Queen of Dragons
The Drákon Series, Book 3
He fell asleep as the moonlight shortened into a slit along the raw silk curtains, dreaming of fire and boiling water, of the sun reflecting off the sea.
And when he woke a few hours later, something had changed.
The air felt different, charged somehow, a heaviness eating down through his bones, crackling the hair on his arms and legs. He lay very still a moment, breathing slowly, the sheets at his waist, smelling and tasting and measuring that subtle, smoking sting like gunpowder lingering at the back of his throat.
The doors were still open, the night was still sweltering, but that wasn’t it.
Someone was here in the mansion. Someone new, someone with power. Someone he had never felt before.
He rose, folding back the sheets, his toes pressing the warm maple floor. He wouldn’t Turn—too obvious—but he could hunt without Turning. In the quiet, in the heat, in storm or total blindness, Kimber knew he could hunt.
In his drawers and bare feet, his hair a heated weight down his neck, he padded to the door of his chamber, pushed it ajar. A breath of more temperate air washed along the length of his body, cooling the moisture on his skin. The beast within him stretched into sinew and blood, eager to surface.
Downstairs, it whispered.
Chasen Manor had been built with an eye for grace and updated for luxury, another cunning ruse in his family’s presentation of itself to the world. The main hallway of the upper level yawned wide and open, floored with checkered stone tiles; skylights of clean, polished glass illumed the corridor and allowed in the night. Kim avoided the brighter patches. He stole through shadows to the grand staircase, pausing to listen, but heard nothing beyond the usual background of distant snores, and the creaks and groans of timber beams cooling with the dark.
But he was not mistaken. Despite his guards, despite his vigilance, Chasen had been breached.
Yes, murmured the dragon, flexing, growing. Danger. Destroy it.
He moved utterly without noise. His foot found the first step down the white marble stairs, and then the next. He reached the base swiftly and fell again into shadow.
The scent, the rippling of fresh power, was coming from the music room.
He wondered briefly where Rhys was, why he hadn’t sensed the threat as well, but there was no time to wake him. The stinging charge was nearly electric at this point, the friction of thunderheads against ether, remarkably strong. He approached the open doors and, his back to the wood, glanced in.
Faint moonlight still rinsed through these windows, tracing black and blue and charcoal across the furnishings. Frozen elegance, the drapes and rug and cream agate mantel framing the hearth, the pianoforte—the chamber appeared empty. The fire was feathered ash; there weren’t even any dust motes to settle with a draft. The only sound to be heard was the bracket clock ticking, very loudly, atop the cabinet in the corner, its grinning cherubs just visible in a gleam of dull metallic blue.
The air was oppressive. The heat, the living friction, the sting against his skin. He was burning inside, expanding: the dragon writhed to be free, to taste blood.
Kimber stood motionless. He waited.
And in the blackest of the corners he saw at last the something he had sensed, a slight, languorous movement that seemed almost joined with the night, just as sultry and silky slow. It resolved to become a shoulder, a bare pale arm. The curve of a neck and cheekbones and lips; a wash of moonlit hair; dark-lashed, amazing clear eyes—eyes like water, like the light—watching him without blinking.
And now the dragon became an exhalation, hissed hard between his teeth.
Great God, what the hell—
“I know who you are,” said the woman in French. Her voice was soft, melodious; it sent fresh shivers across his skin. She hesitated, then walked closer. Against the rigidly polished lines of the pianoforte, he realized she wore no clothing at all. “Do you know me, Lord Kimber of Chasen?”
He took an involuntary step forward. A thousand stories raced through his mind, explanations, excuses. There could be only one answer here, only one female in the world who could steal into his home undetected—
She lifted one hand, her fist closed. Without looking away from him, her fingers opened, and she inverted her palm. Twin flashes of metal fell to the rug, bounced against the woven flowers with a muffled tattoo before rolling flat.
She’d dropped rings, a pair of them. Signet rings.
Tribal rings. Exactly like the ones worn by Jeffery and Luke and Hayden.
Kim raked his eyes back to hers.
“I’ve brought you a gift, as you can see.” The Princess Maricara gave a small, chilly smile. “But perhaps we might make this an exchange instead. Is there something you wish to tell me?”
Excerpted from Queen of Dragons by Shana Abé. Copyright © 2008 by Shana Abé. Excerpted by permission of Bantam Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.