Please welcome author Juliette Cross! She has a new series called the Vale of Stars! It is a paranormal romance featuring dragons! Waking the Dragon will be released on June 9, 2015 from Lyrical Press/Kensington. Enjoy Juliette’s spin on Little Red Riding Hood below!
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Hi, everyone. First, thank you to the team of DARK FAERIE TALES for inviting me on the blog for the Fantastic Fables Event. It’s a pleasure to be here. I’ll be sharing a new tale I wrote with my protagonists from WAKING THE DRAGON (June 2015). This story is set in a fantasy world where humans live alongside a dragon hybrid race, called the Morgons. Moira Cade is a human woman investigating the murders of three young women in the Gladium Province. Kol Moonring is a strong, fierce Morgon who has been assigned to protect her as she delves deeper into the Morgon underworld. The scene that follows would fall right after the chapter where Kol brought Moira to the home of an ancient wiseman who lives in a mystical forest called Singing Wind Wood. This little tale follows the lesson of “Little Red Riding Hood” that a girl should never stray from the path with wolves waiting in the shadows.
The Beast in the Woods
I stepped beyond the cluster of trees, wandering away from the old wise man’s cottage. A pool of moonlight beckoned me, glazing the grass silver. No snow covered the ground but the biting chill warned it was coming soon. Past the craggy treetops, naked limbs bending in the winter wind, the moon beamed among a sea of glistening stars.
“Don’t stray too far.” Kol’s deep voice boomed directly behind me.
I jumped with a yelp and whirled. “Damn it. Don’t scare me like that.”
Moonlight gilded his black hair and dark, jagged wings with lines of silver. His fey eyes burned an unearthly blue. A shadow parted his face, darkening the half where a reddened scar ran from cheek to chin. He was an intimidating specimen of Morgon man—all brawn and hard angles.
His body remained stone, but his chin dipped lower as he drank me in. “You’re too curious for your own good, Moira.”
I took a step closer, falling into his shadow. “I’m an investigative reporter. Of course, I’m curious. I do what I must for the good of the people, for the truth.”
“The truth. And what truth are you seeking?”
“Who is murdering these girls, of course? And for what purpose?”
“Does a predator need a reason to slaughter prey?” He inched closer. His voice rumbled low and smooth.
“No. But these aren’t animals.”
“Perhaps they are. What do you know about the victims?”
I swallowed hard, remembering the crime scene photo of Maxine Mendale. Naked, violated, slit from neck to pubic bone and thrown into the snow like a butcher’s carcass.
“The victims were brutalized and murdered. Then thrown out like trash.”
“Precisely. Sounds like animalistic behavior to me, devoid of reason.”
I blew out a frustrated breath, meeting his steady gaze. “Stop dancing around the issue. What exactly are you saying? That animals did this? We know that’s not true.”
“We have forensic proof that Morgons committed these crimes.” His voice resonated with endless patience, though his tenor darkened. “But you’re still investigating as if humans were responsible. Logical humans with proper motive guiding their behaviors.”
“And you think I’m wrong?”
“I believe you’re viewing this from a human’s perspective.” He partially opened his wings then tightened them to his back, drawing my gaze to the sharp movement over his broad shoulders. “We are only half human, Moira. And there are a number of Morgons who serve the needs of their inner dragon more than their human counterpart.”
I locked onto his gaze, refusing to inch backward as my instincts urged. I was indeed in the presence of a beast. A powerful one.
“You’re…inner dragon. He urges you to maim and murder? That’s what you’re telling me?”
“I’m telling you that a beast resides within all Morgons. Centuries-old DNA compels us to act on particular urges. I’m telling you that our cravings and instincts often lean toward violence, brutality, and the carnal.” He paused, letting the last tighten the tension between us. “Some Morgons allow their dragon to take the reins and do what he wills.”
A shiver shot down my spine. The wind ghosted through the trees, bare branches creaking and knocking together like an old woman’s bones. The breeze lifted a tendril of my dark hair which crossed my face and caught on my lip. I pulled the loose strand away and tucked it behind my ear, all under the watchful gaze of the biggest, baddest Morgon I’d ever known. Charged energy sizzled in the air. An invisible electric current rolled off of the preternaturally still beast in front of me, raising the tiny hairs on my arms.
“Tell me, Moira. What do you know of dragons?”
I licked my lips, though my mouth had gone bone dry. “They have superior senses of vision, hearing, and smell.”
“All the better to detect our enemies.”
His body heat filled the sliver of space separating us. “They can breathe fire.”
“All the better to protect our treasure.”
I clenched my fists, willing myself not to cower away. “They can fly.”
His wings twitched. “Easier for the chase.”
A gust of wind blew across the clearing, loosening my hair again. The wayward strand once more flipped across my face. Kol’s supernatural gaze narrowed. I stepped back, but his hand shot out and wrapped my arm, holding me still as he pressed into my space, his chest grazing mine. His other hand lifted. I froze, heart hammering a frantic beat. With a gentle stroke, he glided his fingers across my cheek, pulling the strand free and tucking it behind my ear. His thumb lingered along my jaw.
“Do not be afraid, Moira.” He curled his fingers around my nape. “Yes. A dragon lives inside me. He breathes fire and lusts for blood…and for pleasure.” His thumb stroked down to my pulse-point. “But he’ll never harm you.” His fingers tightened a split second before he pulled his hand away. He kept his body wonderfully close. Painfully close. Blue-fire eyes burned through me in the dark. “Never.”
Juliette calls lush, moss-laden Louisiana home where the landscape curls into her imagination, creating mystical settings for her stories. She has a B.A. in creative writing from Louisiana State University, a M.Ed. in gifted education, and was privileged to study under the award-winning author Ernest J. Gaines in grad school. Her love of mythology, legends, and art serve as constant inspiration for her works. From the moment she read JANE EYRE as a teenager, she fell in love with the Gothic romance–brooding characters, mysterious settings, persevering heroines, and dark, sexy heroes. Even then, she not only longed to read more novels set in Gothic worlds, she wanted to create her own.
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Available June 9, 2015 from Lyrical Press/Kensington
About this Book:
The Gladium Province is on the verge of civil unrest as humans and Morgons, the dragon-hybrid race, clash once more. But amid disorder can also arise passion.
When the bodies of three human women are discovered in Morgon territory—with the DNA of several Morgon men on the victims—it’s just a matter of time before civil unrest hits the Province. But for ambitious reporter Moira Cade, it’s more than just a story, and it may mean risking her own life.
Descending into the dark underworld of Morgon society, Moira is paired with Kol Moonring, Captain of the Morgon Guard, for her protection. Fiercely independent, Moira bristles at his dominance, and defies his will at every turn. Yet resistance proves futile when passion flares between them, awakening powerful emotions within both, body and soul. But as the killings continue, can their fiery newfound bond survive an even greater evil—one that threatens all of humanity, Morgonkind, and Moira’s very soul?…
Click HERE to read an excerpt
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