Authors: Tianna Xander
Tags: #Paranormal, #Erotic Romance, #Dragon, #Shapeshifter
What’s an older woman do when a handsome dragon decides she’s his? She goes with it.
Emily is seventy-six years old. It’s a good thing she looks and feels as though she’s only sixty. Otherwise, she might have had a stroke when she visits the site of her love’s resting place. She thinks he’s dead. She definitely doesn’t expect him to rise from the ground in dragon form and carry her off as though she’s some sacrificial virgin.
Whatever she imagined she would find in Scotland, it certainly wasn’t a
n adventure with a handsome dragon who had chosen to age with her, a well-kept secret revealed, and a new life as an ancient dragon’s most treasured possession.
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The Red Dragon
Copyright © 2015 Tianna Xander
Cover art by Martine Jardin
All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, is forbidden without the written permission of the publisher.
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Devine Destinies, an imprint of eXtasy Books Inc
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The Red Dragon
Dragon Bound Book 8
To Joan G
Emily slid from the back of the limousine and stretched. Her old bones didn’t take long trips well anymore. This trip was the longest she’d been on in years. Her doctor would probably have a cow if he found out she went to Europe. At least she wasn’t alone. Her friend, Summer, and her significant other accompanied her, along with two of Summer’s sisters and their husbands.
She stared up at the large castle that loomed before them. Thick ropes of ivy grew over the stone walls, moss grew along the northern side, and it looked as though it had seen better days.
Was this Declan’s house? She didn’t expect him to have neglected his home so thoroughly. Had he really come here when she rejected him? If he had, did he come here to die, or to hole up in the lair she knew all dragon males possessed? Whatever the case, she had to find him. She had to tell him she was sorry she had wasted their lives, their chance at happiness. Her eyes filled with tears when she thought of the loneliness he must have felt all the long centuries he’d lived.
Closing her eyes, she hummed the song he’d taught her. She always felt closer to him with the melody in her mind. He had told her the song was one his mother sang to him when he was young.
After a moment, a strange feeling pulled her, tugged her to her left. Ignoring her companions, Emily opened her eyes and began to walk.
She was about halfway between the neglected castle and a steep cliff when she stopped and looked down. At her feet was a large round stone, shaped like a giant seal with odd-looking letters carved into its surface.
Lowering herself to her aching knees, she reached out, slowly removing the weeds and thick heather that had tried to hide it.
“I wish I knew what it says.” She glanced up at her entourage. Tears filled her eyes and slid down her cheeks. Something told her this was where Declan had gone all those years ago, after she rejected him. She stared down at the stone that must have been his grave marker and willed herself not to cry for her lost love. “He’s in there, isn’t he?”
She didn’t want anyone to tell her that he was gone, that she was too late to tell him she was sorry. Still, she needed an answer. She needed closure.
Adrian, Summer’s dragon mate, bent down and rested his hands on his knees. He frowned at the beautiful script before reading it aloud. “Here lies the Red Dragon, red for the rubies he guards and for the passion he holds for his one true mate.”
Emily grasped the center of her chest. The pain would have brought her to her knees if she hadn’t already knelt down upon them. She bent over, sobbing onto the stone that covered the body of the only man she had ever loved.
Her sobs only grew worse when he continued. “Open only if you wish to experience the wrath of Declan Brus. Here he shall remain, resting forever.”
“Okay. I could be wrong, but doesn’t that sound like he’s still alive in there?” Summer’s sister, May moved around the outside of the stone, her mate, Damek, always hovering close.
They didn’t know. They couldn’t feel the deep, heart-wrenching loss she felt at Declan’s absence. Emily had stopped feeling their connection long ago. Then, she had been certain he had found another. Nothing had prepared her to find out that he had willed himself to die. Alone. Like all dragons without a mate, he was
“It sounds that way to me,” Summer said as she made a circuit around the large, beautifully carved stone. “So, how do we open it?”
What would be the point? Emily wanted to scream at them all. Why bother? They were too late.
was too late. He was dead, which was the only explanation she could think of for why he was buried beneath the earth and his once beautiful castle falling to pieces.
“I don’t know. It is likely that there is something in the castle, but until we can legally get inside, we won’t know anything.” Adrian straightened and stared at the stone structure, standing so forlorn and forgotten. “Do you think there is a caretaker here?” He frowned toward the castle. “If there is, he hasn’t been doing his job keeping the structure in good repair.
“If there isn’t, someone has to be paying the rates and taxes. Otherwise, the government would have seized and sold it by now. I would hypothesize that Declan has someone watching over his home while he’s in mourning.” Damek turned to look at her. “Though you are still with us, he mourns your loss.”
He mourned the loss of his mate and willed himself to die. He was buried here, deep in the ground, and she was too late to tell him she was sorry. Emily buried her head in her hands and sobbed again. Why had she turned him down all those years ago? Why hadn’t she trusted him to love her the way he claimed he did?
The others spoke around her. She was certain that something important was going on around her, but she didn’t care. How could she care when her mate had given up on living because she had rejected him so many years before?
Her heart broke all over again as she knelt atop his grave and cried for all the things that could have been, if only she had been brave enough to love a dragon.
Declan woke to the sound of voices. He scowled toward the surface. Who dared step upon his property and wake him from the slumber designed to help him forget?
Slowly, he stretched. His bones ached from being in one position for such a long time. How many years had he been asleep?
He felt the familiar ache of his mate’s rejection and knew it had not been long enough. Perhaps he would never forget his Emily’s beautiful blue eyes and her golden blonde hair.
Growling low in his throat, he stretched again. Those who had awakened him would feel his wrath. He had placed the enchanted cover stone over his lair to keep the noises from the world from waking him. Someone had circumvented the spell. For that, they would pay dearly.
The sound of low sobbing reached his ears. It was a female. Her heart was broken, that much he could tell. Declan scowled up at the surface, his heart hardening. Perhaps she would also have broken bones by the time he burst from his lair and laid waste to the woman’s male companions.
Never would he deliberately harm a female in the past, but his heart had hardened during his sleep and he found that he didn’t much care what happened to anyone. He wasn’t happy. Without his mate, he never would be happy. Why should anyone else have the honor?
The woman’s sobs pulled at him, making his heart ache. Declan growled. He didn’t like it. He didn’t want his heart involved in anything again. Falling in love with his mate had been the single most painful experience of his life, and he wanted nothing more to do with an organ that could cause him such grief.
He stood, his wings brushing against the walls of his lair. The ground shook, trembling beneath his feet as he moved through the tunnels beneath those who had disturbed him.
They would pay for waking him. He snarled. Flapping his wings, he jumped into the air. He would see to it that they all paid for disturbing his mourning sleep. With a loud, angry screech, Declan burst through the ground.
With strong fast beats of his powerful wings, he shot up into the air, belching fire into the sky. Let them see his rage. Let them feel the terror of those who knew they were about to die for disturbing the lair of the red dragon.
Turning back, he headed for the small group who stood staring at him. One seemed familiar. However, Declan didn’t care. He could only feel his rage at being disturbed.
“Whatever you do, don’t run,” the one he recognized as Damek Antaeus said. “He needs to realize we are no danger to his mate.”
Those words brought Declan up short. Leaning closer, he took a deep breath. There were three women. One brunette, one blonde and an older woman. None of them seemed familiar. Still, the blonde had blue eyes like his Emily.
When he sniffed in her direction, the dragon with her pushed her behind him as though she was his mate. The woman didn’t fight. Declan took another deep breath and then leaned toward the older woman. Could
be his love? How long had he been asleep?
Declan moved closer, pressed his nose against the older woman’s shoulder and took a deep breath. He squeezed his eyes shut, his body tensing as he took in the lovely scent beneath the perfume and powder.
He stomped his feet, threw his head back and screamed his relief. His mate had sought him out. There could be only one reason for her to have done so. Heart soaring, he discarded his vow to feel no more and jumped into the air. Swooping down, he grasped his mate with his forelegs as gently as he knew how and streaked toward the sky.
Nothing would stop him from mating her now. She had come to him. She was
I have waited for you, mate. It is about time you sought me out.
Emily sat cradled in Declan’s soothing embrace. The wind dried the tears on her cheeks as they flew over the countryside. The scent of the evening air filled her lungs as he flew over the mountains, taking her to what she could only guess was another of his lairs. Their flight was both exhilarating and frightening. She had only flown once before in her life, and that was with the help of a plane, only a few short days ago.
The landscape below flew by, nearly a blur as Declan flew over the hills and bogs. It was a good thing that there weren’t many homes here. If anyone decided to look up, they would certainly get a wonderful view of a huge, red dragon.
“Where are you taking me, Declan?” Emily was surprised to hear how strong and steady her voice sounded when her heart beat so rapidly against her ribs. She hadn’t expected him to be alive. She surely hadn’t expected him to erupt from the ground the way he had, grab her and literally fly off into the sunset.
She didn’t fear for her safety. Declan would never harm her. She knew that, now. However, being with him in this form still frightened her just a bit. Maybe once he landed and turned into his old self, she would feel better, safer. Something about this form made him feel wild and unpredictable—not that she could predict anything he would do in his human form. After fifty years apart, she didn’t know him anymore.
They flew for what felt like an hour, but was likely only a few minutes when they came upon a large, looming hole in the side of the mountain. Gently, Declan set her down on a small landing before he grasped the side of the cliff and shifted his shape into that of a man. He climbed down from the side of the mountain and turned to face her. He looked different—older.
“Declan?” She stared up at him, not believing it was him for a moment. Just as tall as she remembered, he had gray at his temples and crinkles in the corners of his eyes. “They told me that you would look just as you did all those years ago.” She reached up to cup his cheeks, the tips of her fingers skimming over the fine lines.