Authors: Denise A. Agnew
Daryk World, Book One
When Magonian archaeologist Ketera Aldrancos’ father is imprisoned, she’s determined to save him. Before she can do so, her ship is wrecked. Water laps at her, a man’s strong arms surround her. His husky voice soothes her. Then she realizes she’s on a foreign beach in the arms of a dreaded Dragonian. A man who looks nothing like the men she’s known. His closeness, his touch sends waves of need through Ketera’s core and shame runs through her. After all, passions are sinful.
, a Dragonian Daryk One, cradles the woman in his arms. He aches to introduce her to the headiest lovemaking imaginable. But his eyes flame red and a growl vibrates his throat when he realizes he’ll need to protect her from marauding slave traders led by a vicious rogue—who just happens to also be his half brother.
Two people whose supercontinents are separated by ocean and two thousand years of prejudice and fear. Two people who may be the secret to saving a race from extinction.
An Ellora’s Cave Romantica Publication
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Daryk Hunter Copyright © 2010 Denise A. Agnew
Edited by Mary Moran
Cover art by Syneca
Electronic book publication July 2010
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This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the author’s imagination and used fictitiously.
Denise A. Agnew
To my husband Terry. Forever and always my number one hero. Without you, I never would have started this miraculous journey.
To Lena Robinson for your constant friendship and support. A writer couldn’t ask for a better critique buddy and friend.
To Beverly Kay for thinking all my books are awesome. You’re a most awesome friend!
Near the Protican Ocean
Her father’s execution was scheduled. Soon he would be murdered.
Ketera Aldrancos gasped as she came to full consciousness and reality returned, heartless and sharp.
Icy water lapped at her toes and her body ached with a dull throb. The rushing whisper of the ocean filled her ears and lulled her backward into the darkness as it threatened to return her to blessed oblivion. Rain delicately touched her skin and wind ruffled across her body in a gentle caress. For a moment she almost relented and opened her eyes to see why the elements coaxed her so sweetly.
But clear, relentless rage rushed in to choke her.
Everything she loved would perish if she couldn’t—
She sobbed and then heard a rustling, a deep voice. She didn’t understand the language at first—a strange, guttural spilling of vowels.
Seconds later someone dropped onto the sand near her. A deep voice rumbled, husky and soothing. “Who are you, sprite?”
Ah, the language was clearer now. Odd. The pronunciation different, the accent peculiar, but still her language.
A Dragonian. The enemy.
A warm touch glided over the pulse at her neck. She wanted to move, to fight, but her entire body throbbed. She couldn’t move.
The man grunted. Then with strong but gentle hands hauled her upward into his arms. His thighs beneath her buttocks felt rock-hard, his arms powerful enough to shelter her from the ocean and weather.
“Wake,” the man said, his voice rough with command. “You breathe, therefore you live. Come on now, that’s it. Another deep breath. Don’t fade on me.”
She obeyed, hearing the relentless, almost angry demand in his tone. “Where—?” she rasped the word, her throat sore, her voice raw. She coughed and choked.
“Easy. You’re safe. Here. Drink.”
A container with cool liquid touched her lips and she drank with greed, her thirst tremendous and her throat aching for relief. Water, all around her rushing. She remembered the terrible tempest that had swallowed her ship.
“Slowly.” His tone was harsh. “You’ll take ill.”
She sipped until he drew back the container. “More.”
“No. Open your eyes.”
She sighed, the sound resentful to her own ears. “No. I…”
By the god, she ached to the bone with fatigue. The gruff man caressed her hair. His big hand wandered down over her upper arm then skimmed her legs with impersonal attention. With a hot jolt, one piercing thought came back to her.
Father. I must save him.
It took three tries, but her eyelids peeled open.
Her gaze landed on the man holding her. And her breath stopped. He watched her with a strange feral intent. A thick tousle of dark auburn hair cascaded around his broad shoulders. Thick, dark lashes framed eyes as green as a tyrant stone from a mine in Opali. A few days’ growth of red and gold stubble darkened his handsome jawline. His nose was bold, but not obnoxiously so, and his mouth hardened in heavy concern. His long, impressively carved arms were bare, but he wore a strange, hard metal chest plate over his torso. She couldn’t see his legs.
“There,” he said. “What is your name?”
She glanced past his shoulder and saw the ship mast towering upward not far in the distance. Its torn sails flapped in a persistent wind.
She blinked as her vision fogged. She reached up to rub her eyes. “My name?”
His arms tightened. “What are you called?”
Her head throbbed if she thought too hard. “Ketera Aldrancos.”
She sucked in a pained breath. Her ribs ached.
“Easy. You’re ill and hurt. I’ll take you back to the castle.”
A word launched through his lips she’d never heard before, but it sounded like a curse. He eased her onto her back. He stood and withdrew a huge knife from its sheath.
Terror gripped her heart with a sharp talon. He meant to kill her.
Oh god Magon.
She closed her eyes as weakness eased like liquid into her limbs. She felt almost as if she sank into the sand, her body heavy. Heavier. She opened her eyes, desperate to meet her enemy head-on and show him she wasn’t afraid. If she would die, then she’d face her executioner by looking him in the eye. He turned away from her.
She made an effort to move and found her protesting muscles cooperated. She stifled a deep groan of pain as she struggled to sit up and succeeded. Determination pushed her to rally. She wouldn’t die when her father needed her.
From the back her rescuer stood tall and broad-shouldered. His arms coiled with muscle, a long knife gripped tight in his right hand.
Across from him an equally tall, powerfully built man with spiky, short blond hair stood at the ready, an animal spring-loaded and eager to pounce. His ugly face was distinguished by a lightning bolt blue tattoo zigzagging across his right cheek.
“The spoils can be shared by all.” The lightning-bolt man sneered. “By Draconus there are plenty of riches to go around, including the woman.”
“You’re right.” The man who stood near her shifted on his feet. “It’s a shipwreck, but the spoils go to no one. Especially not this woman.”
“Are you saying you’re claimin’ her as your own?” Lightning Bolt asked.
“I’m claiming her.” The man who’d stood over her walked away toward the other man.
Where was her knife? She looked around for her shoulder pack but didn’t see it anywhere. More than anger stirred inside her. Panic rose up to choke her. She couldn’t lose the pack. Her father’s life depended on her keeping the documents within safe.
“What if I say I’ll take her from you?” the other man asked.
“I’m a Daryk One. If you think you can take anything from me, you are mistaken.”
The other man paused before saying, “Beggin’ your leave, Daryk One. Are you in league with Drakus?”
“Never. This woman will not be his slave.”
The blond man chuckled. “But she’ll be yours to breed with?”
Her body tensed. Breeding? No. She couldn’t help her father if she was enslaved.
She reached for a jagged piece of wood lying on the ground. Nobody would be taking her anywhere without a fight.
Lightning Bolt roared, charging her rescuer, his sword held aloft to strike. Her protector echoed a similar growl, this one filled with heat and death of battle as he rushed forward. Her body tensed, uncertain what would happen. Her rescuer only had a short knife. She surged to her feet and pain spiked through her ribs. Dizziness swamped her and she fell to her side, eyes closed as the world undulated and the ground seemed to heave.
Metal clashed then she heard a strange gurgling, gasping. A body fell.
She struggled to open her eyes, and with supreme effort shoved herself into a sitting position. The Daryk One walked toward her across the sand. Behind him lay the other man, sand beneath him turning red. Crimson droplets fell from the Daryk One’s blade. Horror strangled her breath. She’d never seen killing like this before and it chilled her straight to the marrow.
He sheathed his deadly knife into a scabbard at his waist. “You are safe now.”
How could she be? He’d killed the other man. She struggled to rise to her feet. She wanted to run, to escape now that the god had chosen that she live. Weakness ebbed the will from her limbs and she fell to her knees onto the sand.
Before she could protest, he knelt beside her and cradled her in his arms once more. He rose to his feet and carried her. She could wrench from his arms and escape, but to what and where? She parted her lips to speak, but nothing came out. Weariness swamped her senses and, to her anguish, the darkness she fought against swallowed her whole.
* * * * *
Darkness lifted slowly, bringing Ketera to consciousness when she took the next breath.
She heard the gentle rumble of a man’s moan. Irresistible scents of pleasant flowers teased and tickled. Needs bombarded her, washing like a warm, intoxicating drink into her system. She realized a blanket was drawn up over her body. A broad chest pressed against her back, a hard, powerful arm draped over her waist, hips tight against hers. She shook with a needful sensation she’d tried many times to suppress over the years and failed. Maybe she was dreaming. She was back home in the safety of her bed, cocooned in softness.
She tried to regain mastery over confusion. Seconds passed, perhaps a few minutes when panic edged around the fuzzy feeling in her head.
Where was she, and who dared touch her in an intimate fashion? Memory surfaced.
The Daryk One.
As confusion slid closer toward fear, she felt something hard press against the crease of her buttocks. She understood the long, thick hardness so intimately snuggled where it shouldn’t be.
Though she had never felt an erection pressed against her, she had heard about the mating act and had spent a good deal of time wondering about it. Hovering in the moment, she allowed feelings to rush through her like a river, her defenses wavering precariously.
Hot, shivery pleasure trickled into her lower stomach as his warm breath wafted over her left ear.
No. I should not feel this way with this brute of a man.
The quickening in her loins must not be acted upon.
A woman’s desires displease the god Magon. Women’s pleasure was sin.
She did not believe a moment of such admonitions, but her culture demanded unwavering compliance with chastity among unmarried women.
Defiance of such a rule meant punishment would be swift and painful.
“Awake are you? Stop squirming, sprite. Do not tempt a Daryk One or pay the consequences.” Again his breath touched her ear. “Make no mistake. I could seduce you in a heartbeat.”
Indignation roared inside her. She’d never been helpless, from the time her father first taught her to read. Seduce her? This hard, ruthless son of a wastrel? Not likely.
The masculine voice was familiar from earlier, though she couldn’t say how much earlier. Silky and persuasive, his voice gave her all she needed to know. His hand, big and strong, slid over her belly.
Her intelligence cried out for her to move away, to fear a man she didn’t know and couldn’t see in the dim light. Her body betrayed her. Again that sweet, swirling sensation circled inside her lower belly then moved between her legs to tingle. She quivered, amazed by the quickening of her breath, the yearning that grew. Her lips parted on a sigh. Could such wonderful feelings truly be a sin?
His hand slid upward, smoothing over her skin with a demanding touch. His palm circled in light exploration. The man wanted her, no doubt about it. He had rescued her and he must feel sex was his reward. A man as big, as potent, as dangerous as this would always take what he wanted. No woman would resist him. Males in her land took what they wanted with ruthless plunder. Why would this Daryk One be any different? Then another thought intruded that wore away at her heightened arousal.
Murderer. The man had taken another life and she lay with him like this? That was where the sin lay. Dalliance with a murderer.
She should have cringed, but the man rotated his hand in warm circles over her belly and her hips, and the soothing, welcoming massage kept her pinned to the spot and wanting more. Comfort and a languorous pleasure spread throughout her limbs. She could feel and hear everything with pin-drop precision. She expected fear to explode, to give her the strength to spring from the bed with a demand that he keep his hands off her.
That didn’t happen.
His touch drifted even lower, to the top of her pants. She sucked in a breath, her body shaking from within. She waited to see what he’d do next. His hand stopped just above the hair over her mons. He drew her closer against him, one arm moving beneath her, his fingers enclosing her breast with gentle insistence. Before she could speak, he clasped her nipple between finger and thumb and twisted lightly. Pleasure sideswiped her as her nipple tingled under each quick, gentle tug. A gasp exploded from her. She wriggled, the shocking intimacy thrilling beyond any imaginings she had fantasized over the years.
“Open your legs,” he whispered, his voice filled with husky demand.
She lay perfectly still, unwilling to move and too weak to protest.
Ketera squirmed, and the Daryk One threaded his fingers into the hair over her mons, slipped his fingers down, down until he found the silky wetness between her legs. She gasped again, startled as his touch smoothed over the moisture, then slipped within her channel. He didn’t reach far inside her but teased with two fingers. Shocked, she waited as his touch caressed and new and amazing sensations swirled within her center.
He groaned. “Oh, by the god you are untouched. Soft. Wet.” He licked her ear, whispering hotly, “Open for me. Open.”
He pushed deep, she felt something give way and realized that slight sting meant only one thing.
He’d taken her maidenhead with his fingers.
Her heartbeat banged in her chest at the implication. No. No.
If anyone on Magonia found out she’d released her virginity to this man there would be consequences to pay.
He pushed his fingers deeper and the pleasure of being filled drew a soft gasp from her. Oh god Magon. She’d expected this to hurt, and the minor discomfort had already disappeared. Excitement spilled into tiny gasps for breath as she whimpered at the astonishing pleasure. He found a spot deep inside her and concentrated his caresses in one stroke and then another. One soft pull at her nipple made her hips writhe back against his hardness. She pushed into his palm, aching for a completion, a release from the teasing, fiery feelings. Again and again he tugged on her nipple and his touch between her legs worked her relentlessly.
“Please.” Her gasp could have been a shaky request to stop or a plea for more.
Her hand slapped over his, but he didn’t halt the seduction. Again and again his fingers caressed between her legs, each stroke more shattering than the last. She gasped for breath, hovering on the edge of indescribable discovery. She could not believe how quickly he’d taken her to this incredible plateau. Pleasure sang, called to her until she shook. His fingers eased from her sensitive inner tissues and brushed upward. Sharp sensation pulled a moan from her lips as he stroked the bud at the top of her slit.