Book 3 in the Shadow of the Dragon series.
As a child, Prince Bren of Xicanth saw the devastation created when a dragon is rejected by its mate...and vowed he would never unleash that kind of horror and suffering on a woman. The promise is simple to maintain until Tynan, the dragon who shares his existence, chooses a mate and demands to claim her as only a dragon can.
Bren's own needs make it almost impossible to deny his dragon the taste of her flesh that the beast so desires.
But even as Bren unwillingly succumbs to the lure of the dragon's mate, he realizes something isn't right. A dragon can have only one mate...yet Tynan has claimed two...no, three different women.
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November 13, 2009
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Excerpt from Dragon's Rise by Tielle St. Clare
Kei stepped cautiously toward the dragon's lair, his sword bared and held loose in his right hand. He hated to enter a dragon's home with a sword drawn but with this particular one, he needed to be prepared. The dragon had kidnapped four women in the past two weeks, snatching them from fields and farms, even the center of town. The creature had become the terror that legends warned. And Kei needed to stop him.
He had to see if he could talk to it first. He didn't want to destroy the dragon but there might not be another choice. He stopped at the entrance to the cave, marveling again that he himself might have ended up in a place like this, if Lorran hadn't saved him. Accepted him. Seduced him, really. He smiled at the memory and Nekane rumbled pleasurably inside his head. In the ten years since Kei had been bitten by a dragon and the animal had become a part of him, he'd learned to adapt to the creature who shared his soul. They'd adapted to each other.
Kei tilted his head to the side and listened, hoping for some sign that the dragon was sleeping or pacing. Any sound that the dragon was in his lair.
Instead, there was a rustle of leaves behind him.
Kei whipped around, crouched, sword ready.
Wide green eyes met his and both froze. Kei was the first to recover.
"By the Hells, Bren, what are you doing here?" he demanded of his oldest son. The boy, serious even at this young age, pulled his shoulders back and faced his father directly.
"I wanted to meet another dragon. A real one."
Nekane growled softly at the unintentional slight.
"Nekane is a real dragon and so is Tynan." Kei reprimanded gently, referring not only to the dragon who shared his mind but to the one who had been born a part of Bren.
Bren's cheeks hinted red and the boy nodded. "A wild dragon then. Whenever a dragon is causing problems, the villagers call you to handle it. I want to see what you do when you meet with them."
Kei nodded then paused. "How did you get here?"
Meaning he'd turned into a dragon and flown across the land.
"You could have been seen." Dragons were so feared that if a villager saw one, it was considered brave and wise to fire arrows at the passing creature.
"I stayed in Nekane's shadow."
Kei had no answer for that. He'd turned into his dragon to fly to the location as well; he couldn't very well fault his son for it. Of course, Lorran was going to be royally pissed when she discovered what he'd done. "Fine, you can stay. But you get to explain this to your mother when we return."
The ten-year-old blanched. Lorran was definitely the fierce one in the household when it came to her children.
But she'll still blame me, Kei thought. Nekane quietly agreed.
"Come on. Let's go see what this dragon has to say."
With his son beside him, Kei knew he couldn't kill the dragon, so he returned his sword to its scabbard. Bren, like Kei, was dressed only in a loincloth. More for propriety's sake than modesty. If they should happen along a villager, a naked man walking through the woods would arouse comment.
They walked to the very entrance of the cave, where the light was swallowed by the dark. Kei placed his hand on Bren's shoulder and knelt down to look into his son's eyes.
"I don't know what we'll find in there. His fire can't hurt us but his teeth can. This is an angry, possibly wounded dragon. I want you to stay back."
Bren nodded. Kei stood and led his son into the dragon's lair. Though dark, he knew both he and Bren could see equally as well. The dragon senses they shared allowed them clear night vision. Kei listened as he moved. There was no sound of rustling of scales. No low growls of warning to the invaders. And the scent of blood was strong.
They entered the wide cavern. Like many dragons, this one had collected bits of metal and jewelry--treasures--and stored them in his lair. Kei was pleased that Bren observed the jewels and gold cups but showed little interest in them. He wasn't a greedy child. He took his rank and position in life very seriously.
The dragon lay in the corner, huddled against the far wall. Blood poured from wounds across its hide and a spear stuck out of its back. The creature wasn't breathing.
Kei walked over to the beast, placing a hand on its cold carcass. The villagers had bragged that they'd managed to wound the dragon. No, they'd killed it.
"We're too late," Kei announced. He turned. Bren was no longer behind him. "Son?" Nekane quickly searched and sensed the boy not far away. Though Nekane didn't indicate that Bren was in danger, Kei didn't like that he was out of his sight. He followed Nekane's guidance down a short tunnel and found his son.
Staring at the naked, broken body of a woman.
Bruises and blood marred her flesh and fear was etched into her pale face and open eyes.
"What happened to her?" Bren asked, suddenly sounding very young. "Did the dragon do this?"
Kei dropped to one knee and tried to answer. "Yes, he did. You remember how we talked about the dragon seeking a mate--looking for the right woman to accept them?" Bren nodded but didn't look away from the woman's body.
"He hurt her."
"A new dragon's understanding is limited and if the woman he considers his mate rejects him, he becomes angry. He probably didn't even know what he was doing." Kei stared at the woman as well. "She could have been his mate who rejected him or another woman he'd taken and the instincts of the animal just consumed him."
Finally, Bren turned and looked at his father. The boy's lips were set in a tight line and his eyes were filled with determination. It seemed as if Bren had made a decision.