Arian paced the cavern in his mountain in agitation and a wee bit of anxiety. He was shaking off the dragon sleep from the past six hundred years. Not only had it been six centuries since he had been in human form, but there was a war the Dragon Kings were involved in.Con and the others were waiting for him to join in the war. Every King had been woken to take part. After all the wars they had been involved in, Arian wasn’t happy to be woken to join another.Because of Ulrik. The banished and disgraced Dragon King hadn’t just made a nuisance of himself, but he somehow managed to get his magic returned.Which meant the Kings needed to put extra magic into keeping the four silver dragons sleeping undisturbed deep within the mountain. They were Ulrik’s dragons, and he would want to wake them soon.But it wasn’t just Ulrik that was causing mischief. The Dark Fae were as well. It infuriated Arian that they were once more fighting the Dark. Hadn’t the Fae Wars killed enough Fae and dragons?Then again, as a Dragon King as old as time itself, they were targets for others who wanted to defeat them.For Ulrik, he just wanted revenge. Arian hated him for it, but he could understand. Mostly because Arian had briefly joined Ulrik in his quest to rid the realm of humans.Thoughts of Ulrik were pushed aside as Arian found himself thinking about why he had taken to his mountain. When he came here six hundred years earlier, it was to remain there for many thousands of years.The Dragon Kings sought their mountains for many reasons. Some were just tired of dealing with mortals, but others had something they wished to forget for a while. Arian was one of the latter.There were many things he did in his past when the King of Kings, Constantine, asked. Not all of them Arian was proud of. The one that sent him to his mountain still preyed upon him.He didn’t remember her name, but he remembered her tears. Because of the spell to prevent any of the Dragon Kings from falling in love with mortals, Arian had easily walked away from the female.Six centuries later, he could still hear her begging him to stay with her, still see the tears coursing down her face. Though he hadn’t felt anything, it bothered him that he had so easily walked away. Because Con had demanded it.Loyalty—above all else.The Dragon Kings were his family, and Dreagan his home. There was never any question if he were needed that Arian would do whatever it took to help his brethren in any capacity asked of him.

~ Donna Grant

She clambered to the shoreline. Numb and shaken, she began to dress. It wasn’t easy as she fumbled with slick fingers to put dry clothes over wet skin. She instantly regretted her naked swim. She pulled on her long-sleeved white chemise first. She faced the forest, away from her rescuer. He quietly splashed to shore. His lifeblood burned into her back. He wasn’t far behind, but he stopped. She refused to look at him until she was fully clothed, not out of embarrassment of her nudity, but for what had just happened. He released a groan and mumbled under his breath about wet boots. His voice was not one of her father’s soldiers. When she put the last garment on, her brown wool work kirtle, she squeezed out her sopping hair and swept her hands through the knotty mess. She fastened her belt and tied the lacings up the front of the kirtle. Blood returned to her fingertips, and she regained her composure. Belated awareness struck her, and she leaned down and searched through her bag for her dagger. She spun around. She gasped as she saw the man sitting on the stone-covered shoreline, his wet boots off. Confusion and the hint of a scowl filled his strong-featured face. She staggered back, caught her heel on a stone, and fell, dropping the dagger. Dirt and pebbles stuck to her wet hands and feet, and she instinctively scrambled away from him. His glower, iridescent dark blue eyes, and disheveled black hair were not unfamiliar. Staring at her was the man she had seen in her dream – it was the man from the wood.

~ Jean M. Grant

This is an education on seduction,” Delilah said in a reverent tone… Ariana let her gaze skim across the silk wall hangings and shrugged. “I’ve not ever kissed a man.” ... Truthfully, she had not. She’d been so fixed on her attempts to placate her parents in the hopes they might pay her the slightest bit of positive attention, she had not so much as considered kissing any man. Delilah’s fingers touched Ariana’s chin, feather light, and tilted her face toward hers. “It is the most delicious thing. Close your eyes and I will tell you of it.” Obediently, Ariana closed her eyes, hoping if she did as she was told, the lesson would end sooner. It was an awkward sensation to sit in the ridiculous pillow-laden room with one’s eyes closed. “Relax,” Delilah said in a velvety tone. “Listen.” Ariana let her muscles slacken. “Imagine a man, tall and lean with muscle.” Delilah’s voice was quietly intimate. Hypnotic. “He’s staring at you as if you were the only women he’d ever seen. Truly seen. The only woman he’s ever wanted. The desire for you burning in his eyes.” Hazel eyes rose to the forefront of Ariana’s mind, a sharp jaw shadowed with a day’s growth of beard. Connor. She swallowed. “His arms come around you,” Delilah continued. “So strong, so warm. They offer you a protection unlike anything you’ve ever felt and make you wish you could melt into his embrace for the rest of your life.” In Ariana’s mind, Connor’s arms wrapped around her. But she didn’t shy from his touch – she welcomed. It. The chill of the room ebbed into a pleasant heat. “Your eyes meet. His fingers touch your face and his breath whispers over your lips. He lowers his head and you close your eyes just as his mouth touches yours, warm and demanding.” Ariana’s heart quickened and her breathing went almost ragged. Her mouth was suddenly dry and she flicked her tongue over her lips. “His body is a wall of strength against you, holding you upright, as your knees feel as though they will buckle. Then his tongue strokes yours, velvet fire and heady seduction.” Ariana drew a shaky breath….

~ Madeline Martin