According to Amazon exclusivity rules, I can’t leave the serialized version up.
To be honest, I think the fully edited version of this story is a thousand times better than this version.
And it’s longer.
In addition to more random details at various points, there are two additional chapters in the final version (in which Val finds up what’s up with Sophie’s red barn).
And Grant’s reaction to Sophie’s apparent death? It’s completely different from the draft version presented here.
What’s more, in the final chapter we get to visit Grant’s secret place, find out what keeps his nightmares at bay (hint, it may not be what you think), and see Val coming to terms with what she is…in Val’s sort of way.
What’s more, if you sign up for my mailing list at the special link at the back of the Amazon version of BONDED TO THE DRAGON, you’ll automatically get the special BONUS EPILOGUE.
It’s a hot sexy interlude that just didn’t quite fit at the end of BONDED TO THE DRAGON.
So I made it a bonus for newsletter subscribers 🙂
Here’s an exclusive excerpt from the BONUS EPILOGUE!
My mouth tasted like perfumed smoke and incense. My tongue felt big, strange, swollen.
“Val?” said Grant’s voice. “Are you all right?”
“Give me a moment.” My voice sounded strange as if it were underwater. I was slowly getting used to this disorientation of my senses.
It came with what I was: a chaperone or guide to one’s final end (as opposed to the temporary end I had been in when I originally died). Sometimes, I found myself in that place in between, called by a soul who didn’t quite know where to go. I helped them figure out their path. Doing it made me feel good, gave me a purpose. It made me feel right.
The problem was that when I came back from the threshold of death, my senses often were temporarily mixed up. It wasn’t uncommon for me to see smells like chocolate (which looked like red velvet in light oddly enough) or hear bright lights that tinkled like bells.
I opened my eyes, and saw Grant staring at me, as if I were a stranger. This was a little odd. Usually when I came back to myself, he was ready with a cup of tea and even sweets.
My eyes sharpened. Whoah, had the colors on the rug always been so vividly burnt red and blue? I blinked and realized Grant was still looking at me strangely.
“What? What’s wrong?”
He spoke as if to himself. “It is you, Val. Your scent hasn’t changed, and neither has your internal fire within.” He was always referring to the fire or magical something that connected us.
“But… You look different.”
“What?” Sometimes words were hard.
I looked down at myself. And saw —
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And according to Amazon exclusivity rules, I can’t leave the serialized version up.
But I am allowed to show you the first chapter! (And this is the FINAL, version!)
Light flared above us. A fireball the size of a bus shot toward me.
I folded my arms. I knew better than to get my hopes up. Life, Part Two, was turning out to be an awful lot like Life, Part One.
The fireball splashed against an invisible bubble barrier, surrounding us with light.
“We’re all going to die!” a woman screamed in panic. “Get back!”
I tried to respond, but my legs wouldn’t move—not out of fear, but because I was still fucking bound to this bitch fairy queen.
Residual memories of cold dark tentacles slithered into my ears, stabbing cold needles of possession into my mind.
I squeezed my eyes shut, determined not to let the stupid fear take me. The Devourer wasn’t in this place, I reminded myself. There was nothing left to be afraid of. I had already died. I had even come to terms with never being able to make things right, being betrayed by the man I’d thought I loved, and you know what? I was okay with all that unfinished business. But Titania, the fucking bitch, had decided that of all the recently deceased human souls in the existence, she wanted mine to be her slave.
A monstrous roar ripped through my thoughts; instinctively, my flesh body tried to cower, needing a place to run and hide, even as I realized that this could be the solution to all my problems.
“… I had nothing to do with it!” Titania said, her voice echoing with magic.
A massive scaled white claw scraped against the protective bubble arcing over us. The black talons broke through the bubble. The resulting blast of air, stinking of smoke, ignited the leaves and trees nearest the break.
A thickly muscled black man, with only a hint of salt and pepper in his hair to betray his age, leaned toward the queen. “You have to get him to stop, Your Majesty.”
Titania gritted her teeth, and for a moment, it looked as if the flowers in her hair had turned into thorns. “What. Does. It. Look. Like. I’m. Doing? None of your human weaponry will work on this one. This is why I needed that thing,” she said, glaring at me, as if I could do something.
He kissed her hand. “Do the right thing, please, Your Majesty.”
The fire tornado outside swirled and coalesced around a pillar of white fire reaching skyward.
Out of the inferno walked a man in a white suit.
The man placed a glowing hand on Titania’s bubble. Electric sparks crackled blue, and the air grew heavy with the scent of ozone and ash. There was an intense pressure as if my ears were going to pop.
Then without further fanfare, sound, or fury, Titania’s shield was gone. There was nothing left to stop him.
What the hell? He wasn’t just wearing white but a formal white suit. Were we being sieged by a wedding party?
It was pristine, as if he had just put it on, rather than having spent the last hour or so launching bolts of acidic fire at Titania’s magic shield. The formal jacket was open, revealing a white shirt underneath that was unbuttoned at the throat. The only bits of color were the strip of black belt at his waist and what looked like spotless black Italian leather shoes.
“He’s not in dragon form. He’s not even wearing his armor,” gasped one of Titania’s flower-covered lady/maidens/whatever the fuck they were.
Though his clothing was far from serious, his shockingly handsome face was flat and emotionless. His shoulders were back, his head held high, his gaze trained in on Titania, with only one thing clear on his mind.
If I were lucky, he really would have a death gaze and kill her for me right there and I’d be free.
No such luck, of course.
He strode across the carefully manicured grass with the stance of a conqueror.
Titania sat on her throne, the expression on her face unimpressed, but the stiffness of her posture betrayed her underlying emotion. I had been eavesdropping as her harem guard reported the dragon’s progress. They had begged her to let them go up against the dragon, but she had forbidden every one of them, choosing instead to rely on her own magic.
And now, we were all likely to die.
The dragon stood beneath Titania on the dais, looking up at her, yet it was clear that he had all the power.
Titania sneered. “How long have you been searching for the Angel of Death? Attempt it, dragon, and you’ll never find him, or your sister, Aurora.”
Rory was his sister?
I realized why Titania had ordered me here. I had been there that night, when Aurora—or Rory, as she insisted, I call her—a visitor to Titania’s court, had been abducted from the library by a winged man.
Of all the people in Titania’s court, only Rory had shown me kindness, had been the only one to tell me what I was to help me adjust to my new situation of being brought back from the dead and enslaved to a fairy queen.
What had happened that night?
I closed my eyes, trying to remember. Heat, smoke, the lack of breath.
Something shattering. A snarl. And then darkness.
A needle shoved its way into my skull.
I opened my eyes and saw Titania glancing at me with her calculating eyes.
Had she planned this?
That fucking bitch.
I touched my head. This time she let me.
Had she been interfering with my memories too?
I turned back to the man in white. Dragonfire was what I needed, Aurora had said, to get what I needed.
An end to this fucking imprisonment disguised as a second life.
And any chance of getting what I wanted would be far better with him than being stuck for eternity in this perfumed bitch’s playland as her slave.
“Dragon!” I said, my voice as loud as I could make it. My words sounded terribly squeaky, not at all like I had intended. Wait, Titania was letting me move? Fuck. This was a part of some plan of hers. It was too late for me to back down now. “I was there the night the Angel of Death came for your sister. I can help you—”
The invisible hand of Titania’s magic clamped over my mouth.
I tried to kick out and scream, but Titania’s magic locked down on my limbs like iron chains.
Sense memories tickled in the back of my mind. Once they would have driven me to despair and more drugs, but now, with the distance of death, my old life was more like a movie I had been forced to watch and remember.
“Let her speak,” the dragon said.
“Do it,” said Titania.
A hard shove made me stumble closer.
“Take me! And I will help you find her!” I yelled, as if the volume of my voice could hide the fact that I was lying. I had no idea how to find her. I just wanted him to blow his dragonfire on me and end my useless existence. I had to think of him as a mark, only he didn’t want sex. He wanted vengeance. I could work with that.
The dragon stared at me with his golden eyes, evaluating, measuring, contemplating.
My chances were slipping.
Desperate words spurted out of me like arterial blood. “Your sister told me I was a vengeance demon, a wronged human resurrected to wreck revenge. If you are hunting the Angel of Death, you need me.”
“That’s enough,” said Titania, chopping at the air. Strong arms yanked me back.
“This spirit is bound to me, dragon,” said Titania. “The time and effort in the making of her was dear.”
“Give her to me, and I will go,” said the dragon.
Titania’s eyes narrowed. An odd pressure filled my ears. Magic surged from her, the scent of flowers intensifying. “You think to take my vengeance from me?”
Something odd stirred inside me. Something I had never felt before, something startlingly alive, and yet…
“Tanya,” said the dark-skinned man, placing his hand on her arm. “Balance. His sister was taken from your protection. You owe him something.”
The strange pressure welled up inside me, with a buzzing prickle I had learned to recognize was magic.
Did I have magic?
It moved again inside me.
It was magic. I had magic.
The whole world went still at that moment.
She took something off her finger and flicked it to the dragon.
I pulled at the magic inside me, trying to take hold of it, use it, make it obey me somehow, but I didn’t have the faintest clue how. It was like discovering newly attached wings that you didn’t even know how to flap.
I struggled with my magic, trying to get to the sliver of metal that was my fate, my future, my freedom.
Titania’s invisible shackles twisted, and in a blink my potential freedom was gone.
No, not again!
The dragon closed a large fist around it in midair, capturing the ring that bound me to life.
Instantly, I was covered with heat, with his scent and fire.
Before I realized it, I could smell the ash in my chest, feel the weight of gravity in my flesh.
Flesh? I was back in the flesh!
“She’s an onryo,” said Titania.
His gaze slid over me, and my skin flushed hot. It must have been the magic because I was used to being looked over like a piece of meat. “She doesn’t look Japanese.”
Titania waved condescendingly and sneered. “It’s a human word for a human thing, I can’t be expected to keep all the different languages of Man straight. The need for vengeance is universal. Beware of what you ask for, dragon. This one has not quite adjusted to her situation.” Titania chuckled, reminding me of the cheerleading bitches in high school who laughed at me behind my back and turned my mother’s country into an epithet with the words “Mexico girl.”
“How do I know that this isn’t one of those double-edged fairy gifts?” asked the dragon.
“This isn’t a gift,” said Titania. “It’s balance.”
I should have been angry. But instead, I was just cold. Life was slavery. Death was the only true escape.
Fire licked and curled around his suit. The air became strangely hard to breathe as a strange pressure filled the air and the scent of burnt things returned. His voice was a frigid contrast to the living inferno his magic promised. “Nothing can balance your failure to protect my sister, a guest you were honor-bound to defend in your domain.”
Titania glanced at the guard holding me.
I was thrown forward until I sprawled before him on my knees.
I saw him glance at me, his expression unchanged before resuming his death gaze at Titania. Wow. He was good-looking even close up. But I knew without a doubt that it was a mask for the monster he truly was.
Something clattered on the stones next to me.
A diamond-tipped golden spear.
“You know what this is.” Titania smiled, a pointed-tooth smile, the kind she rarely revealed in her true form.
The fairy bitch had planned this whole thing. What the fuck? Titania’s voice was as queenly and smug as ever. “The weapon and this spirit will be more than enough balance. Now go! And get off my lands.”
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Crossposted from my guest post over at the Science Fiction Romance Brigade!
In my books, I avoid having my characters say “I Love You.” Why? Because “I love you,” can take on many different meanings and forms. A man can say “I love you,” to his sister (though if you’re my brother, you’re more likely to say something like, “you actually know what you’re talking about for once!”) and then turn around and say the same words to his girlfriend. Most likely (at least in my books!) those words will mean completely different things. Instead, I’d rather have the actions of my characters speak for themselves. In the first Space Shifters novel, WANTED BY THE WEREWOLF PRINCE, when Prince Ral is trying to win back fighter pilot Captain Skye, does he send her flowers? Nope. Candy? Nope. Jewelry. Nope. Instead, he sends her an envelope. With blueprints for the next generation of deep space fighter jets. With her name on them. Because Ral knows fighter pilot Skye, knows precisely how to target her deepest desires. And by sending her those blueprints, he’s saying to her: -I don’t care how much it costs (because honestly deep space fighter jets are pretty damn expensive).-I know who you are, who you truly are.-I’m going to make a place for you in my life. It’s also a challenge. As far as Skye knows, only the Coalition makes those fighter jets. So if foreign Prince Ral has them, does that mean he stole them? It’s a conundrum that Skye’s morality won’t let him get away with. And that’s precisely what Ral’s counting on to bring her back to him. That’s the kind of gesture that says, I KNOW YOU. Which for Ral, means I LOVE YOU. Get Ral & Skye’s Story in Amazon Kindle Unlimited NOW!