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Chapter 1

It wasn’t the first time he’d run for his life. And it most likely would not be the last. In the past few decades, though, he’d mostly run from angry fathers who’d found him where they felt he should not be. Or he’d run from town guards—sent by angry fathers who’d found him where they felt he should not be.

But this day, Gwenvael ran from his own kin. Not that this was in any way new to him either, but it had been a while since he’d been forced to.

Also true was that he should have kept his mouth shut. Yet it had been a legitimate question. As always, though, his kin blew everything out of proportion and took out their misplaced rage on him.

Why did they just not admit they were jealous? For he was Gwenvael the Handsome. Third-born son and fourth-born offspring of the Dragon Queen, Former Captain of the Dragon Queen’s Northern Armies, and most-loved male throughout the Dark Plain regions, Gwenvael was always magnificent, magnanimous, and loving.

And his kin hated him because of that.

Besides, who knew that a queen would be so sensitive? Even a human one.

All he did was ask a simple question—“Are you supposed to be that large at only seven months with child?” A simple question that led to tears, unattractive snorting noises, and thrown weaponry. It seemed the human queen may have lost her ability to run quickly, but her throwing arm was still true. Nearly took my damn ear off.

Now the queen’s consort—also known as Gwenvael’s eldest brother and future Dragon King of the Southlands, Fearghus—felt the need to chase him down like a rabbit.

That’s why Gwenvael ran. Because if Fearghus the Destroyer destroyed Gwenvael’s beautiful face, the big bastard would never face retribution for it. Because, as always, he’d be forgiven his violent transgressions while Gwenvael was never forgiven his more sensual ones.

Found naked with a few of his grandfather’s kitchen maids? His father’s claw right to the back of the head. Suggest that when his mother was in human form she may want to stay away from things that brought out the largeness of her ass? His father’s claw right to the back of the head. Set up a small eightieth birthday party for his youngest brother Éibhear that involved a few of the local brothel girls? His mother’s claw right to the back of the head.

Fearghus, however, had hacked off the tip of Gwenvael’s poor tail more than a century ago and still he had not been punished. While the spiked tip most dragons used as a weapon floated in a river somewhere, Gwenvael dragged around a stump.

Thankfully, he’d found other uses for his tragically lame, disfigured tail. Uses most females appreciated quite a lot.

Gwenvael dashed around a corner, heading toward the stables and out the back entrance. It was then he saw sweet Izzy, daughter of the delicious Talaith and Gwenvael’s idiot brother Briec.

Izzy was not Gwenvael’s niece by blood, her true father a Southland human who’d died many years ago in battle before Talaith and Briec had ever met or mated. But Izzy was still family and he adored her as she adored him. Or, at least that was what he thought until she slammed into him as he charged by, sending Gwenvael flying into one of the stable doors. He kept forgetting exactly how strong his human niece was. Her mother may be a small dainty witch trained to kill on command, but Izzy was a bit of a bruiser—and enjoyed that about herself immensely.

Izzy stood over him and yelled out, “Got him!”

“Iseabail!” he cried, devastated. “My love! My adoring niece! How could you?”

“You shouldn’t have hurt her feelings! It was mean.” She shook her finger at him. “Don’t be mean!”

Izzy. Sweet, beautiful, but eternally strange Izzy. Her loyalty to the queen was never to be questioned. Even now she trained with the troops daily, hoping to be sent off to war so she could prove her loyalty with blood. Why anyone felt the need to do that was beyond Gwenvael. He didn’t like to bleed or be harmed in any way. He liked all his bits and pieces exactly where they were and in the correct working order. As he was forced to tell his father more than once, “I said I’d fight for my mother’s throne. I never said I’d die for it.” Then he’d add, simply to annoy the old bastard into one of his frothy temper tantrums, “Don’t you think I’m too pretty to die?”

“I thought you loved me!” Gwenvael yelled at Izzy.

“Not when you’re mean!” Her goodness was so sincere that the thought of fireballing her from his existence for this betrayal only went through his mind once … maybe twice.

Big, abusive hands grabbed Gwenvael by the hair and proceeded to drag him away from the stables.

“Let me go, you big bastard!”

“You’re going back in there, you son of a bitch,” Fearghus growled out. “You’re going back in there and you’re going to apologize if it’s the last thing you ever do.”

“I have nothing to apologize for.”

To prove he disagreed on that point, Fearghus stopped long enough so that he could stomp his big foot against Gwenvael’s stomach.

“Ow!”

“You made her cry. No one makes her cry.”

They were going through the Great Hall of the Garbhán Isle castle now. At one time this had been a place of horror, the seat of power for Lorcan the Butcher. Now it belonged to the woman who was Lorcan’s bastard sister and the one who’d taken his head.

“I can walk on my own,” he told Fearghus when he realized the whiny lizard had no intention of stopping any time soon. And although Gwenvael could shift to his natural—and exquisite—dragon form in his bid to get away, he’d only unnecessarily harm the humans who lived here. Something he was loath to do. He liked humans … Well, he liked female humans. The males he could do with or without.

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