Touch of Ice
Dawn of Dragons, book 1
He is as cold as ice.
She is the salvation that will melt his heart.
When Endora is faced with her daughter’s terminal illness, she takes the only chance she’s got. She braves the potential risks and signs a mating contract with the Delradon Draekon Lords, intent on using the payment to buy the aliens’ cure to save her daughter’s life.
Lord Aldric Darragon rules over his land with an iron fist until one day the only woman who is genetically compatible with him agrees to his offer of mating. As his all-consuming passion for Endora explodes, an ancient threat looms heavy over humans and Delradons alike. With the lives of everyone he cares about hanging in the balance, Aldric has to fight the demons of his past if he wants to defeat the enemies of the present.
Publisher’s Note: This gripping sci-fi alien romance has it all: dragons, passion and tension. It also contains explicit themes and is intended for adults only.
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Snow fell with an unrelenting fury, blanketing the early evening with the smell of things cold and pure. Aldric watched as the air filled with the large snowflakes, lost in his thoughts.
Under his palm, Rhyl’s scales shivered with withheld excitement. The beast wanted to take to the skies at least as much as Aldric did. Soaring in the middle of a snowstorm was the only luxury Aldric awarded himself, the only time he allowed his own personal pleasure to come beforehis responsibilities as High Lord of Katanie. As long as the flight lasted, there was only the sky, him, Rhyl, and the connection between man and dragon that ran deeper than a cellular level.
Only he always had to come back.
The sound of a door opening made him turn and he stifled a growl of annoyance at the sight of Dalgo. His old friend’s face was set in familiar grim lines, and he walked briskly toward Rhyl and himself. Aldric was tempted to ignore his friend’s presence and fly away on his dragon, but as his gaze locked with Dalgo’s silver eyes, eyes he shared with every Draekon, something in them made him stay. It looked like it could be important enough to postpone his flight.
“Don’t tell me we had another disturbance on the northern border? I thought those thieves had been properly scared away.”
“What I have to tell you has nothing to do with some low-life human thieves.” Dalgo stopped walking and stared straight at Aldric. He never bothered with the proper greetings when they were alone. “But before I tell you, you have to promise to listen to everything I have to say before you make your decision.”
Rhyl turned his massive head and took a long, hard look at Dalgo. The beast was obviously annoyed at having to wait for his flight, and showed his displeasure by fuming, two steady columns of steam rising up from his nostrils. Dalgo glanced at the dragon, then shook his head.
“Sorry, my friend. You’re not going out tonight. You should go back to the lair with Myral. Her wing is still recovering. She had to stay down there today. Her foul temper might just cheer you up.”
Rhyl growled and shook his head, then blew a hot cloud of steam in Dalgo’s direction.
“Go, before I tell her you’re the reason she won’t get any flying with me tomorrow, either.”
Aldric chuckled and patted Rhyl’s shoulder. A wave of annoyance made its way into Aldric’s mind, the dragon’s feelings imprinting on him, clear as words. Aldric shook his head in answer. The dragon snorted his disapproval, but slowly made his way to the long, dark hallway that slithered deep through the mountain to where the dragons had their lair.
“What is it, then?” Aldric turned to face the large opening in the mountainside that was the dragon’s landing and departing strip. The open sky called to him, and his mood worsened at the knowledge he wouldn’t get to enjoy the freedom of the flight. When Dalgo didn’t answer, he turned back to stare at his friend. Dalgo’s eyes were determined but his mouth was closed. He seemed to be at a loss for words, something that never happened to Aldric’s usually loquacious captain of the guards.
Dalgo took a deep breath, then squared his shoulders.
“She came forward this afternoon at the Human Liaison Office in Helbon.”
“Who?” Aldric frowned, not bothering to hide his irritation. What woman could be worth wasting a perfect snowstorm like this?
“Her. Your match.”
Comprehension dawned and Aldric suddenly wished there were chairs to sit on near the landing strips. A flash of a young woman, laughing and flipping long, dark hair came to his mind. He was surprised at how vivid his memory was, how well he remembered her face. Those large, dark velvet brown eyes, those full lips stretched in an easy smile, that luscious body with a woman’s full curves. He remembered everything about her.
“Endora.” Aldric tasted her name on his lips. He hadn’t allowed himself to speak that name in a decade. “She accepted the offer?”
“Yes.” Dalgo smiled. “She’s waiting at the office of human liaisons as we speak.”
“She refused to even meet with me. What changed?” Aldric frowned, incredulity mixing
with the burgeoning of a stubborn hope.
“What can I say? Women change their minds.” Dalgo opened his palms in exasperation.
“The reason isn’t important.”
Aldric frowned, the memory of the day he received the news of a compatible woman as vivid as the one of Endora’s face. Closing his eyes for the briefest moment, he allowed it to come back to his mind.
He left Rhyl a good two miles away on the top of a steep mountain, not wanting the beast to attract the villagers’ attention. Blood ran hot through his veins as he walked through the thick woods in the direction of the woman’s house, in the tiny human village of Helbon.
How dare she refuse him? Didn’t she understand what was at stake? He raged against the grasping fists of ferns and blackberry brambles tearing his riding clothes. She was the first woman to have ever been found compatible with him. He finally had a chance to produce an heir for his bloodline, one of the most powerful and ancient ones in Draekon history. To have that hope snatched away on some female’s whim? Unacceptable.
The peasant woman hadn’t even deigned to meet with him.
He’d offered her everything. A life of complete luxury, the protection of a Draekon Lord. He laid it all at her feet in his letter, but she’d returned it unread. Nor had she accepted the coffer of precious stones he’d sent along with it. Everything had been returned unopened, without even a word of explanation.
This was why he was struggling through the forest, alone. She wouldn’t dare to refuse him in person, he was sure of it. He was prepared for everything—even if he had to use his considerable power to coerce her into accepting the contract, she would be his mate. There was no place for weakness when it came to securing an heir, not for those of his blood.
His temper flared as he beat back the last of the blackberry thicket and finally arrived at the clearing in front of Endora Papineau’s house.
It was a typical human farmhouse, small but cozy, with a thatch roof and a large chimney made of field stone. The family wasn’t poor, with the fields a luscious green in the early summer, and plenty of animals grazing in the pasture. They were hard-working farmers and lived in relative comfort. This would complicate his task if the woman was stubborn in her refusal, but he could still entice her with the promise of Delradon technology, which no human farmer could afford to buy. He was still hidden by the deep shadows of the forest, considering the best strategy to bend her will, when she stepped out of the house.
His heart lurched at the sight of her. His superior vision gave him every detail of her face, even from the distance. He found out he couldn’t move, couldn’t formulate a thought. All he could do was watch.
She was more beautiful, more alive, than any other woman he’d ever met. Her laughter filled the air and her smile etched a permanent scar in his mind as he watched her work, feeding fat chickens and plucking vegetables from her garden. Possessiveness and desire gripped him, the feelings so alien he didn’t recognize them at first for what they were.
This woman was his. Their very genes were interconnected in a way only fate could forge.
He wanted her like nothing he’d ever wanted in his long, lonely life. A savage lust filled his veins as he watched, committing to memory each one of her gestures, the tiniest facial expression.
His woman. His mate.
He was ready to step out of hiding and prowl toward her when a young human man walked out from behind the house. Endora twisted and ran to him, jumping into his arms with joy erupting from her throat in sweet, pure laughter that tore at Aldric’s heart like a hook. The young man kissed her, a deep, possessive kiss that spoke volumes of hidden secrets and shared intimacy.
Jealousy almost made him come out of the forest and rip this young man to pieces with his bare hands for daring to touch what was rightfully his.
Then Endora pulled her head back and stared at the human man, her expression etched in lines of pure bliss. She caressed his cheek with a tender gesture, her happiness so obvious it hurt Aldric’s eyes.
This woman—who was by all the rights of the universe his down to the bones in her body, the genes in every one of her cells—was in love. It radiated through the pores of her skin and shone in her dark velvet eyes.
Aldric froze and stifled his possessive impulse.
For a long time, he watched Endora and her lover, until his boiling blood turned to ice in his veins and passion made way for the cold reason of the High Lord once more. He wouldn’t disturb her happiness with his demands. He would allow Endora to live a happy human life, no matter the cost to him or his bloodline.
With one last look at the dark beauty, Aldric turned around and went away. He pushed Endora Papineau out of his mind, buried himself in his work as the High Lord, and never again summoned her memory.
Aldric opened his eyes, surprised to see Dalgo still staring at him. He might have been lost in his memories for longer than he’d thought. “What changed? Why now?”
Dalgo shook his head, exasperation plain on his face. “Do I need to remind you that she isthe only woman they ever found who was compatible with you? Because I haven’t forgotten.”
“I am aware.”
Aldric turned and walked away from Dalgo. He paced back and forth in a parallel line to the edge of the mountain. Emotions coiled inside him where there usually was only a frozen resolve. The unfamiliar chaos made him irritable and he fought the loss of control. He knew what his friend was going to say, but he still didn’t want to hear it.
“You need this to work.” Dalgo wasn’t backing off. “Your entire hold on power depends on it.”
“I don’t need you to tell me I need an heir,” Aldric countered, not bothering to disguise his irritation. “I’ll get that peasant girl pregnant soon enough. Then I’ll send her on her way home with a small fortune.”
Dalgo snorted. “You know it doesn’t have to be like this. You have a real chance here. Don’t let it pass without even trying.”
Aldric walked away from the edge and into the depths of the cave. His own footsteps echoed inside, and it was the loneliest sound he’d ever heard.
“Your life doesn’t have to be your parents’.” Dalgo called from behind him. “Think of Shari. That child needs more than just growing up in an ice castle.”
Aldric stopped and turned around, suddenly angry. “Endora is not coming here to find happiness,” he said, more forcefully than he intended. “All she wants is money, and as soon as she’s done her duty, she’s going to leave.” His anger deflated, and he shook his head. “Your parents were true Draekon mates, in soul and in body. I don’t expect you to understand. She is my only genetic match, but she’s only that.”
“All I’m asking is that you give this a chance. You don’t have to live your father’s life.”
Aldric stared at his friend for a long time before nodding once. He turned around and walked away, the ghost of Endora’s laughter in the back of his mind.