Dragon Craving (Otherworlds Summons #2)
by Livia Olteano
The world holds few secrets for Oracle Elana Anderson, or as her fans know her, Ela Deville. Successful author of paranormal romance, Ela has a secret: not all her paranormal characters are quite that fictional. She hardly expected she’d trigger a chain of events that might bring about the end of the world via a pesky dragon. Rendered blind to visions of him, Ela’s only way to save her world is to keep the dragon close…very close.
Obitus, the only awake dragon in the Otherworlds, is determined to get back the magic that was stolen from him and secure his position for a good thousand years. Becoming Akai’s new guardian after getting rid of the current one is the best way to it. But that means getting Ela on his side. He’ll bargain and maneuver his way there if he has to, but ends up tormented by the desire to have her for real.
In a game of deals, half-truths and irresistible cravings, does one heart have to break in order for the other to save the world?
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Eclipse Reviews: Janine gave it 5 stars
Dee’s Reads: Dee gave it 4 stars
As The Page Turns: Mishma gave it 4.5 stars
Sizzling Pages Romance Reviews: Nichole gives Obitus the Perfect Alpha seal of approval in a fabulous 5 stars & 5 hearts review
A_TiffyFit’s Reading Corner: Tiff gave it 5 stars
Indy Book Fairy: Carrie gave it 5 Dragon Fairies
Ms. ME28 Reviews: Myra fave it 5 stars
Not Everyone’s Mama: Heather gave it 5 stars and added Gargoyle Addiction to her Favorite Books Read in 2013
Why I Can’t Stop Reading: Angelique gave it 5 Bookworms
Coffee Time Romance Review & More: Delane gave it 4 cups!
My agent’s boss and his wife, Doris, walked up to me, oozing self-importance. I hated that woman. She was the one who leaked a rumor in the press that I was employing ghostwriters to do my work.
“Ms. Deville, such a pleasure to see you!” she squealed.
Sylvia, my agent, tightened her grip on my arm so much my nails were turning blue. I discreetly elbowed her ribs and she let go.
“Ela,” Sylvia muttered between gritted teeth.
“I don’t know how you put up with her,” I whispered.
“Lots of martinis and therapeutic shoe shopping sessions after,” she whispered back. “Don’t even get me started on that assho—”
“Ms. Deville,” Sylvia’s boss said grinning. “I hope everything is well.”
“Hunky-dory,” I said and grinned wide.
Sylvia sputtered and choked on her wine. Unlike me, she thought I had to be really nice to everyone. I didn’t have to at all. And if anyone would be about to cause me any real trouble, I could always change their mind with two to ten words. I didn’t particularly like to do it, but when it needed to be done, I would. I did.
Doris was next on my list of two to ten words if she wouldn’t stop pestering me. Her husband was very easy to get back in line. It took two words: ‘transvestite’ and ‘underage’. They worked like magic. He stopped his behind the scenes maneuvering for scamming Sylvia out of a couple of big contracts and the company was doing much, much better since his regular gambling problem wasn’t funded by dipping into the company’s accounts. Sometimes people needed to be reminded that they could be caught with things they were doing. Who better to do that than me? I could see their deepest, darkest, filthiest secrets without a second’s effort. It made for a poor social life, but very good bargaining chips—my life was a delicate balance.
The couple walked away, but Doris turned around to give me the evil eye. Since her husband got shitfaced drunk one night and admitted the reason he was behaving was none other than me, Doris obviously assumed it meant we were having an affair. Because how else could a woman change a man’s behavior if not by pulling his age-old sensitive lever? One more rumor though, and she would hear her magic two to ten words. I could almost see the expression she’d wear, her paralyzed face muscles given an extra layer of frozen solid as her wide mouth would hang agape. Priceless, really. Sometimes I took a little guilty pleasure out of giving them those two to ten words, because some people just were shit.
I took a healthy swig of white wine and looked around. A petite blonde walked up to me, all fidgety and smiling brightly. I smiled back.
“Ms. Deville, I’m thrilled to meet you!”
I shook her hand. “Likewise, Sarah.”
Her eyes widened. “How’d you know my name?”
Oops. Sometimes slip-ups happened, when I got too tired and maybe had one glass of wine too many. But it wasn’t tough to turn it around this time. I smiled and pointed to her nametag.
“Oh,” she said, blushing a little and tucking some hair behind her ear. “I thought my sweater was in the way, but I guess it wasn’t.”
It was, but I shrugged. “Having fun?”
She beamed. “Oh my God, totally! I know you get this all the time, but I was wondering if maybe you’d sign my book?”
It was touching—she always carried one of my novels in her bag. I signed it and watched her leave. Her boyfriend was going to propose tonight, after a romantic dinner during which he’d accidentally burn half of his tie and a walk in a park that would make her sneeze since she was allergic to some of the flowers there. But the moment was going to be magic, and he’d make her happy…for about fifteen years. Then she’d die in a car accident along with their two daughters. I shook my head and enforced my wall against the visions. If I didn’t stop them in time, they always got me severely depressed. None of those life-long movies had a happy ending. Nothing real ever did, and I was cursed to know that for a fact.
I looked down at my sandals, took a deep breath and decided to take refuge in the ladies room for a while. I figured I could do the party for about a half-hour more, then disappear and finally go home. It wasn’t that I didn’t love meeting my readers. In fact, it was the opposite; I adored meeting them. It wasn’t that I had someone waiting for me at home either—not anymore. But I couldn’t stand seeing flashes of people’s lives, including the ends, after we shook hands. It was impossible to smile at someone knowing how and when they were going to die. That was why Oracles had lived in solitude throughout history. It wasn’t that our gifts or gods demanded solitude. It just hurt too much to be around people, and the more you had around the tougher it got.
Once I closed the ladies room door behind me, I took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. And realized my mistake.
“Well, Ms. Deville, we meet again.”
I looked at Doris, smiled, and wished her away. It never worked, sadly; I only saw their lives. Controlling their actions wasn’t one of my gifts. She squinted her eyes, the only possible expression she could muster. Her face gave me the chills.
“You’re fucking my husband,” she spat, “which is disgusting. Not even I can bring myself to fuck him, and I live off of him. But if you think you’ll get me out of the picture and have all that money to yourse—”
I held up a hand and smiled at her coldly. “Harold, affair, Swiss bank account.”
Her eyes widened. “What the hell are you talking about?”
I sighed. “You know what I’m talking about, Doris.”
She shook her head. “You’re insane. Harold is my husband’s son from his first marriage and…”
“Precisely,” I muttered and cringed. “And he’s an even bigger asshole than his dad, which in itself is shocking. But have no doubt, Doris, I know.”
“You can’t possibly kn—” she squealed.
I sighed. “Strap-on. Need I say more, Doris? Do you really want me to?”
She swallowed convulsively a couple of times then shook her head. “What do you want? I’ll divorce him quietly if he settles for a reasonabl—”
“Not interested. And I’m not having an affair with your husband. Yuck. The reason he’s changed because of me is the reason you’ll change too. Because I know.”
“What are you saying?”
“Stop spreading lies about me, that’s what I’m saying. Because you don’t want me to share the truth. Do you, Doris?”
She blinked a few times, took a step back. “How can you possibly know these things?”
I shrugged. “The how doesn’t matter. Just behave like a decent human being, hard as it may be, and focus on your life. Leave me alone, it’s all I’m asking. Do we have an agreement?”
She nodded and bolted out of the bathroom, almost knocking me over. My now empty glass of wine fell to the floor and shattered in tiny, shiny pieces that flew all over the tile. I watched those shards and leaned against the counter. Doris’s life was going to end in a particularly sad way. In a few years she’d find out about the terminal cancer. I wasn’t supposed to tell them, but I ran out and caught up to her in the hall.
She froze but didn’t turn around. “What?”
I bit my lip. “Promise me you’ll be more careful about your health. Do yearly checkouts and all. Okay?”
She turned halfway around, giving me her profile. “Is that a threat?”
“Jesus, no! No, just…friendly advice, and I mean that ‘friendly’ part.”
“You really are psychic, aren’t you? I’ve heard some rumors, but I thought it was a publicity stunt.”
I sighed. “Well, it’s not a publicity stunt.”
Instead of speaking again she nodded and walked away. She wasn’t running away now, but walking slowly. I refused to see the change in her future. I hadn’t exactly told her, just encouraged her to take care of her health. Figured if the gods hadn’t decided to smite me already, it was cool to give advice now and then. No spoilers, just friendly advice.
I walked back into the ladies room, splashed some cold water on my face and stared at myself in the mirror. Sometimes I hated my life. But I was rarely as surprised as I was when the figure of a strikingly handsome man materialized behind me. I watched him as he grinned crookedly and leaned against the wall behind. His piercing white eyes focused on mine in the mirror and my stomach tightened in a knot.
“Hello, Oracle of Akai.”
“Obitus,” I whispered.
What I didn’t add was the rest of his honorable titles: the destroyer, the one who was going to ruin me before bringing the end of my world. Though he was about to make a deal with the Weres for Kann to stay with Karla in peace, so he was capable of some good too.
His human form was tall with wide shoulders, making a striking pose. He was wearing a navy suit that really brought out the white in his eyes. They were the only outward sign of his dragon nature, those white eyes that meant he was a powerful being, one of the most powerful in the Otherworlds. One of those who’d gone extinct, pretty much, until Karla decided to use his help to save her life. I couldn’t blame her, but I didn’t like Mr. Dragon breathing down my neck, not at all. Especially since he was the sexiest man I’d ever seen, and that included models for the covers of my novels—which was saying something. I looked away from his reflection and tried to get my pulse under control.
He flashed beside me and I flinched.
“It’s a real pleasure to see you,” he muttered darkly in that chorus effect voice of his.
Shivers traveled up and down my spine, but I glared at his reflection in the mirror. “I can’t say the same.”
He tsked. “Sorry to hear that. But I promise you’ll change your mind.”
I smiled coldly and walked out of the ladies room, avoiding eye contact with him. Thinking of what the full force of those eyes could do scared the crap out of me. He didn’t follow, thank the gods. I reached the hall and my knees almost gave out. Leaning against the wall for a minute, I tried to get my pulse under control. He couldn’t change my mind, or we’d all be lost. No matter how tempting he was, I couldn’t allow myself to get caught in his snare.
I finally snuck out of the party and caught a cab. A weird smell wafted up at me as I settled into the backseat, and I became even more eager to get to my hotel than I was before getting into the damned car. Something must’ve crawled in the cab and died there, repeatedly, because, Jesus Christ! The stink was the unhappy mix of stinky socks and rancid pizza, maybe spiked with a little puff of a three-day-old corpse. The driver wasn’t a zombie; his skin had the right shade of pink for a living creature, so I guessed there was that half-full part of the ride. But still, that hotel couldn’t show up soon enough.
Living in a hotel suite was one those things chucked up to ‘author eccentricities’. It simply made for easier living for me. I held up the walls against the visions most of the time, and it was easier to block them out if people around me were mostly strangers. I didn’t have neighbors to get attached to, so I’d get as little impression as possible from random visions about the ones I did cross paths with there. As stubborn as it might have been of me, I wanted to have as much of a normal life as I could.
The city flashed by the window, slices of light and darkness alternating having an almost hypnotizing effect. The dragon’s bright white eyes flashed through my mind and my heart twitched. I leaned my head against the cool glass.
“Everything all right?” asked the cabbie.
I unglued my forehead from the glass. “Yeah, just tired.”
“Are you sure?”
My eyes glazed over. Bodies buried in his backyard, a dozen of them. The rest were hidden at his grandparents’ ranch, and a good few behind the vacation home his ex-wife had gotten after the divorce. I shivered and snapped out of the visions. My pulse spiked and sweat trickled down my nape. He liked petite, short-haired brunettes with dark eyes—I fit that profile to a T. On the upside, he liked them smokers. I didn’t smoke. It might just save my life and his.
“You know,” he called back over his shoulder, “if you’d like to smoke in the cab, I’d be cool with it. Nothing helps unwind like a cig, right?”
I smiled, trying my best to not show fear. “Thanks, but I don’t smoke. Asthma.”
He frowned in the rearview mirror. “Oh. I won’t smoke either, then.”
I didn’t have asthma, but smoking triggered his darker part to come out. No smoking all around would keep us safe-ish. If he attacked me, I wouldn’t be the victim. But I didn’t want to get there. I build my wall against visions despite the rush they tried to bury me under. I couldn’t afford to not be very present. This was one cab ride I might not survive. I had to appreciate the irony of the night. Before ditching a party I wasn’t particularly enjoying, I’d been ambushed in the ladies room by a dragon that might destroy my world. After ditching the party, I’d gotten into the cab driven by a serial killer who just so happened to have a soft spot for my type. Maybe the gods were trying to tell me something…like do parties with more conviction? If there was some deeper meaning, I for one, didn’t see it.
I kept discreetly glancing out the window to make sure we were still on track. We were. Probably my non-smoker asthmatic aura tuned him off. I wished I would’ve mastered the covert texting art, but I hadn’t. There was no way I’d use the phone without him figuring it out. I was hoping I could alert my detective friend tonight to follow this guy—he was itching for a new kill. Hopefully, they’d get him before he actually killed another woman.
The cabbie looked at me in the rearview mirror. “We’ve been having great weather these days, huh?”
I smiled. “Yeah, sunny but not too warm.”
“A vacation would be great in this weather, right? Take the family somewhere, relax for a couple of days.”
The hotel was within sight. Just a few moments more, and this guy could finally be brought to justice.
“Right here would be great,” I said reaching forward with the money.
His fingers lingered over my hand as he took it.
“Take care of yourself,” he said smiling.
“Thanks, you too. Night.”
I got out and rushed to cross the street. I could feel the cabbie’s eyes on me as I got into the lobby. I was looking for the phone in my bag when someone cleared their throat.
“Ms. Deville?” Allison chirped from the reception desk. “Someone brought you flowers this evening. I kept them for you since you were out.”
I smiled. “Thanks. Have them brought up for me, will you?”
She hesitated. “I was thinking I could…give them to you now?”
Ugh. Why didn’t she just come right out and ask me out already? The cabbie hadn’t left yet, I could see the car out of the corner of my eye. Calling detective McKenna—my favorite contact at Homicide—and talking about a serial killer hanging out in front of the hotel could create too much excitement in the lobby.
“Sure, give them to me,” I answered tightly.
The flowers were from her, actually. My very own secret admirer. She’d been working up the courage to ask me out for about three months now. By my estimations, it would take her another five to get there. Sad, really, to see her work up to it knowing already I’d turn her down.
My ears buzzed. I didn’t turn around, just looked out the corner of my eye. Cabbie had just entered the lobby. Allison was busy fussing over the card in the flowers. People were still walking around the lobby at least, so he wouldn’t try anything funny here. But I couldn’t call the detective without cabbie catching on.
“Actually, you know what, Allison? Bring those flowers up like in half an hour. I think you’ll be off of your shift then?”
She shot up to her feet and grinned. “Perfect! I mean, yeah, sure, if you’d like that.”
I nodded and walked slowly toward the elevators. I wanted him to follow. At this point I knew he wanted a victim for tonight. If it wouldn’t be me, it would be some poor woman. I couldn’t let that happen. Once in the elevator I pushed for my suite’s floor. My pulse skipped. I’d wait for him there.
As the doors opened, I stepped out of the elevator and inhaled deeply. He’d be up in about a minute. The hall was empty. I allowed myself a quick peek into the following minutes to make sure no one would show up besides the two of us. Allison would take about 45 minutes to come up. I had enough time.
I stood there, facing the elevator doors, and began the invocations. I had quite a few options as far as spirits went, but I rarely used them. Tonight, I called for the soul nippers. They were tiny, vicious things that hungered for soul energy. The most efficient way to make a living creature disappear. The nippers materialized out of the floor, screeching and moaning.
Now all I needed was a target to mark. And he’d arrive right…now. The doors binged open. He walked out, grinning at me.
“I knew you were sweet on me, honey,” he crooned.
I smiled and mentally drew the target symbol on his chest. The nippers launched at him. He opened his mouth, wanting to scream, but one of the nippers slid down his throat and blocked his vocal chords. They shot through him, screeching with glee. Each time they went through, a bit of his soul was consumed. In a minute or so he fell to the floor, eyes wide and face contorted in pain. I didn’t feel much pity. He’d put his victims though a lot worse.
Autopsy would show he’d died of a stroke. I took the phone out of my purse and hit speed dial.
“This is 911, what’s your emergency?”
“I think someone’s having a seizure or something. Hotel…”
When I was done with the call I went into my suite and sat on the couch in the living room. This had been one of the most eventful nights in a long while. I wasn’t sure if that said more about me than the night itself, though. Allison came up with the flowers, but considering the corpse in the hall and all she left quickly. After a quick shower I got in bed, mentally exhausted.
The walls keeping the visions away went down slowly. I saw my almost-boyfriend, Matt, in his boss’s office…doing his boss on the desk. Sandra was enjoying the hell out of the moment and Matt seemed quite taken with their long hours too. I shot up in bed and blinked a few times as the shields against visions went back up in my mind. My chest hurt. My eardrums were pounding. I wanted to scream. I wanted to curse my stupidity. I wanted to take back the idea of building a thick wall against any visions about him so we might stand a chance at a relationship. I wanted to take back all the kisses I’d given him, each and every night I’d spent cuddled in his arms, even if they weren’t too many. We’d been going out together for about three weeks. It could’ve worked…until tonight. I wanted to take back the stupid decision to give this a chance.
But I couldn’t. What I could do was text him, and I did. I wouldn’t be able to stand hearing his voice right now. Instead, I texted him to leave the keys to my suite at reception first thing tomorrow morning, and that I never wanted to see him again. And I refused to allow any vision related to him to flitter through my mind while I was still awake.