Life is not going well for archaeologist Sam Bellamy. She’s stuck in the middle of the ocean on a salvage boat with people who want her dead. It wasn’t her gift for being able to sense objects of power that got her here, rather her need to make a secret society called the Knights of the Dragon pay for killing her mentor. Sam doesn’t believe in dragons, but the Knights do, and if she can get one of the sacred artifacts they’re searching for away from them, she’ll consider it payback.
Ezra Easton is content to run his marine salvage company and live alone on his private island. He may be a four-thousand-year-old water drakon, but he’s civilized enough to know just because he pulls an injured woman from the ocean, doesn’t mean he gets to keep her...
When she wakes up, she has a few tall tales to share, and it seems the Knights are after her. But this drakon won’t give up his treasure.
The Blood of the Drakon series is best enjoyed in order
Book #1: Drakon’s Promise
Book #2: Drakon’s Prey
Book #3: Drakon's Plunder
This is suicide.
Sam Bellamy stood on the deck of the Integrity, a seventy-foot private research vessel currently anchored in the Atlantic Ocean about twenty miles off the coast of Maine. The waves were choppy and the wind brisk, but not too bad considering it was late November.
She sensed someone coming up behind her but didn't turn around. Best no one know just how hyper alert she was.
"Whatcha looking at, Sam?" Aaron Dexter leaned against the railing beside her, getting way too close, as usual. He'd been hitting on her since they'd boarded the vessel.
Aaron seemed to think he was God's gift to women, and since she was the only woman around, it fell to her to be the recipient of his advances. Lucky her.
She was used to being the only woman on board a boat, had spent her childhood fishing with her father and his crew, good, hardworking men who'd never given her any trouble.
Her chosen career had taken her all over the world, from the deserts of Egypt, to the dense, humid jungles of South America and the mountains of China. She'd run from drug lords, smugglers, and slave traders. But being on this yacht just miles away from the coast of Maine was her most dangerous assignment to date.
"What do you want, Aaron?" She kept her voice level and filled with disinterest. It was better not to encourage him in any way.
He turned and leaned his back against the railing before giving her what she considered his patented seduction smile. She wondered if he practiced it in a mirror. She could have told him it was wasted on her. She'd rather date an alligator — full apologies to the alligator for the comparison.
"Not a friendly sort, are you?" Rather than driving him away, her disinterest only seemed to be encouraging him. Not good.
She supposed most women would find him good-looking, with his thick blond hair being ruffled by the wind and his dark brown eyes watching her intently. He was big and strong. That was his job. He was here ostensibly as security, and she knew he was watching her.
"I'm here to do a job," she reminded him. She was an archaeologist specializing in ancient languages and mythology. Her passion was ancient lore and magic, the things that most other scholars scoffed at. She was interested in mystical artifacts and creatures only whispered about in ancient texts and hinted at in paintings and carvings.
By some fluke of nature, she'd been born with a sixth sense when it came to such items. Being able to find them, even in remote and desolate areas, was what had allowed her to get grants and funding for digs. That had led to a teaching position. Her fellow archaeologists might scoff at her area of study, but there was no denying she got results on a dig.
She'd been chasing such artifacts all her life. They were like a hum in her blood whenever she was near them. And right now, her blood was practically singing. Whatever was beneath them on the ocean floor was important and rare. The kind of thing men killed for.
Aaron reached out and ran his hand down her arm. She was thankful she was wearing a heavy coat with a sweater and thermal shirt beneath. "That doesn't mean we can't be friendly."
Sam refused to give ground. She couldn't afford to. She was stuck on a small vessel rocking on the waves in the vast ocean. There was nowhere she could run to get away from him. "I was hired to authenticate any artifacts brought up from below. I don't know about you, but I don't want to disappoint our employer."
Aaron scowled, but he did remove his hand. Their employer was not the sort of person you wanted to disappoint.
On the surface, Karina Azarov was a rich businesswoman with interests in pharmaceuticals, business, and technologies. Archaeology was her passion, and she often funded expeditions such as this one. She was also a high-ranking member of the Knights of the Dragon, a secret society that had existed for hundreds of years, if not longer.
The Integrity was Azarov's boat and was currently salvaging items from the Reliant, a vessel that had veered off course and sunk during a storm in the mid-eighteen hundreds. It was one of hundreds that had met their doom off the coast of North America over the years. Not really of note to anyone without family on board. It hadn't been carrying gold or silver when it went down. As far as most people knew it had been a passenger vessel with a small amount of trade goods on board.
Only a handful of people knew the ship had been carrying artifacts belonging to the Knights of the Dragon. Members of the secret society had spent millions of dollars and many years chasing the wreckage, but they'd only recently discovered what they hoped were the ship's remains.
Aaron finally took a step back. "The ROV has located something interesting. The team is getting ready to retrieve it and bring it on board."
Sam nodded but said nothing. Finally Aaron turned and stalked off, allowing Sam to breathe freely once again.
The ROV, or remotely operated vehicle, was a godsend in recovery efforts like this. It allowed them to go deeper than a diver could go and to stay down longer. It could also retrieve small or light items. This expedition was well funded, and the ship was outfitted with some of the best equipment available, as well as experienced divers.
It was a dream job, or would be if she wasn't working for some of the nastiest people on the face of the planet. The Knights of the Dragon were obsessed with dragon lore, believing the creatures were real. It was rumored that among the cargo was a scroll or tablet that contained information on how to control one of the mythical creatures.
Of course, she wasn't supposed to know anything about the Knights or their true mission. As far as everyone was concerned, she was an archaeologist here to oversee the authentication of any artifacts. She had to keep it that way. If they knew she was aware of their secrets, she probably wouldn't make it back to port alive.
Sam didn't believe in dragons. They were interesting and fascinating to study, to be sure, but nothing more than myth.
What she did believe in was justice. And the Knights had killed her mentor, the one man who'd taken her under his wing and guided her when other archaeologists and scholars had scoffed at her passion for the mythical, deeming it unimportant.
And for what? A book.
Brian had stumbled onto a one-of-a-kind leather-bound book detailing the secret society, and they'd killed him in order to get it. Not that she had any proof. The police had called it a home invasion gone wrong.
Sam believed otherwise.
After Brian's funeral, she was approached by a rare book dealer, Gervais Rames. He'd claimed to know Brian and had told her a crazy story about the Knights and a rival group he claimed to belong to — the Dragon Guard, whose mission was to oppose the Knights and protect dragons. She'd ignored him at first, but unable to let Brian's death go unsolved, she learned more from Gervais, and her search for answers had led her to this job.
She shivered, suddenly colder than she'd been only seconds before. She pulled her coat more securely around her and her black watch cap more snugly against her ears. Turning away from the ocean, she headed back to the cabin.
Whatever happened, she was going to make certain the Knights didn't get their hands on any artifacts discovered. It was the least she could do for Brian.
Karina Azarov picked up her silver teaspoon and tapped the expensive silverware against the edge of her crystal wineglass. The murmur of voices lessened and finally stopped. She stared down the table at the dozen other people who had been invited to this meeting. This was the inner circle of the Knights of the Dragon.
Some of them, like her nemesis, Herman Temple, were more than a hundred years old, kept alive by the blood of a dragon. But Temple was beginning to show his age. He'd managed to allow the dragon in his care to die and had lost his supply. Dragon blood lost its potency once it was removed from the creature and couldn't be stockpiled, which was what made dragons so valuable.
These were dangerous creatures with a vast intelligence that was not to be underestimated. There were books that contained recipes for potions that allowed them to capture and contain the beasts, incantations and spells that were rumored to do the same. Karina preferred to stick with the potions. That was science, pure and simple. Drugs, heavy chains, and titanium enclosures were their best weapons.
Thanks to Temple's now-deceased son, they'd lost one such valuable book. They'd also lost Darius Varkas, whom they all believed to be a dragon. It had been several weeks since they'd had any real lead on his whereabouts. The trail had gone cold. But he'd have to surface eventually, and when he did, they'd capture him and the little nobody of a librarian who'd stolen the book and tipped Varkas off.
"Thank you for inviting us to your home." Anton Bruno from Russia stood and lifted his glass. "To your gracious hospitality and your enduring beauty."
The others lifted their glasses and drank. Karina was not moved in the least by his toast. Anton would slit her throat in a heartbeat if he thought it would gain him what he wanted the most — immortality.
That's what they were chasing, the longevity that came from ingesting dragon blood.
Karina was ambivalent about the whole idea of living forever, but she figured she'd change her mind when she started to age. She was currently in her thirties, healthy and strong. For her, this was all about power and money.
Karina waited until Anton had retaken his seat before standing. "Thank you, Anton. And thank you all for coming." This was the annual meeting of the Knights. They often spoke over secured lines, or met one-on-one, but having them all together happened only once a year.
None of them would dare to refuse to come.
"I have located the Reliant." Voices were raised in disbelief and excitement. Karina remained quiet until they settled down once again.
"Where?" Herman Temple demanded.
Karina arched one finely delineated eyebrow at him and then turned her attention back to the table at large. "I have a vessel on site pulling up artifacts as we speak. I'll hear as soon as they find something."
"Are you sure it's the Reliant?" Jeremiah Dent asked. Dent was a close associate of Temple and, like him, bore watching.
"My people assure me it's the right ship."
"Who do we have on board to authenticate?"
Karina was getting tired of being questioned by Temple. "If you'll be quiet long enough, I'll share the details." That shut him up and drew some snickers from other members. No, Temple wasn't well liked in some quarters. Something to remember in case she needed allies down the road.
"I hired Sam Bellamy for the job." She waited and watched as several members frowned.
It was Anton who spoke. "Wasn't she associated with that archaeologist we had to dispose of last year?"
Karina inclined her head.
Anton tipped his glass to her once again. "My dear, once again you seem to have everything well in hand."
"Isn't it dangerous to have her on board?" Temple asked.
Karina sat back down and picked up her fork. Her dinner was getting cold and the chef had outdone himself with the crab soufflé. "I get the artifacts authenticated and then poor Dr. Bellamy will have an accident. So sad really, but these things happen."
Temple slowly began to smile. Really, for a man who'd lived as long as he had, he could be incredibly dense at times.
But Anton wasn't. He was watching her, assessing her every move. He'd already figured out what most of the rest of them hadn't. She was the only one who would have control of the artifact once it was recovered.
When it came to moving dangerous artifacts, secrecy was paramount. It was the same now as it had been when the Reliant had gone down. No one knew exactly what the ship had been carrying, only that it had been valuable to the Knights. If it was a book, it might have been destroyed or damaged beyond use after years on the ocean floor. Karina was hopeful that maybe it was a stone tablet or a scroll stored in an airtight jar or some other container that might protect it. She wasn't sure how much use it would be if it was an amulet or bowl or something of that nature.
Either way, destroyed or intact, she'd know and knowledge was always power.
Karina discreetly glanced at the diamond studded Piaget that graced her wrist. It had cost more than most people make in a year, but she had a weakness for pretty things and occasionally indulged herself. The expensive watch told her it would be at least another hour before she could get rid of this bunch. Their meeting had run long and they had yet to be served dessert and coffee.
A slight movement brought her attention to the door. Birch, her private bodyguard and most trusted man, slipped into the room. He gave his head an almost imperceptible shake to let her know there was no news from the site of the Reliant yet. It could be days before they discovered anything of interest. These things took time. Fortunately she was patient when it came to getting what she wanted.
It had been two days since they'd started recovering artifacts from the seafloor. Sam knew if she wasn't here to keep an eye on things, many of the discoveries would have ended up back in the ocean. The other members of this expedition were after one thing and one thing only — whatever pertained to the Knights of the Dragon.
The phone on her desk rang, startling her from her work. Her heart began to pound, although she tried to remain calm outwardly. "Yes."
"They're bringing up another load from the seabed," Aaron told her. "I'll make certain it's brought down."
"Fine." She hung up the phone and went back to working on her notes, but the computer screen blurred in front of her, the words all running together. She rubbed her eyes but didn't relax her guard, not for one second. She was almost 100 percent sure this room was under surveillance. It only made sense, since she was handling potentially priceless artifacts.
About ten minutes later, Sam took a deep breath, closed her laptop, and headed to the galley to get a cup of coffee. Mug in hand, she headed topside. She really needed a coat, but she wouldn't be staying outside long. All she needed was a breath of fresh air and a few moments alone.
She stepped out onto the deck and huddled beside the door, using the wall of the cabin to block the wind. Voices were raised and a mechanical whir filled the air as the winch brought up the latest batch of artifacts.
Sam watched the choppy waves rock the boat. So far, the weather had been exceptionally good, a rare occurrence for this time of year. She prayed it would hold, at least until she was able to take a dinghy and get off the ship. That was her plan. It wasn't much of one, but there really weren't any other options.
If she found something that belonged to the Knights, she'd take it and run. If they found her, she'd try to destroy it. Whatever worked. There was no way she could let them get their hands on anything that might give them even more power.
Maybe she was delusional to believe her small efforts, taking and destroying one or two small items, might have any effect on the operations of the Knights of the Dragon, but it was all she had. The only way she could possibly enact some kind of justice for her mentor.
And if they didn't find anything? She might still have to make a run for her life. She had a sinking feeling she wasn't meant to survive this trip. She'd been watching and learning about the Knights for the past year, and all the while they'd been monitoring her.
This deadly game of cat and mouse would soon be at an end.
Sam ducked inside and headed back to her temporary lab. She was settled in and working once again when two workers brought in a plastic tub filled with encrusted items under Aaron's watchful eyes.
She waved them over to her right. "Put it there. I'll get to it when I'm done with this." She continued her inspection of the corroded remains of a dueling pistol before logging it into the records she was keeping of each item salvaged from the Reliant.
Aaron scowled but simply nodded and jerked his head at the other men. They hurried back out of the room, leaving her alone with the head of security.
Excerpted from "Drakon's Plunder"
Copyright © 2017 N.J. Walters.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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