Dragons are nothing but monsters and they all deserve to die.
My father was all I had left and they took him from me.
All alone, I wished for death.
When it came for me, I was stolen by a dragon prince risen from the ice.
Even though I fight it...
Even though I should hate Adan for what he is...
I burn for him beneath his heated kisses.
I give in to his possessive, demanding touch.
And I know that I belong to no-one else but him.
She sees me as her enemy, but she is destined to be mine.
For so long my dragon was asleep.
Until it woke when my fated mate cried out in the darkness.
I saved Xia from death's embrace so she could be held in mine.
Her softness and sweet scent drive me crazy with need.
I never want to let her go.
Yet she does not want to stay.
Amid the fight against the danger harming my people, I will show her that I am not her enemy.
I am the one meant for her.
Dragon's Claim is a steamy sci-fi dragon shifter fated mates romance. It stars a handsome, powerful alien dragon shifter warrior falling in love with a beautiful, broken yet quietly strong human woman.
Here’s something nobody ever tells you about dreams: having them is the easiest part of the process. Making them come true, making them real takes a lot of fucking courage.
Sometimes much more courage than you have.
As you’re standing there on the edge ready to take the leap, all sorts of doubts come crawling out from wherever they’re hiding. They’re ready to pull you backward into the darkness of dreaming about your dreams instead of letting you accomplish them.
They say, “You can’t. You’re not ready. You’ll fail.”
And you believe them because not having the dream fulfilled yet is what you’re accustomed to. It’s nice to just dream about the dream because it’s easy and safe and doesn’t demand much commitment. This new state of meeting your goal is scary. More so if you’ve endured some painful experiences getting to that point. It would suck if after all that work and effort and hurting, you failed. You lose. You prove you’re nothing.
So, yeah. That’s why I, Xia Nie, am standing just inside the gates of the Andrak and not outside of it.
I’ve always dreamt of leaving this damned place and now that I can, I’m terrified.
Turning away from the open gate—still a rare and unbelievable sight after so many enur of seeing it closed, locked and heavily guarded—I survey the towering, glass structure that used to be my home and my prison.
The Andrak is where I was born and raised to be a zevyet to my rur draki zevyena. My mother killed herself shortly after bringing me into this world, and aside from missing her when I was old enough to be cognizant of her absence, I grew to accept she took the easiest way out.
Better to take your own life than to have it stolen from you by those who considered your existence worthless.
I was a slave for all my twenty-four years of existence until my friend, Seela Pith, came in with her wild hair and selfless attitude, and freed humans from slavery to the Andrasari draki by falling in love with their prince, Theron Visclaud.
Amid the painful memories that overshadow the Andrak are some good ones too. Like learning to become an electrician and seeing my work being used and valued, or getting stolen treats after curfew from my dad, or fooling around with Jogen—
They both burned.
Can’t you hear them screaming?*
Breathing harshly, I turn away from the Andrak as Seela’s question to me before I left her haunt me.
Where will you go?
Who the fuck knows?
Just as long as it’s not here.
Not here to remind me that I’m alone now.
That my dad is gone.
That he literally ate the fire and it was all my fault.
Frankly, I should have left a lot sooner, but I was too afraid of leaving without knowing where to go. I became that animal in a story my dad once told me. Imprisoned by its master for so long that when its cage was opened and it was told it was free, it preferred to stay in its cage because that’s all it knew.
I hid behind the excuse of work, sticking around to finish wiring the equipment for the new expansion on the Andrak. Now that it’s over, I have no more excuses. This animal has to leave its cage once and for all. I can’t let my father’s death be in vain.
Out in the late morning, the sun’s warmth bathes my skin. The sky is a startling, cloudless stretch of blue that calms me and gives me courage. Holding my bag tighter to me, I take the few steps necessary to be outside of the gates.
Then I stand still again.
Kahafura’s tits, I’m really out beyond the gates of the Andrak for the first time in my life. Furthermore, no Andrasari zevyena is descending on me in righteous fury, electrocuting me for violating the rules. Amazed, I stand there not knowing what to do. Not for the first time, I touch my bare neck, still surprised that the collar is gone.
I turn in the direction of the yelling. Someone races toward me. It’s only when they’re about to bowl me over that I recognize it’s Tess. Jogen’s younger sister. She envelops me in a tight embrace, her skin warm against mine from her running. A faint metallic scent clings to her since she works as a mechanic in the air cruiser station.
She releases me from the hug, but grips my upper arms as she grins at me. I’m of average height, but Tess has at least a head on me. She is slimmer than me too. Her hazel eyes glitter with excitement, strands of her waist-length chestnut hair loosened from her hair tie and wafting idly along her forehead and cheek.
“I’ve been looking all over for you.”
“How come you’re still here?” I ask. “I thought you went with your parents to live in the Free City.”
“Fuck the Free City.” She releases me and bats the air with her hand. “Mom and Dad are happy to grow old in peace with all the other freed humans, but there’s no way I’m going to settle down when I can go wherever I want.”
Her features and the carefree way she speaks reminds me so much of Jogen that a pang of sadness hits me. As much as I’d never truly loved Jogen as I should have, I still cared for him. Losing him so brutally, especially on the heels of losing my father has only served to strengthen the pain.
Yet another person who’s dead because of me.
Anger and grief stirs inside me and I just want to get away. Maybe if I walk fast enough, none of this awful feeling will follow me.
“Good for you, Tess,” I say, smiling tightly. “I hope you have fun.”
“That’s why I was looking for you. Wanna come with?”
“No.” I say bluntly.
Tess remains undeterred. “I don’t have anywhere specific I want to go. If you do, I can go with you instead if that’s what you’d prefer.”
I fold my arms. “I’d prefer to go wherever I’m going by myself.”
“But that’s not safe, Xia.” She purses her lips. “Humans might be free from the Andrasari but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other draki that might want us dead on sight out there.”
She’s struck a still sore nerve. She flinches when she realizes this and hastens to correct her mistake by changing the subject.
“Look, I have an air cruiser.” She pushes the loose strands of hair out of her face and gives me a tentative smile. “It’s an outdated model, but it’s mine and it works. Perks of being a station slave.”
My courage is flagging from leaving behind the Andrak and all that I know to face the unknown. Standing here just outside its gates talking to Tess is testing my resolve.
“I don’t know—”
“You know it makes sense. You’re heading out on foot but I can take you wherever you need to go much faster in the cruiser.” She clasps her hands and bounces on her feet, her features twisted with anxious hope. “Please say yes. Please.” She stretches out the word in a pleading tone. “Don’t make me go to the Free City because I’m too much of a coward to go it alone.”
It’s on the tip of my tongue to deny her again, because the last person I’d want to be my companion is her. Her presence will just be a constant reminder of Jogen and that he’s dead. One of many sad memories I’m trying to escape by leaving the Andrak. But maybe I can overcome that. Maybe being with her might help me heal faster. Maybe being with me is her way of healing from losing Jogen too.
Besides, she has a point. It would be safer to have company on the journey. We’re both afraid of the unknown, so maybe we can stomach the experience if we’re together.
“All right.” I say finally. “Let’s go together.”
“Yes!” Tess squeals, jumps and claps at the same time. I roll my eyes at her, but a small smile tugs at my lips at her exuberance. She has always been that sort of person: loud, dramatic, endlessly upbeat. Jogen used to say that a person like Tess wasn’t meant for our bleak existence. “So, where were you planning to go?”
“I don’t know.” I shrug. “Maybe Tarro? I heard it’s open minded to all species.”
“Sounds good to me.” She nods once then sets off, indicating I follow her. “Come on. Let me show you my most prized possession. You will be absolutely blown away by her beauty.”
Tess leads me to the station where rows of sleek, black air cruisers populate a large, open lot. My decision to have her accompany me appears to have been an excellent choice.
That’s until she comes to a stop at a cruiser that’s separate from the others. It’s in a dark, dusty corner, and even in the limited light, it’s obvious it’s no beauty. More like an ugly beast. The machine is dented and scratched in several areas. Multiple cracks adorn the glass hood, one of them probably as long as my arm.
“Are you sure that thing even works?” I ask Tess, eyeing the cruiser with doubt.
Tess waves as if sweeping away my concern.
“Of course she works,” she says gently patting the side of the cruiser. The door handle facing us immediately swings free before clattering to the floor. Tess scrambles for it and twists it back on with a nervous laugh. “I call her Betsy. Betsy’ll get us wherever we need to go, won’t you Bets?” She rubs the cruiser lovingly then grins at me. “Hop in.”
Tess slides her long, slim frame into the cruiser, slinging her bag in the back. I go around the other side and climb in keeping my bag perched on my lap. It’s a bit sad that all of my important belongings can fit in a bag. But some of them are precious memorabilia of my dad. I look around curiously at the various knobs and buttons. I’ve never ridden one of these before. Come to think of it, there’s a lot of things I’ve probably never seen or done in life.
Tess touches a few buttons and Betsy vibrates to life. Judders is the more accurate term. My teeth rattle in my head as Tess taps a few buttons on the console screen. A map appears and she sets a marker for Tarro.
“All right!” Tess exclaims, slapping her hands on the steering. “Two human females journeying where none have gone before! Look out, Rur!”
When she guides Betsy forward, the juddering transforms into a violent shaking accompanied by groaning. Something clangs incessantly in Betsy’s innards. The noise must be loud because it draws the attention of a few station workers who regard us with expressions varying from worry, shock and amusement.
Terrified, I cling to whatever I can as the cruiser jerks forward once before slowly puttering upward into the air. Tess whispers encouragement to it which further reinforces my doubt that this thing is safe. Kahafura save our souls, we’re in a flying metal death trap.
Two human females journeying where many have gone before—to their deaths!
Once in the air, however, the cruiser proves me wrong. Tess guides it capably along the marked pathways. Andrasar City and its towering, glimmering buildings zoom by below us. It takes my breath away and makes me forget all that fear and anger that’s been living inside me for so long.
“Isn’t it beautiful?” says Tess. And I nod silently. All I’ve ever seen were the depressing grey walls of the Andrak. Now here I am high above the city, the lush greenness of the forest beyond beckoning us forward.
I wish you were here to see this, Dad.
As we soar above the ground, Tess tries to engage me in conversation. Though I participate, there comes a point where I just no longer want to talk.
Several sen go by as Tess drives. Late morning becomes late afternoon. I get suspicious we’re no longer on our way to Tarro because it’s the closest region to Andrasar. I’ve never been there, but the cruiser is puttering along at a good clip. Surely we should have been there by now? Frowning at the map, I’m alarmed to see that not only am I right, we’re crossing over Yohai. Much further north than we should be.
“Tess! You were supposed to take us to Tarro!” I say, irritated.
Tess winces. “I know. But I thought you’d want to see a few other places first. Yohai has some pretty lakes and I wanted to draw them—”
Her words are cut short when a loud bang sounds from the front of the cruiser and thick black smoke puffs out from it. The console screen flickers before it shuts off.
We’re no longer on a marked path but in open air.
Below us is nothing but trees.
Tess inhales sharply. “Oh. Fuck.”
“‘Oh fuck’? What does that mean?” I screech in alarm.
I get my answer when the steady hum signifying that Betsy was on and keeping us safely in the air dies. We come to a hard stop then immediately plummet to the ground like a falling stone.
“This is what oh fuck means!” Tess screams.
She still has control of navigation so she steers the cruiser as best as she can toward a clearing. In the distance I glimpse beautiful, snow covered mountains. Too bad I won’t live long enough to see them up close. I’m clenching my teeth so tightly, a mild headache manifests. But headaches are the least of my worries. Death’s a-calling and Tess and I are about to answer.
My heart thuds hard in my chest and in my ears. My nails dig into my seat with enough force to puncture the material. Tess’s knuckles are white as she holds on to the cruiser’s steering with a death grip. Gone are the sweet and loving encouragements to Betsy. An unending string of curses mixed in with prayers let loose from her lips.
“Goddess be damned you fucking piece of shit metal. You better not kill us, Betsy. You better not kill us! Please, Kahafura, please! We’re too young and pretty to die!”
Our landing is violent as we impact with solid ground. Despite the harness keeping me strapped to my seat, my body is still shaken vigorously. Betsy keeps going, dragging along the earthen floor, the squeal of metal ear-piercing and awful until we come to a shuddering stop.
The black smoke from the front of the cruiser is thicker. Heat spreads throughout the inside too.
“Tess, it’s a fire!”
“Run!” Tess shouts, already propelling herself from the cruiser.
I struggle out after her. We’re only seconds away when the cruiser explodes.