Shadows by Ophelia Bell
Series: Sleeping Dragons #4
Source: Review by Request
Copy Provided bu the Author
My Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Everyone has a little bit of darkness in them. Hallie’s denied her own inner demons for months, running whenever someone gets too close to illuminating things she’d rather keep hidden. On the run from her past yet again, she fakes some credentials to join an archaeology expedition to the Sumatran jungle that sounds like the perfect way to escape. Out of her depth, she struggles not to let her teammates know she’s not really one of them, but she learns the dragon temple they discover might provide answers to questions she’d been afraid to ask.
The first night inside the temple she awakens to an invisible presence bringing her to heights of pleasure she’s never known before. He then disappears into the darkness without a word. She chases a shadow that might just be a hallucination, but pleasure like that can’t be all in her head.
When she finds her shadow man, she also comes face to face with her own darkness. She is forced to reconcile her past in order to embrace the person who will finally give her a reason to stop running.
I want my own Dragon…
Darkness was a perpetual irritation, particularly for a creature like Kol. He was not only trapped in it, he was part of it. For centuries he lived without light…
By Book Four of this series – which I highly recommend you read in order – the team is succumbing to the allure of the Dragon Temple. They are conducting the ritual room by room – performing sexual rites which awaken the dragons.
The temple is full of them – Dragons which appear to be carved from jade in a kaleidoscope of colors… They are actually live dragons, frozen in their hibernation… Waiting for their chance to wake and take to the skies once more…
It turns out, not all of the dragons within the temple have been asleep. One has been protecting his sleeping brethren.
Technically, he was asleep. At least his body was. But his magic, unique to black dragons, allowed him to manifest through his breath. While his physical body slept on, frozen in black jade, the shadow of his breath coalesced into a smaller, human form and lurked about the temple like a ghost ensuring the security of all who slept within.
Kol has been awake for five hundred years. He exists as a shadow, patrolling the temple alone. His body might be frozen in a black jade coffin, but his spirit roams freely, and his mind torments him with memories of a past he can never reclaim.
His loneliness is a punishment handed down for committing a sin against his race – he fell in love with a human woman and refused to mark her (thereby ensuring her loyalty).
History cannot repeat itself – Kol must mark the human who chooses him in order to fulfill his part of the ritual.
“I just want one woman. One sweet morsel to savor for the next few decades after this temple is finally opened. Someone whose world I can change enough to see in her eyes how much I mean to her and her alone.”
Hallie is a fraud. She knew she had no business applying to accompany this team into the jungles in search of a mythical Dragon temple. She falsified her records in order to flee the country.
She has been on the run from danger – in the form of a powerful ex-lover – but within the temple she finds an entirely new type of peril.
Kol must mark Hallie as his…
Hallie must trust enough to belong to someone…
Seems the ghosts of Hallie’s past are every bit as dark as Kol’s shadow. The two must come together willingly in order to continue the ritual…
Kol was oblivious to the sounds coming from the other chambers when he retreated to his own, slipping beneath the door with an effort of will. He felt like a fraud, pretending to be the domineering, demanding lover. She’d seen right through him. He could be that way. He loved the heady rush he got when he was in control and his lover did as he asked, but it never began until she asked for it to begin with.
He believed Hallie would ask for it. She was the one who would see him clear of this prison once and for all, but the waiting in these last crucial moments was even more tortuous than the last five hundred years. He hid inside the huge, rigid prison of his body. The massive black dragon the council had insisted he become before the temple was locked down and they were all frozen in their assigned chambers. His true form. But the truth was, he’d long since begun to hate himself for his shape. The urge for dominance was overwhelming after living that way, even in stasis. And in spite of it, he still hadn’t been able to convince her of his need to possess her.
The door finally opened, but he kept silent, waiting to see what she would do. Two figures slipped in. One stood within the dim light of the entrance, the second moved in from behind to stand in a dark corner.
“Did she come willingly? You didn’t force her, did you?”
“Yes, Shadow. She found me and asked me to explain the ritual in detail. She is here by her own choice.” Kris answered out loud, causing Hallie to jerk in surprise.
“Where is he, Kris? I can’t see a goddamn thing in here.” But Kris didn’t answer. Kol knew it was up to him now, and up to Hallie to make a decision.
He sent his breath past her to push the door closed with a soft thud. After all these years cursing the darkness, somehow he felt too exposed even with the tiny amount of light that had come through that door.
Hallie’s heartbeat seemed the loudest thing in the room. She seemed to be holding her breath. He manifested his shadow into his chosen form in front of her.
“Follow my voice,” he said.
“Can’t you turn on a light or light a torch or something. You said you’d show yourself to me if I came. Why can’t I see you?”
She still hadn’t moved from her spot.
“Hallie, you can trust me. I can see you fine. I won’t let you fall. Come toward my voice.”
She barked out a harsh laugh that betrayed her lack of conviction in his words. “Trust you? I know better than to trust a man who believes he can own me. Did you actually believe that would work? Tell me, did it work on Erika? Camille? Did those dragons convince the women they should be their slaves? I highly doubt it. I know them. They’d never give in, any more than I would.”
He winced at her misunderstanding of the situation. The other women had given in, as had the men, but they hadn’t known the truth beforehand, either.
“Wake me first, please. Then I will tell you everything.”
“Tell me just one thing now, alright? Can I leave this temple without doing what you want me to do?”
“No. The doors above are closed. They won’t open again until the ritual is complete.”
“Well, okay then.” She took a soft footstep toward him, then another. “As long as I’m trapped, you might as well finish what you started earlier.”
The determination in her voice was unexpected. She was going to go through with it, willing or not. This wasn’t how it was supposed to go. She had to want him to wake up and mark her and not just because she was trapped if she didn’t.
“It’s true that if you don’t wake me you can’t leave, but someone else will come. Another team will crack open those doors. It’s inevitable. The rewards are too great for most humans to resist. Like your friends. They understand because the other dragons are…” he paused, hating what he was about to say. He released a heavy breath through his nostrils. “They’re better at this part of attracting humans than I am.”
“What was that?” she asked in surprise, jerking her head slightly to one side. “I saw a light somewhere behind you. Do that again!”
The breath he’d just exhaled had not come from this form, which didn’t breathe so much as sense, because it was his breath. When he’d let out that long sigh, the breath had come from his static form in the back of the room, on the far end of the pool. He emitted another breath and watched the dark light of it illuminate his long, shiny snout and brows, and the horned crown of his head where it rested in slumber along the pair of huge foreclaws. Rather than let the breath recede into his lungs again, he let it continue, pushing the magic residue back over his sleeping body until it settled on the entire surface of his skin leaving him glowing as though in phantom moonlight.
“Is that you?” Hallie asked, awe-struck. She walked faster toward him. Too fast in the darkness.
“Wait, stop!” he called out, nearly too late to keep her stepping headlong into the pool.
“What? I can’t believe you think you’re worse at attracting humans. Can you see how beautiful you are? And that stunt you pulled earlier. Very forward way to seduce a woman, sneaking into her dreams like that. But you know what? It worked on me.”
“I didn’t… what do you mean it worked?”
“Listen, dummy, I disagree with your approach but that doesn’t mean I didn’t absolutely love what you were doing. I’m doing this because I choose to. Because I want to. Consider me an adventurous spirit. And because whatever magic is in the air—water—whatever—in this temple is making me the horniest I’ve ever been in my life. And trust me, that’s saying something.”
“Sweet Mother, I don’t know if I’m ready for women in this century,” Kol muttered.
“So, you’ll adapt.” He could hear the smile in her voice and relief washed over him. “Now tell me why you made me stop.”
“You’re about to get very wet if you don’t.”
She let out a throaty little laugh. “I thought that was the plan. Get me hot and bothered, then have your way with me? It’s a little late for that.”
Kol smiled to himself. She had a point, and she also had a wicked sense of humor. The idea that he could have a woman so self-assured that might still willingly submit to him thrilled him. And he thought he might just play along a little bit to see how she responded.
“Well,” he said, lowering his voice, “You should take off your clothes before you take another step.”
About the Author:
Ophelia Bell believes there’s a philosophical side to writing dirty stories, but mostly it’s just the escape that matters. That’s all fiction is about, anyway. She loves everything in fiction to the point of distraction. Existential stories like Milan Kundera, sexy humor like Charlotte Stein, more literary erotica like Nicholson Baker, or hot paranormal romance like J.R. Ward.
Above all she loves a good bad-boy and especially strong women in her stories. Women who aren’t apologetic about having the upper hand and bad boys who don’t mind being with a woman who’s in charge, at least on the surface, because pretty much anything goes in the bedroom.
Ophelia grew up on a rural farm in North Carolina and now lives in Los Angeles with her own tattooed bad-boy husband and four attention-whoring cats.