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A Guardian's Heart

Guardians of Light, 1

Strength can be drawn from pain…if the heart can heal faster than it bleeds.

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    Dara Khan Androcles was trained from childhood to be a healer. But as a demon-possessed invader threatens Safehold, and she defends a wounded warrior on the battlefield, her hidden inner dragon thirsts for blood. 

    When she lifts the warrior’s blond, blood-encrusted hair away from his ear, she discovers he is more than King Hengist’s outlander ally. He is an immortal. The elven heir to the throne of Cymry. 

    Loren ta Cedric senses something different about flame-haired, falcon-eyed woman who saves him. A healer, wreathed in raw, dark power, who wields knives with deadly skill. A mortal who prays to the Lady, not the human gods. Now he owes this thoroughly distracting female a Life-Debt. Which, in the heat of their flight to Loren’s homeland to raise an army, somehow becomes Life-Mate. 

    Dragon-human and elf, peasant and prince, logic says they have no future. Yet the power of their unlikely bond could be the only thing that saves their world from a demon poised to tear it apart. 

    Warning: This new twist on Cinderella contains a grouchy dragon, a sentient war mare with the dry wit of a certain English Dame, and a fiery heroine who strikes serious sparks with a mercenary elf.

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    A Guardian's Heart

    A Guardian's Heart

    Strength can be drawn from pain…if the heart can heal faster than it bleeds.

    Excerpt

    Dara trembled, realizing she was sprawled across Loren like some tavern wench. The effort it took to meet his heated gaze… Fine brows slanted over wide leaf-green eyes pupiled like a cat’s, set in a pale aristocratic face. She glanced at his hands gripping her upper arms. Fine artisan’s hands with sword calluses, they held like bands of steel, but so gently ’twas nigh a caress. His body warmth was impossible to ignore. She shifted. Unable to hold his gaze, Dara dropped hers—to his mouth. She blushed.

    His lips curved in a wry smile. “Now you become shy?” White teeth flashed. “Your hands have already been all over my body.”

    Dara groaned and closed her eyes. Her cheeks flamed.

    “Look at me, Dara.” Loren slid his arms around her body.

    She tingled at his touch. Restless. Achy. “I can’t.” She hated this breathless dizziness. “Whatever you’re thinking, cease.” He was so warm. She feared making a fool of herself and melting against him. The old wives whispered of faerie enchantments; did that happen here? She felt bespelled. She wasn’t some weak woman to soften over a man, as any villager could lament. “You were much less intimidating flat on your back and weak as a kitten.”

    “Intimidating you find me? Prefer me flat on my back in your bed? You have me now.” He brought her braid around to his nose and inhaled. “Sunshine and ferns.”

    Self-preservation urged Dara to stop him before he did something neither of them could undo. “Loren—”

    “Dara Kahn Androcles, protect me you did with your life’s blood. You are neither indestructible nor immortal. They might have killed you.” His hand, still wrapped with her hair, raised her chin ’til her gaze met his. “You must look at me while I speak these next words.”

    Dara couldn’t tear her gaze away. The room spun and receded ’til all her world was Loren. “Don’t look at me like that.” The weight behind his words crawled under her skin, into her mind.

    “My life I owe you. Life-debt. I bind myself to you. Whenever, whatever your need, to you I shall come. To you do I answer with sword, bow, or blood. My life for yours. My soul to yours, until our last breath.”

    The world shifted. Deep as a prayer, more profound than a spell, his words settled within her. Dara couldn’t look away, couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe. Her head buzzed. Her mind tried to wrench itself from the binding, recognizing it for what it was, but the rest of her trembled, in thrall to his eyes, to his voice. She had no idea how to counter him.

    Loren’s eyes gleamed at her. “Never again shall you be alone. You are mine, in this lifetime and the next. I shall ever be yours, for always. We are one.” With agonizing slowness, he drew her head down ’til her lips brushed his.

    His kiss was shocking in its gentleness. As soft as morning dew, it implied, it coaxed, and she was lost. She melted into his heat and swooned against him. With a sigh, she yielded to his lips and returned the kiss. Warmth filled an emptiness she’d not known ’til now that she possessed. Loren had bound them in spirit; where did she end and he begin? He hovered on the edge of her mind, in her heart, in her blood. A part of her flowed into him, with her surrender, with her every breath.

    He broke off the kiss. Dara raised her head to stare down at him. “What’ve you done?”

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