Today, I am releasing my fifth full-length novel – Blood Bond. If you like fantasy, dragons, or just a good book, I recommend you check it out for just $2.99.
It is available exclusively on Amazon.
(Don’t have a Kindle, don’t worry. You can still read Blood Bond. Simply download the Kindle for PC or Kindle for MAC software for free.)
Man severed the alliance with the dragons fifty years ago. But now an invading army marches north destroying everything in its path. The dragons believe only together can the invaders be defeated. They need an emissary.
Womanizer. Drunk. Failure. Soren is many things. A leader isn’t one of them. But, Dex, the dragon who saves him from a cliff, believes different. Thrust into an adventure he never wanted, Soren’s life changes forever when during a battle Dex’s dragon blood mixes with his blood creating a mystical blood bond – forever linking them.
As the bond strengthens, Soren must decide whether to return to his old life or accept the bond and embrace his role in the battle against the invading army.
Branches tore at his face and arms. Soren’s feet quickly crossed the uneven ground as he ran with his arm outstretched to ward off the blows of the forest underbrush. He could hear the deep voice of one of the men chasing him and the sharp bark of a dog. He didn’t dare slow down as he tried to get his mind to focus. It was hard. His mind felt as if it was in a dense sludge.
He fought to recall what had happened. Soft warm skin came to mind. His lips had traveled over the smooth white skin. The woman’s breath had been hard and fast. He recalled her hand running through his hair, but her face eluded his memory.
Slowly, images of last night drifted through his mind. He lay beside her as his eyes slid closed. He felt warm and content as sleep overcame him. A loud banging at the door jolted him awake. His mind still befuddled with sleep and the effects of the ale from the previous evening, he leapt from the bed. As he rushed to get dressed, the woman bolted for the door. She leaned against it, shrieking for him to hurry. Still her face eluded his memory, though he supposed, it didn’t matter. He would never see her again anyway.
He had been halfway out the window when the door swung open. A huge man roared through it. His eyes bulged as he stormed forward.
The loud voices behind Soren brought his mind back to the present as he ducked under a branch. His head felt ready to explode. He wondered briefly how many men chased him and how far they would take it. Usually once he was out of sight, he was safe. But that point had already come and gone, and this group was still on his trail.
He burst out of the forest, skidding to a stop a foot from the gorge’s edge. He eyed the Thane River flowing forty feet below before glancing to the other side. It was easily a hundred feet away. A crashing sound caused him to swing around. A large black dog barreled toward him. It stopped a few feet away. With his ears laid back, the dog growled. Drool dripped from its sharp teeth.
Soren took a step backwards. He heard pebbles fall and glanced back. His stomach tightened as he stared down the sheer drop. Suddenly, the ground crumbled. He gasped as it gave way. Frantically, he grabbed the cliff side as the dog lurched forward. He let go of the edge, sliding down the almost vertical incline. Rocks dug into his hands as he sought something to grab. He spotted a small tree growing on a thin ledge. Soren grabbed it, holding on for dear life. His feet dangled as the tree bowed under his weight.
It snapped. He fell a few feet before pain exploded in his back as he hit another small tree. He twisted, grabbing it. He hung there for a moment as the rough bark dug into his hands. He swung his leg over a branch and pulled himself up until he straddled it.
“Where is he?” a deep growl came from above.
Soren inched closer to the cliff wall, thankful an indention near the tree’s base would provide him cover from the prying eyes of those above.
“Good boy, Bruno,” another voice said, and the dog stopped growling. “I bet he didn’t know the cliff was here and couldn’t stop.” The man’s voice got louder as he neared the cliff’s edge. “Look. Part of the edge has crumbled.”
“I won’t rest until I see his dead body,” the deep voiced declared.
“He couldn’t have survived the fall.”
Soren breathed a sigh of relief as the man with the deep voice was persuaded to return home and not waste their time patrolling the river bank. After a few minutes, when he was sure they would have retreated into the forest, he inched out on the branch and eyed the side of the cliff. He scanned for a way to climb it but didn’t see any hand or foot holds. His gaze fell to the turbulent water below. His hands tightened around the branch.
He heard a whooshing sound as something grabbed his shoulders and yanked him upward. Splinters dug into his hands as he tried to hold on to the branch. The force was too strong, and he was ripped from the tree. He dangled twenty feet above the rushing river. Twisting, he caught sight of a large red wing. He looked up. His eyes widened as took in the golden and red scales of the long neck and the triangular underside of the beast’s head. His mind whirled as his mouth dropped open. A dragon. It couldn’t be. He blinked. But what else could it be? He shook his head. What was a dragon doing this far from the mountains? The beast tilted its wings, gliding lower and closer to the river. Soren squirmed. He pulled at the dragon’s large claws to no avail.
Dragons don’t eat humans, he frantically reassured himself. Or at least not as far as he recalled. But with his pounding head, he could barely recall his own name let alone what history he had learned about dragons.
The claws released him. He fell onto the gravelly river bank. Tiny rocks ground into his hands and knees as the creature landed before him. Scrambling to his feet, Soren reached for his dagger only to remember he had lost the blade in a card game a few days ago. He turned to the dragon. The creature towered over him. Soren estimated it was three times as tall as he was as he craned his neck upwards to see the beast’s narrow face. Red scales gleamed in the sun as the dragon tucked its huge wings to its side. Its underbelly was golden. The dragon sat back on its hind legs and wrapped its long tail around its front legs as it regarded Soren.
He stepped back, water sloshing into his boot as he entered the river.
The dragon leaned closer. Its head was slim and nearly the size of Soren’s body. Large golden eyes stared into Soren’s as the dragon sniffed him. Its mouth fell open slightly, showing off rows of sharp teeth. Soren scrambled backwards. He tripped over a rock, falling into the river as the dragon leapt forward with more speed than Soren thought possible for a creature so large. The creature’s claws wrapped around his shoulders, and the beast took off, dragging Soren backwards. The beast flew low over the river, dunking Soren into the cold water. Sputtering, he tried to keep his head clear, but it didn’t work. Water rushed over his face and into his mouth. He coughed and gasped for breath as he was lifted out of the water. The next thing he knew he was back on the shore, a few feet from the river. He lay there, coughing. He saw something red sticking out of the sole of his boot. Reaching down, he pulled it free. It was a scale from the dragon. He clutched it as he stared at the beast. The dragon crouched down, putting his muzzle to Soren’s chest. It breathed in, ruffling his clothes.
“Better but not much.”
The voice reverberated inside Soren’s head. He scurried backwards. “W…what? Was that you?”
His mind whirled. What was the dragon doing here? And had it really just spoken to him? Wait. Could dragons even speak? He pushed that question aside. He was sure the voice had to belong to the creature, but he couldn’t concentrate. His head felt ready to split open. He pressed one hand to his forehead, regretting last night’s drinking binge.
With his other hand, he fingered the scale. Glancing up, he saw the dragon watching him with its mouth slightly open. Soren shook as he gaped at the sharp teeth. He had no desire to be anyone’s meal. He scrambled to his feet, wishing he had his dagger. He eyed the forest a good twenty paces from the river. And the dragon lay between him and his freedom. Soren decided to chance it and ran for the trees. He barely made it a few feet when the dragon slammed its tail on the ground before him.
“That’s not nice after I rescued you.”
“Rescued me?” Soren turned, his mouth gaping open. “What? You tried to drown me.”
The dragon reared back slightly, exposing the lighter golden scales of his underside. “You were dangling from that tree. I saved you.”
“And nearly drowned me in the river.”
“I didn’t mutter. You stank. Still do. Maybe all humans smell this bad.”
Soren lifted his shirt and took a whiff. The stench of his clothes turned his stomach. The dragon was right. Then the absurdity of the situation hit him. He couldn’t be here talking to a dragon. Dragons never came this far south. They stayed in their home in the northern mountains. He recalled the time he and his brother had set off to see them. Two days into the trip they had decided to return home but not before spotting the flying creatures in the distance. He recalled staring at them in awe.
The dragons had been banished before his birth. He had never known one to come this far south or to interact with any human since their banishment fifty years ago. And, he reminded himself, they didn’t eat humans. They had at one time been an ally. He felt a little braver and a bit more curious.
“How is it you can talk to me?”
“Dragons speak to whoever they chose. You don’t have to speak aloud. Just concentrate and you can send your thoughts to me.”
“You can read my mind?”
“No. It isn’t so much knowing what you are thinking as it is communicating silently. I am sorry. I am not explaining it right. Give it a try.”
“It is easy.”
“I don’t want to try. I want to go home.” He slipped the scale in his pocket and walked around the dragon’s tail. “Thank you for saving me from the tree,” he said over his shoulder.
“Wait. You must help me.”
Soren stopped, turning to face the dragon. “What do you mean help you?”
The dragon huffed. “I am not handling this well.” The beast flipped his tail to the other side of Soren and used it to pull him closer. “My name is Reddex. You may call me Dex. And you are?”
“Ready to go home.”
The dragon’s golden eyes bore into him. The creature lowered his head until it was even with Soren’s. His warm breath ruffled Soren’s hair. He tried to step back. The dragon’s tail blocked his movement. He sighed.
“Soren. Soren Blackfist.”
“An army from the south invades Walencroft. We must alert the King.”
“No one would dare to attack the Northern Alliance.” He shook his head, unable to believe someone would attack Walencroft or either of the two neighboring countries. It had been over fifty years, right around the time when the Kings severed relations with the dragons, that there had even been a war.
“I saw this army myself.”
Soren shook his head, instantly regretting the movement as his head pounded. “King Bristol wouldn’t do that.”
“I don’t think it is Bristol of Sholar. Whoever it is has Southern dragons with them.”
“What?” Soren paced away before turning back to face Dex. “This makes no sense.” He glanced at the forest. If he moved quick enough, he might be able to use the trees to help him escape. “You saw dragons with this army?”
“Southern dragons. They attacked my squad, killing them all. I was lucky to escape and report back to Warnox. He bid me to tell your King, but you know a dragon cannot land safely at the palace.”
Soren nodded, his mind only half on what the dragon said. He took another step backward toward the forest. “And who is Warnox?”
“He is our leader.”
“This is crazy. I can’t help you.”
As the dragon settled back on his haunches, he looked briefly to the river as Soren supposed he was composing his argument for Soren’s help in his head. Soren took this momentary distraction and bolted for the forest. He held out his hand, protecting his face from the sting of the branches.
Soren heard the snapping of branches behind him. He didn’t dare look back. The ground shook, and he imagined the dragon shoving his way into the forest. But he had to believe the thick trees would protect him and sure enough the crashing sounds stopped. Soren ran a little farther before stopping. He bent over, pressing his hand to his throbbing head. His mind reeled. The whole thing seemed surreal. All he wanted to do was forget everything that happened today. He knew just what to do. An hour later, he pushed open the pub’s door.
The dish crashed to the floor, shattering into four pieces. Soren cursed softly. That noise was sure to wake his brother. Stumbling, he made it out of the kitchen and to the stairs. His foot missed the second step, and he fell forward, whacking his knee hard on the step. He muttered a couple choice words.
He hadn’t meant to be out so late. But it had taken more than a few mugs of ale to rid him of the memory of the red dragon. And now through his muddled thoughts, he wondered if any of it had even been real.
“Soren?” The hushed voice of his brother came from the hallway above.
He shielded his eyes as the light from Jerrick’s lantern cut into them.
“You haven’t been home in two days,” his brother said as Soren climbed the last few stairs. “Ugh. You stink. I don’t need to ask what you have been doing.”
“Flying,” Soren said.
“Really?” Jerrick asked without any true curiosity.
He guided Soren up the remaining stairs and into his room. He led him to his bed. Soren tumbled onto it.
“I was.” It seemed important for Jerrick to believe him. “I was flying with a dragon.”
Jerrick sighed. “You can’t keep doing this, Soren. You haven’t shown been to the smithy in two days. I am sure Master Smith Ferin will dismiss you.” He shook his head. “I can’t keep finding you jobs if you refuse to work.”
Soren wanted to reply but sleep pulled at him. He mumbled something about the dragon as sleep over took him. It was a restlessly sleep. His dream was filled with the wind upon his face and his feet dangling above the river.
The next morning, the bright sunlight woke him. He sat up, his hands swiftly clutching his head as it reeled from the sudden movement. His eyes focused on the bucket on the table by the door. A bar of soap and a cloth lay beside it. Dimly he recalled his brother saying something about him stinking or had someone else told him that?
Moving slowly, he rose. He shed his clothes and used the tepid water and soap to clean his face and arms before running the damp cloth over the rest of him. He pulled on clean clothes, and with a glance out the window decided he should head to the smithy. He was half-way down the stairs when he heard Lyla, his brother’s wife, in the kitchen below.
“No, I mean it this time.”
Soren couldn’t hear Jerrick’s low reply. He crept closer.
“I know he is your brother, but you can’t, no, we can’t keep doing this. With the baby coming, we will need the room and…”
Soren’s mind reeled. Lyla was pregnant. He should be happy for his brother but couldn’t muster any excitement.
“I don’t trust him,” Lyla continued. “He is out half the time drinking and the other half sleeping it off. He stumbles in at all hours, can’t keep a job. I don’t want him around our child, not like that.”
“Lyla, Soren…you know how hard his life has been since Addie died.”
She sighed. “You are a good man, Jerrick, but you can’t make excuses for him forever. One day, he needs to grow up. Both of you can’t keep using Addie as an excuse.”
Soren crept down the stairs. Instead of using the back door that would take him by Jerrick and Lyla, he stumbled out the front door and onto the cobblestone street. His eyes traveled over the nearby houses lining the narrow road. Clean. Neat. Perfect for families. He didn’t belong here.
The thought of family caused Lyla’s last words to echo in his mind. Her mention of Addie brought the image of her face, so happy and eager, to the forefront of his mind. He pushed away those thoughts, but the image of her bright brown eyes didn’t fade.
With a glance at the sky, he realized the sun was higher than he originally thought. He was late. Again. His feet turned toward the path that led from his village to the city of Ballinger. He covered the distance to the city without even thinking. He barely noticed as the city guard half-heartedly waved at him as he entered the city gates and headed to the royal stables.
As he pushed open the stable door, the smell of hay and manure washed over him. A long row of stalls ran the length of the stable. The first few doors were open, and he knew the horses had been moved outside for grooming. He cut across the paddock to the smithy.
The loud clang of the blacksmiths working made his head hurt. He slipped into the darkened area, his eyes immediately checking the piles of wood and coal the blacksmiths and their apprentices used on the fires. Deciding the piles were significantly stocked, he went to his worktable. He picked up a dagger he had been working on last.
“Soren!” Ferin, the head blacksmith, hurried toward him. “You’re late! Again.”
“I’m sorry, Master Smith,” he began, holding up one hand as if to ward off the blacksmith.
“No. No excuses. You are done.”
Soren put down the dagger. “Master Smith, I need this job. Jerrick will kill me if I lose it.”
“Then start praying to the Gods. It is because of Jerrick, I hired you. Let him find someone else willing to take you.”
The way he spat out the last word, Soren had no problem understanding Ferin didn’t think anyone would be willing to offer him a job. He glanced at his worktable. He didn’t dare take anything with the Master Smith standing beside him. The blacksmith’s apprentices had stopped working and now watched as he left. He stood in the street for a moment wondering what to do. He couldn’t go home. Losing this latest job would only prove Lyla correct. He was a louse and needed to be away from their precious family. He couldn’t face her or Jerrick right now.
Without another thought, he ambled into the closest tavern. It was nearly deserted except for a few royal guards having a drink after the night shift. He leaned against the bar, pulling out a coin from his pocket. Setting it on the counter, he ordered an ale. The grizzled old man behind the bar grunted as he dipped a mug into the open barrel.
“Little early even for you.” He banged down the mug. The contents sloshed, almost spilling.
“Careful!” Soren lifted the mug and gulped the warm ale.
He heard the door behind him open and close.
The old man frowned. “Nina, I told you not to come here anymore.”
Soren swung around to face the door. Nina wore a low-cut dress that hugged her ample curves. Her blonde hair was pulled away from her face. Her half-hearted smile didn’t reach her blue eyes.
“I’m not working, Milton.” Her eyes settled on Soren. “I was on my way to the market and thought I saw you come in.”
He lifted his mug in greeting and took a sip. “Nina,” he said as his eyes traveled over her body. “You are looking as fine as ever.”
She crossed the room, her hips swaying seductively. She leaned a hip against the bar. “I thought you might be interested in having a little fun.” She ran her finger down his forearm. “And I’m bored.” She grabbed his hand, squeezing it. “For old time’s sake.”
His eyes traveled from her bosom to her soft lips. Even after all these years he could remember the first time he kissed them. He and Nina had been thirteen. It was his first kiss. Two years later, he would lose his virginity to her. Their hot, passionate relationship had died after two months but still on occasion they would take a tumble for old time’s sake as Nina called it.
She leaned forward, her hand slipping to his inner thigh. His body tightened. He never liked Nina’s chosen line of work. But at the moment, he didn’t care. He wanted to forget about facing Jerrick for a while, and he knew Nina could accomplish that. He grabbed her hand and led her out of the tavern.
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