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Authors: Kristin Miller

Demand of the Dragon

BOOK: Demand of the Dragon
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Despite their attraction, dragon shifter Caleb Rycroft always
saw Lucy Sheffield as off-limits. Now, three years after mysteriously
disappearing, Caleb has returned and wants nothing more than to show Lucy the
ecstasy that can be shared between dragon and rider. But Lucy is set to claim
another dragon at her brother’s demand... In order to stop the arranged
claiming, he and Lucy must embark on a frantic mission to find her brother and
extinguish a growing threat to their entire isle. If they fail, the island of
Feralon will perish...along with any hopes Caleb had to explore his forbidden
desire for Lucy...

Demand of the Dragon

Kristin Miller

Chapter One

This was it. The moment Lucy Sheffield had dreamed of.
The moment she’d been bred for.

In a few toe-tingling minutes she’d walk down the cold, stony
isle inside Draco Cavern and be claimed by a dragon. It should’ve been the
happiest moment of her life, waiting with a pounding heart to step through the
velour curtain, stand before her Draco community and set her sapphire eyes upon
her lifemate.

If only she knew which Draco her brother had chosen for
her.

“It’ll be all right,” Mia said, brushing her hands over Lucy’s
shoulders in a soothing caress. “Your brother knew what was best for you.”

“Did he?” Lucy’s voice cracked. She wasn’t so sure. Arranging
for her to be married to a Draco she’d never met didn’t exactly scream brotherly
affection. “Even in death he has to control every aspect of my life.”

Mia clutched Lucy’s shoulders in a steely grip. “Tristan was
trying to protect you. He wanted to make sure you’d be mated to someone who
could give you the future he wouldn’t be able to secure himself.”

“He knew I didn’t want to be claimed like this, he had to
know.” Lucy’s heart hammered in her chest. “I want to choose the dragon I’ll
ride the rest of my days. He had no right to arrange this, no right.”

A trickle of sweat rolled down Lucy’s temple as a bell chimed
beyond the curtain that separated the dressing chamber from the great hall. She
wiped the bead away with the lace hanging from her wrist, let her arm fall to
her side, and sighed.

Everything was perfect. Her dress was the one she’d dreamed of
as a child—dainty lace collar with a plunging neckline, a tight-fitted bottom
that hugged her hips, and sleeves that ballooned at the wrist. Baby’s breath was
tucked behind her ear. Every Sindraco she respected was waiting for her to
appear so they could
ooh
and
aah
at the sight of her. It was all in place. Exactly how it
should’ve been. Except for Lucy’s breath, which seemed to have escaped her
lungs.

Maybe she didn’t have to do this. Maybe she could―

No
, she couldn’t fight her fate.
Couldn’t back out of the claiming ceremony and disgrace her brother’s last
wishes.

“Tristan had every right to arrange your mating,” Mia said,
boring her tender, honey-brown eyes into Lucy’s. “He was the only family you had
left in Feralon. It wasn’t only his wish to ensure your future here, but his
duty. It wasn’t like you had a boyfriend when he wrote his last will.”

Little did Mia know, Lucy had her sights on claiming the only
dragon she’d ever loved. The dragon who’d captured her heart when they were
adolescents, when they explored the isle with eager, adventurous eyes. No matter
how much Lucy wanted to tell him the desire burning in her heart, she’d never
revealed her feelings. They’d been friends, all three of them. The three amigos:
Tristan, Lucy and...

Caleb
Rycroft
.

Only Caleb, and Lucy’s
only
chance
at happiness, was long gone now. She hadn’t seen Caleb in three torturous years.
He’d disappeared the same day as her brother, cementing that night as the worst
of her life.

Losing one man Lucy loved would’ve been bad enough, but losing
two? It was overwhelming, sucking her into a pit of depression she’d barely
escaped from. The cold sting of regret rooted in Lucy’s bones, even now,
chilling the blood in her veins. She should’ve told Caleb how she felt about
him.

If she had one more chance...she’d do so many things
differently.

The bell in the great hall chimed once more.

“You’re on,” Mia said, releasing Lucy’s shoulders to smooth the
sleeves of her lace gown. “And you’ll be fine. Just keep your eyes focused on
the front.”

Lucy’s pulse spiked as shivers blanketed her arms and legs. As
a Sindraco—a woman born of Draco blood without the ability to shift into a
dragon—she was bred to be a dragon’s rider, to be mated for the rest of her
days. Like Mia, Lucy’s head had been filled with unwavering ideals of honor and
clan pride since their childhood teachings. Dragons needed riders to survive.
Sindracos were beyond honored to ride the skies on their backs, making them
faster and stronger than ever before.

After the grief of losing her first love had lessened, Lucy had
planned on making the most of her time in Feralon. Although she’d loved Caleb
wholeheartedly, there was bound to be another Draco who could make her feel the
way he had. She would’ve found another Draco to love. Eventually. She would’ve
been proud to claim a dragon that she respected.

But being mated to a dragon she’d never met? The thought made
the collar of Lucy’s dress cinch like a noose and the silky lace material
scratch like a burlap sack.

Arranged claiming ceremonies happened all the time to “more
mature” Sindracos with zero prospects. But Lucy was only twenty-three and far
from the desperation that an arranged marriage insinuated. The whole situation
was humiliating.

The curtain pulled back, tearing the air from Lucy’s lungs
along with it.

The great hall was packed. Draco Cavern had been carved out of
the inside of a mountain, with rounded stone-slab ceilings and arching hallways
that branched off the main room to Draco quarters, though it was not as though
she could see any of it. Sindraco women stood on either side of a rose
petal—littered aisle with brilliant white smiles that beamed with expectation.
Shirtless Draco men formed a barricade around the outside of the room. As if
their enormous size and muscular stature could convince her to stay should she
try to escape.

Mia gently nudged Lucy from behind, prompting her first
step.

By the time Lucy was halfway down the aisle, a hush came over
the cavern, settling heavily on Lucy’s skin like evening fog.

There he was—her future mate. Well, there was his back,
anyway.

How
could
Tristan
do
this
? How could he demand she be mated to a
stranger?

Her future mate couldn’t have been taller than
five-feet-six—one of the shortest Draco males she’d ever seen—with a flop of
messy blond hair on an abnormally square head, and droopy shoulders that led to
a thin waist.

Great
, Lucy scoffed.
Just
perfect
. Tristan had chosen the weakest Draco on the
enchanted Isle of Feralon to be her mate.

As Lucy pulled back her shoulders and faced the whispering
crowd, she shook her head. Her brother truly didn’t know what she wanted at
all.

Caleb was nothing like the Draco waiting for her at the altar.
He’d been tall and strong, with warrior shoulders and a dark, stubbly head of
hair. More than his brute strength, Caleb had been tough because of his
unwavering loyalty. He’d been resilient, able to withstand the greatest heat of
battle if it meant standing up for a principle he believed in.

Caleb’s
gone
.

The words echoed in Lucy’s head and settled on her tongue,
bitter and stale. And when they escaped past her lips, Lucy gasped, pressing her
tongue against her teeth to stop them from passing again.

She closed the distance to the altar. Another step. Yet
another.

Lucy had always dreamed of heroes who were tall, dark and
handsome. The Draco waiting with his back to Lucy was nothing like what she’d
dreamed. He was anxious, shifting his weight from one leg to the other. He was
no more certain of Lucy than she was of him.

Wonderful
.

She’d been certain once in her life. Three years ago. When she
believed Caleb was her mate, the one she’d spend the rest of her days
with...until he went missing and was pronounced dead months later.

Don’t
think
about
him
. Lucy bit her lip.

Another few heart-pounding steps and Lucy stood at her future
mate’s back. He was breathing hard, his bare torso glistening with sweat, his
shoulders rising and falling in trembling heaves.

As Lucy stopped short of the stone altar, her gaze lingered on
the Draco’s backside. White linen pants slung low on his hips exposed how slim
his waist really was. His back was golden, twitching with slender flanks of
muscle, making his ribs protrude with each heavy intake of breath.

How would she ride him when he shifted into a dragon? It wasn’t
like her size 10 frame was gigantic, but she was larger than her mate by at
least twenty pounds. She’d squash him! Squeeze her thighs around his middle and
cut off his circulation!

What
a
disaster
.

This Draco was not who she wanted to be standing beside. Not in
the slightest. Her name didn’t belong carved into his chest with the sacred
Draco Spear.

How would her name have looked on Caleb’s chest? Lucy wondered.
His powerfully-carved pectoral muscles rivaled those she’d seen on Greek
statues. Streaks of pride soared through her, clamping down as swallowed tears
burned in her throat.

Lucy’s gaze shifted right, then left. More smiling faces. Heaps
of expectation driven by deep-rooted family values. She couldn’t do this, but
God, she had to, didn’t she? It was too late to turn back now. Too late to mend
a tattered past.

“Wait!” A booming voice filled the cavern, reverberating
through the air like thunder.

Lucy spun around, along with every other Draco in the room.

Was that...
Caleb
?

He strode through the entryway behind them, his broad shoulders
pulled back, his hands clenched into fists at his side. His onyx-black hair
shone with subtle flecks of autumn, and his eyes were far richer than she
remembered.

“I said wait.” He marched down the aisle, a menacing figure
donned in black warrior attire. “This isn’t happening today.”

“Oh, God.” Lucy’s vision blurred. Was the altar swaying?
“Caleb? What...are you...”

Lucy let the rest of the words fall. It was all she could
muster. Pressure filled her ears and her knees weakened to jelly. She had to
calm down and force air into her lungs. She took a jagged breath, but not a
single stream of relief filled her.

Caleb reached the altar and the stabbing pain in Lucy’s temples
increased when his spicy, masculine scent hit her senses.

“Who the hell do you think you are?” Lucy’s future mate asked,
thrusting his hands on his hips in an aggressive gesture that didn’t suit
him.

As Caleb stepped to Lucy’s side, her future mate turned,
allowing Lucy to finally see his face. His green eyes were slightly cross, his
nose flat, his mouth forming a grim line that pulled down at the corners. Looks
weren’t the only thing that mattered, but there had to be
some
hint of attraction between two people for a relationship to
work, didn’t there?

“I’m the guy who’s been looking for Lucy’s brother the last
three years.” Caleb held up a piece of paper that was crumbled in his fist. “And
I have orders from Queen Elixa to postpone the ceremony.”

It was all too much. She couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t think.
Couldn’t...move.

Shaking her head, Lucy tried to step back, away from this
dreamy version of Caleb and the mate she didn’t want. And stumbled on the train
of her dress.

A pair of strong hands snaked around her waist and clasped her
tightly. With a hitched breath, Lucy looked up. The hands clutching her
waist—rough, yet oddly tender—were attached to a set of bulging arms, leading to
a shadowed, square jaw and Caleb’s hypnotizing eyes. He was touching her. Really
touching her. Maybe she wasn’t dreaming after all...

“Lucy?” Caleb’s voice drifted over her like smoke, lingering in
her ears. The Draco specks arching over his cheeks shimmered like flakes of gold
dust. “Are you all right? Someone bring her a chair!”

Disorientation swirled around her in a head-pounding mixture of
Sindraco laughter and heart-stopping disbelief.

“Caleb... I thought you were...you were dead.” She’d lost her
mind.

Was she still in his arms? God, she didn’t know. She was warm,
tingly all over. Heat flooded her cheeks as she wobbled to her own feet. The man
before her was a stranger—a Draco hardened by time and trouble—but those melting
onyx eyes bore into Lucy’s soul the way they had a thousand times before.

“No, Lucy, I’m not dead. I’m right here.” Caleb’s voice was
almost a purr—a voice that Lucy’s heart remembered all too well. “But I see
you’re just as graceful as when I left you.”

Lucy’s heart rate doubled as she eased out of his arms. “You
came back,” she said, covering her mouth with her hand. “But how—why now? I
mean...what are you doing here?”

With
an
order
to
stop
the
ceremony
, she meant to say. Did this mean he loved
her? That he wanted to be with her?

“We need to talk.” He thrust his hands into his pockets. “And
I’m not here to take Geezer’s place under the ceremonial guillotine, if that’s
what you had in mind.”

Lucy’s vision snuffed out and she hit the floor.

BOOK: Demand of the Dragon
6.05Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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