Bestselling author Lucy Monroe returns to her “stunningly sexy” paranormal world where one woman has but one choice for her people’s
salvation—her sworn enemy...
When Eirik, the only living dragon shifter, and prince of the Ean, killed her
brother, Ciara was left alone to face her prophetic dreams. Now, in order to
find the wolves’ sacred stone and save all the Chrechte from destruction, she
needs her enemy’s help.
Eirik was only protecting the children of his people, but that day in the
forest left a mark on him as well. Controlling his dragon’s fire is the most
difficult thing he’s ever done—until he and Ciara are forced to face not only
their shared tumultuous past, but a hallowed bond stronger than they realize. As
avowed enemies and predestined mates, their quest ushers them into a world of
great danger, and a passion hotter than the dragon’s fire.
Her legs dangling over the stone edge, Ciara waited atop the lower bailey tower. One of two in the lower half of the wall surrounding the Sinclair fortress, it was the perfect vantage point for her first glimpse of the newcomers that would join her adopted clan. She was not supposed to be here, but it was a favored spot for her to find both privacy and peace.
Most of the clan had gathered in the lower bailey both yesterday and today for the same purpose, but Ciara did not like the crush of so many around her.
There was no crowd now. The humans and other Chrechte had gone home, disappointed once again when night fell with no sign of the newcomers. But Ciara waited as the moon rose, unable to return to the keep — her need to see these new clanspeople too strong to deny.
As a member of the Faol, she had been told those coming were Chrechte; she strongly suspected they were Éan.
Her dreams were not all nightmares and she had seen the birds in the sky shifting back to human form and donning the plaid of the Sinclair.
Were these Chrechte refugees like her, looking for a new life among the Sinclair?
Ciara hadn’t actually been looking toward anything when she came to live with Laird Talorc and his lady, Abigail. Numb with grief after her mother’s death so close on top of her dear brother Galen’s grisly demise, Ciara had simply done as she was told.
Laird Barr had informed her she needed a new life without so many memories around her and Ciara had accepted his instruction in action, if not in her heart. She’d come to live among his former clan, the Sinclairs, without a single argument.
What had there been to argue? Ciara had no family any longer, no loved ones to hold her among the Donegal.
She had spent the past seven years doing her best to serve her new clan, though her old one would not recognize her. Gone was the stubborn girl who loved her family and people with every passionate fiber of her heart.
Ciara did her best to feel as little as possible; she had no desire to love with a devotion that could so easily destroy her again.
Laird Barr’s hope that she might forget painful memories more easily away from all that was familiar had proven fruitless, but she did not blame his plan.
The memories were burned into Ciara’s mind with a dragon’s flame; it was impossible for her to ever forget or feel completely safe again. That fateful day in the forest and what followed lived inside her in a maelstrom of grief, awe, confusion, disbelief and sometimes utter terror.
Not that she ever let these feelings come fully to the surface, but Ciara often woke in the night to her brother’s final scream, only to realize it had been her own. She dreamt of blood soaked walls and a waxen faced woman searching their cottage for son and husband that would never again be there.
Ciara was grateful for the stone walls that kept her nightmares private, but she was even more thankful that far from forcing Ciara to marry when she came of age, Laird Talorc and his second, Niall, frightened off any prospective suitors. Chrechte and human alike.
Laird Talorc and Abigail treated Ciara like a cherished member of the family, to be protected and watched over. She knew they thought she was broken.
Too broken to be forced to mate.
She did and said nothing to dissuade them of that belief.
She wanted no true family to lose again; she had no desire to ever marry or have children that could be taken from her by that undefeatable enemy, death. She hoped she never met her mate, or that he was already committed to another.
Helping to care for Abigail and Talorc’s twins, now in their fourth summer, was difficult enough. The boys did their best to worm their way into Ciara’s heart. It took all her stubborn resolve not to let herself love them.
And deep inside, in a place she refused to acknowledge, she feared she already did...even more than she feared the dragon that had killed her brother.
Shaking off her thoughts, she peered through the moonlit night, seeking out her first glimpse of the Éan soon to join their clan. She wasn’t supposed to know about the Éan at all. No one, but a select few were. And Ciara, better than most, understood why.
However, it was not her fault she knew many things she should not. Even without the eavesdropping. Her dreams and visions had grown more frequent since she had seen the scarlet dragon breathing fire from the sky.
And of late, the Faolchú Chridhe called to her even more insistently than her dead brother’s screams and mother’s spilled blood. Ciara rarely slept, and when she did sleep it was to dream, each dream growing more fraught with urgency than the last. She could not eat because that urgency followed her into wakefulness, making her stomach tight and filling her with dread she did not understand.
Ciara did not know what to do.
Perhaps it was time to tell another soul about the existence of the wolves’ stone. Would that knowledge be safer in Laird Talorc’s hands than it had been in Galen’s? Pain sliced through Ciara at the probability it would.
Galen had wanted the power of the stone to destroy the Éan. Laird Talorc would want it to help them.
In her silent, stealthy wanderings around the keep, Ciara had heard enough to know this to be true. She knew Talorc was aware of her presence. He was a wolf with a wolf’s senses, but he never scolded her. Maybe he knew she had no one to tell the secrets she overheard.
The faint sounds of multiple horses had Ciara looking up and dismissing all thought of secrets and the Faolchú Chridhe for now. A group of perhaps twenty people riding on horseback came into view. She watched intently as they rode closer and closer to the fortress without being challenged.
It had to be the Éan.
They got close enough, that with her wolf’s eyesight, she could tell that some wore plaids, while others wore clothing made of tanned hides and fur.
The huge warrior that led them wore what looked like a kilt made of leather, wide cuffs at his wrist of the same and a strap around his bicep that held a wicked looking knife. He wore his long sword in another scabbard on his back, the hilt sticking up over his left shoulder. The leather strap holding it in place bisected his otherwise naked chest — a chest devoid of hair but rippling with muscle.
A medallion of some kind glinted in the moonlight, hanging from a leather cord around his neck. He wore no boots, but sandals that wrapped around and laced at his ankles. They almost looked like what the Roman soldiers of ancient times had worn. She’d seen drawings carved into cave walls in her search with her brother for the Faolchú Chridhe.
Was this warrior Éan? He was bigger than those he rode with, at least a head taller than any of the other men. Giant, she would guess he stood even taller than the Laird’s second-in-command, Niall, and easily as broad.
Ciara had not thought Éan warriors large like that. Certainly they were not in her dreams. The Éan were strong, but in her dreams they were smaller in build to the Faol.
Her brother always claimed they were the smallest of the Chrechte peoples too. Galen had said it sneeringly, but being so much smaller than him herself, Ciara had wondered why he found the difference so worthy of disgust.
This man was not undersized in any way and he had the regal bearing of a king. How would he tolerate Talorc’s leadership?
Would the huge warrior challenge her laird, the man who considered himself her father?
Anxiety spiked through her as the new Chrechte moved closer. Mere feet from the drawbridge that was still down on Laird Talorc’s order, the lead warrior’s features became distinct.
And all the air in Ciara’s lungs escaped in one long exhale.
This man who meant to become a Sinclair was breathtaking, though his expression was as fierce as the glint in his amber eyes. Eyes that glowed with Chrechte power, even in the moonlight. A jawbone that looked hewn from rock was set in stern lines, his neck and shoulders held in arrogant rigidity that warned danger for any who crossed him.
Atavistic fear pressed against her solar plexus, making it hard to draw breath.
The warrior lifted his head, a gaze even keener than her own honing in on Ciara with unerring accuracy. He should not be able to see her tucked up against the wall as she was, but she knew he did. He did not look away either. Nor could she.
Never before had she felt such a connection with another. Her wolf whispered a word she refused to hear, her mind whirling with thoughts she was determined never to have.
Unable to break gazes with the warrior and yet unwilling to remain as she was, Ciara surged to her feet. The nights without sleep, the days she had eaten less than enough to sustain a sparrow much les a wolf caught up with her in that one confusing moment. Swaying on her feet, she tilted forward.
She jerked back, but overcompensated and one foot slipped out from beneath her.
Suddenly, unbelievably, despite her wolf’s grace, she pitched forward. She tumbled into the night air, her hands scrabbling for purchase on the stone, one finger connecting. She tried to make it two, to get a better grip, but she could feel her fingertips giving way even as she did so.
She refused to let the joints unbend, but she could feel blood welling around cuts in her fingers from the stone. The wetness proved her undoing. No amount of will could force her fingers to hold as the wet blood made them slip and she fell.
Her wolf howled as she tried to shift, hoping against all to live.
But it was not the hard ground that broke her fall. Sharp talons curled around her body, warm scales that felt like living chainmail pressed against her face and suddenly she was not falling, but flying upward. In the arms of a dragon.
That was the last her tormented mind could take. Ciara welcomed the black oblivion as it came.