Three key firestorms mark the culmination of the Dragon’s Tail Wars, pitting the dragon shifters known as the Pyr against the evil Slayers. The Slayers have struck a blow against mankind, bringing a pestilence from the ancient world, which is spreading like wildfire. Sloane Forbes, the Apothecary of the Pyr, knows it is his duty to find the cure, but the solution is elusive, his beautiful neighbor is distracting, and time is running out.
In moving to a remote farm in the California hills, Samantha Wilcox has left her demanding career behind by choice and on principle. It’s too painful to remember her own failures as both mother and physician, so she’s determined to start fresh. She’s going to live differently, following her instincts and savoring life’s pleasures—like the hot sex with no commitment offered by her mysterious neighbor. Sloane Forbes is no more an herb farmer than she is a tarot card reader, but Samantha is determined to keep their illusions intact—at least until she discovers that Sloane’s one of the Pyr, the dragon shifters responsible for the epidemic that stole her son’s life. As Slayers and Pyr gather for the final battle, can Samantha and Sloane work together to save the world and build themselves—and their respective kinds—a future?
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An excerpt from Firestorm Forever:
October 8, 2014—California
Sloane Forbes, the Apothecary of the Pyr, was frustrated.
He was exhausted by his efforts to find a cure for the plague ravaging the Pacific Northwest and knew he’d spent more hours in his lab than were healthy. He was discouraged, though, because he’d made so little progress. Every time he thought he had a good lead, it came to a dead end, and he had to start over again.
Yet another one was in the petri dish in front of him. This vaccine had showed promise, killing the virus as he watched through the microscope. Within minutes, though, the tables had turned and the ridiculously efficient virus was encircling and destroying the antidote that should have finished it.
Sloane grimaced and shut down the lights. He sealed up the lab, ensuring that the virus was contained. He had a smaller version of a lab designed for working with Level 4 biohazards, buried into the hill under his house. He followed all the CDC protocol in locking up and cleansing himself, then wearily climbed the stairs to the basement of his house. He was nude, but it didn’t matter. The house was sealed from human eyes, and the dragonsmoke barriers were piled thick against curious dragon shifters.
The fact was that while Sloane searched ineffectively for a cure, people were dying. That knowledge burned. It was the responsibility of the Pyr to defend the treasures of the earth, which included humans, so he felt like a failure. That this malady had been brought from the ancient world by one of his own—well, by Jorge, a Slayer but still a dragon shifter—only multiplied his sense of duty.
The weather didn’t help. It had been hot and dry since spring, as it seldom had been in this part of California before. Reservoirs were drying up and the land was parched. Heat made Sloane irritable and he missed the breezes that used to slip down from the hills here. He’d chosen this location because of its temperate weather and didn’t like finding that he was living in a virtual desert.
He reached the kitchen and opened a beer. The sight of his swimming pool sparkling in the moonlight sent another pang of guilt through him. Denying the local kids their usual access to his pool in summer—because of his secret possession of the virus that spread the plague from Seattle—only made him more annoyed. He was trying to be cautious and responsible, but knew that everyone in the valley thought he was a selfish prick, given the weather.
He put the barely tasted beer down on the counter and strode into the yard. He dove into the pool and began to swim laps, working his body furiously.
If nothing else, he’d make sure he slept.
The worst of the worst was that there would be another full moon on this night, and another lunar eclipse. That meant there probably would be another firestorm, and another Pyr would feel the spark light that identified his destined mate. Sloane had always been patient about the firestorm, trusting that his time would come, but his patience was disappearing fast. He realized that he’d always assumed he’d have his firestorm before the end of the Dragon’s Tail cycle of eclipses.
Once it had seemed as if the Great Wyvern were steadily working her way through the ranks of the remaining Pyr, and that his own firestorm had to be soon. Now, there were dozens of new Pyr, thanks to the darkfire crystal and Drake’s adventures in the past. The odds were skewed decidedly against any of them.
Thorolf had had his firestorm in April. There would be an eclipse tonight, another in April 2015 and the final eclipse of the cycle next September. Only three left, before the fate of the Pyr was decided forever.
Sloane was beginning to feel as if he were being punished for his failure to solve the riddle of the plague.
The presence of his new neighbor made him resent the fact that he couldn’t choose his own mate. He turned underwater and roared through another pair of laps. Samantha was exactly the kind of woman he’d have chosen for himself. She was blonde and delicately built, but clever and sensitive. She was feminine but pragmatic, too, which had to be the most enticing combination.
He’d met her when she’d come to buy herbs from his greenhouse. She was a tarot card reader who sometimes cast spells with herbs for her clients. She had a secret, though—Sloane could smell it on her—and a vulnerability that got him right where he lived. The thing was that until he had his firestorm, he couldn’t promise anything more than a short fling to any woman. He sensed that Sam needed more than that, and plowed through another half dozen laps disliking that he didn’t have more to offer.
The moon moved, the first shadow of the eclipse touching its radiant glow.
Sloane swam harder.
He closed his eyes as a firestorm sparked, his heart sinking with the realization that it wasn’t his. He reached the end of the pool with a growl, pulled himself up out of the water, then caught a whiff of roses and lavender.
She was standing at the gate, watching him with care.
Sloane froze, braced on the side of the pool, and stared, transfixed. It was as if he had conjured her out of nothing, willing her to appear. He halfway thought she was a vision, but he could smell her hesitation and her uncertainty. He saw her swallow and wanted to reassure her.
No, he wanted to protect her forever from whatever she feared.
And he wanted to spend the night making love to her first.
Sam evidently took his silence as agreement, because she opened the gate and stepped into the paved yard. She slipped out of her flip-flops and eased the linen shirt from her shoulders. She was wearing a bikini so small that Sloane’s mouth went dry. She flicked a glance at him, then smiled as she unfastened the clasp in the middle of the top. She bared her breasts to the moonlight, then slipped out of the bikini bottom. Sloane could have been turned to stone.
She walked toward him and he told himself he had to be dreaming. The moonlight made her skin look silver and her eyes luminous. She sat down on the lip of the pool beside him and put her feet into the water. She smiled, licked her lips, then touched his shoulder.
“I was so hot,” she whispered, her gaze clinging to his. He didn’t dare survey her again, because he didn’t want to spook her, but he could see the patina of perspiration on her upper lip. He wanted to kiss it off. “It made me think of you,” she admitted, and her words astonished him.
She wasn’t lying.
So, he wasn’t going to.
“I was just thinking of you,” Sloane admitted and she smiled with pleasure.
“But you’re too much of a gentleman to have done anything about it,” she charged, then shook her head.
Sloane might defended himself, but she was right. He wouldn’t have gone knocking at her door on a moonlit night, no matter how much he wanted to do so.
“Is that why you were swimming laps so hard?”
Sloane dipped his head and grinned that she’d guessed at least part of the reason for his frustration. “Caught,” he murmured, daring to look into her eyes once more.
She was pleased by that and her eyes started to sparkle. She looked good enough to eat, but whatever happened had to be her choice. Sloane was keenly aware of that vulnerability, an indication of an emotional wound, and wanted to heal her more than anything in the world. He sensed she was trying to make a change, to move past something, and he wanted to help.
Which meant he had to wait.
He wasn’t sure how long they stared into each other’s eyes before Sam reached out and touched his mouth with her fingertip. “I’m hoping you’re not too much of a gentleman to do something about this,” she whispered, then bent closer and replaced her fingertip with her mouth.
Her lips were soft and sweet, her kiss gentle, her scent beguiling him as little else could have done. Her mix of boldness and vulnerability kicked all of Sloane’s desires into overdrive. Before he could think twice—much less be cautious and responsible—she was in his arms and he was slanting his mouth over hers, deepening his kiss.
A firestorm sparked somewhere, sending a spark of fire through Sloane’s veins.
And the funny thing was, Sloane no longer cared.
Excerpt from Firestorm Forever ©2014 Deborah A. Cooke.