Firedrake - By Bianca D'Arc

Dedication

To Jennifer Ray, who gave Drake his power.

And as always, to my family, who inspire me in so many ways.

Prologue

Prince Nico—Spymaster of Draconia and now King-Consort of the Jinn Brotherhood—walked the battlements. The high towers of the Draconian royal castle were his home and among his most favored places. His keen eyes searched the wide expanse, built so high in the clouds, until he found the creature he’d come to see.

She was a juvenile dragon, only about twenty-five winters old, in an absolutely stunning gold, pink and soft orange color. That’s what happens, Nico thought as he approached her, when a red and a golden dragon mate and are very, very lucky.

Jenet was one of the prettiest dragons Nico had ever seen, though she was often melancholy and refused to train with the knights and other dragons since she had no knight. Nor would she choose a knight. She’d made her choice, she would reply when asked, and until the stubborn man died of old age without her, she would choose no other.

So Jenet served as a sort of royal babysitter, watching the younger princes when they flew as black dragons—something only a precious few males of the royal line, who could trace their lineage back to Draneth the Wise, could do. At the moment, Jenet was watching Nico’s younger brother Wil and the younger set of twins making lazy loops in the sky. They were playing tag, but the activity also served to heighten their fledgling flying skills.

Nico walked over and sat next to Jenet, his human legs dangling over the sides of the high parapet. He had no fear of falling, for if he did, he would simply transform into the dragon that shared his soul and soar away on tar-colored wings.

“How goes it today?” Nico had known Lady Jenet all his life, so there was little need for formality between them.

“Passing fair, my liege.”

“Please, Jen, just use my name. I’m sick to death of all this formality. It’s even worse now that my new wife has been crowned Queen of the Jinn. Thank heaven it’s mostly a ceremonial title.” Nico spoke mind to mind with the dragon, as only a few people could do.

A dragonish chuckle, complete with a smoky, cinnamon-scented cloud, answered him as Jenet moved her large golden head to study him. Her jewel-like eyes blinked once, as she fixed her gaze on him.

“You never coveted your brother’s throne, did you? Perhaps that’s the reason the Mother of All saw fit to grant you one of your own, King Nico.”

Nico groaned and clutched one hand to his chest in mock agony. “You wound me, mistress, to remind me of my woes.”

Jenet laughed outright at that, filling the air with smoky dragonish laughter. “To what do I owe the pleasure of your company this morn? As you can see, your little brothers are playing on the air currents above and all is secure.”

“I came to see you, actually. I have some news I thought you’d like to hear.”

The fire opal eyes blinked once as she regarded him. “And what is your news, Prince Tease?”

Nico chuckled, relishing the moment. His news could change her life and would definitely brighten her mood, if he knew Jenet at all. He drew out the moment as long as he could, heightening the anticipation, but in the end there was just no way to say it but straight out.

“Drake’s coming home.”

“Drake!” Jenet jumped to her feet faster than Nico would have credited. She was a nimble little thing for all that she was as large as any healthy juvenile dragon. She crouched on all fours, her wings outstretched and trembling in a show of excited eagerness. Her large head crowded him as he stood. “Is it true?”

Nico smiled at her soft, almost frightened tone. “It’s true. I had a special messenger from the Jinn arrive just this morning. Drake sent him ahead to make sure my brother Roland would stay put. Drake’s coming to personally deliver a message from the Doge of Helios.”

“Drake! Coming home!” Jenet rose up to stand on her hind legs and trumpeted her delight to the sky. Her magnificent pearl-like wings flapped happily, stirring up a joyful breeze as Nico watched, both gratified and amused. It had been too long since Jenet had been this happy. It was good to see her so alive again.

And it was all because of Drake.

Drake had taken the eager light from her eyes when he’d left home fifteen years ago, and she’d

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