Authors: Deborah Cooke
Kiss of Destiny
The Third Dragon Legion Novella
He will sacrifice anything to win his destined love...
When the darkfire crystal takes the dragon shape shifters Thad and Drake to an unknown location, only fulfilling his firestorm matters to Thad. Little does he know that in following its light to his destined mate, he’s stepping into the realm of the gods, a place so forbidden to mortals that any who enter it must die. Aura has always been skeptical of long-term promises—but Thad is irresistible. No sooner does Aura surrender than the gods demand their due of her dragon shifter. Can she save Thad and make the dream of the firestorm come true?
Kiss of Destiny
by Deborah Cooke
Published by Deborah A. Cooke
Cover by Kim Killion
Digital Formatting by Author E.M.S.
Copyright © 2013 by Deborah A. Cooke
All rights reserved.
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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Drake had never been more exhausted in his life. He could barely keep his eyes open, but he didn’t dare to close them. He didn’t trust the darkfire crystal to sleep while he did. He didn’t know how long they’d been suffering through this ordeal with the unpredictable stone, but he didn’t think he could survive much more of it.
There was just himself and Thad left, the younger Dragon Legion Warrior filled with an enthusiasm that Drake couldn’t match.
They were together in a nameless park, sitting on the lip of a concrete fountain. Night was falling and the stars were coming out. The park, which had been busy earlier in the day, was becoming more and more quiet, as people returned home with their children and dogs. Unless Drake missed his guess, this park was in an American city in the twenty-first century. Their clothing blended in well enough here for them to avoid scrutiny.
Drake wondered if that would be the case if they stretched out and slept on the benches.
“I wonder why it brought us here,” Thad mused. He was like a curious child, thrilled with every place the darkfire crystal deposited them and intent upon figuring out the stone’s logic.
“It could be whim,” Drake said.
Thad shook his head. “No, there has to be a reason. There has to be a point.”
Drake said nothing. He’d learned long ago that many events in life didn’t have a point. All the same, he remembered having Thad’s optimism once, many, many years ago.
“There’s no firestorm’s spark,” Drake couldn’t help but observe. “Maybe your theory is wrong.”
“No, it makes perfect sense for the darkfire crystal to take us to our firestorms. That way, we find our destined mates and make more
“Perhaps the darkfire thinks there are enough dragon shape shifters in the world. It was released by the
Chen, and he has no fondness for our kind.”
“It’s older than he is, I think, and strong enough to use him for its purposes.”
“You don’t know.”
Thad grinned. “No, but I like that answer better.”
“Even if it isn’t the truth?”
Thad leaned closer and bumped shoulders with Drake, a gesture of such familiarity that Drake was shocked. “Come on,” Thad said. “Don’t you want to go back to Cassandra?”
Drake didn’t answer that. He stared into the depths of the stone and admitted his secret fear. Although he’d been happy enough with the results of his firestorm at the time, the centuries had changed him. He wanted more than sex and sons. He knew Cassandra was self-reliant and didn’t doubt that she’d provided well enough for herself in his absence. She was practical and not afraid to be tough. She would have raised their son well. He knew, though, that if he returned to her after all his adventures, he would do so as a changed man. The man he had become might not be so content with Cassandra.
And, to be fair, Cassandra might not be very content with him. He turned the large quartz crystal in his hands thoughtfully.
When Drake thought of women, he remembered the military widow he’d helped in the modern world. Although their acquaintance had been short and businesslike, Ronnie had made an impression upon him. She was both vulnerable and strong, a woman who was used to having a partner’s support to rely upon, but one who had only begun to understand her own strength. He’d found her extremely attractive, even though he knew his feelings were inappropriate. He’d been shocked that he could find a woman alluring who was so different from his Cassandra.
Her full name, Veronica, meant ‘little truth,’ and Drake had since concluded that it had been their brief association that had shown him the truth about himself. He wasn’t the man he had once been. He didn’t want what he’d wanted before, or even what he’d had. As much as he wanted to see his son and as much as he understood his responsibilities, Drake had very mixed feelings about being cast back in time to finish what he had begun.
He couldn’t tell Thaddeus that, of course. The other
wouldn’t have understood. Thad was so filled with wonder and enthusiasm and optimism that Drake couldn’t introduce the idea to him that the firestorm might not be right every time, or that it might not be right forever.
He might have hoped the crystal would stay dark, but that would have been cowardly.
When the blue-green spark trapped deep inside the stone began to glow more brightly, it was all Drake could do to keep from groaning aloud.
Thad noticed immediately. “This is it!” the younger warrior declared. “Do you think it will be you or me this time?”
“If you’re right that the darkfire is taking each of us to our firestorm, then I hope it’s you.” Drake knew he sounded as weary as he felt.
Thad shot a bright glance his way. “That makes no sense. You’re just thinking of the men under your command before you think of yourself.” Thad paused but Drake didn’t want to shatter his illusions. “I know you want to return to Cassandra and your son. It would only be right.”
Drake kept silent and watched the darkfire brighten. Where would it take them this time? Was this the time that they’d be separated once and for all? Or would his Dragon Legion be reunited, after the stone completed its quest?
“That’s what Alexander did,” Thad said with confidence. “He returned to his Katina...”
“You don’t know that for certain,” Drake said sternly. “You know only that the darkfire took us to the village where he had lived with her.”
“Well, why else would it do that?”
“I can’t begin to guess.” Actually, Drake had many ideas of what might have happened. He and his men had been enchanted for centuries. There was no telling what had occurred at their homes in their absence. There hadn’t been any way to tell
Alexander had arrived at that village. It could have been before he’d even met Katina or long after she’d died, missing him. She could have married again or been glad to be without him, or they might not have gotten along after his return.
“You sound dire, like Peter always did.” Thad laughed. “I couldn’t believe the look on his face when his firestorm sparked.”
“There’s nothing saying he succeeded in satisfying it.”
Thad laughed and the stone brightened even more. It seemed to pulse with that inner energy and Drake could feel it heating his skin. A wind swept through the park, shaking the trees and tugging at their clothes. Drake got to his feet and Thad stood beside him.
Drake supposed that one of them should have stayed in this place, and that the stone would bring them back until the dragon in question did stay. He wasn’t ready to step away from his last fellow warrior, though.
Neither, evidently was Thad. The younger
grasped his commander’s shoulder so he wouldn’t be left behind.
And just in time. The darkfire cracked like lightning and the park disappeared in a swirl of dust and fallen leaves. They were picked up from the ground and flung hard through the air, as if a tornado had seized them. Drake couldn’t see anything but he reached out and grabbed Thad’s arm, not wanting to lose the younger man.
They were cast down hard upon a stony surface and the wind stilled. The spark in the stone died to a mere pinprick of light as Drake sat up cautiously. The stone even felt cold in his hand.
They were surrounded by fog, but he had the definite sense that they were at some elevated altitude. The air seemed thin and the silence resonant. He felt there was nothing but wind and sky.
He realized belatedly that Thad was unusually silent and turned to the younger man in concern. Thad was fine, but sitting on the ground cross-legged. He was staring at the tip of the fingers on his left hand, probably because golden sparks had lit on them. His mouth had fallen open in awe but he grinned when he looked up at Drake.
“I’ve never felt like this,” he whispered and the light wind seemed to steal his words away. “She’s here. She’s here somewhere and the darkfire has brought me to her!” He leapt to his feet and spun around, holding up his hand in search of a direction. Predictably, the flames flared when he stretched his hand out to one side. The rocks seemed to climb higher there, as if the peak of the mountain was that way.
Drake had time to dread Thad’s reaction before the other man strode to him and shook his hand heartily. “I don’t know when we’ll meet again, Drake, but thank you. Thank you for all you’ve taught me, and all the times you’ve defended me, and everything.” His eyes were alight with anticipation.
“Maybe we should follow the flame together,” Drake managed to say before the light in the crystal shimmered again.
“Your turn is next!” Thad insisted, then shocked his commander by pulling him into a tight embrace. “Thank you, Drake. May the Great Wyvern always be with you.”
And then he was gone, leaping over the rocks in pursuit of the firestorm’s flame. His figure was swallowed by the fog in no time, leaving Drake looking down at the blinking stone in trepidation.
He closed his eyes when the wind raged around him. He kept them closed when he was swept off his feet. He grimaced as the maelstrom spun around him, casting him this way and that, tearing at him like he was made of straw. He both wanted it to end and feared what he’d find when it did. He winced when he fell hard against a smooth surface.
The wind stilled and snowflakes landed on his face. It was cold and there was a stiff wind, one that smelled of water. It could have been blowing off a lake. He could hear the distant sound of traffic and he sensed the presence of a dragonsmoke barrier, breathed thick and deep. He caught a whiff of gunpowder and sulfur, of the chemicals used in pyrotechnics, mingled with the scents of
he had known.
He sensed one particular dragon shape shifter, the leader of the
Drake opened one eye warily, already having guessed where he was. He was in Chicago on the roof of the building that contained Erik Sorensson’s loft, and despite himself, he was relieved. He looked down at the crystal in his hand, only to find that its heart was completely dark. Even when he peered closely at it and strained his vision, he could see no glimmer of darkfire within it.