Dragon Heartstring by Juliette Cross
A Vale of Stars Prequel
Genre: Paranormal/Fantasy Romance
Date of Publication: October 25, 2016
Word Count: 42K
Cover Artist: Kanaxa
Demetrius Cade has long since let go of his prejudice against Morgonkind, the dragon hybrid race his father taught him to hate. But what he never saw coming was the Morgon woman who would finally teach him to love.
Shakara Icewing has watched Demetrius Cade from afar for years. Known as the most eligible bachelor and emotionally unavailable in all of Gladium Province, she sees him as the aloof, arrogant brother of her dear friend. But when they finally meet, she isn’t sure she can handle how deep and how fast they both fall.
An old enemy resurfaces and once more threatens those Demetrius loves. When Shakara plans to speak before Parliament against business tycoon Aron Grayson, she puts her own life in the line of fire. Demetrius will stop at nothing to protect the woman he can no longer live without.
There were already a few couples taking advantage of the private rooftop. We stopped at the corner and looked out over downtown Gladium. Glittering like stars, the city lights lit up the night.
“Isn’t it beautiful?” I asked, leaning on the railing, the warm summer breeze lifting my hair.
I glanced over to find him staring at me, not the city. I smiled. “Do you know it’s rude to stare like that?”
“I’m sorry. I can’t help it. You are quite beautiful,” he said with sincerity.
I arched a brow. “Even with the wings?”
“Especially with the wings.” His gaze flicked to them. “You know, Shakara. You seem to have a misguided notion that I dislike Morgons, but the truth is far from it.”
“Well, if I may be so frank, your past proves you’ve had—I don’t know how to say it—issues with Morgonkind.”
His heavy gaze never left me. “Some of us learn from our past mistakes. And we change. At least we should anyway.”
His intense expression and bold statement were a challenge. One I wasn’t sure I was ready to explore. The conversation had turned from casual to serious in a heartbeat. And I realized in this, he was right and I was wrong. We should learn from our mistakes.
Changing the subject was my only escape. “So. What were you talking to Lucius about?”
He loosened his tie and pulled it off, folded it end over end then stuffed it into his inside jacket pocket. “You were watching me?”
“So you lied,” he said, leaning forward with both forearms on the balcony wall, his left arm brushing mine.
“Did I?” I focused on steadying my voice.
“You said you didn’t know I was here at the party when I walked up to your table.”
“Oh, yes. I did lie.” I felt him staring but continued to gaze out at the city. “I didn’t want you to think I was stalking you or something.”
He laughed, leaning left, his shoulder grazing mine. On purpose, for sure.
My senses amped up. “You’re avoiding my question.”
“Yes, tell me. I want to know what Demetrius Cade, who never speaks to his brother-in-law even at his nephew’s birthday party, could possibly have to say in a little one-on-one conversation.”
“You have been stalking me.” He smirked and pressed closer.
I arched a brow at him and whispered, “Tell me.”
“It was about you actually.”
“The hearing coming up.”
“Oh.” The wind lifted my hair in the night air. I tucked a strand behind one ear. “What about it?”
“As I mentioned at lunch yesterday, I’m afraid this hearing may bring some negative attention your way. Perhaps, even danger.” His frown was back. His lips tightened into a line as he studied me.
“I think you might be worrying too much.”
“No, I’m not. Which is why you might notice someone from Nightwing Security watching out for you at the clinic. And maybe elsewhere.”
“Wait. I’m going to have a bodyguard?”
“Yes. And don’t say you don’t want one. It’s necessary to be cautious about this. At least until the hearing is over.”
I couldn’t help but be a little surprised that Demetrius of all people would take the initiative to protect me. My father and aunt were bringing up clan members for the hearing itself, but they hadn’t prepared for any threats beforehand.
Before Demetrius’s scowl could deepen further, I made a bold declaration. “So what you’re saying is you’re worried about me.”
Just like that, his stiff shoulders rolled forward as if a weight had been dropped. He angled his body toward me, leaning one elbow on the banister and answered my teasing question more directly than I’d anticipated. “Yes. I certainly am.”
My nerves rattled inside me like marbles in a jar. It was all because of Demetrius. I was fine with him in crowds and loud clubs and chatty birthday parties. But alone with the heady mix of his cologne and his masculine scent swirling around me and with those dark eyes tracking my every move, my dragon wanted to stretch out for him and purr. The woman, the part of me who was confident in the clinic but shy in the bedroom, wanted to retreat and hide. As soon as I’d thought it, my wings twitched, brushing against him.
I gasped and pulled them tight again, “Sorry.”
The air shifted, and I felt like I did that day in the elevator—breathless and trapped and extremely aroused at his nearness.
“Shakara,” he said softly.
“May I take a closer look at your wings?”
I turned for him, inhaling a deep breath, and opened them partway, keeping one hand on the banister.
“May I touch them?” he asked softly.
I didn’t want to tell him how sensitive I was to touch on my wings. Some Morgons weren’t at all. But when Demetrius’s hands slid up the arches, sending a sensual shiver through my body, I thought I might come undone. When his fingers caressed along the side edge and back down, I gripped the banister tight.
“They’re quite beautiful,” he said. He had to notice my tremulous state. If he did, he made no note of it.
“You’re quite beautiful.”
When he moved his body closer, I could feel the heat of him at my back. He trailed his fingers along the underside of my wings where they were especially soft. He nuzzled his mouth close to my ear. “I want to touch you.”
Needing to hold onto something, I gripped the banister with both hands. I couldn’t breathe. I shouldn’t be behaving this way with him of all men. I felt as if I were stepping into enemy territory, venturing into places I wasn’t meant to go. And yet, he turned me on beyond reason.
“May I?” he asked.
“Yes,” I whispered, unable to resist him.
He swept my hair over one shoulder then proceeded to kiss his way up one side of my neck. One hand spanned my waist. He glided the other hand over the curve of my shoulder and down my arm, then laced his fingers through mine atop the banister. Yearning for his lips on my skin, I dropped my head back so he could have better access. He took full advantage, brushing feather-light kisses down the column of my throat.
“You know, there are many who would object to this kind of behavior.” He pressed an open-mouthed kiss to that tender spot between my neck and shoulder.
“What, what kind of behavior? There are others doing the same in their own corner of the rooftop.”
“No, couples like us.”
“You mean a Morgon and a human?” I asked, trying not to sound as breathless as I was.
“Yes.” He nipped up my neck with teeth. The sensation flushed me with heat.
“Do you care if people object?”
He stopped and turned me around by the waist.
“Does it bother you?” I repeated.
His voice dropped lower with an edge of strain. “I don’t know.” His fingers banded tighter at my waist. “But not enough for me to stop.”
Before I could form another thought, his lips were hard and determined on mine. The world be damned, for there could be no misunderstanding what he wanted now.
About the Author:
Juliette lives in lush, moss-laden Louisiana where she lives with her husband, four kids, and black lab, Kona. Multi-published author of paranormal and urban fantasy romance, she loves reading and writing brooding characters, mysterious settings, persevering heroines, and dark, sexy heroes. From the moment she read JANE EYRE as a teenager, she fell in love with the Gothic romance. Even then, she not only longed to read more novels set in Gothic worlds, she wanted to create her own.
You can discover more of Juliette and her books on her website.