Authors: Thalia Frost
Dragon Me to the Flame
(Dragons of Emberside, 2)
Copyright 2016 by Thalia Frost. All rights reserved.
Cover Art: Melody Simmons
Chapter 1: Shifting Reality
Skye wrenched herself out of Niall's embraced. Every nerve ending on her body burned. She had been on the edge of something she couldn't define. “No! This is insane. You're insane. It's just a birthmark—not a sign that I'm a dragon shifter! This is reality, not some fairytale. I'm just a regular woman. Okay, I'm a bestselling author.”
Skye stamped her foot and growled at him. “Oh my god! What is wrong with you?”
She walked over to the window, her eyes filling with tears. She had never felt so strange—so conflicted and not herself.
“I swear I'm not crazy. I know how crazy it sounds, but there's a whole other reality you have to open yourself to, Skye.” Niall's voice was soft, a caress as he came up behind her.
Skye closed her eyes. “I don't have time for crazy right now. I have a book to finish.”
“I know you do, and you can. There's plenty of time for everything.” Niall put his arms around her, and shivers rippled through her.
“How? In 80 days, I have to leave.”
Why am I telling him that? Why would he care?
Her head was a muddle of thoughts. None of them made sense. She couldn't think past the desire that had flamed up inside of her for this man.
“Maybe you don't have to leave. Can't you write from anywhere?”
Skye sighed. He had a point there. “Well, that's not the plan!” She sputtered.
“Plans change, just like mine did. I was supposed to marry Morighan, but I'm not going to. I don't care how many dragon warriors I have to kill. You are my destined mate.” Niall's voice trembled.
Skye closed her eyes, desire running through her again. “How do I know that's true? Prove it. A birthmark isn't enough.” She forced her logical side back to the fore. Thinking clearly was the way to handle this craziness.
“Well, I have one that's nearly identical to yours, as do all dragon shifters of Emberside. It's our clan marking. Each clan has a slightly different one. When you showed up here, I could tell by your personality you were a dragon shifter, and the odds were, you were from the Clan of Emberside—my clan.” His breath was hotter on her neck now.
Skye whirled around. “Okay, bad boy. Let's see it. Whip it out.”
Niall grinned and whistled. “Yes, ma'am.”
Clearing her throat, Skye walked back over to the couch and sat down, trying to regain control of the situation. Telling the man to strip seemed like a good start. She grinned.
“You're enjoying you, aren't you?” Niall unbuckled his belt and let his jeans fall to the floor.
Skye tried not to look, didn't want to give him that satisfaction. But she couldn't help herself.
His dark skin and well muscled thighs were a sight to behold.
He shifted, showing her his left inner thigh. “Right here. Come take a look.”
Skye thought she was close enough. There was no double the marks were identical. How was that possible?
“I can see it well enough from here.” She cleared her throat.
Niall licked his lips as if reading her thoughts. “I want you to make damned sure you don't have any doubts, Skye. Come look closely.”
She rose from the couch slowly, every hair on her body standing up at the sight of Niall Gregor in black boxer briefs only down below. “Okay. I will.”
“I won't bite. I swear.” He stood still, watching her.
Rose knelt down in front of him, quiet aware of the erotic charge in the air. She studied the light birthmark on his inner thigh—reddish in hue and shaped like a full dragon. Hers was nearly identical. “Okay.” She stood up, her head swimming.
“Whoa, Skye.” Niall caught her hand. “I've got you. You don't look so great.” He helped her back to the couch.
“I don't feel so great.” She swallowed hard and dropped her head into her hands. Everything was black, even with her eyes open.
“You said okay. What did you mean?” Niall sat next to her, still in his underwear, as she was all too aware, even feeling as sick as she did suddenly.
“I mean, I see what you're driving at. There's something that can't be explained away when I see your birthmark and mine. They're nearly identical.” She swallowed hard at the bile rising in her throat.
“Hey, hey. It's alright. I swear.” He took her into his arms, smoothing her hair under his hands. Skye didn't fight him.
They sat in silence for several minutes. Tears fell from Skye's eyes.
“Hey, it's going to be okay. You've made it this far as a dragon shifter. You'll live past today. Actually, you'll flourish now that you know who and what you really are—besides a gifted woman and writer.” Niall brushed her tears with his fingertips, sending shivers through her.
“Maybe. It doesn't seem like it, but it explains so much.” She sniffled.
“I'm sure it does.” Niall cleared his throat. “Now that we have that behind us...I'm not sure you realize my full intentions here.”
Skye stared at him. “I'm reeling right now.”
“I know. I'm sorry, but there's no time to waste. I want you to be mine—my mate, my wife. I need you, Skye.”
Skye laughed and slipped out of his arms, standing. “You barely even know me. I have many flaws.”
“Right. You're standoffish, cold, and have a terrible temper. Did I get them right?” Niall grinned, his arms crossed.
“Oh!” Skye stamped her foot.
“Seriously, I want to get to know you. I hate having to rush you and...this. We just have to accelerate that process, if there's going to be a chance for us. There are a lot of clan tensions.” Niall sighed.
“Not to mention your betrothed.” Skye spit the word out.
“Skye, I'm so sorry. How could I have known I would meet you?” Niall stood, coming close to her again. “I didn't plan any of this. When I saw you, talked to you, met you...it just happened. Betrothal is just part of dragon clan life. Most of the time, though, it works out.”
“And if it doesn't, as you're proposing, since you're going to sweep me off of my feet and drag me to your lair instead of Morighan?” Skye raised an eyebrow.
Niall clenched his jaw. “There's usually hell to pay with the clan.”
“Well, that sucks for you.” She walked over to the window, ignoring him again.
“It won't. I promise. Give me a chance. Give us a chance. I'd like you to meet the clan.”
Skye laughed, still not looking at him. “Really? Is that like meet the parents but with fire breathing relatives instead?”
“Skye.” Niall sighed. “If they saw that you were a dragon shifter, it would make all of this easier.”
“What if I don't care?” Her voice was hard now.
“I want you to think about it—about meeting them within a week.”
“Okay.” Skye drew the word out.
“After you get to know me. After you know you want me for your mate, too.”
Skye turned around then, smiling. “I might as well lose my virginity to a dragon shifter, right?”
Niall sucked in a breath. “You're...” he trailed off, staring into her eyes.
“Yes. I get afraid of how much I want...well, you know. I've kept my distance mostly with men.” She bit her lip. Surely he wouldn't want her now.
“Then you're as smart as hell.”
“What?” She gaped at him. “What do you mean? That's not...the usual perspective.”
He laughed. “If you had mated, you might have killed the poor man unlucky or lucky enough to choose you. Dragon shifters are passionate, let's just say.” Niall winked at her.
Her cheeks grew hot. “Er, right.”
“I'm serious. I'm glad. That only makes you even more appealing to me. Not because I'm some kind of creep either.” Niall gave her a sheepish grin.
She bit her lip. “A likely story.” Skye threw her hands up. “I just can't get rid of you. Can I?”
“No, so just give in.” Niall folded his arms and raised one eyebrow, staring deeply into her eyes.
“I have to think about it,” Skye said firmly.
“Okay. I'll be back later for your answer.”
She laughed. “As in later today?”
Niall nodded. “Yes, as I said, we're on a deadline. If you say yes, I want to take you to meet my clan. I'll see you before nightfall.”
Skye laughed and gaped at him. “No pressure. I mean, we aren't even technically dating, but hey! I'll go meet your fire breathing family who could incinerate me on the spot. Sounds great!” She sighed.
“Just think about it. Ask yourself why you're really here, Skye. Is it fate, or is it just to write another novel? I think the birthmark you have will give you the answer.” Niall gave her a long look that made her heart pound.
Then, he left without another word.
Chapter 2: Captivity
When he was out the door and safely down the stone walkway, Skye let out a loud scream. “Damn him! Who does he think he is? He can't uproot my life like this.” She kicked at the table leg and then regretted it as her toes throbbed.
The temper of a dragon finally made sense now.
“Whatever.” She paced the room, feeling like a caged animal. He brought out all the worst in her. There was no way she could write a word now. All she wanted to do was run or screw or...something.
Skye opted for a run. She couldn't remember the last time she had done so. She changed into yoga pants and suitable shoes. Thunder rolled in the distance, just as she stepped outside.
“Great,” she muttered, but she wasn't going to let it stop her. She had to blow off some steam and get her head straight.
Skye pushed out of the front door, locking it behind her, not that anyone would bother breaking it. Her little rental cottage was too remote.
But not too remote for dragons, apparently.
She sighed, her head in a spin about how crazy her life had gotten. Skye pushed thoughts of Niall out of her head and started running down the lane and into the woods.
* * * *
Roland pawed at the ground. He'd been surveying the valley today, looking for good ground if he needed it to stage a takeover. He was sick and tired of Magnus's rule of the Clan of Emberside, and he was tired of Niall being the lackey for Magnus. The gossip he'd heard about Niall's refusal to mate with Morighan seemed like a stroke of luck.
A woman suddenly ran by him—red hair flowing in the wind. He was hidden behind a tree.
He didn't recognize her, but she had the speed of a dragon shifter woman as well as the movement.
A plan hatched in his mind, and he took off running after her, a wicked grin on his lips. He would teach Magnus and Niall to screw with him and the future of the clan.
* * * *
Rose tried to speed up when she heard footsteps pounding behind her and what sounded like snorting in the woods.
Dear God, what was that? Was someone—or something, it sounded like—chasing her?
Fear suffused her, and adrenaline pushed her into gear. She felt a change coming over her—one she had fought all of her life. But in this place, with a threat coming and the stress that Niall Gregor had placed upon her, she wasn't sure she could keep it at bay any longer.
When the change came, she cried out at the power she felt—the sheer majesty of her being. Skye roared, her cry echoing in the forest.
“There, now, baby shifter. You're coming with me,” a growling voice said. Hands grabbed her in mid-run, hoisting her into the air.
Skye struggled and bucked, but she was no match for whatever had her in his grasp. She felt herself lift off of the ground as she screamed, fear like she had never known seizing her.
It's a damned dragon shifter—but not Niall. It's all true.
“Put me down, you winged beast!” she beat on the thing's back, but he only roared with hot laughter.
“Not a chance. You're coming with me.”
They flew so high, and her fear was so great that she passed out.
* * * *
She woke up in a dank, dimly lit cave.
“Help! Somebody help me!” Skye screamed and clawed at the ground to no avail. She was bound tightly to a chair.
The dragon shifter had abducted her. Tears pooled in her eyes. What was going to happen to her now. She tried to calm down and think. Niall had said something about trouble in his clan. Maybe this was the dragon shifter he had mentioned. R something? Skye wracked her brain, but the name wouldn't come to her.
“He got me into this mess,” Skye whispered, her teeth gritted as she thought of the handsome dragon shifter who had thrown her world into total disarray only hours before. She would have killed Niall if she had seen him at that moment. After a few more moments of struggle, she gave up, deciding to reserve her strength for later—if a time came when her captor loosed her bonds.