Sneak Peek: The Dragon's Choice
As a special treat to my newsletter subscribers, I have the exclusive first look at the opening to The Dragon's Choice, the first book of my Tahoe Dragon Mates series! The first chapter is too long to share, but this is the entire first POV scene from the hero, Jose Santos. The full story will be out February 27, 2020. I'll make sure to put the preorder links after the excerpt. Enjoy and feel free to leave a comment. 🙂
Jose Santos waited inside a small room, one adjacent to the ballroom of the human hotel, and resisted the urge to run.
He'd never understood why people wanted to live cheek and jowl among thousands, with concrete and pavement covering the ground and banishing most of nature. Despite having worked with the humans in the US Forest Service for over a decade, he still barely understood them.
And yet here he was, inside a hotel in South Lake Tahoe, about ready to pick a human female at random to hopefully impregnate and increase his kind.
His inner dragon—the second personality inside his head—spoke up. Remember, you can't fuck this up today or you'll dash Gaby's dreams.
Ah, yes. Gabriela, the little sister who had entered them both into the yearly lottery, one she couldn't enter herself since it had to be all the unmated siblings in a family or nothing. Considering she didn't ask my permission, I'm being pretty fucking generous just being here.
You had the chance to back out last month, but you didn't. And we both know why.
Damn dragon, knowing too much.
Every dragon-shifter lived to find their true mate, the one that stirred their inner beast and kicked off a mate-claim frenzy when kissed.
However, despite the millions of visitors that came to the greater Lake Tahoe area every year, Jose had never so much as glimpsed at a female who urged him to do more than growl and tell them to leave him the hell alone.
He had no tolerance for the dragon groupies that came to the lake to try to find a dragon-shifter to kiss or fuck. Entire tourist companies had grown around such a goal. He was surprised the human government hadn't stepped in to intervene, especially since, in recent years, it'd forced most of the dragon clans in the area to keep more and more to themselves to avoid the hassle.
Not that dealing with the groupies was his problem to solve. Jose only wanted the chance to spot his true mate, and this lottery gave him a chance to really look at a group of humans without having to run and avoid females throwing themselves at him.
His inner dragon snorted. That one who jumped off a boat, to try and land on us as we floated in the lake, deserved some points for originality.
No, it was pure stupidity. She couldn't swim, and we had to save her. And we're not the only ones who've had to dodge them like bullets.
His beast huffed. Well, you can't complain too much about today, then. The rules won't allow the females to run or jump on us.
Which is the only reason I'm here.
True, while the chances of her being inside the next room were slim to say the least, it was worth the time to look, even if his true mate ended up being human, which wasn't his first choice.
And even if she wasn't here, then he should at least get a few fun fucks out of it—ones where he controlled the situation—so it wasn't a complete loss.
An employee from the American Department of Dragon Affairs—or ADDA—barged into the room. Even though the female was short and would probably blow over if Jose breathed too hard, she stood tall and didn't wither at his hard expression. Good thing, too, as these lotteries tended to work better when the humans in charge weren't afraid.
He'd met her once before and knew her name was Ashley Swift. The human motioned with her hand. “Come on. It's time to get this thing started.”
Not moving, Jose asked, “How many are there?”
“About two hundred or so candidates passed the interviews and tests this time.”
Two hundred lucky ones, at least according to the humans. Every few years, they held these lotteries in South Lake Tahoe for the surrounding dragon clans, and every time thousands entered. Not all dragon clans in the US were as open to mating or reproducing with humans, but the four Tahoe area clans preferred survival over purity.
Jose rolled his shoulders. “All right, let's do this.”
Ashley raised her brows. “You remember the rules, right?”
He sighed. “Of course I do. She has to come willingly, and no touching until she signs the paperwork. All pretty fucking romantic, isn't it?”
Ashley didn't blink an eye. “Getting her to be willing may be hard for you, Mr. Santos, if you don't at least try to be less intimidating.”
He eyed the slip of a woman and leaned close. “Are you sure you don't want to enter?”
She rolled her eyes. “My fiancé would definitely have a word or two to say about that suggestion.”
Damn, of course the one human female who didn't treat him like some god would already belong to another. Now if he could just find one like her but unattached, he might actually not dread this.
His dragon murmured, Plenty exist. Our cousin's friend mated one.
Yes, but that was in Canada where dragons and humans have much longer histories of understanding and cooperation than in the US.
Ashley turned toward the door. “It's now or never, Mr. Santos. This is the last chance to back out, but it will pull your sister out, too, and disqualify your clan from entering for five years.”
Which would mean Gaby wouldn't have her stupid fantasy come true next month.
Jose may be cynical, but he loved his younger sister. So he took a step toward the door, kicking the ADDA employee into motion, and they both entered the ballroom.
The human females were seated in rows, with barely enough space for him to walk down each one without kicking either a chair or someone's legs. Two hundred didn't sound like a lot given more than that stayed in just this one hotel. But with them all lined up, it was an endless sea of faces.
How the hell was he supposed to pick one of them?
His dragon growled. Stop coming up with excuses. I'm sure one of them will stand out from the rest.
The ADDA employee stood behind the podium with a microphone and spoke up. “Hello, and welcome to the Lake Tahoe dragon lottery. This year's dragonman is Jose Santos of Clan PineRock. He'll soon roam the room and pick one lucky woman to whisk away to a private cabin and, well, get to business. If for any reason, you wish to drop out, this is your last opportunity to do so. If you back out after you've been chosen, then you'll be banned from entering any other lotteries. And not just in Tahoe, but in the entire country. I'll pause here for those who wish to leave.”
Ashley waited for about thirty seconds, but none of the females rose and walked out.
Well, at least they were committed, he had to give them that.
Of course, as many of them eyed him like a piece of candy, ready to be licked, it could just be that they found him sexy, like a walking fantasy.
His dragon snorted. Was there any doubt about that?
And people thought Jose's human half was the arrogant one.
Ashely continued once more, preventing Jose from replying to his dragon. “Good, then it seems we have the right bunch for this year. To help things run smoothly, please remain seated where you are and remain silent unless you're asked a question. You can raise your hand to have an ADDA employee come to you, in case of an emergency.” She swept a gaze across the room that made even Jose's dragon take notice. “If someone breaks the rules, they'll be disqualified. No exceptions.” She gestured toward Jose. “You may begin.”
It was on the tip of his tongue to make a sarcastic quip, but he resisted. Ashley was just doing her job, and he was here voluntarily. Just because most humans annoyed him didn't mean he had to make a decent one's life difficult.
As Jose walked down one row and then the others, he noted females of all shapes, sizes, and ethnicities, all pretty in their own way. But it soon became a blur of faces. None of them stood out above the rest, screaming for him to talk with them.
He said to his inner beast, How the hell do I pick one?
Even if you're only half-heartedly looking, I'm being more thorough. If our true mate is here, I'll find her.
Before he could reply, he noticed a dark-haired female at the very back, a book in front of her face, hiding everything but the crown of her head from view. He stared a second, she peeked over the top to study him, revealing dark eyes before ducking back behind the book.
Her strange behavior made him pause a second and study her more.
Even from thirty feet away he could read the title of the book in front of her face: Revealing the Dragons: The Day-to-Day Lives of a British Dragon-Shifter Clan.
It was the famous book about dragon-shifters, the one written a couple years ago by a human female in the UK mated to a dragonman.
Jose had to admit he didn't think anyone would've bothered to study his kind before the lottery since they didn't need to try to win him to get into his pants.
He watched as the female stole a glimpse of him again, her dark brows coming together as if trying to assess something, and then returned her eyes to the book.
Okay, his curiosity was piqued.
While he was supposed to go down the rows in order, he ignored the suggested route and made his way toward the female with the book.
Only when he was right in front of her did she finally gasp and lower the book, revealing her beautiful face. The O shape of her mouth made one side of his own tick up.
Before he could notice more than her dark hair and brown eyes, let alone say anything, his dragon roared. That's her.
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NOTE: Google Play will be out on release day, February 27, 2020. The paperback version will be on sale soon after the ebook release.