Authors: Tianna Xander
Tags: #Paranormal, #Erotic Romance, #Dragon, #Shapeshifter
“Then, the dark ages and the burning times came.”
“Yes.” He couldn’t put aside the wrenching pain that his memories wrought. The sight of his mother burned at the stake for witchcraft when his father was away. The horrible sensation of his first shift as his body changed into that of his dragon at the tender age of eleven. His rage, and subsequent sorrow as he remembered using his adolescent fire to burn the humans who had murdered his mother.
That was when Merlin and Arthur had found him. They taught him to contain his rage, to use his strength for good. He had spent the bulk of his adult life attempting to atone for the sins of his youth.
Sagramor’s years at the round table didn’t even begin to make up for the fact that in his youthful rage, he had killed men, women, and children alike. Arthur’s forgiveness only made his guilt worsen. How could such a great man forgive such atrocity?
“I’m sorry. I’ve reminded you of something painful.” Emily rolled onto her side and draped her arm over his waist. “I think I know what it was. I’ve seen a lot of your memories. I’m not sure why, but I think our first kiss showed me your most painful memories.” She rubbed her cheek against his arm. “It has something to do with a woman burned at the stake.”
“She was my mother.” It surprised him to find how painful the memories were, how fresh, even now. “I killed those who murdered my mother.”
“You did more than that.” There was no censure in her voice. “I saw it.”
“I was wrong.”
“You were a boy. You hurt those who hurt your mother.” She paused. “Where was your father?”
“He was out helping a neighbor wage war against another. Even then, we kept our human form more than our dragon’s. He fought as a human in battle. He always said that using his dragon was an unfair advantage. I guess he never thought of our superior strength or our ability to heal almost instantly as an unfair advantage.”
“Maybe he was afraid of the collateral damage. Dragon fire would not only have destroyed his enemies, but his friends, as well. Wouldn’t it?”
“Yes.” Declan rolled off the bed and stood. He couldn’t bear to feel her beauty wrapped around him when his memories were of something so ugly. “He died the day they burned my mother. A dragon and his mate tie their life forces together when they mate. Once we are truly bound, if I die, you will die with me. Perhaps mating now that I am a target isn’t a good idea. If I am killed, you will go with me.”
“I died a little every day we weren’t together, Declan. I refuse to live on if something should happen to you. I have lived without you for fifty years and I have found that I didn’t like it one bit.”
“I hoped you would say that.” He turned to her. “I will mate you in the ways of my people, if you will have me. However, we cannot do it here. It is a private affair, and dragon males do not want other dragons anywhere near during the bonding.”
It brought out their jealousies and their need to protect their greatest treasure—their woman.
“There is a reason humans call jealousy the green-eyed monster. It all started with a dragon with green eyes and a mate so beautiful, it is rumored that she made the very angels sing.” He turned to gaze upon his mate. “I know how he felt.”
“I’m old. I’m not beautiful.”
Declan grinned when her cheeks reddened. “You are so beautiful, even the angels will weep when it is our time to pass over into the other world.”
“Stop it, Declan. You always were a smooth talker. Are you sure you’re not Irish? I think you’ve been kissing the Blarney Stone.”
“No, but I would have another kiss from my mate.” He hoped this room was as sound proof as the rooms in his own home. If not, those who remained downstairs were about to get an earful.
Emily couldn’t wait to have Declan bind them together. Her arthritis bothered her more and more the longer they stayed in Europe. The damp weather was to blame, she was sure of it.
“Why do you think the person responsible for destroying your lair will still be there?” She frowned at the others who had almost unanimously come to that decision.
“He must have wanted something in the cave,” Lance replied from across the table. “There was no way for him to know Declan was there when he started weaving his spell. A spell like that one takes months to set up.”
True to his youth, Drake had a round table set up in his dining room. It was a strange table that grew larger and larger if needed. The more people to sit at it, the larger the table grew. Apparently, it could seat eighty people comfortably.
“Yeah, he would have had to research moon phases and astrological charts. Not to mention hunt down any uncommon ingredients he would need to stop the backlash headed in his direction.”
“He can’t stop the rule of three,” April chimed in from her seat next to her husband. “That will catch up to him eventually, and I’m told that Karma is a bitch.”
“I’m thinking that it was a lesser sorcerer sent there by someone more powerful.” Perceval picked up his cup of coffee and took a sip. “A more powerful sorcerer would have known they were in the cavern and either captured them, or made sure they were trapped inside with no way to escape.” He shrugged when everyone turned to look at him. “At least that’s what I would have done if I considered someone my enemy.”
“You do realize that you just said that you’re more powerful than a sorcerer who destroyed the inside of an entire mountain, don’t you?” Lance gave him a look that should have left his brother squirming.
“I feel stronger than everyone. I didn’t want to say anything, because I didn’t want to frighten anybody.” Perceval met his brother’s stare with a shrug. “I think it’s quite possible that I am very strong.” He turned to Emily. “Does your grimoire say anything about how strong a sorcerer is and why?”
“It says that there is a legend that the son born of the seventh sorcerer in a familial line will bring peace to the magical world.” Emily looked at the Flowers boys. “Do any of you know if your father was the seventh sorcerer in his line?”
“Our father was the seventh, yes. He kept saying that he had a purpose, but he never said what that purpose was.”
“His purpose was his sons.” Drake stood and moved to the window. “Merlin spoke of this time. He said that the seventh sorcerer in a line would teach all of his sons to work with one another. The mages will be stronger together than any one sorcerer could be alone. However, the seventh brother would tie them all together and they would find
purpose.” He turned back. “Our destinies are tied together. Finding the sorcerer here is not what you men are meant to do. Only one thing worries me.” He frowned. “Merlin’s prediction spoke of another. The father. He fully expected that
would be the seventh sorcerer to bring forth the eighth in the line. Your father is no longer with us.”
“Our father isn’t dead. Rose didn’t kill anyone. Good magic can’t kill. Jesus, Drake, you should know that. Our parents are out there somewhere. We’ve been out searching for them.”
“Then, find them. We will take care of what’s going on here. You must find your father. Only he and Perceval can tie you all together and make you strong. This was one of the last things Merlin told me before he disappeared.”
“Merlin, Arthur, the knights of the Round Table.” Emily shook her head. “I think I’m getting another headache.” She rubbed her forehead. “So what have we decided here?”
“We’ve decided,” Drake said as he took his seat at the table, “that the brothers Flowers are renewing their search for their parents and that we all are returning to Sagramor’s lair.”
“But,” Declan started to protest.
“No buts.” Drake shook his head. “I’m sorry. It’s Declan now. I know that. I apologize for leading a group of dragons to your lair, but it does you no good as long as a sorcerer controls it. You will have to deal with it, or find another.”
Emily watched Drake, her eyes wide. This was what it must have been like so many years before. The man took charge. He apparently had always taken charge.
Drake pulled his phone from his pocket and punched a few buttons. “Who the hell is this? Oh, hello, Grayson. Where’s Liam?” He listened for a few seconds. “Tell him to get his ass over here. I need my right-hand man. Why don’t you dump whatever woman you have on your lap and come with him while you’re at it, Galahad?” He closed his eyes with a sigh. “I’m sorry. Yes. It’s Grayson now. But you two will always be Lancelot and Galahad to me.” He paused to listen again. “Whatever. Just get the men together and meet me at my place.”
Two hours later, Emily stared at a group of legendary men. Never before had she ever thought she would be in the presence of King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table, but here she was, staring at the lot of them. Each of the men arrived within minutes of each other. She could only guess that they had flown there as their dragons. How could history have missed something so huge? How could the legends? Was the fact that they were all dragons purposely left out of the tales, and if so, why?
Apparently, Lancelot was never in love with Guinevere. It was a story told to explain why he and Arthur parted ways. Almost none of the stories were based in the whole truth.
Under the cover of darkness, the men shifted to their dragons and headed out to Declan’s lair. It was only after they left that Emily realized they should have stayed. The sorcerer
been after something in the cave, only it was no longer there.
Now that she knew Drake’s secrets, she also knew that what Declan told her about the stone around her neck must be true. Reaching up, she held the pendant for a moment before tucking it beneath her shirt.
“We need to talk, ladies,” Emily said as she walked into the kitchen. She knew the others would be here having tea—it
four o’clock, after all.
“What about?” April asked as she set the tray on the table and indicated that Emily take a seat.
“This,” Emily replied as she pulled the pendant from under her blouse. “I have a story to tell you. As fantastic as it sounds, it all rings too true in the light of certain facts that have just been brought to light.”
Emily pulled a cup of tea from the tray, added a cube of sugar and a dollop of milk before taking a sip. “You might want to sit down. The telling of this tale might take a while.”
Declan led the others to his lair. He didn’t like it, but he didn’t have much of a choice. He needed to protect his mate from whatever evil would try to harm her.
“There’s nothing here.” Lancelot declared as they wandered through the rubble. “It’s as though you never even had a lair here. There are gems and treasure, but there is nothing to indicate that you spent any time here at all.”
“I didn’t. I spent my time at my manor. I assumed if anyone came looking for the map, they would search the manor first. Not here.”
“The map. I’d forgotten that you were in charge of keeping it safe.” Drake moved up to his right side. “I take it that it wasn’t here?”
“Oh, it was here, but so was I. You know the legend. Only the mate can keep the map safe from—shit!” It felt as though his heart leapt to his throat. “Emily! We have to get back. She’s wearing it. She has no protection and we aren’t bound. I’d intended to bind her to me. I gave her the stone. I’d forgotten about it, with everything that’s happened since. We must return to her. Now!”
“We cannot. It’s almost daylight and someone would see us.” Drake was always the practical one.
“Not if we fly through the ether.” It wasn’t done. They could accidentally fly into a plane and kill the passengers.
“We’d have to be very careful,” Drake said thoughtfully. “Each of us will have to be on guard, watching the corporeal world to make sure we don’t hit anything.”
“We could fly low. If we fly lower than any plane, we wouldn’t have much to worry about.”
“I don’t give a damn what you all do. I’m going.” Declan spun around, facing Drake. “Do not order me to do something I cannot and will not do. I do not wish to disobey you, My King, but God help me, I will.”
The flight back to Drake’s manor seemed to take forever. In reality, it took less time for them to get back than it had to reach his lair. Declan knew that, but he couldn’t help counting each minute that passed with his mate unprotected.
Why hadn’t he bound her to him the way he should have done? Every moment that passed was an eternity as he worried about his mate. How could she protect the stone when she wasn’t fully bound to him? She would barely be able to protect herself.
He could only hope that the Flowers brothers hadn’t yet left. At least they would be a buffer between the women and any dark magic thrown at them.
Declan knew Drake must be worried about his own mate. April was heavy with child. She probably shouldn’t be traveling in her condition. However, as per usual, things were the way they were. There was nothing to do but return to the women as quickly as he could.
He had just crested the last hill before Drake’s home when he saw the dark shadow approaching. There were no men, no sorcerers, or mages in sight. The insidious shadow oozed over the landscape, a dark evil creeping over the grass and moors.
Declan, tempted to rain fire over the shadowy ooze, banked to the right in an attempt to find its source.
Go to the women. Do whatever you can to protect them. I will destroy the source of the evil attempting to gain access to your home.
He didn’t wait for an answer. As much as he wanted to go to his mate, he knew he could help her better out here, facing the danger that threatened her and the others.
The sorcerer didn’t operate in the ether. He was either too weak, or too young to know about the
The sun rose over the horizon, accentuating the shadow the sorcerer was sending toward Drake’s home. The man held his eyes closed, his hands up, and palms out as he pushed the dark energy outward. The oily shadow crept slowly forward, the darkness within corrupting everything it touched.
Plants withered and died. Water turned stagnant and toxic. Everything the shadow touched died in its wake. He could
allow it to reach his mate.