Book 3 in the Brothers of Fire and Ash Series
A dragon’s prisoner…or his deepest desire?
The fiercest of a royal line of Russian dragon shifters, Rurik Barinov spends most days defending his family’s homeland from rival clans. By night, sins of the flesh—drinking, dancing, and sex—keep his volatile warrior dragon in check. Barely.
With his choice of mortal women to bed, he has no interest in changing his bad-boy ways—until a creature of molten sex poured into a tiny red satin dress steps into his nightclub. A jagged edge of raw desire nicks the impenetrable armor around his heart.
Charlotte MacQueen has been told since childhood to stay in school, live a normal life. Leave the family business—hunting down dragons—to her brothers. But tonight, she’s shed her chemist’s lab coat and infiltrated enemy lines to bag a dragon of her own.
She never expected sexy, all-too-wicked Rurik Barinov to capture her, body and soul—the perfect weapon to use against her brothers. Or that she’d fall for the brave, battle-scarred dragon shifter who covets her heart like the most precious of jewels.
Twilight meets Games of Thrones in this hot new dragonshifter romance by USA Today Bestselling author Lauren Smith!
Purchase your copy directly from Lauren Smith here
Read an Excerpt:
She watched the dancers on the floor for a while, scanning the room until she saw what she was looking for. A back door. It probably led to some offices. That might be where Rurik hung out when he wasn’t working in the club. But she had no plans to barge in there and look. She would stay here and wait. Hopefully he would come out soon, and then she could start her reconnaissance.
The files she’d studied assured her that he always stuck close to Moscow and rarely went to his second residence, which was somewhere south in the country. She took another sip of wine and looked back to the dancers. Three of the men from outside the club stood in front of her, watching her with wicked grins. She froze. The man who had slapped her ass was talking to her again in Russian.
“I’m sorry—I don’t speak very much Russian,” she told him, one of the few Russian phrases she could manage, and tried to turn back to the bar. One of them grabbed her from behind and dragged away from her seat.
“Let go!” She swung her purse, smacking him in the face. The heavy gold clasps thunked as they made contact with the man’s nose. He cursed, clutching his face as he waved his other hand at his friends, who rushed her.
Oh shit! She dropped into a fighting stance, praying she wouldn’t break an ankle in her low heels when she tried to roundhouse whoever made the first move on her. A man tried to grab for her hair with a meaty hand. She pulled herself back and countered. The man was too close for a roundhouse, but not a solid knee to the breadbasket. He dropped with a gasp, and Charlotte backed away, waiting for the next. But there were too many of them, and she doubted they’d oblige her by coming one at a time after that.
A deep bellowing shout thundered through the room and sent the men scrambling away like rats.
Panting, she held her purse, which dangled on its chain from one of her hands. She felt someone’s eyes upon her, a gaze as tangible as a caress along her skin, making her shiver. She looked around for whoever had scared the men off. Her heart thumped in a panicked beat against her ribs when she saw who had rescued her, standing behind her.
Rurik Barinov. He looked dangerous and sexy in jeans and a black T-shirt and especially those biker boots. If she was being honest with herself, those boots had always played quite a large role in her fantasies whenever she thought of him. Considering he was supposed to be her target, not the star of her most sensual daydreams, that wasn’t a good sign.
“Are you all right?” he asked. His accent, a deep, rumbling, slightly growling tone, did funny things to her insides. For a second she couldn’t speak—her brain had short-circuited.
Rurik gently grasped her by the elbow. That got a reaction from her, as her first instinct was to pull back. But his response to this surprised her; he looked at her and said, “Please,” while holding out his hand. Something about his voice disarmed her, and she allowed herself to be led away. He took her into a dark, quiet alcove where the acoustics of the room couldn’t reach them. His eyes, a beautiful green, swept over her from head to toe. He pressed her back against the wall and cupped her chin, lifting her face. She shivered as his thumb caressed her bottom lip.
“Are you hurt?” he asked.
She shook her head.
He tilted his head, still studying her in an intense manner. “American?”
“You shouldn’t come to a club like this alone. It is too dangerous for a flower such as you.” He let go of her face, but he leaned in a few inches, inhaling deeply before he murmured something to himself in Russian.
“I’m not that delicate,” she replied stiffly. Sure, she wasn’t a kick-ass supernatural hunter like her brothers, but she wasn’t totally helpless.
His lips curved into a grin that made a storm of butterflies come to life in her stomach. “It is true. Some flowers have thorns, and you certainly showed yours.” The dim lights and the way he stood half in shadow exposed a thin scar that swept down his face across his cheek. It had a distinctive shape to it, as if he’d been slashed by something. Was it from another dragon’s claw? She had to admit she was fascinated. The Brotherhood files on the Barinov dragons were slim. She wished she knew more about him, and she had a feeling she was about to.
“Yet I think you are more delicate than you realize, little one.” He reached up to brush the backs of his fingers over her cheek. She shivered as a wave of arousal buzzed through her. She opened her mouth, even though she had no idea what she was going to say, but he placed a finger over her lips.
“Why don’t you leave your purse with my bartender and come dance with me?” He was tugging her away from the wall before she could argue. He slid her purse off her shoulder and tossed it at the tattooed man, who caught it in one hand and tucked it beneath the bar.
“Shhh.” Rurik pulled her against him as music wrapped around them, pulsing and thumping. His hands curled around her hips, the tips of his fingers riding the edge of her ass as they began to dance. He moved smoothly with a rolling gait, and the slide of his feet felt like he’d had tons of practice. She’d always been a terrible dancer, but with his hands and body guiding hers, he made it seem so easy. It bordered on surreal, being here with him, the lights of the club spinning around them and music pouring into her soul.
Maybe I’m just dreaming about him again.
It wouldn’t have been the first time since she’d seen his face in those files that she’d woken up in the dead of night, her heart racing and her body hungry for the touch of this man…this man who was also a beast.
Her plan to capture him was still on track. If anything, this could work to her advantage. But she could relax, enjoy herself for a few songs first, couldn’t she? Dancing was one of the few ways a man and a woman could speak to each other without words. Well, that and kissing. But she couldn’t let him kiss her, not after she’d heard Meg’s lecture about dragon pheromones.
As a biochemist, she was well aware of the drugging influences of pheromones in some animals, and that had led to an idea: What if she could turn the tables on him? Shifters were still essentially human, and while human pheromones did not affect people the way they did other animals, some samples obtained from a rogue dragon shifter the Brotherhood had had to take down had resulted in a minor breakthrough. The pheromones they gave off were still human, but they were supercharged somehow, amplified in a way that no human could do naturally, but she could reproduce it artificially. She was wearing a sample of it now, a field test to see if it might make her more interesting to Rurik.
But she was also worried about the reverse happening. She didn’t want to come under the influence of anything she couldn’t control, biological or chemical. Part of her worried that he might have already exerted some kind of subtle influence over her. There were rumors that dragons could compel humans with a form of hypnotism.
“You are enjoying yourself?” he asked in her ear.
His hands drifted lower, cupping her ass. A new flash of arousal hit her, and she couldn’t help but moan when he pressed closer to her. She was too aware of him, of his undeniable sexuality. At times like this it sucked being a virgin. She felt like a live volcano ready to blow whenever she got too close to someone with raw sexual chemistry like this.
“Yes, this is fun!” she shouted over the music.
What the hell, right? Life is too short not to enjoy yourself.
He spun her in his arms, grinding her backside against him. She watched the dancers around them. The club was modeled to resemble a cave, but it also had a hint of a dungeon about it, complete with women dancing inside cages. Iron-barred honest-to-God cages. For a second she pictured herself in one of them, Rurik outside the bars, hungry to reach her, unable to touch her, yet knowing he had caught her. It was… Holy hell, it was so hot just to think about it.
Rurik’s hand slid up her body from behind, not quite cupping her breast, but coming close. “Want to give it a try?”
“The dancing cages. I can see that you’re tempted.”
She tried to shake her head, not wanting him to know she’d been way too turned on at the idea of him putting her in a cage. “No…”
He chuckled, his lips feathering against her ear. “Yes, you are.”
She ducked her head, hair falling in front of her face, trying to hide from him. But he brushed it back, tucking it behind her ear and over her shoulder.
“Come.” He led her toward one of the cages where a blonde girl was shaking to a dance rhythm that Charlotte would never be able to copy. He opened the cage door and jerked his head. The girl left immediately.
Rurik pushed her toward the cage. “Get in, little one.” She stumbled, caught herself on the bars, and turned to face him as he closed the cage door behind her. Then he leaned against the door, his arm muscles flexing. He had trapped her in the cage.
“Now, dance for me, sweetheart.” Rurik’s green eyes met hers, and she seemed to spiral into them. Every worry, every self-conscious thought she’d ever had seemed to fade into the back of her mind.
“Dance for me. Show me your heart’s desire.” The words were his, but he hadn’t spoken them. It was as though she’d heard the words inside her head. An irresistible compulsion to do what he said came over her, almost as though she was drunk—only on words instead of alcohol.
Charlotte rolled her hips, feeling the beat of the music and letting it run through her blood like a current. She moved, spun, leaned against the bars and threw her head back, sending her hair in a cascade as she gave in to the wild part of herself. A part she’d always denied, ignored, or repressed.
All the while he watched, satisfied, the dragon with dark brown hair and bewitching eyes. The green of his eyes was intense like emeralds. His lips were parted, and his hands were white-knuckled on the bars. Was he restraining himself? Holding himself back? That only made Charlotte bolder, wilder. Dimly, she was aware that she was being very reckless, but she couldn’t seem to stop.
I’m playing with fire. She just prayed she wouldn’t get burned.