Author: T.L. Shreffler
Release Date: May 25, 2015
Genre: Fantasy Adventure, some romance
Ever since The White appeared in our valley of Windridge, my people have lived in fear. But today that fear ends. Finally, the King has sent his most elite dragon hunters to kill The White, the last of the imperial dragons.
Since the death of her father, Sienna Foxburn hasn’t felt safe. The White, a fire-breathing imperial dragon, terrorizes the Valley of Windridge with no end in sight. But Sienna isn’t satisfied hiding behind the walls of her keep. She is tired of fearing the dragon, but she can’t fight it alone.
Then a mysterious sorceress and two elite dragon hunters arrive, claiming to be sent by the King. Thus begins the great hunt for The White. Sienna embarks on a dragon-hunting adventure through the exotic Valley of Windridge, all while uncovering secrets and conspiracies that could endanger the entire Kingdom….
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Four other deerhounds lay around me. They wagged their tails when I sat up, then they turned to sniff and lick my face. I ran my fingers through their curly soft fur. They assured me everything was fine and normal, just another day at Glenhold.
Except it wasn’t just another day. Someone stood outside the fence of the kennels. The dogs kept a wary distance from him, ears down, wagging their tails in uncertain greeting.
I stood up stiffly. I picked a few bits of straw from my clothing and pushed my wild, vine-like hair off my face. I probably looked a mess, but I couldn’t do much about it. I wiped my face with my shirt sleeve as I approached the fence.
Finally I saw his face through a gap in the wood. I immediately became nervous. The Fire’s Bane. Darius, I thought. Much different than my dream-Darius with smoothly shifting features. In person he looked grim and rugged, dark-eyed and intimidating. Our gazes met through the fence.
The dogs sensed my nervousness. A few barked in wary alarm. I hushed them thoughtlessly.
Unexpectedly, Darius said, “I have need of three hounds.” His rocky baritone shivered across my skin, rougher than I expected, like shale on a mountain slope. I’d never heard a voice pitched quite so low in the chest.
I hesitated, glancing at the pale misty dawn. The dogs had to wait an hour after feeding before being worked. Otherwise they might get bloat—a twist in their stomachs. “It’s a bit early,” I said. “What for?”
“Mistress Ashyra is going on a hunt,” he said. “She would like three of your best hounds to accompany her.”
I scratched the back of my head. It wasn’t my place to release the hounds. That was the kennel hand’s duty and if I overstepped my bounds, I’d be in trouble. After last night’s excursion, I wanted to avoid that as much as possible.
“I don’t actually work here,” I said slowly.
He paused. His voice turned wry. “So…you just sleep here?”
I flushed. “On some nights.”
His eyes combed my hair. “You like animals, then?” he prompted.
“Of course,” I said, then bit my tongue. Ouch. I’d never felt this awkward in my life. The Dragon’s Bane was having an idle chat with me? The girl who sleeps in the dog kennel?
My next words rushed out, “I’ll let the trainers know Mistress Ash wants three hounds to accompany her. She’ll have to wait until mid-morning.”
Darius nodded. He turned to leave, then hesitated. “Is there a blacksmith at the hold?” he asked.
Any of the soldiers could have given him this information. “Yes,” I said, and pointed over my shoulder. “On the eastern wall, you’ll see the forge.”
He gazed at me for a moment. I wondered at his thoughts. Then he turned in the direction of the forge. I watched him stride away. He moved quickly for a big man. I couldn’t deny the width of his shoulders, especially from behind….
The moment he left my sight, I sank back against the rear wall of the kennel. I put my head against the cool stone. His presence gripped me like a fist. I didn’t know whether I fancied him or feared him. He wasn’t what the rest of the hold-girls would call handsome. He was too roughened, his face too angular for that. In fact, I’m sure most found him downright terrifying. Hold girls sighed over strapping young men like James or my cousin Stephan—charming, clean-cut soldier types. Those were Glenhold’s heroes.
But was it attraction that held me bound to the Bane’s presence, or intimidation?