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Blood of the Drakon
By N. J. Walters, Heidi Shoham
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2016 N. J. Walters
All rights reserved.
Music pounded through the giant speakers mounted high on every wall, and multi-colored lights flashed all around the crowded dance floor. From his seat in a dark corner of the nightclub, Darius Varkas watched. Bodies gyrated and hands groped as the dancers lost themselves in the booze, the drugs, and the music.
He was bored.
He spun the half-empty glass on the table in front of him and watched the amber-colored liquid swirl and catch the light. A woman wearing little more than chains for a top and what might pass for a napkin as a skirt sauntered up to him, her ruby lips turned up in a welcoming smile. It always astounded him how women could manage to walk in heels that tall and skinny. "Want some company?"
He didn't move. Didn't say a word. The woman's smile slowly faded, and she skittered away, going as fast as she could manage in her impractical shoes. She might not know why she was afraid of him, but she was right to be so. He wasn't totally human. And at times like these, he was more beast than man.
Emptiness ate at him. The cavern in his soul grew larger each passing day. Money was of little interest to him. He had more than he could ever spend, and it was easy enough to make. His business interests, which absorbed most of his waking hours, no longer held his attention.
It was a sign of his desperation that he'd come to the club tonight, something he rarely did, hoping to drive back his dark thoughts. But it hadn't done any good. The noise, the people, and the smells had only aggravated his already black mood.
The phone in his pocket vibrated. He almost ignored it, but only three people had this number. As much as he might want to, he wouldn't ignore his brothers.
He yanked the offensive piece of technology out of his pocket and thumbed the right button to answer the call. "What?" He didn't shout to be heard over the pounding rhythm of the music, knowing his brother could easily hear him.
"Hurt you to answer, didn't it?"
Darius swallowed his angry retort, knowing it would only encourage Tarrant to goad him more. Why his brother was obsessed with technology, he'd never know. "What do you want?"
"The Knights are back."
Fury replaced his annoyance. Darius stood and strode toward the door, his large strides eating up the distance, the music and his drink forgotten. He didn't pause and barely noticed the people scrambling to get out of his way. All he could think about was his brother's words. They beat at his brain until he wanted to roar his anger to the heavens.
Several people stumbled and fell to the floor in their haste. He simply walked over their prone bodies.
Darius could smell their fear, taste it. He knew what they saw when they looked at him. Clad in jeans and a black leather jacket, and standing almost seven feet tall, he was an intimidating sight. With the scowl on his face, he was something out of their nightmares.
He shoved the door open. The heavy metal panel slammed against the side of the building. The bouncer jumped and turned toward him but swallowed back whatever remark he'd been about to make. The patrons waiting outside the club backed up against the brick wall, many of them looking at the ground to avoid Darius's gaze.
He headed down the alley and out onto the sidewalk, glad to have left the stale atmosphere and noise of the club behind. He breathed in the crisp October air. It was tainted with car exhaust and the garbage that littered the streets of the city, but it was better than the stench of booze, chemicals, and sweat he'd left behind. Some days, he cursed his preternatural senses.
"Are you sure?" Even as he asked, he knew better. Tarrant would never have contacted him unless he was absolutely certain.
"Technology is good for some things, brother. I've picked up chatter while monitoring some very particular online sites."
There were places on the net that most people didn't realize even existed, used mostly by criminals, clandestine groups, and even some governments to keep conversations confidential. Tarrant knew where to find them all. Darius rubbed the back of his neck and started walking home. "Why now? Why after all this time?"
"We knew the Knights wouldn't stay gone forever. They're like cockroaches. Just when you think you've killed them all, another one pops up."
Darius almost smiled at Tarrant's comparison. "Keep me posted."
"You know I will."
"Have you contacted Ezra and Nicodemus?" He had no idea where his other two brothers were at the moment. They could be anywhere in the world.
"I did. I heard back from Ezra, but Nic still hasn't checked in."
That didn't surprise Darius. Nicodemus was probably somewhere warm, surrounded by adoring women. How his brother could stand being around people all the time was beyond him, but Nic seemed to enjoy it.
"Let me know when you hear from him."
"And, Tarrant. Be careful." Darius paused before crossing at the light. "I don't want to lose you."
"You watch your back," his brother warned.
"Always." Darius ended the call and shoved his phone back in his pocket. As he approached the glass and gilt luxury high-rise, the doorman leaped forward and pulled the door open.
"Good evening, Mr. Varkas."
He nodded. "John." He didn't pause and continued past the bank of elevators until he came to the one at the very end. This was his private entrance. He placed his hand on the palm-plate and waited until it verified his identity. He might not be fond of technology, but he damn well took advantage of it. When the doors silently slid open, he stepped inside.
The ride up to the penthouse took only seconds. The steel doors slid open and the lights came on as soon as he stepped inside. He was home. Just being here settled him. His gaze flowed around the room. There were floor-to-ceiling shelves on the far wall, containing treasures and mementos from his various trips around the world. The oversize sectional sofa and giant flat-screen television beckoned, but he bypassed them and headed straight to his office.
This was his personal sanctuary. Shelves lined all four walls, and many were packed with books. Tall, clear vases were filled with beach glass from every corner of the earth. Shards of pottery, much of it ancient, filled two shelves. Chunks of raw ore were scattered about. This was only the tip of the iceberg, his most personal possessions. He had much more housed in various vaults and homes around the world.
He stopped at the ornate wooden cabinet that served as his bar. It was inlaid with gold and had once belonged to an Egyptian pharaoh. It had been a gift from the man almost three thousand years ago. Taharqa had died young, but Darius had liked him. That was back when he'd still made friends with humans, before he'd watched too many of them grow old and die, or meet a violent death.
Darius poured some twenty-year-old Irish whiskey into a glass and tossed it back before pouring another. It was impossible for him to get drunk, but he did enjoy the burn and the taste. He went to the window and peered out over the city of New York. He'd made his home here for more than a decade. It would soon be time to move on.
He'd lived all over the globe, seen all the wonders of the world, including some that humans had never seen. He liked New York, the vibrancy of the place and the variety of people who populated the city. It was just starting to feel like home. He was tired of moving.
He swore and turned away from the lights and went to the nearest bookshelf. He let his fingers walk across the leather spines until he found what he was looking for. The leather binding was old and the pages inside yellow and brittle with age.
Darius sat in the leather chair he'd had custom built to accommodate his size, set his drink on the table beside it, and opened the book to the title page.
"Knights of the Dragon," he read aloud. "Knights of the Dragon, my ass." He guessed that Power-Hungry, Murderous Sorcerers wouldn't read as well to the members of the group or the public. The book had been written by a Catholic monk in the late thirteenth century. There had been many such books written since, but this was the oldest he knew of.
The fools didn't even know the difference between a dragon and a drakon. It had been four thousand years since the last dragon had left the world, leaving their sons behind, not caring enough to take them when they went.
Dragons were cold-blooded, cold-hearted, immensely powerful creatures who'd come through a portal from their home world. They'd temporarily taken the shape of men and mated with human females. Some of those women had borne sons — always sons. When the children had reached their teenage years, it had become evident there was something wrong with all of them. They weren't human, nor were they dragons. They were both.
They were drakons, sons of the dragons.
They had the cunning, strength, preternatural abilities, and instincts of the dragon, along with the intellect and emotions of a human. A deadly combination. And unlike their sires, their base form was that of a human. While their dragon fathers could hold a human form for a short span of time, a drakon could inhabit either human or dragon form indefinitely.
He closed the book and tossed it onto the table. It had been over a century since they'd had any trouble from the Knights, those self-proclaimed protectors of the innocent.
Darius surged to his feet and began to prowl around the room. What he really wanted to do was shapeshift, take to the skies, and fly. But the skies were a dangerous place for a drakon these days. Satellite imaging and radar made evading humans a bitch. There were still remote areas on the earth — hidden canyons, isolated deserts, the skies of the ice-bound poles, and crevices deep in the ocean — where a drakon could still fly, but New York was not one of those places.
His phone vibrated again and he quickly answered. "What?"
"You really need to work on your manners, brother."
"Don't test me, Tarrant."
His brother sighed. "Nicodemus checked in. He's in Vegas."
Darius cursed under his breath. "Does he know the meaning of low profile?"
Tarrant chuckled. "I doubt it."
Their youngest brother would never change, but you'd think he'd be a little smarter after living for more than four thousand years. "Anything else?"
Darius heard a clicking noise and knew Tarrant was on his laptop, which was practically surgically attached to the man. "Nothing. But be careful. If they catch you —" Tarrant broke off, not speaking the words.
"You, too." He ended the call and stared out the window, seeing none of the beauty of the city at night. The Knights of the Dragon killed drakons, but they preferred to capture and enslave them for all time. The blood of a drakon could cure any illness. It also prolonged a human's life and gave him certain powers and abilities, which varied from human to human. Drakon blood was coveted among these people.
Most drakons who fell into the clutches of the Knights managed to either escape or end their own lives. Anything was better than permanent enslavement. He didn't want to even think about the ones who'd been captured. To imagine decades, even centuries, in captivity was too horrific for him to even consider.
Darius turned his back on the city, left his office, and went into his bedroom. He stripped off his clothing and tossed it onto the bench that sat at the end of his large custom-sized bed. Naked, he padded into the attached bathroom and stepped into the shower stall. He turned on the water and adjusted the stream until it was hot.
The spray beat down on him, washing away the odors from the nightclub that still clung to his skin. Drakons were solitary creatures by nature, preferring their own company — except for Nic, who for some strange reason seemed to enjoy people — but sometimes Darius grew lonely and sought out places where humans congregated. Over the centuries, he'd had sex with more women than he could remember, but none of them had ever satisfied the ache in his heart or filled the emptiness in his soul.
Unlike his father, Darius craved a mate. One of the few things his dragon sire had told him before he'd left was that dragons mated only once, and it was a very rare thing. When it happened, it was permanent. Eternal. Darius assumed the same held for him and his brothers. But they'd all given up hope of finding that one special woman long, long ago. The odds of finding such a woman were astronomical. Even if they did manage to do so, she'd be human, with a lifespan measured in decades, not millennia.
Of course, drakon blood could prolong life. They had no idea for how many years, but it did allow humans to live a much longer time. But Darius had honestly never met a woman he'd consider sharing his blood with. That would mean he trusted her not only with his secret, but with the lives of his brothers as well. And he just couldn't see that happening.
He grabbed the bar of handmade soap from the tiled shelf and rubbed it over his chest and arms, inhaling the soothing scent of sandalwood. The artisan who made the soap handcrafted it to his specifications, and Darius paid her very well to keep him supplied.
He might have fallen prey to what drakons called the Deep Sleep eons ago if not for his brothers. Many drakons couldn't bear the endless years alone and succumbed to the Deep Sleep, settling on mountaintops or beneath the oceans, falling into a deathlike slumber until their bodies finally turned to stone. No one knew if these drakons were even still alive after so long. None of them had ever awakened.
They might have had different mothers, but he and his brothers shared the same dragon sire. That family connection had brought them together when they were young. Over the years, it had forged into an unbreakable bond. It had helped keep them all sane and very much in this world.
He finished washing, turned off the water, and rested his hands against the slate tiles. The faucet dripped twice before stopping. He pushed away from the wall and stepped out of the shower stall. A stack of pristine white towels sat on the nearby shelf. Darius grabbed one and rubbed it over his hair and body before tossing it aside. Still damp, he went to his bedroom and threw himself down on his bed.
Why were the Knights back now? What were they planning? Whatever it was, Darius knew it didn't bode well for him or his brothers.CHAPTER 2
Sarah Anderson tugged on the hem of her skirt and smoothed out some nonexistent wrinkles. It wasn't like her to be nervous. She was known for being levelheaded and calm.
"Mr. Temple will see you now." The man's personal assistant, a strikingly beautiful woman, smiled and nodded toward the double door that guarded the inner office.
Sarah stood, hitched her purse over her shoulder, and managed a smile. "Thank you." She strode to the door, trying to convey an air of confidence. She needed this job.
Taking a final deep breath to calm the butterflies in her stomach, she turned the handle and shoved the door open. The man sitting behind the desk motioned her in.
"Come in, Ms. Anderson. Come in."
Her sensible leather flats made no sound on the thick carpet. He gestured toward one of the two dark brown leather chairs that sat opposite him. "Please, have a seat. I'll be right with you." He turned back to his computer screen, giving her time to look around.
The office furniture was solid, like the man himself. From her research, she knew Herman Temple was sixty years old, had reportedly inherited a fortune when he was in his twenties, and had added to it since, dabbling in everything from oil to technology, but mostly pharmaceuticals.
She wasn't a research librarian for nothing. She knew how to find information on anyone or anything. That was her specialty. Or it had been until downsizing at the New York Public Library had left her scrambling to find a new position.
She still didn't quite understand how that had happened. One day she'd been happily working, and the next she'd been unemployed. Thankfully, she did have outside contracts, so she still had some source of income. And it was one of those contacts that had led her to this job interview.
Mr. Temple closed his laptop and smiled at her. "Forgive me, but I had to get that email off quickly."
"That's fine," she assured him. She fiddled with the strap of her purse. When she realized what she was doing, she carefully set the bag down beside her.
Mr. Temple sat back in his large leather chair and stared across the broad expanse of his antique oak desk. His full head of white hair gave him a distinguished air. "I thought you'd be older."
She frowned. "Sir?"
He waved his hand in front of him. "For someone of your accomplishments, I thought you'd be older. Jeremiah speaks highly of you." Jeremiah Dent was a highly respected dealer in rare and antiquarian books, contracted by museums and wealthy clients to find certain volumes for their collections. He was also the one who'd put her onto this job.
Excerpted from Drakon's Promise by N. J. Walters, Heidi Shoham. Copyright © 2016 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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