Title: Mikhail: A Royal Dragon Romance
Series: Brothers of Ash and Fire #2
Author: Lauren Smith
Genre: Paranormal Romance Dragon Shifter
Release Date: January 10, 2018
A dragon never leaves his hoard unguarded. His heart is another matter.
The second eldest in an ancient line of Russian dragon shifters, Mikhail Barinov had one job: protect one of the family hoard of jewels. Distracted by the English virgin queen Elizabeth, who was as dazzling as she was devious; he lost everything. Five centuries of exile later, news that a construction crew has unearthed a massive trove of gold and jewels sends him racing to London, determined to steal back his family’s treasure…and his honor.
Professional gemologist Piper Linwood can’t wait to bury herself in her newest project, evaluating a hoard of Elizabethan-era treasure. But both her life and career are threatened when a mysterious, brooding man with a dangerous smile—and an even more dangerous kiss—snatches the lot.
Unwillingly swept along for the ride, Piper discovers Mikhail is no mere thief. And the dragon on his back is more than a tattoo. It’s a living, breathing extension of a bad boy she’s finding harder and harder to resist. But his heart is a treasure she can never own…because to save her career, she’ll have to betray his trust.
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Don’t follow him. Piper ignored her inner voice and slipped after him through the crowds. Perhaps she should have heeded the voice in her head, but that voice had kept her living a lonely, bored life. Boring meant not getting her heart broken. Boring was safe. It was long past time she did something dangerous.
She found Mikhail in a small drawing room next to the reception hall. He stood before a fireplace in the dark as if he belonged there. His lean, strong figure and the dark navy-blue suit were lit by flames. The door clicked shut behind her, the sound far too loud in the soft silence of the darkened room. Piper sucked in a breath, watching the shadows play on his dark hair as he turned to her.
“Piper.” The word was a silken caress that was straight out of her darkest fantasies. Even though there was a good distance between them, she could hear him clearly, his voice seeming to come at her from all sides thanks to the acoustics of the room.
“Mr. Barinov,” she whispered so softly there was no way he could hear it. But she swore she saw his lips twitch in the dim, shifting, gold-vermilion light.
“Straying off the map into unknown territory, are we?” He chuckled as though it was some private joke. “Here there be dragons.”
Piper stared at him. “I followed because…” Why had she followed him? Because he was like the damn Pied Piper for women who had tall, dark, sexy stranger fantasies.
“You followed because you can’t stop thinking about it.” That voice poured over her like molasses, and she could feel a delicious burn grow in her belly.
“Thinking about what?” She didn’t move, remaining by the door. But he did.
Mikhail walked toward her with a grace that seemed more panther than human. Her pulse spiked when he stopped mere inches from her. The firelight made the blue of his suit appear to be a dark, rich brown as he placed a hand on the closed door behind her and leaned in. The minty smell of his breath, warm and fresh, fanned her face, and his eyes, although out of view of the fire, seemed to burn with light—gold light.
“You are thinking about…” He moved closer, his lips a hair’s breadth from her now. “This.”
Her heart exploded as he slanted his mouth over hers. Waves of electric, pulsing pleasure at that exquisite kiss sent her head spinning. It was like crawling up by the fire on a cold winter’s night and putting a glass of warm brandy to her lips, with a slow burn followed by a powerful rush seconds later.
Piper moaned against him as he slipped his tongue between her lips to stroke hers. She was already curling her arms around his neck, dragging him closer. Mikhail pressed his body flush to hers against the door. He was so tall, a daunting wall of muscles, frightening and exciting all at once. He was a man who could take her without asking. The thought, as forbidden as it was, only made her hotter and wetter than she’d ever been before. She should have been ashamed of such thoughts, but in that moment she couldn’t be. There was too much pleasure in this kiss, too much exhilaration in her surrender to it. She didn’t want it to end, didn’t want the distant sounds of the party to intrude upon this perfect unplanned adventure. It would likely never happen again.
He deepened the kiss, his mouth consuming hers with a fire that left her giddy. And then something happened—strange flickers of images flashed across her closed eyelids. Not her imagination, which had been fixed on Mikhail’s animalistic appetite. This was something else.
Men in doublets approaching a throne, a queen with a pale face and red hair, pearls glistening on the bodice of her gown. Then the images changed, a roaring sea beneath her, icy water crashing against a distant shore, a deep loneliness that seemed only to grow until…
She saw herself at the exhibit. Saw herself through his eyes, a beacon of color and life drawing him toward her like a moth to the flame of a candle. She could feel his heart jolt, his body hum to life as he zeroed in on her. It felt as though he would never look away from her ever again. It was seductive, powerful, frightening, and yet she embraced the rush of emotions that came from him.
He broke the kiss to nip at her throat, and she tilted her head back to let his exploration continue. “It’s as though you were made just for me, moya sud’ba.”
The way he said the words made her shiver. “What’s moya sud’ba?” she asked.
“My destiny,” he growled, his eyes bright. “I should have known the moment we first met.” He inhaled again. “Even the way you smell, sweet and wild like Fire Hill flowers.”
“Fire Hill flowers?” she said in a haze. His clothes were still warm from the fire, and even his skin was hot to the touch.
“The wildflowers from my home. The Fire Hills of Russia. They are soft and sweet, not too much, just…” He kissed behind her ear. “Right.”
She blushed, unable to stop smiling. “I smell like wildflowers?”
He made a deep-throated purr against the column of her throat, and she dug her nails into his shoulders. “And your taste,” he continued in a husky whisper as he kissed her again.
This was madness to be kissing a stranger in a darkened room lit only by firelight. What else could you call it? But she was tired of being boring old predictable Piper. Mikhail made her feel wild and reckless, alive in ways she’d never dreamed. She didn’t want to stop, didn’t want to go back to being responsible. She wanted to live in this moment forever.
“What about my taste?” she asked, her voice trembling with desire.
Mikhail stared down at her and slid his hand into her hair at the nape of her neck, his fingers coiling the strands tight. A slight pinch of near pain shot sparks into her womb. Piper gasped.
“It’s like the sweetest of Georgian wines. It lingers upon my tongue until I ache to become drunk on it.” He nuzzled her cheek, his breath echoing hers in quick pants.
All they were doing was kissing, yet it felt like a wildfire had burst to life inside her, and there was no stopping the coming inferno.
“You are to be my ruination.” He nipped her bottom lip, and she whimpered.
Maybe this was all some fantastical dream. If it was, she didn’t want to wake up anytime soon. She was kissing a man who made her see things, impossible things, and she felt…wild. She felt strong, as though the woman she’d always wanted to be was suddenly within her reach, as if he’d unlocked something deep within her. She wouldn’t be able to go back to the cool, collected woman she once was. He’d breathed fire into her body, and she wanted the blaze to keep burning bright into the night.
Lauren Smith is an Oklahoma attorney by day, author by night who pens adventurous and edgy romance stories by the light of her smart phone flashlight app. She knew she was destined to be a romance writer when she attempted to re-write the entire Titanic movie just to save Jack from drowning. Connecting with readers by writing emotionally moving, realistic and sexy romances no matter what time period is her passion. She’s won multiple awards in several romance subgenres including: New England Reader’s Choice Awards, Greater Detroit BookSeller’s Best Awards, and a Semi-Finalist award for the Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley Award.