Charred Heart (Heart of Fire #1)by Lizzy Ford
Chace is a cursed dragon shifter who wants to be human again. Skylar is a dragon slayer tracking Chace. When Sky meets Chace she is immediately attracted to him and this book gets really steamy and erotic. Chace's heart doesn't start beating until he meets Sky, his other half. He is her dragon. The shifters don't know why their people are disappearing and Sky doesn't really know the truth about who she is working for. The writing is really good. The pacing is good. The characters are very interesting and I liked them a lot. This book was romantic and there was a lot of exciting action. I am excited to read the next book in this series. I loved this book and these characters a whole lot. 5 stars.
A modern day retelling of “Beauty and the Beast”
***Recommended for ages 18+ due to multiple, creative, detailed, steamy, sexy-time adult situations.***
For a thousand years, Chace has searched for a way to break the curse placed on him by a jilted lover. He’s a dragon shifter, one who can’t control when the magic will force him into a different form. He’s already lost everyone he ever cared about a few times over and doesn’t know how much longer he’s meant to suffer.
At his wit’s end, he makes a deal with a mysterious figure that offers him what he wants most – an end to his misery – in exchange for everything that’s his: His life, his power. His heart.
The next day, he meets Skylar, a modern day dragon slayer whose mission is to cage him – or kill him. Sexy, witty and brave, she is the yin to his yang, the woman destined to break the curse, balance his magic and make his broken heart whole.
Except it’s too late. Not only has he sealed his fate, but an innocent one-night-stand with Skylar has dragged her into the middle of a deal with the devil, one she won’t escape, if he can’t convince her that dragon shifters aren’t her enemies.
Lizzy Ford is the author of over twenty books written for young adult and adult paranormal romance readers, to include the internationally bestselling “Rhyn Trilogy,” “Witchling Series” and the “War of Gods” series. Considered a freak of nature by her peers for the ability to write and release a commercial quality novel in under a month, Lizzy has focused on keeping her readers happy by producing brilliant, gritty romances that remind people why true love is a trial worth enduring.
Lizzy’s books can be found on every major ereader library, to include: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBooks, Kobo, Sony and Smashwords. She lives in southern Arizona with her husband, three dogs and a cat.
Chace glanced up from the glass of amber beer as his closest friend, Gunner, approached their usual table in the corner of the bar. Unlike Chace, who was a dragon shifter, Gunner was able to transform into a panther the size of a car. He had dark hair and almond-shaped, brown eyes, a muscular frame, a gait worthy of a cat and two pints in his hands. He sat and placed one glass down beside Chace’s untouched drink.
“You ate your pizza, which means you can’t be too sick to drink your beer,” Gunner observed.
“There’s no excuse for wasting good pizza,” Chace replied. “Just not thirsty.”
“You really did it, didn’t you?” Gunner guessed.
“Yeah,” Chace replied. “I talked to him.”
Chace’s eyes swept around the shifters’ bar, the only safe haven for a dying race of supernatural creatures that were being hunted and killed off. The tables, chairs and flooring were all mahogany, worn but polished and clean, the ceiling and lattice work on the pillars resembling those of an English pub rather than a typical biker bar. The walls were decorated with autographed classic rock posters, and shadowboxes with guitars, drumsticks and other rock curios perched above the row of plush booths along one wall.
The bar fed off his magic and was full this evening, though its patrons were tense. Their talk consisted of worried murmurs and the occasional cursing.
“He’ll give me what I want,” Chace replied. “Doesn’t seem to be any strings attached. Just wants me and everything I own, which is basically just my bike at this point.”
Gunner sat down, frowning. “Why Chace?”
Because I’m tired of watching people I care about die around me. Chace debated what to tell his friend, who had been with him the longest of anyone still living.
“You remember Steven?” he asked.
“Yeah. He built your chopper, right?”
“Yep. I used to take it to him for maintenance every year for forty years, and he checked up with me monthly to make sure it was working well. He built it by hand,” Chace mused. “He loved that thing like it was his own.”
“Used to. I can guess where this is going,” Gunner said. “He passed?”
“Last week. I got an email from his son. He left me spare parts in his will.” Chace chuckled. “Think he liked the bike more than me, but he was …”
“… the last human friend who hadn’t died. I get it.”
They both fell quiet. Sometimes, Chace wondered where the years went, because they seemed to jumble up and fly by in a blink. And sometimes, he wasn’t certain he’d make it through the end of a week, especially when someone like Steven died and made him question everything in his life all over again. He’d outlived every friend he’d ever had, up until he chose only to associate with other shifters. Every time he let himself fall for a girl or made a friend, he convinced himself that this time, it would work out. The curse would lift, and he wouldn’t be left alone again.
It never works out that way.
“A thousand years, Gun,” he murmured. “I’ve been alive a thousand years. Steven was eighty, and he left me spare parts, because he knew I wasn’t going to die anytime soon.”
“Oh, hell. Here we go again,” Gunner joked. “It’s the nature of who we are, man.”
“It’s the nature of who you are,” Chace corrected him. “I was made a shifter. You all were born shifters.”
“Doesn’t matter, does it? We’re all the same now.”
“Except you can die in a fight with another shifter. Me? No such luck,” Chace replied. “You expect to be immortal. I can’t figure out why I’m not dead.”
Gunner snorted in response.
“You know what I was doing when I turned eighty?”
“Sleeping your way across Finland?”
“Yes, but there’s more.” Chace grinned. “I was going to the funeral of my mother, who lived to almost a hundred. You ever see a Viking funeral?”
“They’re spectacular.” Chace allowed himself to think of the memory he didn’t like recalling. He could almost smell the scent of burning wood as his mother’s body was set afloat on a fiery Viking ship into the sea. The evening had been cold and clear, the sunset smearing brilliant pinks, oranges and purples across one end of the sky while the other end was deep blue and scattered with blinking stars.
He’d gone incognito, disguised as a distant cousin, for no one but his mother knew his secret at that point that he was immortal. Even she didn’t know why the curse was placed on him. It was a secret he hadn’t told anyone. Ever. He’d been a stupid, hotheaded fool when he was a kid.
“I want to be human again. I want my heart back. Anyway.” He shook his head. “I went to see Mr. Nothing this morning, and he made me a smokin’ deal. He’ll lift the curse in exchange for everything that is mine.”
“So … what is that exactly? Did you ask?”
Chace shrugged. “Don’t care. The moment before he makes me mortal, I’m going to move my cabin one last time and just live out the rest of my years in peace. Beside, I only have my magic and my bike.”
“When I met you, you were this hot-headed, cocky bastard.” Gunner leaned forward, his face taut with concern. “You mellowed out over the years a bunch. But this decision sounds like it was made by the young dragon shifter who didn’t stop to think before lighting things on fire.”
Chace said nothing. A small part of him agreed, but he’d been more disturbed by Steven’s death than he cared to let on. Long ago he tried to close off his emotions to the world. Maybe it was monthly chats and ritual trips to visit Steven that let the tiny man with a huge smile work his way under his skin. After a thousand years, Chace should be completely numb, able to rationalize death as a stage in the natural way of the world the way Gunner did.
But he couldn’t, and he’d tried for years to philosophize his way into accepting death.
“I made the deal anyway,” Chace said. “He’s going to send a messenger tonight or tomorrow with one of his cards to let me know where to meet him for the final spell.”
“You know we don’t know anything about Mr. Nothing.”
“We know he’s older than even me, and that he’s got the magic to do this. The deal is straightforward. Worst case scenario, he kills me.” Chace shrugged.
“I don’t like it.”
“I don’t either. What other choice do I have of ever having this curse lifted? The woman who placed it on me – she’s been dead for over nine hundred years, Gunner!”
“At some point, I’ll outlive you and the rest of the guys we run with. No, Gunner, I’m done. What she did to me can’t be undone any other way, and I’ve looked for a way to end the curse my entire life,” Chace said firmly. “I turned a thousand last week, and that’s when Steven died. It’s a sign.”
“I hear ya.” Gunner’s voice was soft. “I don’t blame you, Chace. I just don’t trust Mr. Nothing.”
Mr. Nothing had gotten his nickname because no one could find out anything about him. No one knew where he lived and yet, he was easy to find whenever Chace had wanted to talk to the elusive creature that had been around since he was made a shifter.
Easy to find. Not easy to get answers out of. Chace had nearly gone mad the first few years of the curse trying to get the shadowy figure that only appeared at night to tell him something about his newfound immortality or his magic.
To this day, Chace had no idea what Mr. Nothing was, aside from a shifter of some kind with great power. He suspected Mr. Nothing was a dragon, though he’d long since given up trying to get answers out of someone who didn’t seem interested in anyone else.
Gunner waved to someone who had just entered, and Chace looked up to see the third member of their four-man gang. A phoenix shifter with a like-minded affinity for fire, Luke was blond like Chace, though his hair was short and his eyes dark, whereas Chace had blue eyes and kept his dark blond hair long in the way of his Viking people.
“Don’t tell the others,” Chace said to Gunner. “I’ll let them know when everything is final.”
“All right.” Gunner didn’t appear to be happy about keeping secrets from the other two members of their tight-knit crew.
“Thanks. I’m gonna go get changed.”
“I’ll put on some tunes. I think the shifters need something to cheer them up.”
Chace rose. He agreed silently and took in the faces of those around him once more, trying to distance himself from his concern. As much as he tried to deny it, he knew they were his people, even if he’d started off as a human. They had nowhere else to go, and no one else to turn to. The shifter creed was simple: to live their lives quietly without harming anyone or bringing attention to their society. It was how they remained hidden, a secret subculture that the humans had no need to know about.
Yet someone had found out, and the shifter ranks had thinned considerably the past twenty years. Once numbering in the thousands, the several dozen men and women seeking refuge in his bar were all that remained.
Chace left out of the back door of the bar and stepped into the warm air of early evening. The distant drone of traffic on I-10 reaching him across the flat desert terrain.
He didn’t want to feel worry or fear for the shifter family that adopted him when he had no one else, but he did. On one hand, the timing for him to decide to strike a deal with Mr. Nothing felt wrong, because he wouldn’t be around to help the others, if they needed it. He’d airlifted a few other shifters out of their homes when they’d been too afraid to leave. Their fear struck him hard, even when he tried to remain numb to the world.
You care too much to abandon them, Gunner had told him once.
And he did. The brash, selfish, cocky young man who was cursed for being a fool had turned thoughtful over the years, compassionate and observant of his world. Even if he tried to keep everyone at a distance.
Chace focused on the small cabin that materialized out of thin air. Another creation of his magic, he had managed to take his home with him wherever he went over the years, the only real solace he had. It was the cabin where he’d been born and where his mother had lived up until her death. Only after returning to it after her funeral had he realized that his magic would let him take it with him.
There were days when he thought it was more alive than not with a mind of its own. Its magic and his were intertwined but not the same. It reacted to his emotions and commands, and yet, it had its own life as well, which had baffled him for many years until he finally just accepted it.
He walked in. The cabin had looked the same for many years. It had a simple floor plan consisting of a great room where everything was and a small bathroom he’d added a hundred years before. The great room held a king-sized bed with a wood stove, living room area, small office space and a storage corner where he kept what precious items he had.
Chace changed out of the dusty clothes he’d worn on his daily ride and into a fresh t-shirt and jeans, though he replaced his motorcycle jacket in case he had the urge for a midnight ride, like he did sometimes. Crossing to the storage corner, he paused.
“Would you stop rearranging my boxes?” he growled at the cabin.
It didn’t reply. It never did, but the boxes returned to the order where he preferred them of their own accord. The tiny disturbance reminded him of how independent the magic of his cabin was, when it chose to be. It was like his magic, which obeyed him most of the time and then sometimes, responded too readily to his emotions and forced him to shift when he otherwise wouldn’t.
“It’s like living with a passive-aggressive woman,” he said, amused. “You listening?”
The boxes suddenly flew off their shelves and tumbled to the floor at his feet.
“A thousand years old and less mature than me,” he teased it. “Clean that up, please.”
He turned away, knowing the magic would obey, but probably not until after he left. He didn’t understand why his cabin was possessed or the link between it and his own independent magic.
After a thousand years, he no longer cared. In a few days, none of it would matter anyway.
He left the cabin, gaze going to the sky once more. A familiar yearning filled him, the call of the heavens clear in his thoughts. He found peace in the sky and in flying around.
Deciding he had time for a quick flight, he peeled off his clothing and tossed them on the porch. The transformation from human to dragon was brutal on his body – and irreparable on the clothing.
Pain roared through him, hot enough to rob him of breath. His flesh tore and his muscles were ripped from the bones. His bones then snapped and changed, forming the skeleton of his new shape, before sewing themselves back together. Tissue, muscle and skin adjusted and rearranged atop the new skeleton.
The first time he shifted, he thought he was dying. A thousand years later, he could control the pain with ease, even if he hated the bursts of agony and the twisting of his bones, skin, and insides that occurred when he changed shapes.
The process lasted mere seconds, and he unfolded his long wings on either side of his body. The translucent wings glittered dark teal in the moonlight, the same color as his thick scales and the fur edging them.
His senses were far more sensitive in his dragon form, and he breathed deeply and sneezed fire. The stream of yellow barely missed the bar. The scents from within were overpowering, and he shook his head then leapt effortlessly towards the sky. His wings caught him easily and propelled him upward.
He imagined the distance between him and the stars growing shorter as he soared upward, and he beat his wings hard, wondering if tonight was the night he got close enough to capture one.
Amused by his thoughts, he dipped his wings, caught an air current, and began playing, alternately floating in place and weaving in and out of the current, always intrigued by the challenge of how it tugged or pushed at his wings. He dove, wheeled and slammed on the brakes in midair, plummeting towards the earth only to unfurl the long wings and catch himself a couple feet from the ground.
Chace loved the sensation of the air ruffling his fur and tickling him, the cool air of evening filling his lungs. He loved the freedom of being a dragon most, the ability to take to the heavens whenever he felt the urge. He found peace in the skies, looking down at the miniaturized buildings, vehicles and cars. It gave him perspective, reminded him that his biggest concerns always looked tiny from far above.
Content with his short flight, he circled the bar lazily, slowly descending from the sky. The choice he’d made and the deal he’d bartered for with Mr. Nothing was done. The mysterious Mr. Nothing gave him time to think it over once last time, but Chace already knew his decision.
He was tired of seeing everyone he cared about die. He wanted to be human again, and nothing anyone said was going to convince him otherwise.
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