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Sands and Tombs (Dragon Thief Book 4)

Millie Lucas and her handsome dragon protector Benjamin Castle are about to find themselves in a very sandy situation.

Sands and Tombs (Dragon Thief Book 4)

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FEATURED FREE BOOK: Greylock Manor

Visions of feral eyes haunt the waking hours of Alexandra Shaw. They both scare and intrigue her, and after one particularly strong dream she heads out to find where these visions are leading her.

FEATURED FREE BOOK: Greylock Manor

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The Dragon’s Lover

At the advice of the celestial being of the mountains, Kate and her handsome dragon companion Ros find themselves on the edge of the vast Sahra desert, and on the verge of a harrowing journey.

The pair join a caravan set to cross the wide swath of sands, but the pack hasn't even set out before they hear rumors of trouble. The huge worm that protects the caravans has instead turned on them, and the local commander means to find out why. On their journey they're joined by a troupe of tumblers, a witch with a secret, a beautiful woman with a thing for Ros, and a handsome youth with a death wish.

Together the crowd cross the desert and find themselves battling not only the elements, but the local Pactus, a fine group of people who have a taste for exotic flesh. The bane of the marauders makes its appearance and hell rises from the sands as the group fights for survival, and Kate fights for a little alone time with her devilishly seductive dragon friend.

Excerpt:

Now I knew what hell was like, and I didn’t even have to go through all the trouble of dying.
The searing sun loomed overhead as I leaned back and wiped my brow. The sweat that covered my forehead transferred to the back of my hand, and I shook my limb to remove the stickiness. The droplets flew in all directions, including on my companion who sat beside me.
I sheepishly smiled at Ros as he wiped off my sweat. “You need to drink more water.”
I snorted. “I think I’m drinking enough.”
He shook his head. “We’re only on the outskirts of the Illusion. Things are going to get much worse.”
I looked down at myself and winced. My clothes were already soaked from my perspiration. He was probably right, though. We were only on the fringes of what promised to be a hot and dry adventure.
The two of us sat in the back of a cart, but the vehicle wasn’t your typical roll-in-the-hay variety.

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This cart had sled runners instead of wheels, though it was pulled by a horse that sported the widest hooves I’d ever seen on such an animal.
Scrub grass and a few scraggly trees surrounded us. At our backs rose the Barringgate Mountains, those tall mountains which held our last adventure, and stretched out before us was the golden shimmer of a huge desert. Rolling hills of sand drifted together to create nightmares of thirst and slow death.
What a lovely place.
We were only a few miles into that welcoming desert and I was already covered in a fine layer of sweat. Even the setting sun didn’t provide any relief from the heat that emanated off the sands that surrounded us.
The driver of the cart, too, looked like he’d just taken a dip. He turned around and gave me a big, toothy grin. “Your first time here, miss?”
I nodded. “And hopefully my last.”
He chuckled and looked ahead back to the faint road we followed. It was more like an assortment of large stones with sand between them. “I’ve heard a lot of people say that, but they almost always come back.”
I lifted an eyebrow. “Why?”
He shrugged. “I suppose they like the thrill of death being so close without actually dying. It’s kind of like having a second chance at life. Once you’ve left the place, that is.”
“What some people won’t do for a laugh. . .” I mumbled as I rung out some sweat from my sleeve.
Ros stretched his neck up and his gaze lay on the road ahead of us. “We should reach the first marker before sundown.”
Our driver nodded. “That’s right. I’m guessing you’ve been here before.”
Ros sank back into the boards and nodded. “A few times.”
“You a merchant?”
Ros gave him a wry smile. “I’ve sold my skills a few times.”
“And what might those be?”
Ros laughed. “Trouble, and lots of it. Did you want my spare?”
Our driver grinned and shook his head. “You won’t find many takers here, even for free. There’s been enough trouble lately to cover a century.”
I sat up and lifted an eyebrow. “What kind of trouble?”
“The kind that gets stops the caravans from moving across these sands,” he mused before he stood up on his box. A smile dispelled his worry. “But there we are. The first marker.”
Ros and I followed his gaze and beheld a tiny settlement of some two dozen scattered homes. The houses had been made from dried mud and their flat roofs showed how much worry they had for snow and rain. The largest building was a two-story inn with an adjacent livery that stretched for some two hundred feet. The front doors were wide open and revealed twenty stalls and enough space in the aisle to accommodate a dozen carriages.
We drove in easily and several well-tanned young men hurried over. One of them grabbed the harness of the horse and smiled up at our driver. “Coming in a little close to sunset, aren’t you? We weren’t sure if you’d hit the mark.”
Our driver grinned as he hopped down. “I haven’t missed a marker yet.” Several of the other men rolled their eyes.
The one that held the horse grinned and looked up at us. “Welcome, travelers. There’s plenty of room in the inn, if you’re needing a room and board. A caravan leaves tomorrow at sunrise.”
“Put us down for that one,” Ros instructed the young lad as he helped me down off the back of the cart.
The young lad nodded. “You’ll be added, sir. Were you needing any provisions?”
Ros dug into his pocket and drew out a few coins which he placed in the young man’s palm. “As much as you can spare.”
The employee’s eyes widened and he snapped the coins into his pocket. “Yes, sir! I’ll see to it myself!”
Our driver came up to us with his hand out. “And I’ll be taking mine, as I won’t be going any farther beyond this point and I’d like to collect before you go.”
“Are you afraid we’d run off?” Ros mused as he handed our driver a coin.
He shook his head. “No, sir, but sometimes my customers promise to pay me on coming back and that doesn’t happen. Or if they do come back I’d have to get the money from their estate rather than their pocket.” He bowed his head to us and made his way out of the livery.
I couldn’t help but lay a hand on Ros’ arm, and I lowered my voice to a whisper. “Is it that dangerous?”
He pursed his lips as he set a hand atop mine and led me out of the barn. “It’s never been safe, but I’m getting the feeling that something’s happened to make that worse.”
We stepped out into the clear night and a chill breeze passed over me. “No wonder you two wanted to get here before night.”
Ros nodded. “The nights in the desert are very cold. It’s better to deal with the warm sun than the wicked wind that blows off the sands.”
I tilted my head to one side and studied his face. “How many times have you made the trip?”
A dark cloud settled on his brow. “Four times, the last being about five years ago. I was part of a caravan hauling goods along the markers.”
I caught Ros’ eye and lifted my eyebrow. “What’s this stuff about a marker?”
“Every stop along the route is called a Magi Marker,” he explained as we reached the front of the inn and he opened the door for me. “And to ‘hit the mark’ means to arrive before the sun sets.”
I paused on the threshold and worry crossed my brow. “So what happens if you don’t reach a marker?”
“You have a good chance of getting lost in the sands. After that, death.”
I winced and slipped inside. “Sorry I asked. . .”
Ros followed me into the inn, and we found the entrance hall to be large and clean. The ancient open wood beams over our heads were blackened by countless fires from the large hearth to our right. To our left was a dining hall with a few square tables and chairs. The stairs to the second floor were directly in front of us. At the far back was a small bar with a door in the wall behind it which led to the deeper parts of the inn.
Though the place was brightly lit by the hearth fire and dozens of candles, there was something there that caused a cold chill to run down my spine.
I jumped when Ros set his hands on my shoulders. “We’ll ask the innkeeper about this trouble. He’s an old friend of mine and knows the markers as well as the caravan leaders.” He caught my look and furrowed his brow. “What’s wrong?”
I smiled and shook my head. “I think I’m just tired. We’ve been traveling for a long time.”
He studied me for a while before he nodded. “When we’re done here, I’ll take you some place where we can relax.”
I raised my eyebrows. “Where’s that?”
A crooked grin slid onto his lips. “I’ll tell you when we’re done here. Now-“ He steered me towards the bar, “-let’s go have a talk with our host.” He swept his gaze over the room. A few people sat at the tables, but the area behind the bar was empty. “Hafez! Where are you, you snake?”
The door swung open and a slim, tall man leapt out. He wore a pair of jeans so worn by sun that their once black color was now bleached white. His chest was covered by a white blouse with noticeable stains under the arms. The ensemble was finished by a pair of heavy boots and a soiled apron.
He crossed his arms over his chest and cast a bemused look at Ros. “Snake, is it? If I am a snake then what does that make you?”
Ros drew the purse out of his pocket and gave it a jingle. “A paying customer.”

COLLAPSE

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Mac Flynn