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When a woman moves into the cabin above Tarrant’s lair, he kidnaps her to find out how much the Knights of the Dragons know about him and his drakon brothers. Trusting her could get him killed, and giving her his heart would mean forever
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Valeriya Azarov turned her back on the family business to write and illustrate children’s books. But with a sister who leads the Knights of the Dragons, it’s impossible to get away from the secret society whose mission is to destroy and enslave dragons. When information falls into her hands along with the opportunity to save at least one of the ancient creatures, she can’t turn away any longer.
When a woman moves into the cabin above Tarrant Cooper’s secret underground lair, he’s both suspicious and intrigued. He hasn’t lasted four thousand years being careless, so when he suspects her of being a part of the Knights, the plan is to kidnap her and find out how much the organization knows about him and his brothers.
He’s drawn to Valeriya, but trusting her could get him killed. Even if she’s a pawn in the war between drakons and Knights, giving her his heart would mean forever.
I am really starting to enjoy this series and I recommend a reread of Drakon's Promise just because it made it fun! I'm sure you like me found yourself immensely curious on Darius' brothers and Tarrant does not disappoint. I will say I would love to see one of these drakon's find a mate who is as... ...more
Tarrant needs to work on his woman manners, “eff.” Tarrant swore. Next thing she knew, she was back in his arms and he was carrying her over to one of the large sofas. He sat and patted her awkwardly on the back. “Stop crying. I told you I wasn’t going to kill you.” These Drakon men are possessiv... ...more
4.5 stars Drakon’s Prey is an awesome addition to the Blood of the Drakon series. The story was well paced, and I loved Tarrant and found Valeriya a good match for him. I look forward to reading more by this author. ...more
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4.67 avg Goodreads.com rating
About the author
Once upon a time N.J. had the idea that she would like to quit her job at the bookstore, sell everything she owned, leave her hometown, and write romance novels in a place where no one knew her. And she did. Two years later, she went back to the bookstore and her hometown and settled in for another seven years.
One day she gave notice at her job on a Friday morning. On Sunday afternoon, she received a tentative acceptance for her first erotic romance novel and life would never be the same.
N.J. has always been a voracious reader, and now she spends her days writing novels of her own. Vampires, werewolves, dragons, time-travelers, seductive handymen, and next-door neighbors with smoldering good looks—all vie for her attention. It’s a tough life, but someone’s got to live it.
Karina Azarov looked up from her computer and waited. Silence was a weapon, and she wielded it with the skill of a master. She was the youngest ever leader of the Knights of the Dragon, a position she’d held for the past decade. If everything went according to plan, she’d hold the position indefinitely.
The man in the doorway stared back at her, and one corner of his mouth quirked upward. No, he wouldn’t play the game, wouldn’t spit out any information without her asking. Matthew Riggs, her latest lover, was anything but normal.
She sat back in her chair and crooked her finger. He stepped into her office and closed the door behind him. He was tall and well-built. He had the body of a lethal killer and a mind that would rival Machiavelli. He would have fit in well with the Borgia family. He was ambitious.
She planned to use his aspirations to further her own.
He stopped on the other side of the desk. He didn’t shift impatiently or cross his arms defensively. No, he looked more amused than anything.
“Well?” She didn’t have time to waste on more games.
“Your baby sister decided to take a trip to the West Coast. Washington State, to be exact.” He raised one eyebrow in query. “You know anything about that?”
“You don’t question me. Ever.” Her voice was icy, each word exact. Matthew might be her lover, but she was the one in charge. Always.
“Maybe it’s a coincidence,” Matthew offered.
She scowled. He didn’t believe that any more than she did. “I want two men out there watching her until I find out what’s going on.” Technically, Matthew worked for Herman Temple, another member of the Knights, but she knew he had plans of his own. And right now, they aligned with hers. “Have her apartment searched.” How had her quiet little sister found out about Washington?
He inclined his head slightly. “As you wish.” There was none of the deference she was used to from others in his tone. Maybe that was why she found him such a stimulating lover. He was tireless in bed and ruthless out of it. For now, she found him amusing. If he overstepped his boundaries…well, there were other ambitious men out there.
Matthew turned and walked back to the door. Before he opened it, he glanced over his shoulder. “I’ll be back later.”
“I’m sure you will.” She kept her expression contained until he was gone. Only then did she allow herself a small shiver of delight. Yes, Matthew was a talented lover. And he was very useful, for the time being.
She drew her phone out of her pocket and contacted her head of security, a man she trusted implicitly. “I need two men at the cabin we discovered in Washington State. Seems my little sister has decided to pay a visit.” She hung up, knowing it would be handled quickly and efficiently.
Karina rose from her chair and walked over to the shelf that contained her parents’ picture. Valeriya had been in her office several days ago. Karina had left her waiting in the hallway, but her little sister had entered when she’d gone upstairs to get her purse. It had set off an internal alarm, but Karina knew there hadn’t been anything for her sister to find. She was nothing if not careful.
Still, something had made her sister take a trip west. It wasn’t unusual for Valeriya to travel. She did so often. For inspiration, she claimed. But it was suspicious that she would head to the place where the dragon had been.
Most people had no idea such creatures existed. Katrina planned to keep it that way. If she controlled a dragon, or several, she’d be the most powerful woman in the world. Dragons not only had great wealth, but when ingested, their blood healed all illness, actually prolonging life. Dragons were the key to immortality, and there were many people who would pay dearly for such a thing.
She shivered again, her lust for power much greater than her attraction to Matthew.
Karina peered around the room. Had she missed something? Valeriya wanted nothing to do with the family business, had shied away from it all her life. Now she wrote silly children’s books, including a series about a loveable dragon.
Karina curled her lip. As if any of those creatures could ever be brave and heroic. They were cold-blooded, dangerous beasts, only looking out for themselves.
Karina strode back to her desk and peered down. There wasn’t much there—her Montblanc pen, a pad of paper. The wastebasket was empty. Her desk drawers contained nothing but pens, pencils, and writing supplies. She was very cautious.
Her gaze was drawn back to the small pad of paper. She’d written the GPS coordinates of the cabin on that pad. She’d removed the paper and had taken it with her.
She picked up the innocuous little white pad and ran her fingertips over the top sheet. The slight impression of writing was there.
Karina tugged open one of the desk drawers and drew out a pencil. She ran the lead lightly over the paper. It was very faint, almost unreadable, but the numbers were there. Had her little sister been smart enough to do such a thing? And what was she doing in Washington?
There was nothing there but an airstrip and an old cabin. Her people had already checked. It was a safe house Darius Varkas had used while running from her. She’d lost him, but she’d find him again. It was only a matter of time.
For now, she’d keep an eye on her sister. She viewed this as a betrayal. Valeriya had always professed her disinterest, her distaste, for the family business, for the Knights of the Dragon. Well, her baby sister had just put herself in the middle of this war, and as far as Karina was concerned, she’d chosen a side. And it wasn’t the right one.
“Weak.” She practically spat the word as she ripped the sheet of paper off the pad, folded it, and tucked it into her pocket. She wouldn’t allow her sister, or anyone else for that matter, to derail her plans.
Valeriya Azarov leaned against a towering pine tree and took a deep breath, inhaling the cool, fresh air. She’d left her rental vehicle parked some ways back, figuring it was safer to scout the area on foot rather than just drive right up.
Truthfully, she didn’t really have much of a plan at all. She’d impetuously left her home in New York and flown all the way to the West Coast on a whim. No, not a whim. Her sister was looking for someone, a Darius Varkas. Valeriya might not want anything to do with her family’s dubious legacy, but she knew more about it than Karina suspected. Valeriya’s paternal grandparents had shared all they knew about the Knights of the Dragon, figuring the more she knew, the better prepared she’d be to defend herself.
Valeriya shivered and tugged her coat more closely around her. Even with her heavy jacket, sweater, and long-sleeved top beneath it, she was cold. It was late October in the mountains.
She pushed away from the tree and started walking again. She’d used the GPS coordinates she’d discovered in her sister’s office to plot her course. Karina had no idea she’d found them. It had been sheer instinct that had led her to run the tip of a lead pencil over the empty pad of paper and take an etching. She really hadn’t expected to find anything, and had been surprised when a set of numbers had shown up.
“You didn’t think this through,” she muttered. No, as usual, she’d jumped in headfirst without a plan of action. As soon as she’d discovered what the numbers were, she’d hopped on the first plane and headed to the Cascade Mountains.
“At least you had sense enough to pay cash for the plane ticket.” No need to alert her sister to what she was doing. Karina was suspicious enough as it was, always wanting to know what Valeriya was up to and who she was spending time with.
As far as she knew, she hadn’t been followed, and she’d spent her first day settling in to be sure. That didn’t mean things wouldn’t change. In spite of her precautions, Valeriya imagined her sister would know soon enough where she was. Karina always did.
She glanced down the narrow dirt road heading toward of her destination.
What had she hoped to accomplish? Certainly, the mysterious Darius Varkas wouldn’t be here. Her sister would have already had the area checked out.
No, Valeriya had to know what was going on. Karina had been excited when they’d had dinner the other evening. Not many would have been able to tell, but Valeriya wasn’t most people. She’d grown up with Karina. There’d been a barely suppressed anticipation surrounding her sister. That mood usually didn’t bode well for others. Karina was ruthless and would stop at nothing to get whatever she wanted.
Her sister had been indoctrinated by her parents when she was young. Valeriya still found it hard to believe that dragons were real, but her grandparents had assured her they were. As a young girl, she’d always felt sorry for the dragons. They couldn’t help what they were. Why should they be hunted?
Oh, she knew that technically they called themselves drakons and were half human and half dragon, but as a child, she’d always thought of them as dragons. It was a hard habit to break.
Something moved off to her right, and Valeriya froze. There were bears and all sorts of other wild animals in these woods. She was a city girl. The wilds of Central Park were more her speed.
A large creature dashed across the road in front of her. Valeriya screamed and then slapped her hand over her mouth. A deer. It was only a deer. Her heart pounding, she leaned forward and sucked air into her lungs.
“Oh God. What am I doing?”
She took another deep breath. She knew why she was here, even if it was most likely a wild goose chase. She’d come on the off-chance Darius Varkas might return. She had to warn him that her sister and the other members of the Knights of the Dragon were after him, believed him to be one of the creatures they coveted. Even if he was no longer at the cabin, she hoped to find some clue to her sister’s plans.
She’d played it safe her entire life, keeping her nose out of her family’s business. It had been cowardly. She could no longer sit back and take no action, not if she wanted to be able to look at herself in the mirror every morning.
She knew her sister was ruthless, had most likely harmed people over the years, but a piece of her couldn’t help hoping that maybe Karina would walk away from the Knights. She knew there was goodness and kindness buried somewhere under the greedy ambition that had shaped her life.
Valeriya remembered Karina playing games with her when they were very small children. Her older sister hadn’t hesitated to take over raising her when their parents were killed in a car accident.
She rubbed her hand over her face and sighed. Karina was the only family she had left in the world. For that reason alone, she wouldn’t abandon all hope. Not yet.
But in the meantime, she had to do whatever she could to thwart her sister’s plans. What Karina and the others were doing was wrong.
She should leave. She’d overslept this morning and hadn’t started exploring until after lunch. It would be dark in a couple of hours or less. It would take her about fifteen minutes to get back to her rental car and another hour or so to get to her motel.
But she’d come too far to turn back. She wanted to at least explore a bit. Keeping her eyes and ears open for more animals, she plodded along. She’d give it another ten minutes. She’d followed the coordinates on the GPS and knew this was definitely the right direction.
Several times, she stopped and took pictures. Coming out here for work was her cover story, in case anyone asked. Not that anyone would. She didn’t have any close friends. Having a sister who ran a covert, powerful international group meant Valeriya couldn’t afford to trust anyone. It had taken her two years to discover that her best friend when she was a teen had been the young daughter of a fellow Knight. The girl’s job had been to report back to Karina. In exchange, she’d gotten a full scholarship to the college of her choice.
Valeriya didn’t fault the girl. After all, college was expensive, and who knows what might have happened to her father if she’d refused Karina’s offer. But it had left Valeriya leery of any overture of friendship.
Since then, she’d kept to herself. She rarely dated, either, for the same reason. It was a lonely life, but she had a home and a career she loved. She wasn’t about to complain when many people had it much worse.
Valeriya crouched down and snapped a shot of a cute circle of toadstools. She could use this in her next children’s book. The ideas were percolating, and she couldn’t wait to start sketching.
Her agent was encouraging her to branch out from her dragon books and try something different.
Maybe she’d do a story about fairies. It was easy to imagine a group of mischievous fairies living in these woods. They’d be the guardians of the forest, possibly scaring off those who’d harm the animals and teaching children they needed to be caretakers of the wild and natural places.
The more she thought about it, the more she liked the idea.
Her mind whirling, she was shocked when the road suddenly ended. Before her, nestled in the woods, was a rustic cabin. The wind gusted, and dry leaves skittered across her path. The windows were all intact, so the place wasn’t derelict. A large porch spanned the front of the cabin, but there were no chairs there.
It was quaint but not welcoming.
Every childhood fairytale she’d ever read came roaring back to her. There was always a cottage in the woods, and it was usually very dangerous.
A shiver ran down her spine. Valeriya turned around slowly, but there was no one there. She couldn’t shake the sensation, though, that she was being watched.
The clouds rolled over the sun, darkening the small clearing. The day, which had been crisp and sunny, seemed colder and more ominous. “The curse of an active imagination,” she muttered.
She’d come all this way. The least she could do was go and knock on the door and see if anyone was at home. What she’d say if there was anyone there, she had no idea.
Tarrant studied the woman tentatively walking toward the front steps of his home. He’d been watching her for quite some time. He’d known she was there the second she stepped onto the road. He had strategically placed cameras that were damn near impossible to detect. Even the men the Knights had sent to snoop around had missed them. They’d looked, but all they’d found was a dusty, abandoned cabin and a small airstrip nearby. Luckily, he’d moved his truck the day before to a hidden garage about two miles away. The building hadn’t been breached.
“Who are you?”
As if she heard him, she looked directly at one of the cameras. It was startling, even though he knew she couldn’t possibly realize it was there.
She was around five-seven or so. It was hard to tell her shape, as she was bundled in several layers of clothing, but he’d bet she was slender in build. She had long legs encased in faded blue jeans and a pair of sturdy leather boots. For all that, she was no experienced hiker. She’d almost jumped out of her boots when the deer had crossed her path.
He was far too cynical to believe it was sheer coincidence she was here so soon after the Knights of the Dragon had made an appearance. His upper lip curled. He hated knights of all kinds, but he hated that particular group with a passion that simmered deep inside him.
They’d killed Father Simon, a man who’d been his good friend and confidant for decades, the only person—outside of his brothers—that Tarrant trusted. Now he was gone. And all because he’d helped Tarrant’s brother destroy a dangerous book that had belonged to the Knights.
Like his brothers, Tarrant had thought the Knights had been destroyed years ago. But like the mythical Hydra, when one head was chopped off, two more were waiting. Now they were back and stronger than ever.
This time, he was determined to hunt them down until there wasn’t anyone left who knew about the Knights of the Dragon. They’d left the humans alone for centuries, not wanting to risk killing innocents, but Tarrant was no longer convinced there was such a thing.
And someone had to pay for the death of Father Simon.
Which brought him back to the woman tentatively walking up the front steps of the cabin. He had her picture running through every known database. That was one of the perks of being the best hacker on the planet. He’d find out who she was sooner or later. In the meantime, it would be interesting to see what she’d do.
When he saw her lips moving, he activated the speakers, curious to know who she was talking to. Was she wired?
“You can do this. There’s probably no one here. Just knock.”
Tarrant leaned back in his chair and stared at the screen. She was talking to herself. Her voice was low and husky and sent a whisper of awareness trickling through him.
She licked her lips and raised her hand. “You shouldn’t have read so many fairytales as a child. It’s only a cabin.”
He grinned before he could stop himself. “You have no idea, little girl.” What would she do if she knew what was waiting for her in a hidden bunker deep below the cabin?
She rapped sharply on the door. “Hello? Is anyone home?” She shifted her weight from one foot to the other and glanced up at the darkening sky.
She took a deep breath, put her hand on the doorknob, and turned. It wasn’t locked. The hinges on the thick panel gave an ominous squeak.
“Great,” she whispered. “Just great.” In a louder voice, she called out again. “Anyone home?”
He switched camera views and watched her walk into the space. She peered around the interior as though she expected someone to jump out and surprise her at any moment. The living room and kitchen area were open. There were two closed doors off to her left. Not surprisingly, she headed there next.
She knocked on the bathroom door and then the bedroom, before opening both. She visibly relaxed when she discovered she was alone. She didn’t bother to unbutton her coat or remove the small knapsack from her back as she began to explore.
She went straight for the stone fireplace. “This is gorgeous.” She pulled out her phone and snapped several pictures. Phone still in hand, she crept into the kitchen and studied the woodstove. Several pictures later, she wandered into the living area again and ran her hand over the back of the ancient sofa.
Tarrant’s entire body tightened. What would it feel like to have her hand on his body? He growled and shook off the sexual tension.
He glanced at one of his many computers. The search was still running. He was checking the DMV one state at a time. He’d match her picture eventually.
She sighed, seeming defeated, and slumped down into the chair. She coughed when a light plume of dust wafted around her. “Nothing. I don’t know what else I expected.”
His beast stirred to life inside him, as curious about the woman as he was. That was dangerous. He didn’t trust her, not for one second.
One of his sensors went off, and he pushed his chair over to another computer. “Son of a bitch.” Two men, dressed all in black and carrying assault rifles, were sneaking through the woods. Were they with her, or was she in danger?
He wheeled back to the screen with the woman on it. As if she sensed danger, her head came up. Two seconds later, she bounded from the chair and out the front door, closing it softly behind her.
She crept into the forest and hunkered down beneath a fallen tree to wait.
Now that was interesting.
One of the men moved in close to the cabin and snuck a glance in the window. He went methodically around the small building, checking each window in turn. “She’s not in there.” Tarrant’s well-planted cameras had no trouble picking up the whisper.
“Where the hell is she? The boss will kill us if anything happens to her.”
“Maybe we passed her, and she’s on her way back to her car.”
“Let’s hope so.”
“We’ll head back and watch her rental. If she’s not there or doesn’t show within the hour, we’ll come back here.”
As Tarrant watched, the two men began a fast, but silent, trek through the woods. One passed within five feet of the woman, but she was well hidden and stayed completely silent.
He expected her to move as soon as the men were gone, but she stayed for another twenty minutes before finally leaving her hiding spot. This was obviously not the first time she’d hidden from someone.
His dragon side wasn’t happy, and neither was Tarrant. Whoever the woman was, she didn’t deserve to be hunted, and certainly not by the Knights.
The computer dinged, signaling the end of his search. He kept one eye on the woman as he wheeled over to the computer. “Valeriya Azarov. Resident of New York City.”
A feeling of dread filled the pit of his stomach. He’d been using his technical skills to run a trace of all the people who had visited Herman Temple, the man tracking his brother Darius. He’d also made a note of anyone the man had visited. And he’d had a short meeting with one Karina Azarov.
Tarrant wasn’t a man who believed in coincidence. Whoever this unknown woman was, she was associated with the Knights of the Dragon.
He threw back his head and roared.
Herman Temple carefully set his phone on his desk when what he really wanted to do was smash it against the wall. Things were falling apart, and he’d worked too long and hard to allow that to happen.
He glanced out the window and noted his reflection. His white hair was still distinguished, but his posture wasn’t as straight as it had been, and his reflexes were slower. In short, he was aging, and he didn’t like it. Not one bit.
A knock came on the door. “Enter,” he called. He allowed none of his anger and the underlying fear show. When the door opened, he wasn’t surprised to see Matthew Riggs there. After all, Riggs was his head of security, even if he was currently sleeping with and feeding information to the current leader of the Knights of the Dragon.
“Sir.” Riggs inclined his head slightly, but there was no true deference there. Riggs thought he was so clever, but Herman had been playing these games since before Riggs’s grandfather had been born. Dragon blood had kept him alive a long time. But now his source was gone, and his time was running out.
Herman sat back in his chair, his pose totally relaxed, giving the impression he was a man without a care in the world. “Yes?”
“Valeriya Azarov is in Washington State.”
Now, that was a surprise. “Why is she there?” He’d always felt that Karina’s sister was a weakness to both her and the group. Not that he could talk. His son had ended up being a liability and a disappointment to him.
“Undetermined,” Riggs continued. “Karina has sent men to watch her.”
“Karina, is it?” Herman enjoyed when Riggs frowned and looked uncomfortable. “No matter. Fuck her if you want, just remember she has no loyalty to anyone but herself.” Neither did he, but that was neither here nor there.
Herman pressed his fingers together, forming a steeple, and contemplated his next move. “I want to know why Karina’s sister is in Washington. What does she know about the Knights’ business?” He pinned Riggs with a steely gaze. “She’s not a member of the Knights and cannot be allowed to interfere.”
Herman watched his former head of security leave. Riggs still had the title. He couldn’t let him know he was being replaced. Not yet. He was much too valuable, especially with his connection to Karina.
Karina must have slipped up somehow. Valeriya must have found out about Washington. And how much else did she know?
Herman picked up his phone and made a call. “Henderson, come into my office.” He hung up knowing the other man would hurry. He was ambitious and would eagerly step into Riggs’s role. He’d also have no problem disposing of his predecessor when the time came.
The intercom buzzed. Two seconds later, the door opened and Luther Henderson walked in. He was physically big and tough, but he was also incredibly intelligent. Most of all, he was loyal and would not be distracted by a pretty face. Herman had his eyes on Henderson for a while now. He had no family, no friends, and no romantic connections. In short, he was perfect.