The Queen's Flight (Emerging Queens), страница 1
Courts, queens, and sexy dragons with wings…
Viola Pierce has never had particularly great luck with guys. That is, until the day she shifts into a glorious, deadly, three-headed dragon. As it turns out, Viola is a dragon Queen. But when she’s abducted by a greedy dragon who wants to breed with her, Viola begins to realize the dragon world is filled with betrayal, deception, intrigue, and danger…
As a rule, Sergei hates Queens, but Viola’s beauty and humanity reach something deep within him. Something he should not be feeling. When she names him her protector and consort—quite by accident—Sergei has no choice but to accept. Now they are bonded for life…with a growing attraction neither of them could have imagined.
But the dragon court is ruthless…and what doesn’t kill Viola will only make her more dangerous.
Table of Contents
About the Author
Discover the Emerging Queens series… The Queen’s Wings
Discover more Entangled Select Otherworld titles… Blood Moon
Pale Moon Walking
Crazy Over You
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Copyright © 2015 by Jamie K. Schmidt. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.
Entangled Publishing, LLC
2614 South Timberline Road
Fort Collins, CO 80525
Visit our website at www.entangledpublishing.com.
Select Otherworld is an imprint of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
Edited by Robin Haseltine
Cover design by LJ Anderson
Cover art from iStock
Manufactured in the United States of America
First Edition November 2015
To my fabulous agent, Louise Fury, who is always there to talk me down from the ledge, give me a kick in the butt when needed and support me in whatever I wanted to do. Thank you! You’re a rock star.
Viola Pierce watched the clock on her computer screen. Maybe the screen wasn’t refreshing? She jiggled the mouse.
The office was sweltering, and she felt like she’d been doing tequila shots on an empty stomach. She rolled her head to ease the numbness in her neck. Would this day never end? Almost seven p.m. Once the big hand hit the twelve, she was out the door and the supplier could eat voicemail tape.
Do they even use tape anymore, or are the messages floating around in a cloud like miscreant angels?
“Ms. Pierce, do you have the numbers for the Smooshie promotion?”
Viola blinked up at her boss, Mr. Smythe.
What the heck is he doing here after six?
“I’m waiting for Paris to call, and then I can compile the data.” Viola wasn’t sure why it was so damn important if a bunch of toys stuffed with dragon feathers sold out in the first week. But humans would buy anything with the word “dragon” on it.
She pushed her glasses back up her nose and squirmed in her seat when he continued to stare at her. Some women would find him handsome, but she thought he was too slick for his own good with his soul patch and thin ponytail. He was dressed in a gray polo shirt with the company logo—a dragon’s claw—and black khaki pants. She’d never seen Smythe in his true form, but the company website had him posing in all his snake-like glory. He was black and oily, like a giant eel with wings.
“Are you all right?” He had this terrible habit of clicking his pen while he talked.
“Yes,” she said, swallowing the urge to vomit. For the last ten minutes she’d felt feverish, and her pants were cutting off her circulation.
Smythe examined her. “How old are you?” Click-click-click-click.
Viola was pretty sure he couldn’t legally ask her that question. Or maybe he could. Dragons could get away with a lot. And while she’d like to stand on principle and tell him to shove it up his scaly ass, she needed the job. “Twenty-five.” Sweat trickled down her temple as he continued to stare at her like she’d just farted the “Star Spangled Banner.”
“Hmmm,” he said, his lips pursing in thought. Then he shrugged and walked through the double glass doors and into his inner sanctum. Her head throbbed in time with his pen clicks.
Dragons. Can’t live with ’em. Can’t get a decent-paying job without ’em.
Viola took some napkins out of her desk to blot the excess moisture off her body. Checking the camera overhead, she discretely patted under her arms.
A whiff of sultry and expensive perfume warned her that one of Smythe’s girlfriends was on the prowl. Sure enough, a stacked redhead slinked up to her desk. Viola had long since given up trying to remember names. It was like a revolving door of beautiful human women.
“Tell Smythe I’m here,” the redhead du jour said, her towering stilettos tapping a staccato beat on the marble floor.
This wasn’t Viola’s first rodeo. If Smythe had been expecting the redhead, he would have left instructions. No instructions meant no entry.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Smythe isn’t in right now. I can leave him a message, if you like.” One that he would toss in the trash without even looking at.
“Do you know who I am?” The redhead drummed her perfectly manicured nails on Viola’s desk.
“I know you don’t have an appointment.” The snark just flew out before she could stop it. Sometimes Viola thought she had an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other—and the devil was mouthy.
“How dare you?”
Viola held up a hand and channeled the angel side of her personality. “I understand you’re eager to see Mr. Smythe, but he’s never in the office this late.” And for the most part that was all true. He was usually out moving and shaking with the other dragon studs.
“He’s going to make me his Queen.” The redhead pouted.
Yeah, you and every other gold digger without a gag reflex.
Viola was proud that little gem stayed inside her head. There were only five dragon Queens in the world. You had to be born one, not made. Red was out of luck if she thought Smythe was going to give her a crown.
“He’s probably at his club. I bet if you leave now, you can catch him at the bar.”
The redhead huffed. But luckily, she took the bait and, with a final sneer, sailed out of the office with a toss of her fiery mane.
Viola didn’t understand why humans went crazy over dragons. Sure, they were rich and powerful, but deep down they were reptiles—more like dinosaurs. Everywhere—TV, internet, billboards—there w
Nimble and ethereal, you float through your world like the Queen you are, the description read. The sun is your only goddess and your radiance will lead you to greatness.
What a bunch of horseshit. Dragonshit. Whatever.
The annoying ring of her phone brought her back to the present.
“Talon Industries,” Viola answered, in case the powers that be were monitoring her call.
“Vi, you were supposed to be home an hour ago.”
“I know, Ma.” She lowered her voice. “I’ll be home soon. I’m waiting on an overseas call.” It was difficult talking to her mother—even worse when she was right. Viola rubbed the burning ache in her chest.
“Something suspicious is going on at the dragon embassy in Hartford. Has your lizard said anything about it?”
“Nope.” One of these days, her mother’s conspiracy theories were going to get her fired.
“It’s like a street party. Dragons everywhere. They’ve got the riot cops out to keep order. You should see all these stupid people falling all over themselves dying to get a picture or an autograph. It’s disgusting.”
“Oh yeah?” Viola tried to get to CNN’s website, but there was too much traffic. She switched to TMZ and pressed “play” on an amateur live video link. Goosebumps raised up on both her arms and she rubbed them. It was spooky. She saw a bunch of dragons, all shapes and sizes. The display was impressive. No wonder the media was having a field day.
The Chinese dragons were the newscasters’ favorite because they were the most colorful, both in body and personality. Although, something had to be said for the pure brutal power of the Celtic dragons. They took no shit, brooked no quarter. They were like a living embodiment of arrogance. There were even some species of dragons she’d never even seen before.
“Is that a Queen?” Viola said, squinting at her screen. There hadn’t been a Queen hatched in over a thousand years. “Is it Esmerelda?” Esmerelda was North America’s Queen, and if she was in Connecticut, the traffic on the interstate would be a parking lot for days.
The humans were being roped off by the cops and whoever was sending the video was too far away to get any more details.
Something was definitely going on. Viola could feel the excitement through the pictures on her screen. It wasn’t mixing well with her sickness.
“No, it’s the bitch from Europe, Lerisse.”
“I didn’t think she ever left Paris.” Viola wasn’t a dragon groupie, but she followed the news. All those male dragons to only five females? Well, it was no wonder the dragon studs plowed their way through human women.
“It’s like a rock concert. Girls throwing their unmentionables at them, screaming and fainting,” her mother ranted.
Viola gave a short a laugh. Working as a dragon’s administrative assistant cured any dragon fever she might have had. Riffling through her desk, she found her last two antacids and popped them.
Her mother was no doubt plastered to the television. She had a love-hate relationship with the dragons. She loved to hate them.
“I bet they’re planning to take over the world,” her mother said in an ominous tone.
“Think about it. It’s the perfect time. We rely on them for everything now as it is. Name me one CEO of a fortune-five-hundred company that’s not a dragon, and I’ll bet he’s a figurehead. I’m telling you, Vi, it will be back to the feudal days. They’ll hold humanity in their wretched claws.”
Viola focused on her company’s logo of a dragon’s talon clutching the earth, which loomed on the wall. For some inane reason, her mind starting singing, “He’s got the whole world, in his hands.”
Her stomach roiled ominously and it wasn’t only from her mother’s dramatics or her weird thoughts. “I gotta go, Ma.” Bile was creeping up her throat.
“Pick up some ice cream on your way home.”
Viola disconnected the phone and wrenched her headset off. To hell with the supplier. She was shaking. She heard a loud rip as the seam of her dress pants gave way. Mortification flooded through her, but then the back of her blouse shredded.
Before she could do anything but grab at the scraps of fabric, her whole body rumbled and expanded, like she was a balloon attached to a helium tank. Her cubicle walls went flying. The desk crunched under her as her body elongated and broadened.
There wasn’t any pain, but a whirlwind of excitement danced through her body like lightning bugs chasing butterflies. Viola was stretched to her very limit. Her ears hurt from the sound of a thousand car alarms that shattered the tiny windows surrounding her office.
It took her a minute to realize that she was making that sound. The copier was smashed to smithereens as a giant barbed tail slammed down on it.
Panicking now, Viola ran but became off balanced until she was on four legs. Four? Rearing her head up, she banged it on the ceiling and chunks of particle board fell on her heads.
She glanced to her right. A white, horse-like head with a long equine nose stared back at her. It looked as astonished as she was. Whipping her head to the left, she saw a red head with goat-slitted eyes and horns. It looked mad.
What the hell did her middle head look like?
“Duh, dragon. Purple face, long snout, big sharp teeth.”
“But your eyes are a lovely shade of violet,” the white horse head said in a calming voice that reminded her of her late grandmother.
“This isn’t happening,” Viola panted. Barreling through the room, she left crater-sized holes in the cubicle walls when her shoulders wouldn’t squeeze through.
“It’s happening, doll,” the red goat head said in a snarling cadence.
Viola hit a dead end when her bulk wouldn’t let her get to the hallway. This was like the one time she couldn’t fit her ass in the economy seat on that discount airline. Hyperventilating, she pushed and squirmed. If she couldn’t get to the hallway, she couldn’t get to the door, and she’d be trapped. Her tail swung in agitation. Computers, phones, and desks went airborne all over the office.
“Calm down!” a voice sounded behind her.
Viola turned around. “Mr. Smythe, I’m sorry about the mess. I don’t know what’s happening.”
He sidled around the debris, smiling wide with delight and…avarice? “My dear girl. You are far too old to shift—but you did. I can’t believe it. I thought I smelled a female dragon. I thought I was going crazy. But here you are.”
“I don’t understand.” Viola was horrified her voice was warbling.
“I don’t, either, but you’re going to be fine,” he said. His soothing voice grated on her last nerve.
“Fine? I’m a freak!” Viola screeched.
Her horse head spoke, “I’ll find a way to pay for all this. Please don’t fire me,”
“You’re a Queen now, Viola. You won’t have to pay for anything ever again.”
“Nothing’s free,” her left head hissed. Viola had to agree with the goat.
Smythe smoothed down his tie. “We can talk about that later. Shift back into human and we can go up to my office and have a light supper and a drink to ease your nerves. We can talk about your future.”
“I don’t know how to…shift,” she said. She’d worry about the rest of his offer once she was back in her own body.
He looked at her like she had three heads—which she did. “You just do it. Think about becoming a human.”
“I am human.” Even if she looked like a three-headed nightmare, she felt human.
He raised an eyebrow, looking her up and down.
“I used to be, anyway.”
Viola closed her eyes and imagined shrinking. It didn’t work. She tried retracting her tail, but she only managed to swing it through the debris. Sitti
“If I’m a dragon, where are my wings?” she asked, attempting to look over her shoulder without bumping into her two other heads.
There they were.
They were wisps of gossamer silk draped over her back like a cloak. She could barely see them in the fluorescent lighting “And why do I have three heads?”
“I don’t know. You’re unlike any dragon species I’ve ever seen. But you’re beautiful.”
Viola recoiled from the malevolent greed emanating from him.
When he raised his hand to touch her flank, her goat head snapped at him, missing his fingers by a hair’s breadth. Smythe smiled and moved out of striking reach. “I can see you need a little time to get used to your new form.” He backed away slowly. “I’ll have dinner brought down to you. Would you like anything else?”
“Wine,” Viola said. “A lot of it.”
“You are not going to get hysterical,” Horse said. “There’s a perfectly good explanation for all of this.”
“You’re huge!” Goat said.
Viola distanced her mind from reality. It helped if she pretended she was watching a movie—that this shift had happened to another woman. Her sanity hung on a thin thread.
A small part of her was gleeful she was out of a job—there was no way they wouldn’t fire her for this mess. Another nagging part of her worried how she’d find a way out of here.
After kicking the padded cubicle walls on top of each other, Viola climbed on top and closed her eyes, concentrating on her breathing to calm her raging thoughts.
Squeaky wheels had her opening up an eye. A large cask of wine was being rolled in.
“Three straws, please,” Goat said.
“Breaking News,” the mechanical announcement said over the PA system, followed by an annoying xylophone ring of tones. “Dragon ritual ends in tragedy and hope.”
“Is there anything else I can get you, my Queen?” the night janitor asked. His head was downcast and she bet if he had one, he would have tugged on his forelock in reverence.
“Bob, it’s me. Viola. Sorry about the mess.”