Can a fierce alien dragon warrior claim his mate before she’s stolen from him forever?
Aria: Determined to overcome my scaredy-cat status, I make a dare-me checklist. First on the list? Sign up for the Driegon mail-order bride selection. I didn’t expect to be accepted or to fall for one of the Driegons—a seven-foot-tall, scaled alien with wings, claws, a tail, and a gruff voice that makes my knees go weak. But when one of my challenges results in Drace and I being captured by a rival alien clan, it’s going to take a big dash of bravery on my part to save us.
Drace: The moment I met Aria; I knew she was my fated mate. With heartspire blood roaring through my veins, I’m eager to join with her in the Torrent. But we’re captured and taken to a secret encampment far from the subterranean Driegon kingdom. There, I’m forced to battle for my life in a combat ritual older than time. If I win, we are free to leave. And if I lose? Death for me and another warrior will claim Aria as his bride.
DRACE, the second standalone 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
February 26, 2021
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A Brides of Driegon Novel
© 2021 Ava Ross
Draceon Kaugvels Yel’gru Tolkix, leader of the king’s elite guard, was a drool-worthy, seven-foot-tall mass of sexy alien goodness from his glorious wings to his slitted eyes grayer than storm clouds chasing across the open sea. Whenever I drifted into his orbit, my knees shook, and my pheromone widgets went crazy.
He excited me. Intrigued me.
My dad would say I needed to confront the challenge Drace presented head-on, but each time I tried to work up the nerve to approach, talk, or, heaven forbid, touch him, I froze.
Today was going to be different. I was going to stride right up to him and let him—
“I can’t wait to meet the new guys,” Emma said from beside me. “You?”
Since we arrived here six days ago, we’d participated in one dating activity after another with eligible Driegon males. Like an alien dating show, we rode elidors with one group of guys, danced to bizarre music created by giant beetles with another, and even made our way through the garden maze with a third group. Each event was a chance to discover if one of the kingdom’s bachelor Driegons could strike a spark—literally—inside us.
Driegons were aliens descended from dragons. They had tails, horns, spikes down their spines, and they could actually breathe fire. When they met their fated mate, one touch would ignite the Torrent—a mysterious chemical reaction I’d yet to learn much about. They told us we’d understand once it happened.
I didn’t need to meet anyone else to know I found the Driegon I wanted to Torrent with. If I was in high school instead of past college, I’d be writing Aria Kaugvels Yel’gru Tolkix all over my notebooks.
“Tonight could be the night I meet the one,” Kristy said as we left the castle, took the bridge over the moat, and started down the path leading to the gardens. “These guys…” She sighed. “I’m not sure why I haven’t connected with any of them yet. Every single one of them is hot with a capital H.”
Only one was truly hot, but I was being picky.
Water churned in the channel encircling the castle. The river crossed this enormous, deep, dark valley, flowing from the white-capped mountains on one end to the exit of the cavern miles away on the opposite side, taking a detour around the castle to create the moat.
Pausing, I stared down into the murky depths. Emma and Kristy stopped with me.
“Creepy,” Emma said, hugging her waist as she peered over the rail. She released a full body quiver. “I think the reason I’m an archaeologist is because most everything I explore is long dead. Nothing is eager to crawl all over me.”
“Except bugs,” I pointed out. “There must be bugs at digs.”
“Sure, but I can nudge them aside. Unlike what’s down…there. No nudging those babies anywhere from what I’ve heard.”
Kristy leaned forward and pointed. “Look. It’s one of them!”
Shadows flickered along the bottom. Big shadows. They told us the moat hosted a family of culcharn, but I have yet to see one rise to the surface. I was curious about them. This entire world fascinated me.
Since snorkeling in the moat was number seven on my List of Daring, I was looking forward to getting to know these creatures better. Perhaps I could talk Kristy into joining me. She was a marine biologist. I wouldn’t have to ask her twice.
But that was for another time. Tonight, I had a meet-the-aliens in the garden soiree on my agenda. Tomorrow, we’d participate in games in the open field behind the castle. And tomorrow night, once everyone went to bed, I’d check off the fifth and sixth items on my List of Daring. I created the list to move me past my scared-of-everything status.
As she leaned over the rail, Kristy’s Driegon skirt swished across her calves. Lucky her to be of average Earth height. At five-one, my dress nearly dragged on the ground.
Earlier, we were primped and dressed in the height of Driegonian fashion in anticipation of tonight’s event, a cocktail party in the garden.
Kristy teased a few strands of black hair back up into one of the numerous living clips on her head. The fleiffer clip flapped its deep purple wings before settling down again. I was told various Driegon creatures were recruited to perform specific tasks in the kingdom in exchange for what they needed. A living barter system. I have yet to learn what the fleiffers got out of the hair adornment arrangement.
Turgeon, one of the skeletal Fritzen crew who kept the castle in pristine shape, did his best to artfully arrange our hair, but it often came out looking like a three-year-old did it. We’d been encouraged to accept his services after our hair stylist took off to Torrent with one of the Driegons not long after we arrived in the kingdom a week ago. She hadn’t returned, which made the Torrent all the more appealing and scarier. What was she doing with the Driegon male?
“We should get going or we’ll be late,” Emma said, inching along the bridge. “Maybe tonight, one of us will begin the Torrent.”
We learned about the Driegonian mating ritual from Bella, one of our group who found true love with the Driegonian king, but she hadn’t shared many details. She winked and told us we’d soon discover what the ritual included. At first touch, flames would flash from the Driegon to their fated mate, proving they were “the one”. After that, the two would go off and have wild alien sex. Something like that.
As for finding my Torrent mate, it wasn’t going well for me. After what happened with my mom, I was leery about touching anyone. So far, I’ve only connected fingers with Malac and by then, he was already taken. However, there was one particular Driegon I longed to touch, assuming I could get up the nerve.
Hurrying down the garden path beside my friends, I took in the glowing yellow flowers mounted on poles on either side of the walk. A bug buzzed near and landed on one of the flowers, and its petals snapped closed. The flower churned and wiggled before opening up again, revealing the bug was gone.
“Amazing and extra creepy,” Emma whispered, skittering away from the flowers with a high-pitched giggle.
“Kinda gruesome, don’t you think?” Kristy said, tiptoeing faster.
“One bug sucked into the belly means it’s time to catch another,” I said. This was the way of life. Eat or be eaten.
Emma shook her head at me but grinned.
“What?” I asked, striding to catch up to her, my shirt tangling around my ankles. I hiked it up, securing it in place—again—with my belt. Driegons were tall. Earthlings were tall. Everyone was tall, except me.
My shoes crunched on the… Actually, I wasn’t exactly sure what the walkway was made of. For all I knew, it was as alive as everything else here.
“Every time I think I’ve got you figured out, you surprise me,” Emma said in explanation.
I leaned into her side. Funny how I was able to find the nerve to touch my friends but not the only Driegon who interested me. “You think I’m timid. Shy. Afraid of everything.”
Her pause went on for about four footsteps. “You’re not, though, right?”
“I’m a work in progress,” I said. “I have a solid reason for feeling this way.”
She waited, but I didn’t elaborate. Who wanted to get into the gruesome parts of their past when they were heading toward a date-a-thon with thirty or so alien males?
“I’m pushing my boundaries all the time,” I added to be helpful.
“That’s it. I feel as if you’re testing yourself.”
“Any of the guys interest you two yet?” Kristy asked, thankfully tugging the convo in a new direction.
“Not me,” Emma said, though her voice held a hint of excitement.
“Who is it?” I asked.
“Come on! I’ll confess if you will.”
“I don’t want to jinx it.”
The gardens waited ahead with numerous Driegons milling around the gazebo, the flowerbeds, and a few bellying up to the snack table. I needed to check that out soon and see if there was anything I hadn’t tried yet—sampling Driegon food being another item on my List of Daring checklist.
This place… Who would’ve thought a subterranean world existed beneath the alien planet of Crakair or that the residents, the Driegons, were looking for Earthling mates? In my wildest dreams, I never would’ve imagined I’d be discussing meeting and marrying alien guys on a planet far from Earth.
Over a year ago, a mysterious disease swept across Earth, killing most of our men and many of the women on planets scattered throughout the galaxy. When the first aliens contacted Earth, we hosted a big defense, praying they wouldn’t scorch our world. Instead, they came in peace. Truly. It wasn’t a cliché. They sent emissaries who offered knowledge that dragged us forward technologically. And then, they suggested marriages. After the success with aliens on this planet, Crakair’s surface, we ventured underground with Driegons. Four of us were selected for the first round. A small group of test subjects, so to speak. Bella matched with the king, leaving only me, Emma, and Kristy left. Well, and our hair stylist and photographer, who also met their alien male of their dreams.
“Tell us! You can trust me and Emma not to reveal who it is,” Kristy said with a wink to Emma. “Since I know you can keep a secret, I kinda like…” Her gaze drifted forward, but I couldn’t tell who she sought among the guys milling around. “Rashe.”
“The tall, shy, sweet one?” Emma asked.
“They’re all tall,” I said.
“True, but yeah, Rashe,” Kristy said. “Do you think he notices me?”
“Yes,” I said. I’d seen him watching Kristy.
And did Emma know that Rashe’s brother—scarred, silent, and dangerous Teran—couldn’t take his eyes off her? Both guys were members of the elite king’s guard along with Drace.
“Who do you like, Aria?” Kristy asked, leaning around Emma. We reached the entrance to the central garden area, where we’d spend the evening, and paused. Living twinkle lights were strung among the trees, their wavering dance giving the place a fairytale feel, and skeletal Fritzen waiters strolled about offering trays of appetizers and drinks. A Driegon mixed cocktails behind a stone, chest-high bar that offered shifting barstools—the bar was alive, as well.
“I think it’s obvious who I like, don’t you?” I said with a wince.
Emma smirked, but it was a friendly gesture, not mocking. “Let me see…” She tapped her chin. “Noreum?”
Leering eyes. “Nope.”
“Trillard? Vextran? Burelle? All good catches.”
“Stop teasing.” My gaze sought him, and my sigh slipped out. “Drace. You know that.”
“I think you should tell him,” Kristy said. The boldest of us, I envied her greatly. What would it be like to possess her confidence?
After I got through the rest of the items on my checklist, I’d be brave.
When the guys noticed us standing at the entrance, silence descended. Even the giant beetle musicians lined up on the right side of the lawn stopped rubbing their wings together.
“There you are, ladies,” Ambassador Smythe said, striding across the open lawn area with a drink in her hand. The stem of the glass had coiled around her wrist. “A few gentlemen you met earlier in the week have asked for re-introductions, and I’d like to get that over with first if you don’t mind. Then you can mingle with the newbies.” She stepped to the side and six Driegons decked out in formal uniforms approached.
Drace was among them.
His dark gray Driegon tunic with slits for his wings, shoulder and back spikes, made him look amazing. It brought out the color of his reptilian, slitted eyes.
When our gazes met, his horns curled toward me. His tail joined in on the action, reaching forward to tease the grass near my feet. Heat flashed through me, turning me into ice cream on a blazing summer’s day. Tiny flames flickered in his eyes, and I wanted to reach out and trace my fingers across the iridescent sapphire scales on his face and stroke the spikes rippling across his head and down his spine.
Hell, I wanted to loop my legs around his waist, tug his head down, and find out what his lips had to offer.
Stepping up beside the Ambassador, he bowed.
“You remember Draceon Kaugvels Yel’gru Tolkix, don’t you, Aria?” Ambassador Smythe said with a benign smile. “He’s been greatly interested in another introduction to—“
Drace coughed, and she cut off, shooting a frown his way. He stretched his lips wide, baring pointy teeth. The fangs showed he was at least part Zoad, one of the two factions living in Driegon. Remerons didn’t have fangs. Driegonians also didn’t smile; they huffed and blew smoke from their nostrils when they laughed, but they’ve been practicing. It was sweet that he wanted to impress me, though his smile needed work.
“I am happy to speak with you,” he said softly while the Ambassador moved on to the other guys, introducing them to Emma and Kristy.
“You. Yes. Um, err… You, too,” I said to Drace. Ugh. Here I was, given another chance to speak with the guy I’d crushed on from the first moment I saw him, and my tongue chose to stumble. “Nice evening.”
“It is.” He tapped behind his ear where we all had translator implants as if he needed to make sure it was working, before peering upward. “The spitzers play.”
“Play?” I’ve heard a lot about the bug lights plastering themselves across the upper parts of the kingdom’s caverns, but I hadn’t heard they did more than hang out and glow in a rhythmic cycle to create night versus day.
“Yes, play,” he said in a deep, rumbly voice that tickled down my spine. “They have games they enjoy.”
The lights remained in place, like they had every other time I stared at them. “What am I watching for?” I asked in a hushed voice, my nerves starting to settle. Man, he smelled good, like spices from a foreign land drifting along fresh air.
“There,” he said, pointing to where one light hopped over another. They both flashed, their colors changing from purple to pink and then back to the bluish white they usually displayed. If I blinked, I would’ve missed it.
“I didn’t know they did anything like that,” I said in amazement, smiling with ease for the first time since we met a week ago. Maybe this was going to be okay. Maybe tonight I’d take his hand if he offered it. Then I’d know if we could Torrent.
He curled his lips back, making him resemble a friendly alligator. His grin was growing on me. Slowly.
This wasn’t going to be so—
Turning, he stretched his hand toward me.
Gulp. I stared down at it; my arm frozen at my side. You’d think his fingers were vipers about to strike, though I wouldn’t be afraid if they were. Touching a snake was Earth version’s List of Daring challenge number three. I aced it.
Unable to stop myself, I stepped backward, away from his hand. “I…” Shit, shit, shit.
He frowned and pulled his hand back.
“Not again,” Emma hissed, reaching out to hold me in place.
I scooted around her hand.
After shooting him a pleading look, I turned and bolted for the castle.
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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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