kinkaid so soft with his mage mate. It gave Solan hope for himself. He too had so much blood on his hands he felt stained with it. Yet Kinkaid could and did touch his mate with tenderness.
Prince Ladon looked around the room.
“It must have been the mate bond that caused us to feel the power so fully. Otherwise the others would have come.”
Solan lifted a brow at that.
“You do not think they have the sense to hide when they felt a battle going on?”
Ladon snorted, and Eben smiled
. The Lady Morgan laughed outright. “If they had felt what we had, they would have stormed the parapets.”
He looked from them to Eben Kinkaid.
“You would allow them to place themselves in danger?” His voice had taken on that edge, and again Eben Kinkaid did not care for it. In fact, both males seemed to still in battle readiness at the insinuation.
But it was the Lady Morgan who stepped forward
first, canting her head back to give him a good glare; her eyes were beginning to glow with an eerie green mage light. “We are not dogs to sit and stay when commanded. If you felt a battle in your home, would you hide?”
He looked down at the fierce little mage and felt the air around him crackle with lightning.
A cold breeze wafted with stinging points like the onset of a winter storm. He bowed his head in acknowledgment. “You make a solid point, Lady Morgan. I continually underestimate the women who reside here. I will have to ... adjust my thinking and curb my instincts to protect those smaller than myself. Forgive me.”
She glared for a moment more while the males behind her gradually relaxed an
d decided not to take umbrage at his bold question. Solan waited in silence for the verdict, giving nothing of his thoughts away.
Fine,” she finally relented. “I suppose you can’t help yourself, seeing as you are a dragon and a male. Who else did you underestimate?”
Eben spoke behind her.
“Melisande had a nightmare. General Solan reacted to the threat he perceived and was summarily wind tossed.”
The fierceness dropped away and Solan saw the green power
fade, sadness, and worry took its place. Morgan turned to her mates. “She woke up screaming again?”
She did.” Kinkaid’s voice had softened and he reached out a hand to pull her into his side; her other mate moved in, wrapping his hand around her free one. They became a solid unit before his eyes. He could tell they were talking to each other using mate mind speech, and he envied them that connection. Similar to dragon battle speak, it allowed mates to converse privately, but unlike the impersonal battle communication, it was said to convey not just words, but emotions, and a connection that could not be broken.
Morgan turned back to him and smiled sadly.
“I suppose you both want to get back to your business. I will go check on my sister.”
He looked at Eben
, waiting for him to tell her what her sister said about the coddling, but Eben just met his eyes with a predator’s stare that said he had no intention of denying his mate whatever she wanted.
Solan was moved to speak where other men would fear to tread. “Kinkaid did ask if she wanted company, and she was most adamant that she did not.” He watched the Lady’s face fall, and again felt the power in the room simmer and build. He looked across to antique gold eyes and saw the dragon watching him once again, most unhappily.
Lord Ladon, a most formidable opponent even at such a young age, was clearly also displeased, as his dragon aura had
elevated into a dizzying gold shimmer surrounding him, and his ice blue eyes had bled to dragon gold. But it was the sadness on the ladies face that moved him to speak. “We did leave her laughing and preparing to return to bed. I do not think you need to worry for her this night.”
She blinked up at him.
“She was laughing?”
Morgan turned to look at Eben, he nodded his head, and they had another of those conversations where Solan was excluded.
Then like the sun coming from behind a cloud, she turned and smiled at him full out. “You are a most surprising dragon, General Solan Fire-Eater. If you could make her laugh when she was fresh from her nightmares, we owe you thanks. She has not laughed much lately.” Her smile dimmed as he watched. “Though she pretends.”
He had to tamp down his intense anger at the idea of the tiny mage being unhappy for any reason, and instead bowed his head again.
“Then if it brings you both joy, I will be happy to allow her to swirl me about whenever she has a mind.”
Then her face grew serious once again as she studied him closely, looking for who knew what, but he was once again reminded not to underestimate these deceptively frail females. They were a force unto themselves.
A twinkle appeared in her eyes as the mates behind her shifted restlessly.
She gave him a half-smile, while absently patting Eben Kinkaid’s arm, her hand looking small and fragile against the much larger dragon. Tiny she may be, but the air around her crackled with the very force of nature. “We may just take you up on that, General.” Her head tilted in that way her sister had, and he felt a swirl of warm air brush him on its way to ruffling her dress. She looked surprised and then narrowed her eyes on him once again. “Let’s hope you are as dauntless as you appear. Something tells me you are going to need to be.”