Harlequin Nocturne (Cravings)
Release date: May 1, 2012
From the back cover:
Empath Misty Burke only ever wanted one man: dragon shifter Rafe Landon. Their attraction was irresistible, but he was forbidden to love a member of another race and banished her from their island, breaking Misty’s heart.
Misty believes she’s gotten over him since that day—until she’s called home for a mission to help Rafe’s clan. The primal draw between them is as strong as ever, but despite their searing passion, Rafe still refuses to put Misty at risk by claiming her as his rider and mate. Even if it costs him his life….
“There was love lost and found again, sex that sizzles, some action and intrigue to the world Miller built. I quite enjoyed my journey into the Isle of Frealon and can’t wait to visit again. I certainly was “Claimed by Desire””–United by Books
“I loved the the new idea of an entire culture of shifters living parallel to our own. The imaginative world, species traits and “rules” were a welcome fresh view into para-romance.” –Jenn the Book Junkie
“If you want something a little different and wonderfully entertaining, this is a great, sexy read!” –National Bestselling Author Virna DePaul
“How long she been out?”
Misty Burke teetered on the edge of consciousness, struggling to separate the syllables of the gravelly voice. Who was that? Where was she? And why couldn’t she open her eyes?
“’Bout twenty minutes.” A woman whispered. “She should be awake by now. Something’s wrong…”
Of course there was something wrong. Misty’s head felt fuzzy. Like the water plugging her ears had seeped into her brain. She shook her head, tried to gain her bearing and pinched her eyes tight. There had been water, hadn’t there? At least she remembered that much.
“Her heartbeat is strong.” Two rough fingers brushed against Misty’s neck, then stilled. “Did you have any problems bringing her through the portal?”
That masculine voice was eerily familiar, yet still so distant. Its tone, dark and smooth and delicious, was comforting, yet her body’s reaction to it was anything but. Heat flushed to her center. Blush crept into her cheeks. She felt a stirring of unease. Her body had only ever reacted to one male in this way. And he wasn’t anyone she ever wanted to see again. She shifted in her seat and the stranger removed his fingers from her neck.
“She’s an empath, not a dragon. Of course she had problems coming through.” The female in the room sighed as Misty felt consciousness swirl around her. “Only shifters can jump through the portals seamlessly. She blacked out on entry. I had to carry her to the castle and she’s been here since. Just like this.”
Suddenly, as if the words kerplunked the fragments of Misty’s memory into place, she remembered the blowhole on San Francisco’s rocky coast—the portal—that had sucked her here, away from her apartment in the city, her job, and her friends. It’d swept her to the Isle of Feralon—the land of shifters. But she still had no idea why the girl had dragged her here. Misty’s eyes fluttered open.
“She’s coming round,” the seductive male said again.
Wait…she’d heard that voice before, spoken from plush, kissable lips. Lips that had once thrown daggers instead of words. Clarity bitch-slapped Misty clean across the cheek. Hoping her instincts were wrong, she snapped her eyes open as her heart hammered against her chest.
Nothing could have prepared Misty for who was sitting in the chair next to her. Hypnotizing emerald eyes stared at her as if she was a long lost friend rather than the woman he’d ravished, claimed to love, then abandoned ten years earlier.
“Morning sunshine,” Rafe said, licking his lips. She quivered, remembering with crystal clarity how sweet those lips had tasted. Over the racing of her heart, she sensed his, speeding right in time. “You gave us quite a scare. Serene thought jumping through the portal would give you problems, having no Draco blood and all, but we didn’t think it’d knock you out on your ass. Guess you’re frailer than we thought. Is that what living in San Francisco has done to you?”
Ignoring his smart-ass remark, Misty rubbed her head and shot glances around a room that was decorated beautifully. Gothic-styled, dripping with red curtains and black leather furniture—it could’ve been Dracula’s study for all she knew. She’d jumped through a portal to the fabled Isle of Feralon, to the place she’d once called home. But the real question was where in Feralon the portal had taken her. “Where am I?”
Serene kneeled at Misty’s side, her chocolate-colored locks blending with the walls behind her. “You’re in Queen Elixa’s study.”
“I’m in Castle Arcane?” Her eyebrows shot for the stars. Shit.
Only shapeshifters were allowed on the queen’s estate. And Misty definitely didn’t fit that bill. She was an empath; brought to the Isle of Feralon as a young girl to live within a family group of other empaths. Commissioned by Queen Elixa, they had explored energy sources on the isle, made peace with each shifting race and ultimately drew territory lines.
Over the years, the world beyond Feralon had faded away. She’d loved every last bit of the isle…and embraced every Draco as family.
But one Draco in particular had snatched her heart and made her yearn to be an integral part of their inner circle. Each day leading to her eighteenth birthday, Misty had wanted nothing more than to be claimed by Rafe Landon in their most sacred bonding ceremony. Not only was he ruggedly handsome and stronger than any other Draco Misty had ever seen, but he was smart. Loyal. Willing to do or give anything for someone he loved.
But in the history of the Draco race, no Draco had ever claimed an empath. Dracos bred with Sindracos—humans with Draco heritage, but no ability to shift—in the hopes of creating other humans who could shift into dragons.
Despite all that, Misty had longed to be Rafe’s rider, seeing the world by embracing his back…but he had other plans and other female Sindracos in mind. It’d changed everything.
“Where’s the queen?” she asked, feeling the room thicken with expectation.
Every head turned and their gazes set upon Queen Elixa. She was just as heart-stopping as Misty remembered. Long blond hair cascaded down the front of a black empire dress. Blue freckles sprinkled on her cheeks shone bright, alerting everyone she was a proud member of the Draco race.
Each shapeshifting race on the isle had identifying marks. Werewolves, shifters of the land, had smokelike vine tattoos stretching up their back and neck. Merfolk, shifters of the sea, had hair that glowed like radiant auras in daylight. And Dracos, shifters of the air, had colored freckles dotted beneath their eyes, matching the shade of their scales when they shifted into dragons.
Judging by the pure sapphire blue of Elixa’s freckles, her scales would reflect the morning sky brilliantly. But something was off about the queen…. Misty couldn’t quite put her finger on it. It was almost as if…as if Queen Elixa was throwing off the kind of vibe Misty would have picked up from a weak or dying animal found in a forest.
Something wasn’t right….
Dracos were warriors, strong and protective. They didn’t throw off injured vibes—ever. A chill crept up Misty’s back as she thought about what that would mean if her senses were on target. Did the vibe have something to do with why they asked her to return?
“You’ve brought her back to the isle safely, Serene,” Elixa said, fiddling with her hands clasped in front of her. “Your duty is fulfilled. You can see your way out.”
After Serene left the room, securing the door behind her, the queen turned her attention to Misty. “It is good to see you, my dear, but I’m afraid we don’t have much time for pleasantries.”
Rafe leaned forward, out of his chair. Misty leaned back, matching the distance. “That’s royal talk for ‘keep your mouth shut,’” he whispered. “I know you’ll find that an impossible task, but please try.”
“Shut it, Rafe,” Misty snapped, her gaze settling on the green flecks sparkling across his cheekbones. She could nearly taste the adrenaline sparking through his system. Seeing Misty had Rafe all worked up, no matter how he tried to play it cool. That was the wicked cool part about being an empath. It was difficult for anyone to hide their true feelings. Not that she cared how Rafe felt….
“You haven’t changed a bit,” she said.
“Neither have you.” His gaze licked up and down her body, shooting shivers to Misty’s toes.
Damn it, why did he have to look at her that way? Like she was a finger-licking meal and he was starving. And why did her body have to betray her by responding?
Misty folded her arms and willed her core temperature to cool.
“Let’s get down to why I summoned you both here, shall we?” Elixa moved across the room and perched on the edge of her wing chair like an exotic bird on a swing. “A meeting was held here last week. Werewolves and merfolk were welcomed among Dracos with open arms for the first time in a decade. It was that night that the Draco stone was stolen. Our race grows weaker by the day without it. Soon we will lose the ability to shift into dragons completely.”
“What makes you think one of the other races took the stone?” Merfolk and werewolves couldn’t expect to grow in strength or power by stealing the Draco stone. They each protected their own stone, the source of their individual shapeshifting energies. “Doesn’t seem like something that would benefit either race.”
“Although we don’t know who stole it, exactly, we’ve traced the stone’s energy to the far end of Feralon, through forbidden territories occupied by both shifting races.”
Was Misty missing something? “What would either race have to gain from stealing your stone?”
Queen Elixa sighed, and Misty could’ve sworn her shoulders slumped. “In two days, the shifting races of the isle will reconvene to discuss drawing the final territory lines in Feralon. If we are too weak to fight for what is rightfully ours, they’ll challenge us for our lands. I’m afraid that at the rate our shifting energy is depleting, we will have lost our abilities to shift by then.”
Misty suddenly understood the gravity of the situation; if they couldn’t shift into dragons, they were merely humans, no stronger than any other. And humans without superior strength or speed didn’t stand a chance against a pack of power hungry werewolves.
“We will lose everything we’ve built. Our land. Our home.” She paused and shivered, as if she caught a cold draft. “If the situation is as dire as I think it is, we could be wiped off the Isle of Feralon completely.”
Misty tried to ignore the pangs in her heart, but, damn it, she couldn’t. Before Rafe banished her from the isle, Dracos were her family, her friends. Even though she’d built a new life in San Francisco, she’d never wish a single shifter on the isle harm…well, she thought as she shot a glare at Rafe, not all of them.
Was their fate really as bleak as the queen made it sound? Or was she overreacting?
“What does all this have to do with me?” Misty eyed Rafe curiously, trying to sense the same weakened aura she felt around the queen, but came up blank. Did he already know about the missing stone, or was this news to him, too?
“We need you to recover the stone, Misty,” Queen Elixa said sweetly. “And we don’t have long.”