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No Ordinary Night – Free Serial – Chapter 2

No Ordinary Night - Free Serial - Chapter 2

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Chapter 1

Chapter Two

“What’d Grim say?” Austin asked Damian on their way to the garage.

“That she’s too small to be of any use.” In reality, Grimalkin had asked if Andi had brought him any cheese, the bluer, the better—because the house was out. Luckily, Damian was the only one who could understand the hugely powerful multidimensional guardian he’d been assigned at birth, so no one else knew how easily a gift of cheese would distract him.

“For once, the cat and I agree. If my brother wakes up –”

“I know,” Damian said, shutting down further conversation. If Zach woke up while they were gone—a big if—then hopefully he and the nurse could have an intelligent conversation, after which she’d take off his restraints. He’d be confused about what had happened, but he’d be smart enough to realize she was an outsider.

He got into the armored SUV, waiting with some of the rest of his crew. It was just him and the guys tonight. Max was driving, Jamison had his eyes on his electronics, and he sat close to Austin who was busy wiping down the barrel of something black and shiny.

He sank back into his seat, thinking about the nurse.

She smelled good, his dragon commented.

Shush, he told his dragon—but it was right.

Oil, plastics, but more overwhelmingly, the aroma of iron, surrounded him. Humans had so much iron in their blood; it was a wonder to him that they weren’t magnetic. Living in human society, he had gotten used to the metallic scent, but for some reason, tonight it seemed more pungent than usual.

It was all because of her.

When she had gotten into the car, the gaseous stink of the bus she had been on and the medicinal chemical scents that were a hallmark of her occupation clung to her coat. Those were expected.

But underlying all that was her own subtle scent, undetectable to most humans, and yet abruptly mouthwatering all the same.

Apples and caramel, yes, that’s what it reminded him of—and saltwater.

How strange.

He swiped through his emails, opening the unread files Mills had sent over. Top of her class in community college and then nursing school. But she’d suffered student loans, a staggeringly high amount of debt owed to a hospital which looked like medical bills for a relative before it got wiped—presumably by that relative’s death—and a brother who apparently couldn’t resist taking rides in cop cars. Which made her perfect for his purposes: hungry enough to be looking for cash, smart enough to keep Zach alive, and hopefully, smart enough to not ask many more questions.There was always the Forgetting Fire if she got too curious. He reached the end of her background check and found she lived in a gentrifying part of town in an apartment above a Greek bakery. That explained her scent. Her apartment probably smelled entirely of baked goods.

Mystery solved, Damian put the phone back into his pocket. But his mind went right back to her. Andi. What an odd name for a girl. He had the strangest urge to say it out loud, irrationally, to see if the sound tasted as good as she smelled. And that interesting streak of blue that he’d glimpsed a flash of before she’d wound her dark hair up—something about the act of her hiding it made him want to unwind and expose it again, to possibly feel the wrap of it around his hand.

“Why’d you warn her about the house?” Austin asked Damian, distracting him from his thoughts.

“Because Grimalkin doesn’t like strangers.”

“He doesn’t like anyone,” Austin countered.

“He’s keeping an eye on Zach, isn’t he?” Max said from the driver’s seat, defending Damian’s guardian’s integrity. Damian knew his cat and his old weapons master got along—they had to; they were the only two things that’d come from the Realms with him, albeit at different times. The battle armor Max had on made the whiteness of his skin around it even more shocking, and Damian knew if he had his hat off, all his hair would be ghostly pale. He’d had an albino’s pale eyes, too, before he’d lost them in a fight with another bear-shifter. Mills had replaced them with something magical hidden by goggles, turning him into the perfect bearer of Damian’s Forgetting Fire, since its powers no longer seemed to work on him. And whatever kind of eyes he had now, he could snipe an Unearthly creature down at eight hundred yards.

“Grimalkin’s probably hoping that he’ll die,” Austin said darkly.

Max broke into a toothy grin. “Nah, if Grimalkin wanted either of you dead, you’d be dead already, puppy.”

Austin snorted at him. “Better to be a wolf who’s a fighter than a bear who’s a chimney sweep,” Austin muttered, before addressing Damian again. “Was she sensitive enough for the perimeter to bother her?”


Austin grunted. “How’d she do?”

“Admirably, considering she didn’t know she was being magically attacked.” There were several concentric security rings around his mansion, some magical, some not. He’d both seen and tasted her panic as they’d driven over one of them—the one Austin had been supposed to turn off. He’d seen other men throw themselves out of moving cars in fear and not know why to crawl crying back downhill. While she’d been scared, Andi hadn’t run. Another interesting point.

“Do you think she bought it?” Austin asked, pretending to put a driver’s hat on.

Damian knew he meant the subterfuge of him pretending to be a driver in his own employ. He’d wanted to meet the person taking care of Zach, to get a feel for her—he hadn’t expected for him to wind up being so intrigued.

“Doesn’t matter,” he answered. “Either she doesn’t figure it out, fine; or she does, and the fire will make her forget.”

“Why bother? No one would believe her. She’d just be another internet crackpot,” Jamison said while staring intently at the computer on his lap, as immersed in it as Austin was his weapons. He was very dark-skinned and lean in opposition to Max’s bright whiteness and Austin’s bulk, and between the hardware on his lap and the hardware of his arm that they’d replaced with tech, the man was practically half-computer.

“You mean, like you?” Austin said, goading the younger man.

“Don’t make me change your Netflix password,” Jamison snarked, then waved his hand for silence. “We’re approaching the source of the signal. Slow down, Max.”

Max grunted an acknowledgement. He was driving what Damian called “the tour bus.” It was a heavily armored SUV, fortified with metal shielding, bulletproof glass, blast-resistant undercarriage, and, more importantly, personally warded by the most powerful witch on this side of the Pacific. Damian knew where they were by scent—the saltwater, gas, and oil fumes could only be from the familiar miasma of the docks—and they were here because somewhere nearby there was an Unearthly creature they needed to kill.

A few days ago, a gate had opened in Damian’s domain. Gates were random rifts or tears between this world and other Realms, occurring when and where Earth and other Realms overlapped, allowing Unearthly things through for as long as the passage remained open. They could be as small as an atom, leaking a slow trickle of matter through that didn’t belong—making exposed non-magical humans think they saw Bigfoot, UFOs, or ghosts—or they could burst open like lanced boils, letting creatures that Ought Not Be through, flying, crawling, or oozing out to wreak havoc on whomever was unlucky enough to encounter them. Damian and his crew’s job was to kill the monsters, seal the gates, and wipe the minds of any human left alive.

They’d easily closed the most recent gate fifty miles outside of town, but not before three sizable creatures had made it through. The one they’d decided was the most dangerous, that needed to be put down instantly, had been an insectoid creature the size of a bus with bulletproof chitin and webbing that had been tougher to cut than steel cables. It’d been impervious to fire, too—at least human fire. Which was why Damian had had to let himself go.

They’d corralled the monster in a low canyon, but it’d slithered up a wall and over the defensive line Damian had created for the men, cutting him off from them. Zach abandoned his post, ran to help, and gotten grabbed. He’d screamed—and Damian could still hear those screams, agonized and terrified, now—and Damian had changed in an instant. From the human that he pretended to be, to the dragon that he was.

Massive. Mindless. Monstrous.


His dragon ended the creature in moments, reveling in the freedom and destruction, flipping the thing over to claw through its underbelly. Afterward, Damian had struggled to regain control. It hadn’t been easy.

“How much farther?” asked Max through gritted teeth.

Damian could feel the preparatory intensity of his crew as they waited quietly for Jamison’s next instruction. Between Zach’s injury and losing Michael last year.… Just because they were good at what they did didn’t mean it was safe.

“Almost there. We’ve gotta pass it to triangulate it. Just keep going,” Jamison said, oblivious to everything but the data he was harvesting on his screen.

Damian had told Jamison and Mills to prioritize creating technology to predict when gates were opening, so they could preemptively seal them before the Unearthly came through. They were gaining ground, but until they managed to perfect it, members of his team would always be in danger—and so would Damian. Because every time he shifted, his dragon came closer to claiming—and keeping—control.

“Stop,” Jamison said, closing his metal hand into a fist.

The vehicle downshifted, and the men hurried to finish arming themselves as Damian thought of everything he’d given up to get this far, everything he’d put his men through—all the Unearthly they’d faced, losing Michael, and now, nearly losing Zach.

“Whoa,” said Austin, looking at him askance, and Damian realized he was exhaling smoke. “Let’s keep it together this time, ‘kay?”

Damian narrowed his eyes at him. “Zach almost died.”

“I know,” said Austin with a dispassionate look on his face. “He’s my brother. But that doesn’t change things.”

Damian held his gaze, fighting the urge to let his eyes flare with magic.

The very same thing that gave him purpose, which made him a member of this team, was also the very thing that put them all at risk.

His own Unearthly heritage.

Of all of them, Austin was the one who never forgot what Damian was. And when he finally turned, becoming draconic without hope of turning back, Damian knew without a doubt that Austin would be the one to put him down.

“Which one’s here tonight?” Max twisted around to look back now that they were parked. “The lady or the tiger?” They’d all seen the other two creatures they’d passed over in favor of killing the bus-bug thing.

“Hang on.” Jamison’s magical equipment wasn’t anywhere near as sensitive as Damian was at this range. He closed his eyes and reached out with his senses. The all too familiar red magic bloomed in his mind, shaping itself into a vision of the source. He felt the fiery warmth that all creatures from the Unearthly side had—and more—longing, desire, and urges that made his heart beat faster and his heat sink low.

“The lady,” said Damian

Everyone groaned. It wasn’t that they couldn’t take down a succubus. They were pretty frequent Unearthly escapees—it was just the aftereffects that made things difficult.

“It had to be a fucking succubus,” said Max with a groan. “They’re creepy as hell, once you get down to the real monster underneath.”

“Agreed,” Austin said, then turned to Damian. “What’s this one look like?”

He concentrated on the spark again.

“In the other Realm, it has white wings, along with the tentacles,” he said finally. “Here, it’s got big breasts and blonde hair—a cross between a Christmas angel and a porn star.”

Austin cursed, but reached for the net gun before stepping out.

They were indeed, as Damian had predicted, on the docks. Which was a strange place for a succubus to be working, unless there was some sort of pleasure cruise—an emphasis on pleasure—nearby. But Max had his goggles on, scanning nearby buildings. “Over there,” he said and pointed. Once he had, Damian could feel it too, without any technological or magical enhancements.

Somewhere, in one of these buildings, was a bass-heavy beat.

An illegal warehouse party at the docks attracting a succubus? Sounded about right. “Spheres, Jamison?”

“Catch.” The other man reached into a belt holster and retrieved marble-sized magical objects to toss to each of them. Damian caught his and felt a layer of magic envelope him as they walked down the alley. It wasn’t there to protect him, so much as to protect other people from him—and the crew. No one wanted to see their group of overly muscled and beweaponed men walking down the street, so the sphere showed them whatever they wanted to see instead—men without guns, puppies, lost balloons. Damian didn’t question the sphere’s judgment, he just knew that they worked.

“The only thing is…” Austin began, as they got closer to the sound.

“We’ll still need a victim to lure it away,” Damian said, finishing his statement. He unholstered his gun to hand it over to Jamison.

“How come only you get to talk to the pretty ladies?” Jamison teased.

“Because I’m immune to their charms. And if this one is as bad as it feels, it has very nasty knives.” He handed his sphere over, too, leaving the safety of its magic behind. The others were all in tactical gear, but he’d kept on the suit he’d worn to pick up Andi. He didn’t need gear when there was a sixty-foot, fire-breathing reptile inside him longing to get out and fuck shit up.

Max cracked the knuckles on one hand. “Where do you want us?”

Damian scanned the building. Two huge men were bouncing in front of a door that was practically vibrating with the bass from the building behind it. The building itself only had small windows up at the top, strobing red and gold with the lights from inside, which meant external visibility was shit, but he had a feeling he’d be able to lure the thing out.

“Southeast exit’s best,” Jamison said, looking at schematics on a tablet. “The other buildings there form a natural cage.”

“Done,” Max said, jogging to the warehouse’s far side. Jamison saluted Damian with his metallic arm and ran off in the other direction—which left him and Austin alone.

“Try not to have too much fun before the hurty bits,” Austin said with a smirk, then went to head around back. Damian counted to twenty to give them all time, then headed toward the door with his most wicked smile.

Getting in was the easy part—a hundred-dollar bill did that—but he stood out once inside, very different from all the riotous dancers. He was GQ, and they were all sweaty, high, and half-dressed—a wild throng of humanity.

More like prey, grumbled the creature inside him.

He ignored it and made sure the southeast exit was feasible. It was at the end of a hallway and not blocked by pallets or locked with chains.

“Southeast is a go. Going silent now,” he replied, taking out his earpiece before walking toward a makeshift bar created out of pallets and storage boxes. He didn’t blame the succubus for coming here; he would’ve liked to’ve done so himself, as a human. To just be able to let everything go—and to know that everything would still be safe and okay.

He didn’t have that liberty.

Damian closed his eyes, pulsing the powers inside him out to search for her like radar. Once, twice, three times and the beast would feel him, but it didn’t matter, he had her—in the middle of the dance floor. A group of men and women circled her, thinking they were enjoying themselves. He knew if he let his gaze go draconic, he’d see her true form—wings tucked back as her waist-high tendrils spun out to spike everyone nearby. Everyone she speared would think they were in love—with her, with here, with life, it wouldn’t matter—and if she wasn’t stopped, she’d drain them of energy until they became her mindless slaves.

He ordered a shot of whiskey and downed it at the bar before heading to the dance floor. This wasn’t the place to sip. If he was going to get her to follow him outside, he needed to seem fully human, and every human here was drinking. The group of people around her had grown from five to ten; he needed to act quickly, but he hesitated intentionally, like he was unsure, and made sure to catch her eye on a spin.

She had hair like the sun, and it swirled around her like her tendrils would have if he’d allowed himself to see them. He stood at the edge of the dance floor, looking rich and cruel and disapproving—not taking his eyes off of her—daring her to come to him.

She was like a cobra dancing with a snake charmer, doing everything in her power to lure him closer into tendril range. But that wouldn’t do. He needed her alone, so he watched her studiously, letting her know he was interested, but not content to be amongst the commoners.

One by one, dancers seemed to come out of their reverie and stumble to the edges of the dance floor as she released them, not knowing how close they’d come to losing their lives. He had to fight not to smile. This wasn’t his first time with a succubus; they were all alike—completely certain in their abilities to torment humans and completely unable to ignore a challenge.

She was close now, still dancing, but just for him. She was wearing next to nothing, the thigh-high slits of her skirt showing off her legs as she moved, as she kept moving hypnotically, coming closer. He could smell the addictively sexy pheromone she emitted and almost wished it worked on him because it was hard to stay still knowing that once she came a few steps closer she would strike.

She smiled winningly and the first tendril hit—straight through his heart. The dragon half of him bellowed and rose and fought, and he had to wall it off as quickly as he could. Calm down. Now!

He did his best impersonation of a struck human for her. “You,” he whispered, his voice low.

“You-you’re different.” Her voice was a purr with an inhuman thrum underneath.

She struck another tendril through him, and instead of screaming, he had to pretend to be enamored. “I want you.” In real life, he would never be that abrupt, but bewitched humans had no common sense.

“That’s good,” she purred. “I want you too.” She reached her hand up and touched his face. “I’ll tell you a secret. I want everyone here.”

He smiled at her, pretending to be innocent, trying to ignore the way he could feel the spears of her magic slide in and out of him, sucking at his essence. Her hand trailed down his chest and seemed certain to go lower.

“Me first?” he offered.

Kill her! the dragon in him growled.

SHUT UP! he commanded.

“Oh, yes. You first,” she agreed, letting her hand sink to his waistband. He reached for her and dragged her close, kissing her hard, before she could feel that he wasn’t—that he was the only thing not turned on by her within thirty feet.

“I need you,” he said, coming up for air like a desperate man. The things she was doing to his brain and inside of him—a migraine blossomed, and it was hard to stay clearheaded—and his dragon howled. “Outside?”

She smiled at him, and with his dragon this close, it looked like all her teeth were fangs. “Yes,” she agreed, and together they stumbled toward the southeast exit.

Damian wasn’t sure what shape his crew’s attack would take, as he made out with the creature down the hallway toward the southeast door. He ignored the pain, trying to concentrate on the feel of its breasts against him and not letting it lock him in against a wall.

Then they reached the door, and he shoved her outside, blocking the door with his own body. He didn’t want the succubus running back into the crowd as they shot her with warded guns. No one would get hurt, but the chaos they’d cause could create a stampede.

Every single thing they fought with was warded—right down to the bullets. Which meant they wouldn’t hurt normal humans—just Unearthly things.

Like him.

Which also meant he was in harm’s way.

“Move!” Austin shouted at him. The succubus took in her surroundings—the blinding phosphorescent lamps his crew had set up, the guns that were trained on her.

“Whaaat?” Her voice rose with an unholy pitch. “No—I did not escape the depths of—”

A sniped shot—Max, from a nearby building, Damian knew—came through her neck, blowing out her throat. He could almost hear the bear-shifter saying, “Don’t care,” as he silenced her. Damian threw her forward with all his might, felt the tendrils releasing for a second as they moved with her, and then they grabbed on harder. He sank to his knees as she drained his strength, and with wide eyes, he watched her heal.

Unearthly things were stronger than Earthly ones, yes, but they didn’t heal like that. Maybe Max had only grazed her? But then why was his shirt streaked with so much blood?

His thoughts took only half a second, and then he heard Jamison call his name. “Damian! Catch!”

Jamison was throwing his weapon to him, and the succubus batted it down with a now-visible wing. It didn’t matter, though. Austin was advancing—pumping rounds into her—and Max was still sniping her from afar, and slowly, the human shell of what she appeared to be was blasted away until only the monster of what she was shone underneath the phosphorescent lights. Their weapons pushed her back out of striking range and then Damian was free. She sank to her knees, her tendrils writhing desperately around her, searching for fresh victims.

“No,” she whispered as she realized she was dying. An iridescent purple eye swung in an overlarge socket to spot him. “You and I…we are the same. I felt it in you. Why do you align yourself with them when you could have flown with me?”

Damian didn’t have an answer for her; he just stood and picked up his gun. This needed to be over. He squeezed off a round into her head as the tendrils that had pierced him snaked weakly by his ankles.

“I will crawl into you and eat your soul,” she threatened, from a mouth that spontaneously appeared on her neck as Jamison brought a lamp closer.

“Pity for you, I don’t have one,” Damian said and fired the shot that finally ended her.

This is the first piece of a Instagram Collage Puzzle about the story. Come follow Kara on Instagram for more and see how the picture develops!

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No Ordinary Night – Free Serial – Chapter 1

No Ordinary Night - Free Serial Chapter 1
No Ordinary Night Read The Original Story Behind DRAGON CALLED Free

Finding a good co-writer who gets you, gets your style and understands the way you work is a tough thing. It's sort of like dating in a way. Sometimes you come across people who you should jive with, but then it turns out that things don't work out because you don't have chemistry.

Cassie Alexander and I have known each other for awhile, and so we didn't want to screw up a friendship. So before we decided to make this a series, Cassie and I originally decided to test the waters of co-writing by writing a short story together, that eventually became DRAGON CALLED.

We had so much fun writing it together that we decided to write an entire series and release them quickly together (because yes, the endings are cliffhangery, and personally, I hate waiting a long time for the next book). And so yes, in addition to DRAGON CALLED being released in May, we will also have DRAGON DESTINED and DRAGON FATED also released in May!

If you're interested in reading the short story that inspired the novel, I'm going to be serializing it here on the blog. The beginning is mostly the same as a novel, but at some point it detours into something a little different with a Happy-For-Now ending.

If you like it, I HIGHLY recommend checking out DRAGON CALLED 🙂

No Ordinary Night - Free Serial Chapter 1

Chapter One

While waiting for the bus, Andrea Ngo—Andi—had plenty of time to consider that answering an Overnight Help Wanted ad online may not have been the world’s best idea. But it wasn’t like her student loans were going to pay themselves; she was already working nights at the county hospital—and then there was the whole thing with her idiot brother’s bail. Danny had gotten into stupid situations before, but she never thought he’d run out on her, miss his court date, and leave her stuck with a ten-thousand-dollar bail bond.

So, what was another shift or two? Who needed sleep anyhow? Sleep was definitely overrated. She took a pair of thick black plastic framed glasses out of her coat pocket and put them on. She had perfect vision, but she knew from experience glasses on Asian girls made people think she was either super smart or super sheltered—both of which had worked in her favor before. 

The bus came, picked her up, and deposited her as far as it would go across town, at the bus stop outside the Briars Country Club. Its ominously-thorned, wrought iron gate made her glad she knew when her last tetanus shot was. She pulled out her phone to text the mysterious number that said she’d gotten the job in the first place.

I’m here, she texted. Five minutes early, no less. She took off her glasses, which turned out to be quite dirty from underuse and fogged them with her breath to wipe them down. She’d never been this close to the BCC before—there was never any point when she was most definitely not, nor would ever be, a member. 

But working at her glasses stopped her from staring at her phone. The person who’d given her the number when she’d gotten the job had claimed to be Damian Blackwood’s secretary. Andi found that hard to believe. What on earth would Damian Blackwood need a private nurse for one night for? Or—perhaps the better questions—for whom? 

She’d talked to an ambulance transport nurse once who’d gotten paid for an entire day to follow around a Saudi prince in his rig. So she might be getting paid just to watch someone breathe, barring an assassination attempt, which sounded lucrative and exciting.

But she’d never get to tell anyone about it—not even her roommate Sammy—because they’d made her sign a nondisclosure agreement. And then the text that had told her when to be here had made it clear that this assignment was “no questions asked.”

Which would be hard because questions were like, her thing. Had to be. Because secrets could kill you—asking questions saved lives.  

Andi ran an aggressive thumbnail over the left glasses lens, trying to scrape off a streak, and found a scratch too deep to ignore. She should’ve tried these on at home and brought one of her other half-dozen pairs. She sighed and pocketed them, returning to her phone to check the time. 

And now they—whoever they were—were late.

Maybe this was all just an elaborate hoax. She crossed her arms in the dark, turning her back on the gates and the mansions behind them. She hated thinking like that because she knew the slightly paranoid anxiety that made her an excellent nurse was a double-edged sword when it came to life-coping skills.

But it’d stopped her from getting into the Subaru STI that Danny’d “borrowed” from a friend the last time she’d seen him—which stopped her from getting her prints in his freshly stolen car. 

Andi checked the time again then jumped as the heavy gates behind her began to fold in on themselves, thorns disappearing like at the end of Sleeping Beauty. An all-black car—in a make she didn’t recognize—pulled up. But she realized it was for her as it parked and a driver in a suit emerged.

He was…breathtaking. A Caucasian man with black hair, strong nose and chin, full lips, and piercing light brown eyes that appeared almost golden. The crisp black suit made him look sharp, but he didn’t need it—which led to thinking about what he might look like without it, which was not appropriate right now, but Andi couldn’t help herself. He was injuriously handsome—the kind of hot you’d do a double take for and wind up getting hit by an oncoming bus you hadn’t noticed—and hot enough that there was no way he didn’t know it. She more than knew his type, and she steeled herself to give him no response. 

“Miss Ngo?” he asked as he opened the passenger door for her.

“Just Andi,” she corrected him, getting into the back seat and scooting over. He took a moment to stare at her, and she felt a low-hipped thump of desire, which she concealed with a tight smile.

“Of course,” he agreed, giving her a slight nod and a much warmer smile as he closed her door. He took the driver’s seat again and looped the black car around to pull back behind the gates of the Briars like a tide.

She had no idea what kind of car she was in, but she had a feeling that Danny would lust for it. The interior leather felt buttery, and the drive was certainly a lot smoother than the city bus.   

Too bad the whole “having a driver” thing made her uncomfortable. Admittedly, she couldn’t drive, so she really did need one, but her last boyfriend hadn’t even opened her door for her on their first date. And Josh had definitely not looked like that.

Andi-girl, you need to have fun and get out more. She could hear Eumie gently chastising her in her head, and right after that, her roommate Sammy, adding, And you need to get laid.

She was willing to admit that both those things might be true—but nothing like that would happen tonight.

“So, we’re going to Blackwood’s estate?” she asked the driver, trying to make innocent conversation as the car rose in the hills. She glanced up at the rearview—waiting for him to respond—and realized the defiant blue streak in her black hair was showing. Shit, shit, shit – she hadn’t gotten into nurse mode yet, but it was time. Her hands reached up and wound her hair into a practiced bun that hid the color.

“We are indeed,” said the driver, not taking his eyes off the road. 

“Do you know who I’ll be taking care of?”

This made him look back at her in the rear view, brow lifted in bemusement. “Someone who needs your help—clearly.”

Andi groaned on the inside. “That’s a little vague.”

“Would you prefer to hear that I’m not at liberty to say?” His tone was clearly teasing.

“No, not really.” Andi rolled her eyes. Once again, hot did not equal charming. “So, what’s he like?”

“Who?” the driver asked, overly oblivious. 

“You know who; come on,” she said, leaning forward in the car to talk to him between the front seats. “Damian.”

She’d googled him, obviously, but that hadn’t told her much. The Blackwoods were old money, rode over on the Mayflower-style: stocks, yachts, islands. But it seemed like no one had taken a picture of the man since he turned thirty—twenty years ago.

“And what makes you think he’d be involved with the hiring of temporary staff?” the driver asked, twisting to smirk back at her.

So much for blue-collar solidarity. Andi sank back into her seat and loosened her scarf. “Right. So, is there anything you can tell me about this gig? Or do you just do as he says, ‘no questions asked’?” she said in a tone of voice that mocked the text she’d gotten.

“Hmmmm. Asking too many questions of the Blackwoods is generally a bad policy,” he said in a cautionary tone. “Or of anyone, really.”

“Too bad that’s like half my job,” Andi muttered beneath her breath, then more loudly said, “No questions, huh? Sounds like a great person to work for.”

The car took a swooping right turn. “Just do what you’re told, and you’ll be fine.”

“Yes, of course,” she clipped. Good help didn’t gossip—and that was all she’d be. She wasn’t getting paid to be curious. The driver swung left without turning on his turn signal, and she swayed with the car.

The road rose as it curved, zigging and zagging up the side of a hill. She twisted to look behind her and caught a view of the city below, all lit up like a rippled sheet of gold. It was so unexpectedly beautiful she gasped—and then it felt like she’d been stabbed. In her chest. Right below her heart. She pressed a hand beneath her breast, trying to figure out what was wrong with her and if she should confide it to this strange man, but then the pain was combined with the strange impression that she should run back down to the city lights below where she knew that she’d be safe—from what, though?—as prickling terror rushed over her entire body like ice cold water.

“Are you all right?” the driver asked, glancing back at her in the rearview, his voice serious for the first time since she’d met him.

“Yes,” she said defiantly, even though she still felt like she was being stabbed—by fear itself. Her heart was hammering so fast, like the time she’d been chased by the cops because of her dumb brother or the time she’d been mugged—but she’d never felt such an intense urge to run-run-run


She double-blinked and forced herself to breathe, looking out the window at the city’s golden streetlight tapestry. It swept out like wings to encompass the hills on both sides, and from somewhere in the depths of her childhood memories, her Auntie Kim’s voice burbled up: There are dragons in this world.

“Miss Ngo?” There was a note of concern in the driver’s voice that hadn’t been there earlier.

Why on earth did she think about Grand Auntie Kim? It had been years since she’d seen the old woman who had taken care of her as a child during the summer, who’d told her and Danny stories of dragons after their dad had walked out on them and their mother had had to work. Andi inhaled deeply and shook her head. Whatever this is, you are bigger than it. You have handled worse. You’re going to be fine.

Or, said a darker part of her mind, you’re having a heart attack at a freakishly young age, and in about three seconds, you should ask Mr. Handsome here to call 911.   

“Andi?” the driver pressed.

“Do you know CPR?” Andi asked, half-joking, half-not—then the sense of terror lifted just as fast as it’d come on. “Oh my God,” she whispered to herself, sinking back into the car’s luxury leather interior. “Okay. Never mind. I’m fine. Honest.”

His eyes narrowed at her in the rearview. A flash of anger? That was on him, not her.

“Don’t worry,” he growled, suddenly a much darker man. “You’re allowed to be here.”

What an odd turn of phrase.

She would’ve asked him why he’d said it quite like that, but she was too happy to not feel like she was dying anymore. The car swung around again, and the pavement turned to cobblestones as they pulled through a final gate.

The driver slowed and parked in the roundabout, right in front of the mansion’s huge church-like doors, and she quickly got out to breathe fresh air before he could come around and release her. She leaned against the car and looked up.

Compared to any place Andi’d ever lived—or ever seen—the house was utterly ridiculous. It wasn’t a house so much as a castle, and it had the kind of turrets that you expected to see archers peeking out from—although, in this day and age, and with Blackwood-level money, machine guns seemed more apt. Stained glass windows dotted the upper floors, some glowing with light, while ivy grew aggressively up the lower ones, crawling out of a garden that could best be described as feral. A huge circular fountain behind her had a dragon head on top of it shooting out water instead of smoke. 

The driver walked around her and opened up the front door, and light beamed from somewhere inside as he gestured for her. “Ready?”

Andi forced a lightness she didn’t feel into her voice and expression, plastering on a smile so sweet it was giving her cavities. “As I’ll ever be!”

Swallowing for strength, she walked behind him indoors. They were together in a vast entryway that had three sets of stairs, wide ones arching toward the right and left wings of the house, and an odd spiral staircase that shot straight up. Her eyes followed it to a circular door in the ceiling, two floors up. A belfry? Some kind of service hatch? Her guesses were interrupted by the driver reaching for her, and she stepped back quickly without thinking. “I-I didn’t catch your name?”

“It doesn’t matter,” he said.

She stared at his open hand and then looked to him. The corners of his lips were turned upward, teasing her, and it felt like her heart stopped beating for a moment. Dammit. Was he taunting or flirting with her? Was he so hot he just assumed he’d get his way? Or was he so used to hanging out with rich people he thought he was one, just like when clerks were rude to you for no reason in fancy stores?

He cleared his throat and lifted his hand slightly. “Would you like me to take your coat, or do you prefer to wear it while nursing?”

She had a sudden urge to meet him late at night in a pool hall and see how much she could take him for, but she took off her coat and handed it over. “You’re assuming I’ll get the job.”

He shrugged. “I’m assuming you’re competent. But I’ve been wrong before.”

“Thanks for the vote of confidence, Mr. It-Doesn’t-Matter,” she said. Why wouldn’t he give her his name? Her roommate Sammy was convinced that answering an ‘Overnight Help Wanted’ ad online was Andi’s beginning of a true-life crime show on Investigation Discovery—and maybe she was right. Maybe Mr. No-Name was a felon or something? Something he’d have in common with Danny if she couldn’t talk her Uncle Lee into getting her brother an expensive lawyer. She squinted at the driver. His reluctance to tell her his name only made her want to know more.

He resisted her dig. “And your phone?” he asked. She handed it over, much more reluctantly. “You did sign an NDA,” he reminded her, as he put it in his pocket.

“But what if there’s an emergency?”

“We’ll give you a spare.”

A spare phone wasn’t the same thing as her phone, but she tried to shake it off.

He glanced at his watch, and his expression became serious. “If you’ll follow me,” he said, and then started walking without looking back to make sure she did so. She almost had to trot after him. He was so much taller than she was—at least six-three to her five-nothing—and he was apparently in a hurry. Then again, maybe she was relieving someone else—another hired hand—who needed to leave quickly.

At least chasing after him let her see his ass. His suit was particularly well cut around him, not leaving much to the imagination—not when your imagination was as good as hers. He surprised her by stopping and turning back around, as though he’d known she was looking. She stopped, too, like they were playing a game of red-light green-light.

“Coming?” he asked, waving her up.

“I’m trying to, sheesh,” she said, striding forward, almost out of breath.

“Come a little faster, then,” he encouraged her. His eyes narrowed briefly, and she knew he knew exactly what he’d said to her as he turned back around. She wasn’t sure if she should be irritated or ever-so-slightly pleased—her brain said the first, while her body said the latter.   

Shut up, body. Andi always ended up falling for the broken, temperamental types. There was something alluring about trying to fix things—and people. But she knew better now, after several exes, and tried to get all of that out at work, where people actually did need fixing.

They practically raced through a living room, appointed with a mix of plush couches in old and modern styles, statuary of all kinds, two fireplaces on either end big enough to roast a bear in, and vases filled with flowers almost halfway to the cavernous ceiling. Past that was a dining room with a table elaborately set, too many chandeliers to count, and a long hall with many locked doors. She could tell they were locked because they were bolted from the outside—some with more than one bolt and the locks were exaggerated, even comical—like they were meant for the outside of pirate chests. She couldn’t help herself; she stopped in front of the last locked door and inhaled, a question on her lips.

“Mmm, mmm,” he said with a closed mouth, mockingly as if she were a naughty child, then he had the nerve to turn and wink at her. “No questions, remember?”

Andi’s jaw clenched. She was so going to find out his name. But he started walking again without waiting for her—until they reached a final door.

“You’re late,” said a voice from inside the room. Damian himself? She straightened her shoulders and walked in.

No. The man who’d spoken was far too young to be Damian. While Mr. No-Name was so attractive as to almost be otherworldly, this new man was the pride of the Midwest, a golden boy through and through. Hair the color of rust, lightly tanned skin, and a build that said he could pick a girl—or several—up.

“Sorry. Someone didn’t open the gates.” Mr. No-Name’s voice was almost acidic, and Andi realized that this is who he’d been mad at in the car, not her. But why? All the gates she’d seen had opened.

It didn’t really matter though, because just past the homecoming king, Andi could finally see why she’d been brought here. 

She could tell the room had once been a library, even though the shelves were mostly clear, and the only thing remaining to hint at its prior function were leather couches pushed to the side and the scent of old books. Now though, the place where the couches had surely been was occupied by a man in a hospital bed, surrounded by the accoutrements of the sick and infirm—oxygen tanks, monitors, IV pumps on IV poles, a chest tube, a feeding pump spinning like a spindle, and, impossibly out of place for her nursing experience thus far, a small Siamese cat lay curled at the end of the bed.

“I was a little busy,” the other man defended himself, gesturing at the bedridden man. Apparently, no one was concerned about the cat.

Mr. No-Name opened his mouth to say something, and Andi cut him off. “Well, I’m here now.” She walked up to the bed, blinking in the dim light. She thought she recognized him, from grainy newspaper photos. “Is this…Mr. Blackwood?” It looked like him. A little.

Mr. No-Name came to stand beside her. “It doesn’t matter who he is. Can you keep him alive for eight hours?”

She tilted her head to look up at him. “Maybe—if you tell me what’s wrong with him, first.” What she could see of him was covered in splotchy bruises. There was an oxygen mask on his face, and Andi belatedly realized his tightly-restrained arms were both insanely muscled and covered in tattoos.

Definitely not Mr. Blackwood then—unless Mr. Blackwood was even more interesting than she’d assumed.  

“He fell down the stairs,” said Mr. Midwest entirely unconvincingly. Andi looked over at him to ask for more information and caught him looking over her at Mr. No-Name, his face full of concern. “He’s starting to wake up. I don’t want the first face he sees to be a stranger.”

“Grimalkin’s here,” Mr. No-Name said, with a pointed look at the cat, and then he jerked his head toward the door. “I need you out with me tonight. You know why.” He held up a wrist and tapped on a watch that probably cost as much as the car he’d driven her in.

Drivers definitely didn’t make that kind of money.

Mr. No-Name-Driver-With-a-Fancy-Watch.

Andi stopped herself from making a discomforted sound. She already knew from painful personal experience that rich people played weird games, and if it was more likely she’d get this job by pretending to be dumb, fine. It was only for one night, after all. The sooner she started working, the sooner she could make Danny’s bail, and then maybe all this would make sense—an emphasis on the maybe. “Look—can somebody here just give me a report?”

The man she was replacing dragged his gaze away from Mr. No-Name and started talking to her. At her, really.

She pulled out a pen and paper and wrote everything down, asking appropriate questions at appropriate times, but she couldn’t shake the feeling that she was being partially shouted at and definitely judged. When he was through, she held up a hand. “Three things.”

“Go,” he allowed her.

“The cat?” She couldn’t help but ask.

The driver answered her. “He’s practically a family member. Presence nonnegotiable. Next?”

“Okay, then.” Weird-ass rich people. Andi shrugged and looked back at the patient. “So, why is he here? Why not a hospital?”

“In the city?” Mr. Midwest was incredulous.

“Yeah. Why not? There’re good hospitals there.”

“Hospitals aren’t safe,” Mr. Midwest stated—like that was a known fact.

Andi bit her lips, hard, to not say anything about his bizarre opinions. “All right, then,” she went on. “Third is, who are you? Medically, I mean.”

“His name’s Austin; he used to be a paramedic,” Mr. No-Name said for the man.

“And in the Marines,” Austin added.

She stuck her hand out, so Austin would have to shake it. “I’m Andi.”

“Ah. An Andi, not Andy,” Austin said, with slightly different emphasis, giving Mr. No-Name a glare.

“It’s not my fault your assumptions were sexist,” Mr. No-Name said, a slight grin flickering at the corner of his mouth. He looked meaningfully at his watch again, and Austin disappeared down a hall. “So. Eight hours?” Mr. No-Name asked her.

From Austin’s report, this patient mostly sounded like a wait-and-see. He was injured and unconscious, but there was no real reason he hadn’t woken up yet—other than possible brain damage. Which, yeah, made this whole level of secrecy, perhaps understandable? If you were the head of a household worth a fortune and someone got injured on your watch, you might need to keep their issues under wraps. She glanced at the patient’s vitals on the monitor, the level of urine in the foley, and the slowly draining chest tube. She could keep almost anyone alive for eight hours—at the hospital. But what would happen here if things went poorly? This situation was bizarre, and even though they were paying her a ton, she still had her license to think of. She glanced up and found Mr. No-Name watching her shamelessly—so shamelessly, she flushed.  

Austin reappeared, pushing a crash cart before she could stutter out any words. “You know what to do with this?”

“Of course.” The presence of a crash cart allayed only some of her fears. “But…I’m not a doctor.”

“If he needs a doctor, just call me, and I’ll get one. My number’s preprogrammed.” Mr. No-Name handed her a phone as Austin went on.

“And who should I ask for?” she asked, trying not to sound curious in the least.

Mr. No-Name let out a snort as if to say, nice try. “I’ll know it’s you.”

Austin interrupted. “There’s more oxygen tanks against the wall. Just keep him comfortable until we get back.”

Andi looked between them. None of this made sense—not the cat, not this job, not this house, and definitely not these two extremely handsome, yet extremely odd men. “Where are you going anyhow?”

Mr. No-Name shook his head at her question. “Out. But we’ll return by dawn, and I promise you’ll be on the first bus back to the city. Okay?”

Mr. No-Name’s gaze pressed her, as Austin loomed.

She inhaled—to tell them how insane all this was and back out—but then she reminded herself that the only thing that needed to make sense was the fact that one night here would equal a month of her normal paycheck. She glanced at the patient and did her best to ping out with her inherent nurse-radar, honed by months of taking too many shifts, taking in his color, and the numbers on the screen. He was the most normal thing here, hands down. “Yeah, okay,” she said, deciding. She pulled out the phone she’d been given and waved it at Mr. No-Name. “I’ll call if anything happens; otherwise, I’ll see you in eight.”

“Good,” Mr. No-Name said and smiled at her—fully—for the first time all night. The sensation of his pleased attention on her was almost as bad as whatever had happened to her on the road here. She wanted to run away, but she found she couldn’t. She was struck—pierced—like she was a deer in headlights. He was just too much.

Then the cat leapt off the bed and wound around Mr. No-Name’s legs. He glanced down, and the moment was over. The spotlight had moved on. She sagged, caught herself, and hoped he hadn’t seen it. It didn’t seem like he had as he knelt down to knuckle the cat’s head softly.

The cat meowed at him, repeatedly, as if it had strong opinions, and Mr. No-Name gave it a dour look. “No, she didn’t bring anything for you,” he told the cat, and then looked back to her. “If you hear any sounds in the house, just ignore them. It’s an old house; it creaks a lot.” Austin coughed from the door, and Mr. No-Name headed toward him. Her audience was over. The men left, and the cat followed them.

Andi relaxed, then became embarrassed by how she’d felt. What was she, some kind of schoolgirl? You know better! Whoever she’d been in the moment he’d looked at her—stupidly happy, foolishly hopeful, and just a teensy bit terrified—it wasn’t the real her.

The real Andi was a nurse who knew what to do—every time, all of the time.       

She went to the bed, unlooped her stethoscope from her neck, and started to assess her patient. 

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Bonded to the Dragon – authors rough cut serial is no longer available

Bonded to the Dragon has been released into Amazon Kindle Unlimited, which means that if you have Kindle Unlimited, you can read it for free!.

According to Amazon exclusivity rules, I can’t leave the serialized version up.

The first chapter of BONDED TO THE DRAGON is still available here as an excerpt.

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 🙂

BONDED TO THE DRAGON - BONUS EPILOGUE - Available only to newsletter subscribers!

If you get the final version of BONDED TO THE DRAGON on Amazon, there’s a special link in the back of the book that will enable you to get Val and Grant’s free BONUS EPILOGUE!

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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Bonded to the Dragon: Chapter 1 – authors rough cut serial

Bonded to the Dragon has been released into Amazon Kindle Unlimited.

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!)

Chapter 1

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.”

Titania sighed.

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.

I smiled.

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.

Titania frowned.

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.

My freedom!

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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Amazon UK has just placed the VERY first Dragon Lovers book, into the PRIME reading program! (Sorry US readers, Amazon Prime reading is an invite only and Amazon US hasn’t invited the Dragon Lovers to be a part of US PRIME Reading….yet!) So if you have Amazon PRIME in the UK, you can read BETROTHED TO THE DRAGON for FREE!

You deserve a reading escape because you work hard. Isn’t it about time you indulged yourself with a ripped, hot, bulging new…book? ?

Belonging to the Dragon – Limited Time Serial Chapters 1 and 2

Belonging to the Dragon Blog Serial

Oh and here’s a cover reveal!

I’ve decided to do the author’s equivalent of showing my undies to the world.

That’s right I’m going to post my UNEDITED chapters of my forthcoming book BELONGING TO THE DRAGON.

(I’m inspired by Ilona Andrews’s fabulous Innkeeper series, in which they serialize the unproofed versions of their books to their blog before having it edited and published. And if you haven’t checked out their current serial out, go do it. You’re welcome 🙂

You’ll get the whole story as I wrote it and handed it to my editor, all typos, no proofing EXCEPT for explicit sexy times and any scene or details that my editors told me I needed to add. For the most part, the story is pretty intact, but I have to admit, I have problems with my epilogues in that I always need my editor’s help in writing a good one that works.

So this serial will not include the wedding epilogue (oh no look, I spoiled it, but come on, this is a romance; you GOTTA know there’s gonna be a happy ending RIGHT?)

I’ll be posting chapters every Monday and Saturday until BELONGING TO THE DRAGON releases on August 28. After August 28, all chapters except for 1, will be taken down in order to comply with Amazon Kindle Unlimited’s exclusivity requirement.

If you enjoy the story, but would like the sexy times and the epilogue, sign up to my mailing list so you can be the first to hear of the limited time new release price drop (hint: DON’T PAY THE FULL PREORDER PRICE!).

(Again, That means unedited, unproofed with all typos included!)

Chapter 1

I twisted the cheap silver ring around my finger, the one my friend Val had given it to me a long time ago. Val was missing now, and it was up to me to find her.

There was a chime on the intercom and on the linked app on my phone, an image popped up.

My stomach fluttered at the sight of the last man that I thought I would see.

He gazed at me with those blue eyes I had crushed on as a teenager, the ones I had tried to forget, and now haunted my dreams. “I know you’re in there Lana. Open up.”

Three months ago, I had tried to stab those baby-blues with a magical dagger. To be fair, he had been trying to cut off my head but we had both been under the control of a monster from another world. Even so, some things were hard to get over.

I tapped on the green button on my phone screen, allowing him entrance.

I only had moments before the elevator would arrive at my floor. I kicked my three-inch heels under the couch, grabbed a bathrobe and threw it on over my gold curve-hugging dress. A quick stop in the bathroom to wipe off my lipstick while I ran my fingers through my hair.

A knock sounded and I took a deep breath, opening the door.

You’d think at this point, after knowing him since he was a chubby little eight-year old I’d be immune to his charms.

But this was the all grown up version of rich boy Lucas Randall. He was a towering vision of aggressively ripped don’t-fuck-with-me masculine perfection. Mountainous shoulders threaten to explode out of the short sleeve gray Einstein t-shirt he was wearing even though it was mid-November in New York City.

Those laser blues focused on down me, and belatedly I realized I still had eye shadow and mascara on.

Shit. Still, no choice but to keep going and hope he didn’t notice.

He leaned forward, taking up almost all of the space in the door frame, holding up his phone so I could see the screen.

It was a picture of me, well, my body without a face. It should have been anonymous, but there was that tell-tale birthmark on my hip in the shape of a star. He must have seen it at some point when we were younger. How would he even remember?

Apparently, he had.

Nostrils flared. Pupils darkened, he asked. “Are you soliciting anonymous sex from strangers?”

A thousand potential replies flashed in my mind in a quarter of a second. I settled on casual disregard and disdain, even as my heart fluttered in my chest. I folded my arms, drawing my bathrobe closed, as if I were trying to hide my heartbeat. “After so many months, this is what you come here to ask me? In case you’ve forgotten, I don’t answer to you.”

A golden flame flickered in his eyes. If I didn’t know what he was, I would have called it a trick of the light.

But I knew his secret.

And I couldn’t let him find out mine.

He leaned further inward, and with my heightened senses I could smell him, all sweet smoke and musk. His words were all gravel. “You stink of perfume. You’ve got eye makeup on. Your nails are done. Tell me you’re not doing what I think you’re doing.”

I almost wanted to take a step back from his invasion of my space but I held my ground. I could stop him. I had that power now.

But if he knew what I could do, it would raise more questions that I didn’t have time to, nor did I want to answer.

And my time was limited. “My life is not your business.” I paused wavering on whether I should take the shot, low and dirty as it was.

He leaned forward, seeking to intimidate me into compliance.

I felt a strange exasperation mixed with regret. Just like a Randall. Some things never changed. “I’m not your employee, Lucas.”

My mother had been his nanny and housekeeper. We had grown up together in a strange kind of sense. I had once thought we were friends, but looking back with the distance and knowledge of adulthood, I realized I was just…convenient.

A thick vein popped in relief from his neck and he looked as if he was about to roar like the beast he truly was. “I never thought you were. I just want to know: Why?”

There were a million reasons why. Because I felt like it. Because I had nothing else now, now that I had lost my job. Because there was something bizarre and strange inside me that enjoyed the hunt. But more importantly, there I had a promise to keep to a friend.

None of which were reasons that I owed him.

So I used the most potent weapon I had. Guilt.

I began to close the door on him. “Go away, Lucas. You almost killed me last time. I lost my job because of what I did for you and your friends. I’m done with dragons, magic, fairy princesses and immortal monsters. Leave me alone to my normal human life.”

The attack worked better than I expected. My words were like water on his rage, melting it away to a stony expression. To my surprise, he actually let me close the door.

I locked the knob, the deadbolt, and braced my back against the door, as if that would stop him. If he was truly intent on pressing the issue, he could break it down with a sneeze if he wanted to.

I listened for footsteps, and heard him walk away. Double-checking to security app on my phone revealed him actually leaving the building.

That was easier than I had thought it would be. Was it a residual effect of the armor?

I pulled up the arm of my robe, looked at my smooth brown skin. For a moment it remained the same. I concentrated, and my skin began to itch. Then black scales rippled forth.

I stared at them, shining, almost metallic.

Once they had horrified me.

Now, for better or worse, they were a part of me, to be accepted like my brown skin, curly hair, and behind that was far rounder than I would have liked.

Months ago, I had agreed to help some old childhood friends. Like Lucas, they were also dragons, actually his cousins, but unlike Lucas, they had actually made an attempt to keep in touch with me as we had grown up. We had liked and commented on each other’s social media posts and had rare, if deep chats over random things like the violent and tender nature of humanity and the best organic fertilizer for a container garden. I was still positive that Daniel was using magic for his cherry tomatoes.

We had been captured by what I now understood to be literally some alien monster that had been bent on hunting and eating all magical creatures of Earth, of which there weren’t many left. For some reason, the monster had placed mind-control bands on our heads and had us try to kill one another.

The monster had also forced something else on me, a power that had given me odd, inhuman abilities.

And yet, Sophie’s friend Chloe, who was a real witch with sparkling magical hands they had charged with my care, had said that I was free and clear of the monster’s magic.

The scales along my arm flickered, responding to my thought of the Devourer with a visceral hate that at times, felt more solid than the ground I stood on.
It was that hate that strangely enough, made me feel safe about letting it live inside me.

From the images it had shown me, I knew this much about: It was a symbiotic life form that had been a weapon of the dragons in their old world. It remembered being deployed against the Devourer when the dragons were fleeing to Earth. It’s original bearer, a grizzly old bearded warrior whose favorite weapon was a massive axe that was bigger than my coffee table had died when the Devourer destroyed the original homeworld of the dragons, but somehow it survived.

I couldn’t get much else out of it. It otherwise expressed itself in feelings like rage and hunger.

It was the blood hunger that was most troubling. And perhaps one day I would have to show someone what had happened.

But not right now. Not while Val was in trouble.

I dropped my arm, sleeve falling and covering my scales.

Cursed I might be, but right now I needed the monster’s magic.

I had a serial killer to track down and a friend to save.



The line to the club was out the door, wrapping around the corner, and as I walked up in my four-inch golden heels, the music thumped in to the street, Damn girl. You got it girl you got it girl.

It wasn’t like I didn’t have any experience hunting criminals. I had worked for the FBI after all, not as an agent, but from behind screens, whiteboards and closed doors. I had been one of the many contract data analysts it had once deployed until budget cuts had killed the obscure department I had worked for.

Of course, having Daniel turn in a resignation letter when I was in a traumatized coma didn’t help the job situation either.

Lucas, covered with blood, screaming my name, as I swung a sword at his head.

I squeezed my eyes shut, slapping the side of my head as if I could knock the memory away.

The Devourer had captured Lucas and I, and placed devices on our heads, controlling us like puppets, forcing us to fight each other.

The scales underneath my skin itched at the memory of the Devourer.

I took a deep breath, opened my eyes, and centered myself in the present.

Damn girl. You got it girl you got it girl.

I strutted up to Jamal, the bouncer in the front. He was a big brown bald monolith of a man, standing there, arms folded with a look designed to mean business.

“Hey,” I said, with a smile. “Got some room in there for me?”

Jamal unhooked the velvet rope. I had helped his girlfriend out of a sticky situation with some corrupt cops not too long ago. “For you? Always.”

I ignored the cold jealous stares of the others in line as I entered through the doors into a universe of swirling flashing neon lights and a base beat that reverberated in my core.

Damn girl. You got it girl you got it girl.

I had never been much of a club goer but I was here because this is the last place anyone had ever seen Val. We had taken different paths, but a long time ago, Val and I had once been the only two brown girls in Oakwood elementary. In kindergarten, Val had gotten in trouble for getting in a fight with Tommy Warner, the mayor’s son, after he had broken my glasses on purpose and called me a nigger.

I wish I could say that she had been my best friend from that day on.

But that’s not the way things worked out.

Damn girl. You got it girl you got it girl.

Some guy with a backward baseball cap and sneakers way too white, made his way towards me, beer cup sloshing in his hand. He planted himself in front of me and yelled.

“Is your name Wi-Fi? Because I’m feeling a connection!”

I turned, and he put his hand on my left breast and squeezed. I glared at him in disbelief.

He shrugged with an unabashed grin. “You can’t be wearing a dress like that and not expect to be touched.”

I briefly checked the space behind him. All clear.

I smiled, put my hand in the middle of his chest and shoved.

He went flying, crashing into empty barstools behind him as I put my best “whoops” face on, before disappearing into the crowd.

Shit, I was underestimating my strength.

I kept dancing, shimmying and shaking my shoulders into the mess of people letting the music come over me. I put my hands up.


Once in awhile, the armor spoke in my head, always when it was hungry, always when it sensed food nearby.

Something tingled in my head indicating where the prey was. There was a momentary green shimmer around the man, a totally unremarkable guy with ash blond hair. Average height, short hair, black collared shirt, surveying the crowd from behind a drink like any number of other people watchers in the crowd.

I caught his gaze and smiled as I shimmied and turned in the dance.

That was something I had never understood about clubs, all the people which came to sit and drink and watch people dance without being part of the dance themselves.

In another lifetime, that probably would’ve been me. Always watching, never part of the dance.

But now I had the power to accomplish things I had never dreamed of.


Damn girl. You got it girl you got it girl.

I danced my way through the crowd towards him. Once more I made brief eye contact with him and smiled. And then I turned my back and ignore him for a few minutes.

Hunger erupted inside me, so empty, so dry, craving the taste of fresh warm blood.

My own horror blossomed along side it, the human part of me that knew that this feeling wasn’t right, wasn’t normal

And just as quickly the gaping maw hunger was closed off, as if it had closed the connection between us.

Then just the simple word again.


When I caught the quarry’s eye again, he gestured to the empty seat next to him.

I turned away from him and danced little more, making sure to shake my ass at him letting the lights play over my shimmering gold dress.

In a few minutes I made my way to the bar, casually next to him. I ordered a drink, something expensive, and looked at him.

“Put her drink on my tab,” he said, his stare glued to my exaggerated and exposed cleavage. If the neckline was any lower, I’d be showing nipple. “Those were some nice moves.”

At least it wasn’t another Wi-Fi pick up line though he got no points for originality. “Thanks.”

He opened his jacket and handed me a card. “I run an agency of sorts. I have some prestigious clients who I think would be very interested in you.”

He thought I was an escort. Perfect. “I’m not for sale.”

“I wasn’t implying that you were.” Underneath the clashing club scents of smoke, and pot, liquor, and sweat, and perfume, and cologne, I suddenly scented him… bleach and acid.


Just like the other serial killers I had found.




Chapter 2

“I’m not easy to handle,” I said, playing with the umbrella in my drink.

His hand snaked to my waist. I wanted to chop it off and leave him with a bleeding stump. The blood hunger from the armor agreed. “Maybe you just need the right master,” he said.

“Master?” I arched my carefully contoured eyebrow as sexily as I could, and fluttered my fake eyelashes at him. “And you think you’re up to the challenge?”

He leaned close, reeking of alcohol. “I’m up for any challenge involving you.”

I wanted to let my forearm scales emerge into a blade, pierce him the gut, feel his warm delicious blood in my hands. I forced myself to put my hand on his groin, felt his semi-hard cock go instantly flaccid at my touch.

Serial killers who targeted women didn’t like it when women took control. And their dislike turned anger at my insolence was the perfect way of making sure that I would be their next target.

“Let’s get out of here.”

He grabbed my wrist and I followed him out of club.

His cold hands were clammy and I resisted the urge to break his grip on my and wipe my palm off on my dress or spray it with hand-sanitizer.

“Do you like fast cars?”

I pulled away, unable to bear his touch any longer. “I don’t know,” I said in a deliberately teasing tone. “I’m particular about my ride.”

The valet-lady pulled up in a Maserati.

I remembered I was supposed to be feeling seductive. “That will do,” I said, feigning impressment.

We got in, and the engine thrummed to life, as he said. “I’ve got a place out on Long Island.”

What was it with Long Island and serial killers? This was like the fourth serial killer on Long Island I had found.

I brushed an imaginary speck off his shoulder, even as I imagined slicing a red line along his throat. “As long as you give me a ride back to the city.”

We stopped at a red light. He slid his hand along my thigh. I shuddered in disgust.

He smiled at my reaction, clearly, taking my shudder for desire.

And then I felt a sharp pain my outer thigh.

I looked down and saw a syringe with a clear liquid sticking out of my thigh.

“What the hell is this?”

The first genuine smile appeared in his face, complete with eye crinkles at the side. “You’ll see. Nighty-night.”

“What —”

I rolled my eyes in the back of my head and slumped into the seat, hoping that that was what he expected.

“You must be tired,” he said with a lightness in his voice that would have frightened me, if I hadn’t known what I was doing. “None of the others fell asleep so quickly.”

The armor’s eagerness flashed bright inside me. Food was coming.

He buckled me in, almost lovingly now. “I can’t wait to bring you home.”

The car hugged a winding path, one that literally felt like it took forever. The pace quickened, lights brightened and sounds hollowed as we went through a tunnel. From where we had been, it might have been the Hudson, though who knows maybe he made good time and got to the Midtown.

Hard to tell because he kept playing this stupid elevator saxophone music on repeat.

Of all the things for a serial killer to listen to, Kenny G was his choice of music?

The saxophone set played itself at least twice before the car turned and slowed. Gradually the noise of highway traffic died/faded.

The sounds of gravel skittered underneath the car. As he opened his door, I got a whiff of salt. We were near the ocean. I remained deadweight as he hefted me over his shoulder, ignoring the shoes falling off my feet. He kicked the car door closed.

I peeked one eye open, and saw tall pine trees, and a walkway of solar lamps. An old weather worn garden gnome with a chipped nose stood on the front lawn.

Whistling the same goddamn Kenny G song that had just been playing in the car, he opened the front door.

And my blood ran hot at the scent.

It was the scent of fresh blood, fresh meat, the odor of a butcher shop.

It was also the scent of the Devourer, the very monster that had mind-controlled Lucas and I to fight to the death.

The hunger inside me mingled with fear as he rolled me on to a couch and then his footsteps moved away. I was torn between a desperate desire to run far away, and to stay and finish the hunt.

But this wasn’t about running, or hunting, I reminded myself.

It was about finding Val.

At first, I cracked my eyes opened the smallest amount. A giant cube of a TV sat in a massive piece of oak furniture. Around it on glass shelves were wine glasses filled with translucent plastic like bits in which obviously plastic flowers were anchored. An old embroidered banner hung off one of the shelves, which read “Bless this House,” but it was oddly burnt on one edge.

A door opened, and his laugh echoed through the house.

So what if the Devourer was here? Most likely, it was a piece of it, and well, I could handle it.

And if I didn’t well, I had known the risk I was taking, right?


Right. I had to focus on that. Hunger.


And then the door closed behind him.

I sprang to my feet. In the attached dining room with a plastic covering over a lace tablecloth, a series of computer screens hummed, their blue lights illuminating the place. I would have ignored them if my enhanced vision hadn’t recognized an email address I had seen before.

I went over, scrolled through the email chain.

And then I saw it. Val’s picture. But she looked beaten and drugged.

I followed the email chain. More pictures of captured, beaten and drugged women.

She had been here. But they had sent her to another facility.

Where was the other facility?

This was a far bigger operation than just a single serial killer.

I logged onto one of the many cloud drives and I had set it up to download.


Chains clinked. Someone whimpered.

There was a scream cut short.

Oh gods. What had he said? Sisters? The nausea burned through my throat like acid.

There were others he had captured in this house.

Scales emerged from my skin, sheathing my body underneath my clothes, giving me a strength that was beyond mortal.


I followed the scented trail of the man to a door by the kitchen. I kicked it open, and had to hold my hands over my eyes from the sudden blinding brightness of the basement.

At the end of the steps, I could only see his sneakers, and a pool of blood.

“You’re awake,” he said like his favorite puppy had arrived. “Just in time.”

Senses enhanced abruptly, telling me that we were the only two living things in the house. My stomach felt hollow as I realized that there had been others I could have saved.

Other Vals.

And I hadn’t.


“Shut up!” I screamed.

He rounded the stairs. I backed away, as the scales that shielded my hands turned them into black taloned claws.

My flesh trembled, but not from fear. It was the armor’s excitement, the shuddering anticipation of a hunger on the verge of a feast.

I had no idea what awaited in the basement so I backed up a few steps, still playing the victim. And the knowledge that confronting an enemy in a known space was far better than confronting them in an unknown space.

He came at me fast, in a rush that telegraphed his training: strength and a moderate amount of skill. And had I not been what I was, I would have been screwed.

But I was different now.

I held my ground, the scales absorbing the kinetic energy of his charge, and reflecting it back at him.

The impact sent him flying and he crashed into the armoire behind him. Glass shattered.

I picked my way around the shards towards him, even though the scales that covered my feet in a black boot that was more than enough protection.

His trembling, his fear, his panic: it was all too delicious not to savor it for as long as I could. The armor read what the tiny little translucent bits in the vase had been. Human nail cuttings.

From his victims? Disgust roiled my stomach.

“You’re done,” I said. “You will hunt no more.”

Blood streamed down his face, he scrambled, and ran out the door.

I laughed in anticipation, in joy. Oh this was going to be so much fun.

I exited the house and he tripped, falling. The thrill of a hunt and feeding coursed through me.

He staggered to his feet, tried to run.

A long glowing whip lashed out of my hand, wrapping around his ankle. I yanked and he fell. I tugged/hauled him toward me, my wriggling fish, his 200 pound plus weight no match for my strength fueled armor.

And soon he was at my feet, my foot pressed on his throat.

“How many have you taken?”

“Twelve,” he rasped.

I made needles emerge from my feet, piercing his skin, tasting his blood. So delicious. “Where are the bodies?”

He screamed, his voice a high pitched crying whine. “In the basement.”

His blood was almost intoxicating. I felt the urge to slice him in half and fall into his chest cavity. “So original,” I said.

“Please,” he said.

I smiled, and leaned down into his stinking face. “No.”

Talons extended from my scaled fingers and I drove them into his chest, ripping out his heart.

The horror on his face as his heart beat in my hand, was one I would remember forever, as the life fled from his eyes and he was left nothing more than a hunk of meat.

Slowly, the heart dwindled as the armor drank in the blood. It wanted more, need more, so I shoved my taloned hands deep into his chest so I could satiate the monster inside me. The armor drank, sucking the body dry.

And when I finally felt full and satisfied, I stood up. For now, the ever-present hunger of the armor was quiet.

I had done it. I had killed another serial killer, and with the files I had copied tonight, I was one step closer to finding Val.

A twig cracked behind me. I spun, blades shooting from my fore arms, ready for any incoming.

“Lucas,” I said in surprise.


Lucas Randall, still in his Einstein t-shirt, watched me from behind the sights of a weapon that looked like a hyper alien evolved version of a rifle.

The weapon was pointed at me, humming in an ominous whine.


“Devourer.” Lucas’s voice was rumbling thunder. “I know what you are. And I will end you tonight.”


He fired the weapon.



Please note that this serial is now complete. The first two chapters have been left up as an excerpt, but the rest of the story has been taken down as as per Amazon publishing rules, since the final version has been published on Amazon and is now available here.



Betrothed to the Dragon – Limited Time FREE Serial – Part I

*NOTE ADDED JUNE 17, 2018* Please note that this serial is no longer available to new mailing list subscribers. BETROTHED TO THE DRAGON has been released here and according to the Terms of Service with Amazon Kindle Unlimited, I cannot make it available anywhere else. 

However, I do have some alternatives for you in appreciation for stopping by; just click on the image below:

Into the Dragonfire by Kara LockharteThe Boy Who Came Back a Wolf



Do you like free fiction?

I’ve been serializing the author’s cut of my upcoming release to my newsletter subscribers in weekly installments.  That’s right, if you’re on my newsletter, you get the

the whole story



If you’re curious, I’ve included Part I which was sent out a few weeks ago. There’s still time to sign up and you’ll get links to all the subsequent pieces of the story.

It is the COMPLETE story, however:

-It is the UNEDITED, UNPROOFED draft that I just sent to my editor. You get it as raw as I wrote it.

-To comply with laws in various countries aimed at restricting access to mature content from minors, NO sexy time scenes will be included in this newsletter serial. (you’ll have to buy the book for those).

-Since this is the UNEDITED version, obviously it will not have any additional scenes that my editor tells me that I need to include.

Again, because this is a serial, you will receive an email from me every week until it is complete. You can choose to unsubscribe afterward or remain on my 2-3x a month mailing list.

Note: Please don’t post or upload this anywhere. If you have friends who you think would like this story, just ask them to sign up for my newsletter at this special link and they can get it for free too.

Here’s PART I.

Hope you enjoy!



“What do you mean I’m betrothed in an arranged marriage?”

I glanced at my phone, and saw all the connection bars filled, indicating full service. Still I must have heard her wrong, because it was the kind of statement I would have expected from a movie about some third world country where women weren’t allowed to drive or own property. Not from my Chanel-suited, pearl-necklaced, bitcoin gambling grandmother.

“Let me call you back,” I said. I teetered on the stupid heels I had bought for today, dancing around a pile of dusty books resting on the floor, and carefully navigated around the cubicle maze. The museum, built in the early twentieth century was gorgeous in its details from the hand carved woodwork windows, Italian marble floors, but sadly, lacking in space particularly in the room where us doctoral students shared desks. Grandma was known for playing games, but still, I didn’t fancy Josh from Etruscan pottery listening in on my conversation.

I hurried out of the museum, my heels clicking on the floors, nodded to Mohammed, the guard manning the metal detector and made my way through the crowds to the stone steps in the front of the museum. I could have gone to one of the side entrances for privacy, but I had learned that sometimes, the best kept secrets were those told in crowds.

Fat gray pigeons glared at me, barely dodging my footsteps as I made my way down the great expanse of stone steps. Grandma loved playing games. Once she had played politics with the fate of empires and now she channeled that love into stocks and virtual currency. I hit redial on my phone and she picked up almost immediately. “You lost a bet right? You know, I’m pretty sure it’s not legal to put up your grand daughter’s hand in marriage as stakes.”

Next to me, Chinese tourists were having a heated discussion about the best pizza places in SoMa. Grandma exhaled. “No Sophie. I made the deal so that we would be allowed to come to this country. It was a different time.”

I had tried to assimilate and adapt to human life in America, with blue jeans, chicken nuggets and a PhD in Museum Conservation. All of it was because it was easier than remembering what I truly was: the reason why my entire family had died.

I paced back and forth trying to release the nervous energy of an all too familiar tense frustration. “I wasn’t even a year old. There’s no way that will hold up in court.”

Grandma’s voice had that particular kind of calm she always had when she was trying to explain something she knew I didn’t like, but needed me to understand, like when I was six, and released my pet parakeet to give it fresh air, and expected it to come back. “Not legal by human standards, no. But by that of our people, yes.”

As much as we pretended to be human, ultimately we were not.

Shit. My new shoes rubbed and pinched my feet. Grandma’s timing for this news was of course, impeccable. “That’s barbaric. We just elected a woman president. Six of the nine justices on the Supreme Court are women. I’m not going to agree to marry someone I don’t even know on the basis of —“

Grandma made that harrumphing barking cough she always made when she was done listening to me whine. “Sophie, I’ve tried to let you live a life of freedom and to make your own choices as much as you could. But my ability to protect you is fading. I need to know you are safe. And marriage into his family will protect you.”

Grandma didn’t say anymore. She didn’t need to. I had to be protected. I couldn’t do it myself. Unlike my grandmother, my mother and my father before me, I had no magic.

I stopped pacing, and squeezed my eyes shut.

“You are the last of our line.” Her voice hardened. “Even if your power hasn’t manifested, the potential of your blood is still there. This is the only way to keep you safe.”

I was a black belt in Krav Maga. I had had extensive firearms training from a grizzled old ex-Army Ranger sniper who said I had potential.

None of it mattered.

“Why didn’t you ever tell me this before?” I clenched the phone in my hand tighter.

“I had been hoping that some of the plans I made, the champions I sent against the monster would succeed before it would come to this.” There was a note of sadness in her voice. “But each time it fights, it learns. And every day it grows more and more powerful.”

My phone’s alarm vibrated, startling me into dropping my phone. I tried to catch it as it fell from my hand, but it was too late. When I picked it up, there was a hairline crack on the screen. Wonderful.

I picked up the phone turned on the speaker, hardened my voice. “Grandma, I have to get ready for my talk.”

“Good luck on your talk, Sophie.” She hung up, because she knew I was in no mood to say goodbye. The picture of Grandma and me appeared on my phone.

We looked so different, her and I. Grandma with her white skin, straight hair, and me with my dark skin and wavy hair. The only thing we shared was our eye-shape that humans called Asian. In school, I always I had checked off whatever box felt more convenient at the time. African, Asian, Caucasian, Hispanic, I had convincingly claimed them all. Grandma scoffed at the idea of labeling ourselves according to human ideas of ethnicity. “Our family spans the earth,” she had said. “A shen does not identify themselves by the tribal groupings of humans anymore then a lion distinguishes itself by the particulars of ant kingdoms.”

As much as I spent my life pretending I wasn’t, I was shen. We were the first intelligent life forms on this planet and connected to the deep magical nodes of the earth. Humans had many names for us: fae, yokai, rakshasas, gods, demons and monsters, but ultimately, we were shen. But years and years of intermingling with humans had dissipated most of the legendary shen magic.

And for the remaining shen with magic? None of it was enough to fight the Devourer when it entered this world, seeking new victims.

Including my parents.

They had died to save me, not knowing how they had thrown their lives away, because as a shen I was unforgivably flawed.

I had no magic.

My phone buzzed again, the alarm I had set to prepare for the one event I had been dreading and anticipating for the last six months.

My post-dissertation fellowship talk on religious motifs in East and Near Eastern art at the museum.



For some reason, giving the public lecture as required by my fellowship, put worms in my stomach so more than actually defending the actual dissertation itself in front of a panel of peers and experts. I had to simplify things, touch upon other areas that weren’t necessarily my specialty and make the topic more appealing to the general public because even I could admit that a discussion over the proper application of persimmon juice in scrollwork conservation could get pretty dry, so to speak.

I swiped at the tablet in my arm, changing the slide display. A collage of a Tlingit wooden carving of a woman with closed eyes, surrounded by mouths and dripping with blood was juxtaposed with that of a Heian Japanese scroll painting.

“And as you can see, in particular, the image of the Devourer is one that is found across several cultures from ancient Rome to Heian Japan to the totemic carvings of the Tlingit peoples of the First Nations of Canada.”

I clicked through the slides, kept moving, kept talking, even as I tried to ignore the striking gaze of the man in the back of the room. He had entered about five minutes into my talk and I couldn’t figure out why I was so aware of him.

It was foolish of me to include the Devourer. But I had felt a strange streak of defiance that Grandma had said was the lot of the young and reckless.

And yet she had, oddly enough given her blessing for me to speak of the monster.

Little fox, as difficult as things are, I want you to bloom as you can, not in fear.”.

He couldn’t be working for the Devourer could he?

Once upon a time, there was good reason for people to say that one should not call the names of gods or monsters in vain. In a sense, I was doing that here.

I walked across the stage, my heels clicking loudly across the floor.

“Of course, it is not only the only common motif across cultures. Dragons are another common motif…”

Of course, the fear all came to naught, because for all my painful anticipation and worry, it ended rather quickly. At end of the talk, I was congratulated by my future boss, the assistant curator of highly regarded Manhattan museum. She spoke at length on things I honestly should have been paying more close attention to.

But through it all, I was strikingly aware of the tall broad shouldered man in the crowd. He looked a bit out of place in his well-tailored business suit, but the open collar, loose tie spoke of a man who had decided to take a lunch break at the museum, which wasn’t all that uncommon.

When the crowd dissipated, I felt my heart speed up as he approached me.

“Hi.” My voice came out higher pitched than I intended and looked up at him. “Did you have any questions about the talk?”

He looked at me with golden light brown eyes. I had the strangest feeling that his gaze was stripping me, not just of my clothes, but to some hidden inner invisible core. My muscles felt unreasonably tense, ready to fight or flee, maybe both at the same time.

His smooth bass voice rolled across my skin like a caress. “I have many questions. But none of which I have time to ask.”

“Well, umm, there’s going to be another talk in, umm,” I glanced at her watch, even though she knew precisely when the next talk would be. “About an hour?” Dammit, why did I make that sound like a question?

The corner of those full lips quirked up into a smile. “Will you be leading it?”


“A shame.” He turned, stopped and nodded his head at me. “I enjoyed listening to you.”

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