Authors: Donna Grant
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To Lara Adrian â
Extraordinary writer, special person,
and treasured friend!
A special shout-out to everyone at SMP for getting this book ready, including the amazing art department for such a gorgeous cover. Much thanks and admiration goes to my fabulous editor, Monique Patterson, who I can't ever praise highly enough.
To my incredible agent, Natanya Wheelerâhere's to dragons!
Hats off to Leah Suttle for all the design work she's done for me, and to my wonderful Dolls. Words can't say how much I adore y'all.
A special thanks to my family for the never-ending support.
And to my husband, Steve. ForÂ â¦ well, everything! I love you, Sexy!
Laith leaned back in the chair with his hands behind his head as he looked around Constantine's office. There were only a handful of Dragon Kings in the large room. Some were on various missions regarding the Dark Fae, Ulrik, and others that only Con knew about.
Still other Kings were on the sixty thousand acres of Dreagan property tending to livestock, overseeing their famous Dreagan whisky, and patrolling their borders. Because even though their dragon magic kept most humans and other beings out, some still tried to gain entrance.
As a race of shape-shifting immortals who had been around since the dawn of time, the Dragon Kings weren't without their share of enemies. And the list kept growing as the months went by.
Each King was powerful in his own right or he would never have been chosen to rule his dragons, but there was one who was King of KingsâConstantine.
Con with his surfer boy golden blond hair and soulless black eyes could be a cold son of a bitch. He did what was necessary, regardless of who was hurt, in order to keep the secret of Dreagan from leaking to the humans.
While turning the gold dragonhead cuff links at his wrist, Con sat patiently behind his desk staring at a file folder while everyone took their seats.
“What's up?” Ryder leaned over to whisper before promptly taking a bite of a jelly-filled donut.
Laith shrugged. It could be anything, and he learned long ago not to try and guess what was going on in Con's head or try to figure out Con's thinking when he did something. The fact that Con wouldn't look up from the folder meant that whatever was inside was troubling indeed.
Kellan was the last to enter Con's office. After a quick look around, Kellan closed the door behind him. The Keeper of the History remained as he was, leaning against the door instead of taking a chair.
Another sign that something bad had happened. Laith took a deep breath and slowly let it out. Besides Ryder, Con, and Kellan there were Rhys, Warrick, Hal, and Tristan. Everyone looked at ease. Except for Rhys.
There was something going on with his friend, but so far Rhys hadn't shared it with anyone. The lines of strain around Rhys's mouth said that whatever bothered him was taking a hard toll.
Rhys ran a hand through his long dark hair, his gaze meeting Laith's. A heartbeat later, Rhys's gaze skated away. Laith scratched his chin, the two-day's growth of beard itching, as he considered how hard to push to get Rhys to tell himâor someoneâwhat was wrong.
“Come on, Con,” Tristan said as he bent a leg to set his ankle atop his knee. “Stop stalling. Why did you call us in here?”
Con's black eyes slowly lifted to meet Tristan's. He let the silence lengthen before Con leaned forward and stabbed a finger on the file folder. “This.”
“And what is that?” Hal's voice was calm, but as one of six Kings who had taken mates, he was anything but. His gaze was riveted on Con, his bearing anxious and worried.
Con sighed and got to his feet. He shoved his hands in the pockets of his navy slacks. “I'd hoped we would have a reprieve. I'd hoped that Kiril and Shara would have more time to themselves being newly mated.”
“For the love of all that's holy, spit it out,” Ryder stated, unable to wait any longer.
A muscle in Con's jaw jumped. “John Campbell was found dead this morning.”
Everyone stilled, their faces expressing shock, surprise, and disbelief as Con's words penetrated. No one said a word as they comprehended what John's death meant to Dreagan.
Laith closed his eyes, feeling remorse for John's death. The Campbells had owned the fifty acres bordering Dreagan for countless generations. It began shortly after the war with the humans, once the Kings sent the dragons to another realm. There was a doorway onto Dreagan, it was hidden, but could be used by their enemies. Since no Dragon King's magic could touch the area around the doorway, it became apparent that they would have to trust a human to do it for them.
The Campbells, one of the few groups of humans who didn't wage war on Dreagan, stepped forward. And so the watch of the Campbells had begun.
Only the head of the family, the one responsible for ensuring that no one accidentally stumbled upon the doorway, knew the secret of Dreagan and what was being guarded. It continued in that vein for thousands of years through wars and invasions. The Campbells kept the Dragon Kings' secret, and the Kings, in turn, protected them.
How Laith was going to miss John's laughter and his jokes. John hadn't just protected Dreagan, he'd become a friend.
“Who's going to guard the land?” Laith asked.
Kellan glanced at Con. “John has a daughter, Iona.”
“That's right. I forgot about her,” Rhys said.
Hal frowned as he sat forward and rested his arms on his legs. “She's been gone for a while, aye?”
“A verra long while,” Con said. “Twenty years in fact.”
Laith shifted to get comfortable in the chair. “John often talked of Iona. He showed me her photographs when he'd come into the pub. For as long as I knew him, and as often as we chatted, he never told me what happened with his wife.”
Con stood and walked behind his tall chair, leaning his arms upon the back. “One of John's responsibilities was to remain on the land.”
“He remained when his wife left and took Iona,” Hal said softly.
Laith shifted his gaze back to Con. “He could've left for that.”
“He took his oath to us seriously,” Kellan explained. “To help with the pain of his loss, he buried himself in his writing after that.”
Warrick nodded slowly. “He was an excellent writer.”
“That he was.” Con looked at the file folder again.
Laith dropped his arms to his lap. “What's in the file, Con? If it was only a matter of ensuring his daughter take up her father's duties, we wouldna been called here.”
“Iona stepping into her duties is another matter entirely. I'll get to that in a moment. What's in the folder is a report. John didna die by natural causes,” Con said as he locked his gaze on Laith's. “He was murdered.”
Tristan mumbled a string of curses beneath his breath and sat forward. Ryder remained as he was, his body going taut. Rhys kept his eyes on the floor, a hand clenched at his side.
Kellan pushed away from the door and walked to stand beside Con. “John's old Range Rover was found on its side coming down the mountain from his house. The SUV's fall killed him instantly.”
“How do we know it's murder?” Ryder asked.
Con said, “The police inspector knew John and I were acquaintances and since Dreagan is such a large holding in the area, he came to me with the findings. John's death was first classified as an accident, but upon inspection of the vehicle they realized it was murder. The brake line had a near-invisible puncture in it enough to drain the brake fluid and cause the brakes to go out.”
“That could happen to any vehicle,” Warrick said. “Old vehicles like that need repairs. Perhaps he didna tend to the Rover.”
“The hole in the line was a perfect circle. It wasn't frayed as it would be if the line was worn.” Con straightened. “I've asked the inspector to keep things quiet. He was happy to oblige since he doesn't want word leaking just yet.”
Laith inhaled deeply and slowly released it. “What do you want us to do?”
“Keep an eye out for anything,” Kellan said.
Con nodded to Laith. “Especially at the pub. People will talk. I want to know who did this to John. He was well liked and didna have any enemies.”
“Which means they're our enemies,” Ryder said.
Rhys lifted his eyes to pin Con with a look. “You think it's Ulrik.”
Con lifted a shoulder in a shrug. “It could be Ulrik, or it could be the Dark Fae. There's no doubt the Dark will be wanting payback for what Kiril did.”
“And Rhi,” Rhys added.
The silence that followed after he said Rhi's name was filled with friction. Rhi, a Light Fae, who had been a lover to a Dragon King was a constant source of irritation to Con. Recently she had been kidnapped by a Dark named Balladyn, who happened to have been a close friend of hers before he turned evil. Rhi managed to get free, but no one knew where she was.
Since Rhi had risked her life against the Dark for Kellan and Denae as well as Tristan and Sammi, every King owed Rhi a huge debtâincluding Con.
“And Rhi,” Con added tightly.
The hatred between Con and Rhi multiplied through the centuries instead of easing. It was to the point before the kidnapping that Rhi made it her mission to annoy Con at every turn. And she was very good at it.
“There's been no sign of the Dark,” Tristan said. “Even Henry's tracking of them with his resources at MI5 have dwindled all of a sudden.”
Hal twisted his lips. “We've tripled our watch at all times, and no one has even heard a whisper about the Dark. Something is up.”
“And Ulrik hasn't left Perth,” Ryder said.
Con let his gaze rest on each of them in turn before he said, “The authorities are going to want a culprit for John's death. We can no' hand them a Dark Fae, but I doona think it was a Dark. Their methods are moreÂ â¦ heinous. This was the work of humans.”
“If it's Ulrik, he's commanding it all from The Silver Dragon,” Ryder stated.
Everyone knew Ulrik found a way in and out of his antiques shop undetected despite the array of cameras Con had surrounding the building.