Their eyes met again, held. He felt an uncontrollable, undeniable pull to this woman and he fought against it. Hard. It was more than just lust. This...feeling...was on another plane all together...
DARKNESS AND SECRETS SURROUND HIM
His name is Laith. To most, he's known as the owner of a local pub near Dreagan. But little do his patrons know that beneath his handsome, charming exterior Laith has the heart and soul of a Dragon King-one who wields control by keeping his friends close and his enemies closer. Until a beautiful, mysterious stranger enters the picture, and sets his whole world on fire...
SHE IS HIS SALVATION
To learn the truth about her dead father, Iona has returned to Scotland only to learn that she's part of an ancient pact with Dreagan-one that will threaten the fragile peace with the Dragon Kings. Gorgeous, sly Iona isn't like anyone Laith has ever met before...and she harbors a secret that others would kill to possess. Will she complete him-or destroy him? Passion always comes with a price...in Hot Blooded by Donna Grant.
The Dark Kings series is:
"Provocative...Loaded with subtle emotions [and] sizzling chemistry."-RT Book Reviews (4 stars)
"Intense...enchanting...[will] grab the reader's attention and won't let go." -Night Owl Reviews (Top Pick)
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
By Donna Grant
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2014 Donna Grant
All rights reserved.
Dreagan Industries June
Laith leaned back in the chair with his hands behind his head as he looked around Constantine's office. There were only a handful of Dragon Kings in the large room. Some were on various missions regarding the Dark Fae, Ulrik, and others that only Con knew about.
Still other Kings were on the sixty thousand acres of Dreagan property tending to livestock, overseeing their famous Dreagan whisky, and patrolling their borders. Because even though their dragon magic kept most humans and other beings out, some still tried to gain entrance.
As a race of shape-shifting immortals who had been around since the dawn of time, the Dragon Kings weren't without their share of enemies. And the list kept growing as the months went by.
Each King was powerful in his own right or he would never have been chosen to rule his dragons, but there was one who was King of Kings—Constantine.
Con with his surfer boy golden blond hair and soulless black eyes could be a cold son of a bitch. He did what was necessary, regardless of who was hurt, in order to keep the secret of Dreagan from leaking to the humans.
While turning the gold dragonhead cuff links at his wrist, Con sat patiently behind his desk staring at a file folder while everyone took their seats.
"What's up?" Ryder leaned over to whisper before promptly taking a bite of a jelly-filled donut.
Laith shrugged. It could be anything, and he learned long ago not to try and guess what was going on in Con's head or try to figure out Con's thinking when he did something. The fact that Con wouldn't look up from the folder meant that whatever was inside was troubling indeed.
Kellan was the last to enter Con's office. After a quick look around, Kellan closed the door behind him. The Keeper of the History remained as he was, leaning against the door instead of taking a chair.
Another sign that something bad had happened. Laith took a deep breath and slowly let it out. Besides Ryder, Con, and Kellan there were Rhys, Warrick, Hal, and Tristan. Everyone looked at ease. Except for Rhys.
There was something going on with his friend, but so far Rhys hadn't shared it with anyone. The lines of strain around Rhys's mouth said that whatever bothered him was taking a hard toll.
Rhys ran a hand through his long dark hair, his gaze meeting Laith's. A heartbeat later, Rhys's gaze skated away. Laith scratched his chin, the two-day's growth of beard itching, as he considered how hard to push to get Rhys to tell him—or someone—what was wrong.
"Come on, Con," Tristan said as he bent a leg to set his ankle atop his knee. "Stop stalling. Why did you call us in here?"
Con's black eyes slowly lifted to meet Tristan's. He let the silence lengthen before Con leaned forward and stabbed a finger on the file folder. "This."
"And what is that?" Hal's voice was calm, but as one of six Kings who had taken mates, he was anything but. His gaze was riveted on Con, his bearing anxious and worried.
Con sighed and got to his feet. He shoved his hands in the pockets of his navy slacks. "I'd hoped we would have a reprieve. I'd hoped that Kiril and Shara would have more time to themselves being newly mated."
"For the love of all that's holy, spit it out," Ryder stated, unable to wait any longer.
A muscle in Con's jaw jumped. "John Campbell was found dead this morning."
Everyone stilled, their faces expressing shock, surprise, and disbelief as Con's words penetrated. No one said a word as they comprehended what John's death meant to Dreagan.
Laith closed his eyes, feeling remorse for John's death. The Campbells had owned the fifty acres bordering Dreagan for countless generations. It began shortly after the war with the humans, once the Kings sent the dragons to another realm. There was a doorway onto Dreagan, it was hidden, but could be used by their enemies. Since no Dragon King's magic could touch the area around the doorway, it became apparent that they would have to trust a human to do it for them.
The Campbells, one of the few groups of humans who didn't wage war on Dreagan, stepped forward. And so the watch of the Campbells had begun.
Only the head of the family, the one responsible for ensuring that no one accidentally stumbled upon the doorway, knew the secret of Dreagan and what was being guarded. It continued in that vein for thousands of years through wars and invasions. The Campbells kept the Dragon Kings' secret, and the Kings, in turn, protected them.
How Laith was going to miss John's laughter and his jokes. John hadn't just protected Dreagan, he'd become a friend.
"Who's going to guard the land?" Laith asked.
Kellan glanced at Con. "John has a daughter, Iona."
"That's right. I forgot about her," Rhys said.
Hal frowned as he sat forward and rested his arms on his legs. "She's been gone for a while, aye?"
"A verra long while," Con said. "Twenty years in fact."
Laith shifted to get comfortable in the chair. "John often talked of Iona. He showed me her photographs when he'd come into the pub. For as long as I knew him, and as often as we chatted, he never told me what happened with his wife."
Con stood and walked behind his tall chair, leaning his arms upon the back. "One of John's responsibilities was to remain on the land."
"He remained when his wife left and took Iona," Hal said softly.
Laith shifted his gaze back to Con. "He could've left for that."
"He took his oath to us seriously," Kellan explained. "To help with the pain of his loss, he buried himself in his writing after that."
Warrick nodded slowly. "He was an excellent writer."
"That he was." Con looked at the file folder again.
Laith dropped his arms to his lap. "What's in the file, Con? If it was only a matter of ensuring his daughter take up her father's duties, we wouldna been called here."
"Iona stepping into her duties is another matter entirely. I'll get to that in a moment. What's in the folder is a report. John didna die by natural causes," Con said as he locked his gaze on Laith's. "He was murdered."
Tristan mumbled a string of curses beneath his breath and sat forward. Ryder remained as he was, his body going taut. Rhys kept his eyes on the floor, a hand clenched at his side.
Kellan pushed away from the door and walked to stand beside Con. "John's old Range Rover was found on its side coming down the mountain from his house. The SUV's fall killed him instantly."
"How do we know it's murder?" Ryder asked.
Con said, "The police inspector knew John and I were acquaintances and since Dreagan is such a large holding in the area, he came to me with the findings. John's death was first classified as an accident, but upon inspection of the vehicle they realized it was murder. The brake line had a near-invisible puncture in it enough to drain the brake fluid and cause the brakes to go out."
"That could happen to any vehicle," Warrick said. "Old vehicles like that need repairs. Perhaps he didna tend to the Rover."
"The hole in the line was a perfect circle. It wasn't frayed as it would be if the line was worn." Con straightened. "I've asked the inspector to keep things quiet. He was happy to oblige since he doesn't want word leaking just yet."
Laith inhaled deeply and slowly released it. "What do you want us to do?"
"Keep an eye out for anything," Kellan said.
Con nodded to Laith. "Especially at the pub. People will talk. I want to know who did this to John. He was well liked and didna have any enemies."
"Which means they're our enemies," Ryder said.
Rhys lifted his eyes to pin Con with a look. "You think it's Ulrik."
Con lifted a shoulder in a shrug. "It could be Ulrik, or it could be the Dark Fae. There's no doubt the Dark will be wanting payback for what Kiril did."
"And Rhi," Rhys added.
The silence that followed after he said Rhi's name was filled with friction. Rhi, a Light Fae, who had been a lover to a Dragon King was a constant source of irritation to Con. Recently she had been kidnapped by a Dark named Balladyn, who happened to have been a close friend of hers before he turned evil. Rhi managed to get free, but no one knew where she was.
Since Rhi had risked her life against the Dark for Kellan and Denae as well as Tristan and Sammi, every King owed Rhi a huge debt—including Con.
"And Rhi," Con added tightly.
The hatred between Con and Rhi multiplied through the centuries instead of easing. It was to the point before the kidnapping that Rhi made it her mission to annoy Con at every turn. And she was very good at it.
"There's been no sign of the Dark," Tristan said. "Even Henry's tracking of them with his resources at MI5 have dwindled all of a sudden."
Hal twisted his lips. "We've tripled our watch at all times, and no one has even heard a whisper about the Dark. Something is up."
"And Ulrik hasn't left Perth," Ryder said.
Con let his gaze rest on each of them in turn before he said, "The authorities are going to want a culprit for John's death. We can no' hand them a Dark Fae, but I doona think it was a Dark. Their methods are more ... heinous. This was the work of humans."
"If it's Ulrik, he's commanding it all from The Silver Dragon," Ryder stated.
Everyone knew Ulrik found a way in and out of his antiques shop undetected despite the array of cameras Con had surrounding the building.
"We'll learn if it's Ulrik soon enough. I'm no' going to wait around and hope Iona returns for her father's funeral. She hasna seen him in twenty years."
Tristan frowned. "Meaning?"
"Meaning, I'm no' taking any chances. Iona will be here soon. Ryder, please pull her picture and show it to everyone. As soon as she's spotted in town, I want to know. She's no' been here for John to pass on the Campbell legacy."
"Which means one of us will," Warrick said.
Laith hoped to hell it wasn't him. He didn't want—or need—to be bogged down with a human who would need to be convinced the Dragon Kings were good. He'd been down that road before.
And it had ended badly.
He just wasn't the patient type, nor was he the type to explain things calmly and rationally over and over again. For him, actions spoke louder than words. The one who needed to take Iona by the hand and show her the way was Warrick, or even Ryder. Hell, even Con would be better at it than him.
Laith was going to make damn sure he didn't get stuck with her. Why then did he have a suspicion fate was laughing at him?
Hal raised a black brow, his moonlight blue eyes filled with doubt. "Are you so sure you can force Iona here?"
Con's eyes narrowed. "She'll be here, but in the end it doesna matter. Iona Campbell can no' sell the land. It stays in the Campbell family through a direct line as it always has."
"Things change," Rhys said.
"No' this," Con stated icily. "No matter what Iona Campbell wants, she can no' sell that land. If we want to remain concealed from the humans, then we're going to have to continue using our few allies like Henry North and the Warriors. And the Campbells."
Laith didn't think he would ever be grateful to any humans other than the Campbells, but Henry North was an exception. The spy had come to their aid a few times and continued to help time and again.
Warrick cleared his throat and stood. He pinned Con with his blue gaze. "I doona give a flying fuck about decisions we made in the past. We need to look to the future. That doorway on Campbell land needs to be guarded."
"As only a Campbell can," Kellan said.
Con blew out a breath. "We made that pact with the Campbells with magic, Warrick. No matter what we might want, that can no' be changed."
Ryder gave a small nod. "None of us want our war to spill over into the human's world. We've kept ourselves secret for thousands of millennia. We can—and will—continue."
Laith had his doubts, especially with all the technology that abounded, but more importantly, their enemies weren't just trying to kill them, they wanted the Kings exposed to the world.
More troubling was that the Dark searched for something hidden by Con. No one but Con and Kellan knew what the weapon was, and neither was talking. Already the Dragon Kings had fought a war with the humans, a war that caused both sides immeasurable losses.
For one, there was Ulrik. A Dragon King who had been banished because he began killing humans after his woman betrayed him. That in itself was a terrible loss, but more than that was the fact that all the dragons were gone. The humans had been very good at killing, and in order to keep the peace, the Kings sent their dragons away.
Laith looked down at his hands. He knew in his heart he would never see his beloved Blacks again. They were gone for good. All he could hope for was that they prospered and lived.
"Be vigilant," Con said and returned to his seat.
Laith was one of the first to rise and walk to the door. He needed to return to the pub. The Fox and The Hound had been his idea over a thousand years before. Because he loved being there, everyone knew him, which meant he had to sleep for a generation or two before he could wake once more and take his spot behind the bar. No one knew it was owned by Dreagan. The people did know he was part of Dreagan, but the secret of who owned it had been held since the pub's inception.
Laith reached the stairs leading down to the first floor of Dreagan Manor when he heard his name. He looked over his shoulder and found Tristan hurrying to him.
"How is Sammi doing?" Tristan asked worriedly.
Laith shook his head as he laughed. "As I've told you for the past few weeks, she's doing splendidly. She owned her own pub, remember?"
"Is she happy?" Tristan pressed.
Tristan smiled goofily while they descended the stairs. "Thanks for giving her the job. She needed something to do, and she loves being behind the bar."
"It was as much for my benefit as for hers. No longer do I have to come up with lies when I need to leave. As your mate, Sammi knows our secret. That makes my life infinitely easier."
Tristan slapped him on the back, his smile even wider. "I know. She's amazing. I'm going to meet her for lunch."
Laith stopped at the bottom of the stairs and watched Tristan stride out of the manor. He was always amazed at how his fellow Kings managed to find mates at all, especially since they had gone so many thousands of years alone.
"I doona understand them," Ryder said as he stopped beside Laith. "Doona get me wrong. I love the feel of a woman's thighs around me, but to be bound to a single woman for eternity?" Ryder shuddered. "It's no' for me. Human or Fae."
Laith had to admit it was odd to see a King mated to a Fae, and a Fae that was part of a powerful Dark family at that. But Shara proved herself and her love for Kiril to one and all. She was as much a part of Dreagan as the human females who had mated Kings.
"I agree," Laith said.
Ryder chuckled as he threw Laith a look. "I've seen you flirting with that redhead from the village when she comes into the pub."
Laith grinned. "I'm a pub owner. I flirt with everyone when I'm behind the bar."
"You keep doing that, and you'll find yourself mated quick enough."
"It's no' for me. I'm perfectly content just as I am."
Ryder made a face. "Are you insane? Why say something like that and tempt the cosmos?"
Laith watched him walk away, wondering if he had just drawn the interest of fate.CHAPTER 2
After twenty years, Iona was back in Scotland. She drove the small rental through the winding roads of the Highlands ignoring the spectacular beauty around her that urged her to grab her camera and document it. But it was difficult.
It wasn't that she didn't love the scenery. Even when she tried to forget her childhood in Scotland, she felt something missing in her soul. It wasn't until she landed in Edinburgh that she realized that missing piece was the wild, mystical land.
Iona's hands were sweating as she gripped the steering wheel. The closer she got to her childhood home, the more her heart pounded. She wasn't sure if it was nerves or sadness that brought on such a reaction, and she didn't want to delve too deep into the emotions to find out.
Just last week while on assignment in Afghanistan, she'd nearly been killed. It was because of the U.S. Marines she was with that she managed to come away with only minor injuries, but it put things into perspective. It made her realize how very short life was, and regardless of how she felt about what her father did, she needed to talk to him, to see him.
Excerpted from Hot Blooded by Donna Grant. Copyright © 2014 Donna Grant. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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