Constance Owens has a gift for finding unique items in the most unlikely places, which comes in handy since she buys and sells artifacts and antiques for a living. When she purchases a set of four dragon statues, she has no idea just how unique they are, or that finding them will thrust her into a world of secret societies, men who think nothing of kidnapping and murder to get what they want, and dragon shifters.
Nic hasn’t survived for four thousand years by letting his guard down, and he doesn’t trust anyone except his drakon brothers. The loneliness haunting him has been getting worse since all his brothers have found their mates. And when he finds the woman his drakon recognizes instantly as his fated mate, he doubts he’ll ever have what his brothers have, because it seems she’s involved with the secret society of hunters who have been hunting and capturing his kind for hundreds of years.
The Blood of the Drakon series is best enjoyed in order
Book #1: Drakon’s Promise
Book #2: Drakon’s Prey
Book #3: Drakon's Plunder
Book #4: Drakon's Past
Book #5: Drakon Unchained
Book #6: Drakon’s Tear
Book #7: Drakon's Knight
About the Author
N.J. Walters is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author who has always been a voracious reader, and now she spends her days writing novels of her own. Vampires, werewolves, dragons, assassins, time-travelers, seductive handymen, and next-door neighbors with smoldering good looks—all vie for her attention. It’s a tough life, but someone’s got to live it.
Read an Excerpt
Constance Owens pulled her ten-year-old van into the driveway of a single-story dwelling on a quiet street in one of the older, historic areas of Las Vegas.
On cue, the front door was pushed open, and her sister ran out to meet her. Constance turned off the engine and climbed out of the vehicle.
It was only the two of them now that their grandfather was gone. Their parents had died when they were both kids, leaving them to be raised by their mother's father. Grandpa Watkins had not only shared his home and his love with them, but also his passion for the vintage and antique. She missed him, especially on days like today when she was returning from an estate sale and buying trip.
"Help me bring the boxes inside." Constance carefully lifted out a box filled with crystal and china and handed it to Abigail.
"So did you get anything really interesting?"
Constance laughed and walked into the house, bypassing the living room and heading straight to the bedroom at the back. They'd converted their grandfather's old bedroom into a storage area and workshop for both of them after he'd passed.
"You mean did I find something I'm going to keep for myself?" As a rule, Constance didn't collect anything in particular. She bought and sold, never becoming attached to any particular item. But now and again, something caught her eye and her heart.
Her grandpa had told her many times she'd inherited his gift for knowing where to find something valuable when others passed it over. And that was true. Many times, she'd watched him pull something out of a junk box at an antique store or delve into an old box at a yard sale and find something spectacular at the bottom.
He'd also cautioned her to use her talent sparingly. The last thing she wanted was to get a reputation for finding such things. That would just make other dealers and sellers keep a closer eye on her. And in their business, that was what you didn't want.
"Well?" Abigail asked as she set the box onto the worktable.
"Maybe," she conceded. Constance had a passion for jewelry, not the expensive stuff, but the unusual and vintage. Over the years, she'd amassed quite a nice collection.
Abigail stopped beside her and bumped her hip against Constance. "That means you did. I want to see it."
"As soon as we get everything inside," she promised.
When they went back out to the driveway, their next-door neighbor Mrs. Karsh was standing on her front step. "Back from another trip, I see."
Constance waved. "I am. And I found some gorgeous perfume bottles. I'm almost sure you don't have them."
Mabel Karsh had lived beside Constance's grandpa for as long as she and her sister had been here, and Mrs. Karsh kept an eye on Abigail when Constance was away.
"Bring them over later."
"I will," she promised. She and Abigail quickly unloaded the rest of the boxes, leaving a small table and iron headboard in the van. Constance knew a shop in the city that would almost certainly buy both.
She detoured to the kitchen to get an ice-cold glass of lemonade. Abigail was right behind her, practically vibrating with excitement. "Show me."
She took a long sip of lemonade and made a production of swallowing. "Ah, that's refreshing."
"Constance, don't tease."
She set down her glass and grinned. Truthfully, she couldn't wait to share her find with her sister. "If the gems in this were real, it would be worth a fortune." She went to her purse and opened it, pausing for dramatic effect. Then she pulled out the long chain of stones. The setting was silver, of that there was no doubt.
"Oh my God." Abigail's jaw dropped and then slammed shut. "Those are emeralds." She snatched the necklace, walked to the patio door, and held it up to the light. The gems caught the light, refracting it. Leaning closer, she studied each stone intently, turning the necklace one way and then another. They'd both learned well from their grandpa, but it was Abigail who knew the most about gemstones. When she turned back to Constance, she was pale. "This is the real deal."
Constance's knees grew weak. "It can't be. They're fake, great fakes, but paste nonetheless. Look at how large they are." Even as she said it, she knew she was wrong. When it came to gemstones, Abigail didn't make mistakes. Constance might have a knack for finding things, but her sister was the same when it came to precious and semiprecious gems.
Abigail shook her head. "No, they're not."
Constance took the necklace from her sister. "But I found it in a box in the basement." The silver had been tarnished and dirty, the gems dull. The necklace hadn't looked all that great when she'd purchased it.
Abigail grabbed her by the arm. "Here, sit down before you fall." She shoved Constance onto a chair and retrieved her lemonade for her. "Drink some more of this."
She dutifully took the glass and sipped, the necklace gleaming in her free hand. "I found a wooden crate in the basement with four cool dragon statues and another smaller metal box nestled inside. At the estate sale," she added, knowing she was rambling. "The gentleman died suddenly, and his son wanted everything sold off as quickly as possible. I paid a hundred each for the statues. The metal box was locked and the seller insisted on opening it. The necklace was grimy and dull. They charged me fifty bucks."
She still couldn't believe it, even though a little part of her had known the necklace was special. Something had sent her to the basement, even though there was nothing else but a few old tools down there. And cobwebs. There had been a ton of those, too.
"I cleaned it up at the motel last night and figured it was a good copy. Who in their right mind tosses a real emerald necklace into a box and leaves it in the basement. We'll have to sell it." That was the first rule of Grandpa Watkins. If it was expensive, you sold it and banked the profits.
Abigail shook her head. "No. Real or not, it only cost you fifty bucks. Pay the business more than that price and keep it." Her sister draped the necklace over Constance's head and settled it around her neck. "It looks good on you."
She really wanted it. She wanted to keep the statues, too. Maybe she would. As her sister pointed out, as long as she paid the business double what the necklace and statues cost her, they were making money.
"The statues are cool, too." She looked at her sister. "Their eyes are gems."
"Like the emeralds?"
She shook her head and then nodded. "One of them is. The others are different."
They stared at each other and then bolted for the back bedroom where they'd left the boxes. Abigail beat her to the room, but Constance knew which box she'd stashed the statues in.
She flipped open the flaps and dug through the packing paper. The statues weren't overly large, about six inches high and carved from different materials. There was an onyx one with diamond eyes, a wooden one with blue eyes, a bronze one with red eyes, and a crystal one with emerald eyes.
"Holy shit." Abigail picked up the crystal one and studied it. "The gems look the same." The eyes were large, appearing almost too big for the dragons, but they somehow worked. "They're all real."
Constance lifted the bronze statue with red eyes. The carving was exquisitely detailed with each patterned scale visible. It must have taken a skilled artisan a very long time to create such an item. The dragon was fierce, the eyes cold in spite of their hot color. "We need a second opinion."
"Only take one." Abigail held up the wooden one. "I think this is teak, and the eyes are definitely sapphires."
"I don't think we should keep these." Constance placed a hand on her stomach almost feeling sick. "There's something about them that isn't right." She couldn't say what it was, but suddenly, her instincts were screaming at her to get rid of the statues. Funny, but she didn't feel the same way about the necklace. She reached up and touched the vintage silver chain around her neck.
Abigail slowly nodded. "The dragon sculptures go. The necklace stays. But they all need to be locked up."
"Agreed." Constance wrapped each statue back in paper and placed them in a smaller box. She heaved a sigh of relief when she closed the lid. She had no idea why she was reacting to them so strongly now. She hadn't when she'd bought them.
Or maybe she had, but the thrill of the find had overshadowed her internal alarm.
She carried the box to the small walk-in closet off the bedroom. It was half filled with an antique iron safe that weighed a ton. Her grandpa had taken out a wall to get the darn thing in and reinforced the floor to hold it.
She spun the dial until she'd put in the right combination. The big space contained only important papers, their grandpa's watch, several sets of cuff links, and his wedding ring.
Constance placed the box in the safe. Reluctantly, she removed the necklace and set it on one of the metal shelves. She didn't take a full breath until the door was closed and locked.
"Okay. I'm going to unpack everything and post some listings online." The rule for making a living in this business was to sell fast, pocket the profit, and move on. "Then I'm going to take the perfume bottles over to Mrs. Karsh before she comes looking for them. Tomorrow, I'll take the teak dragon to Mario." Mario Gonzales was a fellow dealer and an old friend of her grandpa's. "I'll text him tonight. Tell him I have something I want him to look at."
Abigail chewed on her bottom lip. "Are you sure you should?"
Constance shook her head. "I'm not sure about anything." Her chest was tight, so she rubbed her hand over it.
Her sister threw her arm over Constance's shoulders and squeezed. "That's one heck of a find. And you know what Grandpa used to say."
The two of them shared a look. "If it seems too good to be true, it probably is." They spoke at the same time and then laughed, but there was a nervous edge to it.
"Right." Constance rubbed her hands over the denim of her jeans. "Best to get to work."
After several hours, Constance stood and stretched before grabbing the box with the half-dozen vintage perfume bottles nestled in the bottom. Mrs. Karsh had a passion for them even though she didn't wear perfume. Whatever she didn't buy, Constance would list online.
"I won't be long."
Abigail waved her off.
It was hard to leave the room. Just knowing the dragon statues and the necklace were there pulled at her. She didn't like the sensation. She'd never been one to catch collector fever, having to have something at all costs. She liked jewelry and had some wonderful pieces, but if they needed the money, she'd sell them in a heartbeat.
She wasn't so sure she could part with the statues and necklace, which ironically made her want to get rid of them as quickly as possible. Why had she bought them?
Because they were important. Because they were dangerous.
She went out through the front door and across the driveway to Mrs. Karsh's home. Why did she think the statues were dangerous? They were inanimate objects made of stone, wood, crystal, and metal. It was the stones that made them alive.
Constance stopped and a shiver ran down her spine. She glanced up and down the street, but there was no one outside, no one watching her. A sense of dread filled her and she suddenly didn't want to leave Abigail alone in the house, which was silly. She was right next door. What could happen?
She shook herself and made her way to her neighbor's front door.
Nicodemus Wilde stood in front of the large window in the living room of his penthouse suite at the Bellagio and peered out at the lights of the Las Vegas Strip. He should be sleeping, but he was too restless.
He swore and turned away, momentarily wishing he were back at his isolated home in Arizona with his brother Darius and his woman.
Nic was a fire drakon — the result of a mating of a human woman and a dragon who had visited briefly from another dimension more than four thousand years ago. He was as at home in the heart of a volcano as most people were in their living rooms.
Drakons were powerful, but they did have an enemy. The Knights of the Dragon, a group dedicated to controlling or destroying dragons. That's what the Knights called them, not really knowing or caring about the difference between a drakon and a dragon. They were also the reason why Darius and Sarah were lying low at Nic's desert home.
Nic picked up the remote and thought about turning on the television, but tossed the remote back down on the coffee table. He wasn't in the mood. Honestly, he just didn't care.
And that was the problem.
He raked his fingers through his hair and wandered back to the window. The sun was already peeking over the horizon. The start of a new day.
He'd spent the day since his arrival back in the city gambling. He'd quit once he was up enough to cover his room and expenses. Best to not get greedy and attract attention.
But the high he used to get from gambling was gone. It was all the same to him, whether he won or lost.
The ennui had been enveloping him for the past hundred years. His brothers had noticed as well. Nic had countered the condition by seeking out new people and places, new experiences, anything that might stimulate his senses and keep him interested in the world around him.
Nic, more than any of his brothers, understood why some of their kind fell into what was known as the Deep Sleep. Drakons who no longer wanted to live in the world took themselves off to remote places and simply lay down and fell asleep. Eventually, they turned to stone and became a part of the landscape, lost to the world forever.
Nic shivered and placed his hand on the glass, as if he could absorb the life-giving heat from the rising sun. He didn't want to turn to stone but feared that day might come. No one knew if the drakons were truly dead or if they would someday rise again.
He couldn't do that to his brothers. They would mourn him for eternity and blame themselves.
Hell, he wouldn't put it past them to find him and drag his stone ass back to one of their homes and keep him in their living room like a giant ornament.
In spite of the seriousness of the situation, he smiled. Tarrant, he decided, would be the one who would spearhead the operation and keep his stone body in his home. He loosened his tie and shrugged out of his jacket. He needed to do something different today. Gambling had lost its luster, but collecting hadn't. Collecting and hoarding were in his blood due to his dragon heritage.
Nic was passionate about everything. He loved art of all kinds — painting, sculpture, ceramics, weapons, and metalwork. It didn't matter to him as long as it was beautiful.
As soon as he'd arrived, he'd alerted every antique shop he'd dealt with before, letting them know he was in the city for a few days. Several had already made contact, listing items they thought might be of interest to him. But the most intriguing was from Mario Gonzales. He was a small-time dealer who'd sent a text, hinting he might have something special for Nic to look at later today. That was something to look forward to, something to help keep the Deep Sleep at bay for one more day.
He stripped off his shirt and toed off his shoes and socks. Wearing only his pants, he ambled into the bathroom and stared at his reflection. His hair was black and fell to his shoulders. His eyes were black, his lashes long. His skin was an olive tone.
His gaze fell to the tattoo that bisected his chest and ran down his left arm. It covered the entire left side of his body from neck to ankle. The intricate swirls were deep red in color and outlined in black. A drakon's tattoo and the color of his eyes always reflected what kind of drakon he was.
He'd been considered exotic and beautiful his entire life, but the one person who should have loved him, who he'd done everything to please, had cast him out of her life, banishing him to the desert to die. He rubbed his hand over his jaw and hardened his heart. His mother was long dead, her human body nothing more than dust in the desert sands. But her rejection of him still hurt.
"Get over it," he told his reflection. He turned away and stepped into the tiled shower. After breakfast, he'd go check out the local antique malls and thrift stores to see if he could find something to keep his interest for a few hours. But first, he'd pay a visit to Mario Gonzales.
* * *
"You're leaving early." Abigail poured herself a cup of coffee and yawned.
Constance hadn't slept much last night and was already on her second cup. "I figure I can catch Mario before he opens his store." Their grandpa's friend was an early riser. She knew he'd be in his shop long before it opened.
Excerpted from "Drakon's Past"
Copyright © 2018 N.J. Walters.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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