By Lynne Murray
Genre: Paranormal Romance
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The first night
“WILL you accept this nose ring?” Verity repeated it over and over under her breath as she stood on the paving stones of the castle courtyard. Twenty-six dragon shapeshifter suitors would soon arrive. The Earth reality TV videos showed human bachelors and bachelorettes handing out roses to those who would continue on the journey towards finding mates. But roses would confuse the dragon bachelors. In dragon form, they might eat the flowers, thorns and all and then belch fire. However, gold in any form got all the dragons’ attention big time.
Verity’s curves, prized on the Dragon Planet, were on ample display as she stood in her human form. She wore a sparkling ice-blue gown that matched her eyes. Her dress artfully molded to her in front, open nearly down to her waist and cut almost as low clinging to her backside, although her long black hair covered most of the skin revealed in back. Verity didn’t shiver from the cold, despite the thin fabric. Her dragon blood ran hot. Any trembling was completely due to nerves.
“Will you accept this nose ring?” she muttered again. It was a simple enough phase but she just might mess it up.
Torches burned in the courtyard in front of the quaint old castle. It was a historic site, not a working fortress, a confection of towers and spires perched on a remote mountainside. Lights from the village at the foot of the mountain twinkled in the darkness below. Verity would stay here for the next nine weeks.
Modern lighting illuminated the center of the courtyard where Verity would greet each bachelor dragon in turn as he arrived. Cameramen, sound crew and assistant producers circled around the edges of the courtyard. The whole planet was watching. Her every word and move were being recorded.
Tonight, Verity was The Dragonette, a bachelorette shapeshifter on a Journey to Love. She was also the Dragon King’s daughter. She stiffened her spine. She took a deep breath of the pine scented air carried by the breeze up from the forests below.
Each of the bachelor dragons would introduce himself as he arrived. The camera crew roamed around her, waiting for the men to arrive.
The king had summoned Verity to his throne room when he told her she would be the planet’s first Dragonette. King Harrenholtz was a big fan of reality television shows from Earth. The ruler of the Blood Claw Clan that dominated Planet Dragon had decided that a television show would promote mating in a planet with a dwindling shapeshifter population. The king’s closest councilor, his brother Cobravelos was in charge of making it happen.
“We’re gathering together the best of the best young dragons from every corner of the planet, Verity,” the king told her. “All in one place for you to choose from. It’s one-stop-shopping as they say on Earth. You’ll be able to start nesting immediately, and I hope to see those baby dragons soon.”
Verity had no answer to this.
No problem there, the king wasn’t expecting an answer. The king, tall and stately, his dark hair streaked with gray and his blue eyes still compelling even in middle age, was a hopeless romantic—when it suited his purposes.
“You should be the bachelor dragon yourself, brother,” Verity’s Aunt Tryspidania told the king. Gray-haired and flint eyed with a spine of steel, Aunt Tryspi was a genealogy freak who had traced the family trees of all the contestants.
The king didn’t mind a little flattery, but he waved the idea aside. “Your Aunt Tryspi tells me that these men all come from the best bloodlines,” he said. “Also, your uncle, who knows about these things, assures me that these men are all, as he says, ‘smoking hot.’”
Verity’s uncle Cobra was just as tall, blue-eyed and handsome as the king but much more fashionable. He was gay and the king trusted his opinions on which males were hot and which were not.
“We know your unusual interest in conversation and culture and—um, ideas, Verity,” The king’s tone indicated that these pursuits were useless at best, but he was willing to indulge her eccentric tastes.
“So we made sure to include some men who are artistic or...well, I don’t know, clever. These dragons are the best of the best. Your hatchlings will raise the intelligence level of the whole species. So enjoy the journey and find me a son-in-law.”
Like she had a choice.
Her relatives would be shocked to find that Verity had a secret plan. Simple, straightforward Verity, who everyone knew was pathetically bad at the basic dragon skill of planning and executing devious strategies. She didn’t have a detailed plan. More like the ghost of a hope. This dating show had thrown everything into chaos. She needed to stay alert and look for her chance.
She had tried once before to run away from her father’s castle and the fate of being chained to a nest for a life of egg laying like a prize hen. That attempt had ended in disaster. She wouldn’t let herself think about it. Her mind and body had been numb ever since.
The king was convinced that she had learned her lesson and wouldn’t try again. But Verity had grimly determined never to be in any dragon’s power ever again. She trusted no one to help. She wasn’t even sure she could do it. But Verity planned to watch for an opening to escape from her gilded cage before it was too late.
I have written and directed a play, written dozens of articles for Buddhist publications and contributed humorous short pieces and interviews to both online and print magazines. My favorite, an interview of Darlene Cates, star of "What's Eating Gilbert Grape," is available here.
I started to write books with life-size heroines on the day I threw a book against the wall for having one fat joke too many. Since that turning point, I have published eight books featuring large, in-charge heroines, real life situations and genuine humor with no cruel jokes whatsoever. My mystery series featuring Josephine Fuller, Sleuth of Size who doesn't apologize, won the NAAFA Distinguished Achievement Award.
For review copies contact Lynne at email@example.com
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