Soul Fire

By: Juliette Cross

Acknowledgements




Jessen Judice, thank you for being my go-to girl for every insane idea that pops into my head. You were right, Jess; this one was a keeper. To my ridiculously supportive beta readers and friends—Rebekah, Brooke, Rachel, and Amber. You ladies rock. A special nod to my writing group partners—Margaret, Anne, and Lisa. To Cheryl Freyou, for always being there. Julie Reece, my dear friend, you’ve become my compass on this tumultuous journey, always pointing me true north. To my agent, Brittany Booker, who believed in me from the first, unwaveringly. Great appreciation also goes to Lyrical Press director, Renee Rocco, who is truly a rock star of the industry and the best cheerleader we could have. And to my editor, Corinne DeMaagd, whose skills blow me away. Your tireless dedication raised Soulfire to a place I never could on my own. Finally, to my husband and children, you will always be my first love. I appreciate you allowing me time for my second.





Prologue




Thousands of years ago, Radomis, the dragon king of the North, took flight on the last full moon of winter. Beating great, black wings, he soared away from his mountainous kingdom, lured by some unknown force to the sultry lands in the west where humans dwelled. Dragons and humans had always lived apart.

On this same night, Princess Morga honored the fertility rite of bathing under the full moon the night before her wedding. As she stepped from the natural steaming pool, rivulets of water glistened over milk-pale skin, ebony hair slicked over her breasts and down her back. The dragon king saw her. Instant desire ensnared his beastly heart. He descended.

Shifting into human form, a man of might and beauty, he murdered her guards and handmaidens. Horrified, Morga could do nothing when the dragon king took her in his arms, hard lust in cold eyes. The moment his tongue licked into her mouth, she felt the burning of soulfire—the dragon elixir meant for his one and only mate. Golden heat melted through blood and bone, filling her with euphoric pleasure, bonding her to him forever.

Radomis took her on the ground among bloody bodies and moon-shadows, intent to sate his hunger. One night would never be enough. Shifting into dragon form, he carried her in his claws back to his kingdom. She would be his queen, trapped in a gilded cage of opulence as the object of his endless desire.

From their union  , a child was born—an abomination. A human body with dragon wings and dragon strength. The boy, Larkos, was outcast among dragonkind, including his father. Only Morga showed him any love.

When Larkos reached manhood, he wielded his rage with an avenging sword, tracking and killing all of dragonkind. Even in beast form, his father could not match him, finally falling to the forgotten son’s sword. What Larkos did not know was that soulfire bonded his loving mother to the beast in such a way that when his dragon-heart stopped beating, so did hers.



This is the tale I’d been told when my body began changing from child to woman, a warning for young girls to beware of Morgon men.

“Never stray from your own kind, Jessen,” my mother would say, “or you could end up like Princess Morga, a slave and outcast to be abhorred.”

The problem was, I’d never been a very obedient daughter. Never the one to do exactly as I was told. And fairy tales have no meaning when the stars align and Fortune spins her wheel, weaving her own story for your heart.





Chapter 1




I swung one leather-clad leg over the balcony railing and froze. Straddling the stone balustrade, I gazed upward, willing my heart to still. A crescent moon cut a half-smile in the starry night as if mocking my rebellion. Or perhaps encouraging it.

Don’t look down.

A smudge of cloud blurred over the moon, nudging me into the darkness. Deep breath in, I swung the other leg over and shimmied toward the ivy trellis. My long legs helped me maintain balance on the stone balcony, making it easier to climb down. Of course, I had to have the villa suite on the top floor—an obscene luxury for a college student. Only the best, my father would say. I knew the truth. He tucked me away in an ivory tower, complete with armed guards, imprisoning me to watch my every move. It had nothing to do with protection. Not mine, anyway.

My maroon silk blouse snagged on a tendril of ivy. I slipped it loose and dropped the final few feet to the grass below. I peeked around a manicured shrub toward the front of the complex. One of the guards leaned against the entrance, nearly dozing. Smiling to myself, I crept across the shadowed lawn to the side street.

I jumped into the sleek, black coupe waiting at the curb and turned to Sorcha. “Let’s go.”

She grinned and tore off into the night, away from Cade Heights.

“I don’t get it.” Ella leaned forward from the back seat. “Why can’t you just walk out the front door like everyone else, Jessen? There’s no curfew or anything.”

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