He knew her round eyes and the deep shade of brown along with the band of black that encircled her irises. He knew the slope of her breasts, the indent of her waist, and the flare of her hips. He knew the way she preferred to wear muted colors to help her blend in with a crowd. It had taken one look to put all that to memory, but he found his eyes going to her again and again, as if he couldn’t get enough.
Nikolai is a dragon shapeshifter who knows well the meaning of loss. Orphaned and raised to be a Dragon King, he never accepts defeat. Now, Nikolai prefers his solitude. . .until a beautiful, irresistible woman calls upon him for helpand Nikolai’s whole world goes up in flames.
Ever since MI5 agent Esther woke to discover her mind taken over with magic, she feels like a stranger to herself. She looks to a notorious dragon, one who has the power to help her find her memory. But as she and Nikolai come closer to discovering what really happened to her, a dangerous passion ignites between them. Can this lone Dragon King help the woman he’s grown to love to uncover the truth about her pastor will a deep and fiery danger tear them both apart in Heat, the next Dark Kings novel by New York Times bestselling author Donna Grant.
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About the Author
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Donna Grant has been praised for her “totally addictive” and “unique and sensual” stories. She’s the author of more than thirty novels spanning multiple genres of romance including the bestselling Dark King stories. The acclaimed series features a thrilling combination of dragons, the Fae, and Highlanders who are dark, dangerous, and irresistible. She lives with her two children, a dog, and four cats in Texas.
Read an Excerpt
I willna let you down.
The words he'd spoken to Ulrik reverberated through Nikolai's head like a bell tolling. He blew out a frustrated breath and sat up. Tossing aside the blanket, he swung his legs over the bed as he hung his head.
The few hours of sleep he'd managed were filled with dreams of his years with Ulrik. The Silvers had accepted Nikolai, though they hadn't made his life easy. Their actions, in part, were what strengthened him.
The day Nikolai challenged Avgust for the right to rule the Ivories, there was only one who had stood by his side — Ulrik. The King of the Silvers had begun as a father figure, but soon became a brother in the truest sense of the word.
Nikolai held out his hands, palms up, and looked at them. The last time he had seen or spoken to Ulrik was right before they stripped the Silver of his magic and banished him.
It didn't matter how many millennia passed, the burden of standing against Ulrik still weighed heavily upon Nikolai. It's why he had taken to his mountain with the others and woke only one other time.
He'd still be asleep if Con hadn't forced him to wake. The fact that Nikolai would most likely have to fight the man he called brother only worsened the situation.
Squeezing his hands into fists, he fought back the tide of regret. He drew in a deep breath and rose to his feet. Striding into the bathroom, he turned on the water in the shower.
He couldn't remember a time when there hadn't been tension running through the manor, but it was getting worse. Every Dragon King knew that the battle between Ulrik and Constantine, the King of Kings, was coming any day now.
No one wanted to see Ulrik dead, but if he won, then the vows made by each of them to protect the mortals would pit them against Ulrik, who wanted nothing more than to wipe the humans from the face of the earth.
In order to prevent that, Con would have to kill Ulrik.
Nikolai stepped beneath the hot spray of water and braced his hands on the wall. He'd sided against Ulrik once. It had been the right choice, but there wasn't a day that passed where Nikolai didn't wonder if he should've chosen differently.
This time, the choice would be out of his hands. This time, the battle between Ulrik and Con would have lasting effects on every being in the realm — mortal and immortal alike.
If only that were all the Kings had to worry about, but unfortunately, it was only a small piece of a very large pie filled with nothing but enemies who were focused on everyone at Dreagan.
Nikolai put his face in the water and closed his eyes. The Dark Fae were a serious problem for the mortals because they fed off their souls by having sex with them. To make matters worse, there was talk that Ulrik had joined forces with them.
At least that was the theory. Sebastian claimed that Ulrik wasn't responsible for everything, that Ulrik's uncle, Mikkel, was the one the Kings should be hunting.
Nikolai leaned back and began to wash. He recalled Ulrik having an uncle, but not the name. Nikolai hoped Sebastian was right. Regardless, Bast had left for Venice without Con's approval in order to uncover proof about Mikkel.
That was a week ago. There had been no word from Sebastian, and Con had departed for Venice the night before to locate Bast.
The only good thing was now that MI5 no longer had a presence at the distillery, the ban on the Dragon Kings shifting had been lifted. It felt amazing to take to the skies again.
Nikolai ran a hand through his hair to get the shampoo out. Then he turned off the water and grabbed a towel to dry off. He walked out of the shower and frowned at the pile of clothes that he'd forgotten to hang up the previous day.
He tossed aside his towel and began putting away the clothes in his closet. As he did, he grabbed a pair of jeans and put them on. He then made his way to the chest in his bedroom. After he put away a stack of clothes, he paused and looked at the painting above his bed. It was the first thing he'd done for himself after he discovered what his power was.
He stared at the idyllic mountain scene with lakes so pure you could see straight to the bottom. Flying together in the bright blue sky were his parents. It was the only thing that hung on his walls other than his sword.
As he made up his bed, there was a soft knock on his door. He didn't look up as he bade whoever it was enter while he bent, tidying the comforter. The door opened, but it took him a second to realize that no one had spoken. When he straightened, he was shocked to find Esther North standing there.
The British beauty was still in the doorway, her hand upon the knob as her gaze locked on the various drawings that were scattered about his room, hung on lines he had strung, or sitting on easels.
Her lustrous brunette tresses hung free about her shoulders. She wore an oversized gray sweater that hid her curves and dropped past her hips over a pair of black leggings. Fuzzy white socks that had a kitten face atop them, complete with a pink nose and whiskers, encased her feet.
The longer she stood there staring, the more he was able to gaze at her striking features at his leisure. The MI5 agent had captivated him from the very beginning when a Druid got into Esther's mind to control her with magic.
The Dragon Kings managed to undo the Druid's work, but there were side effects. The memories of the time Esther spent with the Druid were missing. It made Esther a liability, but she was allowed to remain because of one very important factor — she was Henry North's sister.
Henry, also MI5, worked with the Dragon Kings to track the activities of the Dark Fae in an attempt to figure out their next move. It was uncommon for the Kings to trust humans, but Henry was an exception.
And so was his sister.
Nikolai knew Esther's face. His power allowed him to conjure every detail about her from just one look. From the small, nearly hidden scar on her left wrist from some childhood accident, to the confident way she held herself.
He knew her hair wasn't just brown. It had strands of the softest shade of walnut, darker tones that deepened into chocolate, and lighter streaks of amber. He knew the curve of her face, and how she lifted her chin when she was angry. He knew the lines in her brow from the expressive way she spoke. He knew her mouth and how her bottom lip was slightly fuller than the top.
He knew her round eyes and the deep shade of brown along with the band of black that encircled her irises. He knew the slope of her breasts, the indent of her waist, and the flare of her hips. He knew the way she preferred to wear muted colors to help her blend in with a crowd.
It had taken but one look to put all that to memory, but he found his gaze going to her again and again as if he couldn't get enough.
That fact was only one reason he kept drawing Esther. The other was that he had no choice.
She filled his mind like no other had before.
Esther was shocked. And that wasn't an easy thing to do.
Her eyes moved from one sketch of her to another, each depicting different areas of Dreagan she had been to — the manor, the distillery, or strolling through the snow in the Dragonwood.
There were even pictures of her walking the caves inside the mountain connected to the manor. The drawing she stared at the longest was the one where she had stood at the entrance to the cavern where four of Ulrik's largest silver dragons were kept, sleeping within a cage.
The look on her face was one of awe and curiosity. Though she remembered feeling fear at the idea of Ulrik killing Con and releasing those dragons to wipe out humanity.
But in many of the instances, she knew Nikolai hadn't been there. How then had he drawn them? His power of projected thermography allowed him to see something once and paint it, draw it, or weave it. But if he hadn't been there ...?
As her eyes moved from one side of the room to the other, they clashed with a bare-chested Nikolai. Her mouth went dry as she stared at his chiseled form.
The Dragon King had a way of making her forget whatever she was thinking every time she looked into his baby blue eyes. But that's not what her gaze lingered on now. It was his tattoo. She knew every Dragon King had one, but this was her first time seeing Nikolai's, and it was stunning.
Starting at his right wrist was the tail of the dragon that snaked up his arm to his bicep where the body of the animal began. The back claws looked as if they were digging into Nikolai's arm as its wings were tucked.
The dragon turned and leaned over Nikolai's shoulder. The head of the beast was on Nikolai's chest with its mouth open as if roaring. One of the dragon's arms was outstretched as if reaching for something. It was the intricacy of the tat along with the mix of red and black ink that would ensure it was never duplicated in any way.
It was impossible not to ogle his washboard abs. Drops of water had fallen from his hair to his wide shoulders before they wound their way down his amazing chest. She bit her lip, her blood heating when she noticed that his jeans were unbuttoned and hanging precariously on his narrow hips.
Unable to look away, she followed the trail of hair from his navel until it disappeared into his pants. She swallowed, not quite sure how to feel about her blatant, carnal reaction.
As she raised her gaze, she noticed that his hands were clenched so tightly his knuckles were white. That caused her eyes to jerk upward and clash with his.
His features were strong and perhaps a bit harsh, but she found them disarmingly so. From his jawline to his wide lips to his hollowed cheeks.
She wanted to run her fingers through his subtle cinnamon red locks. He kept the hair around his face shorter than the rest that was full of body and thickness. Even now with it wet, the strands held a wave as they fell to the back of his neck.
It took her several minutes to remember what she was doing in his room, she was so consumed by him and the lascivious thoughts that ran through her head. Of all the men at Dreagan, it had been Nikolai who caught her eye, even as she fought against it.
He was one of the quiet ones. She'd noticed right from the start how he stood to the side, observing everything and everyone. She'd mistakenly assumed he was like her and trained for such things.
The real reason was because of his power. Everything he witnessed was filed away in his brain to be sorted through later.
The longer they stared at each other, the more aroused she became. She knew she should speak, but she couldn't think of anything to say. Which was a first. The one thing she never lacked was words.
Her name had been passed down through generations of Norths. She'd always hated it. Right up until Nikolai said it in that deep, husky brogue that made her stomach flutter and heat burn through her veins. Her name had never sounded sexy until that moment.
She parted her lips in an effort to take in more air. It was a mistake to be there. She knew that now, but even as she told herself to leave, her feet wouldn't obey.
"You drew pictures of me." She inwardly kicked herself. The words had come out jumbled, not in the perfect sentence she'd put together in her mind.
Nikolai's chest expanded as he took a deep breath and released it. His hands unclenched. "I have."
After all the training she'd received on interrogation techniques, that was all she could come up with? What the bloody hell was wrong with her?
"It happens when I have a deep connection with someone," he explained.
"A deep connection?" She glanced at the pictures. "You can see me wherever I go?"
A muscle ticked in his jaw. "No' everywhere."
"I think you do." Pulled by some unknown force, she made her way to a group of drawings. She pointed at one. "I was at the distillery Monday." She moved to the next. "Tuesday, I walked the Dragonwood." Then the next. "Wednesday, I was helping out in the gift shop."
"I doona see everything," he said.
She dropped her arm and looked at him with raised brows. "I can show you a week's worth of drawings that say otherwise."
It was a crazy notion that filled her mind, but when he remained silent, it gave her cause to believe that it just might be possible.
"All I can think about is that Druid who got into my head," she said. "I don't know exactly how much time I'm missing, and the fact that I can't remember anything terrifies me."
"I was sent here to kill Kinsey," she said over him. "I didn't even know what I was doing. Had we killed each other as those responsible for controlling us wanted, none of you would even know about the Druid."
He crossed his arms over his chest, a frown marring his forehead. "Aye, that's true."
"We have an edge here. We should take this opportunity while we have it. I have to find this Druid, but more than that, I have to know what I did in the time that was stolen from me. What if. ..." She trailed off because the words were too difficult to think, and nearly impossible to say. "What if I killed someone else?"
"What if you didna?"
"Wouldn't you want to know the truth if you were me?"
He dropped his arms and sighed. "Aye."
"I came to look at the drawing you did of the Druid again, but after seeing the others you've done, I think you're the only one who can help me."
He ran a hand down his face as he looked at the floor for a long time. When he lifted his gaze to her, he gave her a single nod. "How can I help?"
"It began in London. That's where we need to go."
Nikolai leaned back against the wall in Con's office as he watched Esther and her brother, Henry, bicker about her proposed plan. There were many reasons not to go to London, but Nikolai wanted to help Esther.
And he wanted to be alone with her.
Con wore a weary expression as the siblings' argument moved into the second half of the hour. The King of Kings rolled the chair back from his desk and rose. Con then walked to stand beside Nikolai, his arms crossed over his chest.
"Are you sure about this?" Con asked.
Nikolai knew it was only a matter of time before Esther wore her brother down. She had valid arguments, and despite Henry's urgings to find another way, Esther's options were limited.
"Aye," Nikolai replied. "Especially after Sebastian's and Gianna's arrival last night. The Druid needs to be found and stopped before she does more than wipe memories. If I can help Esther trace her path before and after she met the Druid, there's a chance we can find her."
Con ran a hand through his wavy blond hair. "The Druids from MacLeod Castle have all tried multiple ways to locate her. Isla has warned that the Ancients are in a frenzy because of this Druid."
"I doona suppose Broc had any luck locating her now that we have a face?"
"The Warrior's power of finding anyone, anywhere seems to be limited with this foe. Isla and the others suspect she's put up spells blocking discovery."
Nikolai turned his head to Con. "Then I'm our only hope right now."
"Just as I get everyone back under one roof, someone wants to leave again," Con muttered.
"I doona want to do this. I have to."
Con cut his black eyes to Nikolai. "That doesna mean I have to be pleased about it."
"We'll find out who this Druid is."
"Once you do, alert me. I'm going to bring her here. Then she's going to fix whatever she did to Bast's and Gianna's memories before she faces my wrath."
"Our wrath," Nikolai corrected him.
Con gave a nod. "Our wrath."
Neither of them brought up Sebastian's mission in Venice. Bast must have discovered something about Mikkel. If he really was Ulrik's uncle, then that could explain why the Druid had done whatever she did to Bast and Gianna.
The odd thing was, their memories hadn't been wiped of everything. The couple had all recollection of their time together, but what caused everyone to worry was that Sebastian had told Con he had proof about Mikkel. Now, however, Bast knew nothing about the man at all.
"Doona worry about Sebastian or his woman," Con said. "We'll look after them in case the Druid planted something in their minds as she did with Esther and Kinsey."
Esther suddenly got to her feet and very calmly told Henry, "I'm going."
"Please," her brother pleaded. "Don't do this."
"You would in my place," she said.
Henry then turned in the chair to look at Nikolai and Con. "Tell her this is a bad idea."
"I can no'," Con replied.
Nikolai might be an orphan, but he'd had sibling love for Ulrik, so he could understand what Henry felt. "All we'll be doing is retracing Esther's steps leading up to her encounter with the Druid to help her find her memories. She willna be in danger."
Excerpted from "Heat"
Copyright © 2018 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.
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