By Deborah Cooke
The books in my Dragonfire series are paranormal romances with dragon shape shifter heroes. Over the course of this series, the good dragon shifters (the Pyr) have been battling the evil ones (the Slayers) in a war which will leave only one kind of dragon shifters surviving. At the end of the last book, Serpent’s Kiss, the outcome of the war looked good for the Pyr, but the Slayers were only down, not out. In Firestorm Forever, the final Dragonfire novel, the Slayers unleash another trick, one good enough to make their victory possible.
So, why choose dragons? There are lots of were-species in mythology and fiction, as well as other kinds of supernatural heroes. I’ve always loved dragons, though. I devoured fairy tales when I was a kid and fantasy novels when I was older. I never liked that the dragons—which were majestic and beautiful, as well as clever and strong—tended to be portrayed as villains. They’re protective and loyal, which meant to me that they’d be great heroes. I also love to weave mythology into my stories, and there are stories about dragons in most human cultures. I could easily interpret that as evidence that they’re real. Of course, they’d have to be hidden in our society or they’d be easily spotted, so it seemed obvious to me that they had to be dragon shifters, who looked human most of the time and kept their powers secret. Dragon shifter heroes would be hot in both guises, to my thinking, long-lived but not immortal.
Dragons are said to have a fondness for princesses, virgins and damsels in distress. This meant to me that even though their relationship with our kind might be antagonistic sometimes, they liked women. In the world of my Pyr, the dragon shifters are defenders of the earth and its treasures, which includes the human race. The Slayers are less enamored of humans, and seek to exterminate us as well as the Pyr who defend us. One reason for this difference in perspective is that my dragon shifters mate with human women—in his long life, a Pyr will have a single firestorm, which is the sign of his meeting the woman who can bear his son. Each of the Dragonfire novels is a paranormal romance, which features one of the Pyr experiencing his firestorm, meeting his mate, fighting off Slayers drawn to the heat of the firestorm and seducing that woman. Although the firestorm was once seen by the Pyr to be purely biological, you won’t be surprised that they all fall in love, too. So, my dragon shifters don’t just defend our kind, but they need us.
Notice that I said she could bear his son. The Pyr are all male, with the exception of one female at any time, who is the Wyvern and has special powers. There’s a spin-off young adult series from Dragonfirecalled The Dragon Diaries which features the coming-of-age story of the new Wyvern for the Pyr. The male Pyr come into their abilities at puberty, and Zoë does too, but her powers are slightly different because she is the Wyvern. The trick is mastering those abilities and using them for good, without another female Pyr or Wyvern to give her advice.
The history between the Pyr and humans is one characterized by change, which is another reason for Slayers having less tolerance of humans. I have a group of Pyr who have been cast forward in time from the distant past. (These are the Dragon’s Tooth Warriors.) In their time, they lived openly in human society and were recognized as what they were. People knew about them, which is one source of the stories we know about dragons. But the Pyr chose to hide themselves during the Middle Ages, when they were hunted almost to extinction by humans for the supposed cures that could be obtained from their bodies. Although the Pyr aren’t immortal, some of them are old enough to remember that and be distrustful of people. The first Slayers were those Pyr who had lost family and friends to teams of human hunters and wanted vengeance. I have an historical romance series in the works called Dragonfire Legend, which will take us back to that key era in the evolution of the Pyr and their relationship to human society. I think it’s fun that some of the older Pyr we know from Dragonfire will have roles in those stories, too, as their younger selves.
The challenge in writing Firestorm Forever was ending the conflict of the war that has been ongoing throughout the series and doing so in a satisfying way. There were a number of ongoing plotlines that are resolved, and some threads to be pulled free to make way for future series. Because this is the big finish, it became an enormous book—Firestorm Forever is twice as long as the other Dragonfire novels, and it includes three firestorms instead of just one.
A deadly virus was loosed on the world in a previous book by a Slayer determined to win at all costs—I realized that the plague that spread through the world wouldn’t be easy to bring to a stop. In Firestorm Forever, three Pyr and their destined mates work together to develop a cure. It would be a spoiler to tell you who does what, but they all contribute a specific key that makes the solution possible. Those of you who have been reading the series so far will be glad to know that the main firestorm of this book is Sloane’s. Sloane is the Apothecary of the Pyr, and it was only right that he and his mate play key roles in finding the cure. All of the other Pyr make cameo appearances in Firestorm Forever, too, which also makes it longer. It was important to me to revisit all of the previous couples one last time.
Of course, this is as much the end of a series as the beginning of a new one. It’s not much of a spoiler to tell you that the good guys win this particular war and that the Pyr are triumphant over the Slayers—but once the distraction of the Slayers is gone, the Pyr realize that there are other beings in the world, creatures that may or may not be indifferent to their survival. I’m looking forward to my next series featuring dragon shifter heroes, which will be called DragonFate and begins with Hot Blooded.
You can read a sample of Firestorm Forever on my site, or download the first chapter free from my online store. It’s available for pre-order now and will go on sale in both print and digital formats on May 13.
Bestselling and award-winning author Deborah Cooke has published over fifty novels and novellas, including historical romances, fantasy romances, fantasy novels with romantic elements, paranormal romances, contemporary romances, urban fantasy romances, time travel romances and paranormal young adult novels. She writes as herself, Deborah Cooke, as Claire Delacroix, and has written as Claire Cross. She is nationally bestselling, #1 Kindle Bestselling, KOBO Bestselling, as well as a USA Today and New York Times’ Bestselling Author. Her Claire Delacroix medieval romance, The Beauty, was her first book to land on the New York Times List of Bestselling Books.
Deborah was the writer-in-residence at the Toronto Public Library in 2009, the first time TPL hosted a residency focused on the romance genre, and she was honored to receive the Romance Writers of America PRO Mentor of the Year Award in 2012. She’s a member of Romance Writers of America and of Novelists Inc.
Deborah thinks a lot about publishing and writing, and also knits too much.
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This flame will burn for all time…
Three key firestorms mark the culmination of the Dragon’s Tail Wars, pitting the dragon shifters known as the Pyr against the evil Slayers. The Slayers have struck a blow against mankind, bringing a pestilence from the ancient world, which is spreading like wildfire. Sloane Forbes, the Apothecary of the Pyr, knows it is his duty to find the cure, but the solution is elusive, his beautiful neighbor is distracting, and time is running out.
In moving to a remote farm in the California hills, Samantha Wilcox has left her demanding career behind by choice and on principle. It’s too painful to remember her own failures as both mother and physician, so she’s determined to start fresh. She’s going to live differently, following her instincts and savoring life’s pleasures—like the hot sex with no commitment offered by her mysterious neighbor. Sloane Forbes is no more an herb farmer than she is a tarot card reader, but Samantha is determined to keep their illusions intact—at least until she discovers that Sloane’s one of the Pyr, the dragon shifters responsible for the epidemic that stole her son’s life. As Slayers and Pyr gather for the final battle, can Samantha and Sloane work together to save the world and build themselves—and their respective kinds—a future?
The final book in the Dragonfire series will be Sloane’s book, Firestorm Forever, coming May 13, 2015. It’s available for pre-order at these portals – remember that the pre-order price is discounted.
Kiss of Fire (Dragonfire, #1)
Kiss of Fury (Dragonfire, #2)
Kiss of Fate (Dragonfire, #3)
Winter Kiss (Dragonfire, #4)
Harmonia’s Kiss (Dragonfire, #4.5)
Whisper Kiss (Dragonfire, #5)
Darkfire Kiss (Dragonfire, #6)
Flashfire (Dragonfire, #7)
Ember’s Kiss (Dragonfire, #8)
The Dragon Legion Collection (Dragonfire, #9)
Kiss of Danger (Dragonfire, #9.1)
Kiss of Darkness (Dragonfire #9.2)
Kiss of Destiny (Dragonfire, #9.3)
Serpent’s Kiss (Dragonfire #10)
Sloane Forbes, the Apothecary of the Pyr, was frustrated.
He was exhausted by his efforts to find a cure for the plague ravaging the Pacific Northwest and knew he’d spent more hours in his lab than were healthy. He was discouraged, though, because he’d made so little progress. Every time he thought he had a good lead, it came to a dead end, and he had to start over again.
Yet another one was in the petri dish in front of him. This vaccine had showed promise, killing the virus as he watched through the microscope. Within minutes, though, the tables had turned and the ridiculously efficient virus was encircling and destroying the antidote that should have finished it.
Sloane grimaced and shut down the lights. He sealed up the lab, ensuring that the virus was contained. He had a smaller version of a lab designed for working with Level 4 biohazards, buried into the hill under his house. He followed all the CDC protocol in locking up and cleansing himself, then wearily climbed the stairs to the basement of his house. He was nude, but it didn’t matter. The house was sealed from human eyes, and the dragonsmoke barriers were piled thick against curious dragon shifters.
The fact was that while Sloane searched ineffectively for a cure, people were dying. That knowledge burned. It was the responsibility of the Pyr to defend the treasures of the earth, which included humans, so he felt like a failure. That this malady had been brought from the ancient world by one of his own—well, by Jorge, a Slayer but still a dragon shifter—only multiplied his sense of duty.
The weather didn’t help. It had been hot and dry since spring, as it seldom had been in this part of California before. Reservoirs were drying up and the land was parched. Heat made Sloane irritable and he missed the breezes that used to slip down from the hills here. He’d chosen this location because of its temperate weather and didn’t like finding that he was living in a virtual desert.
He reached the kitchen and opened a beer. The sight of his swimming pool sparkling in the moonlight sent another pang of guilt through him. Denying the local kids their usual access to his pool in summer—because of his secret possession of the virus that spread the plague from Seattle—only made him more annoyed. He was trying to be cautious and responsible, but knew that everyone in the valley thought he was a selfish prick, given the weather.
He put the barely tasted beer down on the counter and strode into the yard. He dove into the pool and began to swim laps, working his body furiously.
If nothing else, he’d make sure he slept.
The worst of the worst was that there would be another full moon on this night, and another lunar eclipse. That meant there probably would be another firestorm, and another Pyr would feel the spark light that identified his destined mate. Sloane had always been patient about the firestorm, trusting that his time would come, but his patience was disappearing fast. He realized that he’d always assumed he’d have his firestorm before the end of the Dragon’s Tail cycle of eclipses.
Once it had seemed as if the Great Wyvern were steadily working her way through the ranks of the remaining Pyr, and that his own firestorm had to be soon. Now, there were dozens of new Pyr, thanks to the darkfire crystal and Drake’s adventures in the past. The odds were skewed decidedly against any of them.
Thorolf had had his firestorm in April. There would be an eclipse tonight, another in April 2015 and the final eclipse of the cycle next September. Only three left, before the fate of the Pyr was decided forever.
Sloane was beginning to feel as if he were being punished for his failure to solve the riddle of the plague.
The presence of his new neighbor made him resent the fact that he couldn’t choose his own mate. He turned underwater and roared through another pair of laps. Samantha was exactly the kind of woman he’d have chosen for himself. She was blonde and delicately built, but clever and sensitive. She was feminine but pragmatic, too, which had to be the most enticing combination.
He’d met her when she’d come to buy herbs from his greenhouse. She was a tarot card reader who sometimes cast spells with herbs for her clients. She had a secret, though—Sloane could smell it on her—and a vulnerability that got him right where he lived. The thing was that until he had his firestorm, he couldn’t promise anything more than a short fling to any woman. He sensed that Sam needed more than that, and plowed through another half dozen laps disliking that he didn’t have more to offer.
The moon moved, the first shadow of the eclipse touching its radiant glow.
Sloane swam harder.
He closed his eyes as a firestorm sparked, his heart sinking with the realization that it wasn’t his. He reached the end of the pool with a growl, pulled himself up out of the water, then caught a whiff of roses and lavender.
She was standing at the gate, watching him with care.
Sloane froze, braced on the side of the pool, and stared, transfixed. It was as if he had conjured her out of nothing, willing her to appear. He halfway thought she was a vision, but he could smell her hesitation and her uncertainty. He saw her swallow and wanted to reassure her.
No, he wanted to protect her forever from whatever she feared.
And he wanted to spend the night making love to her first.
Sam evidently took his silence as agreement, because she opened the gate and stepped into the paved yard. She slipped out of her flip-flops and eased the linen shirt from her shoulders. She was wearing a bikini so small that Sloane’s mouth went dry. She flicked a glance at him, then smiled as she unfastened the clasp in the middle of the top. She bared her breasts to the moonlight, then slipped out of the bikini bottom. Sloane could have been turned to stone.
She walked toward him and he told himself he had to be dreaming. The moonlight made her skin look silver and her eyes luminous. She sat down on the lip of the pool beside him and put her feet into the water. She smiled, licked her lips, then touched his shoulder.
“I was so hot,” she whispered, her gaze clinging to his. He didn’t dare survey her again, because he didn’t want to spook her, but he could see the patina of perspiration on her upper lip. He wanted to kiss it off. “It made me think of you,” she admitted, and her words astonished him.
She wasn’t lying.
So, he wasn’t going to.
“I was just thinking of you,” Sloane admitted and she smiled with pleasure.
“But you’re too much of a gentleman to have done anything about it,” she charged, then shook her head.
Sloane might defended himself, but she was right. He wouldn’t have gone knocking at her door on a moonlit night, no matter how much he wanted to do so.
“Is that why you were swimming laps so hard?”
Sloane dipped his head and grinned that she’d guessed at least part of the reason for his frustration. “Caught,” he murmured, daring to look into her eyes once more.
She was pleased by that and her eyes started to sparkle. She looked good enough to eat, but whatever happened had to be her choice. Sloane was keenly aware of that vulnerability, an indication of an emotional wound, and wanted to heal her more than anything in the world. He sensed she was trying to make a change, to move past something, and he wanted to help.
Which meant he had to wait.
He wasn’t sure how long they stared into each other’s eyes before Sam reached out and touched his mouth with her fingertip. “I’m hoping you’re not too much of a gentleman to do something about this,” she whispered, then bent closer and replaced her fingertip with her mouth.
Her lips were soft and sweet, her kiss gentle, her scent beguiling him as little else could have done. Her mix of boldness and vulnerability kicked all of Sloane’s desires into overdrive. Before he could think twice—much less be cautious and responsible—she was in his arms and he was slanting his mouth over hers, deepening his kiss.
A firestorm sparked somewhere, sending a spark of fire through Sloane’s veins.
It wasn’t his firestorm. It might have been a thousand miles away.
And the funny thing was, Sloane no longer cared.
Excerpt from Firestorm Forever ©2014 Deborah A. Cooke.
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