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       Paranormal Hunter Box Set, Books 1-3: Sonnet Vale, Phantom City, & Demon Touched, p.24

           Gena D. Lutz
 
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  Holding on tighter she could have sworn she heard the dragon chuckle. She narrowed her eyes. The rat bastard.

  ***

  From the air, the Blackstone Mountain looked just as magnificent, with its grand castle sitting at its peak.

  Sonnet gasped as the dragon descended as swiftly as he had risen. In the next second she was tumbling off his back, but like a cat, she landed on her feet.

  “You did that on purpose, you big lug!”

  He sent her an amused glare and then instantly shifted forms. The smart-ass smile he wore remained plastered across his face as he shrugged. “I hit some turbulence.”

  Her fist clenched. “Turbulence, my ass…” she muttered before stomping off toward the castle entrance.

  As she neared, her senses flared hot, as if to remind her that she was now in the presence of a shit-ton of dragons. Not that she could forget. There were three miniature ones following her. All of them approached the castle. And then abruptly, the doors swung open to uncover a grand view of the castle’s vestibule. It was just as she’d left it, buzzing with magic and bustling with life.

  Her heart tightened in her chest.

  As an orphaned hunter, Sonnet never had the security of a real home, or the feeling that she belonged in any one place that was supposed to come with it. That was, until Bane. In his arms, she’d found a sense of belonging, a safe place where she could calm her soul and just…be.

  Now, not only did she feel at home with the man that she loved, but she also felt as if an important piece of her belonged in this land, amongst the dragons.

  She could blame her Poppy, the bond she’d created between them surely one of the catalysts for the sudden familiarity. But no matter the reason, Sonnet felt it, and not only did it make her feel peaceful and even, to a lesser degree, loved, it also made her feel all sorts of confused.

  A shriek rode the air, pulling her from her thoughts. It had come from Layna, Brecon’s sister, who ran toward them at top speed, eyes wide, long dark hair trailing and flapping on the wind behind her.

  “My babies!”

  A slow smile spread across Brecon’s features, changing the hard lines of his face to softer, more handsome ones.

  “We’ve brought your children home to you unharmed, Sister, as well as the orphaned dragonling.”

  Sonnet half expected for trumpets to sound and confetti to explode all around them at the sight of the pure joy unfolding before her.

  After smothering her children with kisses and hugs, Layna turned around and took a running leap off the mountain, disappearing over the rocky cliff. Seconds later, a majestic white dragon appeared before them, flapping its wings and roaring at her children to join her. Which both of them did enthusiastically.

  Little Poppy, however, stayed behind, her violet eyes frozen on Sonnet.

  “Don’t you want to go and play?” Sonnet asked.

  As if spurred with the need to answer, the baby dragon flickered in and out, her body blurring. It was as if she’d caught a case of the-bad-receptions.

  And then, with a brilliant flash, Poppy shifted into her human form for the very first time.

  Chapter Fourteen

  A little girl that looked all of two years old—with alabaster skin, deep red curls, liquid violet eyes, and a heart-shaped face with the most perfectly bowed lips—smiled up at Sonnet, and softly said, “I don’t want to fly anywhere with them. I want to stay with you.”

  Sonnet blinked at the sudden moisture in her eyes. There was no way she could stay in the dragon realm. “You need to stay here; this is your home, Poppy. I have somewhere else I must be.”

  A troublesome scowl darkened the little girl’s eyes. “No.”

  Sonnet winced at how resolute Poppy’s reply was. She knew what she wanted.

  The little girl’s aptitude of her surroundings, and the people in it, was remarkable. But Sonnet already knew Poppy was exceptional; she’d recognized that from the moment the dragonling had hatched.

  Sonnet lowered her voice to be sure she didn’t enrage the toddler’s inner beast. “I can come visit you, if you’d like.” She glanced at Brecon to make sure what she’d promise was okay. He nodded.

  “I don’t want you to leave me.” Her bottom lip pushed out, and for the first time, her features held the innocence of a child—which in turn, broke Sonnet’s heart in two.

  “I don’t want to leave you either, sweet dragon, but I have no other choice.”

  “I will go with you then.”

  Sonnet looked over Poppy’s curly mop to Brecon. “Can you help me out here?”

  Brecon’s expression was noncommittal. “You two have bonded. She thinks of you as a mother. If I try to interfere, she’ll just use my bones for kindling.”

  Sonnet gave her head a shake, and said, “Yeah, sure. Like the big bad Dark Dragon is scared of a dragonling. Thanks for nothing.” She then shifted her attention back to Poppy.

  “So what do you think about coming with me on a grand adventure?”

  The girl’s pale cheeks filled with pink. She clapped her hands together and held them against her chest. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

  Again, Sonnet couldn’t help but notice how mature Poppy acted and sounded for her age. She shrugged, deciding to chalk it up to magic.

  “Since I’m not about to make my blood Poppy’s regular diet, can you tell me exactly what dragons eat?”

  Brecon gave a sardonic snort. “She can eat anything a regular human can, when she’s in that form. Just don’t feed her an actual human when she’s a beast—dragons go feral after tasting mortal flesh.”

  She couldn’t help but secretly wish Poppy would think even the thought of eating human flesh was revolting. She inwardly shivered. Sonnet gulped, and then nodded fast. “Okay, no humans…got it.”

  Brecon strolled over to Poppy and lowered to one knee, making eye contact with her. “Farewell, little Poppy—Red Dragon of the Royal Demon Clan.”

  Demon Clan? I have my own dragon clan now? What the fu…?

  Breathe and put your mind back in the game, she berated herself. Later she could mull over clans and the forbidding of making humans into shish kebabs. There was still the matter of retrieving Brecon’s blood to contend with. Or no matter the goodbyes, they weren’t going anywhere.

  She cleared her throat. “Um, Brecon,” she said to him as he stood.

  He turned to her. “Yes, what is it?”

  “I need a favor.”

  Brecon didn’t seem happy with her response. “What do you require, Princess?”

  Uh-oh, he’d reverted back to formalities. He thought she was about to boss him around again, no doubt.

  “What I want to ask of you will truly be a favor. Not a request or an order. You deserve at least that.”

  That seemed to lessen the tightness in his shoulders.

  Her gaze flicked to her side and she pulled out the dagger hanging there. “I need your blood.”

  Brecon stiffened, instantly on guard. “What do you mean to do with that thing?”

  “Cut you, if you will allow it.”

  “Cut me?”

  “Just a small slice,” Sonnet explained. “Barely a prick.”

  Then Brecon shrugged. Not what she’d expected him to do in answer to sharing his blood with a demon hunter. He was calm. Unlike the cold, unfeeling bastard she was used to.

  “You’re really okay with this?”

  He nodded and offered up his hand.

  Sonnet’s eyes widened with surprise. “You really don’t give a shit if I take your blood?”

  His eyes darkened with annoyance. A look she had come to know well. “I just said you could, so get on with it.”

  Excitement and urgency flooded her. She was really going home.

  It took Sonnet only a few seconds to collect the blood she needed. Once she had the dagger tucked away safe and sound, she turned to Poppy and asked, “Are you ready to go home?”

  Poppy shifted back into her dragon and spread
her wings wide.

  Sonnet laughed. “I’ll take that as a yes.”

  Chapter Fifteen

  Brecon Blackstone landed in front of the entrance to the Obsidian Castle. Without the blood of a royal to open the gates, he couldn’t precede any farther than that. Sonnet leapt off the dragon and Poppy circled the air around her, and then landed on the ground. Brecon remained in creature form, and after nodding his massive head at Sonnet, he flew away.

  As goodbyes went, she didn’t expect more than that from the dragon.

  Once Brecon left, Poppy followed Sonnet into the castle. Remy stood on the staircase landing, his eyes full of pride.

  “You’ve done it, haven’t you?” he asked, his gaze dropping to the dagger at her side.”

  Sonnet nodded. “Yes. I’ve completed the mission.” Her arms dropped, limp with exhaustion. “Now can we go home?”

  His gaze skipped to the dragonling. “It depends. Who is that? And what do you plan to do with her?”

  Poppy tensed at Sonnet’s side, a low growl shaking the marble underneath their feet.

  “Her name is Poppy, and the dragon comes with me.”

  He glared at Sonnet and slammed a fist against the stone balustrade. “She can’t come with us, Sonnet!”

  Sonnet sent a fully loaded hunter’s glare back at him. It was a look she reserved for her prey, and now, apparently, her brother. “Why not!”

  “Because, you fool—”

  Another growl reverberated underneath Sonnet’s feet.

  “We can only take two breathing bodies through the portal!” he continued. “It was the only way I could think to keep Spiros and Raziel trapped in demon-hell when I first created it, back in Phantom City.”

  Her eyebrows rose in understanding. “Well shit.”

  Remy looked instantly weary. “One of us must stay behind.”

  Sonnet felt like screaming. So she did. “What the hell are we going to do, Remy! Flip a damn coin?”

  This was completely unfair. She’d done everything she was supposed to do. She deserved to go home.

  And then her lips curled. Poppy was a dragon. And dragons could jump realms.

  “Dragons can travel throughout demon-hell without help from a royal or extra magic. Why can’t she just make the journey on her own?”

  Remy’s eyes widened. “She’s only a child, Sister. Would you let a tiny human drive a car on the freeway? Or a better yet, fly a plane through the sky? It simply isn’t done!”

  The smile Sonnet gave Poppy as she looked deep into a set of lavender eyes that shimmered with knowledge said it all. “She can do it.”

  The little dragon shifted into human and returned her smile. “Just point me in the right direction.”

  Remy threw is hands up and yelled, “For fuck’s sake!”

  Warm fingers curled around Sonnet’s hand and tugged twice. “That hothead’s my uncle?”

  Sonnet gazed down into Poppy’s cherubic face, and nodded. “It’ll take a while, but you’ll get used to him.”

  Her tender features twisted up. “If you say so.”

  ***

  “Do you need any assistance?” Sonnet asked Remy, as he tried to find the exact spot from which he’d exited the portal.

  He stepped between a pair of towering obsidian shards. “I found it!”

  “Someone give the man a cookie.”

  “Poppy!” Sonnet tried to scold, but ended up laughing between words. “That’s not nice.”

  Poppy shrugged.

  Sonnet held out the dagger. “Here you go.”

  Remy reached behind him and took it. “This should only take a second.”

  Sonnet glanced around, looking for the light fissure that Poppy would take until she reached Phantom City. Remy had told them the trail would empty out into the middle of the woods. And that the dragonling should expect to run into Kahn, the alpha wolf of that territory, when she arrived.

  “Now remember, as soon as you see the wolf, you are to tell him that you belong to the princess of demon-hell, and that you are niece to their king.”

  She nodded. “And if he gives me any trouble, I can toast him like a marshmallow.”

  Sonnet pointed a stern finger. “You keep your fire to yourself, young lady.”

  “Aw, crap. Okay.”

  “And watch your mouth.”

  Poppy gave her a devious grin. “Yes, ma’am.”

  With that settled, Sonnet gave Poppy a kiss on her rosy cheek. “Be safe, baby girl, I’ll see you soon.”

  Poppy waved a chubby little hand at her, and then in a blink, the dragon was soaring into the sky.

  She couldn’t stop her heart from thumping out stressful beats. Never had she cared so much for one being, especially in such a short amount of time. And that was more than likely why she’d agreed to take Poppy along with her in the first place, with barely a fight.

  “Be safe my precious, Poppy,” she whispered to herself.

  Remy stepped over to her and they both watched the dragon disappear from sight.

  “It’s time, Sister.”

  She nodded. “Good. Let’s get the hell out of here.”

  Chapter Sixteen

  This wasn’t the first time Sonnet had come to suddenly after traveling through a demon portal, or when nearing a particularly strong border. Nor was it the second. The first time was when she’d overdosed on magic at the outskirts of Phantom City. The second was when she was inadvertently banished to demon-hell.

  Only this time, she welcomed it. The magic carpet ride home, being wrapped up tight within her lover’s arms—all of it.

  Bane glanced down at Sonnet with a wealth of concern. He raised a brow. “It took you long enough to get home. I assumed my mighty huntress would figure it out in two hours, not as many days.”

  She gazed up at him and rolled her eyes. “What kind of greeting is that?”

  The vampire let out a deep breath, a burden that seemed to be weighing on him until just then. “I can do better.”

  She sat up and turned on her knees to meet him face-to-face. “I figured my hunky brute of a vampire would.”

  In one swift motion, Bane stood, taking Sonnet with him.

  Laughing, she kissed his lips. “You’re on the right track.”

  Bane folded her into his arms. “I haven’t even revved the engine yet.”

  Sonnet’s smile faltered as she realized she hadn’t told Bane about Poppy, and she still had no clue how he really felt about her being half demon.

  Bane frowned. “What’s wrong, little fox?”

  Sonnet sank into his chest; it had been too long since she’d heard him call her that, and she’d missed it—had missed him.

  He tilted her chin up, making eye contact. “I love you.”

  Hearing the words even though she already knew how he felt meant everything. And with them, her mind and heart released some of its doubt. Still, those lingering reservations had her asking, “You love me even though I’m a demon?”

  “Of course I do,” he said earnestly. He then lifted her hand to his mouth and brushed a kiss across the back of it. “You’re still the same beautiful, feisty, bloodthirsty little fox who stole my heart the moment I first saw you.”

  She fell silent. Then whispered, “Promise that if I become…different, if the demon inside me goes bad, that…” She rested her forehead against his chest. “If I ever hurt an innocent, promise you will stop me, no matter what the cost.”

  “The demon inside you is only a part of who you are, it doesn’t determine if you’re good or evil; your soul decides that.” Bane shook his head. “I remember the first time I saw you. Do you remember?”

  She blushed, hiding her face in his chest.

  “You couldn’t bring yourself to finish off a vampire, even though he was as evil as they come. That inherent goodness in you was what first attracted me, and your continued determination to rid the world of evil is why I’m in love with you still.”

  Her gaze swung to his, and she said candidly,
“But I do now. Kill the vampires that I hunt. It’s not hard anymore.”

  Bane took Sonnet’s hand in his and held it between them. “Never once have you taken a life when it wasn’t deserved.”

  Sonnet thought back to how close she’d come to doing just that. Would she have slain the dragon for his blood if he hadn’t offered it up to her freely? She’d liked to think not.

  “There’s one more thing.”

  Bane kissed her hand, his warm breath traveling across her knuckles as he whispered, “I’m afraid to ask.”

  She sighed heavily. “I’m just gonna come right out and say it.”

  His met her gaze with trepidation. “You have me a little worried here.”

  Rightfully so, she thought with a shrug. “A baby dragon—that I’ve named Poppy, by the way—has bonded herself to me. Oh, and we have to go find her. She should be with the werewolves by now.”

  There, she’d said it.

  Bane’s mouth fell open.

  It was time to go for broke.

  “Oh, and if you think that’s bad…she may or may not have barbequed most of them by now. So, we’d better go fetch her before the entire pack is roasted into s’mores.”

  The End

  Books by Gena D. Lutz

  Prime Wolf Series

  Ember’s Curse

  Roxanne Desired

  Kris Chase Series

  Created Darkly

  Devil’s Playground

  Novellas

  Chasing Magic

  Bite of Frost

  Paranormal Hunter Series

  Sonnet Vale: Paranormal Hunter, book #1

  Phantom City: Paranormal Hunter, book #2

  Demon Touched: Paranormal Hunter, book #3

  Dark Flame: Paranormal Hunter, book #4

  Contact the author:

  https://www.facebook.com/GenaDeeLutz

  https://twitter.com/GenaDLutz

  [email protected]

  Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/1N1rf

 
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