For one woman, he will risk more than his life…
Rafferty Powell has exchanged challenge coins with his arch-nemesis Magnus Montmorency, and their next battle will be their last. But Rafferty never expected to meet a woman whose desire for Magnus’ downfall matches his own—and whose presence sparks Rafferty’s long-awaited firestorm.
Since facing her own mortality, investigative reporter Melissa Smith has resolved to live without fear. She’s determined to make the seemingly untouchable Magnus pay for his role in ending her friend’s life – no matter the price to herself.
When her quest entwines with Rafferty’s, Melissa finds herself risking more than she ever thought possible. Because the heat between them unleashes the darkfire—an awesome force of Pyr legend, one that won’t be sated until everything they know has been tested and remade.
“Deborah Cooke’s Dragonfire novels are impossible to put down. DARKFIRE KISS is no exception. I dare any reader to skim any part of this terrific story!”—Romance Reviews Today
An excerpt from Darkfire Kiss:
Ethics were so inconvenient.
Melissa Smith had worked with many people who either had no ethics or could easily ignore them. She’d never been that way, even in pursuit of a story.
No matter how much was at stake.
She parked her car on the street, not too close to the house she’d driven past a hundred times, and took a deep breath. It didn’t help. She was still freaked out. She closed her eyes and saw the wreckage of Daphne’s body, as vivid as if she was still standing in the morgue, and wondered whether it was time for a change.
In a real sense, her principles were all she had left. Melissa had lost her husband, her house, her dream job, her health and her future. Her confidence had taken a pretty big hit, too. All that she had left was the chance of restarting her career, in the hope of bringing truth to light. A legacy of truth was the only thing she could hope to build.
And maybe those ethics were the only thing standing in her way.
Did she want justice for Daphne enough to bend her own rules?
Daphne, Melissa knew, would have told her to make her own luck.
Melissa frowned, unhappy with the available options. She pulled out the note from Daphne one more time. It was terse, just as Daphne had always been, and just reading it made her feel her obligation to the girl.
It was her fault…
The note had come two days before, in the mail as if it were no more important than a credit card bill. Enclosed with the note had been a key, a numbered key, likely to a storage locker.
Melissa had spent the whole day trying to guess where that storage locker might be. She hadn’t really believed that Daphne was dead. The girl was a consummate liar, albeit one with a good heart. She’d had to deceive to survive on the streets of Baghdad, which was where Melissa had first met the engaging, pretty, opportunistic girl. Daphne had had a charm about her, and she’d been reliable in unexpected moments.
Melissa had lost track of Daphne when she’d returned stateside again. She’d thought of the beggar girl often, worried about her even when she should have been worrying about herself.
No one had been more surprised than Melissa to encounter Daphne again three years later in the most unlikely of places – right in D.C., dressed to the nines and on the arm of an affluent older man.
It couldn’t have been a coincidence, Melissa had known that immediately. Montmorency had been the rumored power behind illicit arms deals in Baghdad – every trail led to his vicinity and stopped cold. Melissa had wanted to get that story more than anything, had wanted to reveal Montmorency for the villain that he was, but she’d run out of time.
In more ways than one.
Still, she would have known him anywhere. Seeing Daphne with Montmorency hadn’t reassured Melissa at all. She didn’t like that Daphne had become his mistress, that she had used Montmorency as her ticket to the future.
And it really didn’t help that Melissa had once asked Daphne in Baghdad to find out more about Montmorency’s connections. That had been before she’d realized how brutal he was.
She had a responsibility…
The sight of Daphne’s body flicked through her thoughts again, as if the dead girl would taunt Melissa with her obligation. Montmorency must have killed Daphne. Melissa suspected as much but couldn’t prove a thing. It was the past all over again – the trail led to Montmorency’s vicinity and stopped cold.
But Daphne had provided the inside intelligence that Melissa needed. If she had the guts to use it. She eyed the letter and tried to summon her resolve.
Melissa had done her homework, checking all the angles before she leapt into trouble. She’d always been thorough, instead of running with half a story. She’d gone to the morgue first, halfway suspecting that Daphne had been putting her on. No one could have been more astonished than Melissa when she found Daphne there, labelled as a Jane Doe. Not just dead. Fried. Only half of her face had remained intact enough to identify her remains.
Melissa would never forget that sight.
She’d then hunted down the lock that fit the numbered key, working her way through train stations and airports.
She’d found the match at Dulles. There’d been a duffle bag in it, one filled with Daphne’s apparent necessities. It confirmed that Daphne had been poised to run, that she’d known she was taking a big risk. She hadn’t lied about that.
The stuffed puppy Melissa had first given Daphne in Baghdad was in the bag, now well-loved. The sight nearly stopped Melissa’s heart.
Deeper in the bag, she found Daphne’s diary.
It was a riveting read. The girl was a good reporter, thorough and detailed. If she’d survived, though, her story would have created questions. She was, after all, a beggar girl saved from the streets by Montmorency – her word against his wouldn’t stand a chance.
But in her diary, Daphne had documented where correlating evidence could be found against Montmorency.
It was in a small leather-bound blue book, one that was always in a certain place in the top right drawer of a desk in Montmorency’s fortified D.C. residence. Everything – everything – was documented there, according to Daphne.
It was the evidence Melissa needed.
The evidence she had wanted all those years ago.
She just had to break into the house to get it.
It wouldn’t be hard – Daphne had also provided the security codes to the house.
Melissa hesitated. It was a crime to break-and-enter. It was wrong. Even though Montmorency was suspected of being an arms dealer, even though he made sure nothing ever stuck to him and nothing could be traced to him, even though bringing him to justice would tip the balance in favor of good guys everywhere and would fulfill a personal goal of Melissa’s, it was still wrong to break into his home.
Melissa swallowed and considered the house. She could almost hear Daphne calling her bluff. That girl would never have worried about a comparatively minor infraction, especially one in the pursuit of a greater good.
She’d taught Daphne to record the evidence, to follow a trail and build a story. Maybe Daphne was teaching her to take a chance.
What, really, did she have left to lose?
Headlights swept over Melissa’s car and she instinctively hunched down in the seat. A large black armored Mercedes sedan pulled out of Montmorency’s driveway, the engine gunning as it headed downtown. Where was it going at this hour?
Melissa checked her watch. Ten past midnight.
Maybe the car was going to pick up Montmorency. Melissa could only see the silhouette of a driver when it passed as the windows were tinted dark, but she was sure its departure was a sign.
If not an invitation. If the house was empty, this was her chance. Who knew how soon the car would return?
Daphne deserved justice…
Melissa knew that a person couldn’t always count on getting a second chance. She wouldn’t damage anything, wouldn’t take much, just that little blue book from Montmorency’s desk. It wouldn’t take five minutes.
It would be easy.
It was a moral infraction that wouldn’t matter in the greater scheme of things.
Melissa didn’t believe that for a minute, but she got out of her car anyway. It was snowing lightly, the snow melting on contact with the pavement. There would be no mark of her footsteps – another sign.
She pulled on her leather gloves and turned up her collar. She wrapped her scarf across her face as if she was cold, even though she was perspiring in her anxiety. After all, she wasn’t in the habit of breaking the law. She reminded herself of the power of the greater good. She reminded herself of her debt to a little beggar girl, who deserved justice.
Then Melissa marched across the street toward Montmorency’s house, as if she had every right to be there.
In a way, she did.
Daphne would have insisted as much.
excerpt ©2010 Claire Delacroix, Inc.
The next Dragonfire novel is Flashfire.