Immortal Beginnings (Etherya's Earth #4.5)
Immortal Beginnings (Etherya's Earth #4.5)
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- Male Virgin
- Single Mother
- Second Chance
- Paranormal Romance
From USA Today bestselling author Rebecca Hefner
Etherya’s Earth #4.5
Can a Deamon who has never felt a lover’s touch win the affection of a beautiful but wary Vampyre widow?
Strong and stoic Dragos yearns to build an honest life after the War of the Species ends. Due to his servitude to the Dark Lord Crimeous, he never had the opportunity to experience love or true emotion.
Vampyre widow Raina promised she’d never love another. Yet, she’s taken with her handsome, enigmatic new neighbor and his kindness to her two sons.
When Raina realizes Dragos has never had a lover, she gives in to their mutual passion, never realizing she might also lose her heart to the man who somehow invaded every crevice of her soul…
Dear readers, you know I love an inexperienced hero! Settle in and enjoy this sweet, steamy story with a guaranteed HEA.
Intro Into Chapter 1
Intro Into Chapter 1
Dragos smelled the smoke and stilled, the saw in his hand frozen against the wood he was cutting. His shed sat behind his modest one-bedroom cabin, and he liked to do projects there on his days off. Sometimes, he carved little trinkets. Other times, he built furniture when the need arose. Last week, he decided he needed another end table to compliment the one that already sat beside his couch, so he’d come to his shed to fashion it on the warm, sunny day.
Sniffing, he set down the saw and trailed outside, squinting against the rays of the bright sun. He’d lived in the Deamon caves for centuries and was used to squalid darkness. Perhaps one day his eyes would adjust to the freedom he now experienced. For now, he waited for his pupils to focus as he searched for the source of the smoke.
He kept a woodpile several feet from his shed, and his head snapped when the cut logs creaked before the pile toppled to the ground. Rushing toward the scattered logs, he observed orange flames envelop the pile of wood. Eyes widening, Dragos realized a little boy was trapped under the burning logs.
“Help!” he cried, his hand waving as he struggled to get free. “I’m stuck!”
“Hold on, son,” Dragos called, rushing toward the blazing pile of wood. “I’m going to pull you out!”
Dragos reached between the logs, pulling them apart and tossing them aside as he dug toward the boy. Adrenaline surged as he blocked out the pain, feeling his skin burn as he inched closer to the child. As a former Deamon soldier, Dragos had felt pain many times and barely noticed the sensation. Grunting, he slung the wood pieces aside until he was standing over the boy. Recognizing him, Dragos extended his hand.
“Grab onto me, Galen,” he said, reading the fear in the boy’s ice-blue eyes. “I’m going to create leverage so I can wedge you out, okay?”
The boy nodded, his black hair swishing as he grabbed Dragos’s hand.
“One…two…three!” Dragos cried, tugging him as he pushed the heavy log covering the boy’s leg. Galen whimpered before dislodging his leg, and Dragos snatched him from the burning pile of wood. Lifting him, he jogged from the pile, carrying Galen as the boy coughed against his neck. Finally, Dragos felt they were far enough from the blazing embers to set Galen down. Resting him on the ground, he ran his hands over his neck, stomach, and legs, looking for burns.
“You’re already healing,” Dragos said, relief washing over him as the burned skin on Galen’s leg transformed before his eyes. The skin turned from angry red blisters to a pale, smooth color in the span of moments. “Thank the goddess for Vampyres’ self-healing properties. You’re going to be fine, son.”
“Galen!” a woman cried, and Dragos turned to see his neighbor Raina sprinting toward them. She fell to her knees, clutching Galen in a tight hug as she patted her hands over his back. “By the goddess, what happened? Are you okay?”
“I’m fine, Mom,” he mumbled, drawing back and wiping his arm over his nose. “I’m sorry.”
Dragos noticed the tears shimmering in his eyes and wanted to soothe him. “It’s okay, son,” he said, rubbing his shoulder. “I can always cut more wood.”
“Oh, your arm,” Raina said, concern in her tone as she touched his burned skin.
Dragos hissed and withdrew from her touch. The act went against his base instincts since he’d dreamed of Raina touching him almost every night since he purchased the plot of land next to her home, but the visions he had of Raina’s soft fingers touching him weren’t visions of pain. No—they were vivid images of her running those pink-painted nails over his skin as he moaned beneath her. Or above her. Hell, anywhere beside her as long as they were both naked. Clearing his throat, he shook his head to banish the images.
“I’ll be fine,” he said with a curt nod, hating to be short with her but uncomfortable with his body’s reaction. His skin was more heated from her brief touch than from the flames that still burned on the nearby woodpile. His reaction to her was visceral, and his body hardened as she gazed at him with concern. “I’m just happy I was able to help Galen. Although Vampyres are self-healing, they still experience pain, and I didn’t want him to suffer.”
“Thank you, Dragos,” Galen said softly.
“You have burns on both arms,” Raina said, her blue eyes roving over his frame. “Are you hurt anywhere else? I don’t have any salve, but I can get some from Sadie and apply it to your burns. Unfortunately, you won’t heal as fast as my mischievous little boy here,” she said, soothing Galen’s hair as her expression grew stern. “Were you playing with matches again, young man? Do you remember what I told you would happen if I ever caught you with matches again?”
His lips formed a pout. “I can’t play with my friends for two weeks.”
“That’s right. You’re grounded for two weeks so you can think about your actions.”
His eyes darted to Dragos before he sighed. “Okay. I’m really sorry, Dragos. I didn’t mean to set your woodpile on fire.”
“It’s okay, and I’ll be just fine. If you’re bored while you’re grounded, you can help me. That might be a fitting punishment for the crime.” He smiled, attempting to reassure the boy. Hell, he was only a kid, and kids made mistakes. Replacing the wood he’d destroyed was an acceptable recompense for his mistake, and Dragos wouldn’t mind the extra help. Glancing at the still-burning pile, his eyes narrowed. “I need to go grab my hose and put out the fire. It’s contained to the pile, but I don’t want it to ruin my grass.”
“Oh, of course,” Raina said, rising and helping Galen stand before extending her hand. Dragos clutched it and rose, cognizant of her soft palm against his calloused one. “I’m terribly sorry and still want to help you with those burns. It’s the least I can do for saving my son.”
“I’m fine, Raina,” he said, lifting a hand. “But thank you. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go hook up the hose. You stay away from those matches, Galen.”
“Yes, sir,” he called softly.
Dragos waved before pivoting and stalking back to his shed to find the hose. Once he located it, he hooked it up to the spigot attached to the back of his cabin and trailed to the burning pile of wood. Turning on the spray, he put out the fire, noting he’d have to insert some time into his schedule to replace the now-singed pieces once his arms healed. After the fire was out, he rolled up the hose and stuck it in his shed.
Glancing down, he observed the burns on his forearms. Second-degree, if he had to guess, which meant they would take a few days to heal.
Dragos was a laborer who worked in the weapons factory on the outskirts of the main square of Takelia, the compound he’d inhabited ever since Governor Evie fulfilled the prophecy and freed the Deamons from the rule of the Dark Lord Crimeous. He would still be able to use his singed arms and hands to assemble the weapons, although it would hurt like hell. Perhaps on his way home from work tomorrow evening he would pass by the clinic Sadie ran and see if they had any salve. Thanking the goddess he was only burned on his arms, Dragos admitted it could’ve been worse.
Glancing at the half-finished table in his shed, he decided he’d resume working on it once his arms healed. For now, he was going to let the adrenaline subside and relax on his day off.
After closing the shed door, he slowly trekked toward his cottage. Sensing a presence to his left, he glanced toward Raina’s home. She stood on the grass where their properties connected, arms crossed over her chest as she slowly rubbed them. Although she was several yards away, he felt her gaze as if she were close enough to brush against him. Her curly light brown hair flitted in the breeze, making her look stunning in the late-afternoon sun. Lifting his hand, he gave a slight wave.
Her hand slowly lifted, waving back as she stood tall and firm. Dragos’s throat bobbed as he stood frozen, wondering if she was going to approach him—perhaps to thank him again. It was the only reason he could fathom why the pretty widow would approach him. Never would she cross the chasm between them and tilt those full lips to his before begging him to kiss her. No matter how hard he dreamed or willed it to happen, it was impossible for a myriad of reasons.
First, her husband had been killed by Deamons in the war against Crimeous. By the very Deamons that comprised the army he used to fight for. It didn’t matter that Dragos’s position in the army was against his will or that he hadn’t believed in Crimeous’s cause. Dragos had been a Deamon soldier, and he’d been on the wrong side.
Queen Miranda and King Sathan, with their generous hearts and desire to unite the species, had offered Deamons the chance to live in their kingdom if they repented and disavowed any allegiance to Crimeous once he perished. That was an easy task for Dragos, and for his compliance he was allowed to hold a job in the immortal realm, although not as a soldier. Deamons weren’t allowed to fight in the immortal army since it afforded them access to weapons and inside information the king and queen didn’t want their former enemies to possess. But Deamons could hold jobs and exist in society as long as they embraced the kingdom and followed the law of the land. For a man who had never tasted freedom, those were small penances to pay, and Dragos was thankful to the royal leaders for their graciousness.
Still, Vampyres and Slayers—the original species of the immortal kingdom—needed time to accept their reformed enemies. Dragos understood peace took time and was happy to live on his small plot of land. Governor Evie assured repentant Deamons were able to get loans, and he’d secured one with his meager salary from the factory.
When he’d built his cottage and met the beautiful widow next door, along with her two boys, she informed him her husband was a soldier who’d been slain by Deamons in the final battle against Crimeous. Dragos had fought in that battle, and it was gruesome. Remorse washed over him as he’d stared into her eyes, wishing he could change his violent history. It would always be a stain upon his soul, although he’d had no other choice. Crimeous bred the Deamon race for the sole purpose of destroying the immortals of Etherya’s Earth.
Returning to the moment, Dragos flashed Raina a soft smile before turning back to his cottage. Even if she could somehow get past the fact he’d been a member of the army responsible for her husband’s death, there was another reason he could never have her: Dragos had no idea how to please a woman. Even though he’d lived centuries, Dragos only knew war and death. The women who had lived in the caves had also been prisoners of Crimeous and were kept separate from the soldiers. In fact, Dragos didn’t have the first idea of how people connected sexually in their world. Of course, he understood the male penetrated the female with his cock, but how did the logistics truly work? He didn’t understand the first thing about seduction or courting, and he had never kissed a woman. How did one go about initiating a kiss? It seemed extremely uncomfortable to him since he was rather shy and a bit stoic.
Sighing at his ineptitude, he stepped inside the cabin and located the half-drunk bottle of whiskey. It was a gift from Lila, the altruistic Vampyre aristocrat who’d taught him to read. She held literacy classes for all the reformed Deamons, and he was grateful to have acquired the skill. When he purchased his home, she’d given him the whiskey as a gift, and he’d thought her so kind. Pouring two fingers into a glass, he strode to the window and pulled back the curtain.
Raina no longer stood frozen atop the grass, and he closed his eyes, wishing she were still there. Wishing he could reach for her and slide his palms over her arms, drawing her close so he could bury his nose in her curls and kiss her soft hair. Lifting his lids, he held the whiskey, slowly sipping as he ran a finger over the smooth glass of the window.
“Raina,” he whispered.
Her name was sweet upon his lips, and he doused it with a hefty sip. Wasting time daydreaming of touching someone who would never be his was futile. Tossing back the glass, he set it on the counter before heading to his tiny bathroom to see if he could scrounge up some sort of salve or lotion to squelch the stinging nerve endings under his burned skin.
An inexperienced hero falls for an unavailable widow. Can Raina open her heart to Dragos?