Dragon Tycoon's Fake Bride: A Howls Romance (Paranormal Dragon Billionaire Romance), страница 1
Table of Contents
A Little Taste…
Howls Romance Series
Last Chance Mate: Tate Excerpt
About the Author
Thank you for reading!
Dragon Tycoon's Fake Bride
A Little Taste…
Howls Romance Series
Last Chance Mate: Tate Excerpt
About the Author
Thank you for reading!
A Little Taste…
When a strong hand suddenly reached down and then unceremoniously yanked her up from her precarious position, her heart was beating so hard in her chest that she thought it would pop right out.
“Who are you?” her nameless savior demanded, standing before her, big and broad and frankly far too intense.
“Alexis Davies,” she blurted out without thinking, smacking a hand over her mouth immediately after.
If nothing else, it gave her an opportunity to stare, dumbstruck, at the glowering male in front of her. Well, she got to crane her neck to stare at him, anyway. Almost a foot taller, dressed in an absolutely immaculate suit of Italian make (there was something so specific about Italian tailoring, you can always tell), he looked like he’d stepped right off the cover of a magazine. Those dark eyes and stern jawline only added to the appeal.
It took a moment too long for Alexis to realize that he had, in fact, stepped off the proverbial cover of a magazine. A person couldn’t live in Crete for two years without knowing of the exploits and successes of its three greatest sons, the Calders.
“Alexis Davies, you were eavesdropping,” he said, eyes narrowing.
Was It her imagination playing tricks on her, or did his eyes glow, swirling gold?
Spirits be, Alexis, get with the program! He’s one of them!
“You’re a dragon,” she said flatly, dumbfounded – an emotion she was getting mighty sick of that day.
“Which has nothing to do with this. You were spying.”
The flustered snort of a laugh that Alexis produced was neither ladylike nor elegant, but it fit the situation just fine, in her opinion.
“Spying? How can I spy on a squadron of dragons falling down on my head? I’m working, Mister, and I don’t need that kind of treatment.”
With a huff, and with a very prominent burning to her cheeks that she hoped the darkness would hide, she moved to turn her back on him and march off in directions unspecified. That same strong hand on her shoulder made quick work of her plans, though, spinning her around.
“Don’t walk away from me,” he growled, his voice so low and… well, commanding that it was hard to argue with his logic.
Copyright © 2017 Anya Nowlan
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and any resemblance to any persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
Dragon Tycoon's Fake Bride
All rights reserved.
No part of this work may be used, reproduced, transmitted in any form or by any means by anyone but the purchaser for their own personal use. This book may not be reproduced in any form without the express written permission of Anya Nowlan. Any reproduction or other unauthorized use of the material is prohibited without the express written permission of the author.
Cover © Jack of Covers
“You can’t be serious,” Alexis Davies grumbled, exasperated, as she stalked in after her boss and would-be mentor, Joshua Pike, PhD.
“Could we argue later, Alexis? I’m trying to focus,” he sighed, weaving past the throng of bodies heading in the opposite direction as the guard waved the two of them through, closing the great gates of the Palace of Knossos behind them with a friendly wave.
The wave was markedly pointed at Alexis, who returned it with a half-smile, the other half getting lost in her growing annoyance with Joshua.
This is exactly the kind of last-minute nonsense he always pulls, she thought broodily, trying her damndest to swallow her irritation and try to work through the news with a semblance of grace. I don’t even know the details yet. No need to panic.
In doing so, she almost bumped into the narrow, prematurely hunching back of Joshua, who had stopped abruptly on the footpath leading to the Corridor of the Procession. The gaggle of voices from the last group of tourists, that had been carted out right before Alexis and Joshua were allowed in, still echoing on the nearby road.
“Careful,” he huffed, not bothering to spare her a glare as he hiked his hands on his hips, marveling at the palace in the setting sun of the evening.
“Sorry,” she muttered in response, though a very active part of her wanted to just shove him forward and have him land on his damnably self-centered hands and knees in the dirt.
“I can’t believe you didn’t tell me,” she started, angling past him with full intention of facing him and demanding to speak her piece, but as usual, the palace caught her as strongly as it had Joshua.
It was a true miracle in its own right. The cradle of Minoan heritage and the number one tourist attraction of Crete was also the sole reason why Alexis had bothered to get up out of bed for the last couple of years, what she thought of as she ate and worked and then the last thing she saw behind closed lids as she fell asleep at night, usually fresh from a shower to wash off the dust and grime accumulated during a long evening of excavations.
Several tiers of the palace rose from the ground, sprawling far and wide in a series of labyrinths, stone archways and footpaths, interconnected and so much more intricate than most people ever knew. It was grand in its purest form, even if it stood in ruins of its former glory, thousands of years separated from its true heyday.
The garishly painted columns still made something in her heart twinge, the last round of ‘restorations’ (if one can call them that) having taken some liberties with the palace grounds and reshaping certain areas to the liking of the head researcher, Arthur Davies.
All of it happened way before you were born, Alexis reminded herself, as she usually did. He couldn’t have known better.
Seeing as most of the restorations had taken place in the early nineteenth century, it was as much fact as it was something that took the edge off of the bad paintjobs and the questionable naming and rebuilding of certain areas for Alexis. She didn’t even notice the slight smile that spread on her lips as she took in the sight of the mighty palace grounds, a marvel of ancient architecture and engineering. It always warmed her from the inside to get to work on something as grand and meaningful as Knossos.
But now it was all going to be taken away from her.
Right. Back to impotent rage.
Wheeling around to face Joshua, Alexis found herself a moment too late, the tall, wiry form of her professor and tutor, and once lover, pressing past her, apparently done
“Come on, Alexis, we don’t have time to waste,” he sighed in that bored, positively indifferent tone he always used on her.
It was hard to imagine that less than a year ago, they’d gotten up from the same bed every morning and fallen between the same sheets at night, exhausted but giddy with their findings or just exhausted outright. It seemed a lifetime ago. A brief, heartfelt affair, quickly quelled and decided by both parties that they were better off as colleagues, especially given their working relationship.
“Through no fault of mine,” she bit back, frustration welling in the pit of her stomach as she rushed to catch up with him, Joshua having already passed through the pathway that lead past the House of the Chancel Screen and was well through the Central Court when she finally caught up with him. “Why didn’t you tell me you were going to start restoring it again?”
Her question lacked some of the bite she wished it had. Alexis could name a couple of reasons for it, but falling into step with Joshua, tense, sandy-haired and gray-eyed, with wrinkles of age and sleepless nights lining his eyes, she thought disappointment might have been the most fitting to explain her emotions.
Working on her doctorate in archaeology was the one thing she had going for her, as far as Alexis was concerned. Between having no family left to speak of, a string of unfulfilling jobs back home in Maryland before she went into academia, and a love life that had never gone her way, Alexis had long ago decided that her career in science was something that she could cherish, nourish and make her own. Ancient ruins didn’t care about whether or not she had a bad date, sacred urns held no opinions on her dwindling social contacts or whether or not she was a witty conversationalist.
And now it felt like it was being taken away from her.
Not only because Joshua was threatening – no, promising – to do the one thing he had railed against for as long as Alexis had known him, but because he was doing it to the Knossos Palace, a place that both she and he had thought to hold far more significance that had been given to it thus far.
Or at least I thought he agreed with me, Alexis corrected, brushing honey blonde hair out of her face and tying it in a high ponytail, having to redo it once because her hands just weren’t listening to her brain at the moment.
“I don’t think it’s any of your concern,” Joshua huffed as they descended the stairs of the Room of the Tall Pithos to get at their gear.
By day, Knossos was a tourist attraction, tread by thousands of feet and admired for what it was – a masterpiece. Most people never realized how much leeway had been taken by Arthur Davies and his crew when they restored parts of it in the early 1900s – back when Arthur worked, a person didn’t need to have a doctorate in archaeology, or really any skills at all, to dig up treasures and then decide what it all meant. In fact, he just had to have a bit of wealth and interest, that was more than enough.
Arthur had both, and a vivid imagination that modern archaeologists might not always agree with.
Only the likes of Alexis and Joshua and other archaeologists who worked on sites like Knossos and those like it could know, or at least sense, how much might have been lost in the process of making something ‘better’ when the person didn’t know implicitly what he might be ruining.
“It is my concern,” Alexis growled, opening up the small, portable locker and shrugging on the backpack she kept filled with picks, brushes, sampling tubes and bags, flashlights and everything else she needed for the delicate work she did. “It is my concern if you’re about to destroy the basis of my doctorate. If you’re going to change a place that doesn’t need changing.”
Joshua didn’t say a word, shrugging his shoulders lightly as his only response. Alexis knew she was overstepping her bounds, but she couldn’t help it. In her mind, the palace had already been mangled once, and though Joshua was certainly a better candidate for the restoration than Alexis’ long dead relative – yes, the Davies in her last name was the same as Arthur’s, though they were not blood relatives, just connected through marriage many generations back – then she couldn’t help but feel indignant at having to stand by and watch it happen all over again.
Hell, she didn’t consider herself particularly superstitious, but right now, it certainly seemed to her that maybe joining this excavation more than two years ago was the start of something ominous for the palace. Even if her heritage had been the thing that cinched the position for her – having a Davies on the research team was a boon the likes of which Alexis perhaps guessed at, but didn’t quite understand in depth.
“Joshua, tell me what you’re going to do?” she asked, blocking his exit. He was bigger than her, but the doorway was narrow. He had to stoop to get through it and with her standing in front of it, there was no way he could wiggle past. “Please.”
Joshua avoided her gaze and Alexis’ hands rolled into fists, worry blooming in her chest. Gone was the usual excitement to get to work, replaced cleanly by a very marked dread. This didn’t feel like a small thing. If it were, Joshua would have told her in person, not tried to hide it from her. It was pure coincidence that she opened the letter addressed to the whole team, announcing that the ‘reconstruction agreement’ had been finalized.
“We’re going to open up the Vat Rooms to the public,” he said after a while, meeting her blue eyes. “The floors will be covered in concrete and some of the partition walls rebuilt so it’ll be safer. We might need to remove a couple of the rooms. And the Hall of the Double Axes and Hall of the Colonnades will be repainted, the mosaics refinished. After that, we’re sealing the lower floors.”
Alexis’ stomach dropped. She stared up at Joshua in unspoken horror, her mind racing to connect all the dots.
If the floors were going to be covered by cement again, then that meant that she and other researchers like her couldn’t do any further digging. If the mosaics were refinished and the walls repainted, Alexis’ efforts in trying to discover the meaning of the original paintings below them would be lost and never to be continued.
Two years, down the drain. But not just that, irreparable damage would be done, ancient secrets hidden forever.
“Why?” she croaked finally, forcing her hands to relax.
Joshua ran a hand through his hair, avoiding her gaze once more. It was with some satisfaction that she noted that he looked uncomfortable when talking about this.
They’d stayed up for endless hours, past the point of exhaustion, talking excitedly about what Knossos could be hiding when they started this job. When they’d gotten together, as briefly as that had been, Alexis had been happy to find someone as passionate about preserving and discovering as she was.
For one, Alexis was sure that the carvings on some of the walls and the large pithoi – grand vases, some taller than a man that had been found on the grounds – had more meaning than they knew so far and she was chomping at the bit to find out. Joshua, in turn, was fascinated by the architecture itself, the way that the stone arches and the connecting flooring seemed to hold far more weight than it would ever need to.
At times, he’d joked that the big courts were not meant for humans at all, but something much bigger.
“Money,” he said finally, like he was spitting the word out. “Look, we’re at the end of our grant. If I want to stay here, I have to play ball. You know the local government has wanted to continue restoration efforts on the palace for years. It’s such a big tourist draw that they’d be foolish not to. If we build up a couple more rooms, extend walking paths into the parts that people haven’t been allowed to reach before… well, then we can continue working.”
“Working on what? Every change to suit throngs of tourists could jeopardize the findings beneath!” Alexis argued, her words fervent but her heart knowing that Joshua knew everything she was going to say. “And even if they didn’t, we can’t get there anymore if the lower floors are sealed.”
It didn’t matter. Because he’d made up his mind. She knew it before she
“You don’t have to be here for this,” Joshua said, before gently taking her by the shoulders and whisking her out of his path just enough that he could brush past. “We still have three weeks left before the construction crews and restoration teams come in. I’ll be in charge. If you want to stay, you can stay, but if you’re going to be arguing with me about every little thing, I’d rather have you go, Alexis.
“Though, I won’t lie. Having a living relative of Arthur Davies on my request packet did a world of good in moving this forward. Face it, it’ll be better if I do it, rather than some rich upstart who wants his name carved into pillars.”
Joshua stalked back up the stairs, leaving the rope that usually admonished tourists from descending deeper into the area unhooked. Alexis stood in place, her hands back in fists, shaking with anger and grief.
He used me, she thought, the very notion tasting bitter and mocking. And he’s going to destroy what he believes in, what we both believe in, just for some goddamn funding.
It took her a couple of minutes to calm her breathing enough that she was sure she wouldn’t start hyperventilating. Another couple to suppress the shaking.
But what she couldn’t get rid of was the dread of knowing that something beautiful was going to be hurt and she couldn’t do anything to stop it.
The night air was thick and hot around him as Galen’s wings softly retracted, his powerful feet touching the stones, still warm from the long day of baking in the sun. He took his time, looking up to find his two brothers and uncle descending much the same, his Uncle Icarus taking the longest to reach the palace.
It was no wonder. A man a couple of centuries old had his right to take his time.