Daughter Of The Dragon Princess

By: Nina Croft

Chapter 1





“You know, all I ever wanted was to be normal.” Lily swiped the rain from her eyes and glared at the scene in front of her.

They stood on the crest of a hill. All around them, the land fell away steeply, and straight ahead, the stone circle loomed out of the mist.

“Doesn’t seem very ambitious,” Joe said, coming to stand beside her, his tall figure hunched against the downpour.

“Maybe not, but they didn’t exactly encourage us to dream big in the children’s home, and I thought—be realistic—keep my life goals small. How the hell hard can normal be?”

Too fucking hard, obviously.

She kicked a rock at her feet, and then winced. Trudging up here, cold, wet, her heels rubbed raw from her new hiking boots, she’d somehow convinced herself this whole thing was a figment of her imagination.

No such luck.

The scene before her was familiar. She’d seen it so many times… in her dreams.

It was official—she was a crazy lady who had visions.

She turned to Joe. “Sorry,” she muttered. After all, this wasn’t his fault. He’d been a real sweetie. Nor was it his fault that beneath her shirt, the mark on her arm tingled, reminding her of its existence. She rubbed it absently and caught Joe’s speculative gaze before he glanced away.

“What’s the matter, Lily?” His voice was gentle, his gray eyes worried.

“Nothing.” She gave him a bright smile. “So, this is where you found me?”

“Yes. Hard to believe it was over twenty years ago.”

A lifetime—her lifetime anyway.

Coming to this place had been a whim, when the dreams had become too much, invading even her waking moments until they were impossible to ignore. Something had told her that the answers were back here where it had all started. Illogical—but then nothing about her life made sense recently.

She’d never met Joe before—well, except for the one time, but she had no memory of that—though he had sent her a “birthday card” each year on the anniversary of the day he’d found her. He’d sounded genuinely pleased when she’d called and asked if they could meet.

“Will you tell me what happened?” That’s why she was here after all. At the children’s home, they had told her she’d been found abandoned as a baby and handed in. Nothing else. And by the time she was old enough to ask questions, she’d seen enough of life to accept that she probably wouldn’t like the answers.

Joe nodded. “I was checking the sheep down in the lower pasture when I heard some sort of explosion. I ran up here and there you were.” He waved a hand in the direction of the circle. “All alone, so tiny. You were naked but with this mark, like a tattoo, wrapped around your arm. I kept thinking—why would anyone do that to a baby?”

Why indeed?

But a faint quiver of excitement tingled in her gut. Was this the answer to the dreams and visions? That she’d been here before. Was it that simple? Okay, she’d been a baby. Even so, those memories would be locked in her brain somewhere. Now they were trying to get out. That was all. There was nothing weird or unexplainable about what had been happening to her.

She took the last few steps, which brought her into the lee of one of the great stones. It was slick with rain, but warm to the touch, and she traced the swirling patterns cut into the rock, too regular to be carved by nature. Resting her forehead against the warmth of the stone, she allowed her fears to drain away.

Maybe she wasn’t crazy after all. She could go home. Forget all this and get on with her nice, normal life.

As she raised her head, she caught a glimpse through the gap in the stones to the amphitheater beyond—also familiar. The space was empty except for a flat table-like slab in the center and behind that, a stone arch, as tall as the uprights. She stepped into the circle, prickles shivering across her skin as she passed between two of the huge pillars.

“You were lying there, on the altar stone,” Joe said from behind her.

A faint hum filled her ears. The sound arose from within the arch, and she walked slowly toward it.

“Do you hear that?” she asked. The hum grew louder, more a buzzing now like a swarm of hungry bluebottles.

“Hear what?” he asked. “There’s nothing here.”

“But there is. It’s coming from the arch. You must be able to hear it.” It seemed impossible that he couldn’t.

She came to a halt in front of the flat stone and peered into the archway, to the gray sky and the standing stones behind it. As she stared, the image wavered, a ripple running through the view.

Her heart pounded in her chest, her whole body rigid. Even as her feet itched to run as fast as possible in the opposite direction, longing washed through her, an impulse to step through the arch and find whatever was on the other side. Taking a deep breath, she forced her feet to remain still while her hand reached forward, fingers outstretched. Joe called out from behind her but she ignored him. Flames flickered within the frame of the arch. The crackle of fire filled her ears as the scent of smoke teased her nostrils. On her right arm, the mark burned through her skin like a brand.

The noise grew and grew until a shrill scream crowded her head, drowning out her conscious thoughts. A jolt of electricity slammed through her.

Then blackness.





Chapter 2





Lily didn’t know what had awoken her. She was just glad something had.

She lay in the dark, eyes wide open, exhausted, but unwilling to surrender to her dreams again. Her waking moments were bad enough. Sleep was worse.

It had been the longest, crappiest two days and nights of her life.

She’d spent them trying to convince herself she wasn’t crazy or sick or both.

And failing totally.

After she’d blacked out at the stones, she’d woken hours later, in a hospital bed. Poor Joe had had to carry her down from the stones a second time. She was back home now, in her tiny apartment in London, and she’d hoped things would go back to normal.

No such luck.

Since her visit to the stones, her dreams had changed and not for the better. Now they were filled with flying and fire, and a stranger with golden eyes and a huge… She bit back the thought. But the fact was, he wasn’t just present in her dreams and minding his own business. He was screwing her brains out, and she wasn’t doing a damn thing to stop him. In fact, though the details were fuzzy, she was pretty sure her legs were wrapped tight around his waist and her hands were gripped in his long silky hair.

It appeared that along with her other issues she was also frustrated as hell. She supposed it was only expected—it had been a long time—and nothing a vibrator wouldn’t fix.

Whenever she awoke, the hot, heavy scent of smoke lingered in her mind. Like now. She sniffed and there it was, stronger than ever. Wood smoke and some sort of spice—cinnamon perhaps—dragging her back to her dream and the memory of him deep inside her.

Weird shit or what?

Something shifted at the edge of her vision. Her pulse spiked. Slowly, she rolled her head to the side, but nothing else moved and she sagged into the mattress.

She was just freaked out, that was all.

Groping for the lamp beside the bed, she clicked the switch then blinked as a circle of warm yellow light surrounded her.

In the shadows in the corner of the room, a dark figure stirred.

The rapid throb of her blood roared in her ears. She pressed herself back as she gulped down a deep breath.

He pushed himself up, away from the wall and stepped into the light. As his golden gaze trapped hers, recognition slammed into her. The man from her dreams, and an unwanted heat flooded her body at the memory.

Please God let this be a dream.

Under the sheet, she pinched herself viciously on the thigh. She didn’t wake up.

Bugger.

It looked like this time he was all too real. Even so, her terror diminished until she could study him objectively.

Holy crap.

He was stunning. His black hair was pulled into a ponytail revealing a face full of hard angles and shadows, sharp cheekbones, a mouth held in a stern line and those amber eyes that glowed golden.

The rest of him was just as impressive. Tall, at least six-four, and broad shouldered, his long legs encased in black leather pants, an ankle-length leather duster coat over the top, he looked lean and mean and dangerous. And familiar.

Something unwelcome fluttered in her belly and she had to force herself to look away. She licked her dry lips. “Who the hell are you?”

He remained silent, assessing her.

“And what the fuck are you doing in my apartment?” She peered sideways, hunting for her cell phone.

“We need to talk.” His voice, dark and low, like crushed velvet rubbed against her skin.

“Like hell we do.” She found the phone at last and brandished it like a weapon. “You need to get out of here before I call the cops.”

He took a step closer, his lips curling as Lily pulled the sheet up around her neck, clutching it tight in her fingers.

“Tell me, Lillian Palmer, why did you visit Taryn Carnack?”

Her breath caught. She’d never heard the name before, but she had no doubt where he meant—the standing stones. “I—” She clamped her lips closed. What was she supposed to say—that she’d had a dream? He’d think she was crazy. Then she could add that she’d also had dreams about him, about the two of them together… and he’d know she was crazy.

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