Firedrake - By Bianca D'Arc Page 0,1

pined for him ever since. Now he was coming home, but for how long? Would he spurn her again? Or would he finally accept what was so obvious to everyone else who knew them?

Only time would tell.

Chapter One

Drake felt the weight of responsibility settling around his shoulders as he made his way to the throne room in the royal castle of Draconia. He’d sent the messenger at the last possible moment, but he knew the king would be expecting him. Drake wanted to make this visit as brief as possible. He didn’t want to see anyone other than the king, if he could avoid it.

Coming back to Draconia after all these years was quite possibly the hardest thing he’d ever done, but it was necessary. Nothing less than the safety of the land, its people and dragons could have made him break his vow never to set foot in his homeland again, but it had come down to that, at the last.

Drake had a message to deliver that was too urgent to wait. It had to be him, much as he wished otherwise. He’d been closest to the borders of Draconia and there was no time to find another trusted operative to deliver the warning. This had to be done as quickly and covertly as possible so as not to alert their enemies.

The giant doors to the throne room were open, and he could hear the soft murmur of voices from within. He’d hoped to catch the king alone, but it was not to be. Drake took a deep breath for courage and resigned himself before stepping through the dragon-sized portal.

Nico was there, closest to the doorway in the huge room. Drake sketched him a saucy bow as he caught the new king of the Jinn’s eye. Nico smiled and started toward him. They met in the center of the large chamber, exchanging a firm handclasp and a short, pounding hug of true welcome.

“Drake! You’re here sooner than I expected. Your messenger only arrived yesterday.”

Drake stepped back, his grin genuine, if a bit sheepish. “That was by design.”

“Ah. Just enough time to recall Roland if he was elsewhere and not enough time for word to spread too far. You’re a cagey one, Drake. Always were.”

“Has word spread? I mean, does my family know I’m here?” He felt like a fool for asking, but he had to know, and Nico was as close as a brother to him, though he was in fact his liege lord twice over—once as Prince and Spymaster of Draconia, and again as King-Consort of the Jinn.

“You mean, does your blood-father know?” Nico cut to the heart of the matter. “If he does, he didn’t hear it from me.”

That should have set his mind at ease, but Drake knew Nico too well. His careful words were too vague for Drake’s comfort, but he didn’t have time to wrangle with the Prince of Spies about it. Roland had spotted them.

Few had the nerve to keep King Roland of Draconia waiting. Nico, of course, did but he was his brother. Drake, while having grown up alongside the royal princes, still couldn’t claim that kind of kinship. And Roland was king now, after all.

Drake walked toward Roland, Nico beside him. When Drake would have fallen to one knee in respect for his king, Roland stopped him, grasping his hand and giving him a back-thumping hug, much as Nico had done.

“It’s good to see you back home, Drake. We’ve missed you.” Roland stepped back and nodded. That simple gesture of approval said more than mere words to Drake, who’d known Roland and his understated ways since they were both youngsters. “Your work on our land’s behalf has not gone unnoticed, and I thank you.”

Drake stood back, amazed by the welcome. He hadn’t left under the best of circumstances, but all he’d done in the years he’d been away had been for the safety and security of the dragons and people of Draconia. Apparently Nico had told his older brother a bit about Drake’s work as head of the Jinn Brotherhood’s network of informants and spies. He didn’t know quite what to do with praise of this kind. He’d heard so little of it in his life.

Drake bowed to the king. Roland’s opinion mattered more to him than that of almost any man alive. Roland had been forced to assume the throne at a young age after the murder of his parents and had always been a steady, solid influence on Drake

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