Dragon King Nikolai Baudin witnessed how love destroyed his own father after the death of his mother and vows to never take a wife. Yet, when the little girl he rescued so many years ago returns as a beautiful and mysterious woman, he finds the desires of his heart overwhelming his good intentions. But when some of his people are found dead, Nikolai must face the possibility that the woman who draws him may just be the one murdering those in his care.
Arianrhod Deatherage has every reason to hate the darkly handsome king who saved her from a burning pike, only to turn her over to strangers and then promptly forget about her. But when she finds him again, it’s not hate she’s feeling, but something far more unsettling… desire. If he discovers her secret, she could lose everything. But when people begin to die around her, Aria fears that the past is repeating itself, and that the man she’s come to admire could be the next victim.
Can two souls who have forsaken love join together to battle an ancient evil? Or will tragedies from the past separate them forever?
Targeted Age Group:: 18-65
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
This book is the re-imagining of a tale I created many years ago while watching a favorite television program (which had absolutely nothing to do with a desert kingdom or dragon shape-shifters). But out of that TV show grew a small group of writers who took the show's characters and put them into an entirely new setting, and spun new tales.
During that particular time of my life, I was going through some personal issues, and rediscovered my love for writing. You could say that the TV show and the stories we wrote launched me into my writing career. I realized then that I wanted to be an author more than anything else and share my love of romance with people. I wanted people to read my stories and find hope for the future and their own relationships, and to realize that no matter where you are in life, you can overcome anything.
Four hundred years later, I've come back to Nikolai. It was such a pleasure to return to his character. He's as handsome and heroic to me now as he was then and, I don't mind telling you, I'm totally smitten with him! The kingdom of Semar is the same, as are some of the side characters, but the adventure is a little different. Niko's original name changed, but he's always had Arianrhod for his heroine, and their true love remains.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
Nikolai was originally the hero from a tv show that I watched, and with another group of writers, we put him in another setting, where he evolved into a dragon shape-shifter and a king over his own realm – with a twin to boot! (Because what's better than one hot hero? Two!)
Aria came to me from a picture by Luis Royo, a very talented artist. Her ethereal beauty seemed to be haunting and next to a dark dragon, it was light moonlight shining down on the night. A perfect match. I named her after the Welsh goddess of the moon and her character was born.
Aria stepped aside to allow the men to bring the carpet into the room. King Nikolai’s chamber was easily twice the size of the cottage she’d grown up in. Painted silver panels lined the walls from floor to ceiling, and luxurious, thick rugs covered the glossy wooden floor. A massive limestone fireplace took up most of the wall across from her. And to her right, black silk sheets swathed the largest bed she’d ever seen. Her gaze snared on them as her fantasies of the night before flittered through her mind. Dreams of kissing the most beautiful man she’d ever seen as he lay her back upon his bed.
She tamped down those thoughts, tucking them back into the secret place of her heart, and turned her attention back to the reason she’d come here.
The king stood before a mahogany desk and chair on her left, his eyes locked on her. Black hair brushed his wide shoulders and accentuated the stubble at his jaw. A fine black tunic stretched across his chest, hinting at the muscles beneath. Black breeches and boots fit his powerful legs to perfection and made her heart skip a beat. He was the most beautiful man Aria had ever seen.
When their gazes clashed, heat flooded her cheeks. Had he seen her staring at him? At his bed? What must he think?
She straightened her spine and called upon every ounce of strength she possessed to not show her embarrassment. Aria waved forward the men who’d come with her to deliver the king’s purchase.
“Your Majesty, where should they…?”
King Nikolai cut his gaze away from her to scowl at Kiril. No words were exchanged, but she could feel his displeasure even from the distance separating them. He’d asked her to come, yet she felt most unwelcome in that moment. Had she come at the wrong time of day?
She glanced at Kiril to see the man’s lips twitch.
“The lady and the carpet, as you wished, Sire.”
If possible, Nikolai’s frown deepened at his Second. “Kiril, I specifically—”
“Asked to see her, yes. I shall leave you to your business then.” Kiril winked at her as he turned and left the room.
She stared after him a moment, then turned to Nikolai with a slight shake of her head.
“Majesty, if you could kindly direct the men as to where…”
Nikolai turned his back to her and resumed his seat at the desk. “Just lay it wherever and go.”
Aria’s mouth dropped open. But… yesterday… Her stomach dropped to her toes and bounced back with an uncomfortable twinge. Yesterday, she thought he’d flirted with her. She really had imagined the twinkle to his eyes and the linger of his lips upon her hand. What a fool she was!
Taking a cleansing breath into her lungs, she let it out and motioned the two burly men forward. She viewed the room once more as she held her disappointment at bay. She was not a little girl seeking a knight to sweep her away on his horse. Or on the back of a great dragon. She was a woman grown who could never have love or a family. She needed answers, not sweet words.
Shoring up her resolve, Aria studied the chamber and motioned for the men to unroll the carpet at the end of the king’s bed. Thick black wool with silver and gold accents spread across the chamber floor, drawing the eye. The carpet accented the silken sheets upon his bed and the painted panels on the walls. The effect was both masculine and strong. Like the king.
“Thank you,” she told them. When then men departed, she turned her attention back to the king. His lack of attraction to her did not matter.
“Majesty,” she said, and stepped closer to him.
“You may go,” he said, without looking her direction.
Aria licked her lips. Dare she push him and ask her questions? His word was law here. Could she be executed for her impertinence?
“Yes, but I wanted…”
He stood and rounded on her, fury making his eyes burn like fire. “I. Said. Go. Do not make me tell you a second time. You won’t like the consequences.”
Her heart thumped in her chest and she took a step back. Then another. Here was the Dark Dragon that people far and wide whispered about. The fury lining his face and tightening his hands into fists said it all. If she pushed, she would be punished.
Aria swallowed and hurried to the door. As her hand found and opened the latch, another feeling bubbled up. Her shoulders tensed and her gut tightened. No. She wouldn’t leave without answers. She had to know what happened that day in Crevo. And if by chance he didn’t slay her for asking, then perhaps he would allow her time in his Archives. It was worth the risk. If nothing else, she would find lasting peace in death. That thought more than any other made her close the door and turn to face him.
Nikolai sat in his chair with slumped shoulders. His hands shook slightly as he ran them over his face and through his hair.
All her indignation drained away at the sight. He looked so weary.
She parted her lips to speak, but he sighed and stood. He moved on silent feet to the balcony and disappeared through the sheer curtains that blew in the hot summer breeze.
Nikolai stopped at the limestone balustrade and rested his hands upon it. He hung his head.
Her heart turned over as she watched. Something about this strong, gorgeous man pulled her forward. He seemed lonely and so very tired. Gone was the anger he’d displayed just moments before and Aria wondered if perhaps that wasn’t just an act to be rid of her.
She should leave. Return later when he might be more amenable to answer her questions.
Nikolai sighed and his head dropped a fraction lower.
She knew those feelings of despair. Recognized them from her own movements when even the bright light of dawn looked bleak. Nikolai wasn’t at all what she’d expected. Compassion for him rose and replaced all other thoughts.
Aria stepped out onto the balcony and stopped behind him. She settled her hand on his shoulder, doing the only thing she could think to do in that moment. Offer another hurting soul comfort.
His muscles bunched under her hand and he turned to her.
The faint lines around his eyes seemed deeper and his lips pressed into a firm line. He held himself stiff and his hand clenched into a fist on the balustrade.
But the golden depths of his eyes blazed down at her, stark and raw.
Aria had no time to identify the emotions swirling in that gaze.
Nikolai clamped his large hands on her shoulders and pulled her flush against the hard angles of his body. She shivered at the intensity in his arms.
As he lowered his head, Aria’s lips parted.
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