This last week, I have been madly finishing off my new novella Dragon’s Confession. Ninteen-year-old Victor Lindorm made a grave error when he seduced and transformed Ingrid von Schwalm without the consent of either of their families. Six years on he has finally received permission to court her properly. Will this second chance bring these 2 lovers together? Or is Ingrid fated to be some other dragon’s bride?

I am sharing the first chapter of this story with you today. All comments are appreciated as this previously unpublished work is still in revisions.

CHAPTER ONE

  Six years earlier, Chateau Lind, Loire-du-Bois

He pulled her behind the door where no one could see them and planted an inexpert kiss on her lips. Ingrid wound her arms around his neck and kissed him back. When his tongue asked for entrance, she opened her mouth and tasted him.

It wasn’t her first kiss. Not even her first French kiss. But apparently it was Victor Lindorm’s first. But he made up for his lack of skill with husky murmurs and brute enthusiasm. When he raised his head his eyes were unfocused. She wasn’t a giggler, but she giggled.

He placed her hand over his heart. “You are the one,” he declared.

Ingrid looked up at him through her lashes. He was so intense. In the last two days this blond giant had tugged her into a dozen of the alcoves and niches that formed part of this sixteenth century castle. Each time he had uttered versions of the same desperate phrase.

Her trouble was that she was beginning to believe him. Could fate intend her to find her one true love so young? Was she destined to marry a dragon after all? To become a dragoness? Her father would be ecstatic. She would need to be careful of this handsome boy.

Victor’s phone beeped. He turned scarlet and answered it promptly. He spoke rapidly and respectfully into it before turning it off. “I’m sorry, Ingrid. I have duties. Forgive me. Do you know the way to where you were going?”

She nodded. “The Chateau Lind is a big place, but no larger than the Schloss Schwalm. I’ll be fine.” He bowed as if she were a princess. Pressed a kiss on her lips. “Later.” He was gone before she had her eyes open.

That evening after dinner when the house guests were gathered in Lady Lindorm’s music room for an impromptu recital, Victor sang a credible accompaniment to one of his aunts’ piano playing. He executed the lyrics in flawless German. It was an old love song, but he sang it for her, in the language of her homeland.

Vater nudged her when the song was over and a laughing group of giant Lindorms were arranging themselves into a chorus. “Would you fetch my reading glasses, please?” he asked.

“Of course.” She glanced at the front of the room. But Victor was already gone. He kept telling her that he had duties. And it seemed to be true. He was always vanishing. She smiled as she slipped past the rest of the audience and went for her father’s glasses.

Victor followed her up the staircase. “Where are you headed?”

“My father needs his glasses.”

“I will come with you.”

“Don’t you have duties?”

“I have to play the violin later. Do you know where your father’s room is?”

She grinned at him. “He’s in the Chinese room.”

His brows rose. Obviously he was aware that the Graf von Schwalm was a highly honored guest. “I know a short cut.”

Of course he did. “Why would I want to rush?” she teased.

He let her pick up Vater’s spectacle case and start back to the music room. On the second floor landing, he tugged her behind the drawn curtains of the bay-windows. The gold satin lining enclosed a tiny space with the windowpanes forming the three other walls. Victor’s big hands pulled her against him. He brushed kisses all over her face. Tender, exploratory, reverent kisses.

He stopped with a huge sigh of regret. “We need to get you back, before they notice.”

“Who?”

“My family. Your father. Your brother.” He sounded cross. “Don’t play games, Ingrid.”

“I’ll go to bed early. Come to my room. We’ll…talk.”

His smile made her feel feminine, powerful, grown up.

* * *

Ingrid huddled sobbing and trembling on the edge of the bed. She had cocooned herself in the top sheet. With each shudder, her pearly shoulders peeped tantalizingly through the pale hair that cascaded over them.

Victor stared helplessly at his mate. Her tears made his heart cramp. The harder Ingrid cried, the faster her tears trickled down her face and tinkled onto the floor in a flood of small greyish stones. He had no idea how to make her stop.

He rolled out of bed and grabbed his pants, stuffing his legs into them commando style. He rounded the ornate foot board to sit beside his mate. “It’ll be all right,” he said as comfortingly as he knew how. If anything, Ingrid cried harder. Her tears made a small and musical backdrop to her sniffling. He edged closer to try and put his arm around her and trod on a great pile of them.

“Damn.” His mild expletive frightened Ingrid. She shrank further away.

This was dreadful. He had not expected her to be so frightened and sad. He knelt before her and tried to take her hands. She clutched the sheet and shook her head. Blonde waves bounced. The diamonds, for she was weeping diamonds, cascaded faster. They bounced off her lap and puddled on the carpet.

Victor tried again. “I didn’t mean to hurt you,” he said desperately. “I’m sorry.”

Abruptly her tears stopped. “You didn’t hurt me.” Ingrid wiped her face with the corner of the sheet. “I just don’t want to marry you.”

That rocked him back on his heels. “Oh.” He ran a hand through his hair. Now what? “I don’t think we can get away with that.” He enunciated slowly and carefully. It was far too late for her to change her mind.

She took the sheet away from her face. Despite her distress and her grief, she was the most beautiful girl he’d ever met. “I know. But I don’t want to get married. I’m just seventeen.”

Victor looked down at his hands. What the hell had he done? He was older than Ingrid. He was pretty sure her parents and his would blame him. And the Eldest of his House – it didn’t bear thinking what Lord Lindorm would have to say to his nephew and youngest sword bearer.

He swallowed hard. “I don’t think,” he began.

“I haven’t even finished school,” she said despairingly. “I don’t want to go off to some island in Sweden to make babies.”

This morning, Victor was by no means sure that they would be allowed any such pleasure. His plan which had seemed so clever last night, now seemed crazy. He had a feeling that after her family and his were done with him they wouldn’t be much left. Because this mess was his fault, Ingrid was only seventeen. He should have protected her. Especially if that meant protecting her from himself.

He had no excuse – no excuse that his father or the Eldest of their house, Lord Lindorm, would care to hear. Certainly no excuse that the Graf von Schwalm would feel justified the offense against his only daughter. And his own parents would be bitterly disappointed in him.

The rules for Lindorms were clear. You spent your adolescence learning to control your dragon and serving the head of the family. He had just begun to study at the Naval Academy. Just been accepted as one of the Eldest’s sword bearers. He and his cousins were expected to serve an apprenticeship before they even thought of courting a mate.

He was years away from being permitted to declare a Mate Hunt. Things were looser, in other dragon families. But the Lindorms had not become a large and wealthy Dragon House by being loose. In any sense of the word. Before he had approached Ingrid, he should have spoken to the Thane of Lindorm, his parents, her father, and made a formal declaration before the Council of the Guild of Dragons.

And there was no way in hell that any of them would have permitted him or any other nineteen-year-old to transform his mate. They would have his head or his balls. Or both. Shift.

Victor squared his shoulders and stood up. “I’ll take the blame,” he told Ingrid. “I’ll tell them was my fault.”

Ingrid’s round blue eyes got rounder. Her rosy lips parted and then closed. She shook her head. “I don’t think they’ll care whose fault it was. My father will be delighted to see me married to you. To any dragon in fact. He’ll be thrilled that I caught myself a Lindorm.” More diamonds leaked out of the corners of her eyes.

He moved across to the chair where he had thrown his clothes the night before and began to pull on last night’s shirt. “We’ll have to think of something then. Only there’s no going back. We can’t alter the fact that I transformed you. As soon as my family gets their first whiff, they’ll know you are a dragoness and why. My Uncle Thorvald doesn’t like licentiousness. I don’t want you to be unhappy, but I don’t see how we can deceive people.”

He tied his bow tie in the mirror. It was a little wrinkled. But not bad. At least he had inherited the Lindorm way with clothes. He didn’t look as dissipated as he might have done. He inserted the studs in the starched cuffs and down the stiff placket at the front of the shirt. He stepped backward looking for his socks. Shift. There were diamonds all over the floor. Did he have a bag?

Ingrid drew her feet up onto the bed and arranged the sheet more snugly around her curves. Damn, she was gorgeous.

“If you can get me out of this castle,” she said, “I could just go home. We can pretend this never happened.”

Victor felt old. Whether she knew it or not, Ingrid was his responsibility for the rest of their lives. Naïve or not, she was his fated mate. “Except for the part where you’re a dragoness now.”

“If I stay away from you dragons, no one will know.”

“I’ll know.” He felt as though his tongue was too big for his mouth. How could he explain that honor would not permit him to lie either to his father or his uncle? He tried for humor. “And I couldn’t in honor marry anyone else. Eventually, someone would notice that I was the oldest bachelor in Dragonry.”

“Oh. Or maybe we could be married when I was older?” She sounded so young and looked so adorable that his heart turned over. He was a true fool. But he was going to try to let Ingrid have the rest of her girlhood.

He shrugged his jacket on and combed his hair with his fingers. He ran his hand over his chin. His beard was as pale as his hair. He could pass muster in the hallway – as much as one of Lord Lindorm’s sword bearers still wearing last night’s tuxedo would pass anything. No. If he was spotted by his father or his older brother they would instantly know that he had been up to some mischief during the night. Mischief!

He found his clean handkerchief and laid it on the corner of the bed. He stooped and began to pick up the diamonds.

“What are you doing?”

“Removing the evidence.”

“What do you mean?”

“Only dragons cry diamonds. Do you have a really good explanation for why you have a hundred thousand euros worth of uncut gems in your bedchamber?”

“A hundred thousand euros? Truly?” Her tears halted instantly.

Victor shrugged his shoulders. “Give or take.”

“They’re my tears. Don’t I get to keep them?”

He struggled to remember the correct words. “They are a Treasure of our House now. I will have them strung into a necklace to adorn you when you are my bride.” He knew he sounded more than a little stiff, but it was hard to remember the formula when his brain was reeling.

“Can’t I sell them?”

Victor sniffed the air. Ingrid was just as sweet as she had been when he had seen her at the beginning of this week. Pretty much just as innocent. But her sincerity in wanting the diamonds or their value in cash was equally clear. “You could sell them,” he said slowly, “But how would you explain where you got them from?”

Her face fell. Her mouth drooped and so did her lint blonde eyebrows. Her shoulders slumped. His pretty bride was the picture of desolation.

The penny dropped. He cleared his throat. “Do you need money?”

“If I had a hundred thousand euros I could go to university and I could keep skiing for Austria. Even Father wouldn’t expect me to get married if I was rich enough to pay his debts.”

Victor sat down hard on the carpet. “Say that again,” he begged.

But her hands were over her mouth and her blue eyes were round and appalled. “I don’t know how I forget and say such things. To you of all people.”

Victor sighed. He knew exactly why she had forgotten to guard her tongue. His little mate had no judgment where he was concerned. He had bespelled her. Another crime.

“How much do you need?” he asked. “The whole hundred thousand?”

She nodded. “It’s not the tuition of course. Not in Austria. But skiing takes a lot of money. And I’m not sure how much money father lost when the stock market tumbled. Probably a hundred thousand euros wouldn’t make a dent in it. But there’s no money now for my skiing.” She shrugged and her bare shoulders peeped out further from the white sheet and reminded him of how he had got into this trouble in the first place.

He was twenty times the fool that he had thought he was. Ingrid’s father the Graf von Schwalm had set a fine trap for him and he had tumbled into it like the greenest of greenhorns. It wasn’t Ingrid’s fault that she was the bait. He had seduced her. As his Uncle Thorvald, the Thane of Lindorm, was fond of saying, a dragon was responsible for keeping his own trousers zipped.

The count wanted a bride price for his daughter. Apparently needed one. And when he had seen that this year’s crop of mate hunting bachelors was not particularly interested in Ingrid, he had laid a snare for Victor. All the same, trap or no trap, there was going to be hell to pay and Victor would have to settle up.

“If it’s money that you need, that’s not a problem, sweetheart. But it’s a long way to Austria from France. I don’t think you should go all that way by yourself in a car. It’s not safe for young girl.”

“It is for a dragoness.”

This is material not previously published. ©Isadora Montrose, 2017


 
I have put my first 3 books in the Lords of the Dragon Islands series into a box set. This week’s puzzle celebrates this happy union of Dragon’s Treasure, Dragon’s Successor & Dragon’s Pleasure. Let me know your best times.

I am looking for readers who would like to read and review an Advanced Reader Copy of the box set Billionaire Dragon Lords on Amazon. Sign up here.

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