Blood Moon Dragon
Dragon Investigators, Book 2
Curvy country star Cassie Miller-Pope lives and breathes music until the fated day when betrayal boots her in the backside and leaves her flailing for balance. She completes her obligations, then demands her manager-ex-boyfriend give her time off to visit her home country of New Zealand. No, she’s not licking her wounds. She’s checking out her unexpected inheritance from her grandfather. That’s her story, and she’s sticking to the script.
Hone Taniwha is a bad boy—a reputation he’s earned honestly and doesn’t deny. After all, his rules aren’t hush-hush. He makes his anti-marriage and attachment opinions clear before each sexual encounter. But what he does keep secret is his true identity. His surname indicates his shifter personality. Hone is a taniwha—that’s dragon to you non-New Zealand readers—and to help keep his human form and his tribes’ otherness under the radar, sex and lots of it, is a necessity.
Cassie is enamored with Hone from the beginning, despite warnings from her best friend. Hone experiences the same lethal attraction and struggles to avoid the woman who wears happy-ever-after on an invisible billboard above her head. Unbeknown to Cassie, the second she gives in to her desire for the charming rogue, she’s placed herself in jeopardy, and it’s not just danger to her beleaguered heart. This time it’s her life on the line…in a battle that’s the stuff of legends.
Warning: Contains a voluptuous, girl-next-door heroine with a wounded heart and a sexy, happy-go-lucky alpha hero with a rebellious dragon. Both have secrets, so let’s see how things shake down…
Other Books in the Dragon Investigators series
Read an Excerpt
Summer, early January, South Auckland, New Zealand
“I want you-ou to show me the way!” Cassandra Miller-Pope, Cassie for short, beat her palms on the steering wheel of the in-your-face red SUV and cast a sideways wink at her long-term friend Emma Montrose.
Their grins ricocheted off each other, toothy and comfortable and perfect, as Cassie sped along hedge-lined country roads. The city of Auckland was cosmopolitan these days, but the proximity of true countryside never failed to astonish her. And now, she owned a slice of that green herself.
“I’m so glad you could join me.” Cassie pressed her prescription glasses up her nose, mentally high-fiving her transition lenses that had battled the glare and won. After staying away for so long, she’d forgotten the intensity of the New Zealand sun.
“I’m thrilled you’re here, even if it is for merely a month.”
“Me too. Letters and emails aren’t the same as an in-person visit.” Her good cheer took a nosedive. “I wish I could stay longer. With the business and Kevin…” She lowered her speed to pass a horse and rider and wished she could slow her life in the same way. “It was difficult carving out a month in the schedule Kevin wants to set.” A problem because suddenly, her enthusiasm had waned for her singing, her upcoming year, her life. “I’m not certain of the farm cottage condition since no one has lived in the place for months. Not since Grandad died.”
“Probably full of rodents. Mummy mouse and Daddy mouse and groups of baby mice.” Emma tightened the black-and-red scarf tying back her sun-kissed brown hair. Curls rippled through the strands now that it was longer, highlighting her friend’s oval face and pursed lips.
“Ugh! Don’t tell me that.” Cassie overtook a pack of cyclists, sleek and trim in their colorful cycling gear. Tight Lycra. Not anything she’d consider wearing with her determined—overweight, according to her mother—curves. In her peripheral vision, she caught a flash of Emma’s white teeth, the twinkling I-got-ya-good blue eyes. “Oh, you’re winding me up.”
“Can you feel the key in your back?”
“Yes.” Cassie spoke crisply, broadcasting affront in a perfect mirror of her mom’s lectures. “Don’t you remember I’m a famous country star? You can’t tease me.”
“Huh!” Emma wrinkled her nose. “Hate to burst your bubble but you’re famous in the US. In New Zealand, you’re plain Cassie.”
A groan—half-laugh, half-despair—rasped her throat before it emerged, victorious and loud. “Don’t remind me. Kevin keeps telling me to record a pop crossover song, that other artists are doing well jumping genres, and I’m missing the proverbial bus. But the truth is I kinda like being anonymous at home. It’s a treat to shop at the mall or hire a zippy SUV without people gushing over me.” She paused for a calming inhalation and shoved her manager’s face from her mind. “Don’t get me wrong. I love my fans, but this normalcy is pure gold. Enough about me. What about you? I can’t believe you finally wore down Jack. I still have your letters, full of studly Jack and his supreme hotness, how he didn’t register your presence. Good on you for ripping off his blinders.” She peered at the faded road sign and indicated to turn onto the gravel surface. “Ah, this is the road. I recognize the stand of trees and the dam.”
Emma craned her neck. “You’re a long way from anywhere.”
Pleasure suffused Cassie at the expanse of green. No strangers she had to play nice with. No bossy, demanding manager. No disappointed parents. Just a landscape of farmland and trees, paddocks of sheep. Oh! Cute, shaggy Highland cattle. Fresh air. Peace. “Clevedon township is ten minutes in the other direction. I have a phone. It will be fine. I’ll be fine. The peace and quiet will be good for the songwriting I plan to do.”
“Fair warning, I intend to drag you out to socialize. Shopping excursions. Dinner. A fruity cocktail or two at my favorite nightspots.”
“Done deal, but don’t tell Mom.” Cassie paused, her mind busy, thoughts shooting to the last crazy discussion with her mother. “Huh, when in New Zealand…don’t tell Mum. When she pauses to take breaths between her high-power business meetings, she mentions grandchildren. Yep, grandchildren! I asked her what she was drinking, but that didn’t go down well.”
Cassie caught Emma’s grimace and returned it with a wrinkle of her nose. During her childhood, before the family had left New Zealand to chase business opportunities in the States, her parents had kept busy with their careers. Later, as a teenager, she’d wondered how her parents managed to conceive her since they never spent much time in the same vicinity. Weird her mother would ask about grandchildren when she’d cheerfully handed over child-rearing duties to staff. Her mom had missed birthdays, school functions, lots of firsts.
And when she had spent time with her parents…
Cassie blinked rapidly to push away the onset of tears. “This is Grandad’s place.”
She pulled up outside the single-level weatherboard house, the air exploding from her in a silent O as she studied her inheritance.
“You can’t stay here.” Emma broke the oh-crap silence first.
Cassie eyed the peeling paint, the gap-toothed baseboards, the overgrown grass and weeds surrounding the house like a gang intent on robbery. The bushy trees loomed, creating dark shadows of neglect and gloom and creepiness. “I didn’t think it would be this bad.”
“Perhaps the inside will be okay.” Emma’s voice held doubt.
“Fingers crossed.” Please let it be all right. She exited the rental vehicle and groped for calm. She refused to stumble at this obstacle, not after she’d informed her mother of her plans.
Her mother had scoffed, but in her polite and firm manner that left most people unclear if they’d been slighted or not. Cassie knew better. The silk-wrapped words reeked of insult and the harsh memory steeled Cassie’s spine. She’d rallied her troops—Emma in this case—and sailed forth with her plans.
She lassoed her panic, forced herself to analyze. Yay. One childhood lecture had stuck. Her second scan took in the gigantic spider web, the cracked window pane, the moss on the faded red roof. Not much of an improvement. “I hoped I was seeing things.”
“Nope. It’s a sad, run-down house,” Emma confirmed.
“Once the lawn is mowed…” Happy memories of holidays spent with her grandparents had driven her here. Failure was not an option.
“I’ll ring Jack.” Emma pulled out her phone. “He won’t mind helping. Clevedon Oysters isn’t far away and my man has a weakness for shellfish. That will work as a bribe.”
“Done deal.” Cassie took two steps and skidded on the dew-slick grass. Her feet shot from under her and she landed on her well-padded butt, the air exploding from her in a loud oomph.
Emma rushed to her aid. “Are you okay?”
Cassie waved her away and pushed to her feet with a groan. “Nothing a clumsy pill wouldn’t fix.” She rubbed her backside and winced at the dampness seeping through her favorite blue vintage sundress.
“Is your mother still telling you to lose weight to cure your clumsiness?”
A strained chortle burst from Cassie. “She blames you. She says you instilled bad eating habits in me.”
Emma pulled a face that would make a Maori warrior proud. “Your mother is a witch. You don’t listen to her, do you? Jack loves my curves. All you need to worry about is staying fit and healthy. You look great.”
“You’re my friend. You have to say that.”
“I wrote to you about Jack. You know how hard I had to work to get his notice. Consider it this way. You wanted to sing, right?”
“You wanted it so bad, you ignored your parents’ wishes. If you find someone who interests you, fight for him in the same way.”
“And if I fail? Or he rejects me?”
Emma linked arms with her. “I’ll wipe your eyes, ply you with carrot sticks, and you’ll start again. None of us needs a man to be happy, but they can be handy with mice and long grass.”
“And for sex.”
The reason Emma was her best friend. She never treated her like a superstar or expected Cassie to buy her things. She kept up their longstanding correspondence and indulged Cassie’s love of receiving mail by writing regular letters.
“Just an aside, Emma. Chocolate ice cream works much better than carrot sticks. Oh, and a bottle of wine would go down well.”
“Gotcha. Chocolate. Wine. Ready to explore?” Emma winked—an exaggerated blink that boosted Cassie into an I-can-do-this determination.
Cassie sucked in her stomach, straightened her shoulders and lifted her chin. “Does Jack deal with rodents too?”
“He might lend you his cat.”
“I’d love a pet, but I’m on the road so much it wouldn’t be fair. That’s part of my man problem. I meet someone promising and have to leave. When I get back to base, I find another smart woman has snapped him up.”
“You put too much pressure on yourself. This is a holiday. Sun. Fresh air. My company.”
“Duly noted. I have the key.” She retrieved the key, still thankfully in her pocket, and fit it into the lock. It turned, and she pushed. Nothing happened. She twisted the key again and shoved. The wooden barrier flew open and, taken by surprise, Cassie toppled through the doorway.
Something big—huge—bounded from the nearby sitting room. Cassie screamed as a second jumped at her with a panicked baa.
“Cassie? Are you okay? Holy Hannah. Where did those sheep come from?”
On hands and knees, Cassie peeked into the sitting room and saw it was clear of sheep. “The door wasn’t locked.” She groaned as she shoved herself upright.
“Is the back door open?”
“Let’s see.” Cassie picked her way down the passage and stepped over a soldier-straight line of beer cans, her heart breaking at the destruction. Witty curses in lime-green spray-paint adorned the walls. Sheep manure peppered the faded blue carpet. A sheep—well, a lamb, since it was small—leaped through the kitchen doorway and disappeared through an open door. “Mystery solved.” She shut the door.
“Wait, we’d better check all the rooms.”
“Good point.” Cassie turned and stood in poop. “Ugh, my favorite shoes.”
They searched for more sheep but, luckily, they’d departed en masse.
“Cassie, you can’t stay here tonight.”
“No.” Cassie sighed, slumping as she watched five sheep burst through a gap in the fence and disappear. “The place needs TLC first. Since we’re here, I’d like to make a list of what needs doing. I have paper and pen in the SUV.”
“Still resisting computers?”
“Digital has its place. I use phones. I read e-books. I Google as much as the next girl, but the tactile sensations of paper and pen helps me to focus.”
Emma laughed, her blue eyes alight with mischief. Happiness and contentment radiated from her, and without warning, an envy-bomb pierced Cassie’s chest, so painful she rubbed the spot. Comparisons sprang to mind, a woe-is-me attitude shoving forward like a whiny child. Heck…
Aghast at the surge of jealousy, Cassie forced a pained grin and fled to collect her notebook while bitch-slapping her shrill inner child.
“Most of the mess and damage inside is superficial,” Emma said on her return. “Painting and cleaning up the rubbish. I rang Jack. He said he wouldn’t mind oysters and wasn’t busy. He’s bringing Hone with him.”
“Who’s Hone? I don’t remember you mentioning him.”
“He’s George’s oldest son. Hone works at George Taniwha and Sons with us.”
“He’s a private investigator too?”
“Yes. Don’t worry. You’ll like him. Where do you want to start?”
Cassie, who after her harsh self-lecture had re-entered the friend mindset, scanned the kitchen. “Might as well start here. New kitchen units, definitely. It’s a big room. Grandma always used to have a table. I have no idea what happened to that.” She jotted in bullet points. Table. Units. Breakfast bar?
“The place has good bones. You’ll need to chuck the carpet since the sheep have made a mess. Should we pull up a piece to see if you have wooden floorboards?”
With those words of encouragement, Cassie’s residual envy slipped away, and excitement replaced the destructive emotion. Grandad had never updated, especially after her grandmother died. A project might settle the angst that had trailed her during her last tour. At the very least it would give her a base to use when she wanted to recharge.
Read the Reviews
“The plot is fast paced full of excitement, charm and gripping emotions. The setting and overall plot of the story is refreshingly different and portrays a wonderful dragon culture that readers can sink their teeth into and the author was nice enough to ensure that readers have no problems pronouncing the names as she provides a very helpful guide in the front of the book. With several different suspenseful plots taking place and reader can’t help but enjoy a few chuckles, become caught up in intrigue and experience a heartbreaking but stunning battle that’s the stuff of legends.”
~ Stormy Vixen Book Reviews