Twice they have failed.
Alexa Ranger doesn’t remember the lord’s son who was her soulmate three lifetimes ago, nor does she recall their previous attempts to break the curse—each one ending in her death. But she does remember Cyrgyn, the golden dragon who has haunted her dreams since childhood and has appeared to her now to begin their final attempt.
A highly trained spy, Alexa has been preparing for this mission her entire life. But her skills are no match for the desperate mage who has lost none of his command of magic—and none of his twisted, possessive need for her. She is determined to save the dragon she has come to love, but there is more than the curse standing in their way…
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Alexa Ranger knew when she was three years old that one day she’d meet a dragon. A gold one.
So when he materialized out of the mist in the deserted back alleys of whatever North Suck-istan war zone she was in, she didn’t scream. Of course, a well-trained spy wouldn’t scream anyway. Not that her training had included dragons. But her dreams had, for years. He’d been so real. So solid and huge and gleaming.
Just like the one in front of her.
“It is time, Alexa.”
She blinked in the dimness, ignoring his words. Instead, she approached slowly, reached out a hand, and pressed it to him. His breath sighed out, almost human in its emotion. Emotion that was echoed in her own sigh.
He was flesh. The scales were soft, pliable, though she knew they protected him like Kevlar protected a cop. They flexed with each breath he drew. His long neck flowed as he swung his head around to look at her. Their eyes met, his gold and as deep as the universe. But she recognized him, this old friend.
“Time for what?” She glanced behind her. It was time to get out of there, was what it was time for. She’d miss her extraction window, lose what she’d come here to obtain, and probably get caught and imprisoned. Not her favorite option. But if he left, she might lose him. Again.
The dragon’s claws scraped on the cobblestones. The sound echoed around them. “There is much to discuss. Much to do. But we must go.”
A thrill surged through her at the thought of riding the beast. But she couldn’t go. “I have work to finish,” she told him, and then, without considering the consequences, she added, “Tell me where to meet you.”
The dragon was ready. He gave her coordinates that she memorized immediately.
“I don’t know when I’ll be there,” she cautioned.
“I shall await you.” Then he crouched and leaped into the air, disappearing so fast he left her to wonder if she’d gone insane.
She had a hard time concentrating on the rest of the mission. Her colleagues kept giving her odd looks, and her boss seemed ready to dump her. With effort, Alexa focused on finishing the job.
Once they’d flown home and debriefed, she spent a final hour struggling with her resignation letter. By the time she set it on Rock Davis’s desk he, and everyone else, had left the offices of GenCom, the private espionage firm she worked for. That was fine with her. Goodbyes would necessitate explanations, and she had none. Just something she’d been waiting for her entire life but could never describe to them in a million years.
Alexa stored what she could of her gear and supplies in her Hummer, moved everything else to storage, and closed her apartment. She pinpointed the coordinates he’d given her as a forested region of Canada. It meant several days of travel, time she chafed at wasting, and time for her to think about how nuts it was to be doing this.
Except she’d touched him.
She remembered being about three years old and watching a hulking, graceful shape descend outside her bedroom window. Remembered opening that window and leaning out to talk to a creature who somehow looked her in the eye, despite standing two stories below.
It could have been imaginary. Adult Alexa could never decide if she’d made up the dragon or dreamed him. He’d been her nighttime companion until she was about twelve, then revisited her in dreams that remained vivid but vague. He’d told her stories of romance and tragedy, curses and destiny.
That was the reason she became a spy. She needed a job that would take her all over the world and give her the skills she needed for the quest he’d told her she would go on one day. Though she loved her job, had been good at it, and had dismissed the dreams as just that and foolish to boot, she’d never stopped looking for the dragon.
The dashboard GPS beeped and she slowed the truck, looking for a place to pull off the deserted road. Apprehension took root in her gut. A short appearance in the middle of the night wasn’t conclusive, but now she’d confront him in daylight. She hoped. If she wasn’t insane.
“I’ll know the truth soon enough,” she muttered, hefting her backpack and turning on the handheld GPS unit she’d brought with her.
A short while later she moved cautiously through the trees, approaching a cave at the far side of a glade. She held her hand near her one weapon, a Taser she hoped would buy her time to melt into the underbrush if this was an ambush. Standing still, she slowly tucked the GPS unit away, her eyes leaping back and forth from the trees to the dark entrance to the cave. She held her breath.
He was here.
Her heart thudded once, twice, in slow motion. The sun setting behind her penetrated deep into the cave and glinted off his scales.
Instead of approaching she called his name, Cyrgyn, with the pronunciation, Keer-jin, he had taught her when she was a child.
The voice was rich and deep with a hint of roughness that spoke of flame. It made Alexa think of knights and honor and destiny. And foolishness, but she didn’t care. She stepped into the cave, forgetting her training as she went oblivious to her surroundings. There was only him.
* * *