Read an Excerpt
Fire Rising Part 2
By Donna Grant
St. Martin's Press Copyright © 2014 Donna Grant
All rights reserved.
Sammi woke with a start, alarmed to find that she had slept for six hours without so much as moving a finger. Luck must be on her side, otherwise anyone could have crept up on her and killed her.
She grabbed her neck as pain exploded when she tried to move it. A crick in her neck. Just what she needed. Sammi got to her feet and began to stretch out her kinked body.
As she worked out the stiffness, she stood near the edge of the mountain and looked out over the vast beauty surrounding her. She had been so intent on getting as far away from the village as possible that she hadn't realized just how high up the mountain she had come until then.
She was lucky that the mountain she was on had a forest, but that would only last for so long. Sammi didn't think about what would happen then. She was going to take things one day at a time.
A glance at her watch told her it was five in the morning, but at least the sunlight made the shadows disappear. Sammi's mouth watered as she thought of the breakfast Jane had brought to her while she had been at Dreagan.
But it wasn't just the food that made her wish she could return. There was Tristan. The way he watched her with his dark eyes, the way his deep voice made her stomach tremble.
For a moment in time, she had felt safe with Tristan. He had cast her worries aside. It was as if his mere presence had taken the weight off her shoulders.
She knew how silly that sounded. Tristan had done what anyone else would do. He had seen to her wound and tried to calm her.
Here she was thinking how handsome he was, and he most likely thought she was insane. Sammi briefly squeezed her eyes closed at the thought. It wasn't like she should be thinking of Tristan anyway. He was back at Dreagan.
And she was on her own.
Sammi shut off her mind when she reached that dark place, or at least she tried to. It had only ever been her mother and her all her life. She had been fiercely independent, but she had taken for granted the times her mother was there. Then she wasn't.
The pain of losing her mother had blindsided her. It's what made her keep her distance from Jane and everyone else. Sammi came up with reasons why none of her relationships worked out, but the truth was that she didn't trust herself to get close to anyone again.
Death was a part of life, and she had always thought herself a strong person. Until she had to bury her mother. The late-night phone calls crying about a guy or laughing with her mother about first date fiascos would never happen again.
No more shopping trips, Sunday brunches, or her mother's famous scones.
Sammi wrapped her arms around her stomach and doubled over. It had been years, but still the pain of losing her mother was as fresh as the day it happened.
She remained in that pose until the grief subsided enough that she could take a deep breath. As she straightened, she reached for her purse and grabbed the bottle of water. Her gaze moved upward to the incline of the mountain where she needed to travel. It was blanketed by mist that prevented her from seeing much of anything.
After drinking the remaining half of her water, Sammi put the empty bottle back in her purse and started to climb. Her leg protested loudly, but she kept moving because what other choice did she have?
Sammi had gone only about fifty feet when she reached the mist. It was thick and hung about her like a cloak. It stirred of its own volition, as if it were alive.
"That's utter nonsense," she said aloud.
But she wasn't sure if it was nonsense. The mist moved, breathed as if it were a being. Sammi's skin was covered in chills that had nothing to do with the dampness of the morning and everything to do with the eeriness of the mist.
She let out a shaky breath. In her heart she knew that there was something in the mist with her. Still, her blood turned to ice and her heart thudded like a bass drum.
Sammi fisted her hands to stop them from shaking and slowly turned around to return the way she had come, but the mist had swallowed the trail. The mist was so thick she couldn't even see the tree she had just passed.
It coiled around her legs until she jumped back and got her legs tangled in the long leaves of a fern. Sammi hit the ground with a groan, her backside bruised. She rolled to her side, the mist scooting away so that she was able to see the thick layer of pine needles upon the ground.
She inwardly berated herself and took several deep breaths to calm her racing heart. Then she climbed to her feet. It took her a minute to figure out which way she needed to go by the slant of the mountain.
Then, she marched onward, determined not to be scared of something as trivial as the mist. Mist came down from the mountains every day. It wasn't alive.
She ignored her conscience and kept walking. Without knowing what was ahead of her, she focused on what was immediately around her. She walked slower, and she didn't trip nearly as much as she had the day before.
After three hours, Sammi stopped to rest atop a small rock. The mist hadn't cleared, and she was beginning to doubt it would. It was too thick, too dense, even in the growing sunlight, which normally pushed it away.
Sammi ate a granola bar, the sound as loud as a gunshot in the unnerving silence of the mist. The moment she was finished eating, she stuffed the wrapper in her pocket and was on her feet again. She had to get out of the mist.
The farther up the mountain she walked, however, the fewer the trees until there were no more. Huge rocks and boulders took the place of the trees, and strangely enough, Sammi was happy the mist was there to hide her. She would feel exposed without the trees.
The smaller rocks were loose and moved under her feet whenever she walked. Twice she twisted her ankle as her foot slipped off a softball-sized rock.
It didn't take long for the rocks on the ground to become a major problem. Suddenly there were boulders all around her so that she had to squeeze through them in order to continue. The path became more and more narrow until she had no choice but to go around a boulder.
Sammi didn't think anything of it until the mist pulled back and she saw the four-inch ledge she was standing on. Fear stopped her cold before she tried to turn and retrace her steps. Inch by agonizing inch, Sammi tried to get off the ledge.
Even going slowly, she only succeeded in slipping. She grabbed the boulder and decided she'd have to shuffle around it. Moving slower than a snail, Sammi moved around the boulder.
The more ground she covered, the more confident she became. But that didn't halt the terror. She knew what was behind her—absolutely nothing.
If she fell, she was dead.
Sammi was halfway around the boulder when one of her hands, sweaty from fear, slipped. Instead of stopping and wiping her hands, she decided to keep moving. She was so close to getting off the ledge that she thought she could make it.
It was a fatal mistake, as her foot slipped off the ledge and her hands couldn't get ahold of the boulder.
A scream lodged in her throat as she felt herself falling backward, her arms cartwheeling as she looked for anything to hold onto. Air whooshed around her as the boulder grew smaller and smaller.
Sammi knew she was going to die a horrible death, but she couldn't manage to release the scream. Instead, she squeezed her eyes closed, her mind drifting from Jane to the regret she had for not kissing Tristan as she'd wanted to.
Suddenly, something slammed into her, halting her fall. There was no pain, no bright white light calling her to Heaven. Yet it felt as if she were being lifted.
Hesitantly, Sammi opened her eyes to see a gigantic appendage covered in amber scales wrapped around her. Amber scales?
She lifted her head and spotted the colossal wings. She closed her eyes again and pinched her arm as her blood hammered in her ears. It hurt, which meant she wasn't dead or dreaming.
Sammi gripped the claw as she opened her eyes and looked up again. To find herself gazing at the underside of a dragon's head. She looked from the dragon's head all the way to the tip of its tail.
Dragons weren't real. She must have hit her head or something, because there was no way a dragon had saved her from certain death.
She couldn't take her eyes off the wings and how the sun glinted off the amber scales to make them look as if they were polished and gleaming. That's when she noticed the scales beneath her hands were warm but hard.
Sammi bit her lip when the dragon suddenly stopped atop a mountain covered in mist and gently set her down upon the ground. Not once did its substantial talons graze her skin when the claw released her.
She stumbled backward as she looked up at it. Should she be terrified of such a creature, the same creature that had just saved her life? Sammi wasn't sure what to feel for the dragon. Was she supposed to thank it?
The dragon's apple-green eyes briefly looked at her before it leaned to the side and fell.
Sammi rushed to the edge of the mountain and saw the dragon spread its wings and soar up from the valley to disappear into the clouds.
When she was finally able to swallow, she found the mist once more around her. Her knees buckled and she collapsed into a heap upon the ground.
"What the hell just happened?"
She pinched herself repeatedly to make sure she was really awake. "This can't be. Dragons don't exist."
* * *
Tristan let out a sigh when he was once more in the clouds. Terror and pure, complete dread had made his heart miss a beat when he saw Sammi fall. He had been afraid he wouldn't reach her in time. He had already been on his way to her when he saw her try to get around the boulder, but then she had slipped.
The dread that had seized him had been awful. She hadn't even screamed. She had simply fallen with her eyes shut. Even now he could feel his own heart pounding erratically against his ribs.
If he hadn't been so concerned with the mist, he might have seen what she was about to do and prevented her from attempting to go around the boulder.
At least she was safe now. It hadn't been the smartest move in letting her see him, but he hadn't had much of a choice. There had been no time to do anything other than snatch her out of the air.
The way she had looked at him with a mixture of surprise, fear, and curiosity made him want to reassure her he wouldn't harm her. In order to do that, he'd have to shift into human form, thereby showing her exactly what he was.
That wasn't an option.
He circled above her now and moved inside a cloud so he could see her. It was easy enough to keep the clouds moving at whatever pace he wanted, and he did just that while he watched the mist grow thicker around Sammi again.
Something had called to the mist, and it hadn't been him. If he wasn't mistaken, it was shielding Sammi much like the forest had done. But it could also be the Dark Fae tricking her into trusting it.
Tristan wanted to roar his anger, but he didn't dare. That was only allowed with a thunderstorm. It made him wish he had been a Dragon King when they ruled the land. To fly whenever they wanted, to roar when they chose.
He felt confined, trapped. Much as he had in the mountain. He didn't know what mountain. All he knew was that he had been held prisoner deep inside a mountain by something evil.
Tristan growled as he pushed those thoughts aside. He could think of it later. Right now Sammi needed him.
How he wished he could talk to her and tell her to think more carefully. She didn't think at all, just reacted to a problem.
In her defense, she had narrowly escaped being shot at and blown up. Her stitches had pulled, and her wound was bleeding again.
He wouldn't be able to approach her at all now. She had seen him, in his dragon form no less. There was no way he could explain that.
All he could do now was watch her from above and let Banan know where she was to come get her. He would remain in the clouds and out of sight at all costs.
By the end of the ordeal she would believe she had imagined the entire thing. At least he hoped she would.
The way she had looked up at him with her powder blue eyes had pierced him to his very soul. Desire had been instant and urgent.
He groaned as he remembered the way she had stroked his scales. It was like she had been caressing his cock because the need had gone straight through his body to his rod. He had desired her before.
Now he craved her with a ferocity that set his blood afire.CHAPTER 2
Sammi looked to the sky often, searching for any sign of the dragon. For the next two hours there was nothing, and she was beginning to think she'd imagined the entire thing.
Except for the scrape on her palm where she had tried to hang onto the boulder.
It had happened. She had fallen and been saved by a dragon. She refused to even think she might be going crazy. If she allowed herself to travel along that path, she just might end up insane.
Instead, she recalled the feel of the wind as it had sped around her, whipping her hair into her face. She remembered being stopped midair as if cradled. And she had been—in the palm of a dragon's hand.
His fingers—all five of them—had gently closed around her. How had she forgotten that? She wouldn't ever forget the warmth of him, or the hardness of his scales. And his color.
She couldn't say how she knew it was a male, only that she did. His green eyes, as bright as apples, had looked at her with concern.
Sammi stopped walking. There was something about the dragon's eyes, something she recognized, almost as if she had seen him before.
Which was impossible. She would definitely remember seeing a dragon. Yet she couldn't shake the feeling that she knew him. Was that why the fear she had first felt was fading—rapidly?
Just before she was about to continue her trek, she heard the booming beat that she recognized as that of the dragon's wing as he flew.
She looked to the sky, but could see nothing but thick clouds for miles. The clouds were moving swiftly but showed no signs of thinning anytime soon.
Sammi adjusted her purse and started walking. The dragon was near. She knew it as surely as she knew her mother was in Heaven. Just as she knew that she would get another glimpse of the magnificent creature if she was patient.
The rest of the afternoon went by without another sound from the dragon. She decided to call it a day when she found some rocks protruding from the mountain. They'd shelter her in case it rained during the night, as it was wont to do in the mountains.
She ate the lone apple in her bag, and then discovered that she had managed to drink her last bottle of water throughout the day.
Sammi sighed and got to her feet. She had heard water as she walked. It couldn't be that far. If the mist would clear she would probably be able to find it easily enough.
Not wanting to get turned around again, she dug into her large bag and pulled out the colored chalk she used to write on her board at the pub and made a big X on the rocks so she could find her way back.
She followed the sound of the water and surprisingly found it easy enough.
"If only everything was this easy," she mumbled as she knelt beside the water.
Above her, cascading over dozens of rocks, was a waterfall that fell ten feet into the stream that then meandered down the mountain.
Sammi pulled out both of her empty bottles and filled them. She was putting the cap on the second when she glanced at the water and saw an image of a man as if he stood over her.
He had black hair shot with silver, but it was his red eyes that took her aback. She instantly recognized him as the man from the restaurant.
She whirled around, but no one was there. A glance in the water showed only her reflection.
"Maybe I am going crazy. Dragons and guys with red eyes. That's just no possible."
After going in two different directions and not finding the marks on the trees, Sammi began to get anxious. She let out a loud sigh when, on the third attempt, she found her marks that led her back to her camp.
Sammi settled back against the rocks and looked out over the mountains. It was hours before dark would descend in the Highlands, but her eyes were already getting heavy.
She was getting weaker, her shoulder ached, and the meager food she had bought wasn't going to last her another two days, especially when she could eat it all right then.
After wiping away the blood from her stitches, Sammi settled on her side and used her purse as a pillow after taking out the water bottles.
In that place between waking and sleep, Sammi found herself thinking about Tristan and the dragon, until they became one and the same.
Excerpted from Fire Rising Part 2 by Donna Grant. Copyright © 2014 Donna Grant. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.