The Dragon and the Queen of Ice

Title: The Dragon and the Queen of Ice
Series: Fire Dragons of Grieghern #1
Published by: Amber Jantine
Release Date: August 13, 2017
Contributors: Amber Jantine
Buy the Book: AmazonBarnes & NobleITunesSmashwordsKobo
Pages: 120

Description:

A freak accident has turned into a death sentence for a young queen. A magical shard of ice has lodged in Kyra's eye, blinding her. Worse, the ice is spreading. Unless she falls in love before her heart freezes, she will die. She is the last in her family line and must find a husband to give her an heir or else her country will fall into chaos. Even now, rebels are eager to take advantage of any perceived weakness in her. But no human man can bear to touch her and the one who said he would try turned out to be a deceptive traitor...

An unexpected solution comes from the dragon world. Fire-dragon Jodan is immune to the ice under her skin and his gentle touch fires more than her passions. But after previous betrayals, she's not certain she can trust him. Nor will she risk breaking his heart when she dies...

Jodan Grieghern knows the dangers of falling in love. Very few dragons can survive the death of a life-mate, so falling for a woman who is cursed to die is not in his plans. But his beautiful wife's bravery and strength still touch his heart. He has no hope of her loving him in return, even if that is the only way to save her life.

Treachery and betrayal continue to threaten their fragile alliance just as their marriage of convenience begins to turn into something more. Will the woman who refuses to trust and the dragon who doesn't want to love have a chance at forming a permanent bond? Or will the ice end up freezing Kyra's heart forever?

The Dragon and the Queen of Ice is a sexy paranormal romance inspired by the fairytale of "The Snow Queen."

Excerpt:

“I don’t know why they won’t allow you to meet your bride before the ceremony,” his brother complained.

Jodan Grieghern tightened his coat around his waist then pulled the collar more tightly against his neck as a chill wind blew into his bedchamber. He was so far from home and the clime was so foreign, he wondered again how he would ever adjust to the change. “Seems fair to me. I think the queen requested it that way, so that she won’t be only one marrying someone she’s never seen before.”

Rergyn sighed. “You’re remarkably calm about this.”

“We’ve lived our entire lives with the knowledge that we would end up in arranged matches anyway. Why should this be any different?”

“At least your bride-to-be has some dragon blood in her. Or so it is said.”

“That doesn’t matter and you know it.”

“True. Especially since there are so few female dragons now. I guess we should be grateful that we can actually mate with these humans, so our kind doesn’t die out completely.”

“Still worried about who Mother and Father are planning to choose for your bride?”

“The rumors are not… good.”

“I’m sorry.” Jodan had heard the talk as well. The proposed bride had a formidable reputation, having outlived two other husbands. “But there’s still a chance that the match will not be finalized.”

“I cannot hope to be as fortunate as you, brother. From what I’ve heard of Queen Kyra, she sounds quite exceptional. Regardless of whether she has dragon blood or not.”

“True.” Which was part of what had eased his nerves about his pending wedding.

Jodan stepped back into his room as a group of servants entered. They were members of the queen’s household and were obviously doing their best to avoid his gaze. The scent of their fear was strong and better, making his nose twitch.

If we were not about to start the ceremony, I might consider changing into my dragon form right now. Rergyn spoke directly into his mind. A guaranteed way to ensure that no one would hear what they were discussing. The corner of his mouth twitched in a faint smile. That would really give them something to be afraid of.

“Stop it, Rergyn. You can hardly blame them for being uneasy.” Though he would not be crowned king, he would still be the queen’s consort. That was high enough of a rank for the humans to be uncomfortable.

He shrugged out of the heavier overcoat and finished adding the ceremonial belt and sword that had been his engagement present. He could not help laughing a bit at the latter. For so many centuries, his kind had been on the wrong end of the humans’ blades and now he would be wearing one as he prepared to marry one of their queens.

They were escorted down into the courtyard of the palace and into a carriage. To his surprise, the vehicle was heated, and the scent of coals under the floorboards quickly told of how it was done.

It was a surprising innovation and was probably considered quite a luxury as well. But he supposed that living with such cold temperatures would give these humans the incentives to be quite resourceful.

The main cathedral was already quite full. Mostly with humans, subjects of Queen Kyra, of course. The only other dragon besides himself and his brother was their cousin. The Ice Dragon of the North, Ozeir. He was the one who had suggested the match and had done all the arrangements.

Jodan and his brother took their place near the altar. Despite everything he had tried to tell his twin, he could not help feeling a twinge of nervousness. His stomach tightened and did a funny little flip as organ music swelled through the massive building, heralding the pending appearance of his bride.

The audience rose, then bowed their heads in respect to their monarch. The double doors opened at the front of the church, revealing a young woman who stood alone.

Jodan’s nervousness faded away as another emotion took precedence. Part surprise, part something more. He had been told that Queen Kyra was quite beautiful but somehow, he had expected it to be an exaggeration. Not much more than the flattering talk normally used by courtiers.

The woman currently making her slow way up the aisle was more than beautiful.

She was magnificent.

But there was no way to ignore the signs of the curse she was under. She carried a jeweled scepter in one hand, using it as a sort of cane to tap out her way. Her chin was held high, her full lips set in a straight line as if daring anyone to speak unkindly of her weakness.

Her eyes were large, but it was impossible to tell what color they were. At the moment, they were rather silvery and pale, like those of an ice dragon, but Jodan had heard that their current appearance had been caused by the magic shard that was embedded in her, the one that had caused her blindness.

Her hair must’ve been pure brown, as rich as sable at one point, but now was heavily streaked with white. Making her look, at a distance, much older than her years. Yet her face was unlined, though there was no mistaking the shadows in her expression.

This was a woman who had been through much, had suffered much.

Jodan wanted to run up the aisle to her, to take her into his arms. He couldn’t say that it was a wholly protective instinct that urged him to do so.

The bright blue gown hugged her body, clinging to the curves of her breasts and narrow waist before flaring out into a full skirt. The top of the bodice was cut low, exposing the upper swells of her breasts, which were quite generous and large.

Soon, very soon, he would have the right to touch her, to explore her in every way.

That time could not come soon enough.

It seemed to take an eternity before she was at his side. She held out one hand, and he took it. Felt her jump at his touch. Even though she was wearing gloves, he could feel how cold she was. Another effect of her curse.

And the reason that she had chosen to marry a dragon.

He had been told that she had nearly wed another. A human. But the man had been unable to bear touching her bare skin. Had nearly been frozen from the contact.

His loss was most definitely Jodan’s gain.

Throughout the ceremony, as they spoke their vows, he could not help noticing that she was trembling the whole time. Was she afraid of him? There were many scents of fear in the room, but he couldn’t tell if any of it came from her.

It seemed unlikely. Something told him that this was a woman who would never be cowed. It must have taken remarkable strength to endure her curse to this point, much less…

The human priest declared them to be man and wife. They turned to face each other.

Jodan bent down and touched his lips to hers. Despite the cold, they were very soft and parted on a gasp as if she had been caught by surprise with the gesture. Or maybe she felt the same thing he did. The spark of fire that had leapt between them.

He bent his arm, tucking her hand into his elbow before escorting her out of the church. Outside, the guards raised and crossed their swords over their heads, the metallic click of the blades quickly lost under the roar of the waiting crowd. Waiting for them was another carriage. Older, but no less fine than the other, and clearly emblazoned with the royal family crest.

They stepped inside and the door was closed behind them.

It was their first time to be alone.

He sat across from her rather than beside her, sensing that she needed time to get used to having him around. “I think that went rather well. Don’t you, Your Majesty?”

Her lips curved up into a slight smile. “Did you expect someone to object?”

That had been one of the questions during the ceremony, a moment when the priest had asked if anyone had any reason why this marriage should not take place. “I’ll admit that I did worry a bit when the question came up.”

“I hope it is not because my subjects have made you feel unwelcome.”

“Not unwelcome, no. But it is very obvious that they are not used to having a dragon around.”

“The ice dragons tend to keep to themselves, though we have lived in peace with them for these last few generations.”

“But I imagine they do not spend much time around your palace.”

“No.” She turned her face toward the window of the carriage, waving to the crowd that lined the streets even though Jodan knew she couldn’t see them. “At any rate, I think it was a good idea to postpone any talk of your coronation. To give them time to get used to you first.”

“True.” He knew it was more usual for that ceremony to take place immediately after the wedding. But that was if the queen had married a human suitor. No one was certain if they wanted to give a dragon such power. And potentially a claim to the throne.

The only reason this match had been made was that the queen needed an heir. And thanks to her to curse, only a dragon could touch her bare skin without fear of frostbite.

He reached across the carriage and took her free hand in his. Though he was still touching her through the glove and not skin-to-skin, she let out another gasp. And he wondered how long it had been since anyone had touched her at all.

The curse had not started like this, or so he had been told. First, the shard had taken the sight from the one eye it was lodged in, before spreading to the other, completely blinding her. Then the cold had spread through her body.

Eventually, it would take her heart. Stopping it. The best physicians in her land said that it would be a year. Maybe a little longer, judging by how long it had taken to spread this far, but certainly not more than two years.

The only cure, it was said, was for her to fall in love.

Jodan didn't believe in love. He had been taught that such an emotion was a weakness. Duty and honor were all that truly mattered in the world, and with that, he could offer his new bride the next best thing. A chance at having her heir so that her kingdom would not fall into chaos over the succession.

Her fingers closed around his, giving it a light squeeze. He was a little shocked by the way his body responded, how his erection swelled and his body heated.

Just from that small gesture.

He might not be able to fall in love, but he would truly enjoy being wed to this woman in the time that they would have together. And he would do everything in his power to make sure that she enjoyed it too.

He would start with another kiss.


Also in this series:

Hidden Magic

Title: Hidden Magic
Series: Fire Dragons of Grieghern #2
Published by: Amber Jantine
Release Date: November 21, 2017
Contributors: Amber Jantine
Buy the Book: AmazonSmashwords
Pages: 137

Rergyn’s expecting an ordinary arranged marriage to the Crown Princess Seira but when he arrives for the ceremony, he’s told that the princess has run away. The truth isn’t quite that simple. When he finds his beautiful bride, she’s just escaped an attempt on her life and is under the protection of the dragons’ age-old enemies: the dread-trolls.

Seira has been fooled once by a sorcerer who claimed to be her long-awaited fiance and nearly lost her life to his magic. Only a surprising power of her own--and the unexpected protection of the trolls--kept her alive. Then a dragon appears and claims to be the one she was engaged to all along. When he shifts to his human form, he kindles an unexpected passion in her body with his touch and his kiss. But she isn't about to let her guard down again. Nor will she let her new soon-to-be husband into her heart.

More treachery awaits them in her kingdom. Seira's stepmother and the sorcerer have formed a devious alliance with the aim of claiming the throne for themselves. The fire-dragon will have to learn to work with the trolls if he hopes to keep his princess safe long enough for him to win the greatest prize of all: her love.

Hidden Magic is a paranormal romance inspired by the fairytale "Snow White." Though it is the second book in the Fire Dragons series, it can be read as a standalone.

Excerpt:

Keep running. Do not stop. Do not look back.

Seira stumbled and cursed. Too busy worrying about what was behind her, she had failed to watch where she was going. She wavered and flailed her arms, struggling for balance without stopping for a moment.

If she stopped, they would catch her.

If she fell, they would destroy her.

Their baying grew louder. She had been told they were the dread-trolls, but at the moment they sounded like a pack of hunting dogs.

And they were chasing her as if she was their prey.

They were like men, yet not. Much shorter yet more powerfully built. Each was wielding an axe with a blade nearly as tall as she was. Their faces would be almost human, except for being contorted into perpetual scowls. Large fangs protruded out from their lower jaws, rather like the reverse of a boar's tusks.

"Surrender, Seira. You know you cannot win."

The sound of her former suitor's voice hardened her resolve. Her stepmother had told her that he was a prince. The one who had been promised to her since her birth through an arrangement created by her late father. He had come to court her. Flattered her with a sort of constant attention such as she’d never imagined possible. Taking an interest in even the smallest of her concerns.

And she had begun to believe that she might be falling in love.

But it had all been a lie. She should have realized from the start that it was too good to be true. That his appearance, alone and unattended, was not consistent with the sort of identity he had claimed for himself.

Nor had his manner of dress ever been suitable for a ‘prince.’ Seira had tried to make excuses for it by thinking it merely a difference between the ways of her country and his.

She had wanted to believe in him. Desperately.

It was sheer chance, an overheard conversation just as they were preparing to set out today, that had given her the first true suspicions that something was wrong.

Still, she’d tried to deny the truth.

Until he’d told her it himself. Just before the start of his attack.

Aleks was a sorcerer and a commoner from the northern steppes. Not a foreigner at all. He was also her stepmother's secret lover.  He’s spoken at great lengths of how much he loved the older woman. How he would do anything for her. And now he was intent on eliminating the one thing that prevented Queen Regina from taking the throne of [country] in her own right: Seira herself.

There was a chill in the air. It was not yet winter but the trees were bare of leaves. The fallen leaves crunched under her feet as she fled, a noisy announcement of her position. She darted into a thicket of thorn-bushes, biting back the urge to cry out as the sharp spikes—some larger than her fingers—ripped at her clothing to reach her flesh.

The dread-trolls did not hesitate in continuing their pursuit. They appeared unaffected by the thorns. Either their flesh was too thick to be pierced or they were simply too-focused on their prey—too locked on her—to be deterred.

It turned out to be the wrong path to choose for more than one reason. The bushes gave way as the ground dropped off sharply into a high embankment. Seira barely managed to stop. Her toes touched the edge and once again she flailed wildly, trying to halt her momentum before it could carry her over.

Once she was steady again, she looked down. Far below, sharp rocks jutted out from a shallow river.

Another horrible death narrowly avoided.

But would it be a worse fate than to be taken by her enemies? It would be quicker to die on the rocks, as long as she hit them correctly. She was fairly certain of that.

There had long been other rumors about her stepmother, which had declared she had a voracious taste for torture. She had heard whispers of it for years. Yet she had convinced herself that any such acts undertaken by her stepmother had been nothing more than misguided attempts to uphold justice in the land, despite the fact that Seira’s grandfather had passed a royal decree against the practice. Seira had tried to speak with Regina about it, when the rumors had first reached her, but her stepmother had assured her that it was nothing that it was nothing more than slander. A way for others to try to destroy their relationship. To cause chaos in the land before Seira could come of age and take the throne.

What a fool she had been, to believe her. It was a small comfort to think that her father had been equally fooled by his second wife. For surely, he would not have arranged things in his will the way that he had, if he’d known her true nature?

He had left the throne and the crown to his only child, as everyone had always assumed he would, but had also named Queen Regina as both Seira’s personal guardian and regent to the throne.

Both of those roles were to have ended a month ago, when Seira had finally come of age. Her stepmother had suggested that a delay would not be amiss. That it would be better if her coronation did not take place until after her marriage, so her husband could receive his crown at the same time.

That had seemed like a reasonable proposal at the time. But it had been nothing more than a way for Regina to buy time in order to put her more lethal plans into motion.

Seira looked down at the rocks again, then at the dread-trolls that were closing in all around her. There was only one guaranteed way out of this: to jump.

She heard the laughter of her former suitor again. He thought she would take the coward's way out, she was sure of that. To take her own life would be to disgrace her family. Her father.

She could not do that.

She turned to face the trolls. She had no weapons. Only her hands. But she would not go down without a fight.

Let her blood be on her enemies hands, so everyone would know who to blame...

Terror still surged through her, making her blood run cold. Now that the beasts were closer, she could see exactly how long and how sharp their tusks were. A single bite would easily slice her in two.

She raised her hands. "Don't come any closer."

They stopped.

Why?

There had been a faint glimmer around her fingers when she'd spoken the words. Much like what she'd seen happen when Aleksandr had first called the trolls to him. Using magic.

But there was no gift for sorcery in anyone in her family, as far as she knew.

The imposter charged out of the trees. Aleksander reined in his horse, steadying the skittish animal as he raised his hands in a similar gesture. "What are you idiots doing? Take her!”

They lurched forward as the light around his hands moved to surround them. He was controlling them through enchantment alone. They may not even have any real loyalty to him at all. Might not even be conscious if everything they were doing.

One look into their eyes told her that the latter was likely the case. Their expressions were blank and void of any sign of voluntary thinking, yet the otherwise dark pupils were glowing with the same blue sparkle that surrounded Alek’s hands.

Not that it was going to make much of a difference.

She felt that energy racing through her again and instinctively kept her palms facing her enemies. “You will not do this.”

Lightning flashed. Blue lightning. Unnatural and spooky. So close that it blinded her for several moments.

Or that’s what she thought it was, at first. But there was no thunder.

Or was there?

Then she realized that the rolling, pounding sound was coming from the ground. Not the sky.

From horse’s hooves.

Aleks’ horse. The animal had wheeled about and was galloping wildly through the woods. Her former suitor was clinging to his mount’s neck, half-falling out of the saddle.

The dread-trolls blinked several times, as if coming out of a trance. The largest of the beasts looked at her with a grimace that could almost be called a smile. He gestured to the others around him and they dropped to their knees before Seira.

“Thank you for freeing us, oh Great One,” their leader said. “We are forever in your debt.”

She was half-tempted to tell them that she had done nothing as she still wasn’t certain exactly what had happened. But then she remembered her stepmother, and how the older woman was not likely to end her quest to have Seira dead.

She looked at the dread-trolls once more. Even if only half the reputation of their kind was true, the seven of them would have the strength to defeat almost any army her stepmother would dare to send her way. “I need your help,” she said slowly, choosing her words with care. If she had indeed managed to enchant them somehow, she certainly did not wish to do so again. The last thing she wanted to do was steal their free will. Not in this. Nor did anything else. “And your protection…”

 


Also in this series:

Stolen Dragons

Title: Stolen Dragons
Series: Fire Dragons of Grieghern #3
Published by: Amber Jantine
Release Date: March 3, 2018
Buy the Book: AmazonBarnes & NobleITunesSmashwordsKobo
Pages: 106

The youngest Grieghern dragon has disappeared and his brother Tyndarr is on the trail. As he searches, he encounters the beautiful ice-dragon, Aldriss. Upon learning that she is also looking for a missing youngling, the two team up to continue the quest for answers.

Aldriss has a damaged wing and leg from an 'accident' caused by one of her own and is no longer able to fly. Well aware of the fire-dragon's family connections, she knows that he can never belong to a low-born and crippled orphan like herself. But neither she nor Tyndarr can deny the instant, attraction that flares up between them.

Tyndarr is fascinated by the sensual beauty and soon becomes determined to make her his mate. She insists that their affair must end once the missing dragons are found. Magic, treachery, and an unexpected enemy threaten their lives but the greatest test of all may be for Aldriss to learn to trust again.

And to let herself open her icy heart to a fire-breather...

Tyndarr circled over the mountain paths once more. His younger brother's trail had gone cold and as a fire dragon, it wasn't a term that he used lightly. Anything associated with ice and snow had the worst of meanings for his kind.

Jyned had disappeared two days before. At first, everyone had assumed it was a prank. But then he had missed a meal. Followed by a second. As a rapidly growing youngling, a dragon on the verge of sprouting his mature flying wings, he would be constantly hungry but would not yet be able to hunt his own prey.

That was when the alarm had been raised, though their parents had still tried to have the situation handled as discreetly as possible. They thought that if it became known that they had lost one of their sons in this way, it would undermine their power.

At least, that was the excuse they had given to the family.

It was why he and his brothers were the only ones doing the searching, without the aid of their servants or courtiers.

He sniffed the air, wincing slightly as the icy breeze hit the inside of his nose. He and his brothers had drawn lots in order to determine who would search in which direction, and he'd drawn the losing mark. Tasked with flying over and beyond the northern borders of his family's lands. The most uncomfortable region for a fire dragon to be.

Despite the sting, he picked up an intriguing scent.

A dragon. Not one of his own kind, but a female.

Something inside him stirred, nearly distracting him from his quest. He had been waiting a long time to find a mate, since his parents felt that they had not received an adequate offer from anyone of sufficient status and influence. Human, dragon, or otherwise. And he had needs...

None of which mattered now.

Then he caught a glimpse of her.

On the ground.

Not where he had expected. One of her wings was noticeably smaller than the other and there was an odd hitch to her gait as well. What could an injured dragon be doing in a place like this? And alone?

And yet he caught no scent of pain from her, only the natural and enticing fragrances of a mature female.

She turned her head upward as if she'd heard the sound of his wings, but did not appear too startled by his appearance. Greetings, fire-breather. What brings you into this realm?

I am searching for my youngest brother. He has not been seen in two days.

She seemed to be taken aback, her shock evident in her scent. I am in search of a missing youngling as well. She disappeared two days ago.

That is when my brother vanished. Tyndarr landed a respectful distance from the she-dragon and folded his wings against his sides. Inclined his head. Tyndarr Grieghern, at your service, my lady.

I am called Aldriss. There was something a little odd about her manner of speaking. Something a little less smooth and polished than what he was used to hearing at his family's court. Yet despite her obvious physical limitations, she was one of the most strikingly beautiful dragons that he had ever seen, with her silvery scales and pale blue eyes. You say your brother has gone missing, my lord? Interesting coincidence. Is it not?

I do not believe in those sorts of coincidences. For what were the odds that two younglings from separate dragon clans would go missing at the same time, and in much the same way?

I suspect it is not a coincidence, either. Aldriss sighed and there was a flash of fear in her scent, as well as in her eyes. But why would anyone steal younglings?

I do not know. But perhaps if we can locate them, we will find out.

Are you suggesting that we work together, my lord?

If he didn't know how serious this situation was, he'd think that her tone had almost been... flirtatious. Or maybe she was responding to him instinctively, just as he was responding to her. I think it likely that we are looking for the same thing, so it would make sense if we can divide the burden. I will take the sky and you can see if there is any trace of their scent on the ground.

She stiffened. Just because you can fly and I cannot, that does not make you better than me.

I did not mean it that way.

She hesitated, then made the slightest shake of her head. Forgive me, my lord? I find being polite much more difficult these days.

He wondered if her injuries were related to the youngling's disappearance. Whether they were or not, they still appeared to be fresh and relatively new, for a dragon could normally heal even some of the most grievous of injuries in a matter of days.

Though that did not explain the lack of pain in her scent. Or rather, it’s diminished presence. Something so serious should have been accompanied by a much stronger odor of injury.

Still, it would be a difficult thing for her to adjust to now. Being forced to stay on the ground.

Even temporarily.

Tyndarr studied her more closely, trying to get a better assessment of this strange dragon. She appeared to be quite young. Now that he looked at her wings, it appeared that one might still be caught in the middle of its transformation to its full growth. Yet her voice had not been one of an adolescent, but of a fully mature female.

As was her scent.

You are staring at me, my lord.

Forgive me. It seems that I have forgotten my manners as well.

She laughed, the sound distinctly musical even inside his head. Then perhaps it is truly best for us to work together. We need to find our missing younglings before we end up offending many others with our lack of decorum.

Despite the seriousness of the situation, he could not help laughing as well. He was finding this ice-dragon completely enchanting.

And that was dangerous. He was meant to be with... he didn't know who, yet, but he was certain that his parents would never approve of her. Her manners were not exactly those of a higher-born dragon and the way she persisted on addressing him as 'my lord' reinforced that impression. Her physical limitations would also be a decided disqualifier, in his parents' eyes. They were nearly as stringent in their ideals with regards to physical perfection as they were about social rank.

Which was why they had nearly refused his brother Jodan’s match at first. But Queen Kyra’s blindness had been caused by a curse, rather than some other defect. And of course, being a monarch in her own right had made up for much, as far as his parents were concerned.

What was he thinking? He was supposed to be focused on finding his brother. And nothing else. I assume that you must know these northern lands better than I do. Any ideas on just where we should search?

I will continue north. There was another hint of a smile in her voice again, though she did not burst into full laughter again. I sense that it may be rather uncomfortable for you to head that way, as a fire-breather.

True.

I believe that the other ice dragons have searched much of the area to the west of here. Perhaps you can head east?

I will. He hesitated, unwilling to leave her presence, though he knew he needed to. Shall we meet up again when the sun sets? To exchange information?

Very well. Good luck, fire-breather.

He had been dismissed. There was nothing left for him to do, but soar into the air and hope that the ever-cooling wind would help to diminish this improper fire in his blood.


Also in this series:

Guardian of the Mist Dragon

Title: Guardian of the Mist Dragon
Series: Fire Dragons of Grieghern #4
Published by: Amber Jantine
Release Date: Pre-Order Available! Releases September 28, 2018
Contributors: Amber Jantine
Buy the Book: AmazonBarnes & NobleITunesSmashwordsKobo
Pages: 200

The Great Dragon, the devoted companion of the Emperor, has been murdered. Left behind was a single offspring: her egg. The Emperor sends a message to his most trusted old soldier, asking him to take the egg out of their lands for safekeeping. But Guan Tao is not the man he used to be. Taking on this mission for the emperor would be a death sentence, leaving his daughters and toddler son unprotected in the world.

His eldest daughter, Lin, refuses to let her father risk his life for the sake of the family's honor. Stealing his armor and his horse, she disguises herself as a man and takes on the mission in her father's place. Leaving her country, she finds herself in a strange land, with strange dragons. But trouble has followed her...

Dirkan Grieghern is searching for an escaped prisoner when he stumbles upon a most extraordinary scene: a group of mercenaries surrounding a single soldier. His first instinct is to leave the humans to settle the business among themselves, but when he realizes that the soldier is a female--and wounded--his instincts demand that he protect her.

Lin is grateful for the dragon's interference, but is startled when he soon shifts into the most handsome man she has ever seen. Weak and wounded, she allows him to take her, along with the dragon's egg, back to his home. But as she recovers, other emotions and attractions soon flare to life between them.

Dirkan is intrigued by the beautiful and exotic young female. Though he desires her, however, he knows he cannot act upon his attraction. Not when he is meant for an arranged marriage with a female of his own kind. But Lin's courage and beauty draw him in ways that no other female ever has.

Neither Dirkan nor Lin can resist the fires of passion between them. But when the time comes for her to return to her land, will he chose her? Or will he break her heart by continuing to live the way his parents have always expected?

The Guardian of the Mist Dragon is a sexy paranormal romance inspired by the legend of Mulan.

“The Great Dragon has been murdered.”

“Murdered?” Lin echoed, though the word was nearly enough to take her breath away. The Great Dragon was the Emperor’s closest companion. His protector. The oldest living being out of a race of benevolent creatures who brought the spring mists. Many were worshipped as gods and it was said that the Emperor was one of their descendants. A mix of human and something much more. “Who would dare do such a thing?”

“I do not know.”

“And the Emperor?”

“Fortunately, the dragon has offspring, so he shall have a companion again soon. The single egg must be retrieved and guarded until it hatches. His Majesty thinks it would be best for it to be taken out of our lands for a time, as there are many who would hunt and try to destroy it while it is at its most vulnerable.”

If she’d been breathless before, now her heart felt like it would leap from her chest. Making her legs weak, but she had pride of her own and refused to show it. “Is... is the Emperor asking you to be the dragon’s guardian?”

“Yes. Who else would he trust at a time like this?” Her father’s voice shook and he wheezed and coughed.

“Trust or not, you are in no condition to be traveling at all, much less”

“Lin! Would you have me defy our emperor?”

She bit her lip, knowing that there was no good answer she could give. The only way Father could avoid taking on the task was if he had a son to send in his place. Lin was the oldest of three girls and their only brother Han was barely more than a toddler.

But maybe... “I could go.”

“They would kill you. You know no woman can be allowed to bear weapons.”

“Then why did you train me, Father? I can fight as well as any man. You’ve said so yourself!”

“I taught you and your sisters those things so that you could defend our home and your mother while I was away at war. This is something else entirely.”

“I don’t see the difference.”

Father sighed and the pain in his expression was enough to make her bite her tongue. For now. “No, Lin. I need you to take care of things here. Do you understand?”

“Yes, Father.” She hastily excused herself before he could see that she was starting to cry.

There was no way that this ‘request’ from the Emperor would be anything but a death sentence. And losing Father would be a disaster. They would lose what protection he provided them in society. Though they had been struggling to keep up respectable appearances, she wasn’t so sure that anyone had actually been fooled.

It would explain why she and her closest sister had never received a marriage offer from anyone, even though they were both of age to be wed.

Lin’s lips twisted into a grimace. Of course, she had to admit some guilt in that. She’d not liked any of the men who had shown even the slightest interest in her, so had deliberately shown them her more... ‘unfeminine’ characteristics.

Perhaps she should regret those actions now, but she did not. She had made peace with her personal fate a long time ago. Assuming that she would remain in her family home forever a spinster running the household until her brother came of age and married.

Then, she would be able to retire from the position gracefully and turn her attention to helping raise her nieces and nephews.

It would not be the sort of life her parents would have wanted for her, but in the end, she knew they would have ultimately wanted her to be happy.

And she had seen no man with whom she could be happy.

Now, things were uncertain for them all. Han would no doubt be taken in by a soldier’s family, probably one who had served under Father. Lin knew he still kept in touch with many of them and considered them friends. Even though they were not relations, they would see that the son of Guan Tao would become a soldier too.

She and her sisters were a different matter.

With no family and their standing in society gone, they would either have to become servants... or worse. No one would want the burden of a woman who could not be married off to the benefit of either gaining status or a dowry.

Lin shuddered, recalling some particularly vicious gossip she’d overheard just the other day, aimed at her two youngest sisters in particular. The twins were barely fourteen, but quite womanly and undoubtedly the loveliest among them all. Some bitter old women had been speculating on how much Father might sell them for.

To the brothel. The same place they would likely end up if their father died on this mission for the Emperor.

No.

She wouldn’t let that happen.

The servants were coaxing Father into taking a meal. He sounded very weak, yet argued that he could not spare the time. Not when the Emperor’s safety was at stake.

As it truly was. His Excellency had soldiers to protect him, that was true, but he had always relied more on the sheer intimidation that his familiar, the Great Dragon, had always inspired in potential enemies. No one had truly dared to oppose the ruler as long as he had the magical beast by his side.

But without it?

There could be chaos. Or worse, open rebellion.

Quietly, Lin slipped into her father’s room and retrieved the Emperor’s scroll. Scanned it quickly to make sure she understood all of the details. The complex characters had been written with a shaky hand, meaning that it had likely come from the brush of the Emperor himself rather than a scribe. The monarch was aging too. He and Father had done their first military training together as young boys.

And now time was catching up with both of them.

Or was it the loss of his companion and familiar that had made the Emperor weaker?

No way to know. Though Father was considered a trustworthy soldier and subject, the family’s fall from wealth had mostly banished them from daily interactions with the imperial court. Gossip did not normally reach so far into the countryside and if the Emperor was indeed ill in any way, it was not yet common knowledge.

The servants, eunuchs mostly, who made up his inner circle would have ensured the secrecy of that. With or without direct orders from their master.

The last egg was being held at the Northern Monastery of the Mist. The scroll itself would confirm that the bearer was arriving at the secluded location under the Emperor’s direct orders.

She couldn’t imagine that the monks would be willing to turn over a rare dragon egg to anyone without that sort of assurance.

Lin heard her sister Jian join the servants in trying to coax Father into taking more than just his medication before setting out. She slipped into the room where the arms were kept. The old army gear was continually maintained in fighting condition, and had been laid out in preparation for her father’s departure.

She quickly undressed, stripping down to her short under-robe. Then she pulled on the leather padding and the lacquered breastplate. It was made of many tiny scales to protect the wearer from crossbow fire while still allowing for the maneuverability needed to fight with a sword. Lin reached for the blade in question next. Tested the edge.

It had been sharpened recently.

She held it in one hand easily, its weight a familiar thing. Almost like an old friend. With her free hand, she undid the complex knot that held her hair against the top of her head. Bunching the strands together in her fingers, she sliced through them at a level just above her shoulders. It was ragged and uneven and she’d scratched the side of her neck in the process but with her father’s helmet strapped on, no one would notice the tiny wound.

Or so she hoped.

If anyone knew she was a woman, she faced more than death. It would mean dishonor for her whole family.

But that was the risk she had to take.

“I knew you would chose this.” Her sister, Jian appeared in the doorway.

“Father isn’t strong enough to make the journey. You know that.”

“I know.” Belatedly, she noticed that her sister was holding out a cloth bundle. “I packed you some food to take on the road. And I had the servants place a light sleeping potion in Father’s tea. He’s snoring now and won’t notice your departure.”

Lin took the offering. “Forgive me. I should not have snapped at you.”

Jian made a dismissive wave. “You are under pressure now. No need to apologize.”

“But I want to.” She hesitated a moment, then drew her younger sibling into a quick, hard embrace. “You will look after things while I’m gone?”

“Of course.” They both glanced at the spears lining the wall, next to the place where their father’s armor had been stored. “Perhaps you should take one of those instead, rather than the sword.”

She was more familiar with the spear. It was a weapon normally used by women to defend the home. Which was precisely why she could not take it. “People might regard me with suspicion, if I did.”

“True.” There was a sound, a low wail. From their younger brother. He wasn’t old enough to know all the bad things about the world, but still had nightmares from time to time. He would start with these small cries, building up to a shrieking cry that would likely wake everyone in the house. Even those under the power of a sleeping potion. “I must go to him. Good journey, sister.”

“Thank you.” Lin hurried outside the house and found Father’s steed saddled with more than the ordinary gear. The servants had put on the armored plates too. They would slow the animal down only slightly. He was relatively young and had never seen actual battle, having been acquired and trained by Lin’s father only two years before.

Had it really been only two years since her father had been healthy. He’d come back from his last campaign wounded, of course, but those sorts of injuries normally did not affect a man in this way.

She mounted smoothly, tucking the bundle that Jian had given her onto the back of the saddle. Talking one last look at her family home, she turned the animal toward the gates. Once outside them, she kicked it into a gallop, heading off into the unknown...


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