rosemary laurey

Fly With A Dragon
SACRIFICE

SACRIFICE was a PEARL finalist, won the Dorothy Parker Award for best e-book and Fly with a Dragon is a Finalist in the TARA Scarlet Letter Award and a nominee for Love Romances Readers Choice Golden Rose Award.

In Fly with a Dragon, selected as the virgin sacrifice to the ravening dragon, Myfanwy waits as Arragh, the Dragon of Cader Bala, approaches across the sacred grove. But Arragh comes not to destroy, but to carry her off to his home and fate far, far better than death.


excerpt

Chapter One

It was too late for prayers or petitions. She was alone. Deserted. The others fled, abandoning her at the first rumble like distant thunder.

Myfanwy gathered the last shreds of her courage and suppressed the shivers of fear. She couldn’t run. Stout ropes bound her to the sacred oak. Shoulders back and her chin up, she waited for the approaching dragon. He would not see her terror. She would die with the courage befitting her father’s daughter. But despite all her resolve, her mouth gaped and a soft gasp of surprise escaped her dry throat at her first sight of the ravager.

He stood upright, not crawling like a worm but standing erect and striding towards her like a man but one look told her he was not a man. The dragon stopped a little more than an armslength from where she waited, bound tight and terrified.

He was taller than her brothers and broader in the chest than her father and his pale gray skin gleamed in the twilight. He said nothing for several long minutes, just stood not quite close enough to touch her and let his green eyes gaze from her face to her bare feet and back to meet her eyes, catching then with an intensity made her shiver against her will

“So,” the dragon’s voice was warm and rich and intoxicating as a tankard of aged mead, “you are the sacrifice prepared for me.”

She held herself tall as anyone could tied to a tree, and replied “I am Myfanwy, daughter of...”

“Harwed Rees, the village chieftain,” he finished for her, his strange wide, gray lips curling in a twisted half-smile. “Could they find no other to offer me, that the chief’s own daughter stands here? Or did your father think to placate me with his own offspring?”

Myfanwy suppressed a shudder. Willing herself to show no weakness to this terror, she let the rough trunk of the tree support her weakening legs. Not that she could have run if she’d chosen. They’d used the finest ropes the weavers could provide. The tight flax cut into her arms and thighs, roughing her waist through the thin shift which was all they permitted her to wear. She was helpless and the next best thing to naked and the scourge of the countryside stood an armslength away.

"The scourge of the countryside smiled, his mouth wide, his eyes almost twinkling. With what? Amusement at her plight? Anticipation of his next meal? The ridges over his eyes rose as his scaly forehead rippled. He cocked his head, waiting for her answer, enjoying her discomfort - or was he? His eyes seemed almost gentle as they met hers. Impossible! This was the Worm who’d ravaged their crops and slaughtered the other maidens sacrificed to his ravening.

“You find me unsuitable, Sir?’

That truly amused him. His eyes gleamed green as spring grass in sunshine as his wide lips creased into a broad smile. “No, sweet sacrifice, I find you most.... suitable ... for my purpose.” Myfanwy shivered, imagining his purpose. “I just wonder why your father chose to honor me with his only daughter instead of some buxom peasant.”

“I think that is partly your fault, Sir.”

“Mine? How so?” The ridges over his eyes rose with the surprise in his voice. “I’ve been blamed for pillage, disaster and ravaging the countryside but it was your father chose you and your brothers who lashed you to the sacrificial oak.”

“Yes,” she conceded, biting her lip as she remembered, half-wondering how he knew. Had he seen her brought out here? “but you let it be know you wanted...” she hesitated, “a virgin.”

He shrugged and rippled the great muscles beneath his gray skin. “And why not? The Dragon of Cader Bala takes no human’s cast-off.”

“Yes... but when the word spread that you insisted on virgin tribute, most of the village maidens took pains to ensure they were no longer suitable for offering.”

The destroyer laughed. He threw back his great head with a wild dragon roar that had the birds in the trees deserting their roosts. As his laughter faded, he met her eyes and gave a soft chuckle that sent a warm shiver rippling across her skin. “So, my demands precipitated a great orgy. Though I doubt it was an onerous duty for the chosen swains.” The ravager of the countryside stepped closer and Myfanwy caught his scent, sweet wood smoke, like an apple or pear log tossed on the fires in her father’s hall. His breath came warm and sweet on her face. “And how did you escape this great fuck of defiance? Are the men of your father’s demesne blind, or just plain stupid?”

“My father and brothers were watchful. They wanted me kept pure for my husband.”

The dragon nodded. “So, some worthy warrior has been robbed of a bride.” The idea amused him. She heard it in the lightness of his voice and couldn’t miss the almost blue sparkle deep in his darkening green eyes. “And now, you offer me what he will never enjoy.”

A warm shiver raced from her face to between her legs. She looked up at the dragon, her face burning with flush and her body warm with a heat she only half-understood, and that half disturbed her. Greatly. Praise the Goddess the dragon had no cock - she was safe from rape. She had prepared herself to die but ... Myfanwy took a deep breath, to steady her nerves as much as her racing heart. “Sir, what do you wish of me?”

“Everything, Myfanwy,” the dragon replied. As he spoke he reached out his right arm, his long gray fingers bare inches from her face. The back of his hand was cross hatched with dark lines like the veins on a leaf or the fine detail of a sea shell. He flexed his fingers and the muscles showed the strength in even his littlest finger. As she watched, great claws extended, just as a cat might prepare to scratch against furniture. But this was no house cat to be gathered up and held on her lap. This was the Dragon of Cader Bala and she was his victim. She could not stop trembling.

“Be still, I will not hurt you.” She had no reason to trust his word, but looking into his deep green eyes, believe him she did.

Even so her heartbeat sped fast as a frightened bird’s as one fine-pointed claw drew a line down her shift from her neck to her girdle. She felt warmth and smelled burning linen. She glanced down in horror. He’d burned her bodice apart!

“Hush,” he whispered as she opened her mouth to protest, cry, or perhaps whimper. His strong hands brushed the singed halves of her shift off her shoulders. His touch was strangely gentle, calming her fears as the pads of his fingers brushed her chest. Was it his hands or the chill breeze of the glade that turned her skin into chicken flesh? Her exposed breasts lay open to the air and the dragon’s gaze. Her nipples hardened like the young acorns on the tree overhead, and the smile on his gray lips sent a fire coursing though her veins.

“Your father flatters me with his gift,” the dragon said as he cupped her shoulder with a warm hand. “And your generosity, Lady, honors me. While some less virtuous maid goes to your intended groom, you offer yourself to the Dragon’s embrace.”

“Hardly that! I didn’t exactly tie myself to this tree!” Her fear made her say more than was wise. Would he blast her for her impudence?

Seemingly not. At least not yet. “No, your caring and vigilant brothers did that at your father’s command.”

That much was true. They’d roped her securely and then run as if the dragon were already at their heels. “What do you want?” Why ask? She’d seen the charred remains of his other victims, her cousin Bron last spring, Mary the weaver’s club-footed daughter the year before.

“I want you, Myfanwy, daughter of Harwed Rees. Will you come with me?”

“I have a choice?” She’d have laughed if her heart wasn’t tight with fear.

He considered it as a valid question. “Lady, there are always choices. I choose this valley to hunt, your father chose you as my delight. And I ask you, will you come with me?” He stepped back a stride. She missed his warmth, his closeness had protected her from the cool air. She shivered as he watched her with unblinking green eyes. Waiting. His face blank as a mask. What would he do if she refused?

The possibility died even before her mind put words to it. If she could save her family and clan from his pestilence, so be it. “I will come with you, Sir, on condition you keep your word to leave my valley unmolested for ... five years.” She all but gasped at her temerity! She was haggling with the scourge of the valley as if he were a wandering peddler.

He was amused, not angered. “You would bargain with me, lady?” An eyebrow ridge rose as he spoke.

“What have I to lose? My fate is sealed but I would save others if I can.”

He inclined his head, like a warrior acknowledging a commission. “You have the word of the Dragon of Calder Bala. Come with me freely and obey me completely and your people will be safe.”

Inexplicably, she believed him. Of course he’d said nothing about her safety. May the Goddess give her courage to face her end! The dragon didn’t move. Just stood, watching her, his mouth twitching at one corner as if pleased with what he saw. She shivered, forcing herself to breathe slowly. She’d face death with best dignity she could muster. A gray tongue slipped from between his almost-closed mouth. Slowly he licked his lips. A cold shudder took her, retching its way from her chest to her feet, pulling her brain with it, and tearing at her resolve.

“Sir...” she began, her voice shaking and weak.

“My name is Arragh.”

So, she was to know the name of her slayer. “Arragh,” she paused, “how long before...”

“I consume you, sweet Myfanwy, and you and I become one?” Hearing it so blandly from his lips sent a cold shiver down her spine. “Not long, lady, but not here. This is not the place.”

Her mouth dropped open at that. “But this is the appointed place.” The others had all perished on the edge of the sacred grove.

“Chosen by by your people, lady, not by me.” He took a half- step closer. “You consented to come with me. I choose where we go.”

So, he would take her away to slaughter her! How would he kill her? Throttle her? Rip her apart with those strong, skin-clad arms and sharp claws? Burn her alive as the others had perished? Despite her resolve, her courage faltered. The evening air on her naked breasts echoed the chill in her soul. Was this to be the end of all her hopes and dreams? Death in the hands of the dragon? If so, she begged the Goddess to help her bear it with courage.

Arragh took another step. He was so close now, if she were unbound, she could have reached out and traced the lines of scale in his gray skin, run her fingers along the green ridges on his shoulders. If she were unbound she could have fled! But her hands were lashed together against the rough bark of the sacred oak and her legs were tied with twisted rope and even if free, how could she flee and put her life above her people’s safety?

She had put her trust in the word of a worm and would die, to save others from her dreadful fate.

Arragh’s mouth twitched at one corner as he leaned forward, lips slightly parted, and brushed the fabric of her shift right off her shoulders. His touch was gentle, his skin smooth and strangely warm against hers as he drew his fingers across her chest. He said nothing, his eyes intent on her face, as his sheathed and now, blunt claws, traced a wild ribbon of sensation from one shoulder to the other, pausing in the hollow of her neck to rest his splayed hand on the flat above her breasts.

The tree at her back prevented movement, even if she had wished to evade the confident trail of his fingers. He rested his other hand flat on the tree beside her face. She was pinioned, held fast by his presence and his will and the knots of her brothers’ making. Her breath came in short, shallow, spurts as he lowered his head.

Myfanwy braced herself for the rent of his teeth in her throat, but his warm breath skimmed her bared breast, and before she thought to flinch or cry out, his tongue moistened her shivering flesh and his lips closed over her nipple, like a back suckling his nurse.

For a slow second, her breathing ceased and her heart skittered, then a wild warmth flooded her consciousness, like a stream in full spate, or a wild forest fire. She gasped but not from fear or pain. A wild weakness took her, without the oak at the back and the ropes circling her waist, she’d have collapsed on the grassy turf. Arragh lifted his mouth away and the evening air gave a sudden chill to her now-moist nipple, as he moved to take her other breast.

This time she expected the warmth in her bones but not the slow sweet yearning that rose deep in her vitals to pool between her legs. She fought with all her will to restrain the moan that started deep in her throat, but a slow sigh escaped her clenched lips. Her eyes widened at the sound of her own yearning. Her heart raced as she glanced down at the dragon. His face was hidden against the whiteness of her breast, his head a hard, dark shape in the gathering gloom. She yearned to take her hands and cup the firm roundness of his skull, to know how his strange, veined skin felt under her fingertips. The touch of his hand and lips and the press of his face on her breasts told her was neither slimy nor scaly as the bards insisted. Arragh was not the crawling worm of song, nor the destroyer of the legends. Or was he?

She sighed as he lifted his head and fixed her with his deep green eyes. Blue lights glimmered in their depths. He had no eyelashes, no hair that she could see, just two immense eyes in his great face. He was a creature of the far mountains, the bringer of fire and destruction, the destroyer. He held her in his absolute power, touched her with gentleness, and looked at her with kindness.

Nonsense! He was a monster, an animal incapable of kindly thoughts, a creature of devastation who stripped her near-naked with tender hands and caressed her nipples with his warm lips and would very soon consume her with fire, or rip her limbs from her body and...

He raised his mouth again from her breast. It took all she had not to whimper her disappointment. “You will come with me then, Myfanwy? Freely? Willing to follow my direction?”

“Yes.” Did he think she would refuse?

His eyes glimmered as he stood upright, Still resting one hand on the tree above her head, he reached out and stroked her cheek with the back of his free hand. His skin was smooth, if a little dry and his touch send the same wild sensations coursing though her. Would he consume her soon? Did he enjoy playing with her before the kill? Teasing her like a cat with a helpless bird? She shook at the thought.

“Be still,” he said holding her to the tree.

The bark roughed against her back. His hand held firm on her shoulder. She should be terrified but a strange calm enveloped her. She was no longer afraid. Perhaps she was past fear.

His right arm moved, his index finger raised. With a swift, almost unseen movement, he flashed a narrow thread of fire down her side. Myfanwy gasped, smelled burning rope, and watched her bounds fall away into a smoking heap on the grass. She stepped away from the smoldering rope, into Arragh’s arms.

"Steady,” he whispered in her ear, running his hands over her back and head, as if to calm a frightened animal. ”Be still.”

The wide fingers that had burned her bonds moments earlier, rubbed her wrists and arms, chafing her skin back to life. Satisfied the circulation in her arms had returned, he knelt. His hands now rubbed her ankles, easing the pain from the ropes and sending sweet shivers cursing though her body. Unable to stop herself, now her arms were free, she rested a hand on his smooth skull.

He paused a second at her touch and she froze, fearing she’d angered him, but he continued the gentle rubbing of her legs. Emboldened, she rested both hands on his scalp.

His skin was smooth and cool, but warmed under her touch, A ridge of raised skin, hard like the callus of a sword hand, ran from his crown down his back where a man would have a spine. Wide green and gray ridges ran across his shoulders and back, like the veins underside a leaf, or the markings of a dragonfly’s wings. Was this why they were so named? She smiled, very unsure of herself ... and Arragh.

He had neither attacked not harmed her. His voice was calm, almost soothing, and his touch as gentle as a nurse’s. His head was a smooth and soft as an infant’s and...

She gave a gasp as he stood and in one movement, pushed the remains of her shift to the ground. She was naked and he...

He took her hand. Easily. As if to steady and balance, not to restrain her. “Step away from it,” he said.

She obeyed, nervous with the awareness of her total nudity.

Holding her at arm’s length, Arragh surveyed her, like a horseman regarding a new mount. “Leave that behind,” he said, glancing at the pile of rags lying at her feet. “It will only hinder you and it burns too easily.” Why did that matter? Was he going to kill her after all? “Your hair.” As he spoke he ran his fingers done one braid. “That must go.”

“Why, Sir?” Her much admired copper-colored braids were he vanity and to lose them...

“Human hair burns too easily,” he replied and as if to prove his point, with a flick of his fingers, he burned off her braids, pinching the ends between his fingers to extinguish the flame. Myfanwy gasped as her braids dropped to her feet, the smell of burning hair still hung in the air. Was this a preliminary to her sacrifice? What would he do to her next?

“Are your legs strong enough to run?” he asked.

Run? So he was going to play with her and chase her like a hunted animal. “I can run it I need, Sir. But whom would I need to flee from?” She kept her chin high and prayed her voice didn’t falter.

"Whom would we flee from?” Arragh echoed with a slow twist of one corner of his mouth. “From your father’s warriors who wait beyond the grove with their fire and staves.” She opened her mouth to speak but Arragh shook his head and rested a finger on her lips. “Later, Myfanwy, ask your questions. Time passes and we must leave. When I say give the word, run. Do not let go of me and never stop. If you hesitate, you will perish.”

 

reviews

Love Romances Golden Rose Award Noninee - 2002

2002 GRA Nominee     

Pearl Award
2002 PEARL Finalist

RIO Dorothy Parker Award
2002 RIO Dorothy
Parker Award Winner

 

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