Friday, February 19, 2010

Dragon Lord: Dragon Lord's Prize by Cynthia Sax


Dragon Lord's Prize

by Cynthia Sax
cover art by ReneƩ George
ISBN: 978-1-59596-983-5
Genre(s): Paranormal, Dark Fantasy
Theme(s): Shapeshifters, Elves, Dragons & Magical Creatures
Series: Dragon Lord
Length: Novella

Will this golden dragon-shifting lord win the game of love?
Lady Sabine knows that laughing golden eyes alone cannot keep her safe. Lord Berg has yet to prove himself worthy of her hand, failing every secret test she has given him. She issues one last challenge to the dragon shifter. If he succeeds, he will win her love. If he fails, she will walk away from him forever.
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Twilight spread its dark fingers across the field as they gathered herbs. Her friend Moira had insisted upon this evening's foraging and Sabine had not argued, welcoming the diversion. Although every room was filled with suitors, the castle was achingly empty without her cousins Taja and Raaf.

And without her laughing lord.

She stared up at the near-full moon, expecting to see the silhouette of a dragon there. Would he ever return? Did she want him to return? He had failed her, running from the tournament as her father had run from battle.

"The Bride Hunt Moon rises this next night, cousin of my heart." Moira paused in her cutting of yarrow. "Many will find their husbands then."

It was a pagan ritual. Flimsy bonds were created without tests of character. "And many will find heartache." When they discovered that the men making them laugh could not keep them safe. "Would you give up your freedom?" Her friend followed the old ways.

"Nay." Moira lifted her filled basket. "I will be needed elsewhere on the morrow."

That Moira, a healer, was needed meant illness, injury, and death was coming. Sabine shivered. The castle was left nigh defenseless, their warriors battling the Ubel army to the south. "We should return."

Moira straightened, hands held out. A strange breeze blew, lifting her unbound black hair, the tendrils moving around her pale face as though they had a life of their own. Her emerald eyes blazed brightly. Then as suddenly as the wind had begun, it stopped. "Aye." The woman nodded. "It is time."

They entered the forest between the field and the castle. There was no fear of becoming lost. Moira was one with the night, and Sabine had played in this forest since she was a youth. They passed a circle of stone, the site of ancient sacrifices. Sabine's friend bent down, touched the stone, and smiled. "The golden dragon flies this night." Her voice was not her own. "He meets his mate here under the near Bride Hunt Moon."

She knew of only one golden dragon, Treu. Her laughing Lord Berg returned only to meet with another. Sabine's hands clenched. After she'd allowed him liberties she had never before given, he met with another. He was an inconstant creature.

They marched on in silence.

He had said she was the one, his destiny. Yet he courted, wooed another all the time he whispered sweet words in her ear. Who was this woman, this mate, he betrayed her with? Sabine stopped by a stream, bending to wash the dirt off her hands. Moira did the same.

"The night is warm," Moira murmured. "The water is cool."

Sabine met her gaze. "Will you bathe with me?" If they delayed their return, the woman, her rival, might pass this way. Curiosity burned at her.

"I have work to do." Her friend's smile was sad as she took Sabine's basket. "You bathe. I will go ahead."

Sabine hesitated, looking back over her shoulder in the direction of the ancient stone circle. To stay in the forest alone at night was dangerous, but she needed to know.

"It is safe," Moira assured her. "You will come to no harm. Indeed" -- she grinned -- "you will be more protected here than in the castle keep." She gave Sabine a hug. "I bid you well, cousin of my heart."

Sabine was not well. Her heart was breaking. But she drew herself up; this slight pain would save her from a later more brutal fate. Once she saw with her own eyes how laughing eyes could not keep her safe -- she positioned herself behind a giant oak tree at the edge of the stone -- she would not succumb to them again. She would make a match with a strong, fearless warrior, a man who would fight to protect her. Sabine stared at the sky. She would not dream of dragons and laughing golden eyes.

The forest sprang to life around her. Frantic night creatures rustled in the brush. A stag leaped past her, his brown eyes glazed with fear. Seconds later, giant wings beat the air. Sabine caught her breath as she watched him descend. He was a dazzling creature, the near-full moon reflecting off golden scales. His head reared back, puffs of smoke curling around his nostrils. He stretched out his talons. For one instant, Sabine thought he reached for her.

He didn't. Sabine was hidden and he was here to meet his mate, the other woman. A mist rolled in, covering them both. When it cleared, the rock circle was empty.

He had vanished, and with him, her hope of resolution. Sabine stepped toward where the dragon had landed. Had he shifted so quickly?

There was a flash of movement and she fell. A hand cupped the back of her skull before she hit the stone. A hard, heated body crushed hers. She swung her arm to strike her attacker. Her wrists were captured, her hands stretched high above her head. She screamed. There was no sound, her mouth covered. His taste was familiar, hickory, charbroiled meat. He smelled of smoke and man, a scent she craved these days past. It was Treu. She relaxed.

"Indulging in a midnight rendezvous, angel?" There was laughter on his lips yet his body tightened with tension. "I am willing to accommodate you." He scattered a trail of fervent kisses down her neck.

With his lover tardy, did he assume her a substitute? "No doubt you accommodate many, Lord Berg." She pushed up with her hips in an attempt to dislodge him.

"One, not many." He thrust back, his cock hard against her softness. "I play love games only with you, Sabine." He ground against her.

Love games. While the finding of a worthy mate plotted her life course, this was merely a game for him. "In games, there is one winner." She wiggled under him. He groaned. "Many losers."

"In this game, we will both be winners." His mouth sealed hers, his tongue plunging into her mouth, stealing her objections. He caressed her breasts, rolling her nipples between his fingers, hardening them into sensitive points. She arched, her hands gripping his shoulders. Her pussy throbbed, longing for his touch. She stroked the bulge in the front of his breeches.

"No touching." He grabbed her wrists. "My control is badly frayed this night." He spread her arms, placing her palms flat on the smooth stone. "Leave them here." She curled her fingers. "Flat." He smoothed them out again. "You will not move. If you do, I will stop. I will not touch your pussy. I will not lick your clit. Understand?"

"I understand." Already she wanted to squirm, her pussy wet, her body humming in anticipation.

He sniffed the air. "I think you do." He leisurely unlaced the front of her dress. "Did you wear this for your lover, Lady Sabine? So he could easily suck on your wonderful breasts?" He reached inside, scooping out a breast. Although she had no lover, she kept quiet. "Did he do this?" He licked a circle around her nipple.

"Please." She heard herself beg.

"Or this?" He nipped her and she squeaked. "Or perhaps this was his preference?" He sucked, his mouth hot. He pulled down the front of her dress, exposing both breasts, the neckline lifting them. "Beautiful. You have beautiful breasts, Lady Sabine." He licked the crevice between them. "Almost as beautiful as your pussy." He lifted the layers of skirts, bunching the fabric around her waist, the night air cool on her thighs. "Spread for me, angel."

"Treu." That he, with those dragon eyes, looked at her like this, all wet and flushed...

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