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Shadow Queen

Shadow Queen Cover This book is a prequel to The Last Queen but can be read alone.

Visit a world filled with men who transform themselves into dragons, women with extraordinary psychic powers and a creature belched up from the bowels of Hell bent on destroying them all.

Once the Dragoon, a race of shape-shifting dragon people, owned the land, sea and sky. War, prejudice and time have whittled away their numbers. Queens, always precious, are ever so more as clutch size and fertility diminish. And then the Hunter and his hounds strike, supernatural creatures with a lust for Queens’ blood.

Leahlisande Belkirk and Cerenth Kildarkee are two of but a handful of powerful Queens left to the Dragoon. Rescued from her desecrated home, young and untrained Leahlisande must learn to wield the gift that enables her to control specters and spirits and walk the shadow lands. Even combined with the talents of world-weary, moody Cerenth, the most dangerous Queen ever hatched, and her secret consort, the water dragon healer Zeb, confronting the Hunter in his own realm will be no easy task.

Lives will be lost. Prejudices cast aside. And legends born.

Details

ISBN: 978-1419959912
Type: Novel
Genre: Fantasy
Format: E-Book and Print
Published: 6/9/2008
Company: Ellora’s Cave Publishing

Excerpt

A water dragon watched her from the water’s edge. She didn’t quite know how she recognized him for what he was but she did. His skin was pale, unlike that of his cousins, her kin, who bathed under the warmth of the sun. From what she could see his body was built for speed, compact and curved, no excess muscle to weigh down his swimming. He propped himself on the edge of the stone dock, head resting on his folded arms. His eyes whirled a series of colors then settled on a pearlized violet like the inside of a seashell.

Cerenth’s breath hissed out.

He inclined his head. “Good evening, Kildarkee Queen.”

“What do you do here? How did you get in?” He must have swum through the rock-cut channel that funneled the sea waters to the citadel. But why? Other than Adonthe, she’d never seen another water dragon.

He waited patiently for her to rein in her emotions. That irked her.

She shook back her hair. “You are trespassing on Kildarkee lands.” She wished she was wearing more than her dressing robe.

“These are my waters.” He spread his arms wide, encompassing the water he floated in. Six fingers adorned each hand, webbing stretching between the digits. “This is my land.”

“Semantics,” she replied. “Leave before I call the guards.”

“Won’t they wonder why their Queen is nearly nude and hiding in Kildarkee’s dungeon?”

She ignored his comment. “What are you doing here?” He knew who she was so he had to know what kind of talent she possessed. She could drown him where he floated. Either he was extremely powerful or just plain rash. “Answer me,” she demanded.

“I saw you fly today, Dragoness. You were quite beautiful.” He sounded wistful.

She didn’t know what to make of the compliment. She stared hard at him, lips pressed tight. Surely he teased. He met her gaze, lips quirked ever so slightly. His face was too alien for her to read. She pressed against his mental shields. He was well protected. How intriguing. There weren’t many dragon men who had enough strength to mount a defense against her.

“You could ask me my name instead of trying to pry. It’s Zeb, by the way.”

“You could enter through my gates instead of sneaking up my sewers.”

“Could I?” He sounded skeptical. “I think if the likes of I approached your gates I would become a captive not a guest.”

“You presume a lot.”

“Your reputation as a sweet and benevolent ruler proceeds you.”

Cerenth was shocked. How dare he! Her own snigger surprised her. When she managed to regain control of herself she said haughtily, “No one speaks to me like that.”

“You laughed and it was genuine,” he pointed out. “May I seek dry land?”

He had her there. She waved her hand. “Do as you wish. You will anyway.”

He boosted himself out of the water. His skin was pale, ghostly white and flawless, like an alabaster statue. And he was nude. She tried not to stare. It was unqueenly and no land-born Queen should be aroused by an inferior cousin. But she couldn’t help herself. He was well-built, very well-built.

She had an excuse. She was still in heat, still seeking a mate.

Hardly. She thought she heard his snort of disbelief within her mind. But that was impossible. No one had as strong a mind as she.

“Am I permitted to ravage the Kildarkee Queen?” he asked abruptly.

Her jaw dropped open. She blinked then blinked again.

He approached her, shedding water as he walked. His hair was closely cropped, a hint of silvery fluff capping the smooth round surface of his head. His cheekbones were set high in his thin face, eyes and lips the only splashes of color. Those eerie eyes darkened from pearl to deep violet.

She took one step back then cursed herself for it. “I warn you. You will die if you lay a hand upon me.” She held her robe closed at the throat, her other hand clenched in a fist at her side.

“By whose hand?”

“Mine.”

His eyes gleamed, lips quirking. “And if I lay both hands upon you?”

“You mock a high psi!” She drew her robe tighter around her.

“I do nothing of the kind.”

She could smell the salt of the sea clinging to his skin.

“The brave Kildarkee Queen cowering before a mere water dragon,” he whispered.

She raised her hand, calling fire to her fingertips, and shot it at him. The tendrils of flame extinguished in midair. He caught her out-flung arm by the wrist.

She froze. “How dare you!” But her voice was a mere whisper.

He turned her hand, palm up, tracing the ring of bruises around her wrist with three fingers. The touch was barely there, like the whisper of a powder brush against one’s cheek. “Your lover was rough.” He kept his voice smooth but she detected his disapproval.

“I like it rough. Violent even.” She licked her lips. This creature, this subspecies, made her pulse race. It helped her to think of him as an animal, not as an equal. It put him in his place.

“It takes little skill to be rough,” Zeb pointed out.

She couldn’t break his gaze. “I could kill you.”

“So you’ve said. Would you take pleasure in that?”

“Yes.”

“Why is that?” He raised her wrist to his lips and licked the line of bruises. His tongue was rough, like a cat’s, his breath cool on her skin. She felt the skin on her arm break out in goose bumps. He held up her wrist. Her skin was smooth and unmarred.

“You are a healer,” she breathed, astonished. “How is that possible?”

“Water dragons have gifts too.” He pulled her toward him until her breasts grazed his chest. “They say you are a wicked Queen, cruel and arrogant.”

She was shocked yet again. She tried to pull away from him but his other arm snaked about her waist. His grip was curiously warm. She’d expected the sea’s clammy hold to taint his flesh. His fingertips stroked the dip in her back. The invasion was not unwelcome. He had a soothing touch and she’d been strung tight for far too long.

She found her voice. “If I am such a hideous creature, why do you want me?”

“Perhaps all the reports are biased,” he continued, his voice low. He laid his cheek against hers. She felt as if she were frozen. Her heartbeat sounded loud and flighty in her ears. No dragon man had ever made her feel this way. They had simply taken what they needed.

What was this water dragon doing to her mind?

“Zeb,” he absently said. “You can say my name.”

How dare he invade her mind! She raised her free hand to rake her nails against his cheek. Her hand froze. She struggled but could not move it. He leaned back and kissed the open palm of her paralyzed hand.

“High psis are a rare gift,” Zeb said softly.

“What have you done?” She felt the first stab of real fear.

He took the paralyzed hand and folded it to her breast. “I have come to make love to the Queen of the Kildarkees on this her mating day.”