A merciless fighter with a lost past.
A woman with the skill to awaken his memories. A kiss that might save the world.
My name is Coran Burke.
I’m unique among the fighters in the Black Squad.
I’m more than human. I can fight longer than my comrades. I am impervious to pain.
I fight until my opponent is destroyed.
My new assignment takes me to Dassuria, on the trail of an alien dragon lord. To beat him, I’ll have to dig deep into my own past.
At his side is a woman with deep entanglements in his dealings. Despite my misgivings, I can’t get her out of my head. She’s unearthed feelings I’d long ago abandoned and has stirred something in me like no one has ever done before.
She should be my enemy, but she appears to be the key to my survival – a puzzle I’m hesitant to solve.
Love or duty.
Passion or loyalty.
Dragon or human.
The choice is mine, but at what cost?
* * *The Dragon is Book 4 of the Betania Breed Series. * * *
Can be read as standalone. Warning: Intended for mature audiences.
“I have to say this one was my favorite in the series so far. ” –Amazon Reviewer
“This book surprised me. The book is well written and some scenes become so real in my mind I can’t forget them. That is the sign of a great writer.” –Amazon Reviewer
“Series just keeps getting better and better.” –Amazon Reviewer
“I loved this addition to the Betania Breed series. It was H-O-T from beginning to end. The action and suspense kept me glued to the pages just as much as the chemistry between Coran and Chloe, and I stayed up way too late so I could finish it in one sitting” –VINE VOICE
“A, without a shadow of a doubt, must read.” –Amazon Reviewer
“Couldn’t put it down!” –Amazon Reviewer
“To me the the recurring theme is not only mind reading but that little Shazuul, a Sethari. He was in the first book all the way through to this last one. He helped were he could but he was always there. This whole series has a way to worm inside you and you become addicted. I fix dinner and can’t think about anything but the story. It will grab you and sink teeth into you. It just gets better and better.” –Amazon Reviewer
“This is the first I have read from this author, I’m not disappointed one bit.” –Amazon Reviewer
“Fast paced and exciting with a strong story line …One NOT to be missed.” -Amazon Reviewer
“…what I love about each book, it’s just enough to make me happy but leaves me anticipating what is next. I wouldn’t miss a single fantastic story in this series. 5 Awesome Stars.” -Amazon Reviewer
“This series has been one heck of a ride. I love that I’ve been able to follow the characters throughout the series. I’ve loved every one of them.” -VINE VOICE
“This is an incredibly unique Alien Romance. It will keep you glued to the pages.” -Amazon Reviewer
“What a great story. I wasn’t sure what would happen next. Coran and Chloe are such strong characters, absolutely loved them together. This series keeps getting better with each book. I recommend reading all the books in this series, but this one could be read as a stand alone.” -Amazon Reviewer
“I loved this series instalment! Everything is starting to come full circle.” -Amazon Reviewer
“The chemistry between Coran and Chloe was steaming hot.” -Amazon Reviewer
“Fantastic series. If SciFi is your thing, do NOT pass this series up.” –VINE VOICE
Chloe saw the New One’s clenched fist speeding towards his opponent’s chin, as if in slow motion. The move, though flawless in its powerful execution, meant nothing but trouble for her. Worse yet, if the New One triumphed in this fight, Chloe would lose her job – and that was if she got off easy. In a worst-case scenario, her sister would be punished for her “misconduct” and Shor Dasquian wasn’t squeamish when it came to punishment.
For a second, she allowed herself the luxury of an alternative: she defied her boss’s instructions and let Coran (that was the New One’s name) win. She imagined Shor’s dumb face, and how his usually pale skin would be marked by purple-red, pulsing veins. That thought brought her right back to her senses. She had seen what a furious Shor was capable of, once before, and she had no desire to experience this for herself – or to watch what he would do to her sister. So, she concentrated on both men again, waiting for the right moment, as they went at each other in the ring.
It wasn’t easy to influence another creature’s emotions to the point of making them act as she wished. Chloe’s gift (or her curse, depending on whom she was dealing with) was a two-edged sword. Whenever she penetrated another’s head, to manipulate his feelings, she experienced a kickback, for want of better word. The thing she selected and strengthened, so that she could provoke a certain reaction, always came back to her. There were days when Chloe wasn’t sure any more, if she still had feelings of her own, or if she merely fed on foreign emotions, like a parasite.
The noise from the audience around her swelled, as Coran’s opponent landed a painful hit and then added in an extra kick. The noise sounded like a collective intake of breath, which faded to a sigh of disappointment in slow motion. The audience in “Starfighter” paid many space dollars for these illegal fights and they demanded blood. A face that had been pounded into mush or a heavily wounded fighter who had to be carried out of the ring – those were all extras. However, blood was an absolute requirement of every fight. Chloe suspected that some of the colorful species who gathered here on Dassuria, preferred blood as a source of nutrition. One could see it in the way their eyes glazed over and their nostrils flared, as soon as the first drop flowed. The coppery smell mixed with masculine sweat from the ring and stirred the masses up.
Chloe watched the New One teetering in the corner and silently hoped that he would be able to pull himself together without her help. He was strong enough to confront his sparring partner, as long as that one didn’t shift. Chloe knew something that Coran had no way of guessing: his opponent was a dragon shifter. If things started to get tight for the beefy Shassir, he would start the transition.
Since everything was allowed at “Starfighter,” from kicks to one’s own bodily weapons, such as fangs or razor-sharp fingernails, Shassir was allowed to shift, to win the fight. It was, however, illegal to send a dragon shifter into the ring, and also dumb in Chloe’s opinion, to say nothing of being downright idiotic. Not that Shor Dasquian would have worried about a concept such as “illegal”. Heaven knew the entire concept of the Starfighter Club was forbidden on 90 percent of all planets.
No, what made the hair on the back of Chloe’s neck stand up, was the fact that there was not a single fire extinguisher in this stinking, packed room. She suppressed hysterical laughter when she realized that a fire extinguisher would probably have little effect against the hot breath of a dragon shifter.
What was wrong with her today? Her thoughts were jumping around, uncontrolled like a bouncy ball. This could have fatal consequences. There was too much at stake today. Just now, even at this exact moment, Chloe had been watching Coran’s elegant moves with absent-minded admiration, instead of doing her job. Enough already!
She closed her eyes. First, she tuned out all of the noise, and then the smells. Usually, it didn’t take more than a few seconds for Chloe to start to feel empty and for her heartbeat to be the only thing she could perceive. Today was different. She just couldn’t manage to glide into the familiar state of emptiness, where she was nothing more than a bare vessel for foreign feelings. Chloe worked out the kinks in her tight neck muscles. She hoped that none of the audience members would notice that her head was turned in the direction of the boxing ring, but that she couldn’t see a thing through her closed eyes. Her stomach did a somersault when someone crashed into her from behind and she almost lost her balance. Instinctively, she reached for the nearest arm to save herself from falling. She was rewarded with a mean hiss from the man to whom she was clinging.
There went her concentration again. Before she tried anew, she caught a glimpse of Shassir and Coran through the crowd. A black eye decorated the dragon shifter’s face. By tomorrow, it would probably be shining with all of the colors of the rainbow. Coran seemed to be unhurt except for a scratch below his chest. He had pulled his dreadlocks back into a tight ponytail and his sweat had made them look darker than usual. His broad torso was glistening with perspiration and, if you looked closely, you could see by the furrow between his eyebrows, that the physical exertion was taking its toll. Not because he was at the limit of his physical strength, but because he was slowly starting to lose patience with his opponent. That one was making a game of fleeing just out of the reach of Coran’s long arms and stomping around him. If you knew, as Chloe did, that Shassir could shift to a dragon, you could see the similarities between the human and the shape shifter. Shassir moved heavily on his feet, but his massive body was more flexible than a normal human was. Chloe had heard rumors about deviant experiments in which different races had been crossed with each other. Maybe Shassir was the result of one of those experiments. When she looked at him, she could almost imagine him setting fire to a laboratory, so he could escape.
She focused on the men in the ring again, because Coran had knocked his opponent off his feet. As Chloe had feared, the New One was gradually losing patience. However, instead of kicking Shassir while he was down, as the dragon man had done to him a short while ago, Coran held out his hand and pulled him to his feet. Chloe sighed to herself and wondered if Coran had any idea what he was doing. Being noble was not a virtue in the Starfighter Club and, accordingly, discontent was high among the paying guests. They jeered and whistled.
One of them, who seemed to be quite drunk already, went as far as climbing on a table, pulling down his pants and pointing his naked ass at the fighters. Chloe wished she hadn’t seen that, but it was too late. The sight of the hairy behind and the blue-veined, dangling testicles was burned into her memory now, distracting her from the job at hand. She wiped her wet palms on her black, shiny pants and took a deep breath. Two more times, and she would be free. She only had to influence a fight two more times, to Dasquian’s liking, and then she would have fulfilled her part of the bargain.
She stretched her feelers out carefully in Coran’s direction and felt her way towards his emotional center. This was hidden in a different part of every person’s body. Many women had their emotions in their heart, which is traditionally what you might expect from the more emotional sex. Men were more diverse. Their affects could be hiding anywhere. Chloe usually only needed a few minutes of careful observation to release an impulse. Dasquian’s emotions were tiny and hidden underneath his eyes. That made sense, since he evaluated everything and everyone based on the benefit they might offer him. Chloe had been able to determine that Shassir’s feelings were located in his hands, with just one look. That made sense, since he loved to beat up his opponents with his bare hands.
Coran was one of the few men who had the center of his emotions in his head. His feelings were determined by logic and structure. That made the task of influencing him a balancing act. If Chloe went too far, he would go insane. If she were too hesitant, he would hardly notice anything and just ignore the impulse she had implanted. On top of that, something made Chloe deeply uneasy. She could sense his feelings, but it was like looking through a thick, gel-like layer. Not once had she managed to feel him directly. There was always a distance that felt artificial. They had talked once or twice, which in and of itself was strange, since Coran usually kept his distance from most of his other co-workers in the club. His questions had been harmless enough – where are you from, what are you doing here, how did you find this job – but Chloe hadn’t been able to shake the feeling that he was hiding something behind his smooth exterior. She had tried to dive into him more deeply once, but his gaze had become terribly empty and she had pulled back without accomplishing anything. She cursed her hesitance, since it might cost her sister her life.
She could see Isabelle’s face in front of her and could see her trying to replace her slack expression with an alert one. Chloe’s pain and her bad conscience burned like acid in her throat when she thought about Isabelle’s dependence. Over the last three years, she had learned to hate her sister, but she still hadn’t hesitated for even a second to submit to Dasquian in exchange for… a strange, soft whirring hit her ears, and she opened her eyes. Where was that noise coming from? It wasn’t loud, but it was piercing, and it had the effect of making her hairs stand on end. Instinctively, she looked for the closest exit, but it was blocked by two bouncers. Neither the men, nor the audience seemed to notice the sudden electric tension in the air.
Her view of the ring was blocked by a woman who was screaming hysterically. Her fat rolls were in a state of upheaval and threatened to burst the see-through skin that counted as clothing here on Dassuria. Chloe dug her elbow into the woman’s well-padded ribs, so she could make more room to try to get to the front. The next obstacle on the way to the boxing ring was a very thin man. Four hooved feet stuck out from his flowing robes. At least he made room for Chloe voluntarily, as opposed to the last man who had separated her from Shassir and Coran. She snuck by him deftly, catching a strong whiff of body odor as she passed.
Finally, her view of the ring was clear and unobstructed. The air around Shassir shimmered. Coran had stopped mid-punch and was staring at his opponent. Chloe didn’t even have to read his feelings to be able to guess what was going on in his head.
He had the look of a man who had just realized that he had been tricked.
* * *
His day had started off badly, and the way it looked, it was about to get worse. Coran kept a close eye on his opponent in the ring. He could feel that the other one still had another ace up his sleeve. The guy wasn’t all that bad in the ring. Even though he was massively built and carried considerable weight, he was fairly agile, and there was tremendous power behind his punches. Coran had let himself be hit a few times on purpose (and once or twice not on purpose), so he could get a sense of his opponent’s strength. The longer he stood in the ring with the man, the more convinced he was that something wasn’t quite right with the guy. He reminded Coran of a chained guard dog, pulling at his tether with all his might, just waiting for one of the metal links to give way. As carefully as he could, given that there were no rules in this fight, Coran had tested the man. When he let himself be drawn into close combat, and their sweat-soaked bodies had slammed into each other, his body odor had gone up Coran’s nose. That was when he had first suspected that he was in real trouble. The man smelled of fire and smoldering embers, and of resin and something musty, like a forgotten cave. The atmosphere between them stirred and prickled with tension, similar to the arrival of bad weather on a hot summer day.
Coran took a step back and waited. It wasn’t the best idea just to wait instead of taking action, but he had the sneaking suspicion that chaos was going to hit him at any second now. He looked around unobtrusively. Even if he had wanted to, there was no way he could have gotten out of there. The room was practically heaving. People were packed tightly into the room, so as not to miss even one valuable second of the fight.
At the last second, he suppressed a condescending grimace, and brought his assignment to mind. Something on his right caught his attention. A pair of huge, blue eyes in a heart-shaped face, framed by a wild mass of jet-black hair, distracted him from his task for a heartbeat. Chloe Walker was standing just within his reach. Her eyes darted back and forth between him and Shassir, just like in a ball game. Her expression wavered between a kind of fatalistic calm and panic. So, she also suspected that something was about to happen. The question was, if she knew what it was, then why had she decided to make her way closer to the source of danger.
A cautious move from Shassir drew Coran’s attention back to the other man in the ring. He had started to tremble a little, as if he was about to have a seizure. Coran ran through his options quickly. Escape was not impossible. Surely, he could fight his way out, in order to avoid the looming outburst, but he wouldn’t be able to do so without hurting a few of the spectators.
He played the scenario through in his head: A jump out of the ring towards the exit. He could land right between the alien man in the toga and the woman with the beehive hairdo of living… snakes? From there, it was eight long strides to the two bodyguards. He could take one of them out with a well-aimed hit from his elbow, while he smacked the other’s head into the wall with his left hand. The door was shut, but it opened to the inside. He would need to move the two unconscious men to the side, and pull open at least one half of the door, before he could even reach the hallway. Coran had used the last few days to familiarize himself with the layout of the endless and winding subterranean tunnels. He knew exactly where the nearest tunnel, with an exit to the surface, was located.
He also calculated that there were two other options. He could stay here and wait to see what happened, or he could knock Shassir out with one single perfectly placed punch and hope that the unconscious state would prevent the catastrophe that seemed to be headed his way. Coran weighed his options for a few seconds, before deciding on the last option.
Deciding and acting were one.
As if in slow motion, Coran saw himself. He rushed forward, bent one knee, and stopped so close in front of Shassir in his crouched position, that one single drop of sweat on Shassir’s abdominal muscles appeared to sparkle as if he had zoomed in on it. He stretched his hand out straight, a perfect extension of his lower arm. Coran hit his opponent’s throat with the edge of his hand. Shassir’s eyes rolled back in his head, and for a second, Coran thought he could see the whites turn to flickering orange. Then the behemoth sank to the floor. At the same time, the electric buzzing stopped, and Coran knew that he had made the right decision.
He felt as if he had barely avoided a catastrophe. At least, until he became aware of blue eyes tickling his neck at an angle from below. He turned around, his hands raised in victory, just as any man, who had just delivered a crushing defeat, would. His triumph, which was faked, anyway, dissolved into nothing when he saw Chloe’s expression. Her hand was covering her mouth, and her face was deathly pale.
She looked like he had given her a fatal blow.
* * *
Chloe’s world turned to ice when she saw the dragon shifter fall to the ground. In the second before he fell, his eyes had glowed like a volcano shortly before an eruption. A thousand things flew through her head, all at once. She had failed. Dasquian didn’t tolerate anyone defying his orders. Isabelle would suffer the consequences. If Chloe only knew where the jerk had hidden her sister… At the same time, a tiny part of her was relieved that it was finally over. Nobody had ever gotten a second chance from Dasquian, and he certainly wasn’t going to start with her. After all, he had a reputation to uphold.
Chloe didn’t think it would be the money he had lost because of her that would awaken his fury. She had spent the last six months in close “cooperation” with him and had seen how his eyes shone when the opportunity presented itself to demonstrate his power. Only a born sadist had the gift of being able to expose his opponent’s weakness, so he could take advantage of it. Chloe had seen him force a woman to pour caustic liquid all over her face. She had been proud of her attractive features, with the emphasis on had been. Dasquian had insisted that she spare her eyes, just so she could look at her disfigured face in the mirror every day, over and over again. Her only sin had been to resist his advances.
She suppressed a shiver, while the spectators around her, who had bet on Coran, cheered. Only a few had bet their money on the New One winning, and that was precisely the point where she thought about Dasquian again. She grimaced when she realized how, for seemingly endless months, her world had revolved around only Shor Dasquian. The things he wanted and demanded of her; how much he enjoyed increasing his already immense fortune because of her – all of these things had dominated her life.
Now it was over.
Chloe had no choice.
End of the Reading Sample.
Also available as audiobook on Audible
Dark. Powerful. Sexy. This will be a ride you won’t want to miss.