The Dragon Stones (excerpt)

She stood, frozen, terror gripping her so deeply she had no hope of escaping. Crimson scales burst across the prominent bone structure, tapering to a stop just before reaching the soft black tissue of lips that gaped open, revealing pearly daggers. Smoke twisted out from two mean nostrils, and the beast exhaled, sending the ashen tendrils grasping around her.

Lilly’s heart thundered, drowning out the steady murmur of the creature’s breathing. It leveled one emerald-colored eye at her; it’s large head so close that the other eye was hidden from her view. The animal’s gigantic skull was as long as Lilly was tall, his winding neck craning down to bring him eye level with her. Transfixed by that ruthless, intelligent, hungry eye, Lilly found herself compelled to reach out and touch one of those flaming scales that decorated the monstrosity’s snout so regally.

When her delicate fingers brushed against the smooth surface of the dragon’s armor, something happened, something terrifying, beautiful, breathtaking, magical, something sublime. The moment her flesh came in contact with those flattened rubies a spark jumped, moving from her fingertips, pale against those burning scales, down her limbs, igniting as it flew to her very core.

As Lilly snatched her hand back, the dragon snarled, revealing those jagged teeth in more detail. The sound that issued from the beast was deep and booming, resplendent in baritone notes. Trembling, Lilly fought the urge to fall on her face; the sound created such a mix of celestial and wicked emotions within her. That emerald orb studied her again, and she was sure that she was being appraised. Lilly was sure that her life, perhaps even her soul, depended on the value the creature found in her.

The wind howled past Lilly, whipping her ebony hair back, whistling through the dragon’s scales, sending the trees dancing, reminding her that the world still existed beyond the magnificent creature that stood before her. Carefully, she reached her trembling fingers forward again, brushing them down, along the jawline, feeling the silken texture of the scales slide gently along her skin. This time, instead of a vibrant spark, heat washed through her, encircling her, drawing her closer.

Lilly’s breathing became ragged as she continued her slow exploration, running her hands along the ridge of the creature’s neck, carefully feeling the spikes. The dragon’s breathing increased in time with hers, the deep rush of his lungs filling her ears, lulling her. Intuitively, Lilly knew that his heart also beat in unison with hers. Whatever strange spell held her bound had wound it’s grip around him as well.

Beyond the dragon’s massive shoulders rose leathery wings that stretched out impossibly, dwarfing Lilly. The wings were soft under her palm, incredibly silken, and she couldn’t help but stroke them.  A deep rumble echoed from the beast’s belly, not menacing but pleasurable, similar in sound to that which a cat might make as it was scratched behind the ears.

It started with a small twitch on her lower lip, growing in brilliance as it spread, transforming her face. Those lips which hadn’t smiled in so long now glowed. Had Lilly realized that such joy spread across her face she would have squelched it immediately.

The dragon dropped its belly to the ground, swinging his great head around to where she stood. Lilly froze, remembering those wicked teeth once more. Instead of devouring her, the creature nudged Lilly toward his back. She turned, frowning at him. The large snout pushed at her again.

Understanding dawned, and Lilly turned, reaching up and grabbing the flat ridge along his back. The dragon held his breath as if worried any movement might deter her. Using his snout as a step stool, Lilly let him raise her up so that she could crawl onto his back; her thighs pressed tightly against his sides. Trepidation whispered down her spine, but before she could slide back down, he launched himself into the air, spreading out those stunning wings and beating them mightily.

The Dragon Stones