The Dragon Legion Collection(2)
Author:Deborah Cooke

    “I made you no promise!”

    “Promises must be kept.”

    “It wasn’t my promise.”

    Drake held Lorenzo’s gaze, his own unblinking. His warriors had moved when Lorenzo wasn’t looking. They stood at attention in rows just outside the door, their gazes as flinty as that of their leader, closer than they had been before. There was a slight shimmer in the air around them, that pale blue light warning that they hovered on the cusp of change.

    Shit. The last thing Lorenzo needed was a fight over a promise he hadn’t made. As he did, Lorenzo was sure Drake heard Erik being ushered into the house, courtesy of his sharp Pyr hearing.

    Drake didn’t move.

    He seemed to smile slightly, as if anticipating triumph.

    The sight infuriated Lorenzo. “I must see to my guest.” He gestured to the men in his courtyard, indicating that Drake should rejoin them. “You will wait together until I return.”

    Drake held his gaze for a long moment, as if wanting to ascertain whether Lorenzo was lying. If Erik had not been waiting, if he had not needed every bit of his strength, Lorenzo might have tried to beguile the leader of the Dragon’s Tooth Warriors.

    Just to find out whether it could be done.

    But as it was, he was annoyed and surprised, precisely the way he did not want to be before a performance. Perhaps his irritation showed. Perhaps Drake knew that Lorenzo was more like Erik than he would have liked others to believe. Perhaps Drake recognized that Erik was close enough to aid his cause if necessary.

    Because it took only a moment for Drake to incline his head and step back to join his men. He folded his arms across his chest and fixed his stare on the sliding glass door when Lorenzo locked it.

    They both knew that Drake could rip it open if he so chose, that he could break into the house and take whatever the hell it was that he thought was owed to him. They were all dragon shape shifters and it was courtesy that made Drake step back, not fear.

    Because he wanted something. What?

    Who had summoned Drake?

    If Lorenzo hadn’t known for a fact that his father was clinging to the last tendrils of life, he would have known where to find the answer.

    As it was, he wondered who had set him up.

    * * *

    An hour later when Lorenzo returned to the courtyard, the angle of the sun had changed.

    And the courtyard was empty.

    He unlocked the door, just to check. There was no sign of Drake and his men, not even a faint whiff of their peculiar scent in the air.

    Even though Drake had been determined to have whatever it was he believed he was owed, he’d left. Had he gotten whatever he’d been promised, or had he changed his mind? Lorenzo couldn’t imagine that Drake surrendered a fight easily. It made no sense.

    Unless someone else had summoned Drake.

    Unless someone else had given Drake what had been promised.

    Lorenzo eyed the window blind on the second floor. He shut and locked the door, then raced up the stairs and strode to the apartment in that corner. It was dark in the luxuriously appointed rooms, dark and still. He stood in the shadows of the doorway and listened to the long slow rhythm of his father’s sleep.

    No, Salvatore was still hibernating. Lorenzo’s suspicions melted. His father was only the ghost of what he had been, his vitality having faded abruptly this last century. It was a miracle, truly, that he was still alive. Salvatore couldn’t be roused that quickly these days, was often confused, and took a long time to settle back to sleep again.

    Salvatore’s days of making mischief were over.

    Lorenzo was honest enough to admit to himself that he missed them.

    He left his father’s apartment, still thinking. Drake must have simply given up. It was long odds but not impossible. Even Pyr could be less than perfectly predictable.

    Lorenzo returned to his plans for the massive spectacle he was planning, vaguely disquieted and distracted.

    It hadn’t just been Erik’s visit. It wasn’t just the firestorm burning in the distance. It was the prickle of darkfire. He shook his head, pitying the unfortunate Pyr who had been saddled with this particular firestorm and its complications. There couldn’t be a woman alive who was worth as much trouble as darkfire could create.

    But what Lorenzo didn’t realize was the extent to which the darkfire would change the world of the Pyr. The fact that he even sensed its blue-green flicker meant that it was changing him, as well.

    It would be months before he realized that the third darkfire crystal, the one he had kept secured in his hoard for centuries, had vanished without a trace.

    Chapter One

    Alexander winced when he smelled the darkfire crystal heating.

    As the Dragon’s Tooth Warrior with the keenest sense of smell, he always knew the stone was warming, even before the strange light within it began to flicker. Sure enough, his leader Drake lifted the crystal and held it aloft.

    That blue-green light flashed within the stone, like lightning trapped in a bottle.

    “Yet again,” Drake said beneath his breath. If Alexander hadn’t been Pyr, he would not have heard the softly uttered words. “It’s relentless.”

    Alexander could only agree. He was exhausted, like all of the others, terrified to wander away or risk sleep so long as they kept guard over the unpredictable stone.

    Drake gave Alexander, his second in command, a sharp look. “Find the others.” His eyes filled with a panic that Alexander shared. “Now!”

    There was no telling how long it would take the stone to work its strange sorcery. Sometimes it shone for hours before anything changed. Sometimes it lit to brilliance in seconds.

    But when it flared its most brilliant light, the one that nearly blinded them all, the Dragon’s Tooth Warriors were hurled through space and time.

    They would feel the rushing of the wind and feel the sensation of being transported.

    And when they opened their eyes, their location would be changed.

    It was a strange and unsettling sorcery.

    And these warriors had seen their share of sorcery. They’d been beguiled by an ancient viper, enchanted to take the form of dragon’s teeth, trapped for millennia until they’d been set free in a future that defied expectation. Their leader, Drake, had changed his name, perhaps to indicate that he was no longer the Pyr he once had been. It was so apt that Alexander didn’t even think of Drake as Stephanos any more.

    In contrast, Alexander felt he continued to survive an ordeal, one that only made him yearn more strongly for the wife and son he’d left behind, one that made him more of what he had always been.

    The first time the darkfire had worked its magic had been immediately after Drake closed his hand over the stone, at Lorenzo’s home. Since then, it had occurred three more times. Alexander was not even certain where they had been.

    The group of Pyr had almost immediately realized that only those within some measure of proximity to the crystal were carried along with the company, and this was the cause of their concern. Who knew what had become of the others? Alexander doubted he was the only one haunted by the uncertainty.

    With a single shout from Alexander, the other warriors raced closer. Alexander saw his own distrust of the crystal echoed in the wary expressions of his companions.

    “Wonder where we’re going this time,” Peter muttered in his usual grim tone. Peter was the oldest of all of them, a ferocious warrior independent of his age. He tended to expect the worst, a perspective the darkfire crystal was unlikely to change.

    His view, however, did little to bolster the confidence of the team and Alexander wished he would be more optimistic.

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