Authors: Lacy Danes
Tags: #Dragons;Vampires;Witches;Historical;Hot Brothers;Strong females
Before there can be fire, there must be air…
Dragon’s Fate, Book 3
Like his brothers, Ilmir is a dragon born by blood magic. Unlike them, he has an unrelenting thirst for human blood. His one and only scruple: he will never bite a woman he loves. It would kill her, and her loss would drive him mad.
Yet over the years, a young girl he once rescued and brought to the Isle has grown into a woman who occupies too much of his mind and heart.
On her name day, Astrid makes her two most heartfelt wishes: to experience the delights of the city, and to bring the vexing Ilmir back to the Zir family fold. As her wishes drop from her lips, lightning cracks and she discovers she is a weather witch—one in need of serious training to control her powers.
But her goal to redeem Ilmir is fraught with peril, for her deep need to learn the magical language not only awakens the dragon’s passion, it creates a perfect storm of danger that could cost the life of the man she loves.
Warning: This novel contains explicit sex, weather witches, vampires, a super-hot air dragon, and a woman who can wrap him up in a spell.
For my kids, who love dragons as much as I do.
Five hundred years ago, using her own vampire blood and ancient magic, the vampiress Carmen brought forth the birth of the elemental dragon princes, or Zir, from the last of the elemental dragon’s eggs. Cursed by an enemy who wanted their power, they were condemned to take human form. There are no females among them, and so each is destined to live with an unrelenting urge to find his elemental mate. For she is the key that will unlock their history and their destiny.
To this day, two Zir have found their mates.
The sun warmed the crisp fall dew, and mist rose along the tattered grass. Red, orange and yellow leaves brightened the branches on the earth of the Isle. Today was Astrid’s day. Today was special. She would do what she wanted. Say what she wanted. The day filled her with hope.
Gripping the iron tray with the dull dagger blades for handles, she hurried from the kitchen. The noonday course was beef wrapped about green onion, and crisp green salads colored with lemon wedges on the side plates balanced on the tray in her hands.
Her excited, jittery hands.
She would let them all know she wanted a day away for an adventure.
No, seven. Indeed, one week. She wanted a week.
After that, she would return here and live in peace, loving where she grew up. The Isle would be her home forever.
She did love living here. The strange nature of the house, when one approached the structure, was hidden as if it were a mirror of the sky. The warmth of the otherworldly kin that she called her friends and family. The blackish-blue water that surrounded the land lapping at the tan, pebbled shore.
Daily, Astrid walked the shore around the Isle, watching the sea cubs play and the gulls feed among the surf. But her favorite were the days when rain rolled across the Isle. Astrid would run to the bluff that jutted over the sea toward distant lands. The clouds churned and tumbled, wind pressed against her face, and lightning split the sky into pieces of a jagged puzzle. Two days had passed since the last storm. Even now the hairs on her arms stood on end. That experience would have an energizing effect on her for days.
Would she miss a storm while away? It didn’t matter. She would simply enjoy the storm from town.
Astrid turned into the dining room and set the meal on the burgundy cloth covering the sideboard. She then opened the small door to the left. Bright crisp air rushed in and blew the loose strands of hair back from her face. Just beyond the opening sat a small pig in a wood crate. She pulled the squealing runt into the room. “Your blood will fill the glasses for Hudson and Grandmum nicely.”
“You should tell the poor thing that he is doing a grand thing by giving his life for this old crow. Without him, I could not be sinful.” Grandmum’s soft humor-filled voice came from the entrance to the room. “Happy name day, Astrid.” Grandmum had come to the Isle with Celeste, Jordan’s mate, and quickly became Astrid’s grandmum too.
Astrid rushed to her side. “Thank you.” She threw her arms about Grandmum’s shoulders and hugged her tight. “This is going to be a splendid year. I am certain of it!”
Grandmum’s arms tightened about her too. “We shall ensure it is. I brought paper, and there is ink and a quill on the table by the windows. You shall write down your deepest wish, and in Ferrous’s casting bowl, we shall burn the words with lavender, sage, salt and oil.”
Astrid grasped the paper. “Any wish for the year?”
Astrid worried the inside of her cheek between her teeth. “Does the wish need to be strictly for me?”
“It is a name-day wish, but I suppose the desire does not need to be for you only, but simply your request.”
Astrid held the piece of parchment that was no bigger than the palm of her hand. A small piece of paper that would hold a huge desire. She walked to the table by the window and flipped open the copper lid on the inkwell in the wood surface. She grasped the snow-white quill and dipped the tip into the black abyss, then scrolled…
Astrid strode next to Grandmum to the library, where Ferrous’s casting bowl sat in the center of the big inlaid table. To her surprise, everyone who was dear to Astrid was there. Astrid’s brows pulled together. “Your meal is in the dining rooms.”
“We will get there.” Ferrous, the head of the family, walked to Astrid and grasped her hands. She glanced down at the paper clenched in her fingers. The copper bands about Ferrous’s deep brown wrists glimmered. She loved that each of her adoptive brothers had shimmery scales on their body. Celeste said that Jordan had them on his elbows, Madoc on his cheek, and, on occasion, they glowed on his chest through his shirt. Ferrous wore beautiful copper on his wrists. Fina, though not one of the brothers, had scales on her nose and chest. They were jewels paid for by pain, she said.
And Ilmir—well, no one could see where his scales were, and frankly she did not care. He was so distant. Unloving. Brutal. A chill blew over her. She would not think of Ilmir on this day. Though, what if her wish was to bring him home? To complete the family and change the black sheep from soot to golden? That was a selfless and grand wish.
Ferrous squeezed her hands lightly. “We are all here for you and your name-day wish.” He released her hands.
Hudson walked forward from the corner, his gentlemanly dress a disguise for his beast within. He had come to live on the Isle when Jordan found his mate. The same time Grandmum arrived and the introduction of blood drinkers came to their family.
“My dear. Everyone, including me, is in your debt today.” Hudson held up a mass of white flowers, as snowy as the quill she dipped in black ink.
He still had dark fits and refused to talk to anyone about the otherworldly being he’d encountered to change him. When his first wife died, he tried to bring her back and failed. He then went in search of immortality so he would possess the gift of eternal life. The dark being promised him immortality in return for his soul and access to his friends, the Zir. He was ashamed of what he had become and done to obtain his otherworldly status. He never said so, but now his actions spoke of his guilt.
Astrid grasped the long green stems. “Thank you. They are beautiful.”
“A bloom for each of your years. “
She stared at the enormous cascade of flowers. The first eight she had no recollection of. Ten and seven years of her years were filled with happiness and care, here on the Isle. But this year she wanted to have an adventure, and, as she considered her wish more, to make everyone here content, happy, fulfilled. “Thank you,” she whispered, then tilted her head down and smiled.
Ilmir had brought her to his place. His white face and hair popping through the hole in the wall of wooden crates like a mouse was the only memory she had of the city. Her mother had hidden her there as a man chased her mother down the street. In her dreams—the screams… Astrid squeezed her eyes shut and then opened them. The family before her was all that mattered.
Today she would forget those dreams. Today she was Astrid. No coaching. No hiding. She knew what she wanted.
“Thank you, everyone, for being here.” She licked her lips. “I have two desires. One for this next week. One listed on this paper.” The parchment weighed heavy in her hands.
Celeste came forward, her pale blue dress swishing against the carpet as she walked. “You are family. Your desires are ours. Place them in our trust.”
Hudson faded back to the fire.
Fina too came to her. “Indeed. You understand us all so well.” Fina rubbed her hand across her rounded belly. She and Madoc had arrived back at the Isle a year ago, and her belly continued to slowly grow. One day there would be a new Zir, although it would take longer than the traditional time to bring a baby into the world. No one knew how long it would take, as Fina was the first in the house to be confined for this long. Celeste had never carried to term.
Madoc came to his wife’s side. “We all adore you, Astrid.”
She turned back to Grandmum, who stood just behind her. “Say your week’s wish first, then the name-day casting.”
The week was the wish she had thought of for nights now. Only when Grandmum offered up the ritual had she thought of her other desire. Astrid turned from her and walked to the fire, where Hudson stood, and turned back to face the ornate wood table before the hearth. The large casting bowl sat in the center, and bottles and dried plants lay in bundles on the hard wood. Ferrous’s potions.
She wet her lips again. “I wish to have an adventure this week. You see, I have been on the Isle since I arrived. I have read much, you have comforted me, entertained me, but I wish to go to the theater and have ices. I wish to walk in Hyde Park and see all you talk about.”
No one said a word.
“I know that is a grand request, but I wish to attend the house in the city as a guest.”
Celeste nodded. “Indeed. You should see London as a proper lady would.”
The weight in her stomach eased. “Thank you.”
Grandmum, Ferrous, Madoc and Jordon all nodded.
“We can make the arrangements,” Ferrous stated from the side of the table. His short black hair glimmered in the candle glow. An easy smile turned his lips up.
Astrid turned to Hudson.
His complexion paled, and he took a deep breath. “Ilmir is there. The city house is his main residence. I fear the house is not the place for a lady.”
“We shall all go. London is filled with education and delight.” Grandmum winked at Astrid. “I shall show all of you what I have found since I have been here and the fun that I experienced while I lived there as well.”
“I want to learn too,” Fina said from the other side of the table.
“I will show you. The city will be such an education and, as you know, naughty fun.” Grandmum grinned.
Astrid turned back to Hudson.
“Why would you want to leave here?” he asked in a voice just louder than a whisper.
Astrid’s stomach tensed. Hudson always supported her. Why would he not now? She stared into his blue eyes. He feared something. When he went to London, he returned melancholy.
“I will be fine, Hudson. I have you and the others to protect me.”
He rolled his eyes and then rubbed the back of his neck. “There is no protection from what curses this lot. This is not a favorable choice.”
“But you will be there, the same as the rest of us,” Jordan said. “And this time, no deaths.”
Hudson tensed. “There are deaths nightly in London. A good few caused by Ilmir. However, I am certain our attendance will not stop that.”
“Cease this. Today is Astrid’s day.” Grandmum came to Astrid’s side. Her cool fingers wrapped around the hand that held her name-day wish. “We shall all go. Besides, Astrid is an adult and has been for the past five years. She shall do as she wishes.” Grandmum pulled Astrid to the table. “Let us cast your wish.”
“Well, I certainly wish to hear no more about this foolishness, and I won’t be attending if you do.” Hudson pushed past the table and disappeared into the hall.
Astrid’s stomach pitted, and tears blurred her eyes. She would not allow him to ruin her day. She concentrated on the copper casting bowl in the center of the table, and one stray tear ran down her cheek.
Ferrous’s fingertip brushed the edge of her chin. The shiny drop of her tear clung to his skin. “We shan’t waste this.” He let the small drop of liquid fall onto the curved copper. The tear ran in a streak down to the center of the vessel. He lifted the lavender and crumbled the dried flowers upon the wetness. Next he opened a wooden jar, scooped out three fingers’ worth of salt and smeared the grains in the bowl, on top of the lavender. He grabbed a branch of sage and oil. “Ilid.”
The branch smoldered to flame. He blew the branch down to embers and placed the sticks into the lavender. Smoke billowed up from the table. “Take the paper you have placed your desire on and drop your words into the bowl. As vapors tumble up into the air, inhale and state your longing out loud to the room. We will all restate your hope and drop our essence into the bowl. Your wish will either come true this next year, or your longing was not meant to be.” He smiled at her. “I will state your wish last.”
Astrid held out the paper. She stared down into the smoldering bowl and dropped the parchment. Slowly, the paper turned to ash. Smoke snaked up toward her in a single stream. This would work. She inhaled the air and smoke. I wish to unite this family, she said silently. The smoke slipped into her lungs and grew heavy. Her chest constricted. She choked and coughed. The smoke smothered her words.
Ferrous stepped forward and stared at her. “She is choking.” He grasped her wrist to pull her away.
“No. My wish. I must say the words out loud.” She mumbled, “I wish to unite this family, to bring those who stress our happiness and shame your existence into the fold of love.” Light popped into the room from the bowl, and everyone in the family repeated her words. Everyone except the absent Ilmir. Ilmir was part of this family. He should be here.
Ferrous grasped her finger, then picked up a stem from a rose. He pressed the thorn into her skin. There was no pain, but dark red pebbled where he had touched. He squeezed a drop into the bowl, then pricked his own finger and dropped a single drop of his blood into the bowl as well.
Astrid gripped the edge of the table. Madoc, Jordan, Celeste, Fina, and Grandmum all did the same. Her lungs tightened again.
Ferrous next poured a thick shimmering golden liquid. “Kombinere.”
The bowl rattled on the table. That electric buzz like when she stood out in a storm rushed through her, and her lungs released. She sucked in a huge gulping breath, then exhaled. Her breath rose as if mist and lightning cracked down through the oval window in the ceiling, straight into the bowl before her. The force knocked her back. She stumbled, then slipped. A loud thud echoed in the room as she landed on her fanny.
She glanced around the room. Everyone else still stood.
“Well, that was something.” Grandmum clapped her hands. “Such a huge reply to a huge wish. I guess Mother Nature has plans for you.” She grinned.
Ferrous grasped the bowl from the table and stared down into the smooth, shining copper. He frowned, then tipped the bowl to the room. “Nothing left to finish.”
The bowl was shiny clean. He walked to Astrid. “The essence is all over you.” She glanced at her hands. Black ash covered her. She touched her face, and more ash clumped her fingertips. Had the flowers turned black? She stared down at her other hand, where the white flowers Hudson had given her glowed bright white. No dust… No death… They were covered in pure ice.