An alien dragon king meets his fated mate in a woman from Earth. With conflict brewing in the kingdom, will he be forced to make a heart-breaking choice?
When I came to the subterranean kingdom of Driegon as a mail-order bride, I didn’t expect the dragon king to sweep me off my feet, take flight, and claim me as his mate. He says a mythical mating ritual called the Torrent proves we’re fated. Yeah, sure. Then I find out he’s almost engaged. He insists he’ll find a way for us to be together, but I’ve fallen for pretty lies before, and I won’t give my heart again easily.
To end a war among the factions of my Driegon people, I must marry the daughter of a rival warlord. I’ve accepted my fate. Until I meet Bella, one of three Earthlings brought to my kingdom as mail-order brides. One touch, and my blood roars through me–the first sign of the Torrent. We’re fated and I ache to claim her, yet I cannot betray my people. But the heart of a dragon will not be denied.
MALAC, the first novel in the Brides of Driegon series by bestselling alien romance author Ava Ross.
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About the Book
by Ava Ross
Brides of Driegon
January 29, 2021
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A Brides of Driegon Novel
© 2021 Ava Ross
“Then you agree to marry Cuzon Vouster’s daughter?” my uncle asked, his thick, scaled brow shaft wedging inward. His slitted eyes remain focused on me, filled with a mixture of sympathy and resolve.
We sat in my office on the fourth floor of the Driegon Castle, sipping glasses of whiskern. A cluster of spitzer bugs flickered in the upper corner of the ceiling, highlighting the bookcase below filled with ancient tombs my father loved. Since his death, I hadn’t touched them. I would need to clean them out someday, but I wasn’t ready for the pain I’d feel packing them into boxes. Maybe I could do it next lunair. Or the lunair after that.
“I was not aware Brunjar had a sister,” I said. Not that Brunjar and I spoke much about our personal lives, but he was a member of my elite guard. One would think he would’ve mentioned her to me in passing.
“That is not an answer to my question. And she is his half-sister. Her mother raised her at the family estate in the mountains. I only learned of her recently myself. I understand she is beautiful.”
Her appearance truly did not matter. “I appreciate your effort on my behalf, Uncle,” I said. After my parents died and I assumed the crown, he left his estates in the mountains and moved to the capital to give me guidance. There wasn’t anyone I trusted more than him. “Yet… Marriage to someone I do not know.”
“She will arrive in the city soon. Meet her. Talk with her. You will see. This will work very well for you. For the kingdom.”
I heaved out a sigh. Leaning back in my chair, I clasped my durclaws together on my chest. My tail thudded on the floor behind me while I watched my uncle shift in his chair. This seemed so reasonable. Why did I hesitate? “My issue is not with the daughter. Assuming she agrees, she will do as well as any other bride. But I always hoped…”
“You wish for a love match through the Torrent,” Uncle Grenik said. “And I well understand, having matched through the Torrent myself.” He leaned forward. “You know the odds of that happening now are slim.”
“There is still a chance.”
“With only a handful of females left in the kingdom? Besides, the Torrent is for those without responsibility, not the leader of a vast kingdom. It is better for you to marry someone who brings an alliance.”
It was not better. There was nothing wrong with wishing for love.
“My parents found each other through the Torrent and their match served the kingdom well,” I said. “My mother’s death devastated our people.” She died of the plague that swept through my kingdom a yaro ago. My father died not long after, unable to go on without her, something rare in Torrent matches, but my father had succumbed.
As an adult, I should not feel abandoned. If only my father had found a way to keep going after her death. For me, if not for himself.
Grief creased my uncle’s face. “So many lost lives, most of them our females. We are a people in mourning; a race with little hope for our future. You can give them that hope by agreeing to this match with the Zoad Clan. They offer a substantial dowry.”
I’ve never approved of the ancient tradition of buying a female a match. Everyone should be free to choose. “We have more dinars than we can spend in three lifetimes. What good is coin? A male cannot hold it in his arms. It will not bring him lasting joy.”
If only I could feel the heartspire thrill of the Torrent, that aching need to be with one special person. My chest tightened, and I wanted to gnash my teeth. Was I wrong to hold onto this scrap of hope for a full Torrent?
“You are our king. A new ruler who is still gathering the reins of responsibility. Trust me in this. Now is the time to solidify allies, to make agreements that will benefit the kingdom. Our truce with the Zoad Clan is shaky and could fall apart, plunging us back into a war that could destroy us all. Marry her and the Zoad insurgents will back down.”
I wasn’t sure a marriage between me and the cuzon’s daughter would be enough to bring a halt to the conflict, but I didn’t bring that up. My uncle was trying to be helpful. He had worked hard to foster this arrangement for me. I should be grateful. I needed to put aside my own needs and focus on those of my kingdom. Peace was more important than love.
My uncle leaned forward, compressing his forearm aleern feathers on the arms of the chair. “I will tell the cuzon you have agreed?”
For some reason, I could not force a yes past my mouth. Why did I hesitate? I had met almost every surviving female in the kingdom and a Torrent spark had not been lit. It did not matter if I loved this Zoad match or not, though I would do my best to care for her and treat her kindly.
I could find a way to be happy.
“I must tell the cuzon your decision soon.” Uncle Grenik shook his head, sorrow creasing the paling scales on his face. His shoulder impaler spikes had taken on a gray tinge since my father’s death as well. He’d aged during the past lunairs, as had we all. “Your father—“
“If he were here, he would encourage me to find love through the Torrent.”
“He would ask you to do what was needed to secure the kingdom.”
Would he? Or would he give me the freedom to make my own decision? The head healer said his heart gave out, overcome with grief. But after the recent attempt on my life, I wondered…
Someone knocked on the door. The lead cuzon of my elite guard, Drace, poked his head through the opening. His sever spikes rippled from his forehead, across the middle of his scaled head, and down the back of his neck, a sign of agitation.
“They will arrive within minars,” Drace said, his voice filled with gruff eagerness. He would be excited, since he was one of the twenty males chosen to meet and potentially create a Torrent match with one of the Earthling females. If this group formed marriages, Earth would send more women. It was a chance for our species to thrive once again.
When the disease decimated my kingdom, it also struck Earth, killing most of their males. Rumors of Earth-Crakairian matches reached us, and when I heard the females could form full matebonds, I approached the Crakairian government to arrange an introduction to Earth. We formed an alliance, and the first group of females was traveling through the subterranean passages beneath the surface of Crakair this minar.
“Thank you,” I said, and Drace shut the door. “I need to go,” I told my uncle, standing.
He peered up at me through his dark slitted eyes. “The cuzon’s daughter?”
I could not. Not yet. “Give me a few daelas to decide.”
I held up my hand. “The cuzon can wait.” The entire Zoad Clan could wait. A few daelas would not make a difference.
My father once called me a dreamer. He said I flew too high and wanted too much, that I needed to ground myself in my future role as heir to the kingdom. Perhaps he was right. I had dreamed too long about what could not be. It was time to accept the duties that came with the crown I now wore. This included marrying the Cuzon’s daughter.
Love found through the Torrent was for other males. Not me.
My uncle followed me down the stairs to the second floor, but we split on the landing overlooking the main entrance hall, him continuing to his quarters. I paused to peer over the balcony. Below, the marble floor gleamed. The Fritzen staff had outdone themselves, polishing and cleaning, and filling pots with dark-blooming flowers. Their sweet essence perfumed the air.
It wasn’t often I saw my home as an outsider might, and I was proud of how this ancient building presented itself. The materials used to construct the castle had been painstakingly crafted ages ago from stone harvested deep within the fiery Caverns of Blithe, where it was said our people originated, cast from the very flames themselves.
The front door opened, and a battalion of guards preceded a group of emissaries, a few males, and a flock of women. The military battalion bowed en masse to the group and filed back out through the front door, one of them shutting it behind him.
The Crakairians warned us Earthlings might be frightened by our reptilian features. To present a less intimidating appearance, I arranged for a respected Driegon male with a more human-like form to greet our guests.
Flendor, an older signet male with short horns, nubby sever spikes on his spine, and lacking the majestic wings many of us took pride in, strode forward and bowed. His tail flicked back and forth and one of the Earthlings released a squeak much like a youngling asptral. The others fluttered around her, peering at everything within sight. Would they see the beauty of the Driegon world?
“Welcome,” Flendor said. “I hope your journey was pleasant.” I was grateful he remembered the correct greeting.
The images the Crakairians sent did not compare to seeing an Earthling in person. They…amazed me, from the fluff on their heads to their limbs coated with a smooth, unscaled surface in varying shades of tan and brown.
One of the females stepped forward and bowed, her gown swishing across her calves. “I’m Ambassador Smythe.” The stately appearing elder fingered her necklace and spread her lips wide, revealing blunted white teeth.
Flendor jerked backward at the implied threat but quickly recovered. We were told Earthlings enjoyed making this teeth-baring gesture, that it meant goodwill. Still, it would take time to feel comfortable with it.
“It is nice to meet you,” Flendor said, using the appropriate Earth reply to an introduction. “I am Signet Flendor Ja’dir Albirt Trundesk, an emissary of the Driegon races.”
“A pleasure.” The Ambassador looked around and smoothed the gray bands bound in a knot at the nape of her neck. So strange not to see spikes on a person’s head. And how could she maintain her balance without a tail? The Ambassador gestured to a male standing at her side. I assumed it was a male as it did not possess the two chest accessories I heard distinguished Earthling males from females. “Allow me to introduce Justin Albright, a senior representative of Earth’s government.”
Justin Albright stepped forward, holding out his hand. When Flendor stared at the appendage, Justin Albright grabbed Flendor’s hand and pumped it. “Nice to meet you, Flen. All right to call you that—Flen?” While Flendor blinked slowly, the male peered around. “Fantastic. This is an awesome place you’ve got here.”
“Oh, I do not live here, Emissary Albright,” Flendor said. “This is the main palace. I have quarters within the city.”
“You know what I mean. And no need to be formal. Call me Justin,” Justin Albright—Joostenn, it sounded like—said, releasing Flendor’s hand and smacking him on the shoulder.
The guards standing on either side of the door hissed and their aleern feathers, the spikes on their lower arms, lifted, secreting toxin.
I waved for them to stand down. These beings were our guests. The motion on Joostenn’s part must be a gesture of friendship. I noted it for future use.
As if he sensed the threat, Joostenn spun to face the guards but shrugged and turned forward again when they stared at him blankly.
“Our photographer, Clara Devenshore, part of the ancillary staff,” the Ambassador said, tipping her head to a few females. One held a silver box close to her face. She moved around the vast lobby, depressing a tiny button on the side of the box. “Ladies?” She turned to the women fluttering behind her. “Step forward for introductions, if you will.”
One of them stepped forward, and I studied the golden fluff on this being’s—her—head and marveled again at the smooth material covering the exposed parts of her frame. We were told to expect no scales, but I could not believe this pale, speckled material would protect her in battle. And the fluff was called…hair.
Our healers had traveled to the surface of Crakair and after much persuasion, examined a female mated to a Crakairian. Upon their return, the healers assured us this species was physically and genetically compatible with Driegons. We could mate with them and they would not die birthing a clech of drieglings.
Thankfully, the healers warned us of their peculiar appearance.
“Emmaline Jones,” the Ambassador said, gesturing to the golden-haired female.
“Indie,” Emmaline said, flashing her teeth.
“Excuse me, dear?”
“Remember? I’m Emmaline Indie Jones. I love archaeology so it fits, right?”
“Yes, yes, of course.” Ambassador Smythe blinked as if she needed to gather her wits. “And here we have Bella Loring.” Her hand flicked to her left, to a female with fiery hair hanging in waves below her shoulders. Bella was outfitted in a formal Driegon day dress; she was so short that the hem skimmed her shoes instead of lying along her knees, as was usual when Driegon females wore clothing like this. However, she appeared average height when compared to the other Earthlings. Such a small race overall.
I studied Bella’s tiny form. How would a Driegon or Zoad warrior avoid crushing her during sex? Even the slightest Driegon female would tower over her. I would tower over her.
Why did I picture myself lifting her up so our mouths could meet? My heart pounded a furious beat in my ears. My chest tightened, and I gripped the railing, my fingers biting into the wood.
“Last, but not least,” the Ambassador said. Unable to take my gaze off Bella Loring, I only vaguely heard the next introductions. “Kristina Manning and Aria Gagnon.” She tugged on one of the women’s arms, dragging her forward. “Come now, dear. Don’t be shy. Say hello to the…Signet, was it?”
Flendor nodded and bowed again. “Signet Flendor Ja’dir Albirt Trundesk. I hope your journey was pleasant.”
“Yes,” one of the two said. She gulped and shot a panic-stricken glance toward Bella Loring. “Thank you.”
Joostenn strolled around the perimeter of the large room, and the female with the silver box followed him. He stopped in the double doorway leading to one of the many parlors. “All right to check it out, Flen?” he called out.
“Yes, yes, of course,” Flendor said.
Joostenn walked into the room with the box woman.
My gaze returned to Bella Loring, and my sever spikes prickled. My horns…
I must’ve made a sound because she looked up. Since I stood in the shadows, she could not see me, but I swore she sensed my presence. I knew this as well as I knew the scaling pattern on the backs of my hands.
My horns twitched. I reached up to touch them, but my hand dropped after making contact. Wonder filled me. My horns had grown. Straightened. And gone rigid.
This…was not possible.
As Bella continued to stare in my direction, the realization roared through me. I was experiencing the first phase of the Torrent, and this tiny Earthling made it happen.
She was my fated mate.
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About the Author
AVA ROSS fell for men with unusual features when she first watched Star Wars, where alien creatures have gone mainstream. She lives in New England with her husband (who is sadly not an alien, though he is still cute in his own way), her kids, and assorted pets, including a yorkie pup and three cats.
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