Back from vacation, and how about some fun free reads?

Hey, guys. It’s been a while because I’ve been crazy writing! I have so many irons in the fire it’s not funny.

I did take a vacation. Yay! This is me zip-lining at Wonder Works in Myrtle Beach, SC, USA after spending a few hours walking and climbing through an obstacle course five stories in the air! Great time with my three teen aged boys.

But now it’s back to writing. I am happy to announce that my NA Science Fiction romance is almost ready for editing. Yay! The title is tentatively Lost in Starlight.

Death Witch, my young adult reaper story is going into editing next.

And the biggie everyone is waiting for… my YA fantasy series Whispers of Sorcery book three is almost done. These will be edited back to back for rapid release.

This is writing retreat month, and I am seriously considering setting everything aside and seeing if I can write an entire novel in a week. I know, it’s crazy, but I’d love to know if I can do it.

“But Jennifer,” you’re thinking… “If you could just focus that energy, you’d have that fantasy series out by now!”

Well, yes, you’d be right about that. My muse has been all over the place. I’m working on focusing, really I am, but I find I write better when I work on the project my brain feels like writing at the time. Unfortunately my muse and I are not on the same timeline. Does anyone else have that problem? Just me? Gah!!!!!

Anyway, while you are waiting, here are some fun free and discounted book promotions that I am participating in, including the super fun Christmas in July promotion, featuring all Christmas themed books. Yay!

Happy reading!

 

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It’s the cover reveal for How to Kill a Street Rat!

 

You guys!

I am soooooo excited that I finally get to reveal the cover for

How to Kill a Street Rat.

The cover was designed by rock star designer Christian Bentulan. I’m also premiering the book synopsis below.

So let’s do this!

___________

The princess of Jasmine is mine, she just doesn’t know it yet.

I’m the most powerful sorcerer in the world and nothing will stop me from conjuring my way into her life and convincing the Sutlan that his daughter—and the throne of Bisnegar, belong to me.

So what if the princess has no intention of marrying anyone? Sorcery will fix that. If my spells don’t work on her, I’ll win her heart the old fashioned way, if she doesn’t win mine first.

When a handsome prince shows up with dancers, a monkey, and a blasted elephant, things become complicated. This prince isn’t a prince at all, but a street rat in disguise. How dare he weasel his way into the palace hoping to charm his way into the heart of my princess!

An ancient evil hovers over the kingdom, maybe one even more powerful than my own. As everything Aladdin touches falls into ruin, the truth becomes clear. To save the princess and the kingdom, I will have to fight Aladdin and his genie. This is a battle only one of us will walk away from.

For the first time, there is something in my life worth dying for, and oddly enough, it isn’t a crown.

Pick up How to Kill a Street Rat and battle the genie today!

PRE-ORDER HERE

___________

Yay! I hope you have ten tons of fun reading this one.

Amazon and KU release day is May 23, and pre-sale starts today!

Click on buy it now

and How to Kill a Street Rat will auto deliver to your e-reader on or before May 23.

___________

Wide eBook release (Barnes and Noble, Kobo, iBooks, Google Play, etc) will be on or around July 23.

Paperbacks will be available shortly after the May 23 eBook release at all your favorite bookish places.

Kindle Unlimited fans: We’ll be in Kindle Unlimited for three months. After that the book will go wide to all other distributors. As long as you order the book before that three month period, you will be able to finish at your leisure.

Yay!!!!!!!

I hope you love the cover!

See ya soon!

–Jennifer


Here’s a fun anthology with a cover I couldn’t resist for all you anthology fans.


While you’re waiting, here are some super great discount and free eBook promotions to keep your e-readers rocking.  Enjoy!

 

 


That’s it for now. Enjoy!

 

Big Fat Hugs!
Jennifer M. Eaton
USA Today Best Selling Author

Check out what people are saying about Jennifer’s books on Goodreads

You can find the Fire in the Woods series at all these awesome bookish places!

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Kobo | Chapters Indigo! | iBooks | IndiBound | Google Play


 

Catch up with me on social media!

Picture Picture Picture Picture Picture
Picture Picture Picture Picture Picture

March Madness Title Reveal!

Hey guys! I’m super excited to tell you about my next project. I’ve been sharing little snippets if the cover, but now I’m ready to reveal some more…

My super secret new project is a retelling of Aladdin, but this won’t be any old retelling. We’re going to experience the story from the bad guy’s point of view, and my job is to make you root for Jaffar!

And the title is…

How to Kill a Street Rat!

I’m super excited about this one. I hope you all love it. I’m hoping to get a cover reveal together really soon, and my goal is still an early May release.


While you’re waiting, here are some super great free book promotions to keep your e-readers rocking.  Enjoy!

Spring into Light – Books about “creatures of light” (No picture for this one, sorry!)

(Starts March 29th)


That’s it for now. Enjoy!

 

Big Fat Hugs!
Jennifer M. Eaton
USA Today Best Selling Author

Check out what people are saying about Jennifer’s books on Goodreads

You can find the Fire in the Woods series at all these awesome bookish places!

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Kobo | Chapters Indigo! | iBooks | IndiBound | Google Play


 

Catch up with me on social media!

Picture Picture Picture Picture Picture
Picture Picture Picture Picture Picture

I have a confession to make, and I’m sorry

Sorry, I have a confession to make. I told you guys I had lofty release goals this year. And I did. I still do. But I’ve hit a snag.

I can’t publish books that fast. Well, that’s not true. I COULD. But I choose not to.

If I rush these books to press, they will not be the quality that you guys expect from me, and I’d much rather remain an author whose books you love, than someone who can spit out 12 books in a year.

*******************

I have a few giveaways below to say “Thanks” for being patient. I hope you are on board with waiting a few more months so I can make sure you are happy with the books I send out into the world.

*******************

So, here is an update:

Young Adult (YA)

Epic Fantasy Series

Goal:

Book 1 April/May release

Book 2 June

Book 3 July

WHISPERS OF SORCERY book 1 and 2 are done. Book one is in editing. My goal is still to get all three books done for rapid release later in the year (Rather than in the first few months as planned)

 

Dragon Shifter Romance

Goal: Oct/Nov Release

Dragon Heights – One chapter left to write.  Whispers is my priority, but there is a good chance you will see this in 2019
Upper YA Retelling

Goal: May Release

First draft is done! I am super excited for this one. I am still shooting for a May release date.

YA Urban Fantasy

(One book for now)

Goal: August/Sept release

 

DEATH WITCH – I think I can get this one out this year. I need to get it through editing.

 

 


YA Indiana Jones

Meets Time Travel

(Three Book Series)

 

Time Pirates – Book one is plotted. This one is super tricky because of the time travel element. I NEED to have all three books clearly plotted before I begin writing. There is a CHANCE book 1 will release this year, but again… only if I think it is ready.

 

So, there you have it. This is still ambitious, and it may change. I just hope I can keep you excited for what’s to come.

—————————–

Freebies and Giveaways!

—————————–

I am in several free book promotions this month.

There are close to a hundred free books for you to choose from.

Check it out!

 

Daring Damsels and Warriors

https://books.bookfunnel.com/daringdamsels/116r6jevnv

 

Portal to Fantasy:

https://books.bookfunnel.com/epic_fantasy_romance/b5jny4ygtf

 

Speculative Fiction books

https://books.bookfunnel.com/speculativefictionshowcase/qncr49zwaq

Sexy Scifi and Fantasy

https://books.bookfunnel.com/sexyscifiandfantasy/wfd82pe86a

Novella Jamboree

https://books.bookfunnel.com/novellajamboree/3q0nqi2y02

Winter Romance Reads

https://books.bookfunnel.com/winterreads/o99nbwb9wt

A surprise new release!

You Guyyyssszzzzz!

I have a surprise new release for you!

And, yes, this will be a surprise for most of you.

But first, an update.

And now, for the surprise new release!

Today marks the debut of my adult romance pen name, Mia Nombre.

Now, there is a little story behind this….

Last year, a friend and I were discussing adult alien romance, and during the conversation she said that I should write an alien romance of my own. I laughed it off at first, but by the end of the conversation, she’d given me the dreaded “Triple Dog Dare” to write one. And, as everyone knows, you cannot say no to a triple dog dare!

So, I took a short two week break from my normal schedule and busted one out, laughing my way through the entire thing. (I have to admit, it was very fun to write).

When I was done, I sent it to a professional adult romance writer to get her opinion, and she was wildly excited about it, and prompted me to send it to publishers.

Less than a year later, here we are, with the debut of my new pen name, and my adult alien romance Bred to Order.

If you are a fan of science fiction romance that is **HEAVY ON THE ADULT CONTENT**, I hope you give Bred to order a try. It’s written in the same style as my general audience stuff, but with no closed doors. Snort… insert laugh and blush here. Ha!!!

Description:

Caroline vanishes without a trace every few years, and no one knows why.

This time, Caroline promises herself she will remember. When she wakes up in outer space, though, she’s thrown into a world where she’s a piece of property—a bred-to-order concubine to an alien scientist.

Dae is dedicated to saving lives, but time in deep space is lonely. Enter, Caroline. Yes, he’d created her to his specifications, and arranged for her to be delivered to him every few years; but he loved her from the day they first met. She loves him, too, but for some reason she has no recollection of him or the time they’d spent together.

He can sence her growing warmth as her memories slowly return, but she is unable to accept that he technically owns her. She’ll come around, eventually, so they strike a bargain. If she is still unhappy in two weeks, he will set her free. Caroline clings to this hope, despite her growing attraction to this man she can barely remember. Dae will do anything in his power to convince her to stay, though. Forever, if he has his way.

Available now on Amazon.com.

To find out more about Mia Nombre visit my new website www.mianombre.com.


For the rest of you, sit tight!

My new dragon novel and my fantasy series Whispers of Sorcery are coming soon!

Catch ya later! Jennifer M. Eaton and (And Mia Nombre)

It’s Release Day for INVADED!

Happy book birthday to INVADED!

This is my very first adult aimed book, and it is a contemporary thriller with paranormal elements that takes place in a small town in NJ being stalked by a serial killer.

I hope you enjoy my little walk on the wild side!

I really think INVADED is by far my best book to date. It is tough, gritty, and not for the easily disturbed. I really hope you love my venture into the world of supernatural thrillers.

And for those of you who are cringing…

Fear not! More dragons are coming soon.


Buy links for INVADED:

Amazon

AbeBooks

Alibris

Barnes and Noble

Book Depository

Chapters Indigo

IndieBound

BAM (Books A Million)

Goodreads

And everywhere great books are sold.


About Invaded:

Four people. Two bodies. One nightmare.

The day Tracy Seavers dies, Detective John Peters arrives on the scene of the car accident to find she has miraculously walked away. An impossible conclusion, had the same thing not happened to him five years before. John suspects Tracy is now host to an alien entity with incredible healing power, and sometimes sinister needs.

John wants Tracy almost as much as the entity inside him yearns for the new alien hiding within the beautiful brunette. The last time John got involved with another host, though, it ended in disaster. So Tracy is off-limits, no matter how much he and his entity want to wrap themselves around her. Instead, he throws himself into the ultimate distraction: finding the serial killer stalking their town.


When both John and Tracy start having blackouts, and new evidence points to an entity as the killer, John has to admit that now even he is a suspect; and the only other alien in town lives inside Tracy. Unless he can find another.
The South Jersey Slasher strikes again tonight. The clock is ticking—and Tracy is missing. Again.

If you love the emotional connection of Jennifer L. Armentrout, the alien possession in THE HOST, and the dark intrigue of Criminal Minds, you’ll die for INVADED.

TRIGGER WARNING: Intense scenes. Disturbing Images. Adult Content.


Jennifer M. Eaton, USA Today Best Selling Author.

Find out what people are saying about Jennifer’s books on GoodReads

It’s the Cover Reveal for INVADED!

You Guys!

I’m so excited (and maybe a little nervous) to reveal the cover of my new novel INVADED.

Why nervous?  Well, INVADED is an extremely different novel for me.

In many ways it is soooooo me—

 

Action packed? CHECK.

Romance? CHECK.

All the feels? CHECK.

Out-of-this-world plot? DOUBLE CHECK.

 

But this isn’t my typical light-hearted story. This is a paranormal serial killer murder mystery that takes place in present day.

This puppy is NOT light in any way, shape, or form. It also isn’t a quick read. This is a 460-page monster book. (Well, monster for me. It’s nearly double the size of my normal books.)

And this novel is meant for adults. This means adult content. Please expect all the intense imagery and a emotion you’ve come to expect from my stories, but from a very adult angle. Some of the scenes may be disturbing— I mean, SERIAL KILLER, get it?

So, if you are okay with an adult read, and you enjoy a good thriller, I hope you love INVADED. This is a book that SCREAMED to be told. (Pun only partially intended.)  Sneak peek of the first chapter below the cover reveal!


 

Four people. Two bodies. One nightmare.

 

INVADED COVER

The day Tracy Seavers dies, Detective John Peters arrives on the scene of the car accident to find she has miraculously walked away. An impossible conclusion, had the same thing not happened to him five years before. John suspects Tracy is now host to an alien entity with incredible healing power, and sometimes sinister needs.

John wants Tracy almost as much as the entity inside him yearns for the new alien hiding within the beautiful brunette. The last time John got involved with another host, though, it ended in disaster. So Tracy is off-limits, no matter how much he and his entity want to wrap themselves around her. Instead, he throws himself into the ultimate distraction: finding the serial killer stalking their town.

When both John and Tracy start having blackouts, and new evidence points to an entity as the killer, John has to admit that now even he is a suspect; and the only other alien in town lives inside Tracy. Unless he can find another.

The South Jersey Slasher strikes again tonight. The clock is ticking—and Tracy is missing. Again.

If you love the emotional connection of Jennifer L. Armentrout, the alien possession in THE HOST, and the dark intrigue of Criminal Minds, you’ll die for INVADED.


 If you read on Kindle, you can preorder your copy here from Amazon.com.


Sneak peek at INVADED

Chapter 1

Detective John Peters squatted beside a bloodstained patch of sand. He tuned out the news helicopters circling the bridge overhead. The overturned tractor-trailer and the smashed blue sedan straddling the guardrail above would make for a decent headline, but they always wanted more. He could feel their cameras zooming in, looking for the body they’d been promised. But deceased accident victim, Tracy Seavers, was no longer there.

“Dead girls don’t just get up and walk away.” The off-duty EMT, first on-scene, folded his arms. “I’m telling you, that girl was lightyears past CPR.”

The odor of diesel engines carried on the late-summer breeze as another firetruck arrived on the bridge. Circumventing the body’s last known location, John blotted out the noise and concentrated on the conundrum at hand.

“There was nothing I could do for her.” The EMT shaded his eyes, squinting at the collision scene above. “I heard the other girl screaming, so I climbed the hill to see if I could help.”

John nodded. The roommate, Laini Hanson, was damn lucky she’d stayed in the car. Too bad Seavers hadn’t done the same.

He crouched in the space between the impact-site and a pink, size-nine loafer lying sideways in the sand. A trail of footprints led into the trees where a few uniformed officers directed doe-eyed interns on search and rescue procedures.

John sighed, surveying the reckless clusters of college students as they left holes in their search patterns any seven-year-old could avoid. If they hunted for their keys like they searched for a missing person, they’d never get out of their goddamn houses in the morning. But he couldn’t be particular about personnel when there were so few cops left in the district.

The detective in him hoped one of them would shout they’d found the girl. That’s what every cop wanted: a clean wrap-up. But this wasn’t going to be so simple, especially with this team.

John walked beside the prints: one foot bare, the other displaying the zig-zag pattern of the lost pink loafer. The steps were narrow, the un-shoed foot dragging with a possible limp. He glanced up to the bridge, where a tow truck started to haul the sedan off the guardrail.

The EMT was right. Chances were slim Seavers survived a twenty-six-foot fall, especially after being hit head-on by an eighteen-wheeler. But if the woman hadn’t walked away on her own, someone had taken a great deal of effort to make it look like she had.

His phone vibrated. John glanced down at the screen. He only followed one informational feed—the one he wasn’t supposed to have access to. The message wasn’t much of a surprise.

 

PAC Southern NJ.

Live accident scene intersection of 295 and Locust.

Police/News. File 39740. Code One.

 

John gritted his teeth, wishing he could get his hands on File 39740, but unless he gave up being a detective and joined the FBI, an all-access pass to government secrets wasn’t coming any time soon. The only certainty was federal agents were on their way.

Bastards.

His gaze returned to the EMT as John slipped the phone back into his jacket pocket. This guy’s testimony didn’t matter anymore. Tracy Seavers’s disappearance wasn’t a crime or even an elaborate hoax. This…this was something else.

And now it was a race to see who’d find Tracy Seavers first.

John moved toward the trees as his partner, Art, dismissed the EMT. The breeze shifted the canopy, casting spotty shadows over the teams mulling through the brush. Their search patterns were too concentrated. Yes, Seavers was hurt, but she had a head start on them. They needed to move deeper into the woods.

Art jogged up alongside him. A shirttail had come untucked from his pants. “We joining the search already? You don’t want to grill anyone first?”

John shook his head. “Saw everything I needed to see.”

“So, you think someone took her body?”

Someone definitely took her body. The question was, where did they go with it?

The roiling in his chest quickened.

Calm down. She couldn’t have gotten far. We’ll find her.

John stopped walking and rubbed his chin as two canine squads entered the woods. The dogs lowered their tails and walked in circles. One barked and headed into the forest before stopping and spinning around a tree. It was going to be a long day for those guys. Like the EMT pointed out, Dead girls don’t just get up and walk away.

The guy had no idea how right he’d been.

John drew in a deep breath and expelled it slowly, soothing his disquiet.

This had happened before. Once. Five years ago.

But that time, John had been the dead person who got up and walked away.

 


 

INVADED COVERI hope you loved the first chapter of INVADED.

If you read on Kindle, you can preorder your copy here from Amazon.com.

Yes! Please shoot me to Amazon to preorder INVADED!

 

Print will be available from your favorite retailers any day now.

 

Book Cover

Special freebie for you guys!

While you are waiting for all the thrilling goodness of INVADED, here’s a free thriller read from the amazing

Kory M. Shrum.

“Startling character turns (including a double cross or two)…psychological damage, and sufficient material to ignite a series.” —Kirkus Reviews

Check it out here! https://dl.bookfunnel.com/p0hguhfjhl

 

Thanks, guys. You are the best!

Alien Kisses!

—Jennifer.

To Infinity and Beyond! A Review of Infinity by Jus Accardo

I read my first Jus Accardo book a few years ago, and she instantly landed on my auto-buy list. Accardo writes with a sense of urgency and a pacing that doesn’t let up. 28220742Infinity is not an exception to this rule.

Infinity deals with parallel dimensions, and a killer hopping from dimension to dimension, killing the same people in every dimension to wipe them out of existence.

Why, you ask?  Because he’s stinking nuts! Well, sort of, anyway.

The bad guy is a great tortured soul, and you have to feel a little sorry for him, but not too sorry, since he is jumping around and killing people for no reason.

33509081Our heroes in this story are two guys from the same dimension as the bad guy, trying to track him down and stop him.

Our female lead is his next target, and our heroes do their best to try to protect her (but they kinda don’t do a good job, because things get worse before they get better.)

I wanted to get Infinity when it was first released, and now I’m kinda glad I waited, because book three just came out. And not to spoil anything, but Infinity ends on a big cliffhanger. It’s not one of those “I wanna throw my book at eh wall” cliffhangers.36314053 I did feel satisfied with the story as-is, but you don’t get closure here, or any sense of a happily ever after.

If you want to know what happens, you will have to keep reading. But that’s okay, because the entire series is now available. Now I can plow through the next few books without waiting.

(Well, I might wait for my book club to catch up, because we’re probably going to want to read the series together.) I might not be able to wait though.

 

 

It’s release day for DRAGON MOUNT!

Woohoo! It’s finally here!


I’m so excited to get Dragon Mount out into the world. This is a fun romp across New Zealand while the smallest dragon in the mountain dares to stand up against their ruthless dictator. And of course there’s a little bit of romance just to make it more fun.

In case you hadn’t heard, THIS HAPPENED a few weeks ago during the cover reveal. Thanks so much to everyone who pre-ordered and made Dragon Mount a #1 New Release on Amazon.com.

Scroll down for a sneak peek at the first chapter!

____

You can find Dragon Mount at all these great bookish places:

Amazon USA   |  Amazon UK  |  Goodreads | BookBub Reviews | Barnes and Noble  |  Books-a-Million  |  Book Depository  |  Amazon USA  |  Amazon Canada  |  Amazon Australia  |  Amazon DE

________________________

Things can’t get any worse than being snatched by a dragon, until Anna is dropped into a bloodthirsty battle for the Draconic crown.

On what’s supposed to be a fun trip to New Zealand to recover from a painful breakup, Anna is kidnapped and flown away by a mythical beast bent on making her his queen. Anna’s rare blood type makes her the only viable mate in the islands, and with scores of dragons looking for her, escape isn’t likely.

Joe is the youngest and smallest dragon in the competition to become king. Now that he’s found Anna, all he needs to overthrow their tyrannical monarch is to bring her back to Dragon Mount before anyone can challenge his claim. But Joe is injured and unable to fly, and each passing second increases the risk of discovery.

Challenging the king means certain death, but Anna is Joe’s to lose. If the king finds her, he will bathe Dragon Mount in her blood, condemning Joe’s people to seventeen more years of brutal subjugation. The fate of the Draconi rests in the talons of their smallest dragon, and the clock is ticking.

If you love the feels you get from Jennifer L. Armentrout and the paranormal shape-shifting of Talon, you’ll roar for Dragon Mount.

____

You can find Dragon Mount at all these great bookish places:

Amazon USA   |  Amazon UK  |  Goodreads | BookBub Reviews | Barnes and Noble  |  Books-a-Million  |  Book Depository  |  Amazon USA  |  Amazon Canada  |  Amazon Australia  |  Amazon DE

_______

Chapter 1

Anna didn’t need a man. What she needed was a dragon—a big, hulking, nasty dragon fully capable of biting the head off of any jerk who even thought of hurting her. As she breathed in the essence of moonflowers drifting on the breeze, she knew this would be the place to find what she was looking for.

Well, she might not exactly find a dragon in New Zealand, but maybe enough magic to help her forget and start over.

A woman on the street corner spun a rack of postcards displaying pictures of the country’s pristine landscape. Anna’s stomach soured as she tucked back the dark hair that blew into her eyes. She and Andrew had dreamed of sitting in a little café, filling out postcards just like those, writing Wish you were here, suckers! over and over again. A hint of a smile touched her lips, before it fell away.

When they first started planning this vacation it was a pipe dream—the mutual coup de gras of their bucket lists. It was supposed to be their honeymoon.

Until a honeymoon was no longer needed.

“Stop thinking about him.” Her sister didn’t even look up from her fistful of pamphlets. “I can smell you brooding from here.”

The sun slipped toward the peaks in the distance, ending a day filled with terminals, planes, and busses. Anna shielded her eyes as the sky exploded with an orange and pink glow.

“It says here that those mountains you’re staring at are called Aoraki.” Sybil pointed to the text. “The original settlers believed that the sons of the sky god got their canoe stuck on a reef. They froze to death and became the mountains.” She smiled. “That’s kind of creepy. Right up your alley.”

Anna took a step toward the postcard vendor and stopped herself. Postcards were meaningless, but fun. They’d always been a favorite part of every vacation. But maybe not anymore.

She closed her eyes. How many things would she have to give up because they reminded her of him?

“Right now these Maori people are celebrating some sort of ancient fertility festival called the Seventeen Year.” Sybil snorted. “Fertility, huh? Sounds like my kind of party.”

Of course it was. Anything her sister could relate to sex was a good time. How could she be so flippant about things like that when guys…

Sybil lowered the pamphlets. “Stop. Thinking. About. Him.”

Anna sighed. How could she stop? She was standing on a street in New Zealand, where they’d dreamed of going since forever.

A fistful of brochures slapped Anna’s cheek. She stood stunned, gaping.

“You are going to enjoy this vacation if it kills me.” Sybil pointed the pamphlets at her like a sword.

Leave it to her sister to drag them both back to elementary school tactics.

A laugh popped out of Anna’s mouth as she splayed her hands. “I’m sorry. This is just harder than I thought it would be.” That was the hugest of understatements. “But I’m okay.” She nodded to herself. “I need this.”

More like she needed to do this. New Zealand wasn’t only her and Andrew’s dream. It was her dream. That didn’t change because he was out of the picture.

“What you need is a nice, stiff drink.”

Anna smiled. It probably couldn’t hurt. “I think I need some time for all this to soak in.”

“Then let’s call this a good start.” Sybil raised her hand into the air. “Taxi!”

“Wait. Where are we going?”

Her sister glanced back at her. “Like I said, to get a drink.”

“Is there something wrong with the hotel bar?”

Sybil waved at one of the approaching yellow cars. “Yes, it’s packed with tourists. I want to meet some New Zealanders.”

Her sister, the quintessential party girl. “We haven’t even unpacked and you already want to go bar hopping?”

“Oh, come on.” Sybil was inside the cab before Anna could argue. “Believe me, once this vacation is over, you’ll be a new person.”

Was there something wrong with her old person? Anna didn’t think so.

Well, not her old-old person. Growing up, she’d been ready for anything. She and Andrew were going to take on the world together.

Until she caught him in bed with someone else.

Mom had always called Anna a miniature explosion, ready to take on the world. The firecracker inside Anna had extinguished that night, and she hadn’t found a way to rekindle the spark.

She closed her eyes and swallowed the painful ball building in her throat. She was here to forget—to erase the bad and come home as a clean slate, ready to start over. This started by proving to herself that life no longer revolved around one guy.

In the distance, a large black bird soared toward the mountains. It circled as if it flew for the pure pleasure of feeling the wind in its feathers. That’s what she needed, the confidence to spread her wings and glide toward the horizon.

Sybil glared at her. “Don’t make me drag you into this car.”

Anna sucked in a deep breath before she slipped onto the worn, black seat beside her sister. “One drink. Promise.”

Her sister made a spectacle of rolling her eyes.

“Where to?” The driver’s accent made it sound like Wayer-tou.

Sybil leaned up and handed a brochure to him. She pointed to a handwritten note on the top of the page. “Do you know where this is?”

He snorted. “Kinda off the beaten path for a couple of Sheilas.”

Sybil flopped back in her seat. “Sounds perfect.”

Off the beaten path? Was she out of her mind?

Anna leaned closer as the cab pulled from the sidewalk. “This is crazy. We are in a foreign country with—”

“Not a care in the world.” She tapped Anna’s knee. “Relax. Trust me. We’re going to see where real New Zealanders hang out.”

Great. Just great.

Anna stared out the window as they left civilization behind. The approaching dusk cast a deepening haze over the hillside as clean, undisturbed green stretched out as far as the eye could see. The tension eased from Anna’s shoulders as she lost herself in undefiled nature.

She hated to admit it, but those rolling fields reached inside and mended part of the hole torn in her heart. She couldn’t imagine living somewhere with so much incredibly beautiful nothing.

“I have a surprise for you.” Sybil nudged her shoulder. “We’re not taking the movie site tour tomorrow.”

Anna spun toward her. “We’re not?”

“Nope. I changed our date to Monday.”

“Why?”

“Because tomorrow morning, you and your favorite sister are taking the plunge off Kawarau Bridge.”

Anna nearly choked. “What?”

“Yup. It’s all set up. They’re picking us up at our hotel at 8:30.”

“Are you out of your mind? I am not bungee jumping!”

“Yes, you are. It’s already bought and paid for. No refunds, no excuses.”

No excuses? Anna had a great big gaping excuse. Even back home in the US she erred on the cautious side. She really didn’t have a choice.

Eight years ago, she woke up after a car accident and found out she had a rare blood type. The hospital had to have plasma flown in from another state, and the delay almost killed her. Ever since, she’d been warned to take it easy and cautioned against foreign travel, but here she was, vacationing in New Zealand with a nutty sister who wanted them to plummet to their deaths tied to the ends of rubber bands.

“There is no way I’m jumping off a bridge.”

Sybil snickered as the cab pulled to a stop. “We’ll see.”

Her sister paid the cabbie as Anna stepped onto worn, colorful cobblestones. The black sconces encircling the weathered rock buildings and the matching streetlamps flared to life simultaneously. Anna jumped as one of them blew out.

“Surprise!” Sybil said.

Anna looked up and down the deserted street. “Surprise what?”

“Don’t you recognize it? This is the street they modeled Bree after.”

Anna looked again. “It is?”

“Yup. I found it on Wikipedia under little-known Lord of the Rings sites.” She narrowed her eyes. “One of these places is supposed to look just like the Prancing Pony inside.”

Anna took in the gnarled, wooden signs. She could barely read the names on some of them. At the far end of the road, four men in long coats entered a bar with a carved rooster hanging above the door. It seemed warm for coats that long. Must be a Kiwi thing.

Sybil grabbed Anna’s wrist and tugged her along the bumpy, colorful walkway toward a worn, timber door with wide, black hinges. “This place looks as good as any to start.”

Anna pulled out of her grip. “To start? I agreed to one drink.”

Sybil held her chest, feigning hurt. “Of course we’ll only have one drink.” She pulled Anna through the door. “Per bar.”

Anna sighed. With Sybil, there was always a loophole.

Inside, the tavern looked nothing like the Prancing Pony. It looked more like the bar in that old show Cheers that her father watched on Netflix. A circular bar dominated the center of the room. Its white-tiled surface clashed with the dark paneling. Flickering candles on cherrywood tables nestled against the wall cast a yellowish glow throughout the room. Inside the serving-circle, a dark-skinned man placed a glass into a huge wooden fixture hanging precariously over the bar.

“Welcome, ladies. Please, have a seat.” He gestured across the nearly empty bar and the mostly open tables. So much for meeting the locals.

Anna had to admit the tavern had its charm, though. The hotel bar had all the appeal of a meat market, while this place oozed culture.

An old man wearing a multi-colored, patchwork shirt sat alone at the table closest to the door. His tunic matched the vibrant weavings hanging from the walls like he was a part of the decor.

Combine him with the dead animal heads mounted above the entrance, and Anna felt as if she’d stepped back in time. If she could convince them to trash the plasma television screen, this place would be the perfect retreat.

She and Sybil settled on stools at the bar and ordered drinks. From the opposite side of the serving circle, a very light-skinned platinum-blond guy flashed a smile. His eyes mirrored the overhead lighting, making everything about him seem paler, as if he were dusted in white powder. Anna quickly looked away. She settled her eyes on the Malibu Bay Breeze the barkeep handed her, forcing her gaze to remain there so she didn’t stare.

“Is it always so quiet here?” Sybil asked the bartender.

“You missed the happy hour crowd. People have been staying in after dusk the past few days.”

Sybil frowned. “I guess we’ll have to come back earlier tomorrow.”

Or not.

Sybil had to notice that this wasn’t the Prancing Pony. Absorbing culture was fine and all, but Anna had her first taste of New Zealand on the car ride over here. She wanted to see more, not spend her time drinking.

The bartender walked to the other side of the counter and spoke to the blond guy. After a moment, they both turned toward Anna. She nearly choked on her drink before she looked away.

Her cheeks heated. The blond must have mentioned that she’d been staring at him. With skin that pale, he must have people stare at him all the time, and here she was, the gawking American, jumping on the bandwagon.

Anna concentrated on the ice cubes in her glass, trying to not look like she was aware the two men were still chatting.

About her? No, of course not.

But what if they were?

If she and Sybil had stayed at the hotel bar, like she’d wanted, she could’ve just caught the next elevator to her room and hid from all this awkwardness.

She leaned toward her sister. “This obviously isn’t the right place. Maybe we should go.”

“Come on, Sis. There’s more to sightseeing than movie locations. There’s a lot about the local culture I’d like to sample, too.” She spun her stool toward a table of three guys near the wall and sipped her drink through the thin, red stirring straw. Her lips turned up in a wry grin.

Anna’s eyes widened. “You came all the way to New Zealand to get laid?”

“Well, not only to get laid. But it’s on my to-do list.”

“What’s wrong with the guys in New Jersey?”

Sybil shrugged. “I might run into them again. I hate that. This will be more fun. No strings attached.” She smacked Anna playfully. “Not to mention New Zealand accents. Yum.”

Anna shook her head. “You’re crazy.”

“Me? And it’s not crazy to sit home every Saturday night?”

Hanging out at home was a perfectly respectable thing to do on the weekend. She and Andrew…

Anna cringed, closed her eyes, and refocused. There was no more she and Andrew. Not since she left for college. Not since she came home to surprise him on his birthday.

College had become her life after that night. Classes and studying. Nothing more.

Nothing more than lying awake at night, crying.

She gritted her teeth. She was not that girl anymore. She didn’t need a guy, and she didn’t need to go out on the weekend to look for another shitfaced, lying bastard. Anna worked her tail off studying all week. She needed to decompress and relax on her days off. Alone.

Anna cringed, then straightened. She didn’t want to be alone. Not really. But she wasn’t ready to get out there and date again. Andrew had been her world since middle school. She didn’t know how to be with anyone else.

Sybil would never understand that. Her sister’s plan was to play the field and be married to her cushy corner executive office for the rest of her life. There was nothing wrong with that, for her. Anna wanted the best of both worlds—a family and a job. She wasn’t going to find that hooking up with a guy she’d never see again.

“I don’t understand how you can even think of sleeping with a guy you’ve just met.” Anna sipped her drink and set it back on the bar.

“Believe me. It’s a heck of a lot easier than getting tied down in a relationship. Guys get crazy when they hang around too long. They get all protective and…” The word cheat hung on the edge of her lips before she copped out by sipping her drink.

Anna crumpled her napkin and threw in on the bar. “I don’t know, I think I still want what Mom and Dad had—the love of my life, job, and two point five kids?”

“Point five?”

“Yeah, my dog.” Anna watched the condensation drip down her glass. “Is it so wrong to want a guy that will do almost anything for me?”

“You’re dreaming, little sister. He doesn’t exist. I gave up looking for him years ago.”

But Dad existed. Could it be true that their generation hadn’t spawned any great guys?

The bartender adjusted the volume on the television.

A news reporter brushed back a lock of her dark hair and brought a microphone to her lips. “So there you have it. This small village, the third in as many nights, now lays in shock after this morning’s gruesome discovery. The identities of the women have not been made public yet, but NZN News has learned that two of the victims lived here in Wellington, and the third was a Norwegian tourist. Neighboring towns have called for a seven o’clock curfew tonight, as all of New Zealand prays for an end to this senseless killing spree.”

“They were disemboweled, just like the last two,” one of the guys at the table said. “I saw it on the internet. This bloke is a sadist or something.”

Last two? Holy crap! Were they anywhere near Wellington?

The bartender changed the channel. “I hope they catch him soon.”

“There be no one to catch,” the old guy in the colorful garb mumbled. “They look for a man. They need to turn their eyes to the sky. They seek what they are not prepared to find.”

A shiver ran down Anna’s spine. The tavern was oddly reminiscent of an old horror flick, and this weathered, creepy guy was the trope old codger that knew the truth, but no one believed him until they were running for their lives. If he was about to say that all of New Zealand was haunted by ancient bloodthirsty spirits, she was so out of here.

The guy at the other table turned in his seat. “What are you talking about, pop, some Maori legend?”

The old man’s eyes darkened. “Is no legend. We in a Seventeen Year. They should not be looking for a man.”

The table of guys laughed. “So what are they looking for, a dragon? I think you’ve had a few too many.”

“Every seventeen years the dragons fly. They search New Zealand for mates.” He pointed to the television. “This be the work of a gray dragon, the worst of them all.”

“Yeah, and Aoraki and his brothers got stranded on a reef and became the mountains.” One of the guys laughed into his beer.

Anna took in the old man’s colorful attire, remembering the brochure Sybil read to her. It seemed crazy that people still believed that kind of folklore.

The elder remained stoic. “How do you know they did not become the mountains, if you were not there?”

Anna bit back her smile. The ominous cloud in the room lifted as the table of guys snickered. It was sad they made fun of the old man, though. He couldn’t help what he’d been brought up to believe, no matter how ridiculous.

The bartender leaned across the counter toward her. “The bloke on the flipside would like to buy you a drink.”

Anna cringed. The guy she’d been staring at? She glanced around the barkeep. Blondie smiled at her.

“Umm, no thanks. Tell him no offense, I’m just passing through. I’m not going to be here that long.”

Sybil elbowed her. “What’s wrong with you?”

“He’s not my type.”

“What, he doesn’t have a pulse?”

“Shut up.”

Someone settled beside her, and Anna tensed. She turned her head slowly until her gaze met eerie, light blue eyes and even lighter skin.

Blondie smiled. “Hello, I’m sorry. I heard you turn down my drink. You’re not from around here, I suppose?” The New Zealand accent dripped from his pale lips. The package didn’t seem to fit together.

“Um, no. We’re from New Jersey.”

He tilted his head. “In England?”

“No. New Jersey as in the United States.”

His eyes widened. “Oh, that makes sense. You didn’t look or sound English. Anyway, in these parts, it’s customary for a man to buy a woman a drink to say hello. I was only being courteous. I didn’t mean to offend you.”

Sybil left her chair and sat on the other side of Blondie. She scribbled something on a napkin.

Anna shifted her weight. “In America, a guy buys a girl a drink if he’s trying to pick her up.”

“Pick her up?”

“As in a date.”

His eyes widened, showing more of the creepy glass-like pupils, which maybe, now that she looked closer, were eerily beautiful.

“That would be a bit presumptuous of me, wouldn’t it?” he asked. “I don’t even know your name.”

Sybil held up the napkin she’d been toiling over. It read:

Platinum blond babies are beautiful

Anna laughed. Well, no, it came out more like an embarrassing snort, but Blondie didn’t seem to notice, thank goodness.

She offered him her hand. “My name is Anna.”

Instead of shaking, he flipped her palm down and kissed her knuckles. Who in God’s name was this guy?

“It is a pleasure to meet you, Miss Anna of the great continent of America. My name is Joesephutus.”

She shuffled her feet, trying to ward off the odd tingle in her toes. “Wow, that’s quite a name. Do you mind if I just call you Joe?”

His smiled seeped into her. “Only if you allow me to buy you that drink.”

Sybil gave a thumbs up over his head, and then returned to her place beside Anna.

Yeah, little sister Anna getting picked up in a bar would make Sybil’s day. Anna would never hear the end of it.

As she gazed into Joe’s haunting, crystal eyes, though, she couldn’t help but want to know more about this interesting man. She’d gone from being completely freaked out about his appearance, to enthralled.

Too bad 11,000 miles was too far for a long distance relationship. She needed to nip this in the bud before it went any further. “I’m sorry, but I’m really not interested.” An ache welled in her belly. She bit her lower lip to keep from retracting her words as Joe lowered his eyes.

His lips thinned. “No problem. Enjoy your time in New Zealand.” He bowed his head and returned to his seat.

Anna nearly stepped off her chair to stop him. After all, it was only a drink, and he seemed nice. Shoot, why couldn’t she be more like Sybil and okay with things like this?

An elbow in the back returned her attention to her sister. “What’s wrong with you?” Sybil said. “He was cute.”

“I don’t know.” And she didn’t. Anna’s stomach continued to whirl. Her skin ached, as if tugging her toward the other side of the bar, nudging her back to where Joe slipped into his seat and cradled his drink between his palms.

He’d been sweet and didn’t come on too strong like the asses in bars back home. The poor guy was probably just shy, and she’d totally turned him down.

Sybil was right, what was wrong with her?

A cool breeze whipped in when someone opened the door. Anna was glad for the touch of chill as she turned toward her sister.

“Holy hell,” Sybil whispered, her gaze fused to the entrance.

A man walked, no—slid through the entrance, but not in a slimy, snake-like way. It was more like gliding across the surface of a pond. He towered over everyone, well over six feet. Stopping in the center of the room, he placed his hand on his chest and bowed to the old man, who straightened, beaming.

The newcomer turned back to the bar, and Anna’s heart triple beat as his gaze brushed over her. His long, dark hair shifted slightly as he walked, coming close to falling over one eye, but not quite covering it. Anna had seen this man before, on the cover of hundreds of romance novels. He seemed painted; perfect, as if molded by an artist. She quivered, warming in all the most embarrassing places.

He smiled at Anna, before turning his attention to Sybil. As soon as his gaze left hers, a sweep of relief flooded Anna, as if she’d been held by something, but then let go.

Sybil blanched, her eyes wide as the stranger slipped his fingers over hers.

“Please forgive my forwardness.” He kissed the back of her hand, just like Joe had. “But you are the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.” He leaned up, still holding her fingers. “You must allow me the honor of your company.”

His gaze darted over the bar, where Joe leaned back on his stool with a dumbfounded look on his face. The hot guy smiled before returning his attention to Anna’s sister.

Sybil blinked as if waking from a stupor. “Of course, please, sit.”

The man eased onto the seat beside them, his gaze never leaving Sybil’s. How was it that no matter where they were in the world, her sister managed to be a beacon for beefcake? It wasn’t fair. Well, not like Anna wanted to be eaten alive by a guy’s eyes, but damn, did her sister wear come and take me perfume or something?

“I’m Sybil. This is my sister, Anna.”

He lowered his head. “Miss Anna, a flower equally as lovely.”

Sure, but you went for the one that looked and dressed like a runway model. Hot guys never went for the plain ones. Not that she wanted him to leech onto her, but, you know.

“My name is Quenor.” He kissed Sybil’s knuckles again, this time hesitating as his lips touched her skin.

Sybil cleared her throat. “Quay-noor? You mean, like, Connor?”

His eyes bored into her like he hadn’t eaten in a month and she was a hot fudge sundae. “Connor sounds lovely with your accent.”

Wow, his own accent sang from his lips. Anna could listen to his voice forever. She had to tear her eyes away from him. Taking a deep breath, she placed her chilled glass to her temple to try to cool herself down. She definitely needed to get a grip.

“Can I get you something to drink?” the bartender asked Connor.

“Whatever the lovely Sybil is having is fine for me.”

Their gazes remained locked. Sybil seemed tongue-tied.

Icy fingers itched up Anna’s back. Something wasn’t quite right about this guy. There was hot, and then there was too hot. And then there was Connor. The attraction Anna felt when he looked at her, the attraction she still felt, even when he’d obviously chosen Sybil, bordered on hypnotic.

The bartender reached up and grasped a wineglass from the fixture hanging over the bar. As he pulled the cup down, the contraption tilted. Several of the glasses slipped from their housing and fell, shattering on the bar top.

Sybil cried out, and Anna gasped as a strong shove sent her stumbling off her seat. The bartender stood, gaping at the mess, while Blondie’s right knee angled up on the bar, and his other foot balanced on the stool that Anna had occupied. His left hand still held her from harm’s way, while his right held the fixture from falling at the same time. How had he gotten across the bar so quickly?

“I have this end.” Connor reached up, his long arms easily grabbing the other side of the fixture.

“Thanks,” the bartender said, helping them ease the wooden frame safely to the floor. His face contorted and reddened with the effort, while Joe and Connor lowered the fixture to the floor without difficulty.

Sybil held her hand to her chest, but her eyes remained glued to her new date.

Don’t worry, sis, no glasses hit me. No reason to check and make sure I’m all right or anything.

The barkeep grabbed a dustpan and saluted Joe and Connor with the sweeper brush. “Your drinks are on the house, mates.”

“Thank you, but that’s not necessary.” Joe turned to Anna, and his eyes widened. “You’re bleeding.”

She blinked in surprise. “What?”

He grabbed her hand, raising her red, glistening fingertip. “You’ve been cut.”

“It’s not that bad.”

His gaze centered on her fingertip. His brow furrowed as a red bead dripped down to her palm.

She trembled. “Umm, you can let go of me, now.”

His gaze flicked to hers and held. He leaned closer. Her pulse throbbed in her ears like she was underwater. The room spun, but dizziness didn’t overcome her. The beat of her heart seemed to slow while every inch of her yearned to lean closer and breathe this beautiful stranger in.

Breathe him in? What in God’s name had gotten into her, and why was this guy still holding her wrist?

She tried to push him away, but slipped, smearing blood across his cheek. He hardened his grip, as another red droplet beaded on her fingertip.

Her gaze drew back to his light blue, crystalline eyes. She needed to scream, to slap him in the face, to run. She couldn’t move, though. Her breaths came shallow and raspy. Part of her longed to kiss away the crimson stain that tainted the edge of his pale lip.

Wait. What?

The brightness of the blood against his milky skin caused flashes of Edward Cullen to run through her mind. The idea was ridiculous, of course. No one believed in vampires. That was almost as stupid as believing in fairies.

But he was fairy-like, now that she thought about it, with those icy blue eyes and white hair. He actually pulled off his albinism with an air of sex appeal. Well, not the dripping screw-me sexy like Connor, but there was definitely something about this guy who was still… fixating on her bloody cut like a deranged lunatic.

He released her.

She nearly stumbled, but grabbed the edge of her stool instead. “What is wrong with you?”

He blinked as if clearing his eyesight. “I-I don’t know.” He stared at her finger like it might bite him.

Okay, so, yes—this guy was cute, but he obviously had some serious issues.

She grabbed a napkin and wrapped her wound. “In case you were wondering, that is not the way to get an American girl’s attention.”

“I know, I-I’m sorry.” He rubbed his temples. “I-I didn’t mean to offend.”

Connor left Sybil’s side and grabbed Joe’s shoulder. “Joesephutus, are you all right?”

He wiped the blood from Joe’s face with his bare hand and then stared at his fingers.

“Wait, you two know each other?” Anna asked.

The taller man whipped his face in her direction. His gaze focused on her with an intensity that made her want to cower in the corner. Connor leaned closer and drew in a deep breath. Was he… smelling her?

Joe became pale. Well, pale-er if that was even possible. He took a stilted breath before elbowing Connor’s considerably larger bulk out of the way and taking Anna’s uninjured hand. “Anna, I would really, really like to buy you that drink.”

His grip tightened. Not painful, but strange. Possessive. Every part of her screamed to tug her hand from his, but all she could do was stare into those glassy, light eyes.

Connor laughed, tapping Joe on the back. “I can’t believe it. You are one lucky little…”

The door to the bar flung open and slammed against the wall as if it had been kicked.

The cool breeze thickened the air.

Connor nudged Joe.

“I feel it,” Joe said.

Holding Sybil’s shoulder, Connor glanced at Anna, then Joe. “We need to get your little lass out of here.”

“I’m aware of that.” Joe turned to the barkeep. “Do you have a back exit?”

“Too late,” Connor whispered.

Joe grumbled under his breath, tightening his grip on Anna’s arm. He leaned close to her ear. “If you get the opportunity, run like your life depends on it.” He glanced at the door. “Because it does.”

[End of sneak peek]

_____

 

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Catch you later!

Jennifer M. Eaton

USA Today Best Selling Author of Dragon Mount and the Fire in the Woods Series

See what people are saying about Jennifer’s books on Goodreads

It’s Release Day for Dragon Mount!

It’s release day for Dragon Mount!

I’m super excited to set my New Zealand dragons loose on the world.

I came up with this concept a few years ago and went as far as to write the first chapter, which ended up being chapter 4 in the final version. But there it sat for two years until I revisited my notes and really dug my talons in.

Originally this was going to be a Cyrano retelling, but I ended up going in a completely different direction once I got going. The story certainly took on a life of its own. I’m thrilled with Anna and Joe’s little adventure, and I hope you will love it, too.

Here’s all the dragonly details, and scroll down for a peak at the first chapter. Enjoy!

 

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Things can’t get any worse than being snatched by a dragon, until Anna is dropped into a bloodthirsty battle for the Draconic crown.

On what’s supposed to be a fun trip to New Zealand to recover from a  painful breakup, Anna is kidnapped and flown away by a mythical beast bent on making her his queen. Anna’s rare blood type makes her the only viable mate in the islands, and with scores of dragons looking for her, escape isn’t likely.

Joe is the youngest and smallest dragon in the competition to become king. Now that he’s found Anna, all he needs to overthrow their tyrannical monarch is to bring her back to Dragon Mount before anyone can challenge his claim. But Joe is injured and unable to fly, and each passing second increases the risk of discovery.

Challenging the king means certain death, but Anna is Joe’s to lose. If the king finds her, he will bathe Dragon Mount in her blood, condemning Joe’s people to seventeen more years of brutal subjugation. The fate of all Draconia rests in the talons of their smallest dragon, and the clock is ticking.

If you love the feels you get from Jennifer L. Armentrout and the paranormal shape-shifting of Talon, you’ll roar for Dragon Mount.

You can find Dragon Mount at all these great bookish places:

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Jennifer M. Eaton

USA Today Best Selling Author of Dragon Mount and the Fire in the Woods Series

See what people are saying about Jennifer’s books on Goodreads

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_____________________

Dragon Mount

Chapter 1

 

Anna didn’t need a man. What she needed was a dragon—a big, hulking, nasty dragon fully capable of biting the head off of any jerk who even thought of hurting her. As she breathed in the essence of moonflowers drifting on the breeze, she knew this would be the place to find what she was looking for.

Well, she might not exactly find a dragon in New Zealand, but maybe enough magic to help her forget and start over.

A woman on the street corner spun a rack of postcards displaying pictures of the country’s pristine landscape. Anna’s stomach soured as she tucked back the dark hair that blew into her eyes. She and Andrew had dreamed of sitting in a little café, filling out postcards just like those, writing Wish you were here, suckers! over and over again. A hint of a smile touched her lips, before it fell away.

When they first started planning this vacation it was a pipe dream—the mutual coup de gras of their bucket lists. It was supposed to be their honeymoon.

Until a honeymoon was no longer needed.

“Stop thinking about him.” Her sister didn’t even look up from her fistful of pamphlets. “I can smell you brooding from here.”

The sun slipped toward the peaks in the distance, ending a day filled with terminals, planes, and busses. Anna shielded her eyes as the sky exploded with an orange and pink glow.

“It says here that those mountains you’re staring at are called Aoraki.” Sybil pointed to the text. “The original settlers believed that the sons of the sky god got their canoe stuck on a reef. They froze to death and became the mountains.” She smiled. “That’s kind of creepy. Right up your alley.”

Anna took a step toward the postcard vendor and stopped herself. Postcards were meaningless, but fun. They’d always been a favorite part of every vacation. But maybe not anymore.

She closed her eyes. How many things would she have to give up because they reminded her of him?

“Right now these Maori people are celebrating some sort of ancient fertility festival called the Seventeen Year.” Sybil snorted. “Fertility, huh? Sounds like my kind of party.”

Of course it was. Anything her sister could relate to sex was a good time. How could she be so flippant about things like that when guys…

Sybil lowered the pamphlets. “Stop. Thinking. About. Him.”

Anna sighed. How could she stop? She was standing on a street in New Zealand, where they’d dreamed of going since forever.

A fistful of brochures slapped Anna’s cheek. She stood stunned, gaping.

“You are going to enjoy this vacation if it kills me.” Sybil pointed the pamphlets at her like a sword.

Leave it to her sister to drag them both back to elementary school tactics.

A laugh popped out of Anna’s mouth as she splayed her hands. “I’m sorry. This is just harder than I thought it would be.” That was the hugest of understatements. “But I’m okay.” She nodded to herself. “I need this.”

More like she needed to do this. New Zealand wasn’t only her and Andrew’s dream. It was her dream. That didn’t change because he was out of the picture.

“What you need is a nice, stiff drink.”

Anna smiled. It probably couldn’t hurt. “I think I need some time for all this to soak in.”

“Then let’s call this a good start.” Sybil raised her hand into the air. “Taxi!”

“Wait. Where are we going?”

Her sister glanced back at her. “Like I said, to get a drink.”

“Is there something wrong with the hotel bar?”

Sybil waved at one of the approaching yellow cars. “Yes, it’s packed with tourists. I want to meet some New Zealanders.”

Her sister, the quintessential party girl. “We haven’t even unpacked and you already want to go bar hopping?”

“Oh, come on.” Sybil was inside the cab before Anna could argue. “Believe me, once this vacation is over, you’ll be a new person.”

Was there something wrong with her old person? Anna didn’t think so.

Well, not her old-old person. Growing up, she’d been ready for anything. She and Andrew were going to take on the world together.

Until she caught him in bed with someone else.

Mom had always called Anna a miniature explosion, ready to take on the world. The firecracker inside Anna had extinguished that night, and she hadn’t found a way to rekindle the spark.

She closed her eyes and swallowed the painful ball building in her throat. She was here to forget—to erase the bad and come home as a clean slate, ready to start over. This started by proving to herself that life no longer revolved around one guy.

In the distance, a large black bird soared toward the mountains. It circled as if it flew for the pure pleasure of feeling the wind in its feathers. That’s what she needed, the confidence to spread her wings and glide toward the horizon.

Sybil glared at her. “Don’t make me drag you into this car.”

Anna sucked in a deep breath before she slipped onto the worn, black seat beside her sister. “One drink. Promise.”

Her sister made a spectacle of rolling her eyes.

“Where to?” The driver’s accent made it sound like Wayer-tou.

Sybil leaned up and handed a brochure to him. She pointed to a handwritten note on the top of the page. “Do you know where this is?”

He snorted. “Kinda off the beaten path for a couple of Sheilas.”

Sybil flopped back in her seat. “Sounds perfect.”

Off the beaten path? Was she out of her mind?

Anna leaned closer as the cab pulled from the sidewalk. “This is crazy. We are in a foreign country with—”

“Not a care in the world.” She tapped Anna’s knee. “Relax. Trust me. We’re going to see where real New Zealanders hang out.”

Great. Just great.

Anna stared out the window as they left civilization behind. The approaching dusk cast a deepening haze over the hillside as clean, undisturbed green stretched out as far as the eye could see. The tension eased from Anna’s shoulders as she lost herself in undefiled nature.

She hated to admit it, but those rolling fields reached inside and mended part of the hole torn in her heart. She couldn’t imagine living somewhere with so much incredibly beautiful nothing.

“I have a surprise for you.” Sybil nudged her shoulder. “We’re not taking the movie site tour tomorrow.”

Anna spun toward her. “We’re not?”

“Nope. I changed our date to Monday.”

“Why?”

“Because tomorrow morning, you and your favorite sister are taking the plunge off Kawarau Bridge.”

Anna nearly choked. “What?”

“Yup. It’s all set up. They’re picking us up at our hotel at 8:30.”

“Are you out of your mind? I am not bungee jumping!”

“Yes, you are. It’s already bought and paid for. No refunds, no excuses.”

No excuses? Anna had a great big gaping excuse. Even back home in the US she erred on the cautious side. She really didn’t have a choice.

Eight years ago, she woke up after a car accident and found out she had a rare blood type. The hospital had to have plasma flown in from another state, and the delay almost killed her. Ever since, she’d been warned to take it easy and cautioned against foreign travel, but here she was, vacationing in New Zealand with a nutty sister who wanted them to plummet to their deaths tied to the ends of rubber bands.

“There is no way I’m jumping off a bridge.”

Sybil snickered as the cab pulled to a stop. “We’ll see.”

Her sister paid the cabbie as Anna stepped onto worn, colorful cobblestones. The black sconces encircling the weathered rock buildings and the matching streetlamps flared to life simultaneously. Anna jumped as one of them blew out.

“Surprise!” Sybil said.

Anna looked up and down the deserted street. “Surprise what?”

“Don’t you recognize it? This is the street they modeled Bree after.”

Anna looked again. “It is?”

“Yup. I found it on Wikipedia under little-known Lord of the Rings sites.” She narrowed her eyes. “One of these places is supposed to look just like the Prancing Pony inside.”

Anna took in the gnarled, wooden signs. She could barely read the names on some of them. At the far end of the road, four men in long coats entered a bar with a carved rooster hanging above the door. It seemed warm for coats that long. Must be a Kiwi thing.

Sybil grabbed Anna’s wrist and tugged her along the bumpy, colorful walkway toward a worn, timber door with wide, black hinges. “This place looks as good as any to start.”

Anna pulled out of her grip. “To start? I agreed to one drink.”

Sybil held her chest, feigning hurt. “Of course we’ll only have one drink.” She pulled Anna through the door. “Per bar.”

Anna sighed. With Sybil, there was always a loophole.

Inside, the tavern looked nothing like the Prancing Pony. It looked more like the bar in that old show Cheers that her father watched on Netflix. A circular bar dominated the center of the room. Its white-tiled surface clashed with the dark paneling. Flickering candles on cherrywood tables nestled against the wall cast a yellowish glow throughout the room. Inside the serving-circle, a dark-skinned man placed a glass into a huge wooden fixture hanging precariously over the bar.

“Welcome, ladies. Please, have a seat.” He gestured across the nearly empty bar and the mostly open tables. So much for meeting the locals.

Anna had to admit the tavern had its charm, though. The hotel bar had all the appeal of a meat market, while this place oozed culture.

An old man wearing a multi-colored, patchwork shirt sat alone at the table closest to the door. His tunic matched the vibrant weavings hanging from the walls like he was a part of the decor.

Combine him with the dead animal heads mounted above the entrance, and Anna felt as if she’d stepped back in time. If she could convince them to trash the plasma television screen, this place would be the perfect retreat.

She and Sybil settled on stools at the bar and ordered drinks. From the opposite side of the serving circle, a very light-skinned platinum-blond guy flashed a smile. His eyes mirrored the overhead lighting, making everything about him seem paler, as if he were dusted in white powder. Anna quickly looked away. She settled her eyes on the Malibu Bay Breeze the barkeep handed her, forcing her gaze to remain there so she didn’t stare.

“Is it always so quiet here?” Sybil asked the bartender.

“You missed the happy hour crowd. People have been staying in after dusk the past few days.”

Sybil frowned. “I guess we’ll have to come back earlier tomorrow.”

Or not.

Sybil had to notice that this wasn’t the Prancing Pony. Absorbing culture was fine and all, but Anna had her first taste of New Zealand on the car ride over here. She wanted to see more, not spend her time drinking.

The bartender walked to the other side of the counter and spoke to the blond guy. After a moment, they both turned toward Anna. She nearly choked on her drink before she looked away.

Her cheeks heated. The blond must have mentioned that she’d been staring at him. With skin that pale, he must have people stare at him all the time, and here she was, the gawking American, jumping on the bandwagon.

Anna concentrated on the ice cubes in her glass, trying to not look like she was aware the two men were still chatting.

About her? No, of course not.

But what if they were?

If she and Sybil had stayed at the hotel bar, like she’d wanted, she could’ve just caught the next elevator to her room and hid from all this awkwardness.

She leaned toward her sister. “This obviously isn’t the right place. Maybe we should go.”

“Come on, Sis. There’s more to sightseeing than movie locations. There’s a lot about the local culture I’d like to sample, too.” She spun her stool toward a table of three guys near the wall and sipped her drink through the thin, red stirring straw. Her lips turned up in a wry grin.

Anna’s eyes widened. “You came all the way to New Zealand to get laid?”

“Well, not only to get laid. But it’s on my to-do list.”

“What’s wrong with the guys in New Jersey?”

Sybil shrugged. “I might run into them again. I hate that. This will be more fun. No strings attached.” She smacked Anna playfully. “Not to mention New Zealand accents. Yum.”

Anna shook her head. “You’re crazy.”

“Me? And it’s not crazy to sit home every Saturday night?”

Hanging out at home was a perfectly respectable thing to do on the weekend. She and Andrew…

Anna cringed, closed her eyes, and refocused. There was no more she and Andrew. Not since she left for college. Not since she came home to surprise him on his birthday.

College had become her life after that night. Classes and studying. Nothing more.

Nothing more than lying awake at night, crying.

She gritted her teeth. She was not that girl anymore. She didn’t need a guy, and she didn’t need to go out on the weekend to look for another shitfaced, lying bastard. Anna worked her tail off studying all week. She needed to decompress and relax on her days off. Alone.

Anna cringed, then straightened. She didn’t want to be alone. Not really. But she wasn’t ready to get out there and date again. Andrew had been her world since middle school. She didn’t know how to be with anyone else.

Sybil would never understand that. Her sister’s plan was to play the field and be married to her cushy corner executive office for the rest of her life. There was nothing wrong with that, for her. Anna wanted the best of both worlds—a family and a job. She wasn’t going to find that hooking up with a guy she’d never see again.

“I don’t understand how you can even think of sleeping with a guy you’ve just met.” Anna sipped her drink and set it back on the bar.

“Believe me. It’s a heck of a lot easier than getting tied down in a relationship. Guys get crazy when they hang around too long. They get all protective and…” The word cheat hung on the edge of her lips before she copped out by sipping her drink.

Anna crumpled her napkin and threw in on the bar. “I don’t know, I think I still want what Mom and Dad had—the love of my life, job, and two point five kids?”

“Point five?”

“Yeah, my dog.” Anna watched the condensation drip down her glass. “Is it so wrong to want a guy that will do almost anything for me?”

“You’re dreaming, little sister. He doesn’t exist. I gave up looking for him years ago.”

But Dad existed. Could it be true that their generation hadn’t spawned any great guys?

The bartender adjusted the volume on the television.

A news reporter brushed back a lock of her dark hair and brought a microphone to her lips. “So there you have it. This small village, the third in as many nights, now lays in shock after this morning’s gruesome discovery. The identities of the women have not been made public yet, but NZN News has learned that two of the victims lived here in Wellington, and the third was a Norwegian tourist. Neighboring towns have called for a seven o’clock curfew tonight, as all of New Zealand prays for an end to this senseless killing spree.”

“They were disemboweled, just like the last two,” one of the guys at the table said. “I saw it on the internet. This bloke is a sadist or something.”

Last two? Holy crap! Were they anywhere near Wellington?

The bartender changed the channel. “I hope they catch him soon.”

“There be no one to catch,” the old guy in the colorful garb mumbled. “They look for a man. They need to turn their eyes to the sky. They seek what they are not prepared to find.”

A shiver ran down Anna’s spine. The tavern was oddly reminiscent of an old horror flick, and this weathered, creepy guy was the trope old codger that knew the truth, but no one believed him until they were running for their lives. If he was about to say that all of New Zealand was haunted by ancient bloodthirsty spirits, she was so out of here.

The guy at the other table turned in his seat. “What are you talking about, pop, some Maori legend?”

The old man’s eyes darkened. “Is no legend. We in a Seventeen Year. They should not be looking for a man.”

The table of guys laughed. “So what are they looking for, a dragon? I think you’ve had a few too many.”

“Every seventeen years the dragons fly. They search New Zealand for mates.” He pointed to the television. “This be the work of a gray dragon, the worst of them all.”

“Yeah, and Aoraki and his brothers got stranded on a reef and became the mountains.” One of the guys laughed into his beer.

Anna took in the old man’s colorful attire, remembering the brochure Sybil read to her. It seemed crazy that people still believed that kind of folklore.

The elder remained stoic. “How do you know they did not become the mountains, if you were not there?”

Anna bit back her smile. The ominous cloud in the room lifted as the table of guys snickered. It was sad they made fun of the old man, though. He couldn’t help what he’d been brought up to believe, no matter how ridiculous.

The bartender leaned across the counter toward her. “The bloke on the flipside would like to buy you a drink.”

Anna cringed. The guy she’d been staring at? She glanced around the barkeep. Blondie smiled at her.

“Umm, no thanks. Tell him no offense, I’m just passing through. I’m not going to be here that long.”

Sybil elbowed her. “What’s wrong with you?”

“He’s not my type.”

“What, he doesn’t have a pulse?”

“Shut up.”

Someone settled beside her, and Anna tensed. She turned her head slowly until her gaze met eerie, light blue eyes and even lighter skin.

Blondie smiled. “Hello, I’m sorry. I heard you turn down my drink. You’re not from around here, I suppose?” The New Zealand accent dripped from his pale lips. The package didn’t seem to fit together.

“Um, no. We’re from New Jersey.”

He tilted his head. “In England?”

“No. New Jersey as in the United States.”

His eyes widened. “Oh, that makes sense. You didn’t look or sound English. Anyway, in these parts, it’s customary for a man to buy a woman a drink to say hello. I was only being courteous. I didn’t mean to offend you.”

Sybil left her chair and sat on the other side of Blondie. She scribbled something on a napkin.

Anna shifted her weight. “In America, a guy buys a girl a drink if he’s trying to pick her up.”

“Pick her up?”

“As in a date.”

His eyes widened, showing more of the creepy glass-like pupils, which maybe, now that she looked closer, were eerily beautiful.

“That would be a bit presumptuous of me, wouldn’t it?” he asked. “I don’t even know your name.”

Sybil held up the napkin she’d been toiling over. It read:

Platinum blond babies are beautiful

Anna laughed. Well, no, it came out more like an embarrassing snort, but Blondie didn’t seem to notice, thank goodness.

She offered him her hand. “My name is Anna.”

Instead of shaking, he flipped her palm down and kissed her knuckles. Who in God’s name was this guy?

“It is a pleasure to meet you, Miss Anna of the great continent of America. My name is Joesephutus.”

She shuffled her feet, trying to ward off the odd tingle in her toes. “Wow, that’s quite a name. Do you mind if I just call you Joe?”

His smiled seeped into her. “Only if you allow me to buy you that drink.”

Sybil gave a thumbs up over his head, and then returned to her place beside Anna.

Yeah, little sister Anna getting picked up in a bar would make Sybil’s day. Anna would never hear the end of it.

As she gazed into Joe’s haunting, crystal eyes, though, she couldn’t help but want to know more about this interesting man. She’d gone from being completely freaked out about his appearance, to enthralled.

Too bad 11,000 miles was too far for a long distance relationship. She needed to nip this in the bud before it went any further. “I’m sorry, but I’m really not interested.” An ache welled in her belly. She bit her lower lip to keep from retracting her words as Joe lowered his eyes.

His lips thinned. “No problem. Enjoy your time in New Zealand.” He bowed his head and returned to his seat.

Anna nearly stepped off her chair to stop him. After all, it was only a drink, and he seemed nice. Shoot, why couldn’t she be more like Sybil and okay with things like this?

An elbow in the back returned her attention to her sister. “What’s wrong with you?” Sybil said. “He was cute.”

“I don’t know.” And she didn’t. Anna’s stomach continued to whirl. Her skin ached, as if tugging her toward the other side of the bar, nudging her back to where Joe slipped into his seat and cradled his drink between his palms.

He’d been sweet and didn’t come on too strong like the asses in bars back home. The poor guy was probably just shy, and she’d totally turned him down.

Sybil was right, what was wrong with her?

A cool breeze whipped in when someone opened the door. Anna was glad for the touch of chill as she turned toward her sister.

“Holy hell,” Sybil whispered, her gaze fused to the entrance.

A man walked, no—slid through the entrance, but not in a slimy, snake-like way. It was more like gliding across the surface of a pond. He towered over everyone, well over six feet. Stopping in the center of the room, he placed his hand on his chest and bowed to the old man, who straightened, beaming.

The newcomer turned back to the bar, and Anna’s heart triple beat as his gaze brushed over her. His long, dark hair shifted slightly as he walked, coming close to falling over one eye, but not quite covering it. Anna had seen this man before, on the cover of hundreds of romance novels. He seemed painted; perfect, as if molded by an artist. She quivered, warming in all the most embarrassing places.

He smiled at Anna, before turning his attention to Sybil. As soon as his gaze left hers, a sweep of relief flooded Anna, as if she’d been held by something, but then let go.

Sybil blanched, her eyes wide as the stranger slipped his fingers over hers.

“Please forgive my forwardness.” He kissed the back of her hand, just like Joe had. “But you are the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.” He leaned up, still holding her fingers. “You must allow me the honor of your company.”

His gaze darted over the bar, where Joe leaned back on his stool with a dumbfounded look on his face. The hot guy smiled before returning his attention to Anna’s sister.

Sybil blinked as if waking from a stupor. “Of course, please, sit.”

The man eased onto the seat beside them, his gaze never leaving Sybil’s. How was it that no matter where they were in the world, her sister managed to be a beacon for beefcake? It wasn’t fair. Well, not like Anna wanted to be eaten alive by a guy’s eyes, but damn, did her sister wear come and take me perfume or something?

“I’m Sybil. This is my sister, Anna.”

He lowered his head. “Miss Anna, a flower equally as lovely.”

Sure, but you went for the one that looked and dressed like a runway model. Hot guys never went for the plain ones. Not that she wanted him to leech onto her, but, you know.

“My name is Quenor.” He kissed Sybil’s knuckles again, this time hesitating as his lips touched her skin.

Sybil cleared her throat. “Quay-noor? You mean, like, Connor?”

His eyes bored into her like he hadn’t eaten in a month and she was a hot fudge sundae. “Connor sounds lovely with your accent.”

Wow, his own accent sang from his lips. Anna could listen to his voice forever. She had to tear her eyes away from him. Taking a deep breath, she placed her chilled glass to her temple to try to cool herself down. She definitely needed to get a grip.

“Can I get you something to drink?” the bartender asked Connor.

“Whatever the lovely Sybil is having is fine for me.”

Their gazes remained locked. Sybil seemed tongue-tied.

Icy fingers itched up Anna’s back. Something wasn’t quite right about this guy. There was hot, and then there was too hot. And then there was Connor. The attraction Anna felt when he looked at her, the attraction she still felt, even when he’d obviously chosen Sybil, bordered on hypnotic.

The bartender reached up and grasped a wineglass from the fixture hanging over the bar. As he pulled the cup down, the contraption tilted. Several of the glasses slipped from their housing and fell, shattering on the bar top.

Sybil cried out, and Anna gasped as a strong shove sent her stumbling off her seat. The bartender stood, gaping at the mess, while Blondie’s right knee angled up on the bar, and his other foot balanced on the stool that Anna had occupied. His left hand still held her from harm’s way, while his right held the fixture from falling at the same time. How had he gotten across the bar so quickly?

“I have this end.” Connor reached up, his long arms easily grabbing the other side of the fixture.

“Thanks,” the bartender said, helping them ease the wooden frame safely to the floor. His face contorted and reddened with the effort, while Joe and Connor lowered the fixture to the floor without difficulty.

Sybil held her hand to her chest, but her eyes remained glued to her new date.

Don’t worry, sis, no glasses hit me. No reason to check and make sure I’m all right or anything.

The barkeep grabbed a dustpan and saluted Joe and Connor with the sweeper brush. “Your drinks are on the house, mates.”

“Thank you, but that’s not necessary.” Joe turned to Anna, and his eyes widened. “You’re bleeding.”

She blinked in surprise. “What?”

He grabbed her hand, raising her red, glistening fingertip. “You’ve been cut.”

“It’s not that bad.”

His gaze centered on her fingertip. His brow furrowed as a red bead dripped down to her palm.

She trembled. “Umm, you can let go of me, now.”

His gaze flicked to hers and held. He leaned closer. Her pulse throbbed in her ears like she was underwater. The room spun, but dizziness didn’t overcome her. The beat of her heart seemed to slow while every inch of her yearned to lean closer and breathe this beautiful stranger in.

Breathe him in? What in God’s name had gotten into her, and why was this guy still holding her wrist?

She tried to push him away, but slipped, smearing blood across his cheek. He hardened his grip, as another red droplet beaded on her fingertip.

Her gaze drew back to his light blue, crystalline eyes. She needed to scream, to slap him in the face, to run. She couldn’t move, though. Her breaths came shallow and raspy. Part of her longed to kiss away the crimson stain that tainted the edge of his pale lip.

Wait. What?

The brightness of the blood against his milky skin caused flashes of Edward Cullen to run through her mind. The idea was ridiculous, of course. No one believed in vampires. That was almost as stupid as believing in fairies.

But he was fairy-like, now that she thought about it, with those icy blue eyes and white hair. He actually pulled off his albinism with an air of sex appeal. Well, not the dripping screw-me sexy like Connor, but there was definitely something about this guy who was still… fixating on her bloody cut like a deranged lunatic.

He released her.

She nearly stumbled, but grabbed the edge of her stool instead. “What is wrong with you?”

He blinked as if clearing his eyesight. “I-I don’t know.” He stared at her finger like it might bite him.

Okay, so, yes—this guy was cute, but he obviously had some serious issues.

She grabbed a napkin and wrapped her wound. “In case you were wondering, that is not the way to get an American girl’s attention.”

“I know, I-I’m sorry.” He rubbed his temples. “I-I didn’t mean to offend.”

Connor left Sybil’s side and grabbed Joe’s shoulder. “Joesephutus, are you all right?”

He wiped the blood from Joe’s face with his bare hand and then stared at his fingers.

“Wait, you two know each other?” Anna asked.

The taller man whipped his face in her direction. His gaze focused on her with an intensity that made her want to cower in the corner. Connor leaned closer and drew in a deep breath. Was he… smelling her?

Joe became pale. Well, pale-er if that was even possible. He took a stilted breath before elbowing Connor’s considerably larger bulk out of the way and taking Anna’s uninjured hand. “Anna, I would really, really like to buy you that drink.”

His grip tightened. Not painful, but strange. Possessive. Every part of her screamed to tug her hand from his, but all she could do was stare into those glassy, light eyes.

Connor laughed, tapping Joe on the back. “I can’t believe it. You are one lucky little…”

The door to the bar flung open and slammed against the wall as if it had been kicked.

The cool breeze thickened the air.

Connor nudged Joe.

“I feel it,” Joe said.

Holding Sybil’s shoulder, Connor glanced at Anna, then Joe. “We need to get your little lass out of here.”

“I’m aware of that.” Joe turned to the barkeep. “Do you have a back exit?”

“Too late,” Connor whispered.

Joe grumbled under his breath, tightening his grip on Anna’s arm. He leaned close to her ear. “If you get the opportunity, run like your life depends on it.” He glanced at the door. “Because it does.”


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Jennifer M. Eaton

USA Today Best Selling Author of Dragon Mount and the Fire in the Woods Series

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