Excerpt: Dragon Warrior by Meagan Hatfield

by Amy Wilkins, Harlequin Digital

Meagan Hatfield blogged this month about her new novel from HQN Books, Shadow of the Vampire. You may also have noticed that there is also a prequel novella to Shadow on sale now from Harlequin Nocturne Bites called Dragon Warrior! This ebook tells the story of two members from the dragon clan, Kestrel and Sparrow and gives more background to the events in Shadow. Here’s the blurb for Dragon Warrior:

Dragon warrior Kestrel Grey fought the vampire horde for centuries without suffering an injury, until a devastating battle landed him in the care of empath and healer Sparrow Rose. Curing Kestrel was Sparrow’s chance to prove herself and save the man she had admired for years—but innocent Sparrow wasn’t ready for the powerful desire that overtook them as part of the healing process…and the tender feelings that followed.

But Kestrel was still determined to resume his dangerous mission. Sparrow would do anything to save him—including take him to bed….

Do I need to entice you further? Well I live to serve :) Click “Read More” for an excerpt from the opening of Dragon Warrior–enjoy! ~Amy

——–

They were going to lose the battle.

“Fall back!” The dragon captain roared the warning into the chaotic night. But some corner of his immortal heart already knew it was too late. Constant claps of gunfire echoed in the darkness. Vampires swarmed his dragon warriors on all sides. A potpourri of fires smoldered from above and below, and the charred scent of flesh perfumed the air. The normally tranquil seaside cliffs and beaches played host to hundreds of vampire soldiers bred and trained with the sole purpose of decimating Kestrel Grey’s kind.

And they were succeeding.

Kestrel’s mighty dragon body quivered with the need to fight, to flee, to focus. Whirling in all directions, he looked to the sands below and the outcroppings above, trying to get a bead on his legionnaires and most of all, the king and queen. The royals were his charge, his responsibility. And right now they were cornered and surrounded on a rocky shelf thirty feet above him.

Damnation!

Kestrel dug his taloned heels into the cliff’s ledge. Scooping air with his mighty wings, he pumped them once, then twice, jetting into the sky and landing in the thick of the horde.

“Die, Derkein!” The piercing war cry screamed from his left.

Kestrel pivoted, shielding his side with a wing. However, as he peered over the lip of his silver scales, he realized with numb horror the vampire’s words were not aimed at him.

The king.

He lay motionless on the ground, two soldiers rushing him fast. One held a sword raised overhead, about to strike down hard. Kestrel’s lips rippled in a snarl over his razor-sharp teeth. The back of his throat fired to life and the taste of ash coated his tongue. Without hesitation, he stalked forward and opened his jowls, unleashing the most dangerous weapon he owned on the bloodsucking bastard, dragonfire. A white-hot jet of it streamed from his mouth, blanketing the soldier in flame. He was reduced to a puddle of molten flesh and charred bone in a matter of seconds.

Closing his jaws, Kestrel shifted his focus to the second soldier. Moonlight reflected off his black sunglasses and made his cropped blond hair glow. When he raised a silver battle-ax, Kestrel spared a frantic glance down at the king. His body lay too close to the soldier for him to use dragonfire again, and by the look on the vamp’s face, he knew it. A calculating sneer parted his lips as he brought the weapon back. Winding up for what would be a deathblow.

Kestrel ignored the blatant fear surging through his veins and charged forward in a blind run. The rock fractured beneath his heavy taloned feet, his heels sinking into the pebbles with each clobbering step, his dragon eyes never leaving the vampire, his prey. The soldier’s confident smile faltered, replaced with a panicked scream as he fought to hammer the weapon down before Kestrel could stop him.

Everything happened in slow motion. The glinting silver blade moved in a graceful curve toward the king’s head. Kestrel’s heart thudded. His body let loose a roar as he pumped his wings, using any bit of leverage he could to get there in time.

Only one thing happened in real time. The moment Kestrel realized he wouldn’t have time to lift the king out of the way. Realized what he had to do.

With a determined bellow, Kestrel pushed his massive dragon body off the ground. Twisting in midair, he put his armored back to the vamp, shielding the king. Using the momentum of the spin, he swept his tail in a forceful arc. The clubbed end sank into the soldier’s trunk, going in one side and out the other. Before Kestrel hit the ground, before he could yank the appendage out of the vampire’s cavity, something sharp and powerful struck across his quads.

The ax.

Its cracking blow hit him with such impact his center of gravity shifted. Instead of down, he hurtled sideways toward the ledge. The inky sky fell away as he shot over the side and fell toward the beach below. Frigid sea air cushioned his back, while blistering pain seared through his legs.

Kestrel fell for what felt like only seconds before his body slammed against the sandy earth, bouncing once before settling deep into the pocket of sand. The granules embedded into his delicate human skin like shards of glass. His shoulder blade cracked and throbbed where a jagged rock had struck it instead of his dragon armor. He noticed fingers, not talons, clutched what was left of his thigh. Only, he didn’t remember shifting from his dragon form. It must have happened on the way down, which meant his wound must be worse than he thought.

Gravely worse.

His heart thudded in a frantic almost hysterical beat behind his ears. Kestrel kicked his head back and gritted his teeth, squeezing his eyes closed as searing pain tore and lashed through his flesh in a blazing streak straight to the marrow. The utter torment sluicing through him nearly drowned out the clashing sounds of battle on the lowest cliff ledge now three hundred feet above him.

Inhaling sharply, he propped himself on one elbow. Metallic and thick, the scent of blood hit his nostrils seconds before the sight of sinew and bone filled his vision. His stomach lurched wildly and the world spun on its axis until he thought he’d be sick. His biceps shook beneath the slight weight he bore upon it before the muscle gave way completely. Kestrel fell back on the sand, exhaling something between a moan and a cry.

Oh, Gods, he groaned inwardly. Fisting sand between his fingers, he bore down hard, riding out the currents of pain. Each one surged and ebbed, one on top of the other so that he never felt a moment’s respite from the ache. Pulsing heat burst from his body with each exhale, only to jet back inside and carve out another slice of his soul in a tearing lick of flames. Until he felt the fire burn him alive, hollowing him from the inside out. Until he didn’t think he could stand another moment.

“Gods, brother.”

He heard the softly spoken words seconds before he felt a presence beside him. Sensed hands on his shoulders, propping him upright.

“What have they done to you?”

Kestrel reached back, groping for his brother in a blind panic. “The king…and queen,” he gasped, nearly blacking out at the pulsing wave of agony washing through him. “Go to them.”

Instead of complying, his younger brother sank to his knees. His hands pressed down hard on one of Kestrel’s legs.

“We have to stop the bleeding.” Falcon said, digging his heel in farther, bearing down on the injury.

“I said go,” Kestrel grated, pushing him away. His gaze fixed on the bloody handprint he’d left on his younger brother’s bare chest. The bold crimson mark stood out, commanding, dominating every thought in Kestrel’s head. It appeared black, like a talisman of death coming to claim him. Again his brother’s voice called to him, but he couldn’t tear his focus off it.

A pair of strong hands, slick and warm with blood, grasped his face, forcing it up to one he’d known since he was a hatchling.

“It’s too late! They’ve been taken,” Falcon shouted, and this time Kestrel heard every word.

Oh Gods, he heard.

He sucked in a breath and held it. Falcon’s words ripped through him with more agonizing force than the vampire whose ax had nearly hewed off his legs. The bare truth lay before him too brilliant and potent for him to ignore.

They’ve been taken.

He’d failed.

He, the Captain of the Dragon Legion responsible for the safety of the flock and their mission, had done the unthinkable. He’d allowed the king and queen to be captured.

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