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Blood Warrior

Dragon Kings 2

by

Lindsey Piper

To JD and EC.

Because confidence is sexy.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I can’t imagine writing a word, let alone a novel, without the support of my family, friends, and amazing colleagues. My eternal gratitude to my tireless agent, and once again to Lauren and Kate for pushing, pulling, and sometimes shoving me to the next level. Thank you all.

PROLOGUE

TWENTY YEARS AGO

I need your help. Tallis, please, I need you.”

The Sun. She was back.

Tallis of Pendray wanted to jerk free of his dream. He wouldn’t listen to her exotic, lilting seductions. He would wake up this time. He would.

“You try my patience and break my heart,” she whispered. “You’re fighting me when there’s no need to fight. Don’t wake. Stay with me. Stay . . .”

Her steely words were coated with sweet honey. This was the sixth time she’d slipped into his nighttime mind. Five times previous, he’d refused to obey unthinkable entreaties spoken by a wide, smiling mouth. Five times previous, he’d awoken to the dawn sunlight streaming through the windows of Castle Clannarah, convinced he was losing his mind.

By the Dragon or the Chasm, he wasn’t going to look himself in the mirror come morning and ask the same questions.

Is she real? Is she right?

Am I going mad?

“Always the same worries in that fevered mind of yours.”

You’re in my mind,” he replied, although his voice sounded metallic and distant. “It will always be fevered.”

“I’m afraid that’s true. You deserve better than all this confusion.”

Tallis wanted to wake, but there was a reason he’d endured her nightmare appearances. Again. And again. And again. Colors glistened on her skin, as if she were a woman made of light rather than flesh. The swirl of her silken gown created yet another shimmer that haloed her entire body. Dark hair with caramel highlights swished back to reveal ethereally perfect features. Eve, Helen of Troy, Lady Godiva—none of them would compare. How could they? They were human.

The Sun was a Dragon King.

Tallis was, too, but she made him feel like a commoner crawling in the dirt just to bow at her feet. She had chosen him. Who was he to deny the wishes of a goddess when she offered the warmth of her golden attention?

“I’ve asked you before.” She hovered just out of reach, but her breath brushed his cheek. “Are you ready?”

“I can’t,” he rasped. “What you ask . . . It’s obscene. It’s criminal. I will not kill for you.”

“The true crime is what has become of your people. The Pendray are ready to rip one another to pieces. You are so few in numbers compared to the other Five Clans. Soon you’ll be as lost as the Garnis, reduced to a few frail remnants who’d rather spit at one another than claim kinship.”

“Murder will stop more murder?”

“Shhh.”

She placed a hand to his brow. Tallis hissed through his teeth. It was the first time she’d touched him. His body went rigid so quickly that he feared he’d wake. He didn’t want to, not now, not when she was finally skin to skin. He closed his eyes and absorbed the soft warmth of her fingers threading into his hair. He sank deeper into the realm of sleep.

“Tallis.” She said his name with a slice of warning.

As with the hours after sunset when cool shadows reign, the Sun’s withdrawal was just as chilling. Tallis reached out to grab her hand, but she slipped away. A frustrated growl reminded him of his capacity to do harm. A beast waited in his blood—the Pendray gift from the Dragon—and that beast was rousing from its sleep.

“You want me in your arms,” the Sun said, her voice bold with confidence.

“Yes.”

“And what else?”

“I want you beneath me.”

“And?”

“I want to be inside you.”

She smiled as if she’d already given permission and was only waiting for him to grab her and lay her down. “I want that, too. Shall I show you how much?”

He nodded, or he thought he did. The dream world had become as real as the North Sea, with its icy aqua waters. He loved the view from the top of the crest, just north of his family’s ancient castle. Although the sea’s waves were a roiling tempest, they had the opposite effect on his thoughts. He was always calm when looking out across that imposing scene, knowing his people had mastered its waters for millennia.

This was real. As real as the sea.

“Show me,” he said. “Please.”

The Sun began to disrobe. She wore a sari worthy of an Indian princess. That she slid into his dreams meant she was likely Indranan, those of the Five Clans blessed by the Dragon with telepathy. Whether real or telepathic didn’t matter when she unwrapped gossamer layer after layer to reveal the pristine, luminous skin of a naked woman. She was breathtaking. Breasts tipped with pale gold. Waist and hips a perfectly symmetrical set of curves. Legs long and elegant, all the way to her pointed toes. She tossed back her hair and spread her arms skyward, as if she were the one worshiping an ancient pagan god, rather than a goddess presenting herself to Tallis.

If he was mad, he didn’t care.

“Whatever you want,” he said. “I can’t . . . I can’t resist anymore.”

“You make this sound so terrible, Tallis, my handsome one.”

“Beheading a priest? Of course it’s terrible.” Lust hummed through his body, burning with the strength of an angered animal caged by iron bars and prodded from all sides. He was aroused, hard, aching. He craved sanity, but he was willing to forgo it for what he really craved. Violence. Sex. The freeing release of both.

She shifted so that her mouth was merely inches from his. “Right now, you want to kill. You’d kill me if you could.”

“I would.”

“You won’t. You want to make me happy.”

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