Authors: Daisy Harris
Ocean Shifters 3
After seventeen mating refusals, sea dragoness Sophia Aleahar is getting more than a little desperate. But when she swims to a potential mate to convince him to reconsider, she’s taken hostage by shark-shifter pirates.
Mere-shark hybrid Raider ShaCrayz has spent ten years in the hold of his father’s ship. The tiny dragoness prisoner inspires his most vicious and most gentle impulses. When she offers him freedom in exchange for helping her lure a mate, Raider decides he wants to be more than just a beast on a chain.
Raider desires her like no male ever has, but Sophia needs to learn that no handsome dragon is worth more than the bad-boy shark who loves her.
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A SIREN PUBLISHING BOOK
IMPRINT: Erotic Romance
Copyright © 2011 by Daisy Harris E-book ISBN: 1-61034-097-3
First E-book Publication: January 2011
Cover design by Jinger Heaston
All cover art and logo copyright © 2011 by Siren Publishing, Inc.
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To my mother and my husband, who both love the sea. To the Discovery Channel for raising shark awareness. To Captain Paul Watson and Sea Shepherd for protecting the oceans. And to my daughters, who prefer swimming in lakes.
Dragoness Sophia Aleahar paced her bedroom like a lizard in a box. Her pink-painted talons scraped at the shag carpet. Her grayish, serpentine tail knocked over lamps and figurines. Though she was twenty-two years old, and far too old to still wear one, the metal prongs of her fang-retainer surrounded her long head. She counted down the minutes until her mother would allow her to take it off.
She paused in front of the mirror and tried to look upon her reflection in a positive light. Eyes too round stared back at her, topping off her too-short stature. Behind her, vertical pink stripes decorated the walls. Lace trimmed each of her throw pillows. The plush space fit around her like a little girl’s jewelry box.
“Sophia? My guests are arriving.” Manicured talons curled around the edge of her door.
With a deep sigh, she replied, “I’ll be right down, Mother.”
“Let me take a look at you.” Alexandra Aleahar strode in, her ebony tail flashing iridescent. Her proud snout led up to aristocratically slanted eyes that Sophia had sadly not inherited. “Oh, I forgot you were still wearing your appliance. I’ll help you take it off.”
Alexandra’s talons pinched at the scales behind her neck as the older dragoness unhitched the dental apparatus.
“And remember to stand up straight. It doesn’t help your height when you’re all curled in on yourself.”
She resisted the urge to bite at her claws at her mother’s admonition. She extended her serpentine neck and raised herself to maximum height, which was still a head shorter than her mother.
Alexandra sighed. “Well, there’s only so much you can do, I suppose.” She started walking back to the door. Before leaving, she added, “And for the gods’ sake, Sophia. Remember to watch your tongue!”
Minutes later, Sophia slithered down the stairs, hoping to sneak into her parents’ feast room unnoticed. The wallpapered stairwell flickered with tea lights, happy lashes of color contrasting with her dark mood. She’d never been popular, but since Kai Nasu broke off his arranged engagement to her, Sophia’s life had become a downward spiral of social disasters.
When she reached the landing, her pulse raced. Upwards of fifty guests attended the birthday party her parents had ostensibly planned for her. Fifty-plus opportunities to look like a freak.
With a deep breath, Sophia approached the first bunch of highranking debutants her parents had invited. “Um, hi guys.” She tried to tilt her snout up to appear taller.
Her least favorite female, Patsy Herilian, pinned her with a fierce stare. “Sophia. You must be terribly excited about this grand party.”
Sophia’s forelimbs rose in nervousness. “Not Really.”
For mercy’s sake, did I just say that out loud?
Sophia watched as each girl’s mouth dropped in horror. The familiar sound of geckos chirping filled the silence.
“Um.” She swallowed. “What I meant is…I’m sure I will be excited…When I get settled…I mean…” The debs skulked away as she spoke. Sophia blinked and ducked her head, focusing her attention to the center platter where several roasted deer lay, surrounded by her parents’ finest china and silver.
Unfortunately, her eyes landed on Aydes Reeves—tall, sinewy, jet-black—most handsome of all the dragons in Underwater City. He stood near the carcass surrounded by his horde of admirers, both male and female. A little sigh escaped her open jaw, and a passer-by’s cruel giggle erupted behind her.
She snapped her jaw closed and turned abruptly. A footstool caught her hind limb, and she sprawled forward. Her long body crashed to the polished-marble floor with a resounding thump that turned every head in the room. Sharp pain shot up into her palate. The tissue around her fangs, sore from the effects of her dental appliance, started to bleed. Sophia closed her eyes.
She pretended no one else was around and slowly pulled her limbs underneath her. As was their way, the dragon nobles ignored her while she collected herself and skulked away limping. Sophia ignored the covert glances of Patsy Herilian and her friends as she headed for the stairs back up to her room. Her mother couldn’t begrudge her a moment to wash the blood off her scales. Her parents had set this party up so Sophia could attract another potential mate, but there was little chance of that now.
The slither of a familiar tail sounded from behind her. “Don’t mind them, Soph!”
A breath Sophia hadn’t even known she was holding left her lungs. “Frida! Oh my gods, I didn’t know you’d be here!”
She turned to find her best friend smiling up at her from the bottom of the staircase. “Wouldn’t miss it! Now get back down there and find a male!”
Sophia’s forelimbs rose up, her talons scraping against each other in a habit she knew her mother hated. “Oh, Frida, I really don’t think I can. General Nasu never even met me and he turned down my parents’ bid!”
Frida smiled as if what she had said was funny, but Sophia felt tears well up. She hadn’t even told her friend the worst of it. “It’s not funny, Fri! I could go into heat any time. If I’m not claimed by then…”
“Oh, stop being such a drama queen. You’re likely years away from your first heat.”
One of Sophia’s large teeth pressed into her lower jaw as she struggled not to speak the truth of her situation. Changes wracked her body, intensifying each day, aches in her belly, intermittent swelling at her vent. “I don’t know, Frida, early heat runs in my family.”
When Frida rolled her slanted eyes, Sophia added, “And I’ve had seventeen bids turned down already.” She tried to keep the emotion out of her voice. No good came of letting others know how much each and every one of those rejections had hurt.
Her friend growled low in her chest, a sultry sound like a purr. No wonder Frida would be mated by the end of summer. “Maybe Kai would accept if he actually he met you.”
In her desperation, Sophia lighted upon a thought. Perhaps her best friend was right.
* * * *
Sophia dashed through the house like a thief. Servants shuffled around the feast room, cleaning up the last bones and grizzle from the floors. She dipped into shadows, shifting the color of her scales to match the paisley walls. When her wizened butler opened wide the back exit to take out the garbage, the dragoness slipped past him and out onto the street.
The sidewalks of the vast, bubble-enclosed Underwater City shone with greenish-blue lighting. Not a soul walked the footways, but Sophia gathered her courage. The journey to Murrough Island required several days of swimming alone. She might as well get used to solitude.
She came to an entry point. The elevator-sized room held back the ocean and enclosed the bubble of air surrounding the City. This late at night, the guards slept soundly in their glass cubicle. Her nervous claws passed along the thick strap attaching her drybag to her body. She’d packed identification to enter other dragon areas, clothing to wear in human form, and her Iridium satellite phone. She pressed the button, and the double doors pulled open.
Sophia sealed the entry point behind her and opened the door ahead. Water rushed in, and she pumped her tail and shot into the ocean. Sophia swam as fast as she could, enjoying the thrill of freedom before heading west to the Indian Ocean.
Kai Nasu was stationed in the Arctic, and the journey would require several days. Sophia only hoped her heat would come right when she saw him. No dragon could resist the draw of a fertile female. In truth, Sophia felt a little guilty at the notion of trapping him that way, but she had gotten more than a little desperate.
She swam through the deep green haze, chasing fish and skimming reefs and rocky caverns. On the third day, she reached Greece and circled a chain of islands, watching colored lights twinkle and listening to unfamiliar rock and roll music. She continued out the Mediterranean and watched the humans on a night beach in Nice. Only her dark eyes broke the surface of the water as she floated. Shouts of strangers’ revelry carried over the waves.
The waters grew colder and bluer as she turned north. After a half day with no sign of land, Sophia wondered if maybe she’d made a wrong turn. The icebergs floated close together overhead. She’d raised her snout above water a few times to look, but the chill air burned her eyes and slowed her heart. All the adventures and exploration she’d read about in books now seemed overrated. What she wouldn’t give for her warm room and a dead carcass.