A kiss can melt the coldest heart…
The mysterious Dragon’s Blood Elixir gives immortality to Magnus, the Pyr’s greatest enemy, and his minions. The Pyr must destroy this source of power, and outcast Delaney vows to complete the quest himself. Delaney was exiled because of his dangerous impulses, and success in eliminating the Elixir will either redeem him or end his suffering.
But his plans don’t take into account his sudden firestorm – or fiery Ginger Sinclair. The firestorm revitalizes Delaney, restoring him to his old self. And when Ginger learns about Delaney’s mission, she realizes she cannot resist a strong man with a noble agenda.
“A beautiful and emotionally gripping fourth novel, WINTER KISS is compelling and will keep readers riveted in their seats and breathing a happy sigh at the love shared between Delaney and Ginger. . . .Sizzling-hot love scenes and explosive emotions make WINTER KISS a must read!”—Romance Junkies
An excerpt from Winter Kiss:
Delaney was driving through the Ohio countryside when the assault came. He began to shift shape suddenly and without any decision to do so.
He couldn’t stop the change.
The dragon within him had gained ascendancy and that reality terrified Delaney. He lost control of the rental car in the transition, his talon leaving a long scratch on the dashboard as the car slid sideways from the road. It came to a halt, tipped into a snow-filled ditch. He was out the door just before he shifted shape completely, the change rolling through him with unrestrained power.
What was happening to him?
It was dark, too dark for morning, and Delaney abruptly remembered why. There was to be an eclipse on this day, only a partial one, but his body was obviously responding to it.
And how. The beast within was completely unleashed, raging with a fury that was terrifying.
Lusting for the Dragon’s Blood Elixir.
The yearning was so violent that his body shook – he was like a junkie denied his fix. His gut gnawed, he ached and he burned and he wanted, as he had never wanted before.
Was it because he had come close the the Elixir’s sanctuary?
Or had something changed within him? All Pyr felt the urge to shift under an eclipse, and felt it most strongly under a full eclipse. It should have been comparatively easy to deny his body’s urge under a partial eclipse.
But it wasn’t.
Worse, his body demanded that he go to the Elixir, that he seize it and drink it.
There was no way Delaney was going to do that. He gritted his teeth and fought his own body’s demands. He threw himself into a snow-dusted field of corn stalks. He rolled, battling his own body, trying to inflict pain on himself, a pain that might recall him to his senses. He fought the imperative to take flight, to go to the Elixir, to drink deeply.
To lose his soul forever.
The nightmare came to him then, assaulting him in daylight as it had every night he’d dared to close his eyes and sleep. He had endured it a thousand times already. In a way, it was more horrific to be awake and see its threat.
Delaney saw the earth in its verdant infancy and tried to force the vision from his thoughts. He knew where this nightmare led, what fate it assumed for the planet and the humans who lived upon it, and he didn’t want to see it again.
But the nightmare was relentless. It had hold of his mind and wouldn’t let go. It showed the spread of industry across the planet’s surface, devouring the pristine wilderness it had just displayed to him. It documented fallen rainforest and oil spills, species eliminated and birds covered in fuel oil. It showed him plumes of pollution rising into the sky, it showed him mercury slipping into the bodies of fish. It showed him rivers of trailings that ran crimson, like the blood of Gaia herself spread across her land.
And that was the effect upon nature herself. It also displayed the malaise in the hearts and minds of men. It showed him injustice and genocide; it showed him violence and hunger and poverty. It showed him polluted water and wells gone bad; it showed him air too toxic to be breathed; it showed him nuclear fallout. It documented birth defects from exposure to contaminants and children living in garbage dumps.
He saw humans sicken and die, he saw selfishness become ascendant and saw individuals condemn others for their own profit.
Delaney saw the selfish perspective of the Slayers grab hold in the minds of men and was sickened by it all over again. The trouble ran deep, deep in the hearts of men and the soil of Gaia.
And he saw Gaia retaliate in an effort to save herself. He witnessed floods and tornados, tsunamis and earthquakes. The planet was in her death throes, prepared to do anything to preserve herself, and humans were destroyed by her mighty power.
But still the shadow spread. He struggled as he was pulled back to view the earth from afar, as if he sat upon a distant planet and was apart from the entire ordeal. But Delaney’s heart was on the earth, with Gaia, with the humans who called the planet home, and his responsibility as a Pyr was to protect the treasure of both of them.
So, he despised the sight of the shadow sliding across the surface of the earth. It was like watching an eclipse, except that the earth was cast in shadow instead of the moon. On this day, he felt its chill right to his marrow, and knew that the Elixir was the toxin at work. The darkness spread across the planet, and he recalled the old idea of the dragon in the sky devouring the moon during an eclipse.
But these dragons, the Slayers, devoured the earth itself.
He heard wind and he heard rain and he heard the calls of humans in distress. He heard hurricanes thrashing against shores and he heard the despair that comes in the night, fed by the terror of the unknown.
The shadow deepened, claiming more of the earth’s surface, gradually moving across its face. Delaney was cold, colder than he’d ever been, and in his vision, the earth was being plunged into a deep freeze. He watched hoarfrost grow along coastlines, saw trees and buildings encased in ice. He saw the ice spread relentlessly across the earth, moving like quicksilver, stealing life and vitality from everything it touched. It claimed everything in its cold grasp.
When the eclipse was complete, when the earth was completely devoured by the shadow, the planet glistened in the darkness. The shadow passed, as the light will return after an eclipse, but the earth that was revealed was utterly changed. Its rivers were frozen. Its mountains were buried in snow. The forests were frozen icy white.
And it was silent.
There was no motion upon it. No life. The sheen of ice reflected the light of the sun, sparkling and glistening with horrific import.
The Elixir had consumed the planet, exterminating everything upon it and preserving what was left forever.
And it was all because Delaney had not taken the initiative to destroy the Elixir.
The duration of that morning’s eclipse was four hours and three minutes. Delaney felt every second of it. He spent that entire morning thrashing in a farmer’s fields as the snow fell steadily, his mind haunted by a vision of what could be.
No one saw him triumph over his body’s need, not in that remote field in the middle of a snowstorm. No one saw him shift back to human form and stand up, panting and exhausted, in the snow. No one saw him wipe the sweat from his brow, shaking from his ordeal.
And no one saw the resolve harden in Delaney’s eyes.
He wouldn’t fight that battle again. A vicious monster had awakened within him, one that he couldn’t control and didn’t trust. He’d come too close to losing this fight, and he was determined to never surrender to the Slayers and their Elixir.
He was close, very close, to the Elixir’s hidden sanctuary. If nothing else, the bit of it in his body allowed him to sense it more accurately.
He’d find it and eliminate it, not matter what the price to himself.
He climbed out the field and checked the road for possible observers. When he saw none, he shifted shape and pushed the car out of the ditch. He felt normal again, his dragon form tame and easily controlled.
Delaney wasn’t fooled. The next eclipse would be worse.
The car started right away, giving him only a moment to note the long scratch on the dashboard from his talon. It was a potent reminder of the involuntary change.
Never again. By the next eclipse, Delaney would be dead and the Elixir would be destroyed.
©2009 Claire Delacroix, Inc.