Emma Altha wasn’t planning on going to the pub that night, but fate and a persistent coworker push her toward her destiny.
Little does she know a stranger lurks in the shadows waiting for someone just like her. Before she can finish her drink she’s whisked away to a new world where her captors intend to use her as bait. Their prey is a dragon, only the dragon wasn’t being lured there to eat her.
Emma’s unique gift is she can lure magic-imbued male creatures to her with the promise of powerful offspring. Her irresistible scent draws in a dragon, and one far more powerful than her captors could have imagined. She can’t help but be attracted to the handsome stranger who comes to whisk her off her feet, and as they traverse her new world she discovers pleasures she could never have imagined.
Who knew barhopping would land me in a magical world?
That night began like any other, with my friend bemoaning the greatest travesty in the world.
“Why are there so few single cute guys?” Ruth moaned as we left work one chilly autumn evening. “I mean, why can’t they just give a subtle hint that they’re available? Like throwing themselves at my feet?”
The traffic was heavy, a clear sign that Friday night would soon fall on the city. We found ourselves in that throng of scurrying humanity, and all I could think of was that frozen pizza tucked away in the back of my freezer and the old movies sitting on top of my TV stand.
Ruth wrapped her arms around one of mine, and I turned to find her scowling at me. “What?”
She narrowed her eyes at me. “I know that look. You’re going back to your apartment to chow down on some pizza.”
“Frozen pizza,” I added as I tried to pull away.
She tightened her grip on my arm and dug her heels into the sidewalk. “Oh no. You promised me a night out.”
It was my turn to frown. “When?”
“Four months ago.”
I shrugged. “I’m afraid that’s past the ninety-day expiration date, so I’ll-hey!”
Ruth had pushed off her heels and now tugged me down the sidewalk against the flow of foot traffic. We earned our share of dirty looks as my short but powerful friend cut through the tide.
“We’re going to hit the town tonight!” Ruth shouted to the rooftops as she weaved us to the nearest street corner. “And nobody’s going to stop us!”
I ducked a low sign that my friend effortlessly passed under, but the sharp edge still grazed my head. “Do we have to literally hit it, or can we just tickle it a bit?”
We reached the corner and Ruth waved furiously at the myriad of yellow vehicles. “Taxi!”
Ten minutes later found myself in the back of one of those legendary cabs with Ruth all smiles by my side. I had my arms crossed over my chest and was glaring at the back of our driver’s balding head. “This is going to be a night you won’t forget.”
I snorted and rubbed my temple. “That depends on how many drinks I have.”
Ruth shrugged. “Well, if you have one drink at each place then you should be fine until ten.”
I paused in my remonstrations and lifted an eyebrow. “At each place?”
She grinned. “Of course. You don’t think we’re going to just go to one place and plop our butts down the whole night, do you?”
I dropped my hand into my lap and sighed. “Of course, what was I thinking? Who would want to take a load off their feet on a Friday night?”
She nodded. “I know, right? Not when there’s a bunch of places to go and cute guys to meet!” I groaned and slumped lower on the weathered seat. Ruth tilted her head to one side. “You don’t look too excited. Don’t you want to find the right one?”
I snorted. “I don’t really expect to find him waiting for me at a pub.”
“Maybe he’s out on the streets waiting for you,” she suggested as the taxi glided to the curb. She opened the door and grabbed my hand. “So, let’s go find him.”
Ruth pulled me out and onto the busy sidewalks. A block of flashy pubs stretched up and down the street, and the flow of humanity moved from the curb to the open doors. Music blared out of most of their dark interiors, and laughter and shouts rang out over the neighborhood.
Ruth squealed and dragged me into the nearest pub. We found ourselves in a large noisy room where the bare minimum of lighting hung over our heads. The scent of alcohol and body odor permeated the walls, and the place was packed. Most of the people ground against each other on the dance floor, and others occupied almost all of the tables that dotted the rest of the room.
A couple in fashionable attire strode past me toward the door, and the woman bumped into my arm. She turned her head and sneered at me. “Watch it.”
I slumped forward and sighed. This was going to be a long night.
I had no idea how right I was going to be.
“Come on!” Ruth insisted as she meandered us through the crowds to the last available booth.
We beat our competitors by only a few steps, as a group of women in high heels strode up to us. “This is our table,” one of them insisted.
Ruth searched the smooth top and the cushy cushions. “I don’t see your name anywhere.”
“That’s because your big ass is sitting on it,” another quipped. Her joke got a ringing laugh out of her friends.
Ruth grinned. “Then I guess her name can kiss my ass because we’re not getting up.”
The leader’s cheeks tinged with red anger and her well-manicured hands balled into fists at her sides. “Get up, you stupid bitch, or-”
“Beautiful ladies shouldn’t fight.”
All our attention was drawn to the speaker. He was a man on the better side of thirty with jet-black hair and a smart suit. An expensive ring adorned one finger-not the marriage one-and his smile was worth a thousand carats. Two like-dressed gentlemen stood behind him, flanking him like well-dressed stormtroopers.
Our harassers swooned at the sight of such outward wealth, and they leapt at the men like they were fresh meat. The leader took the man with the ring and practically wrapped herself around him. “Hello there. I don’t think I’ve seen you here before.”
He smiled. “We don’t come around here often.”
She lifted up his ring hand and admired the large diamond. The gemstone had a greenish hue in the center but was otherwise as pure as the whitest quartz. “What a wonderful jewel. Where did you get it?”
The man’s eyes sparkled with a strange light. “Would you believe from a dwarf?”
The woman blinked at him before a laugh escaped her. “You’re hilarious! What do you say to a dance?”
He brushed his ring hand over the side of her face, and I couldn’t help but notice that his attention was focused on the jewel. “I would say yes, but fate says no.”
“Then what about my place?” she cooed as she ran a finger along his chest.
“Sorry, but we’re here on business,” he replied as he grasped his arms that were draped about his person and removed her from him. His eyes moved past her furious face to her friends. “But I wouldn’t mind talking with your associates here.” Her face was a picture of fury as he moved over to the women and brushed the back of his hand against their cheeks. “They are quite beautiful, aren’t they?” Each one blushed in turn until he moved on to their companion. He left a trail of rage, and at teasing the fourth and final woman he sighed and stepped away from the red-hot fury that was the women. “I’m sorry, ladies, but there’s no business between us.”
“You fucking asshole!” the leader growled at him before she and her cohorts stomped off.
The man still held a smile on his lips as he turned to us. I latched onto Ruth’s arm. “Actually, we were just leaving.”
Ruth whipped her head about to give me her best frown. “But we just got here! And these cute guys want to talk to us!”
I cast a furtive glance at our companions. Something in their eyes seemed off to me. “I’m sure they’re looking for some prettier girls than us.”
“On the contrary,” the leader mused as he lifted his ring finger to chest height. A slight glow emanated from the jewel. “You may be just what we’re looking for.”
Even Ruth’s enthusiasm was dampened slightly by his strange words. “You know, I think we were just leaving.” She stood and took me with her. “This place is too loud, anyway.”
Ruth hurried us past the strange men and out into the busy street. I breathed a sigh of relief. The late evening had slipped into night and shadows lurked in the gaps between the buildings. The crowds had thinned as most people had entered an establishment or gone to their apartments, or someone else’s apartment.
My friend looked over her shoulder and glared at the opening to that particular hangout. “Those creeps ruined a perfectly good start to clubbing.”
I snorted. “Was that before or after the high school prom queens tried to take our seat?”
“After. We were winning that battle.”
I stifled a yawn. “Could we declare this war over and go to bed?”
“Not on my watch,” she insisted as she looped her arm around one of mine and dragged me to another establishment down the block. “Let’s try our luck at this one.”
Our luck turned out to be worse as we strode past one of the thin slices of shadow between the buildings. This one was larger than some, but not big enough to be called an alley. A dim bulb over a back door some twenty yards down the way was the only source of light in that dreary darkness.
A hand shot out of that same darkness and latched on to Ruth’s arm. She tried to let out a scream, but a flash of some dark object struck her in the back of the head. She would have tumbled to the ground if the first pair of hands didn’t drag her into the shadows.
I leapt after my friend but felt something strike me against the side of my face. The world lost focus and my captors dragged me into that darkness. A cloth was wrapped over my mouth, and the gag muted my weak cries for help at the people who passed by on the busy street.
I tried to thrash in the grip of my detainer, but the blow had weakened both my vision and my muscles. I could only kick my feet against the broken concrete as I was dragged toward the dim light with Ruth close at my side being led the same way. Her head lolled to one side, and for one terrified moment I thought my friend had died. Her chest movement, however, told me she had only lost consciousness.
We were dragged into the light and turned so our backs faced escape. A figure stepped out of the shadows, but my blurry vision couldn’t make out who they were. They held up one hand toward Ruth and me, and a brilliant light emanated from one of their fingers.
“So that means we found her, right, Boss?” one of the men spoke up, the one who grasped me.
“Of course, you fool,” hissed his compatriot. That’s when I recognized the voice. It was the man from the bar. One of his stooges held me while the other held Ruth.
“But which one is it?” the man who held Ruth wondered.
The leader swung his hand toward Ruth and took a step toward her. The light dimmed. “Not this one.” He turned in my direction and stretched out the light toward me.
I heard a sharp hiss emanate from him. The sharp sound of pain grew greater as he drew his hand back. My eyes regained their focus, and his pained face came into view. The man clutched his ring hand in his other palm and clenched his teeth as he watched the light from the glowing diamond grow brighter and brighter.
“Is it supposed to do that, Boss?” my captor asked him.
He shook his head. “How should I know? It’s only supposed to find the bait, not-ah!”
He tightened his hand into a fist which trembled. The light forced itself through the gaps between his fingers and shone like a small star. The man clenched his teeth as his hand began to shake.
The next moment a sharp shattering noise cut through the silent air. The man opened his hand and the shattered remains of the gemstone cascaded to the ground like glitter.
Ruth’s captor’s mouth dropped open. “That don’t seem right!”
Their leader waved his hand and flung the remains of the gemstone from his fingers, but I glimpsed a few bits stuck in his flesh. “No, but it proved enough.” His sharp, merciless eyes fell on me. “We’ll take this one with us.”