Hidden Dragon (The Treasure of Paragon Book 7) - eBook
Hidden Dragon (The Treasure of Paragon Book 7) - eBook
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No one ever promised forever would be easy.
Her gift was to see...
Dianthe's second sight has always been both a blessing and a curse. She can't control her visions, yet they're unerringly accurate, until an erroneous prophecy results in the destruction of her homeland. The revelation crushes her spirit and endangers her role as an officer in the rebellion to take back the kingdom of Paragon.
Until their future was hidden.
Sylas, dragon shifter and exiled prince, is the leader of the rebellion, but he can no longer rely on his mate Dianthe's psychic powers. His inner dragon is secretly pleased to relegate her to the sidelines. Even if his decision temporarily drives her away, he'd rather have her angry than dead. Or worse.
No one ever promised forever would be easy.
When changing circumstances accelerate the rebellion's plans, Dianthe's fairy roots make her the only one who can perform a dangerous and necessary task. Her need to prove herself soon collides with Sylas's desire to protect her and strains their connection to the breaking point. Dragon mating bonds are eternal, but if Dianthe and Sylas don't find a way back to each other, not only will their marriage fail, their mission to reclaim Paragon will as well.
Every time Sylas thought of his wife, Dianthe, he pictured her in the kitchen. When the light poured through their cottage window and caught the flecks of gold—color that had shed from her wings like glitter—on her mahogany skin, everything in his world felt right. Something about watching her bent over a bowl or inspecting a freshly baked tray of cookies proved to his soul that the world was good. How could tragedy befall anyone surrounded by the smell of warmed cinnamon?
Not that Dianthe’s talents were limited to the domestic arts. On the contrary, her healing powers were legendary among her kind, and her second sight had proven invaluable to the resistance. Before he’d even known who the Defenders of the Goddess were, Dianthe had been a high-ranking officer and an integral part of the formation of the rebellion.
Their relationship had taken root on the island of Aeaea where he’d hidden after he and his siblings had been scattered to the four winds following the murder of his eldest brother, Marius. One of Dianthe’s visions had led the Defenders of the Goddess to the same island for the purpose of establishing a base camp. Once she’d discovered who he was, a Treasure of Paragon, one of eight remaining heirs to the kingdom, she had been the one to tell him the truth about his wicked mother. In Eleanor’s bottomless thirst for power, she and his uncle Brynhoff had murdered Marius. Dianthe was the reason he had joined the rebellion and risen through the ranks, finding his purpose in the cause.
She was a warrior even if her only weapon was her mind.
Still, after so long away from home, picturing her in the kitchen had become his way to ground himself. Dianthe always seemed happy there. All the muscles of her face and shoulders relaxed, the tiny lines of tension loosening around her eyes and mouth. Her pupils grew large, the amber irises focused evenly on her task, completely empty of worry, completely content. In the kitchen, she was above it all. Nothing could touch her.
That’s how he chose to think of her. There was too much blood, too much violence, to see her as she truly was, a fairy who’d chosen a life fighting by his side, fighting his evil mother’s lust for power and risking her life to defend the five kingdoms. She’d chosen the fight before they met, but he’d always recognized it was his fucked-up family that had brought darkness into her life.
Now he joined her at the kitchen table and dipped his finger into the batter inside the powder-blue bowl she worked over. He stole a taste. “Mmmm. You’re making crizzle rolls. My favorite.”
“Sylas!” Dianthe smacked his shoulder. “That’s for the party tonight. You don’t want to show up at Elder Tree empty-handed, do you?”
“They won’t miss a mouthful.” He smacked his lips. “There’s something different.”
“I added a little lemon and fever fruit. Trader’s spice.”
He scooped up another dollop and popped it in his mouth. “Yes, the trader’s spice makes it,” he mumbled around his finger.
“Goddess have you, Sylas, I’m serious! Get your hands out of my bowl.” She turned the full weight of her heavily annoyed stare on him.
He took it as a challenge. “Hmm. If I can’t have the batter, what can I do to keep my mouth busy?” Reaching for her, he traced along the skin of her shoulder with the back of his nails.
She lowered her chin and stared up at him through impossibly thick lashes. “If I hadn’t known what I was getting into mating a dragon, I’d tell you to go suck an egg.” Wings fluttering, she allowed the spoon to clink against the side of the bowl. She wrapped her arms around his neck. “Lucky for you, I knew exactly what I was getting into mating a dragon, and I have far better uses for that naughty mouth.”
A deep, vibrating purr rumbled in his chest when her mouth met his, her full lips tasting of crizzle batter and the remains of her smile. He hoisted her up his body, felt her legs wrap around his hips. The world melted away. All his responsibilities, the horrors he’d seen over his years leading the rebellion, all of it retreated to the back of his mind and pure joy filled his heart. Goddess, he wanted her. Wanted to bury himself in her for days. Wanted to taste every inch of her.
He pushed the bowl aside and lowered his mate to the table, reaching for the buttons of her dress.
“Sylas, stop. Wait.” Dianthe’s lashes fluttered.
Sylas froze. Her eyes rolled back in the way they did when she was seized by a vision; her stomach tensed rigidly. A tremble rattled her body. He supported her with his arms as the magic rolled through her.
“What is it? What do you see?”
Her eyes widened in terror, her entire body quaking under him.
He held her tighter. “I’ve got you. I’ve got you. Tell me what you’ve seen.”
“Everfield… on fire. The Obsidian Guard is coming.”
“When?” He stood up and lifted her from the table, placing her on her feet.
A tear cut along her cheek and her voice shook as she blurted, “Now.”
Screams cut through the cottage from the forest outside and Sylas inhaled deeply, then cursed. He smelled smoke. “Mountain help us.”
He ran to the door and peeked out. Fire. Chaos. Fairies screamed as they fled from dragons in black-and-red uniforms who were kicking in doors and dragging people from their homes before they set those homes on fire.
He closed the door. “They’re burning Empyrean Wood.”
“Oh goddess, Sylas. What can we do?” Dianthe began to weep in earnest.
Taking her by the shoulders, he denied his instinct to comfort her. They’d both known this was a possibility. Dianthe could fall apart. He couldn’t. He had to follow the plan and get her out of there.
He grabbed the bags he’d packed for just such an emergency and handed one to her. He strapped the other onto his back. “We go together, out the back, hand in hand. I’ll cloak you in invisibility. Don’t look back.”
Dianthe stared at the backpack in her hands. “When did you pack these?”
“You know when.”
She frowned. “We can’t just leave, Sylas! People will die. The Obsidian Guard is here. They’re showing no mercy. You have to shift. We have to fight!” She clutched the strap of the bag until her fingers turned white.
He shook his head. “I’m not strong enough to face the Guard alone, and calling on the rebellion now would undermine everything we’ve worked for. They’re not ready. We’d lose and all would be for nothing.”
When she didn’t move, he hoisted her bag onto one shoulder. If she wouldn’t carry it, he would.
More screams filtered through the walls, closer now. A knock came on the door, followed by the voice of a young fairy. “The Guard is coming. Save yourself. Run!”
Sylas grabbed her hooded cloak off the rack and wrapped it around Dianthe, dressing her as if she were a child. He thanked the Mountain she was still wearing her boots. “Out the back.” He tugged her toward the rear door.
She pulled up short of the exit and glanced woefully at the healing branches of the tree that grew at the center of their cottage. “Sylas, the zum zum! It’s one of the last of its kind.”
It was much too large to move, big enough to support the body of a full-grown male now and capable of curing fairies of most ills. Dianthe had healed many friends, neighbors, and community members in that tree, as well as the one fairy he’d begged her not to heal—Aborella.
Dianthe had claimed she’d seen a vision of Aborella fighting on the side of the rebellion, but her visions were open to interpretation. That one was exceptionally nebulous. But when they’d come across the fairy, gravely injured and buried alive outside the palace walls in Paragon, he’d allowed Dianthe to talk him into bringing her here. His mate had spent days painstakingly caring for and healing the fairy. But once she was healed, Aborella went straight back to the Obsidian Palace. He was almost certain she was behind this raid. Why else would the Guard be in Everfield now?
He gave Dianthe a mournful look. “We have to leave it. There’s nothing we can do.”
“Shhhh.” He made them both invisible before throwing open the back door and ushering her out onto the path.
All fairy homes were built from living materials, and their cottage was no exception. The walls consisted of tightly woven branches, creating a large, leafy dome completely integrated into the forest. Outside, the scene of utter chaos that met them turned his stomach. The entire north side of the Empyrean Wood was on fire. Everyone was evacuating. Those not fast enough to flee found their faces plunged into the dirt by soldiers wearing the black-and-red uniforms of Paragon. Blood flowed. Everything was on fire.
He tried to cover Dianthe’s eyes to save her from the sight.
“Don’t bother. I saw it in my vision.” She shoved his hand away. “I’ll be seeing it in my nightmares for as long as I live.”
He tugged her forward, breaking into a run when he saw a guard at the neighboring cottage, kicking down the door.
“By order of the empress of Paragon, I am here to exact punishment for aiding a fugitive of the crown.” The guard’s pronouncement came through a haughty grin before he charged into the abode.
Sylas heard the screams of their elderly neighbor, Wynter.
“Oh my goddess, Sylas. What will they do to her?”
“I don’t know. Keep moving.”
“We have to help!”
He repositioned the bags, yanked her against him with his free arm, and spread his wings, taking to the air. The position of the bags and uneven weight set him off-balance, and it took his best effort to climb above the trees and soar beyond the limits of the village. It was a relief when Serenity Harbor came into view.
“Sylas, answer me!” Dianthe sobbed. “How could you just leave her there to deal with those… those cretins alone?”
He landed on the docks and swept her toward the sailboat he’d kept at the ready. He tossed in both bags, then turned to his mate. “Get in.”
“Not until you talk to me.”
He swept her under his arm and carried her onto the boat, then went about untying it from the dock. His oread, Indigo, appeared beside him, and together they pushed off the dock and rowed out to open water.
Indigo readied the sail. “To Aeaea as planned?”
“Aeaea?” Dianthe asked. “We’re going back to Circe’s island now? What about Everfield?”
“There’s nothing we can do, Dianthe. There’re too many of them. Any attempt to help would reveal our identities. We’d both be in the dungeon by nightfall.” Sylas’s throat was thick and gritty. He’d held back his emotions from the first sniff of smoke. Just a few more minutes. He couldn’t allow himself to break, not until he knew they were safe.
Dianthe looked back the way they’d come and broke into deep, wrenching sobs. Even though Sylas told himself not to, he looked back too. Flames engulfed Everfield, licking over the trees and turning the entire sky red and hazy. Fairies gathered on Serenity Beach, holding each other as their homes burned. He thanked the Mountain for every single one he saw. At least they were alive.
His mate grabbed his arm as if she were holding on for dear life.
“We’ll be safe soon.” The words sounded hollow, completely inadequate.
Her sobs abated. A far darker emotion moved in, clouding her eyes and causing her lips to peel back from her teeth. “Safe? You think I’m worried about being safe! How could you just leave them like that? We could have helped. We might have saved Wynter from whatever fate befell her at the hands of your people!”
That was it. Sylas could abide no more. Heat flooded his face, and all the muscles in his back tensed. “Wynter would be fine if you hadn’t invited a viper into our home.”
Dianthe pushed away from him, hugging herself against his words.
“Why do you think the Obsidian Guard was there? Didn’t you hear them say this was retribution for taking in a fugitive? Who do you think told them there was a fugitive in Everfield? Who is the only other person who knows who I really am and that I’ve been living with you there?”
“No. It can’t be. I saw… I saw her helping us.” Dianthe shook her head vehemently.
“Your vision was wrong. Don’t you get it?” He pointed a hand at Everfield in flames. “You made a mistake, Dianthe, and Everfield paid the price!”
She gasped as if he’d slapped her.
“I’m sorry to put it so bluntly, but you knew there was the possibility. You told me yourself that visions are open to interpretation. People have free will. They can change their minds.”
“Yes, but I befriended her. She’s changed. She was kind.”
“Give me a break.” Sylas held his head. “She was kind when you were giving her what she wanted! When she needed you! I told you she was evil.”
Dianthe’s already red eyes began to tear again.
“You gave her information. I know you did. Not a lot, I’m sure. But you wanted to endear yourself to her. I know you, Dianthe. I know you had good intentions. But if you’d seen her face when I told her we knew who she was. If you’d seen how quickly she fled… Everfield is burning because of Aborella.”
Dianthe’s knees seemed to give out and she sat down hard, her hair blowing in the saltwater breeze. All light drained from her eyes and her mouth gaped. Beyond the stern, the ever-reddening sky over Everfield was thick with smoke from the active fires. How long would Empyrean Wood burn? Would there be anything left by the time they put it out?
“You think Everfield is burning because of Aborella, and Aborella was there because of… me.” Dianthe grimaced as the truth set in.
Sylas wished he could tell her she was wrong, but he’d known this would happen. Aborella was as evil as they came. She couldn’t be trusted. “It’s not your fault. You’ve always been able to trust your visions in the past. It’s just now…”
Every part of Sylas felt heavy and bone weary. He didn’t have the heart to tell her that Aborella might have infected her or polluted her gift with a dark curse. He didn’t know for sure, but he suspected they could not trust Dianthe’s visions any longer. Not right away. Even tonight’s prophecy had been far too late to be of much help. She was off her game. They’d have to be cautious.
He couldn’t tell her now though. Not like this. Not when her homeland was burning and she had no idea if the community she’d grown up in, the people she loved, were well and safe. He sat beside her and slid his hand into hers.
“Nothing. We’re safe. I’m here. This is the best we can do for now.”
He was relieved when she seemed to accept it. She laid her head on his shoulder and watched helplessly as the forest of her childhood and the home they’d built together blazed.
- A dragon warrior
- A psychic fairy
- A quest to stop a coming war
- Epic fantasy
- Family saga
- Witches & magic