Come play a LIVE paranormal trivia game with paranormal romance authors! Hosted by Kara Lockharte and Cassie Alexander!
With Special Author Guests:
Please note that this event will be live streamed and recorded on Facebook. For legal reasons, all non-author players will be asked to keep their cameras off.
And it will ONLY be free for 5 days from 10/5-10/9! Start this hot series NOW because the FINAL book (DRAGON MATED) in this sexy urban fantasy romance is coming out on October 13!
Here's a quick excerpt!
Like scales sliding over scales, he felt a rearrangement of the space he held—as a man and a dragon—making room for possibility. He had known hunger, and he had known lust, but now what he wanted was something more, and he wished the table were narrower so he could reach across it and catch her hands with his, as she went on.
“And that’s why I deserve the truth from you,” she went on. “You’re not normal—and I know that. So, don’t lie to me, and don’t pretend. I may not need to know everything, but I don’t have time in my life for someone who holds back. I’ve had too many of those relationships before—they’re not healthy.”
The pain of something that hadn’t shown up in his background check clearly arced across her face. “And what if I’m holding back for your own well-being?” he asked her.
Her full lips fell into a pout. He’d already noticed how often she would bite them when she was nervous—little did she know how that tempted him to bite them too. “Remember what you said earlier about patriarchal bull?”
Damian was forced to laugh. “Andi—” he began, ready to defend himself, which was becoming harder and harder in her presence, and then her phone rang. She blanched, and then reached for her clutch quickly.
“I’m so sorry,” she said.
“Don’t be. Take your time,” he said graciously. He rather liked it when she was disconcerted.
“So, not now…” Andi said, instead of answering the phone.
“Are you rambunctious?” blurted out the person on the far end of the line, and Damian would’ve had no problem hearing them even as a human. Her next sentence was a little softer, though. “He was hot, so I gave him an extra thirty minutes to murder you, if you know what I mean.”
“Thanks, and I’m fine,” Andi said definitively, hanging up her phone and setting it far away from herself on the table before returning her attention to him. “My roommate was worried you were a serial killer.”
“Well, she isn’t wrong,” he said. “To be worried, that is,” he added, when her eyes widened.
“I guess that makes sense—considering what I saw.” She stared at the table, likely remembering his dragon and the shimmer-tiger.
“It was fairly intense, and you were up close,” he pressed. “All that blood and fear.” If she was going to break, he wanted it to happen now, when he could escape with only paying in money.
She seemed to consider things for a long while and then looked up at him again, her gaze steady. “You’d be surprised how used to danger I am.”
His dragon had heard the challenge in her voice and longed to answer. Leave this place. Go and take her.
Damian let his eyes trail over her, remembering the heat of her lips, the smooth sweep of her skin. She had to know what she was asking, didn’t she? He could feel his urges, filling him up, making him ache. It felt like he’d done nothing but ache since he’d met her. And he knew if given half the chance… No, he told his dragon, feeling it roil in anguish before he finished his thought. I’ll take her here. His dragon purred and settled in, waiting just underneath his skin.
2020 is a doozy of a year isn’t it?
We all know what’s happening and we’re all tired of the real world.
As the days get darker and colder, I know all of us could use a momentary escape AWAY FROM REAL LIFE which is why I’m getting together with a bunch of paranormal romance author buddies to bring to you a monthlong virtual paranormal romance readers con with LIVE events!
Here is where Cassie Alexander and I are going to be for our appearances as part of the Paranormal Romance Readers Con next week!
Monday, Oct 5, 2020, 8pm EST / 5pm PST – Live Reading by Cassie Alexander! Cassie reads from our books and takes your questions!
Thursday, Oct 8, 2020, 8 pm EST/ 5 pm PST – Last Two Episodes of Lucifer Netflix Party with Kara Lockharte and Cassie Alexander
(I’ve only watched a few episodes of Lucifer, and while I can’t deny he’s hot, I never came around back to it. Cassie on the other hand, is a big fan, so this is her attempt to convince me I need to watch the whole series.
Where: https://www.facebook.com/groups/KaraLockharteSocietyofExtraordinaryReaders (the netflix watch party info will be posted in MY Facebook group 15 mins beforehand so make sure you join my facebook group! Sorry, you must already have a netflix subscription in order to participate!)
Friday, Oct 9, 2020, 8:30 EST / 5:30 PST – It’s Trivial! A game of Paranormal Trivia! – Live! with Kara Lockharte, Cassie Alexander and friends! Are you a mistress of paranormal pop trivia? Show off your knowledge of vampires, werewolves and witches from tv, movies and books!REGISTER IN ADVANCE ON ZOOM TO PLAY WITH US http://links.karalockharte.com/TriviaWithKara or just tune into watch at https://www.facebook.com/karalockharte !
These are just a few of the events next week! See the full schedule at https://www.facebook.com/Paranormal-Romance-Reader-Con-102945348240810
For the most part, I try not to talk about politics because:
1) I like talking about stories with happy endings
2) I like providing readers with an escape from their daily lives.
However, there are certain ideas I never considered to be political, but rather a question of decency and respect for fellow humans.
RACISM IS BAD.
I will never support someone calls torch-bearing KKK marchers “very fine people.”
I will never support someone who refuses to disavow white supremacy when given the chance on national stage.
I will never support someone who instead makes the choice to CALL OUT the name of a white supremacist group with orders to “stand down and stand by.”
I know, for many of you, including my own Trump-supporting relatives, racism isn’t a dealbreaker (because according to them, all Americans are racist anyway and they might as well support the guy who will lower their tax bill).
It is for me.
If it’s not a deal breaker for you, if you think the problem is innocent people being ACCUSED of being racist, because it destroys reputations, careers etc, rather than ACTUAL RACISM itself:
How is it that Trump is President?
I’m not a lone voice calling him a racist. Even if you don’t believe Trump is a racist (despite his refusal rebuke his supporters who “happen to be/act racist”), we all know that there are plenty of others who have called him so.
How is it, if being ACCUSED of racism is so damaging, how could Trump be elected president?
The answer is that, it’s not. In America, there are people who are more horrified and worried at being ACCUSED of racism, than than actual harm of racism.
You can clearly be CALLED a racist AND be elected President.
You can BE a racist and still have people support you despite their supposed anti-racist beliefs. For them racism isn’t a deal breaker.
For me it is.
You can be a racist and succeed in America.
But you can’t have my vote.
(I am editing this afterwards to add, NO personally I don’t wish anyone ill. I’d rather see some one lose through the democratic process. I believe karma exists (i.e. comments Hillary Clinton’s pneumonia). To paraphrase “the Donald,” I was never a fan, but many people like[d] him and I think that’s great. If he’s allowed to have his opinion of John McCain (someone I was never a fan of either, allow me the freedom to have my opinion of the President.)
I did NOT fall for a hot mysterious billionaire who is actually a dragon.
Nope. Not at all. Not in the least.
Night nurse Andi Ngo is back to her mundanely real life - finding her stupid brother who went on the lam the moment she bailed him from jail.
But she can’t forget her date with the Damian Blackwood, not because he’s cut like her hottest dream, not because he’s a billionaire, and not even because he’s secretly a dragon.
For just a few delicious moments, Damian didn’t just make her feel like she mattered, like he actually cared, like she could be his…
No, better not to think those thoughts.
But when dangerous magic threatens her patients, Andi doesn’t know who else to turn to.
One may walk free from a dragon once, but twice?
Andi’s only mortal after all…
This is part of a slow burn paranormal romance series featuring a hot dragonshifter hero: heck yes, explicit scenes are in here but you’ll have to be patient for the HEA to come.
READ THE FIRST CHAPTER BELOW!
The car that came to pick Andi up was black like Damian’s, but it wasn’t a Pagani or being driven by a dragon.
Andi sat in the back of the Uber and looked at her phone with that I’m expected somewhere, don’t kidnap me pretense that solo women keep up, although in her case it wasn’t entirely true. She’d snuck out that night after getting a call from her brother who’d been missing for three weeks. No one knew where she was—not even her roommate. She was okay with that; she’d worried Sammy enough lately.
Her driver cleared his throat politely, glancing back at her in the rearview. “Nothing personal,” he said, “but I do downtown runs a lot. You either have too much clothing on for this place…or not nearly enough.”
He wasn’t wrong. The Lynx was a nightclub with a reputation, which was exactly why Andi was going there. She gave him a tight smile and hugged herself with Damian’s leather jacket. She was only wearing it because she hadn’t had time to get her own coat cleaned, or so she told herself, and it had nothing at all to do with the fact that it still smelled like him. “I’m good, thanks.”
The driver let her off right in front of the building. Last call was four, and it was about twenty till. She knew from her old life hustling with Danny that now would be ripe with opportunity if she were still interested in playing games—the same kind of stuff that’d gotten her brother into trouble in the first place. But she’d stopped, gone to nursing school, and become legitimate. Her brother? He’d skipped out on his bail bond, then out on her.
Until about an hour ago with his strange phone call, asking for help on a bad connection, which’d brought her here. She bit her lips and watched the entrance to the club. Well-dressed drunken people stumbled out, casting arms up like the streetlights were too bright for them.
But then she saw him. Damian. She remembered his touch on her skin and the way he’d…. Her heart flew into her throat, and her stomach knotted. She could handle herself; she could handle this…him. This didn’t have to be awkward.
In fact, maybe she could….
He turned, and it was definitely not Damian.
Her heart fell and her stomach didn’t relax and the weirdness she was feeling? Most assuredly not disappointment.
It was exhaustion from last night’s shift, was all. It was fatigue from trying to come to her brother’s rescue yet again. She’d vowed on the steps of the courthouse, after realizing she was stuck with a ten-thousand-dollar bond, to be done with Danny’s shit permanently. And yet, here she was, all because he’d called her “Andi-bear.” How long had it been since he’d said that? When they were sixteen?
She could remember it now, her going off on her first date, and him threatening to hurt the guy if he hurt her—out loud in their living room when he’d picked her up, it’d been humiliating—and making his “Andi-bear” promise to tell him afterward if anything needed breaking. It’d been fucked up. Later on that night, after absolutely nothing had happened, no matter how much she’d wanted it to, she’d screamed at him to never call her that again.
Because of all that—and so much more—she was tired now. Which was surely why she was taking a moment and watching the back of the man who was not Damian with a queasy sinking feeling until the crowd blocked her view.
Andi inhaled and shook herself free of her past. She walked up to the door, the heels of her low boots clicking the pavement, and went straight up to the bouncer. “Hey, is Julian here? If he is, can you tell him I need to speak to him? Tell him it’s Andi—Danny’s sister.” The man was shaped like a gorilla, and his thick brow rose in disbelief, but then he shrugged and called it into the walkie on his collar. Someone responded in his ear, and he reached over to open the door.
“Right this way.”
“Thanks,” she said, stepping inside.
The music was overwhelming, trying to pound a pulse into the last partiers of the night. Luckily, the places she’d gone with Danny to play poker and pool had been quieter because if she’d hustled here, she’d be deaf. She hovered by the door, arms crossed, trying to look like she didn’t belong so that Julian would find her more quickly.
“Hey!” A lean man in his thirties with dark curly hair and brown eyes appeared in the thinning crowd with a drink in each hand. His shirt was sharp and shiny, just like his shoes. Andi knew he was a ‘promoter’—whatever the hell that was—and that he also sometimes helped Danny sell his boosted aftermarket car parts. “Andi!” he shouted, barely audible over the noise in the club. “Good to see you again! Drink?” he offered, pushing one on her.
Andi didn’t trust him, and she didn’t trust her drink to not be roofied. “Thanks!” She pretended to be happy, taking it anyhow. “Can we talk?”
“Of course!” he said, gently taking her elbow with his free hand, directing her around the dance floor to the back.
They went into an office, and he closed the door, which cut out all the treble, leaving just the bass as it reverberated like a drum in its frame. He sat down backward in an office chair, letting it splay his legs, while she sat down on a short couch that she was sure had seen its share of effluvia. She held her hands around her drink, careful not to touch it.
“Did you rethink my awesome idea?”
Andi squinted. “Which one was that?” Julian and Danny were full of ideas, and none of them were good.
“About diverting some meds from the hospital to me,” he said, making a gimmie-gimmie gesture with his fingers.
She laughed nervously. “Yeah, no, I need my license. One of us has to be straight now, to keep the other out of jail.”
“I heard about that,” Julian said and tsked. “He left you holding the bag?”
“Pretty much.” Andi gave him a tight grin and got to the point. “Do you know where he is?”
As good as Andi was at reading faces, Julian’s gave nothing away. “If you did know, would you tell me?” she asked, and he laughed.
“If I did know—which I don’t—I’d tell him you were concerned, and he needed to get in touch.” He patted his own chest. “I got a sister, too, you know. I sympathize.”
Andi set her drink on the floor and brought her phone out to show him. “Do you recognize this number? He called me from it and said things were bad.”
Julian took the phone and squinted at it. “Not off the top of my head; hang on.” He set his drink down and pulled his own phone out, typing in some numbers, before double-checking hers. “Ooh.”
“What?” She leaned over.
He flipped his phone around to show her the S in his contacts list. It was full of people’s names with charming extra appellations, like ‘Shiny Jamil,’ ‘Slutty Sarahi,’ and ‘Stupidfucker Joe.’ But his finger was pointing at one in particular, with the same number that matched Andi’s: Stay The Fuck Away Argento.
“I take it that’s not really his last name?” Andi asked as Julian put his phone away.
“Maybe it is in Italian; I dunno. But if Danny’s with him, just give up.”
Julian shook his head. “I ain’t saying. I don’t want to wind you up into making bad choices.”
“But, if Danny’s in danger…if he told me so, himself….” she pressed.
He frowned deeply and lifted his cocktail for a long swig before speaking again. “He’s a dangerous dude. Always wears a lot of silver—including guns. You don’t want any of him. Trust me.”
“How about you just tell me everything you know, and let me be the judge of that?”
“How about no?” Julian rolled his eyes. “I mean, come on. You can’t just barge in here like you own the place and ask for favors.” He slid one foot out and carefully nudged her cocktail closer. “I mean, I require some foreplay first. Have a drink, at least.”
Andi glanced down at the glass, more determined than ever not to touch it. “I don’t have time for this, Julian. Just tell me where he is.”
“What good would that do? The cops aren’t going after him…not for Danny.”
Andi knew the police in her town had no love for her brother. “Fine. I’ll tell a bounty hunter. There’s a warrant out for him, right?”
“Because you know so many of those types,” Julian said, leaning back, letting his eyes rove up and down her body. She huddled back into her coat. “A priss like you? Trying to figure out where to find him? No way.” He stood and shook his head slowly, making a show of how much he couldn’t help her, and she was acutely aware of how he was blocking the door. “Now if you could promise me a vial of Fentanyl or two…or a sheet of oxy—”
“Fuck, no.” She almost spit. Shit like this was why she’d had to stop ‘playing games’ with Danny. Gambling for tuition was one thing, but now that she had her license, she wasn’t ever going to risk it again.
“Oh, no offense,” Julian said with a smirk, waving his hands back and forth in dismissal. “I mean, he’s only your brother and all. Although, if he’s on Argento’s shit list, that’s gonna be past tense real soon.”
She stood, trying to take up more space, and used her best disappointed-in-everything-going-on-here voice, the one that sometimes got through to drunkards and psychos at work. “And to think, Danny used to talk so highly of you. He made you sound like the shit. Like you were his family—not me. Why do you think he never ratted you out in any of his dumbass schemes? And now—when it would cost you nothing to be even vaguely helpful—you can’t be bothered?”
Julian stared at her coldly. “He always said you could be an annoying bitch, you know that?”
She swallowed but held her ground. If Danny didn’t want to hear her opinions on his activities, then he should have kept his goddamned mouth shut.
“Fine,” Julian huffed, appraising her again. “What do you got? Your phone is old; I don’t need that shit.” Andi blinked as he went on. “And…you’re cute, but a bad lay. I can tell.”
“Does negging women ever actually work?” Andi asked him.
“You tell me,” he said with a leer. “You feeling anything?”
“Yeah, no. Look…other than drugs…what do you want?” She had ten thousand dollars in an envelope at home right now, courtesy of Damian, but if she acted like cash was an option, Julian would shake her down to the last buck.
He sucked on his upper lip, then jerked his chin at her. “That’s a pretty dope leather coat.”
Andi froze. It’s just a fucking coat, she told herself. Just dead animal skin sewn together to keep someone warm. It’s not even yours. And Damian is not yours. He never will be, and besides, that’s what you wanted, remember?
“All right,” she said, sliding out of Damian’s coat, taking everything of hers out of the pockets and shoving them into her jeans. Julian took it from her and put it on. It was too big for him, but that didn’t stop him from smoothing the leather with his hands. When he was done appraising it, he nodded.
“Argento is down by the docks. He’s in the shipping business, which is another reason you should stay away from him; you cross him, they won’t find your body in the Bay. He’ll just ship your dead ass to China.”
“Charming. And you can’t be any more specific?”
Julian broadly shook his head. “Not even if you brought me Dilaudid.”
Andi frowned. Some information was better than none, but the docks were huge. Even if her brother was in danger, it wasn’t an area she could tackle solo tonight. But she had to do something. She wove around Julian, off to figure out what that was.
“Hey!” he shouted as she reached the door. The bass outside had turned impossibly loud, all the better to shake the last patrons of the night into the street. “I look good in it, no?” he asked. She knew by mostly reading his lips.
“No,” she said, flipping him off with both hands before walking out.
Other club patrons kept her company on the sidewalk as she waited for her ride. As much as she wanted to, she didn’t keep her phone out. Just because her two gens old iPhone wasn’t sexy enough for Julian didn’t mean there weren’t other people who’d be interested in swiping it, and all the people stumbling out of the club looked like easy marks to her. So, she waited until she was buckled into the back of her Uber to pull it out and hopped into her “recents” category.
After Danny had gone missing following the hearing, she’d texted their Uncle Lee, who she knew had both money and connections. She’d never pressed to find out from what or with whom because her mother had told her that was rude, but now she wished she had. Because Uncle Lee had promised her he’d handle things, but what had he been doing all this time? And why hadn’t she asked him what was happening sooner?
She supposed a part of her was just tired of dealing with Danny’s shit and had been perfectly happy passing it off.
Andi scrolled through her contacts for the umpteenth time, trying to figure out who else she could call. She stopped at the name BLACKWOOD, and her finger hovered. It probably wasn’t even Damian’s real number, but some work number—or a burner. She should just delete it. It’d be better for everyone involved.
Her thumb hovered over the delete button just for a second, then scrolled past it with a sigh back down to Uncle Lee and started typing out a text.
Hey Uncle, I’m sorry it’s late, she lied, but Danny just called me from a strange number and said he was in trouble before we got cut off. I know you just got back to town, and the last thing you need is to clean up another Danny mess, but I don’t know what to do! He said something about the docks and some guy named Argento? She kept lying because she might as well give him all the information she had. Again, super sorry! Thanks for letting me reschedule last week’s dinner. Look forward to seeing you tonight. Love you!
“Hey,” her driver said, startling her. It was the first thing he’d said all ride. “You’re not going to be sick, are you?” He started swerving to the side of the road.
“Sorry. You just looked sick there for a bit.” He shrugged in the rearview as he pulled them back into traffic. “It’s a hazard of picking people up from clubs.” “Oh, no, I’m fine.” He wasn’t wrong, though, Andi thought while staring out the window. She did feel sick about things—just not like that.
don't want to forget about DRAGON DESTINED?
I don’t normally leave notes like this. Being what I am, I tend to get…possessive.
When adrenaline and magic are mixed together, understandings that seem solid in the dark of night, fade away in the light of the day.
There is a car, a driver, and full payment for last night’s work downstairs, waiting to take you wherever you want to go. Get in it, and I won’t trouble you again.
Or—you can stay.
Andi, my life isn’t normal, and once you learn the truth about the monstrous things that underpin the world you cannot ignore them. If you decide to stay, any future will be dangerous and uncertain—but we would figure it out together.
It would be far better for you to go and forget these last few days. If I were more of a man I would insist on it, because it would keep you safe.
But the dragon in me cannot let you go, and so I leave it to you to choose.
Andi walked back to the bed with the note, spotting her phone on the bedside table where Damian must’ve left it for her. Now even he was telling her she might be cursed. Great. She snorted.
But that was the thing about curses, she thought, folding up the note. Once you knew they existed it was already too late, you were cursed either way – to either live in danger, or live regretting what you might’ve missed to play it safe.
And after this morning, Andi didn’t need to look in a mirror to know what kind of woman she was.
She picked her phone up and quickly dialed a familiar number. “Hey Maria? This is Andi. Sorry, I’m calling in sick today.”
Then she put her phone down and crawled back into bed, to wait for her dragon and whatever was to come.
This is the last piece of a Instagram Collage Puzzle about the story. Come follow Kara on Instagram for more and see how the picture developed!
Wait, where's Chapter 11? Well there were some quite explicit sexy times that not appropriate for all jurisdictions or those under the age of 18, so I can't put that on this blog. But if you want to read them, you can sign up for my mailing list and get it mailed to you! (Note: You can still continue reading the non-sexy times part of the story below)
Chapter Twelve (partial)
“Oh my God,” she whispered, collapsing by his side.
“Yes, that,” he agreed, wrapping an arm around her and pulling her with him to the sand.
Andi lay beside him breathing for a long few minutes. Her eyes were closed, but he knew from her breathing that she wasn’t asleep, only thinking. “Is it always like that?” she eventually asked him.
Damian looked down at her, his dragon’s imperative echoing in his mind. To mate her. Even though she was human.
It doesn’t matter. She is ours, his dragon promised.
He reached over to stroke a strand of hair away from her cheek. “There’s only one way to find out.”
Andi woke up sometime in the early evening deliciously exhausted, ecstatically happy—then she realized she was alone in bed.
An empty bed, after last night? Where was Damian? She listened for the sound of a shower and then realized he could be back swimming in the pool for all she knew.
If he was though—she could go join him. Or maybe not—it was a miracle she hadn’t drowned yesterday, with all the things they did. Andi laughed to herself, her heart thrilling at the thought of spending another night with the stranger who’d swept her off her feet. She felt herself grinning at the ceiling like an idiot and not caring. Everything that had happened was real. All of it.
And dragons were real. Just like Grand Auntie Kim had promised.
There are dragons in this world, my dear. Real dragons. Beware. To know a dragon is to be cursed forever.
Had the stories she had told Andi actually been true? Even if they were true, would it matter? Andi immediately she knew the answer. She got out of bed.
“Damian?” She listened carefully, for any response, and not hearing one, she called again. “Damian?”
Was he making her breakfast? Or dinner? She glanced at the windows—Damian had pulled heavy curtains closed to block the light for them, but she knew outside the sun was dropping down.
She stood up and wrapped a sheet around herself, and knew she’d feel like a Grecian goddess for as long as she didn’t look in any of the many mirrors at her sex-tangled hair.
“Damian?” she called again, walking towards the door. And as a note came into focus, pinned on it with a dagger, her heart started racing again.
This is the eleventh piece of a Instagram Collage Puzzle about the story. Come follow Kara on Instagram for more and see how the picture develops!
There’d been a moment where he could’ve had the strength to walk away, despite his dragon’s urgings. He was hard underneath the water, but she didn’t need to know that, and he could’ve pretended not to hear her and swam into shore regardless. But—
It’s been too long, his dragon grumbled. It was wrong. It hadn’t been that long since the last time he’d slept with someone—but it’d been for-fucking-ever since fucking had meant something.
Sorry folks, but to follow the laws in various places, I can't post this super explicitly delicious scene. However, if you would like to read it and verify that you are over 18, you can sign up for my newsletter below, and it will be sent you ASAP. Or check back tomorrow to read the rest of the story without the sexy scene!
DO NOT LET ANYTHING HAPPEN TO HER! his dragon shouted at him, as though there was a chance in hell he might.
Shut it! he shouted back at it. He scooped her up as she shrieked, racing her back into the house and through the halls. How much Unearthly blood had touched her? How long had it been in contact with her skin? The closest earthly comparison was like phenol—an acid that numbed you as it burned—incredibly dangerous, and one of the many reasons all his men had magical protections.
“Damian!” She was pounding her fist on his chest, and he was entirely ignoring her until they reached the room with his dragon’s bathing pond. He threw her far out into the water and then leapt into it himself to swim after her.
She bobbed back up, spitting water—and spitting mad. “What the fuck!”
“The blood is dangerous. You have no idea.” He hauled her up to inspect her side.
“I’m half-naked!” she shouted at him.
“So? I’m all naked.” He reached for her to inspect where the blood had brushed her skin. It had already erupted into a bright red welt. He dunked her back into the water, chest-height, and started swirling water quickly past it with a hand. She stood in the water on her tiptoes, panting angrily, water flowing over her breasts with each sweep of his hands, nipples pebbling in the pond’s chill. Shit. “Grim, heat the pond!” he commanded.
“Do you want to explain what the fuck is happening to me right now?” She moved to cross her arms, to hide herself from him, but he caught her wrist just in time. He couldn’t risk her getting burned elsewhere.
“I’m sorry. I know this is strange, but some Unearthly blood is acidic. Or poisonous. Depending on the monster.”
Will she be all right? His dragon rushed forward inside him as if to see for himself.
STOP THAT, Damian commanded. Since when had his dragon ever given a fuck about a human?
Andi slowly lowered her head down to look at her side. “Don’t,” he warned her.
“I’m a nurse, okay? Let me see.” She pushed his hands away and held her arm up, while holding her breast out of the way, rocking forward out of the water to look. Watching her touch herself, even for clinical reasons, did dark things to him. Damian wished the water was opaquer. “It doesn’t look that bad,” she went on.
“We caught it in time. But you’ll need to stay in here for a while until it’s all diluted—just in case.”
She carefully crossed her arms high on her chest, fully covering herself from him. “Fine.”
Had he been looking that greedily? If so, who was to blame? The remnants of the succubus’s sting, his dragon, or him? All three? His dragon was roiling inside, beside himself with proprietary concern. He could still feel the surges of inappropriate lust—surely just his succubus-caused hangover from being attacked last night—and he’d be lying if he said she wasn’t beautiful now. The perfection of her breasts, curve of her neck, the way her hair flowed –after her kissing him earlier, it was all too easy to imagine them entwined together, his lips on her neck, her breasts pressed against him, his cock seated deep.
Yessssss, his dragon purred.
Damian quickly swallowed and splashed his face, trying to get his head clear. She would have to forget all this—he should not, could not get attached. It would only make it hurt more later.
Pain is fine, his dragon disagreed.
No one asked you, he told it.
Andi watched him splash himself beside her, totally in his element. Less than three minutes ago, she’d been flirting with a dragon, and now she was half-naked in the water with one. Oh, and also burned by acid from monster-blood—because that was a thing that could happen. And to think they never covered that in nursing school.
Damian dunked himself then resurfaced, snapping water out of his hair with a quick shake, before he looked at her again. She could tell by the way he was trying to look at her eyes and not down at all that he was trying very, very hard to grant her some privacy—and she was trying to do the same. Only the way his shoulders breeched the water and how she could see his biceps every time he moved his arms was pretty damn distracting—as was the rest of him. His wide chest narrowed down to abs that were as rippled as the water they both stood in—the expression on his face, dark and brooding like a storm. He was almost too hot to be real—which made sense because he was a dragon. A dragon. An actual, real, honest-to-God, wings-and-all dragon.
She let herself drop into the water, letting it surround her so that she could think. Then she made the mistake of opening her eyes and found herself at Damian’s waist height—and the view below was not any less distracting than the view above. She sprang out of the water, back to her feet again.
If she slept with him—an “if” that was getting smaller all the time, turning the corner into a “when”—chances were, she would have a very good time.
“Are you okay?” He leaned closer, his voice full of concern. She had a feeling he was asking about more than the burn.
“Yeah. Why wouldn’t I be? I just almost died two or three times, plus met a dragon. One that I kissed for some strange reason, earlier in the night.” She laughed nervously and rose up on her tiptoes, the seam of his jeans riding uncomfortably-comfortable between her legs.
He grunted. “About that…that wasn’t you.”
“Tell me about it.”
“No…literally. You weren’t thinking right. You were under a spell.”
Of course, she was, Andi thought with a titter. That made as much sense as anything else. She covered her breasts with her elbows and splashed her face with water to buy herself time to just calm down and think, because if she didn’t, she was going to have a panic attack. She released a breath and gathered herself before addressing him again. “So, what now?”
“Now—we wait. To make sure there’s no way you’ve been burned. And then after that,” Damian closed his eyes and shook his head. “I can’t claim to know. There’s a room in my house that has Forgetting Fire in it and I should take you there to erase all your memories.”
Her heart jumped into her throat and trembled there. “You’re kidding—right?”
“I’ve done it before to others,” he said to her and shrugged, not without kindness. “You don’t really know me Andi. And—you shouldn’t. Look how much danger you’ve already been in at my side. I never should’ve hired you, muchless let this morning happen. But,” he said slowly, looking over at her as if daring himself to do so. “I’d rather not do that to you.”
“Well I definitely don’t want that, so it’s settled.” He snorted softly as she went on. “So you’re going to tell me everything, right?” That was the least he could do after making her live through last night.
His eyes widened. “Not if I can help it.” He looked away from her, a lock of dark wet hair falling into his face. “Andi, no one can know what we are. Or what we do. Which is why when you leave here, you can’t talk to anyone—and you can never come back.”
She watched him set his shoulders like he must’ve done a million times before, ready to take on a burden that no one else even knew he carried. “Isn’t that…lonely?” she asked.
“You have no idea.” Damian gave her an infinitely sad smile, then angled his head down again. “May I?” Andi frowned, but bounced up on her toes so that he could lean down and see the underside of her breast. “Good. The swelling’s gone now. It’ll only leave a small mark, if anything.” He put a hand out to touch her, then stopped himself—and she found herself wishing he wouldn’t have. It’d been so long since someone had looked at her the way he did, with the hunger in his eyes. She could watch him denying it, pretending to be normal, as he said, “Come on, let’s go to shore.”
She uncrossed her arms and began sweeping herself in the water, thinking hard. When was the last time she’d ever met anyone like him? Would she ever get the chance to, again? “I…don’t think so.”
His brow furrowed in confusion. “You’re safe with me, Andi. I swear I won’t make you forget your memories of being here.”
She shook her head and laughed. “I honestly don’t think you could, I don’t care how much magic you used,” she said, pushing herself into deeper water as she slowly made up her mind.
“You’re lucky we won’t be testing that then.” He surged after her, his golden eyes watching her, as he hovered in the water not that far away. Andi remembered the way he’d been staring at her earlier in the night—and it was having the same effect on her now, it stole her breath away. “Where do you think you’re going?” he asked as she took another sweep backwards and he matched it.
She looked at him, and around the room they were in, and thought back on every crazy thing that’d already happened with him. The thought of forgetting any of it was impossible—and the thought of leaving it behind her was almost just as bad. She watched his strong arms break the water to hold himself up and remembered what they’d felt like, holding her—and what she’d felt while kissing him. Even if it was a spell that made her do it—once she done it—there was something there. Something she didn’t want to give up on so quickly.
“You said if I leave I can’t come back. So what if…I don’t want to go just yet?” she asked while holding herself aloft, her breasts bobbing in the waves her arms created.
He paused in swimming and she watched him sink. “Andi,” he said, making her name a whisper as his eyes narrowed in concern, “you don’t know me.”
“I know,” she agreed. “But…what if I know enough?”
A long moment passed between them like a current of electricity—and then he swam for her.
Check back tomorrow for another installment!
This is the eighth piece of a Instagram Collage Puzzle about the story. Come follow Kara on Instagram for more and see how the picture develops!
Damian heard the klaxons halfway through his shower and was tempted to blow them off. Trust Austin to run a drill after the longest night they’d had in a while.
But if they weren’t a drill, it meant a perimeter breach. What on earth—or off it—could penetrate their barriers?
The shimmer-tiger. Damian hit the shower off and stalked into his bedroom without thinking. Shimmer-tigers were nasty affairs. They weren’t fast, but they were sneaky, and their ability to teleport—albeit slowly—gave them an advantage over what other Unearthly creatures lacked.
It would be foolhardy for a shimmer-tiger to come after him directly. But he had plenty of humans and semi-humans in his employ, plus—he heard the sound of a violent crash and a distant, high-pitched scream.
“Open this window, now,” he commanded, and Grimalkin obeyed, whipping the shutter up. He could see the roundabout, three stories down, where a steaming van had crushed his fountain, and Andi was curled up, surrounded by the materializing tiger on three sides. For once, both he and his dragon agreed—he punched the window’s glass out, throwing himself through it as a man, knowing he would land as his dragon.
In her time as a nurse, Andi had watched a lot of patients die, and she’d learned there were three types of death:
The easy, quiet kind that struck in the night, and you knew no better before you went.
The kind that came up and walloped you—massive heart attack, massive pulmonary embolism, burst aortic aneurysm—that killed you so fast you hardly had time to be afraid.
But to her mind, the worst was the in-between kind. The strangle-some kind. Where you were aware of what was happening—when you couldn’t get enough air, or when the chemo stopped working—and there was absolutely nothing you nor science could do about it.
And that’s what it felt like was happening now.
That…that…that…thing was coming after her, and it didn’t matter what she did or where she went, it wasn’t going to stop, and she knew with every fiber of her being that whenever it did catch up with her, it wasn’t going to just kill her. No, she could tell by the insane grin on its face that it was going to hurt…
Glass broke from somewhere far above, and it felt like it was the sound of her sanity giving way. It rained down, and she heard it land on stone and water, and then something cast a shadow over her like a low-flying plane. She threw her arm up to protect herself and then gasped as a dragon landed.
If she hadn’t spent the night in the carnival house, if she hadn’t pulled the stinger out of Damian’s side, and if she hadn’t been under attack by that thing, she would’ve thought she’d broken her mind. But as it was, she struggled up to standing and shouted.
Her cries for help only enraged his dragon further. It bellowed in anger the second its paws touched the earth, and the dragon’s thoughts raced through Damian’s mind.
This home was his home! And everything in it was his!
Damian struggled to disconnect that thought from the dragon’s mind; the girl was not part of the package—even if they were saving her. Damian knew he wasn’t safe, and shit like this was why!
The tiger! Damian redirected, and the dragon growled.
Of course, the tiger. The dragon batted his concerns aside. He’d landed inside the circle it’d been creating of itself, trying to funnel her toward its face-bits, only she’d been smart enough not to run. He wove his head to look at her.
Stay here, he tried to emote, but with his dragon’s face on, all snout and teeth, who the hell knew what she saw, or what she thought of him? Her eyes were wide, and she was terrified; he could smell it, but who wouldn’t be?
Not me, Damian’s dragon reminded him.
No, of course not, Damian groaned.
Never me. The dragon whirled, using his own Unearthly ability to hone in on the tiger’s most solid part. Because I like killing.
The dragon pounced at this, using a massive paw to press half the tiger down, snapping its teeth through a portion of the rest of it. The problem with fighting a shimmer-tiger was the teleportation. If his dragon didn’t kill enough of it, quickly, it’d vaporize itself, heal, and reform. So his dragon shook its head, feeling things snap and tear deliciously, clawing at the piece it’d bitten into until it was sure it’d rendered enough of the tiger’s flesh useless that it could never regain its form.
At the end of it, he was spattered in acidic violet-colored blood—it streaked against his golden scales, and he resisted the urge to clean himself with his tongue.
See? the dragon rumbled, satisfied with itself. It whipped its head back and roared, a sound of ultimate triumph, arching its back and flexing its wings. My home, it insisted.
Yes, Damian agreed.
And now—my woman. The dragon’s head snaked back to Andi with alacrity.
That…that is a dragon.
Her mind could barely name it; it felt so unreal. A lifetime of watching movies, reading books, playing video games, had somehow never prepared her to see the real thing. Had she hit her head when the van hit the fountain? Was this one more crazy thing here? Or was her mind cracking in two?
It was golden, massive, winged, and glorious—and it acted as if it could understand her. When it looked at her, Andi thought it was trying to communicate something, and for the first time that morning, she’d felt safe. But then it leapt onto the other beast, pressing it down with massive paws and slaughtered it in front of her. That was the only word that would work for what it did. She watched it snap its teeth through a chunk of the thing that hunted her and shake its head like a dog with a toy—between that and the keening sounds the other thing made as it died, she knew this moment would haunt her nightmares forever. Violet blood rained over the grounds as the feline demon was literally torn to meat in front of her.
But it was a dragon.
And when it was done, the dragon whipped its head back and roared, a sound of pure triumph, arching its back and flexing huge sail-like wings, until they blocked out the sun.
And then it turned to look at her.
Andi’s heart had already been beating fast, but now it was as if she had shot herself with epinephrine.
The dragon folded its wings, lowering itself slowly as if trying not to scare her. And those eyes—those familiar eyes—they were massive now, but still the same.
Damian was a dragon.
A real, honest-to-God dragon.
There are dragons in this world, my dear. Real dragons. Beware. To know a dragon is to be cursed forever.
But Grand Auntie Kim never explained how, exactly. And in the stories she’d told her, things weren’t clear either. In some, the dragons were savage and ruthless; in others, noble protectors and guardians, but as she wracked her brain for childhood memories, she couldn’t remember a way to tell one kind from the other. The only thing that echoed was Auntie Kim’s warning about avoiding being cursed.
Why had I never bothered to ask her?
Because I didn’t ever dare think they were real.
Yet Andi couldn’t stop herself from moving toward the dragon, her hand outstretched.
She knew she would probably regret this later—but wouldn’t she regret it just as much if she didn’t? Which was worse? What ifs or never should haves?
She stopped mere inches away from him.
No! No, no, no! Damian shouted at the beast and fought to regain control from the inside. The dragon wrestled him.
Mine, it growled.
No. She is her own. Damian redoubled his efforts, pushing the dragon back and down.
For now, it conceded, and then abruptly went away, leaving Damian pushing against nothing but himself inside his dragon form. Able for the first time to see the outside world with his own eyes, he found Andi.
Staring at him.
She knew what he was.
And still, she walked slowly toward him, with a look on her face that wasn’t the horror, disgust, or fear he had expected.
It was awe.
She would turn and run at any moment, and he would have to chase her down, change back to human, and somehow convince her to go back to the house where he could expose her to the Forgetting Fire as quickly as possible.
But something in him wanted her to see this beastly part of him, the part he kept hidden deep inside. He folded his wings and lowered himself to all fours, in an attempt to make himself smaller and less threatening.
Step by slow step, she approached him, watching him as carefully as he was watching her. With his extended senses, he could hear the rapid beating of her heart, smell that sinfully sweet scent of near panic and wariness.
She stopped inches away from him.
Run, he thought, run for your own good.
He lowered his head to her, intending to show her his teeth, which were the size of short swords.
And to his surprise, she reached out and touched him.
I should run, she thought, for my own good.
But instead of running, she touched the protruding ridge on the side of the dragon’s face, where a cheekbone would be on a human. His scales were hard and hot but not uncomfortably so.
Suddenly his scales rattled in a shivering reaction. Andi gasped and jumped back and watched as the dragon seemed to melt away.
And then Damian stood there, in human form. The same man she’d seen in his bedroom earlier, only now completely naked, and the rest of him was just as hot as the half she’d already seen. He was perfectly proportioned chiseled perfection, and the memory of his lips on hers and his hands on her body came rushing back with fresh heat.
“Why aren’t you afraid?” he asked her.
Andi blinked. “Should I be?”
Damian opened his lips, but no words came out. Instead, he tilted his head, watching her as if he thought she would bolt—running off screaming at any moment. She’d be lying to herself if she didn’t admit that a small part of her wanted to do just precisely that.
Damian was a dragon. But he was also a man.
A very, very good-looking man. And the rest of her wondered if his skin would be as hot to the touch as the scales had if she felt it now.
Thoughts like that will only get me into trouble. Andi made an effort to look around, at the steaming bits of monster flesh scattered around them and the smoking wreck of a van behind her. She should be scared witless, and part of her was, but the same snark she hid fear with at the hospital came out to protect her. “I take it this is just another normal Friday night for you?”
“Saturday morning, technically,” he corrected, slowly smiling.
She turned back toward him and smiled too, then quickly looked away—feeling her face getting red. She’d seen a lot of naked men; it was a hazard of her job, but he wasn’t a patient, and…she tugged at the too long cuffs of the shirt she was wearing.
“So, what happened to your injury?” she asked.
He put his hand to his ribs where she’d pulled out the stinger. “I heal quickly.”
“Uh-huh.” She made every effort to keep her gaze high. “Any more monsters coming that I need to worry about?”
“Not to my knowledge.” He kept looking at her strangely—like he thought she was the unreal one.
Andi folded her arms carefully. “Okay, then, look, are you going to tell me what’s going on? Or are you going to pretend this isn’t happening and tell me I’m going crazy?”
He squinted his golden eyes at her. “No. You’re not going crazy,” he said, tilting his head. “Aren’t I…scary?”
The bubble of nervous expectation around her popped, and Andi laughed out loud. “If you have to ask, you’re probably not.” She gave up and let herself look at him, at his fucking perfect naked body. “At least, not right now.”
He cracked a smile. “Yes, well, about that,” he said, lowering his hands to cover himself politely, and then the smile fell from his face as he took a fast step toward her. “What’s that?”
Andi blinked at his abrupt shift in tone. “What’s what?”
He grabbed her arm and held it out. There was a spot of violet on the white shirt she was wearing, right under her left breast.
“Did it touch you?” He didn’t unbutton it—he just grabbed both sides of it and ripped it off her.
Check back tomorrow for another installment!
This is the seventh piece of a Instagram Collage Puzzle about the story. Come follow Kara on Instagram for more and see how the picture develops!