Seduced by Fire Dragons of Bloodfire 3
Seduced by Fire is the third book in the thrilling and passionate Dragons of Bloodfire series by bestselling author Erin Kellison.
Dragon shifter Ryder Magnus is living a lie. In order to search for lost and forgotten treasure, he lives secretly among humans, posing as a professor of antiquities. When his cover is blown—in front of a classroom of students, no less—he is determined to find the Bloodkin responsible and make them pay.
Bloodkin Aura Ortiz is in a race against time. She must find the powerful Bastard’s Eye before it falls into the wrong hands. When a viral video surfaces of Ryder, smoking with anger and on the verge of a shift, she can’t believe her luck. No one hunts treasure better than he does. If he won’t do it for friendship—that had gone up in flames years ago—will he do it for vengeance?
Aura gets under Ryder’s skin like no other woman—she always has. Their collaboration re-ignites old passions and sets Ryder on a hunt of his own…Aura herself.
As they delve deeper into darkness, their adversaries multiply. Knowing whom to trust is the difference between life and death. Can they put the past behind them and blaze a trail through danger to forge a future together?
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Now available in audio!
- Seduced by Fire is book three in the Dragons of Bloodfire series
- Available now for pre-order
- E-book Release Date: August 8, 2017
- Print Release Date: September 12, 2017
- Audible Release Date: September 12, 2017
Excerpt from Seduced by Fire
Dragon Lord Ryder "Mack" Magnus, aka Dr. Ted Harrison, professor of ancient history, shuffled through ungraded student papers, Arcane-to-English translations for his research, and cavern surveys in search of his lecture notes. His elbow hit something soft, and he straightened slightly as a thick sheaf of exams from his Classics 202 course slid off the edge of his desk and fanned out across the floor. His teaching assistant could take care of those later.
Ah, here. The fallen exams had exposed a corner of some old, ink-blurred pages. His notes. He opened his top desk drawer and grabbed a couple of dry-erase markers.
A patter of footsteps outside the door, and Dr. Walter Burton, the department chair, leaned in. "Have a sec?"
Walter was tall and skinny, with a comb-over that couldn't hide his receding hairline. Behind his wire-rimmed glasses, he had a piercing gaze that rarely missed anything. His ears poked out every time he smiled, which was a lot.
"Sure. Walk me to class." Lecture notes in hand, Ryder dodged the collapsed papers on the floor, then, remembering, reached back to grab his mobile phone. Pocketed it. Humans carried their devices everywhere with them. If he wanted to seem like one of them, he should, too.
Ryder moved to the door, locked it, and together they started down the corridor toward Lecture Hall A. "What's up?"
Walter took a deep breath. "You know how Jenny's a romantic."
Jenny was Walter's wife. She had a bright, easy smile and a keen mind, like her husband.
"I'm aware," Ryder said, suddenly wary.
Over the fifteen years he'd been teaching at the college, she'd tried to set him up with a few of her colleagues from the hospital. He'd actually dated one of them, a pediatrician named Amber. Intelligent woman. She'd asked too many personal questions, though.
Some things about Ryder not even Walter knew. Didn't need to know. It was better that way.
Walter talked as they passed the front office. "And we're coming up on our thirtieth anniversary."
"Time flies, doesn't it?" For Ryder, Time had always been as slippery as a snake.
"Shocking how fast it goes." At the door to the lecture hall, Walter stopped. "Anyway, we've decided to renew our vows. We're planning on doing it over winter break when we'll have family in town."
Not another setup then. Renewing wedding vows. That sounded very Jenny.
"Congratulations," Ryder said. Students moved in a tide around them to enter the room, their various perfumes, chatter, and movements jangling his fine-tuned dragon senses.
"Would you, uh...be my best man?" Walter asked.
Ryder blinked at him in surprise.
He would've guessed he'd be invited, but best man was a first. Bloodkin ceremonies, regardless of whether attendees were in their dragon or human forms, didn't have anything like that. He believed it singled him out as being first among Walter's friends.
This pleased him immensely.
"I'd be honored." He'd have to do an Internet search to find out what was involved. Asking outright about common human customs might raise suspicions that Ryder was not who—or what—he seemed.
"Good!" Walter smiled. "And thank you. It'll be December twenty-ninth."
"I'll be there." Ryder thought of his packed schedule of travel and treasure hunting over the break. Didn't matter. He'd fly back.
For Walter and Jenny, he'd do whatever he could. He'd already done a little here and there—he'd secretly arranged an opening at an excellent care facility for Jenny's father. Funds to cover most of the costs. A scholarship for their daughter. She was too damned smart to go to her second-choice school. What in the First Fires was a second choice, anyway?
If Ryder had a family, Walter and Jenny were it. They didn't have to know.
Best man. Maybe they'd win a honeymoon because, as their friend "Ted," Ryder could only get them a modest gift. It was something to think about. Somewhere warm, perhaps? The Caribbean.
"There will be my half-brother, and Jenny's two brothers, my cousin, and my uncle for the bachelor party." Walter grinned. "Un-bachelor party, I should say."
A party? "Okay."
Walter turned to walk away. "I'll have Jenny get you their contact information."
Wait. Was he supposed to host the party? He was fairly certain bachelor parties were a thing, though he'd never been to one. He'd once seen a naked woman burst out of a cake on a television show, which made no sense to him at all.
"Walter?" Ryder called over the press of students at the door.
Walter kept going, raising a hand in farewell as he headed into the main office—more like beat a hasty retreat.
That was answer enough.
Ryder frowned. Apparently, he'd be hosting a bachelor party. Come to think of it...Jenny would want photographs during the ceremony and subsequent revelry, which was out of the question. Ryder's beard only concealed so much of his face. He could leave no identifying records.
Perhaps attending the event required further consideration.
Walter was probably on the phone with Jenny now, saying, "Ten bucks says he tries to get out of it."
And Jenny would laugh. "Let him try." For a romantic, she had no pity.
Somewhere cold for their honeymoon, then. An arctic adventure.
Chuckling, Ryder took the steps that led down through the stadium seating filled with students to the podium at the front of the class. A hundred and fourteen gazes peered at him, while their voices made a soft rumble like hundreds of rapid drumbeats.
"Good afternoon, everyone. Please turn your phones off and shut your laptops," he called as he scrawled on the whiteboard. Architecture of the Drake Catacombs. He jabbed at the board with the marker for the first of his twenty-seven bullet points. "Take notes the old-fashioned way, with pen and paper. You will thank me for it come next Monday's test."
As expected, the word test triggered a chorus of groans.
He didn't feel bad for them. In the great scope of human history, they'd been born into an enlightened age with access to education and an excellent professor, who happened to have firsthand knowledge of most of the course's material. The Drake Catacombs were one of the few dragon hoard locations into which the Bloodkin allowed human entry. Dragons usually used natural cavern systems, but Dragon Lord Haaken Falk had constructed his own booby-trapped lair to store his treasures.
"The first-level maze and its riddles constitute an intellectual barrier to the rest of the complex." He listed several keywords and underlined them to hint at what would be on the test. "It took a team of researchers from several disciplines twelve years to penetrate it."
He could do the lecture in his sleep but resisted elaboration to make it more interesting for him and for them. For example, he'd navigated the catacombs hundreds of years before any humans had, and he'd done it alone. But he would tell his class no stories. Nothing to prompt follow-up questions. It was best to be dry and dull about anything having to do with dragon shifters and the means they used to protect their hoards. Secrecy was still paramount to peace between Bloodkin and humans.
Maybe if he explained to Walter that he didn't know the first thing about bachelor parties, Walter could get his half-brother to do it. Or that uncle.
"Poison gasses, pressure sensitive tiles..." he scrawled.
Mid-bullet point, a female student murmured, "I could listen to him all day."
Ryder had no problem hearing her, though she sat far up in the rows of seats. Dragon shifters had acute hearing, the better to listen for intruders into their hoards.
"I come for the view," the young woman next to her said under her breath.
He paused, blue whiteboard marker in his hand. His bullet points now included the word Tempus.
He gaped at it for a second. Tempus.
Glancing quickly over his shoulder, he wiped the ink off the board with the cuff of his sleeve and turned around to find his place in his notes.
"What's a Tempus?" asked a young man sitting in the front row, dressed in what had to be his pajamas and slippers. Human behavior was so often unfathomable.
"Nothing," Ryder said. "I lost my train of thought." And his mind was still off track, his mood on a straight shot into an abyss.
A Tempus was a spy with the ability to move through time—a very convenient and powerful way to gather information. Also illegal. The most likely reason for the word to come to mind was that a Tempus from the present day had just now crossed his path in the past.
And...Ryder's thoughts skittered sideways again, the Tempus's presence in his past forcing him to relive it. Now and Then were in a collision that left him displaced—not quite back in a...stone corridor?...and not quite in today's lecture hall.
The stone corridor, yes. He remembered the high, arched ceilings. Bloodkin Triad member Godric Tredan stood before him. Aura was there, too, just off to his left. This had to have occurred at the last Bloodkin Assembly held at the New York Public Library a little over forty years ago.
And now, this Tempus wavered in the shadows beyond Godric. A woman. Human. Fair-skinned, light brown hair—familiar, but Ryder couldn't immediately place her. She was shivering. The past was cold.
Like a shadow, she'd snuck back through the decades to witness a very private conversation—the dialogue had been about traitorously overthrowing the governing Bloodkin Triad. If Ryder could've exposed the woman's presence to Godric and Aura, he would have. But no one could change what had happened or had been said—changing the past was beyond anyone's power—but the Tempus could report on who had said what. The proverbial fly on the wall.
Ryder relived the conversation while the Tempus observed...
"Come now," Godric was saying to him, "a place on the Triad is a cache of power. Take it from him." Godric had meant take it from Warrick Voclain, who'd just assumed his father's seat on the Triad. "You won't have this opportunity again."
"I don't want it," Ryder returned.
"Certainly," Ryder told him. "He sounds very fierce with his talk of ongoing peace with humankind. His agenda, by the way, suits my purposes. It's in my hoard's best interests that he stare down any warmongering Bloodkin. I'm glad he has the fire for it."
Challenges and Triads got in the way of study and treasure hunting.
"Xanthippe is mad about him," Godric continued.
Xanthippe was ancient, even among the Bloodkin. The Arcane language had been her first tongue. Born to power, both inherent—her ability to travel through shadows—and acquired—her influence, wealth, and position on the Triad—she was a force of nature. Old, primal nature.
"Xanthippe is just plain mad," Aura put in. "A nudge, and she'll go over the edge."
Careful, Ryder thought to Aura, forty years too late. What she said could be construed as treason if the Tempus reported to the Bloodkin Triad.
Ryder strained to look at the Tempus again, the Now-Then divide shearing at his composure with icy cold. Time could hold his human form fast, but a dragon was bound by nothing and no one. The fire within him leaped and crackled through his body.
"I'm not here for you," the Tempus said, an echo over the old dialogue.
Process of elimination: Godric was dead now, which left Aura. Was she in trouble? Was she making trouble? His heart contracted as if it were a clenched fist.
"Leave Warrick alone," Aura went on, "and challenge Xanthippe."
Shut up, Aura. Shut up. Shut up! Again, pointless.
The need to shift ached within his shoulders and across the crown of his head.
"She'll never choose Havyn," Aura said. "One of us has to put her down."
"You do it, then," Ryder had told her. His tone had been sarcastic, but he'd been joking, not egging her on. Xanthippe and Aura had been quarreling for so long, too long—the scar cutting Aura's left eyebrow a relic of their dispute—but Aura wouldn't challenge Xanthippe. Like him, Aura didn't seek to collect or hoard power, either.
But this Tempus, a human, didn't know that.
In the frigid cold of the stone corridor, the Tempus bowed her head to him. She knew how to acknowledge a dragon lord.
A respectful spy. How quaint.
If she were looking for a traitor, she should look in the mirror. There was a law against creating a Tempus. The punishment was death to both the Tempus and the Bloodkin who created her. Whoever had created her would be brought before the Triad for execution. Ryder would take care of this Tempus himself. Now.
Fire rising within him, Ryder strained to wrench out of his physical form in the present and lash out at the Tempus in the past. He couldn't condone someone getting information this way. And Aura had once been a friend.
"Check out his eyes," someone in the lecture hall murmured.
Dimly, he was aware that the students in the class were leaving their seats, retreating.
And still, he fought against the grip of Time, the dragon writhing under his human skin.
The Tempus began to dissolve in his mind's eye.
"Stop!" he said. The command felt good in his throat after all the mild tones he'd used for so long, acting the part of a human professor.
The gathering students convulsed backward, moving to the exits. Many were holding up mobile phones. Hadn't he told them to turn their devices off?
"He's a wolf."
No, he was Dragon Lord Ryder Magnus, a royal Midnight, and his alias, fifteen years in the making, had been blown. He'd liked this life, these people. He'd had a place among them.
He was going to be a best man.
"I'm here on behalf of one of your friends," the Tempus said. Another echo. Emphasis on friends, so he knew it was a lie.
He had no friends among the Bloodkin anymore. He didn't know what Aura was up to. They hadn't spoken in years.
The Tempus bowed again. "May the treasures of your hoard forever multiply."
Who was this bitch?
"You can't tell anyone about this meeting," he said to her. At last, sharp, black claws broke through his fingertips, and he struck out at her across time.
Screams bounced off the linoleum and walls of the lecture hall.
But she was gone, and the memory went dark.