Thanks to everyone for your patience and understanding as I’ve worked a very long time to get this novel ready. As promised, I’m posting the first two chapters of Captured in Flames so you can get a taste of what’s to come. Expect a pre-order link in the next few days with the novel set to release on August 18th!
People thought slaying dragons was a glamorous job full of danger and excitement. Sure, I could take a beating far better than the average person, fire couldn’t burn me, and I had super strength, but all that good stuff came with some significant downsides. Today was a prime example of the horrors I faced in my line of work.
Snot covered me—icky, gooey snot—and lots of it.
The green dragon in front of me huffed, puffed, and blew out a monstrous sneeze that had to have stirred a hurricane down in the gulf, never mind that we were in Oklahoma. The shock wave ran over me, stumbling me back and leaving my hair and clothes dripping in green goo. My stomach twisted, bile rising into my throat. I fought it down and blinked a few times to clear my vision. The first time that happened, I nearly died. I’d been inside a building when a dragon released a torrent of snot, soaking everything in sight from the ceiling to the floor. The beast recovered faster than me. I kept losing my balance on the wet floor and hurling every time my face planted in the goo. At least today, I stood in the middle of a large parking lot with open air so I could maneuver out of the mess.
The past week had been more than a little rough. A nasty cold had spread through the dragon community, making my job more difficult than usual. It was supposed to be rare for the beasts to get sick, but I’d since learned that they were more vulnerable to illness during late winter and early spring.
They were still adjusting to their return to Earth almost a year ago and were more susceptible to changes in their environment. Our planet was far different from Kederrawien—a barren landscape with little vegetation where all dragons had lived for a thousand years after a group of sorcerers banished them from our dimension. To make matters worse, the spring weather in Oklahoma couldn’t decide if it wanted to be chilly or warm. The dragons would venture out on a nice day only to get smacked by a cold front later that evening. Their bodies couldn’t handle anything close to freezing temperatures, and we had a much higher pollen count than they’d encountered before. Seeing them suffer would have been funny if it didn’t have such hazardous consequences for me.
I took a washcloth from the pouch on my leg harness—the third I’d used that day—and wiped the worst of the snot off my face. It was in my hair as well, but I’d found keeping it in a French braid helped minimize the amount that stuck. The greenish goo smelled sort of like Play-Doh, though the consistency was much stickier. I grew up on a ranch as the only girl with three brothers and didn’t shy away from yucky stuff, but I didn’t think anything could have prepared me for dragon snot. It took gross to a whole new level.
The beast before me snorted and a small flame puffed from its nose. One advantage to my prey being ill was that it severely stunted its fire-breathing capabilities. Sick dragons couldn’t roar out flames the way they usually did, which made things easier for me. I might not burn, but a wall of fire could blind me so I wouldn’t see an attack coming. My current adversary had an annoyed look in its red eyes when it failed to produce a decent flame.
“Performance problems?” I asked, not knowing if it understood me. Some of them had picked up English, but not many.
I gripped my sword, prepared for what would come next, and didn’t move when the dragon leaped forward, claws outstretched. Waiting until the last moment, I ducked and then rammed the tip of my blade straight under its chin to the roof of its mouth. I didn’t have the strength to get any farther—dragon bone was rock-hard—but I had another weapon. While my enemy swiped and clawed at its neck, trying to get free, I rolled underneath its body and stabbed a shorter blade between its ribs and into its heart. The beast groaned and shuddered.
That was my cue to scramble away as fast as I could.
As I rose to a crouch several feet away, it let out one last huff and slumped to the ground, wings unfurling almost to my feet. If I’d been underneath the body, it would have crushed me. This particular green dragon was about the size of a small elephant and weighed at least as much. The neck was several feet long, and the tail was the length of a truck. All in all, it must have been at least ten times my size. Since completing the slayer rite of passage last year, I’d evolved physically into something much stronger and more durable than the average human, but I still had vulnerabilities. My bones could still break with enough pressure, and I needed to breathe like everyone else.
Loud clapping sounded behind me. I turned and found Conrad standing about a hundred feet away near a large store front with blown-out windows. My friend and sidekick wore a big grin as he walked toward me, boots crunching on broken glass.