Starlight, страница 1
Date A Dragon Boxed Set Sample
Wait! This is the third book in the Nightmare Dragons series, so make sure you read Midnight and Nightfall before you continue! Each of my books has a new couple and a happy ending with no cliffhanger, but there is an overarching mystery in this series and you’ll get the best effect by reading them in order!
Here is the first book!
Midnight (Nightmare Dragons Book 1)
Here is the second!
Nightfall (Nightmare Dragons Book 2)
Thanks for reading,
Theo Lancaster felt something odd in the air as he began to scrub up for surgery. Despite being alone as usual in the sterile environment, while he cleaned his nails with a pick and brush and then used iodine to clean his hands and arms, he felt something bothering him.
A change was coming, something different in the status quo, and Theo didn’t know what.
It was the worst of feelings, as Theo liked total control of his environment and worked as hard as possible to ensure it.
Consistency, perfection, and cunning were all elements in the job he’d become very, very good at.
Medical advances had come a long way in the hundred years he’d been around, but he’d only recently (in the past twenty years) decided to actually do something about his longstanding interest. Before then, he’d been too afraid to connect with humanity.
He was no longer afraid, and a small nurse named Ada had a lot to do with that.
When he was finishing scrubbing, a co-worker helped him make the final adjustments to his outfit, and Theo took the opportunity to make sure everything was okay, at least in the most important aspect of his environment.
“Is Ada here?” His voice was muffled by his mask, but the woman assisting him understood.
“Of course she is.”
Theo nodded and walked out of the room toward surgery. By this point, most everyone knew of the talented surgeon’s insistence on having Ada as scrub nurse, the one who would hand him his instruments. No one seemed to have a problem with it, least of all Ada.
He thought of her sparkling, warm eyes, like molasses, and it gave him a little burst of motivation as he walked into the surgical area.
The patient was ready and prepped, the anesthesiologist standing by, and Ada was standing there as expected, her beautiful dark hair that she straightened fastidiously pulled back and covered by a hairnet, a mask covering everything but her eyes, which were shielded by glasses.
Despite her mask, he could usually sense her warm smile, but it was absent today.
That was odd.
Theo got ready to work on the patient, hoping they had at least gotten Ada’s warm, friendly demeanor before going in. With Ada as an ally, his reputation as a surgeon had gotten much better at the consultation phase, and she was just as passionate about restoring health as he was.
He was one of the most well-reputed surgeons in the country, and his naturally cold, calm demeanor had helped.
The fact that he was a nightmare abomination masquerading as a human didn’t help much at all. Except it had always taught him to hide his emotions, hide who he was, and that meant he never got rankled or upset during a surgery, no matter what went wrong.
Not that things went wrong often. All of the nightmares had gifts, and Theo’s particular gift involved seeing into the present, into certain thoughts, or sometimes even into otherwise blocked images.
Like parts of the human body that couldn’t otherwise be seen. That meant he had a remarkable record of not hitting unforeseen vessels, but there were, of course, still always things that could go wrong.
The human body was remarkably variable in all its responses.
He looked at Ada once more, asking for a tool and searching for a hint of warmth in her eyes when she handed it to him.
Her eyes crinkled pleasantly, and he knew that was her attempt at looking normal, but it didn’t fool him at all.
Still, as he started the surgery, he knew he would have to save those thoughts for later. Right now, all that existed was the person in front of him and the tumor they needed taken out of their brain.
* * *
Watching Theo work was incredible, as always, Ada thought as she removed her protective clothing at the end of her shift.
He’d looked at her a couple times during surgery, and she wondered if he could tell something was up. He’d always been incredibly perceptive about what she was thinking or feeling, even if he didn’t use that skill all the time.
In fact, he was often oblivious or harsh about other people’s feelings, and it was something she’d been able to help him with during their years together. But that wouldn’t be her job anymore.
Not for long.
Since she’d been with Theo, she’d known him as the type who didn’t take prisoners, who said what he thought no matter who he hurt, and who thought “no” was simply a place to start negotiations.
So she knew this wasn’t going to go well.
When she was done, she slung her purse over her shoulder and exited the hospital, walking to the lot where Theo would be waiting, probably getting ready to mount his bike.
Sure enough, he was astride it, about to put on his helmet, when he saw her coming and stopped.
“Ada? What’s this about?” He put his helmet under one arm and cocked his head at her, looking handsome as always with that mussed, thick, nearly black hair contrasted with those ice-cold blue eyes.
Every time she looked at him, she had the feeling he was frozen somehow, just waiting for someone to reach him.
But she couldn’t hold on to those romantic notions anymore.
“Theo… I’ve told the others, but it’s time I told you. I’m leaving.”
Theo stared at her, eyes slowly narrowing, and then he slung a leg over his bike, getting off it, and came over to where she stood.
She put a hand up. “There’s no point trying to convince me. I’ve already worked it out with HR, and I have a position waiting for me elsewhere.”
“You know I could change that. HR would reverse anything on my order. It’s not too late.”
“I know. The hospital is desperate to keep you happy,” Ada said quietly. “So you can do what you want. But I’m going to go. I’ve already given two weeks’ notice.”
His expression was sharp, somewhat unreadable. A small crease appeared between perfectly arched, dark, and masculine brows. He had a perfectly straight, thin nose and full, soft lips that could look oddly firm when he was angry. But he didn’t look angry right now, just confused.
He folded his arms and stared down at her another moment, as if trying to consider his next move. “Is it the pay? I can do more for you. I suppose I should have thought about it sooner.”
“No, of course that’s not it.”
“Then what is it?” he snapped irritably. “Just ask for it. Don’t be shy. If this is just a tactic to—”
She sighed, putting a hand to her head in exasperation. “It’s not a negotiation, Theo. I just wanted to tell you because it’s fin
“Of course not,” he said, straightening to his full, intimidating height. Between that and his perma frown, he often scared the crap out of patients.
Ada really would miss working with him, but she’d made the right choice. She needed to go.
“Anyway, I’ll see you tomorrow,” she said quietly, walking away from him and heading in the direction of the garage and her car.
She was surprised to hear quiet footsteps. He was following her. She rolled her eyes and continued in her path, knowing she had nothing to fear from Theo, even alone in the dark. He’d never try anything with her.
If only he would…
She shook that thought away, laughing softly at herself, and then got out her keys as she reached her car, looking up to see Theo moving in front of her. He blocked her path.
Oh God, those pecs, right at eye level. Below that, perfect abs. When not in surgery, he must spend all his time working out, because he was physically perfect.
“Theo, I need to go.”
“I don’t know why you drive this car,” he said, glaring at it. “You could have nicer.”
“Yeah, well, still paying some bills.” Her sister’s cancer had been expensive, and her parents hadn’t been able to totally cope with the costs. Ada helped out as she could, but it didn’t leave a lot of extra for things like fancy cars.
Which was fine because Ada didn’t care about things like that.
Theo leaned against the car in an awkward attempt at looking casual, and Ada had to stifle a giggle. “What are you doing now?”
“Studying you,” he said sharply. “Trying to figure out how to make you stay. You’re indispensable. I can’t work without you.”
“Nonsense,” Ada said, trying to get around him to her car. “You’ll be fine without me. You’re a renowned surgeon people fly in from out of town to see. I’m just a regular nurse.”
Theo blocked her way again as she tried to move around him. “There’s nothing regular about you, and I need you to continue my work. There are some surgeries that I just… can’t do without you.”
“Oh, come on,” Ada said, putting her hands on her hips after giving him an unsuccessful shrug to get him out of the way so she could get in her car. “You’ve gotten much better. You just have to be nicer to clients.”
“They call you the beast tamer,” Theo said, and when she looked into his eyes, she saw urgency. Was it possible that this unflappable, cold-to-everyone surgeon was actually upset about this unexpected turn of events?
If she didn’t know him better, she’d say there was desperation in those cold blue eyes.
But it didn’t matter. She needed to do what was best for herself for once, and he would still do fine with his patients. She’d seen a lot of improvement in their years together.
She tapped his cheek gently, watching his face redden and his eyes narrow in anger. “Well, in my opinion, the beast is already tamed. You’ll be fine.”
She shoved at him until he finally grunted and moved out of the way, still glaring at her as she opened her door.
“I’m not letting you go, Ada. I need you too much.”
She gave him a pained smile, wishing it was actually true. He needed her for one aspect of work, one anyone could do for him, and that was all.
She couldn’t live her life for only that.
“Good-bye, Theo. See you tomorrow.” Then she shut her car door.
As she pulled out, she saw him mutter something to himself and was kind of glad she couldn’t hear it.
Still, she could feel his icy gaze follow her all the way out of the parking garage and couldn’t shake the feel of it until she was on the highway, headed home.
Five Years Earlier
It was impossible. Ada couldn’t do it.
She’d been excited when she was accepted as a nurse at such a prestigious hospital, working under a surgeon that was known as the best in his field, despite being relatively young.
She’d applied several places after nursing school, only wanting to go surgical, and she’d been so surprised by Theodore Lancaster’s acceptance that she hadn’t thought to really look more into it.
Looking back, she really should have.
There was a reason a prestigious surgeon was willing to have her as a nurse, and that was because all the other nurses kept quitting.
It was her third time hiding in the supply closet, avoiding him, and she knew she either needed to quit or go out there and face the facts.
Or rather, face Theodore Lancaster’s handsome, awful face.
The door to the closet jerked open, and icy eyes glared down. She felt a hand on her arm, pulling her out of the closet with a quick but gentle touch.
When she was free, he released her, then faced her with folded arms.
“Did you get stuck in there? It’s a good thing I was looking for you.”
“Oh, uh… yes.” She lied. “I guess I got stuck.”
He raised a dark eyebrow. “Curious. I’d expect more intelligence from a nurse. Which I shouldn’t because I’ve met very stupid ones. Stupid doctors, too.”
Everyone is stupid compared to you, she wanted to spit at him, but she wisely knew to stay quiet.
“Well, what are you thinking? Why are you quaking at me like that? I’m not going to bite you.”
Of course not.
One of the things he’d said when he met her that morning came to mind.
“You aren’t going to be like those other nurses, are you? Don’t get any ideas about me. I’m not some hot young surgeon. I’m a cold, calculating son of a bitch. And if you try to put a hand on me, you’ll be fired.”
She could totally understand why women, or men, had tried it. He was beautiful, competent, and when he wasn’t talking, he seemed like a nice, normal man.
That combined with his imposing presence and intimidating height made for a man that called for heavy breathing and self-fanning.
But then there was that mouth.
He was glaring at her again, as if she were a bug that had wandered under his shoe inconveniently, and she scurried out and away from him, making lame excuses as she walked into the hall to return a message from her family.
Her little sister was undergoing treatment for brain tumors and had been for a long time. They were aggressive and invasive, and seeing what her sister had gone through in various operating rooms was what had made her want to become an OR nurse.
Now that this job wasn’t working out, maybe she should just go home and spend time with her sister while she could.
She unlocked the phone and listened to the voicemail, and when she was done, she sat down, stunned, and began to cry.
She was on a cold metal bench in the hallway where anyone could have seen her, yet she couldn’t stop the silent tears from streaming down.
There would be no more surgeries. No one wanted to take the risk.
Ada’s family would have to take the rest of the time they had left. God, was it all for nothing?
She put her head in her hands and tried to calm down. She needed to be professional for the rest of the day at least.
She heard footsteps and saw shoes with surgical coverings on them appear in front of her.
She took a breath, trying to compose herself, and slowly looked up at him.
Based on his confrontational posture and folded arms, he’d been about to scold her, but when he saw the tears on her face, his expression changed from defiant to one of disgust and, if she wasn’t wrong, a little fear.
“Stop doing that. Stop that at once,” he said sharply. “This isn’t the right place.”
Ada couldn’t help it. She burst into full sobs, burying her face in her hands. He was so cruel to her, to everyone.
Just that morning, he’d made the worried parents of a pediatric client cry because he told them to stop looking for comfort and let him “do his damn job.”
But none of that mattered now that Katie would die.
“What’s wrong with you?” He cocked his head and reached for her phone, but she pulled it back from him, trying to keep it out of reach.
After an unsuccessful struggle, he wrested it from her grip and looked at the most recent voicemail. Then he pressed play and held it to his ear.
“Hey! That’s violation of privacy. You can’t just—” She stood on her tiptoes, trying to grab it back, but he kept her at bay with just one hand on her head, pushing back gently.
When the voicemail was over, he lowered the phone and looked at her with an expression she couldn’t interpret.
Perhaps pity? He was so cool outwardly she couldn’t tell.
He looked at something on the phone again and then handed it back to her. “I’m needed somewhere. I’ll be back.” His expression was still hard as he turned and strode away down the hall.
She sighed as she slumped on the bench again. How had she expected him to react? He understood things like this. Sometimes operations just couldn’t be done. No one wanted to take on that kind of risk when the child might still die.
Especially someone as cold and unfeeling as Theo Lancaster.
Her personal problems had nothing to do with him. Though he’d said he would, she didn’t expect him to come back.
She walked to her locker, wondering how she was going to focus up and make it through that afternoon’s surgery, taking out her wrinkled sack lunch.
She sat on one of the chairs at a nearby table and began to take dry, unsatisfying bites out of her sandwich, wondering what she was going to say when she called her mom back.