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dance for the Dragon (paperback)

dance for the Dragon (paperback)

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Southern Dragons Series Book 1

Devon is everything I want, and the one thing I can't have.
But that isn't enough to keep me away.


Kohl knows there's no place for a woman around a creature like him—half dragon, half vampire, and the only one of his kind. Adopted as a child by a coven of vampires, he fights a constant battle to keep his fiery side at bay. Until the night he sees Devon dancing alone in the shadows, and the beast inside of him awakens with a burning hunger he can't ignore. Her tawny skin begs for his touch, and her sweet scent ignites a blood lust he can't control…

The last place Devon ever thought she would find herself is on the witness stand of a notorious court case concerning her employer, Parasupe. Her testimony lands her boss in jail, and Devon has to relocate and start a new life. Determined to put it behind her, she treats herself to an evening out, where she meets a tattooed bartender whose tough appearance can't hide the sweet warmth of his brown eyes…

But it's not safe for her in his world. Not for her. Not for him. Not for the rest of his coven. And Kohl is forced to make a choice between the woman his beast won't live without and family who allows him to exist.
 

Main Tropes

  • Interracial Romance
  • Vampire/Dragon Hybrid
  • STEM (Smart Girl) Heroine
  • Cinnamon Roll Hero
  • Forbidden Romance

Synopsis

 Devon is everything I want, and the one thing I can't have.


But that isn't enough to keep me away.


Kohl knows there's no place for a woman around a creature like him—half dragon, half vampire, and the only one of his kind. Adopted as a child by a coven of vampires, he fights a constant battle to keep his fiery side at bay. Until the night he sees Devon dancing alone in the shadows, and the beast inside of him awakens with a burning hunger he can't ignore. Her tawny skin begs for his touch, and her sweet scent ignites a blood lust he can't control…

The last place Devon ever thought she would find herself is on the witness stand of a notorious court case concerning her employer, Parasupe. Her testimony lands her boss in jail, and Devon has to relocate and start a new life. Determined to put it behind her, she treats herself to an evening out, where she meets a tattooed bartender whose tough appearance can't hide the sweet warmth of his brown eyes…

But it's not safe for her in his world. Not for her. Not for him. Not for the rest of his coven. And Kohl is forced to make a choice between the woman his beast won't live without and family who allows him to exist.

Chapter 1 Sample

The first time Kohl saw her was months ago on the news as she was escorted into a courtroom surrounded by lawyers. Journalists shoved cameras and microphones in her face, all trying to get a glimpse of her expression for the sole purpose of giving the people at home a thrill at the expense of someone else’s pain. 

A softer, more innocent version of the woman she was now.

The second time he saw her, she was dancing alone in the corner of the dimly lit club where he worked, body grinding to the dark pulse of the music as though no one else was there. And as far as he was concerned, no one was. The soft innocence that once cloaked her was gone, and in its place was the cold harshness of the reality of this world, and the people in it.

Her name was Devon Young.

A black dress hugged her tall form from her elegant throat to the tops of the combat boots on her feet, covering her tawny skin, as though she were trying to blend into the shadows. 

As if she possibly could. 

Her hair was different. Darker. Longer. Curlier. More natural. The curls floated around her head in time to her movements with a life all their own, hiding her from him. But Kohl didn’t need to see her face. He knew exactly what she looked like. 

The song pumping through the speakers hit its crescendo, and Kohl’s blood pulsed in time to the heavy bass. Each hit of the drum reverberated through his muscles until his bones vibrated and his upper lip twitched, his fangs tasting the air, the music and the erotic motions of her body working together to rattle the tenacious hold he had on his control. Music always affected him like this. The lure of it. The power of it. 

But tonight it was worse. Because tonight, she was here.

Kohl turned his back on the crowd of humans huddled around the bar, hiding the telltale signs of what he truly was, and started washing dirty glasses, letting Andrew handle the drink orders. He needed a minute to give himself time to regain control of his body’s errant reaction. Though he didn’t always bartend, they were short-handed tonight, so he’d offered to pitch in and help. It was the least he could do for the vampires who had taken him in when he’d had no one and nowhere else to go. 

As he washed glasses and refilled garnishes, the repetitive actions soothed the fire in his blood, and his mind wandered back to the human woman. What was she doing there? Just outside of San Antonio, Texas, of all places? He thought she lived in Dallas. And how did she get in? The club his adopted family owned didn’t exactly advertise its existence. As a matter of fact, entry was strictly enforced and by invitation only—by a member of the coven or one of their trusted human pets. Which meant she’d have to know someone who was a regular guest, and no one had ever mentioned her. 

The faces of every human who’d ever walked through the door flashed through his mind, their image forever engraved in his memory.  None of them were at her level. None of them deserved a woman like Devon. 

He’d never met her, yet he knew her. 

Even now, if he closed his eyes, he could smell her…feel her. Her anger. Her shame. Her longing. 

Her weariness with it all.

Kohl felt it, and understood it. For he often experienced those same emotions himself. He was familiar with the weight she carried. 

Devon’s scent suddenly grew stronger, overtaking the smell of alcohol and cheap cologne, and he knew she was there at the bar. Grinding his teeth against the temptation she posed, he set down the glass he was drying and turned around, unable to resist the chance to interact with her.

“I got this,” he told Andrew.

His friend and co-worker gave him a sharp look, his dark eyes quickly assessing Kohl’s appearance before he nodded and went back to his own side of the bar.

She stood between two other human females who’d been waiting for a while. His heart hammering in a way that had nothing to do with the song pounding out of the speakers, Kohl indicated he’d be right with her and took their orders first. Once he got them out of the way, he braced himself and smiled. 

“Sorry about that. What can I do for you?” He had to shout over the music for her to hear him.

Her eyes—an intriguing mixture of brown and gold with the slightest upward tilt at the outer corners—met his for a moment before traveling over the tattoos on his neck. At least, the visible ones. His skin heated everywhere they touched, and he wished he could hear what she was thinking, but unlike the others, he lacked that ability. A genetic defect.

A small diamond glittered on the right side of her nose. It was the only jewelry she wore. She returned his smile, but it didn’t reach those beautiful eyes. “Can you distort time and space and send me back a few years?”

Her words, spoken in low tones not really meant to be overheard, came to him clear enough, and his stomach fell as Kohl felt her mood take a sudden dive. His smile faltered. He knew her request had nothing to do with her age—no older than thirty—and everything to do with what had happened to her following that night on the news. “No, I’m afraid I can’t.”

She looked down at her fingers, twisted together on the bar, unsurprised he had heard her over the music and chatter. It was a moment before she raised her chin. “You know who I am, don’t you?” Then she laughed a little, glancing off to the side. She flushed, spots of dark red marring the flawless brown skin on her neck and chest. “Of course, you do. Everyone does. Even way the fuck out here.”

As she’d already answered her own question, Kohl didn’t bother to respond. “Can I get you something to drink…Devon?” He kept his eyes on her face, away from the rush of blood under that soft-looking skin, so close to the surface it would only take the slightest nick of a fang to release it.

She raised her voice. “Vodka and cranberry juice would be great, thank you. Heavy on the vodka.” Abruptly, she turned her back to him and leaned back against the bar to watch the dancers.

Dismissed, Kohl wondered what he’d said or done to cause her to shut down the way she had. The entire state knew who she was, if not the entire country. It shouldn’t surprise her that he did also. Whatever was bothering her, her emotions were all over the place, wreaking havoc on his calm façade, so he set about making her drink for her and set it on the bar. 

His eyes travelled over the disarray of curls that covered the back of her head. Without thinking, he lifted his hand to touch them before remembering himself and letting it fall. Picking up a towel, he made a show of drying his hands. “It’s on the house,” he told her.

She turned with a negative shake of those curls. “That’s not necessary. I can pay.”

“I know you can pay. But, it’s on me. Really.” He wanted to do something to apologize, even though he didn’t know how he’d offended her.

After a slight hesitation, she took the drink and met his eyes. “Thank you…uh…”

His hands stilled on the towel. “Kohl. My name is Kohl. Kohl Sergones.”

“Kohl.” She tasted the name on her tongue as she eyed up the ink on the back of his hands and arms, revealed beneath the rolled up sleeves of his white dress shirt, then moved up to the black tie strangling his throat. “Aren’t you guys a little dressed up for such a grungy place?”

Unconsciously, he ran a hand over the front of his shirt, smoothing out invisible wrinkles. “It’s what’s required.” When he looked up again, she was watching him with a glint of light in her eyes. The heaviness of her emotions shifted a little, and he realized she was teasing him. He smiled and shrugged. “I guess it makes it easy to tell the clientele apart from the staff.”

“Well, it does at that.” She lifted her drink in a half-hearted salute. “Thank you, Kohl.”

“You’re welcome, Devon.”

He watched her walk back to her corner, weaving in and out of the other humans, hips swaying with a rhythm that was both seductive and totally unconscious. She had to feel his lingering attention, but she didn’t look back. Slugging down half of the contents in her glass, she joined the other dancers. 

Kohl slowly exhaled and turned his attention to his waiting customers. But as he poured shots, shook Cosmos, and topped off glasses of beer, her words tumbled around in his head. Why did she assume he thought she couldn’t pay for her drinks?

Admittedly, he didn’t know what had happened to her after the trial. Perhaps she’d lost her job. Perhaps she was dependent on others.

Which led him back around to wondering how she was able to get into the club. She had to know someone here. Or, perhaps one of the other vampires had already claimed her, and he hadn’t realized because he’d only just tonight caught her scent. He squeezed his eyes shut against the red haze of an unforeseen rage. The glass he held shattered in his hand.

Andrew shot him a look and grabbed the broom.

Kohl shook his head slightly, trying to clear it of the woman. He had no right to feel this way about her, and didn’t know why he was obsessing over her, or why he’d been doing it since that day he’d seen her on the evening news. 

Maybe “obsessing” wasn’t the right word. It made him sound like a stalker. But he certainly hadn’t forgotten her. Little everyday things would often bring her to mind, and he’d found himself wondering what had happened to her after the trial more times than he could count. And then, tonight, she’d shown up out of the blue, like he’d somehow conjured her himself with some sort of black magic born from his longing not to be alone.

A movement at the edge of the dance floor caught his eye, and was gone just as quickly. At first he saw nothing out of the ordinary, just humans grinding lewdly against each other, hyped up on alcohol and vampire blood, attempting to ease the loneliness of their short lives. But Kohl knew this place like the back of his hand. Something wasn’t right. 

He signaled to Andrew and wandered over to the far end of the bar, less crowded now, and searched for whatever it was that had raised a flag. A second later, the flash of the strobe lights glinted off a shiny, black barrel. And then again on the other side of the club. Human eyes wouldn’t have caught it, but Kohl had a…gift…of eyesight, if one could call it that. And he knew immediately what he had seen.

Before the first shooter had a chance to squeeze the trigger, he was over the bar and across the room, his only thought being to protect Devon. Fire razed his hip, and he hissed in pain as a bullet seared through the muscle and out the other side, just missing the bone. He barely flinched. His focus centered on getting to the woman. To Devon.

He was at her side before the sounds of gunshots registered to the dancers over the music. Without pause, Kohl tackled her to the floor, yelling at her to stay down when bodies began falling around them. Then he tucked her beneath his body and crawled over to one of the sitting areas, dragging her with him. She was tall for a woman, easily five ten or so, but with his size, he covered her easily. 

Flipping one of the round tables over and using it as a shield, he barricaded them in the corner. The tabletop was made of armored steel, to be used specifically for this purpose. Devon huddled behind it with her knees pulled up to her chest and her hands covering her ears as people screamed and ran over each other, trying to get to the exits to avoid the barrage of firepower exploding from the rifle barrels. Bullets ricocheted around them, and he pushed her head down, both to keep her safe and to keep her from seeing exactly what it was that was trying to protect her.

The beast inside Kohl stirred and woke. The one he tried so hard to suppress. It was bad enough his fangs were exposed and aching to tear through flesh. He didn’t need to fight the beast, too. But try as he might to resist it, his blood burned hot as blue fire, and his skin felt simultaneously loose and tight as chaos exploded around them.

The smell of human blood filled his nostrils, feeding his hunger. He wanted to help the other victims, but to try and do so would expose him for what he was, would expose all of them. It was bad enough he’d just sprinted from one side of the club to the other in a second’s time or less. The place was small, but it wasn’t that small. He could only hope the shooters were enough of a distraction that no one had caught him on their phone cameras as anything more than a blur, if it managed to pick him up at all. 

More gunfire came on the scene, short pops muffled by silencers only vampires would be able to distinguish among the screams and music, and he knew the club’s owners had arrived. The shooters didn’t stand a chance. He just had to wait it out. Wrapping his arms around Devon, he hunched over her trembling form, protecting her as much as he could with his body.

Her scent filled his lungs, different now, tinged with the fear and horror that kept her frozen beneath him. Kohl shivered, his throat burning and his fangs straining with delight at the prospect of her taste. But he clamped down on his instincts, maintaining control on his hunger, concentrating on keeping the beast at bay.

When it was all over, the sudden silence was nearly as deafening to him as the chaos had been moments before. Voices came to his ears, speaking in low tones. Voices he knew well. And he moved the table out of the way so he could stand. 

Four vampires surveyed the results of the shooting, guns at their sides, checking the bodies for life. The gore didn’t faze them. One or two of them had done much worse during a casual night out on the town. 

Bending down, Kohl touched Devon lightly on the back, gently trying to soothe her trembling. “It’s finished, Devon. It’s all clear. Here,”—he slid his hand down her arm— “let me help you up.” He knew by staying near her she would see him as he was, but there was no avoiding it. He couldn’t just run away and leave her to the mercy of the coven. The Master wouldn’t care what was done with her. But Kohl did, and he needed to make sure she got out of there all in one piece. 

Devon took his proffered hand and allowed him to haul her to her feet. Her eyes shot from one bloody body to the next, then to the holes in the walls and the overturned tables and chairs, taking in the destruction around them with wide eyes. “Oh, my God.”

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