Tessa Adams
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Dark Embers

Dark EmbersDragon’s Heat, Book 1
NAL Trade (July 6, 2010)
ISBN-10: 0451230582
ISBN-13: 978-0451230584

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What the Critics Say | Read an Excerpt

King Dylan MacLeod is one of the last pure-bred dragon shapeshifters in existence—and ruler of a dying race, the Dragonstar clan. It falls to him to protect his people—and their ancient magic. He has one more duty: to provide an heir.

Like all dragons, Dylan can only procreate with his destined mate—for whom he’s searched for five hundred years. His dark, rampant sexual appetite has earned him quite the reputation, all in the pursuit of his one true match.

But his search is delayed when a deadly disease sweeps through the Dragonstars, and Dylan must venture to the human world to find a cure. He tracks down renowned biochemist Phoebe Quillum, never imagining the beautiful scientist will be the mate he’s been seeking for centuries. But no sooner do they meet then Phoebe and Dylan are besieged by an obsessive, overpowering sexual desire.

Their passion turns to something truer—and they know in their souls and bodies that they’re in too deep to get out. And when Phoebe is kidnapped by Dylan’s oldest enemy, he must risk everything to reclaim the only woman he’s ever loved, or his clan will be wiped out forever.

Praise for DARK EMBERS

Written in a compelling voice, DARK EMBERS introduces a sexy and intriguing new world. I’m looking forward to seeing where Tessa Adams takes her dragons next. — NY Times Bestselling Author Nalini Singh

DARK EMBERS is a blistering hot, fast-paced adventure that will leave readers breathless. Dylan and Phoebe have great chemistry and a romantic story that will captivate you and keep you turning pages longinto the night. I’m really looking forward to the next book in the series! — NY Times Bestselling Author Anya Bast

DARK EMBERS is a steaming hot and wonderfully entertaining erotic romance with the perfect balance of sex and plot … For erotic romance fans that love and want an engaging paranormal plot, uber alpha males, and explosive sex, DARK EMBERS is a must read. — Lovin Me Some Romance

I really liked Dark Embers … It is fun, the plot is refreshingly solid …and the dragon element gives the story a light paranormal touch. — All About Romance

Adams’ first installment in the Dragon’s Heat series has dragon-sized passion and alpha males galore. — RT Book Reviews

DARK EMBERS by Tessa Adams is a definite must read … From the very beginning to a very surprising ending, I enjoyed every facet of DARK EMBERS. — Two Lips Reviews

If your looking for a fast paranormal read featuring suspense, hot shifters and even hotter sex then look no further. — Smexy Book

DARK EMBERS is definitely worth checking out if you are looking for something a little different in the dragon shifter category. Can’t wait to read more from Tessa Adams! — The Muses Circle

Read an Excerpt

Prologue

Dark EmbersHe’d failed. Again.

Locked inside his head, tormented by shades of what might have been, Dylan MacLeod stepped into the night and closed the heavy, wooden door behind him.

He paused for a moment, sucked in a deep breath full of heat and sand and misery. Told himself it was no big deal. Part of him even believed it.

After four hundred and seventy years, he was damn good at lying to himself.

Shoving away from the small house with the cactus garden and the stone swimming pool in the front yard, he walked the deserted street rapidly. It was three a.m., and his only company was a scorpion or two. The desert was quiet, the night solemn.

And he had failed again.

With each step he took, his conscience grew heavier.

With each footfall, his heart grew colder, until he was once again at that place without hope. It was where he usually existed, where he’d spent the last century, mired in guilt and rage and a fear he refused to admit.

That he was here now was his own fault. It had been stupid, even for a moment, to truly believe that she might have been the one.

Agitation made him walk faster, until his boots were pounding the pavement in rhythm with his too-quick pulse. Self-disgust made him shut down inside, until all he could think of was the night.

The stars.

The moon shining brilliantly over the desert.

At least until his jeans sagged around his ass.

With a muttered curse, Dylan yanked the faded denim back into place. Slid the button through the tab, jerked up the zipper.

What did it say about him that this latest encounter had left him so desperate to get away that he hadn’t stayed long enough even to get his clothes on properly? Worse, he hadn’t bothered to say good-bye to Eve . . . Eva? Eden?

For a brief moment, he struggled to remember her name, what she looked like. Then let it go, as it mattered less than nothing. It wasn’t like he’d be seeing her again. Within moments of slipping inside her, he’d figured out that she wasn’t the one—none of the signs were there.

No instant connection between them, as his clan mates so often spoke about.

No burning as the tattoo around his arm shifted to reflect the presence of his mate.

Dark EmbersNo searing pain as a part of her soul arrowed into his.

Nothing but a mediocre orgasm that had barely given his powers a pulse. Before she’d rolled off him, he’d been plotting his escape. And by the time the shower had kicked on in the bathroom, he’d been halfway to the front door.

God, he was a fucked-up bastard. Cold as ice, despite the fire that raged within him. Hot as flame, despite the glacier that had taken up residence in his stomach. Was it any wonder, then, that he couldn’t find her?
He didn’t deserve her.

His laugh, when it came, was anything but humorous. That had to be the understatement of the year. The decade. The new millennium, and probably the old one, as well. Why else would it have taken him this long to do what everyone else managed in the first two centuries of their existence? Why else would he be doomed to failure night after night, encounter after encounter? He had screwed up generations ago, and now he and his clan were paying the cosmic price. Big time.

His boots ate up the streets in the sleepy little town, as he struggled to put distance between himself and his latest sexual escapade. Wind whipped around him, played with the tails of his shirt, caressed his bare chest. But Dylan didn’t bother buttoning up. What was the point, when he was headed right back to the bar to find yet another female shifter interested in taking it off?

Hope sprang eternal.

As he walked, he scanned the desert around him. Checked out every brush of the wind against cactus; narrowed his eyes at the rustle behind a random pile of heavy rocks. Then shook his head as a low, deep howl split the air next to him. A lonely coyote was the least of his problems.

If someone had told him four hundred years ago that he would be here, in this place, he would have laughed at them. If they’d told him he would grow tired of night after night of hot, anonymous sex, he would have told them they were insane. But youth was like that—arrogant, seemingly invincible, convinced the world was for the taking. Or at least that’s how his youth had been.

He’d spent centuries gorging on women, taking them each and every way he could. Glutting himself on their scent and taste and feel, until his powers reached staggering heights. Devouring whatever they gave him with a grin and a wink and a softly whispered “Thank you.”

He had plenty of time, he’d told his father when the man had advised him to settle down. He was trying to find the right woman, he’d promised his mother when she’d fretted about the future. And then, from one heartbeat to the next, everything had changed.

His brother had been murdered. His parents had died soon after. He’d been crowned king. And just that suddenly, his people, his legacy, were without an heir. Bad enough that the second son was now the king. That he couldn’t find a mate, couldn’t deliver on his family’s legacy, was a nightmare.

There were others—his sister, his niece—who could take his place if he fell. But it wouldn’t be the same. The line of succession, which had remained in his family for more than three thousand years, would fall with him.

One more fuckup from a man who had never wanted to be king in the first place.

Dark EmbersDylan shoved the thought away—what he wanted didn’t play into things anymore. What was best for his people did. And what was best for them now was that he provide them an heir.

He should already have done so, should already have guaranteed his people’s survival through this millennia and into the next. God knew he had tried—for nearly four hundred years, he had tried. And he had failed.

No mate meant no heir.

No mate meant night after night of anonymous sex as he searched for her.

No mate meant a dwindling in his powers that was not just devastating, but downright dangerous—for himself and his people.

His was a precarious state of events for any centuries-old dragon, but for him it was an out-and-out disaster—particularly considering the state his clan was in.

Not that an heir would solve all the problems, but it would solve the most pressing—including the fact that it had been far too many years since a young dragon had been born to Dragonstar.

Far too long since they’d had something to celebrate.

His cell phone vibrated in his pocket, and for one brief second Dylan considered ignoring it. The day had been dismal enough—any more bad news and he might just take flight and never return. The idea was far more inviting than it should have been, far more compelling than it had ever been before.

In the end, he grabbed his phone and flipped it open. Barked “Hello” in a voice he knew was far from welcoming. He was king of the Dragonstar clan, and as such could never be unavailable to his people. That didn’t mean he had to like it—especially tonight.

“Dylan, come quick.”

A shot of uneasiness worked its way down his spine at the panic in his best friend’s—and second- in-command’s—voice. As a rule, nothing fazed Gabe.

“What’s wrong?”

“It’s Marta. She’s—” Gabe’s voice broke. “She’s sick.”

His stomach plummeted to his boots. “Are you sure?”

His brother-in-law’s voice was hoarse. “I’m sure. I tried to deny the symptoms, to ignore them, but that’s not possible anymore. I don’t think—” His voice broke again. “I don’t think she’s going to make it through this.”

“I’ll be there in ten minutes.” Dylan was already running, his boots echoing in the deserted street as he stripped his shirt from his body. He didn’t bother with the pants or boots; they would take too long. Just blurred his image as he started to shift.

Pain—red-hot and intense—as bones broke, reshaped, grew longer.

Pleasure—acute and all-consuming—as he became what he was meant to be.

He ignored both sensations; concentrated instead on making it through the change. One more second. Two. And then he was in the air, his wings spread wide as he soared through the star-bright sky.

Not Marta, not Marta, not Marta. The simple phrase was a mantra in his head as he sped toward his lieutenant’s house, making sure to stay invisible, despite the panic racing through him. So many of his friends, so many of his clan, had been taken from him in the last years. He couldn’t stand to lose his sister—Gabe’s wife—too.

Please, God, not his baby sister, too.

Dark EmbersBut when he landed in Gabe’s yard, he knew his prayers had, once again, gone unanswered. He could smell the blood from outside the house, could hear his sister’s nonsensical mutterings through the walls of dense stone.

Marta was bleeding out.

Delirious.

Probably already paralyzed.

If her illness followed the same pattern all the others had, she would be dead before the next moonrise. And there was nothing he could do about it.

Inside him, the power sputtered to life, surged through him. The need to heal, to fix, to do what he was destined to do. But he’d tried it so many times before on so many of his clan members, and each time, he had failed. This disease was an enemy he didn’t know how to fight.

Rage and anguish welled within him, crushing his lungs and twisting his spine into hard knots. Throwing back his head, Dylan roared with all his pent-up fury—then went inside to watch his baby sister die.

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