Authors: J. F. Jenkins
by J.F. Jenkins
Published by Astraea Press
This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters, and events are fictitious in every regard. Any similarities to actual events and persons, living or dead,
purely coincidental. Any trademarks, service marks, product names, or named features are assumed to be the property of their respective owners, and are used only for reference. There is no implied endorsement if any of these terms are used. Except for review purposes, the reproduction of this book in whole or part, electronically or mechanically, constitutes a copyright violation.
LEGEND OF THE FORBIDDEN
Copyright Â© 2012
Cover Art Designed b
For the Muse Designs
For my son.
Standing before the Great Terran Lord, Lord Bolton, Danielle couldn't help but feel small, not only because the man was enormous in size, but because of the amount of power he held as well. He was the leader over the entire Terran nation, a country that was prospering greatly after the long reign of the late Lord Taylor. And much of the nation's continuing wealth rested on Dani's shoulders even if she wasn't of the Terran.
“Your eighteenth birthday is in a couple of days,” Lord Bolton said, peering down at her from where he stood. His broad shoulders were squared back and confident. Bolton was a bold young man, the youngest to ever be elected into the position of Great Lord of the Terran. At twenty-seven years old, he was handsome, a husband, and a father. He was the definition of the perfect Dragon Lord.
Then his face softened and his dark eyes lit up. He reached down and one of his large, dark-skinned hands wrapped around both of her small, golden tanned ones.
“Finally, the time is coming when you will join our family,” he said and motioned for her to enter into his office. She did so, bowing her head briefly.
Dani gave a small smile, trying to not cringe at the idea of her pending nuptials to Lord Taylor's grandson, Tyson. “It is an honor.”
“And we are honored that you have decided to continue with the pact made so long ago between our two families. It will be a great thing for our kind, the joining of two dragons,” he said.
“Yes, my lord,” she said, bowing her head once more.
“There is no need to be so formal with me. I know in Inero things are a bit stricter, but here you may treat me as an equal. After all, that is what we are. I, a Great Lord, and you, a miracle. It honors me to be in the presence of the only female dragon in existence.”
Dani felt her cheeks grow hot. “You are too kind, my lord. I mean, Bolton.”
She didn't like how he was staring at her. Kind of like she was a piece of meat actually, and it was unsettling. If only her father or one of her brothers could have been with her. Even Tyson would have made her feel safer. He was supposed to be there. Feeling uncomfortable with Bolton standing over her, staring down at her, and quite possibly down her shirt, she casually went to sit in a chair.
“I imagine you want to discuss the plans for the wedding, right?” she asked, crossing her legs and folding her arms in front of her chest.
“We'll need to decide on a date so we can make it a huge celebration, of course. The more details we can iron out, the better, naturally,” Bolton said, sitting down in a nearby chair. He was reaching out to touch her again when Tyson burst through the door, out of breath.
“I'm so sorry, my lord. I did not intend on being late. I could have sworn your secretary told me our meeting was scheduled for two hours from now,” he said, and took the nearest chair to Dani. Immediately he grabbed her hand and gave it an affectionate kiss. She squeezed his hand back and let out a sigh of relief. Dani might not have wanted to marry him, but he was one of her best friends.
She gave him a smile, trying to fake the look of one true love so the performance was believable for Bolton. “You're here now, and that's all that matters.”
“Yes,” Bolton said, and she sensed a bit of disappointment in his tone.
“Now, you were saying?” she asked, giving the man a triumphant smile.
Tyson may not have been as large as Bolton, but he still made her feel safe. He had the ideal look for a Terran. His dark skin was rich in color, his eyes soulful and chocolaty. He was tall, a few inches over six feet, and developed with strong shoulders. Plus his magic was powerful. Being the son of a Touched gave him magical perks, much like her. Dani's father was Touched as well, and while her magic wasn't quite as strong as his, it was more powerful than many of the dragons she'd met.
“The summer is beautiful on the east coast of our nation. The weather can get a bit hot, however. I've also been told the blossoms on your home island of Shanrea are quite beautiful. Perhaps you would consider that?”
“As in this summer?" Tyson asked. “That's less than a month away.”
“Doesn't seem like long enough to plan the biggest wedding of the world.”
“It would be rushed, but since this is a grand event for everyone, I'm sure we could make it happen,” Bolton explained.
Dani shook her head. “I want to get married in the winter.” It gave her more time to figure out how to get out of the whole thing.
Tyson shrugged innocently. “You heard her, and I want to make sure my lady gets whatever she wants.”
“You're so sweet.”
“It's because I love you.”
There was no doubt in her mind that he did. She loved him too, just not like that. But how would he react if she told him the truth? So much rode on their shoulders. They were the first, and only, pure dragon couple on the planet to have ever existed. There had never been a female dragon born before her birth. Their species had a human form along with their dragon one, which allowed dragons to mate with human females. Upon doing so, these women would gain the magical abilities of their dragon men: longer lifespan, elemental strengths and weaknesses, and a few other small things. It also allowed them to give birth to more dragons, but it wasn't the same as being an actual dragon.
Dani was born from a dragon father and hatched from an egg. Growing up she'd always hoped that maybe there would be other girls like her. Maybe God had changed his mind and was creating a new era for dragonkind. But that wasn't the case. The girls she interacted with were all wives of dragonsâyoung women, some younger than sheâalready married and in adulthood. All of her other friends were dragon men.
Being the only female dragon wasn't the only thing adding pressure to her life. Her arranged marriage was another. The whole situation wouldn't have been so awful if she wasn't in love with another man.
She let the men talk, planning her future for her, nodding every so often to be polite. The date was set. Tyson would become her husband in the winter, and the Terran and Inero dragons would solidify the covenant made between their two nations before she had been born.
Ethan flew back to Sanctuary with his father, Darien, the Great Lord of the Oceina. Home was in Oceina City, but he needed a break during the long journey to Coloral Island. It was clear across the country from the city. Sanctuary marked the halfway point. Sure, he could have flown back on his father's back, but that was embarrassing. Ethan was almost an adult. He didn't need to get rides from his parents anymore, even if he did have a heart condition that left him easily winded.
His father changed from his dragon form to his human one in a matter of seconds, but of course, he had the most powerful magic on the planet. It took Ethan a little longer. He'd inherited some of his father's strength, but a lot of it was trapped inside him. When Ethan had been born, his egg had not fully developed, so he naturally had a few complications. This was one of them.
“So no one on the island grabbed your interest?” Darien asked as he adjusted his clothes.
Ethan sighed and rolled his eyes
“No. I mean, all of them were beautiful girls. They smelled nice and seemed like genuinely nice people, butâ¦ I don't know. It didn't feel likeâ¦ it? Do you understand what I'm saying?”
“Yes, you know I do. We'll try another island then.”
“Dad? Can we take a break for a little bit? We've seen three islands in a month, and the pressure isn't helping me make connections. Besides, I thought about seeing what happens during school in the city. Since I'm going to the university next fall, I figure I might meet someone there.” Ethan's eyes were wide, pleading even. He was tired of going around, flying from island to island, trying to keep a ritual alive he wasn't sure he wanted to partake in. It worked for some people, but not for him.
According to Oceina tradition, a Dragon Lord took a bride after he turned eighteen. It was referred to as The Sacrifice. The Dragon Lord would choose a virgin girl from another part of the country than where he lived. Then the priests prepared her for the ceremony, and left her on an altar where she believed she would die. In reality, she was taken back to the Dragon Lord's home where they lived as husband and wife for the rest of their lives.
That was how eighty percent of the Oceina did things. For a while, the percentage was even higher. Ethan's parents had met that way, and his cousins had met their wives in a similar fashion as well. It didn't sit well with Ethan. How could he know he loved someone just by looking at them? His dad claimed it was possible, but Ethan was skeptical.
For a moment, his father watched him, and then gave a soft smile. “Sure, we can do that. But only if you look at one more island in the middle of the summer. Just one. I don't want to push you into marriage. I'm glad you're not taking it lightly, but I am concerned you're also not taking it seriously enough.”
“I know it's important. Our survival depends on it, and I do want to get married. I promise. But not to just anyone.”
Darien nodded, looking up at the entrance to the palace Sanctuary, a beautiful silver structure that glittered in the sunlight. Water trickling in a stream called to Ethan. It was his element, and he loved how strong he felt inside of it. When he breathed the water, he didn't have to worry about an asthma attack, and his heart felt powerful. The magic inside of him could move freely. For the time being he had to push the temptation away.
“When was the last time we stayed here?” Darien asked, walking to the front door.
“Last winter? I think we visited once,” Ethan said, following. He watched his father knock on the door before opening it. His Uncle Chris lived there with his family. Granted, Chris wasn't one of his actual biological uncles, but he was important to the Oceina family all the same. According to the story Ethan had heard, Chris had been a Guardian, a normal human blood-bound to a dragon, to the old Great Inero Lord. He'd betrayed his dragon master to follow God's path and help end the old war between the Inero and the Oceina. Chris was a hero and a close friend of his father's. As a thank you, Darien had let Chris and his wife stay in the palace with Ethan's great-grandfather. His great grandfather Lucca passed away five years ago, and now the couple, along with their children, lived there alone.
Despite Sanctuary not being their home, Ethan and his father walked inside as if it was. The rule was, the doors to the palace were to always remain open for the family. Ethan himself had lived the first six years of his life in there before moving to Oceina City.
His Aunt Navi walked down the massive stone steps in the entryway of the palace. Ethan could never get over how elegant the inside of Sanctuary was. High ceilings with large stained glass windows, and the walls were the same color silver as the outside of the castle.
When Navi saw them, she smiled, first moving to hug Ethan, then his father. “I thought I heard the door. Your wife called earlier, saying you might be stopping by. I'm glad you did, because it's been a while.”
“I'm sorry we haven't come over sooner. Especially since Maya got sick again. How is she doing?” his father said, and followed her to the kitchen.