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       Flashfire, p.1

           Deborah Cooke
 
Flashfire


  Praise for the

  Dragonfire Novels

  Darkfire Kiss

  “Deborah Cooke’s Dragonfire novels are impossible to put down. Darkfire Kiss is no exception. I dare any reader to skim any part of this terrific story!” —Romance Reviews Today

  Whisper Kiss

  “Deborah Cooke has again given readers a truly dynamic story in her Dragonfire chronicles.” —Fresh Fiction

  “This is a terrific Kiss urban romantic fantasy. . . . The author has ‘Cooked’ another winner with the tattoo artist and the dragon shape-shifter.” —Alternative Worlds

  “A great addition to the Pyr story line . . . I recommend Deborah Cooke to those who like dragons and love; this one will be a keeper for your shelves and a reread as you pick up the next book in the line.” —Night Owl Romance

  “Whisper Kiss by Deborah Cooke is now my unofficial official favorite! . . . Bursting with emotions, passion, and even a real fire or four, I count myself lucky not to have spontaneously combusted! Don’t miss this sizzling addition to Deborah Cooke’s Dragonfire series—it is marvelous!” —Romance Junkies

  “Cooke introduces her most unconventional and inspiring heroine to date with tattoo artist Rox. . . . Cooke aces another one!” —Romantic Times (4½ stars)

  Winter Kiss

  “A beautiful and emotionally gripping fourth novel, Winter Kiss is compelling and will keep readers riveted in their seats and breathing a happy sigh at the love shared between Delaney and Ginger. . . . Sizzling hot love scenes and explosive emotions make Winter Kiss a must read!” —Romance Junkies

  “A terrific novel!” —Romance Reviews Today

  “All the Pyr and their mates from the previous three books in this exciting series are included in this final confrontation with Magnus and his evil Dragon’s Blood Elixir. It’s another stellar addition to this dynamic paranormal saga with the promise of more to come.” —Fresh Fiction

  Kiss of Fate

  “An intense ride. Ms. Cooke has a great talent. . . . If you love paranormal romance in any way, this is a series you should be following.” —Night Owl Romance (reviewer top pick)

  “Second chances are a key theme in this latest Dragonfire adventure. Cooke keeps the pace intense and the emotions raging in this powerful new read. She’s top-notch, as always.” —Romantic Times

  Kiss of Fury

  “Those sexy dragons are back in the second chapter of Cooke’s exciting paranormal series, Dragonfire. The intriguing characters continue to grow and offer terrific opportunities for story expansion. Balancing a hormone-driven romance with high-stakes action can be difficult, but Cooke manages with ease. Visiting this world is a pleasure.” —Romantic Times

  “This second book in Deborah Cooke’s phenomenal Dragonfire series expertly sets the stage for the next thrilling episode.” —Fresh Fiction

  “Entertaining and imaginative . . . a must read for paranormal fans.” —BookLoons

  “Riveting. . . . Deborah Cooke delivers a fiery tale of love and passion.” —Wild on Books

  “Epic battles, suspense, ecological concerns, humor, and romance are highlights that readers can expect in this tale. Excellent writing, a smart story, and exceptional characters earn this novel the RRT Perfect 10 Rating. Don’t miss the very highly recommended Kiss of Fury.” —Romance Reviews Today

  “Combustible . . . extremely fascinating . . . Deborah Cooke has only touched the surface about these wonderful men called the Pyr and their battle with the evil dragons. . . . I am dying for more.” —Romance Junkies

  Kiss of Fire

  “Cooke, aka bestseller Claire Delacroix, dips into the paranormal realm with her sizzling new Dragonfire series. With a self-described loner as a hero, this heroine has to adjust to her new role in the supernatural and establish bonds of trust. Efficient plotting moves the story at a brisk pace and paves the way for more exciting battles to come.” —Romantic Times

  “Wow, what an innovative and dazzling world Ms. Cooke has built with this new Dragonfire series. Her smooth and precise writing quickly draws the reader in and has you believing it could almost be real. . . . I can’t wait for the next two books.” —Fresh Fiction

  “Deborah Cooke has definitely made me a fan. I am now lying in wait for the second book in this extremely exciting series.” —Romance Junkies

  “Paranormal fans with a soft spot for shape-shifting dragons will definitely enjoy Kiss of Fire, a story brimming with sexy heroes, evil villains threatening mayhem, death and world domination, ancient prophesies, and an engaging love story. . . . An intriguing mythology and various unanswered plot threads set the stage for plenty more adventure to come in future Dragonfire stories.” —BookLoons

  Also by Deborah Cooke

  The Dragonfire Novels

  Kiss of Fire

  Kiss of Fury

  Kiss of Fate

  Winter Kiss

  Whisper Kiss

  Darkfire Kiss

  The Dragon Diaries Novels

  Flying Blind

  Winging It

  FLASHFIRE

  A Dragonfire Novel

  Deborah Cooke

  SIGNET ECLIPSE

  Published by New American Library, a division of

  Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA

  Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)

  Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

  Penguin Ireland, 25 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd.)

  Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty. Ltd.)

  Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi - 110 017, India

  Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, Auckland 0632, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.)

  Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa

  Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices:

  80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

  First published by Signet Eclipse, an imprint of New American Library,

  a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

  First Printing, January 2012

  Copyright © Deborah A. Cooke, 2012

  All rights reserved

  SIGNET ECLIPSE and logo are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

  Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.

  PUBLISHER’S NOTE

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

  The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party Web sites or their content.

  If you purchased this book without a cover you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was reported as “unsold and destroyed” to the publisher and neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this “stripp
ed book.”

  The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.

  For Kon,

  as always.

  Contents

  Prologue

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Epilogue

  Author’s Note

  Special Preview

  About the Author

  Prologue

  Hale’iwa, Hawai’i

  January 19, 2011

  The Slayer Chen settled into a corner table at a ramshackle beach bar on the north shore of Oahu. Here, the surfing season was in full fury, and the waves were high enough to set records.

  On this night, the moon would be full. The timing was perfect to move his plan one step closer to fruition.

  Next year, 2012, would be the year of the dragon, and time was slipping away. Chen had been compelled to accept that he’d made a slight miscalculation in loosing the darkfire—that potent and disruptive force, legendary among the Pyr, and known to turn all assumptions upside down when released. Chen had deliberately chosen to break one of the three crystals that held darkfire captive, and had done so to disrupt the last major firestorm of the Pyr. Unfortunately, he’d failed to anticipate that the darkfire could also impact his own situation.

  He’d assumed himself immune to such factors.

  In fact, “impact” was an understatement. The darkfire had broken his special tool, the brand he used to enslave Pyr and Slayers. Although he’d reforged the iron brand, it wasn’t the same—and he distrusted the blue-green flame of darkfire that periodically danced around its rim. He wasn’t entirely sure what it would do when used, for ancient magic was most unpredictable.

  And apparently most susceptible to darkfire’s touch.

  Instead of working alone, Chen had decided to take on reinforcements. He knew that he needed to have each of the four elements accounted for in order to enact his plan. He himself had an affinity for fire and for earth. He had mastered some ability to control air and water, but had intended to enslave other dragon shifters with those affinities. Time was passing, though, and the darkfire was loose—Chen was doubling up the options to ensure his own triumph. He’d build a small army, reliant upon him, beholden to him, magically bound to him, and guarantee that nothing would fail.

  Chen had discovered, to his own surprise, that he rather liked having minions. It was pleasant to sit back, pull the strings, and let others do his dirty work for a change. Viv Jason, for example, was pledged to gather the Pyr with an affinity for air, the one Chen had been unable to snatch so far himself.

  The party animal who called himself Thorolf.

  Chen looked forward to that delivery with anticipation.

  Then he’d have to figure out what Viv Jason truly wanted of him. He knew her pledge to bring him Thorolf was but an introductory move in what would surely be a battle for supremacy between them.

  Chen smiled at the promise of that.

  All in all, he felt that his new scheme was moving toward its culmination like clockwork.

  Chen sat with his back to the wall in the bar, the corner table allowing him an unobstructed view of the beach. He was in human form, in the guise of an older Chinese man. He liked this form, as people tended to underestimate him when he used it. He ordered a glass of juice from the pretty waitress, ensuring that his English was faulty, then waited.

  He felt a thrill when he saw his prey jump out of a convertible, hauling his surfboard and shouting to his friends. This young Pyr—powerful, tanned, and confident—was the perfect target.

  It was a bonus that Brandon was estranged from his father, unknown by the other Pyr, and ignorant of his abilities. None of the Pyr even suspected this young one’s affinity to the earth.

  Chen adored how useful Brandon would be to him.

  Never mind how responsive the young dragon was to the Dragon Bone Powder. Chen would bait the trap a little more before harvesting this prey.

  Brandon was in his early twenties, his age difficult to guess given his rumpled good looks. His hair was dark auburn and tangled. There was a day’s growth of stubble on his chin, and his body was tanned to a deep gold. His smile flashed white, his blue eyes twinkling. He wore only shorts and a Hawaiian shirt that was unfastened, the wind whipping at the fabric and revealing glimpses of his collection of tattoos.

  More than one woman watched him walk toward the bar where Chen sat. Brandon smiled only for a dark-haired girl who got out of the same car as he did. She flicked the barest glance at him, then turned away to join her friends. Disappointment crossed Brandon’s features.

  Brandon leaned his surfboard against the outside of the wooden bar with care, then ducked into the shadows, heading straight for Chen. “Hey, Chen, good to see you.” The young Pyr’s words carried a subtle hint of Australia, although he sounded more American the longer he remained in Hawai’i.

  “I am pleased also to see you again.” Chen bowed his head slightly.

  “Still into the pineapple juice?”

  “You must be my guest,” Chen said, knowing that his prey was notoriously short of cash. “I insist.” He beckoned to the waitress, then indicated Brandon.

  Brandon grinned at the waitress, unaware of his easy charm or his affect upon her. “A beer for me. Thanks, Chen.” He leaned over the table then, his expression turning serious as his voice dropped. “You don’t have any more of that stuff, do you, Chen?”

  Chen pretended not to understand, although inwardly he was delighted. Everything was falling perfectly into place.

  “You know. Ancient Chinese remedy.” Brandon winked. His gaze trailed away to the dark-haired girl he’d smiled at. She was chatting with her friends on the beach, so pointedly ignoring Brandon that Chen knew the attraction was mutual.

  The boy had no need of Chen’s powder to make this conquest, but Chen would not be the one to tell him so.

  “She is very pretty,” Chen said, although he thought she was less than remarkable.

  “Only here one more day.” Brandon grimaced. “Time is of the essence, you know.” The hope in his eyes made Chen dizzy. To think that his prey would be so eager to step into the trap. It was beyond expectation.

  He had chosen the bait well.

  “I have only a little bit of the powder,” he admitted. “And you know I rely upon it myself.”

  “Aren’t you going home, soon, though? Can’t you get more?”

  “Tomorrow, yes. I also remain only one more day.”

  “So . . . ?”

  Chen nodded. “So I can help a friend once more.”

  “Excellent!” Brandon’s grin flashed. His beer came, frost on the bottle, and he drained half of it immediately.

  “The usual price,” Chen said softly.

  Brandon met his gaze, his smile fading. “Again?”

  Chen spread his hands, as if the terms were not his to negotiate.

  Brandon winced. He eyed the girl. He finished his beer. Then he squared his shoulders and nodded. “Just give me a minute. Watch the board for me, huh?”

  Chen in
clined his head and Brandon left the table. He heard the young Pyr lock himself in the men’s room and smiled at the ripple of energy he felt when Brandon shifted shape. Chen closed his eyes and savored the sensation. Soon the young dragon would be completely in his thrall, unable to make the shift without Chen’s permission.

  He could hardly wait.

  Brandon returned moments later, something in his hand.

  He laid the scale flat on the table, his hand over it. His fingers were shaking slightly. “Some bitch getting these loose,” he said with a cautious grin.

  Chen smiled. He glanced around the bar, but no one was paying attention to either of them. The waitress was polishing glasses, her back to them. The bartender was frowning over his inventory. Everyone else was watching the surf.

  Chen opened the vial of Dragon Bone Powder over the table and tipped a bit of it into his palm. He blew so that the fine powder took flight and Brandon closed his eyes, inhaling it. He visibly shimmered, so aroused that he was on the cusp of change again.

  Chen watched for a moment, transfixed by the power of the powder over the Pyr. He felt the pulse of sexual desire as well, but the effect seemed magnified for those dragon shifters who had not yet turned Slayer. Brandon’s arousal made Chen feel old, in a way, numb.

  While Brandon’s attention was diverted, Chen seized the scale and hid it away from prying eyes.

  “Shit, that’s good stuff,” Brandon whispered, his doubts dismissed. He opened his eyes and they were bright with anticipation. “And it won’t hurt her, either, right?”

  “It merely opens the mind to possibilities. You have seen this before.”

  “Oh yeah.”

  Chen handed him the vial with a flourish.

  Brandon glanced down, clearly intending to pass over the scale. He looked at Chen in confusion. “How’d you do that?”

  “Sometimes the hand is quicker than the eye,” Chen said with a smile.

  Brandon laughed. “Well, have a good trip home, Chen, if I don’t see you again.”

  “Oh, I will,” Chen said and shook hands with the Pyr who would soon be his to command.

 
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