Sneak Peek: The Dragon's Need
As a special treat to my newsletter subscribers, I have the exclusive first look at the opening to The Dragon's Need, the second story in my Tahoe Dragon Mates series! The first chapter is too long to share, but this is the entire first POV scene from the heroine, Gaby Santos. The full story will be out March 26, 2020. I'll make sure to put the preorder links after the excerpt. Enjoy and feel free to leave a comment. 🙂
Gabriela Santos stepped into a hotel ballroom in South Lake Tahoe and did her best to remain calm.
Even though she'd secretly been entering the dragon lottery for years—her brother thought it had only been once—hoping to be chosen, her nerves still threatened to show now that she was about to start her life-changing journey.
As she gave a cursory glance at the couple of hundred men—human men—all sitting in rows, looking at her with curiosity and occasionally lust, she nearly gave a nervous laugh.
After so many years of dragon-shifter males saying she was too headstrong, too idealistic, too human, it was strange that so many men were gathered for the chance of sleeping with her.
Her inner dragon, the other half of her personality, spoke up and huffed. Of course they should be here. It's not our fault the dragon males were too overprotective, too domineering to notice or want us. These humans do.
Which Gaby knew, of course. And yet… They may be here by choice, but one of them is going to be in for something more than they'd bargained for.
Gaby was probably the only twenty-four-old dragon-shifter virgin among the four dragon clans near Lake Tahoe.
Her beast grunted. That is all your fault, not mine. How I've stayed sane this long despite you denying what we need, I'll never understand.
Guilt tugged at her heart. Inner dragons needed sex on a regular basis. To them, it was as necessary as eating and breathing.
Still, she took a deep breath and managed to get out, I couldn't give in to one of them. At first, they just wanted to lose their virginity. And as we got older, they saw us only as a conquest. Thanks, but no thanks.
And how is that different than these men?
At least these men won't expect anything afterward, such as free reign to growl and tell others how to treat me.
Not all dragon-shifter males were unbearable, but any of the decent ones who saw a mating as a partnership instead of the male thinking he had every right to protect her without her input were rare.
Really rare, at least in her experience. Maybe if her clan interacted more with the other three dragon clans in the area, she might've found someone.
No, the human males in the room were her best chance at losing her virginity, having a child, and sculpting her own future on her terms.
Her beast replied, For all you know, you could pick one who acts the same way.
Ah, but it's only sex and then it's done. That's a situation I can control. It's not forever.
Unless you find your true mate.
Gaby mentally snorted. Right, because that happens so often at these things. Given how Jose found his true mate a month ago, it's more likely I'd win a jackpot in Reno than find him here.
While she was happy for her older brother, she couldn't help being a little jealous. A true mate was a dragon-shifter's best chance for happiness. Not a guarantee, but better odds than with a random stranger.
Her dragon replied, He could be here. And before you protest some more, remember that the strongest human males will mate a dragonwoman. It's not impossible.
Strongest not just physically, but mentally as well. Well, there aren't any human male mates in the four clans in the Tahoe area, so let's just treat this for what it is, okay? We'll have a child of our own and can live our lives without a male trying to guard us every second of every day.
Maybe. But what happens if we die on a firefighting assignment?
Gaby had worked for years to become one of the local firefighters, belonging to the only contingent that included both humans and dragon-shifters. She replied, A child will give us something even stronger to fight for to stay alive, right? Besides, our family will help. You know they will.
Her inner beast sighed. Of course.
Whenever her dragon was so easily complacent, Gaby knew she didn't really agree and wanted to say more.
However, before she could pry, the American Department of Dragon Affairs—or ADDA—employee named Ashley Swift reached the podium and waited for the room to quiet.
Ignoring her pounding heart, Gaby focused on Ashley instead of the hundreds of men in the room. She could do with a minute or two to gather her courage and be who she usually was—a confident young dragonwoman who had learned long ago not to take anyone's shit.
Ashley finally spoke, her voice echoing in the room from various speakers. “Welcome to the Lake Tahoe Dragon Lottery. Each of you applied and passed the screening process, so congratulations. You've made it here, which is a good sign. However, I will give you all one last chance to leave without facing any sort of consequence from backing out. Think on this wisely because once this next minute is up, you're committed to the contracts you signed. And the minute to make a dash out the door begins…now.”
Gaby forced herself to watch the room. A few men stood and walked out without saying a word.
For a split second, she wondered if it was because they took one look at her and said no way.
But then she pushed it aside. If they were that shallow, then it was their problem, not hers.
When the minute ended, Ashley spoke again. “Okay, those guys are clearly not meant to be here and ADDA will have to work harder at screening in the future. Regardless, we'll continue. In case you forgot, you're to stay seated while Gabriela walks around the room, asking questions and determining who she'll pick. You're not to talk unless she asks you something. If you break any of the rules, you'll be escorted out.” Ashley narrowed her eyes and looked around the room. “I've done this before and if you think you're above the rules and decide catcalling is going to somehow lure Gaby to you, then you'll be taken out of here quicker than you can snap your fingers.” Ashley stood tall again and looked at Gaby. “The room is yours.”
Gaby hadn't spent too much time with Ashley Swift until recently, but the more she learned about the human, the more Gaby liked her.
Nodding, Gaby turned toward the room and somehow made her feet work, heading toward the front row.
There were so many men, all different ethnicities, ages, and even confidence levels. Some were staring at the ground, others at her, and even some at the clock.
Okay, those staring at the clock were moved down the list of those to check out more closely.
Her dragon laughed. Hey, give them a break. If you were waiting to see if your future would change forever, you might look at the clock, too, to remember when it happened.
Right, because that's why they're doing it.
You never know. After all, they are human. A lot of times their actions don't make sense to me.
Gaby bit her lip to keep from smiling at her dragon's pitying tone. Shush, or I'll never be able to do this.
I'll be here, if you need me.
As her dragon curled up and laid her head on her forelimbs at the back of her mind, Gaby took comfort from the everyday action. She loved her inner dragon, but there was only one thing she couldn't do that a male's dragon could do—instantly realize if their true mate was in the room.
Yet another way females were at a disadvantage with dragon-shifters, in addition to being smaller in size in their dragon forms and not quite as strong.
Focus, Gaby. Right, she could do this. And so she turned all her attention to the men.
Maybe she should ask more questions as she walked by, but she wanted to move around first so she could at least glimpse everyone and then start winnowing them down to make her decision.
A few of the faces looked familiar. Of course there was a chance she'd seen them in South Lake Tahoe before. Her work's headquarters was based here, after all. Even if she mostly worked the surrounding forests, she still came to the city on occasion.
And yet, as a bearded face, another with stubble, one clean-shaven, and so on passed by, she had no idea how to choose. A handsome guy could turn into an asshole when he opened his mouth. And one of the quiet ones could turn out to be the male she'd always dreamed of.
Maybe she'd suggest in the future about how ADDA could give the dragon-shifter candidates portfolios of all the males beforehand, to help sort through them.
As Gaby reached the back of the large room, she noticed a dark-haired male with his hands behind his head, supporting it as he looked at the ceiling.
She couldn't decide if that was worse than looking at the clock.
But she swore she heard a sigh, and it made her curious. So Gaby went to him and drawled, “Bored?”
He jumped a little and met her gaze, his hazel eyes an interesting mix of brown and green.
To his credit, the human male merely shrugged. “It's not every day a guy is treated like a piece of meat, trying to be the best cut on offer.”
His accent held the tiniest amount of twang, almost liked he'd grown up in Texas but had left long ago.
Gaby didn't realize she had a weakness for the hint of a twang until just that moment, and she wanted to hear more. “Welcome to what females deal with on a daily basis.”
He tilted his head. “Those who treat you that way don't deserve you. It's pretty simple.”
Gaby blinked. No excuses, or even apologies. Nope, this human merely said she was worth more.
Both human and dragon took a greater interest.
Not that she was quite ready to make a decision. She needed at least a little more from him first. Glancing down at his name tag she read, “Ryan Ford.” She met his gaze. “Well, Ryan, why are you here, then?”
If he was surprised by her question, the human didn't show it. And Gaby barely noticed that she held her breath, waiting to hear his answer.
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NOTE: Google Play will be out on release day, March 26, 2020. The paperback version will be on sale soon after the ebook release.