Always, p.1
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       Always, p.1

         Part #3 of Dragon Wars series by Rebecca Royce
 
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Always


  This is a work of fiction. Similarities to real people, places, or events are entirely coincidental.

  ALWAYS

  First edition. December 1, 2015.

  Copyright © 2015 Rebecca Royce.

  ISBN: 978-0996918213

  Written by Rebecca Royce.

  Table of Contents

  Copyright Page

  Author’s Note

  Dedication

  Prologue

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

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  Also By Rebecca Royce

  Author’s Note

  Always is the third story in the Dragon Wars series. I have written every installment of this saga as a standalone book within the larger series, although the characters are frequently related and appear in each other’s books. Where needed, I do explain backstory, however, I believe you should be able to read Always without having delved into Forever (Dragon Wars #1) and Eternal (Dragon Wars #2). However, if you’d like to check them out that’s cool, too. Available wherever ebooks are sold. What’s that noise? Better watch out, it could be dragon wings coming closer...

  RR

  Dedication

  This book is dedicated to many people because I think it has been too long since I said thank you. So, with my heartfelt gratitude, I offer Always to Heather Long, Cara Carnes, Virginia Nelson, Saranna DeWylde, Chandra Ryan, Katalina Leon, Jennifer Kacey, and Liza O’Conner. Nothing gets done in a vacuum. Your cheerful natures, smart mouths, strong reminders, and laughter make what is a solitary venture of me taking the worlds in my head and putting them on paper a joyful escapade every day. Big hugs from me. Now, go write. I don’t have chapters in my inbox.

  With special thanks also to Desiree Holt, Brandy Varner Walker, Melissa Schroeder and Gayle Donnelly for making Romancing The Wolf Moon so much fun.

  Prologue

  Later...

  “We understand you have the humans.”

  The Queen dragon hissed in his face, and Robbie winced at the fish smell assaulting his nostrils. Nothing about his captivity bothered him except the stink. His younger brothers survived worse than his treatment, though he didn’t know why the dragons handled him with kid gloves. If anything, they should be beating the crap out of him and cutting off his limbs. As far as targets went, werewolves didn’t become much more valuable than him to the dragons. If he were in their shoes, he’d be tormenting himself.

  “We asked you a question.”

  Yeah, he knew. “Huh? Humans? I’ve never met any. Haven’t spent any time with unicorns, either. Or space aliens. Have you? Do little green men run amok where you’re from?”

  He leaned back on the floor of his cell and stared at the ceiling. They needed to repair the water leak or the dragons were going to find themselves with mold. Not that he planned to tell them. Let their castles rot.

  Robbie—Robert, his love called him his full name in her sweet voice. Never Robbie. He’d never thought of himself as a Robert before she used the name—would die before he told the dragons what he knew. Death first. Pain didn’t matter in the least when protecting Tatyana came into play.

  The other humans? Well, he didn’t give a shit about them. They mattered only because she cared about her people. Otherwise he’d be tempted to let the dragons have them—the cowards who hid in the shadows.

  “I can make you hurt as I did with your brothers.”

  Robbie snorted. “Sure. Devon seems to have recovered beautifully from his time with you and, yes, Dougal is missing an arm. The three-legged wolf, but he lived through your sweet ministrations, too. So bring it on, baby. Have at me. Maim my body, screw with my soul. If I know any secrets, they die with me.”

  Stupid dragon bitch. He wasn’t afraid. Never had been, never would be.

  “Then we will keep you alive. For a very long time.”

  Chapter One

  The beginning...

  Robbie Owens stared skyward to count many green beasts circling above. As of five minutes earlier, he’d seen five dragons. They circled but, from his current perspective, the flying nightmares looked more as if they were doing a figure eight. Whatever. The flying in a pattern motion meant his enemies looked for food.

  He and his fellow werewolves were not going to be dinner, not if he had a say in how their day ended.

  With the slightest click of his tongue, he caught his brother’s attention. Auggie, clad in wolf form, raised his ears to look at him. Three of his seven fellow elite unit members were walking on four legs instead of two. The other four, Robbie included, stayed in their human forms. When sneaking into dragon territory to explore human ruins, they never knew exactly what they’d encounter. His team was the best of the best. If need be, the three wolves would destroy the five dragons while the rest of them busted into the caves.

  Fuck, he hated dragons.

  Homer squatted next to him. The young werewolf joined his team two years earlier. New recruits were few and far between these days. Seventeen years of war destroyed most werewolf soldiers before they gained enough experience to be considered elite—not to mention the severe rules to join a secret team.

  In order to be a member of Robbie’s group, they agreed to let their families be informed of their death. They cut off all contact with anyone outside of the mission. The war became everything, the survival of werewolves paramount.

  For over a decade, Robbie and Auggie’s family believed them dead. He pushed away the discomfort the thought brought—it really bugged him a lot lately—and turned his attention back to Homer.

  The good they did outweighed the pain they caused. What was the point of letting their families think there was a chance they’d come home? On the off chance they won the war, they’d still not be fit to be around. All werewolves were affected by the never-ending battle, Robbie’s team more than most. He knew the dragons’ internal organs, how they fit together, their individual colors, as he’d been the first werewolf to gut one of the flying lizards.

  “Yes. Into the caves. We take what we can carry on our backs. Ten minutes to study the cave walls and descriptions. No more. In and out. Away from the craphole cave by dinner time.”

  If only these things ever went so easily. The last time they’d sought out the human caves, he’d lost two wolves to the fight. The dragons really didn’t want the werewolves in there, yet the flying monsters hadn’t burned the place to the ground.

  The lack of destruction fascinated him as much as anything else. Why let the cave stay there untouched if the dragons were so adamant the wolves should not make it inside?

  “Yep.” Homer nodded and scooted backwards to give the others instructions. Across the ravine, Auggie’s ears pushed downwards. His twin brother possessed the most sensitive ears of any wolf he’d ever known. Born a fighter, Auggie grew fiercer as he aged and the cerebral aspect to their special ops missions drove him crazy.

  While his brother had zero interest in the caves, Robbie couldn’t spend enough time in them. Humans, though long gone, managed to leave them instructions on the dragons if only they could translate the words.

  Of course, the paintings might mean jack shit and the whole escapade total crap.

  “Go.” He turned left, leading his crew of four. Homer, David, Mike, and Chris followed him through the open space to the caves. The last bit of land was usually where they got caught on their way out. If the dragons missed them on the way in, they seemed to have a sixth sense in regard to their escape.

  Seventeen years of war and they weren’t any closer to figuring out how not to die from a dragon attack. With the autumn wind blowing
at him, he could smell the coming winter on the wind. Soon the land would freeze over, offering no relief to be found until the spring came...if they survived long enough to see the seasons change.

  Since the moment the dragons appeared, burning the skies, Robbie’s way of life vanished along with his expectations. Some days he didn’t miss the way things were. Much. Shouldn’t seventeen years be enough to let old dreams go? He reached forty-four years old, not a child anymore. So the fuck what, he hadn’t gotten the future he wanted? Robbie led the most elite band of werewolf warriors alive. He was respected, listened to, and important to the war effort.

  Watching sunsets over his own land while his kids ran on four feet through the forests would have probably bored him to death.

  He entered the cave enough to let the others follow. Soon, all four of them hid inside. Darkness surrounded them in a veil of protection from the outside world. The midday sun shining brightly meant nothing in the permanent shadow. What had the humans done in there to make them paint the walls of a dark place?

  “Torches.” He instructed, and his four comrades followed suit. They pulled their sticks out of their back pockets and whipped them in the air. Seconds later they all started to burn. A mechanism developed by his sister-in-law, Caitlyn’s, lab before the organization closed—the same institution which developed the idea to burn the dragon’s eggs.

  His brothers hboth mated smart women. Too bad he’d never meet the ladies in person. He had, however, monitored them from a distance for some time. Getting Dougal back to Caitlyn had been one of his better maneuverings.

  With brightness finally surrounding them, his soldiers started to collect books. They found too many to take with them all at once, so they’d need to make multiple trips. Should have been a fast mission, back and forth, yet war screwed with plans. A year passed since they’d been back to these caves.

  Homer walked next to him. “These are amazing.”

  Robbie regarded his friend. Homer’s help proved key in saving Robbie’s brother, Dougal, the year before. In a short period of time, he’d become integral to the team’s success. “I forgot you’d never been here before. Your first time, so to speak.”

  “I’m a human cave virgin.” Homer touched a painting.

  Robbie memorized the pictures over the years, yet he always thought the depictions held more to teach him. He must be missing something.

  Someone painted the walls with images of humans battling dragons. Certain facts became obvious and his people learned valuable information from the pictorial representations. The werewolves hadn’t realized the dragons had a Queen until they’d seen these pictures. They’d also found depictions of the dragons disappearing and reappearing over and over again. All of those pictures made sense.

  He found the next section confusing. The dragons were taken, or maybe lured, from the sky and eventually became forced into submission inside of some kind of mountain. He wished he knew how the humans managed such a feat.

  Robbie would make figuring the depiction out his job to make sure he did whatever the humans had done before they’d been wiped out.

  Of course, the pictures didn’t explain where the humans disappeared to hundreds of years before. Nothing except questions every time he came and once they left he couldn’t figure out the wording in the books. Their smartest people worked on translations, although there weren’t too many brilliant minds left in their shattered world.

  “Are we good?” Homer looked at him. “You’ve been quiet. We’re all worried about you. Spending more and more time in your head. Auggie thinks you may need some time off. A week of leave.”

  “To what? Go get my dick sucked?” He snickered although he knew Homer wouldn’t understand the joke. Years passed since he’d last gotten hard. At some point during the war, his body apparently gave up the idea of finding a mate. Everyone else lost their sexual drive when they met their mate. Male werewolves lost their constant need to fuck every female they saw after they met their mates, unable to perform for anyone except their significant other. Since he was sure he'd remember if he'd come across his, the fact that he lost all interest made no sense and just plain sucked. But what didn't anymore?

  “Spend some time elsewhere. Aren’t we supposed to periodically?”

  “There are no rules for us, Homer. Haven’t you figured the truth out? We don’t exist anymore. We died. We can do whatever we want.”

  Besides, what he desired more than anything involved having the humans unlock their secrets for him. Poof. Understanding. He waited and nothing happened.

  Why did he think each time he came his visit might end differently?

  A roar sounded from outside the cave, and Robbie rolled his eyes. Next to him, Homer inhaled sharply.

  “They’ve found us.” Chris, called. The other wolf wore his backpack, hopefully full of books.

  “I got what’s going on. Not deaf yet.” A blast of hot air hit the entrance, and they all took a step back in reflex. Robbie hardly had hair left on his arms from being scorched all the time.

  “Shouldn’t they have killed the dragon?” Mike stepped next to him.

  “By they, do you mean Auggie, Jake, and Trevor?” Robbie bent over and took a final book before he passed the material to Mike. “I’m sure they’re working on our problem.”

  “What if they’re not? What if they’re already dead?” Homer’s voice remained steady as he asked the question. From another wolf, the query would be indicative of anxiety. Not, however, for Homer. He wanted to know the plan. What would they do if the wolves they’d left outside to protect them died in the effort?

  “We shift, rush the entrance. Some of us make our way out, some of us don’t. Although I suppose miracles can happen.” He shrugged. “I think we’d hear if they were dead. A howl would have resonated or something.”

  Robbie didn’t have any new concern for his three wolves outside. Auggie would never leave them in here to rot. His brother could be counted on, as could Jake and Trevor.

  A yelp sounded followed by a loud dragon shriek. “And on that note...”

  He marched forward knowing they’d follow him. The sudden onslaught of light hurt his eyes and he blinked. He wasn’t going to shift to wolf form unless needed and he didn’t want the others to either. The books were the most important part of their mission. If they all changed form, they’d most likely lose them.

  He’d always put the lives of his men over anything else. However, if they could manage to escape and still bring the books with them, they’d achieve the best case scenario.

  “Mike. Run. Fast. I’m going to see what I can do for Auggie, Jack and Trevor. Homer, you, David and Chris hoof on two legs behind Mike. Whichever one of you can stay in front carries all the books. If you have to fall or shift, you toss them behind you first. The books get left only if you have no other choice. Got me?”

  “Right, my Alpha.” Homer turned to relay the information and Robbie jerked at the name. He was not Homer’s alpha. He was not and would never be alpha to anyone. They’d lost their packs and their hierarchy when the dragon war took everything.

  Robbie didn’t have time to correct him. The title was a slip, a mistake from the tension. He’d let the error go. The caves during battle weren’t the time or the place for the discussion—although hearing the words made goosebumps break out on his arms more than the eight flying dragons did.

  His brother engaged the green beast which heated the cave. Auggie attacked with a focused brilliance Robbie envied whenever he found a moment to admire the technique. Singularly attentive to the task at hand, Auggie gave the impression of forgetting the world existed beyond the dragon he took from the sky.

  The roar behind Robbie caught him by surprise, although being attacked shouldn’t have. He’d have disciplined his people if they let themselves become so distracted during a battle. What was the matter with him? Homer’s concern regarding him needing a vacation proved right. Robbie’s responses were really off.

  Of course h
e was never going to find a chance to figure any of his shit out if he let the dragon darting at him kill him where he stood. He tried to shift and the tenth dragon scooped him up and bit hard on his shoulder.

  He cried out, the pain radiating all over his arm. The bite wasn’t his first, though the one he’d just taken ranked the worst. Number nine, a green with purple spots, took the chance to bite his leg at the same time.

  The world fuzzed out. He couldn’t shift in the dragon’s mouth, although if he could manage to free himself a bit he would manage. He felt pretty sure the son of a bitch nicked his artery. Now would be his end. In the dragons’ mouth was the fucking end. He saw his blood everywhere, covered in his own rapidly fading life force with some added dragon saliva. The whole scene looked really disgusting. Who knew his own death would be so gross?

  “Ha.” He laughed, which he knew constituted him being perverse, only he couldn’t help cracking up. After seventeen years of fighting the beasts, he would die in a dragon’s mouth. How truly boring.

  “Auggie,” he called out to his brother. His twin possessed the most awesome hearing. He’d hear him. “I’m gone. The fight all falls to you, brother. Good luck.”

  The world dimmed out, although he thought for a second he heard a cannon roar.

  ****

  Tatyana Knox had ten minutes to fix the mess she’d caused before things went to holy hell. Her second in command, Bridget, grabbed her arm.

  “Are you sure?” The grey-haired woman with two different colored eyes quivered as she spoke.

  Taty felt sorry for her, to an extent. Worry didn’t get to factor into their decision making. Bridget could help with collecting the werewolves the dragons disposed of, or she could move out of Taty’s way.

  “As we stand here, it’s too late for me to change my mind. I knocked out twelve dragons and four werewolves. I have ten minutes to square them away before the stun wears off. I don’t have time to hold your hand. Help or move.”

 
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