Dragon Heartstring

Dragon Heartstring by Juliette Cross

For my readers,

who love the paranormal romance genre with devotion

and know that even stories of fantasy have value for the mind, heart, and soul.

Chapter 1

I fidgeted, tapping my thumb against my pant leg while watching the numbers on the elevator panel. I exhaled a lungful of air. Adrenaline amped up my heartrate the closer I came to the first floor. For Morgons, that was at the top.

The doors opened, and I stepped out onto the marble foyer of Nightwing Tower where my sister Jessen lived with her husband, Lucius Nightwing. No. Her mate. The thought still turned my stomach, but not for the same reason it had when she first abandoned our family for him.

My father, Pritchard Cade, had taught me from a young age that Morgons were monsters. Animals. Though they held a mostly human appearance, their dragon genes ran strong, manifesting in more ways than the great wings that sprouted from their backs. Their pretense at civility was merely a cover to hide their beastly natures. That was what I was told.

On the day Jessen was nearly killed by Aron Grayson, the man our father had planned for her to marry, I realized there was a beast in us all. Humans and Morgons alike. It was Lucius who saved and protected my sister that day, but I never had the chance to tell him how thankful I was. If I ever did get the opportunity, I doubt I’d be able to muster the courage.

And so here I stood on their doorstep once again, nausea churning in the pit of my stomach, the shame of that day having never left me.

My first visit to their home had been on their newborn son’s homecoming from the hospital. Julian had opened my eyes fully to the truth—that my father had fed me nonsense. My nephew was not a monster or an animal. He was everything bright and good. And he was Morgon.

Lucius had tolerated my presence on his son’s birthdays each year since then. I preferred to visit with Julian and Jessen in City Park away from the death-glares of her husband. I deserved his disdain, but I hated confronting a wrong I wished to be buried and forgotten.

But I wouldn’t let my own shame and guilt keep me from my nephew’s birthday. Just as I wouldn’t let my father’s overbearing hate-speeches deny me this bond with my own blood, Morgon or not. Though Father’s ranting tirades against the “money-hungry” and “domineering” Morgons had waned, he still refused to welcome Jessen and her family. I could never agree with my father in abandoning my sister.

Tucking Julian’s gift under my arm, I knocked on the door. Their house servant opened it at once.

“Welcome, Mr. Cade. Come right in.”

“Thank you, Brant.”

“I’ll take the gift for you. The party is on the terrace.”

With a stiff nod, I strode across the opulent living room decorated in cream and gold with red pillows on the sofa and a scarlet chaise near the fire. I always tried to ignore the painting on the ceiling, but as usual, I could not. The image of a nude couple standing at a castle window looking out at a snow-swept mountain with dragons winging into the distance was too captivating to ignore. The woman, pale and beautiful, stood several feet shorter than her bronze-skinned lover, his hand upon her waist beneath the fall of her long, black hair. She watched the dragons flying into the moonlit night. He had eyes only for her.

This was the image of the human Queen Morga and her husband, the dragon king of the North, Radomis. History taught humans that Morga was kidnapped and forced to marry the king. But my sister told me another story, one that is not written in human texts but is known well by all of Morgonkind. One of love and sacrifice, which was etched into every brushstroke of the painting above me. Their marriage gave birth to the Morgon race. When the dragons were all gone, the Morgons lived on.

Stepping out onto the terrace, almost as wide as the rooftop, I scanned the crowd filled mostly with people I hardly knew. I caught sight of Julian chasing a human girl with blond braids in a circle. His nascent wings flapped furiously but never lifted him off the ground. His infectious laugh echoed across the terrace as did his playmate’s squeal.

“Gonna get you!” he yelled as she dodged behind a woman who must be her mother. Then he caught sight of me. “Uncle Demetrius!”

He barreled toward me in that carefree, jaunty way of his. I scooped him up and tossed him in the air before settling him in my arms. More giggles.

“Now, Julian. What were you doing chasing that poor little girl around and frightening her to death?”

He hooked his hands around my neck. “She’s not a poor little girl. That’s just Celie.”

“Ah. I see,” I said, walking toward the crowd near the edge of the awning where little Celie still peered from behind her mother’s white skirt. Her mother was distracted and laughing in conversation with a Morgon woman. “And is Celie your friend?”

“Of course, she is.”

“Then maybe you shouldn’t try to scare her so much when you play. Girls don’t like to be chased.”

“Well, that’s where you’re wrong,” came a snarky, feminine voice behind me. “But you’ve spent most your life being wrong, I’d say.”

Gritting my teeth, I turned. “Hello, Sorcha.”

“Aunt Sorcha is right,” added Julian. “Girls like being chased.”

“Oh, you little scamp,” said the fiery redhead who was my sister’s best friend and the spawn of the devil. “Girls love to be chased. Take it from me.”

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