“A trio of Dragons, noble and Gold, a Wizard, a Wyvern and three heroes bold…”
So goes the prophecy given by Merlin in the fifth century about the seven heroes who would save the world from the rising of the Dragon Spawn. Luca, the Wyvern in question, has his Dragons and his magician, but he only has one hero so far. What he needs to fulfill his destiny is two good men, both noble and heroic. Instead he has a bad-tempered, lazy, washed-up former Wizard, and Chase, a liar, and the son of a thief.
Pendragon takes it upon himself to reform Gideon, but when Alexei learns of his new lover Chase’s betrayal, he is stunned and hurt. He was desperately in love with Chase and thought he’d found his new mate. He locks Chase away in his Dragon’s lair while he tries to decide what to do with him. With the Dragon Spawn and the Shadow men gathering nearby for the prophesied final battle, time is running short. Chase’s secret agenda has betrayed Alexei’s trust and at the eleventh hour, Gideon is kidnapped by the Spawn in an effort to turn him against Pen and make sure the Seven isn’t complete.
With violence and betrayal swirling around them, Luca and his Dragons face their enemies in the battle that will either save humankind or destroy it utterly. They soon discover that the best luck is the kind they make for themselves.
I was trudging down the hall to my apartment after Dmitri found me, thinking about the call I had made a couple of nights ago to cancel my trip to Paris. Chase had not been happy. This hadn’t been the first time I’d had to do this and I had been less than pleased about it myself. Things had been so quiet lately I’d been sure I wouldn’t have to cancel this time. But the idea of the shadow men hanging around the Paris airport was bad, even potentially catastrophic.
I had sat on my sofa a couple of nights ago staring at my phone for a long time, trying to make myself dial Chase’s number. Just get it over with. I would harden my resolve and then the next moment, I’d think, but maybe it will turn out to be nothing and I won’t have to cancel. That was a ridiculous idea, though, and I knew it. I was just postponing the inevitable, but what the fuck was I going to tell him this time? More family issues? He’d have to wonder what kind of family has problems that it took all of us to solve, and wouldn’t he think he’d be better off not getting mixed up with me and all the baggage I brought into a relationship?
I dialed his number, hoping this wouldn’t be the last time I talked to him. He picked up on the second ring. “Hi, Alex. This is a pleasant surprise. What’s up, cher?”
My heart fell. I hated to do this. I loved the sound of his voice, the way he Americanized my name, how he called me by that French endearment—hell, I was just crazy about him. And now, this one call was probably going to end us before we even got started.
“Yeah, I’m here.” I took a deep breath. “Chase, I’m afraid I’m going to have to cancel our plans to meet in Paris next week.” Silence, dead silence, but he didn’t hang up on me so I kept talking. “Listen, something’s come up with my family, and I don’t know how long it’s going to take to straighten things out.”
More silence. Then finally, “Look, Alex, you’re the one who called me and asked me to meet you. You said that you thought that things had calmed down enough that you could leave, so what exactly is the problem? If you’ve changed your mind about this whole thing with us, you can just tell me.”
“You know that’s not true.”
“Really, cher? You think I know that? How could I? This is the third time you’ve cancelled our plans.”
“I know, Chase, and I’m so sorry. And disappointed.” I had to stop for a minute and take a deep breath. “I’m devastated. Listen, I don’t know all the details yet, but my cousin Dmitri…”
“Who, according to you, is the head of your family.”
“Yes, exactly. Dmitri wants us to stay close to home until some issues he has are…um…resolved. I think it must be bad or Dmitri wouldn’t insist.” I paused again, giving Chase a chance to say something, but there was still only a stony silence, so I continued. “I’m sorry. I’ll call you next week, and maybe I’ll have a time frame about how long this is going to take. I guess I should have waited to call you until I knew more.”
There was a heavy sigh before he spoke. “Yes, Alexei, whatever. I’ll just sit here by the phone waiting to hear when and if you might be able to fit me in your schedule and make some time for us to get together.”
“Please don’t be this way. I want to be with you so much, Chase. You have no idea how much I was looking forward to our time together.” I was about to say more when I heard the click that meant he’d hung up. He was furious, just as I’d expected. The fact that he’d hung up on me was a dead giveaway—not to mention that last little bit of sarcasm, spoken very quietly, just before he’d ended the call. And he’d called me Alexei, not Alex. Or cher. I had felt sick, thinking that I may never see him again. I loved him, had for what seemed like forever, and couldn’t stand the thought of losing him. Not now, when I’d come so close to having what I’d dreamed of since I was a teenager. I put my head in my hands and thought about Chase.
The first time I ever saw him, he took my breath away. I was a freshman at the exclusive boys’ school that my parents sent me to in France, and he was a senior. On the first day of classes, I was wandering around, trying to find the classroom I was supposed to be in for Freshman English, and I was completely lost. With my head buried in the map that all the Freshmen had been given, I heard some boys laughing and talking, but didn’t pay any attention to them—until I walked right into one of them, that is. Two big hands gripped my biceps to steady me, and I looked up into the most beautiful face I’d ever seen.
And then, he spoke. “Whoa, there, cher. Are you okay?”
“I-I’m so sorry. I-I’m fine, but I’m lost. I can’t seem to find the room for my first class.”
“Let me see if I can help you.” He took the map out of my hand and looked at it for a second. Then, he took my arm and led me over to a window. “You see that building over there?” He was pointing directly across the quad. When I nodded, he said, “That’s where you’re supposed to be.” He patted my shoulder. “You couldn’t find your classroom, because you’re in the wrong building.”
“Oh, okay. Thank you.”
“No problem. Bonne chance.”
He walked back over to his friends, and I couldn’t help but watch as he walked away. I was certain that I’d just encountered a Greek god. He was tall with a body that was toned rather than musclebound. I could feel his strength when I bumped into him. His hair was a rich brown, and he had these gorgeous hazel eyes with golden flecks. Well, actually, I don’t think I’d ever known anyone with eyes that color or lashes that long on a man. And he had dimples when he smiled. He was a god, no doubt about it, and I was in love. He was my first and only schoolboy crush. I asked everyone who might know him about him and soon learned his name was Chasen Beaudry. I’d heard him tell his friends that the name meant Hunter. It suited him. He was an American, a bit arrogant, definitely self-confident and very popular.
Remembering that first meeting, I felt a heaviness in my chest, and I fought to hold back the tears. All those years ago, ten to be exact, I never imagined that one day I’d have a chance to have an actual relationship with him. Life goes on and I’d had other men, but I never forgot him. He was the standard by which I judged every other man in my life and sadly, they were all lacking in comparison. Dragons fall in love quickly and forever so it was unfortunate that I met Chase at such a tender age. I didn’t realize at the time that it even was true love, and that he was going to be the only one for me ever in my life, so I spent years searching for someone that I could connect with. I have to admit that there had been many men and even the occasional woman in my attempt to find someone to love, but they never worked out.
Then, six months ago, I’d seen Chase again. I had been invited to a party by a friend, Jean-Claude, in Paris and, by some miracle, Chase had been there. As soon as I arrived, I noticed Jean-Claude standing by the fireplace in his apartment talking to a man who had his back to me. I began weaving my way toward him through the crowd gathered in his living room. It was like navigating a maze. Jean-Claude always invited too many people to his “petit soirees,” as he called them, but finally, I made it through the gauntlet without getting any drinks spilled on me.
“Bonsoir, Jean-Claude.” As soon as I spoke, the man he’d been talking to turned toward me, and I felt my heart began to race. By some miracle, I was looking at the man I’d never been able to forget. Chase Beaudry. Several seconds passed with me simply staring at Chase before Jean-Claude touched my shoulder to get my attention.
I must have looked as if I’d seen a ghost, because Jean-Claude was regarding me strangely. He cleared his throat and said, “Alexei, allow me to introduce my American friend, Chasen Beaudry. Chasen, this is Alexei Solokov.”
I smiled—first at Jean-Claude, then at Chase. “Oh, Chase and I have met before, although I’m certain that he wouldn’t remember me.”
I could see that I’d piqued Jean-Claude’s interest. He loved a good story and was such a gossip. “Vraiment? Please tell.”
I looked back over at Chase, who was frowning. “Yes, please tell both of us. I admit that there’s something about you that looks familiar, but…”
I laughed. “I’m surprised that I even look familiar to you, since the last time you saw me I was a boy of fifteen.”
He continued to stare at me for a moment, still looking puzzled, and then I saw recognition dawn. His eyes, those beautiful hazel eyes, widened and he smiled. “Oh, my God, Alex, is that you?”
“Indeed it is.” I looked over at Jean-Claude. “Chase and I went to boarding school together.”
“Oh.” He looked disappointed. I’m sure he was hoping for a much more exciting story. “I’ll leave you to reminisce then.” He turned and wandered away to a more interesting group.
Chase and I both laughed before he said, “I guess we were too boring for him, just being old school buddies.”
I smiled and nodded. “I suppose. I must admit that I’m surprised you remember me at all. You were a fourth-year student and I was a lowly first-year the last time we met. We didn’t have any classes together or live in the same dorm.”
He gave me a sly look. “Which is why it was so odd that you seemed to turn up everywhere that I went. My friends noticed and teased me about you—calling you my petit ami.”
I felt my face getting red with embarrassment. “I must admit, I did have a small crush on you, so I may have stalked you a bit. I’m sorry it was so obvious.”
“No problem. Actually, it was sort of flattering. I think the guys were all just a little jealous that they didn’t have a secret admirer.” He paused and grinned at me. “Well, maybe not so secret.”
My face flaming, I decided it was time to change the subject. “So, what are you doing in Paris?”
“My father has some business holdings here with a distant relative. I’m an attorney now and whenever there are some new contracts to go over, I always volunteer to come handle it for him. I love it here. Paris is one of my favorite cities.”
“Mine, too. So, for business then.” Brilliant, Alexei. I couldn’t believe the man could still turn my brain into mush. I tried to think of something to say, anything that wasn’t stupid, but my mind was totally blank. I just there looking at him.
Thankfully, he didn’t seem to notice because he continued. “Not really business this time. I had a few loose ends to tie up here on a contract, but I could have probably handled that by phone.” He rolled his eyes. “I’m actually on a mission for my mother who insisted to my father that I needed to take care of things in person. She’s taken up genealogy as a hobby and has been researching both sides of my family, her line and my father’s. She’s gone back far enough to discover that both lines migrated from France to Louisiana and became a part of the aristocratic Creoles there. Recently, she discovered that there are several abandoned chateaus here in France and she thinks that one of them may have belonged to her family, so I’ve been sent to investigate.”
“Interesting.” Before I had time to say anything else, Jean-Claude appeared.
Shaking his finger at both of us, he said, “You two don’t need to monopolize each other’s time. This is a party—mingle.”
Chase looked at me and shrugged. “Do you have plans tomorrow night?” At my head shake, he continued. “Have dinner with me and we’ll finish catching up.”
I barely had time to nod my agreement before someone shouted his name and came toward us. We hurriedly exchanged phone numbers and the man who had called out to him appeared, taking him by the arm and leading him away. Chase looked back over his shoulder and said, “I’ll call you tomorrow to set up a time.”
I watched as he joined a small group of men and women who greeted him with handshakes and hugs and a couple of slaps on the back. As I watched, one of the men looked over at me and back at him and I could tell that he was asking about me. At the exact moment the guy looked back toward me with a look of surprise, I realized who he was. His name was Etienne and he’d been part of the popular clique that Chase had hung out with in school. I stayed at the party a while longer, hoping to get to talk to Chase again, but finally gave up and found Jean-Claude to say my thanks for inviting me and good-bye. I felt dejected as I left because I believed that I’d probably never see Chase again, but I was wrong.
I was still in bed early the next morning, in that state of drifting between being asleep and being awake, when my phone rang. I looked at the caller ID, but didn’t recognize the number. I usually don’t answer an unfamiliar number, but hoping that it’d be Chase—and not really believing that it would be—I answered, hesitantly.
“Good morning, cher. Did I wake you?”
“No, I was awake, just not out of bed yet.”
He chuckled. “Oh, you lazy slug. I’ve already had to talk to my father twice and my mother once today. Of course, they started calling me at six AM.”
“What time is it now?”
“It’s nine o’clock, cher. Time for you to get up.”
“Is there a good reason I should get out of bed at the crack of dawn?”
He lowered his voice to a sexy tone. “Is spending the day with me a good enough reason, cher?”
It was for me—not to mention my cock that was filling out at just the sound of his voice. So, that was the beginning.
We’d spent that day together and had a wonderful time getting to know each other. Unfortunately, though, no sex. He’d been called home unexpectedly by his law firm. We’d managed to get together a few more times for brief interludes when he had to be back in Paris. We’d made plans to spend a whole week together, maybe two if we could work it out. Now, I’d probably never see him again.
I was on my way to the dining room as I was thinking about all that had happened, furious that I was losing the love of my life when…
“Hey, watch where you’re going!” came a voice from in front of me as I rounded the corner to the dining room and bumped right into Gideon. I had to put out my hands to steady him because I’d really slammed into him.
“I’m sorry, Gideon! Didn’t see you there.”
I saw the anger on his face quickly fade as he sighed. “Oh, it’s all right. I was distracted anyway. I wasn’t really watching where I was going either.”
“You do look a little stressed. What’s up?”
He blew out a long breath. “That son of a banshee, Pendragon, is going to be the death of me. He has to be the most arrogant, obnoxious man I’ve ever met. He’s absolutely insufferable!”
“Wow. Okay. Looks like I’m not the only one in a bad mood today. Come on,” I said, taking his arm and leading him to the table. “Let’s eat and you can tell me about it.”
We sat down opposite each other at one end of the table and almost immediately, Galina, one of the cooks came out with a tray of vegetable soup. When Dmitri had taken over his house again and encouraged his mother and father to travel back to one of their own homes closer to Moscow, things had gotten a lot less formal around the mansion. Dmitri’s mother had insisted on a butler and menservants, as well as a full kitchen staff, but Dmitri sent some of them along with his parents and kept a minimal staff to take care of the house and grounds and cook for us. Galina was one of those who made the cut, a sweet girl who was an assistant cook. Rumor had it that she and one of the groundskeepers were an item.
“Good afternoon. I have sandwiches, too, in the kitchen, if you only want something light, or I can make you anything you like,” she said cheerfully, putting steaming bowls of deliciousness down in front of us. I loved soup, and Galina’s was very good. I thought of it as comfort food. My nanny used to give it to me in my room after my mother died when I was six, and my father remarried. Back then I pretty much tried to stay out of my stepmother’s way, as she was “far too young to have a child that age,” as she liked to put it.
Dmitri’s father had been my mother’s brother, and he had taken me into his home after an unfortunate incident involving some of my stepmother’s china figurines. Extremely expensive ones, I was told. My dog, Bimka, and I had smashed them when we were playing with a ball in the house, a serious infraction that caused Bimka to disappear overnight, and me to be sent to my uncle’s for the summer. A summer that stretched into the rest of my life. I never saw little Bimka again, though my father told me he had given him to one of his brothers, who lived on a farm. I wanted to believe him, and so I did.
I wasn’t terribly unhappy about going to live with my uncle, as I recall. I loved my cousins Dmitri and Sebastien, who lived there too and who were almost the same age as I was. We only spent summers and holidays there anyway, as all of us were in boarding schools, and I rarely saw my father after that. In fact, most people thought I had been orphaned, and in a way, I had.
“This soup is plenty for me, Galina. What about you, Gideon? Would you like some sandwiches?”
Gideon shook his head. “What kind of sandwiches?”
“Cold cuts of meat, tavarishch. And cheeses, of course. Oh, and Mr. Pendragon asked me to give you these. He said you’ve been acquiring a taste for them.” She plopped down a pack of sunflower seeds in front of him and moved on with a smile.
“That asshole,” he whispered softly, but I noticed his face blanched white.
“What is it? Don’t you like sunflower seeds?”
“It’s not that,” he said, his face now turning an interesting shade of pink. “It’s Pen, making one of his little jokes.”
“What kind of joke?”
He blew out a breath and looked up at me from under his long eyelashes. “A few days ago I went to Pen’s room to ask him why he hadn’t found a solution to my problem yet. After all, he’s supposed to be the great mage, so strong and all-knowing, and I admit I was a little angry that he didn’t seem to be in any hurry to help me get my magic back. It’s been two months since all that happened in the cave and I was tired of waiting, but as soon as he stood and looked down his nose at me, I couldn’t think clearly. I wonder if he casts some kind of spell on me every time I go around him.” He sighed again. “He threatened me too.”
I looked up at him in surprise. “Really? Pen threatened you?’
“Yes,” he said, lifting his chin. “I managed to get in one question that day before he told me he’d turn me into a bird and put me in a cage if I kept bothering him. He meant it too! You should have seen his face. Why are you laughing?”
“Oh, Gideon, I’m sorry, but surely you know he wasn’t serious. He’s teasing you. He couldn’t really change you into a bird, could he?”
“Yes, of course he could. You Dragons don’t realize how powerful the mages are. You’ve always underestimated them.”
I considered this and thought maybe he was right. Take Luca, for example, who was so nice and friendly most of the time. But I had seen the blue fire fly from his hands when he destroyed Auric’s father, Eldor, with a wave of his arms. And I had heard the prophecy he made that night about saving the world. It still chilled me to think of it.
A trio of Dragons, noble and Gold. A wizard, a Wyvern, and three heroes bold.
I had been a part of the “trio of Dragons” who had gone to Eldor’s house after he lured Luca there to kill him. We were going to save Luca, and we wound up being saved ourselves. Luca said that night he destroyed Eldor, who was trying to kill us all, that we were the people who would save the world. The trio of Dragons, et cetera. But we were still a man short.
Luca was a Wyvern, Pen was the wizard, and my cousins and I were the Dragons, though the idea of me having any part in saving the whole world was ludicrous. Wasn’t it? I was, after all, just a pretty playboy—a golden sex god, as Sebastien had teasingly called me. Or rather, he’d said that Luca had called me that the first time he saw me. Still, I was one of three Dragons and a shudder went through me as I remembered how the words had rung out that night under a midnight sky, and in my mind’s eye, I could still see the meteor which had chosen just that moment to shoot through the night, leaving a trail of fire in its wake. Impressive stuff.
So, we had our three golden Dragons, our wizard and our Wyvern, and I supposed at least one or two of our “heroes.” Lance had shown a lot of courage in the caves in France, and we all credited him with saving Sebastien’s life. Luca said Gideon was a hero too, and it was true. In the cave in France that fateful night that when we almost lost Sebastien, Gideon had raised his arms in the air and thrown a powerful spell that had literally bounced off Sebastien and back at him.
The torque Sebastien had been wearing flashed green fire—witches’ fire—as it sent the spell crashing back into Gideon. It had hit him like a bolt of lightning and for a time, we had all feared for his life. He had recovered, but his sacrifice, though noble, had left him without any power of his own. He was simply a human now, like Lance, and we only needed one more hero, apparently, to fulfill Luca’s vision. Who would he be? I wasn’t so unobservant that I hadn’t noticed all the pairing off. Luca and Dmitri. Sebastien and Lance. And now it seemed, Pen and Gideon. Did that mean the remaining hero would be mine? I didn’t want anyone except Chase.
I noticed Gideon was still looking upset.
“He was teasing you, Gideon. Luca and Lance would never let him do that to you.”
He looked up at me and sighed. “Pen said I was getting fat too.”
I laughed at that before I saw he was serious. “Gideon, you have zero body fat, don’t you know that? Pen is messing with you.”
He flushed again and looked up at me hopefully. “You think so? I don’t know why I let him get to me like I do. Whenever I’m around him lately, I turn into an idiot who can’t form more than two sentences.”
“Pen can be intimidating. It’s the whole wizard thing. He and Luca are both so powerful.”
“As I used to be…as I have to be again.”
His intensity was a little surprising. I saw him toying with his spoon and put mine down.
“Do you want to talk about it?”
Gideon and I had become friends of a sort since he’d come to live at the mansion. I wouldn’t have believed we could just a few weeks ago, but since he’d lost or misplaced his powers, he’d been like a different person. I still remembered him from before his accident in the caves. He had been really unpleasant back then, and the difference in him was nothing short of amazing. It seemed like we were on a similar schedule and were often at breakfast and lunch at the same time, so we had begun to converse more often. The unpleasantness in him was gone and he could actually be really good company now.
He was getting really close to Pen too, and I thought that had something to do with the changes I saw in him. I sometimes thought Gideon hadn’t had many good friends in his life. If Pen was responsible for the changes, then maybe I should stay out of it.
“You don’t have to talk about it, if you don’t want to.”
“It’s okay.” He sighed. “I’ll see Pen later. You’re right about the teasing.”
I sighed and wished again for Chase. I wished I had someone I could laugh and tease with. The only man in the world I had ever wanted was in Paris, currently thinking very bad thoughts about me, no doubt. I would try to call him later and apologize, but I was afraid it wouldn’t help. I was really afraid I’d blown it this time and made one too many excuses. It was hard for Chase to understand the ways of Dragons. Especially when he had no idea that I even was a Dragon, so far as I knew. I probably should have confessed that to him by now, but I’d been afraid of his reaction. The human world and the Dragons’ rarely came into contact, as Dragons really just preferred to be left alone. It was the reason we lived in such out of the way places.
When the world first discovered there really were such things as Dragons, they reacted with fear, but once they realized Dragons had no intention of hurting humans, as long as they stayed far away, then everybody relaxed. Treaties were made and the world went back to mostly ignoring our existence. I knew that Chase was aware of Dragons, but I had no idea what he’d think about dating one—or spending the rest of his life with one, as I’d dared to let myself dream about. I figured it was a moot point anyway, because this time, I thought Chase was through with me for good.