SHATTERED SPIRITS

Shattered Spirits, an urban fantasy / paranormal romance and the second book in the Dragon Spirit series by C.I. Black

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SHATTERED SPIRITS
A Dragon Spirit Novel: Book 2

His love will set her free. Hers will kill him.

For centuries Capri has used her magic to keep dragonkind a secret, living only for her job. A century ago, dragon law forced her to abandon the only man she ever loved, a human, and she swore she’d never love one again. So when a murdered dragon is discovered, Capri jumps to work, only to find the human detective working the case could be her dead lover’s twin.

Detective Ryan Miller has always known magic existed. It’s the only explanation for the visions of the future that plague his life and jeopardize his career, but when a vision shows FBI agent Capri Jones in danger, he knows he has to stay close and save her. Except the closer he gets the more attraction sizzles between them, the more confusing the case gets, and the more he realizes Capri is keeping secrets. Secrets that once revealed could kill them both.

PROLOGUE

The boy pounded on the glass of the top floor window, mouth open in a scream that couldn’t be heard. Smoke billowed from the four-story tenement. It cast a ghostly haze over the moon and enveloped the streetlights at the entrance.

Flames licked out of the windows on all floors, bright streamers straining toward the neighboring buildings only a narrow alley away. Sirens wailed in the distance. People gathered to watch the chaos.

Ryan shoved through the crowd and raced across the street to the tired, sagging steps.

A thunderous boom shook the ground.

Flames shot from the roof, showering him with stinging ash and debris. He stumbled under the faded yellow and white striped awning and yanked open the door. Black smoke engulfed him, burning his lungs with every quick inhalation.

Coughing, he pulled the front of his T-shirt over his mouth and nose and barreled up the stairs. One flight. Two flights. Three.

The smoke was thicker here, black and hot. He squinted, looking for signs of movement. The window had been on the front corner and the child had been screaming. He rushed to the left, straining to hear anything, but the fire roared around him, crackling and snapping, consuming sounds as well as the building.

He’d just have to pray he’d get there in time.

He had to get there in time. This was his chance to do what he’d been unable to do all those years ago.

The smoke gusted up to the ceiling, revealing the door at the end. He rushed toward it.

His eyes watered, but he kept focused on his goal. Smoke billowed around him again, but the path to the door remained clear. His chest burned, each breath heavy.

Just a few more feet.

The hallway flickered, darkness sweeping along the edge of his vision. He reached for the doorknob, but it was a foot farther than anticipated. Smoke ebbed around his feet. He leapt closer. The door moved back and the hall flickered again, like ripples on dark water.

His breath caught in his throat.

It was a future flash. Only a vision of what was to come. It wasn’t actually happening right now.

He squeezed his eyes shut, concentrating on slowing his racing heart. The fire continued to roar. His breath burned and his chest ached.

It wasn’t real. Not yet. If he could break free, he could save the kid.

He pressed his hands over his ears, but the blaze roared inside his head. There had to be a way to control his visions. He needed to concentrate. Block everything out. Focus on his body.

But his body thought he was in the middle of an inferno. His heart continued to race, his skin burned, and his muscles trembled. His curse controlled him, and no matter how hard he tried, it wouldn’t release him until it was ready.

Heat blasted him in the face, and his eyes flew open.

He sat in his car, parked under a flickering streetlight on a quiet street. Across from him sat a brown tenement, looking worn down even in the dark. Its stairs sagged under a faded yellow and white awning. Just like the stairs in his vision.

There was still time to save the boy. He leapt out of his car, and the building exploded into flames.

CHAPTER 1

Capri kicked the snow from her boots and entered the Newgate Medical Examiner’s office through the heavy back door. It was never a good sign when her friend Hiro called her to her office. In fact, it had been years since the last time. It usually meant the kind of off-the-books work that could have a dragon reborn for treason.

Of course, Hiro knew that, and Capri doubted the chief medical examiner would have left the cryptic message on her phone if it hadn’t been important. The timing was terrible given that the dragon prince was on a rampage, looking for traitors after the failed coup two weeks ago.

She unwrapped her scarf and headed to the main examination room. Movement down a side hall caught her attention, and she paused to get a better look.

Eric stood at the far end, talking with someone.

Her heart skipped a beat, and she jerked her gaze away.

It wasn’t Eric. God above, it was not Eric. He was dead. He’d died years ago, and she’d been forced to leave him years before that. Dragon law was specific about how long a relationship with a human could last, and she’d done what her prince had commanded.

And regretted it every day of her immortal life.

She’d thought she’d put Eric’s ghost to rest. When he’d died of old age, and she was still in the ageless human body her dragon spirit had been put into during the late twelfth century, she’d thought she’d accepted that leaving him had been right. But she never stopped aching for him. And since meeting Detective Ryan Miller — the man who could have been Eric’s twin — she now saw him everywhere… Eric, not Miller. She saw him in glances down halls, walking on the other side of the street, in her dreams, even in the Dragon Court.

With every passing day, her yearning for him became worse. She’d even caught herself yesterday daydreaming that Miller was really Eric and they’d renewed their intimacy.

But Miller wasn’t Eric. She didn’t know the detective, and if she wanted to be a good drake and follow the rules, she’d never know him. Besides, he wasn’t in Newgate, and the odds of seeing him again were slim.

Which was good.

Really.

She ground her teeth and shoved open the swinging doors to the main exam room. Best to focus on work, or in this case, under-the-table work.

Hiro glanced up from the naked body on the stainless steel table. The victim’s chest lay open and the top of his ribcage sat on a trolley, along with the man’s head.

“I’d ask if you know the cause of death, but it’s a little obvious. Same as Kardas?” Two decapitated drakes were the perfect distraction. If, of course, this one was a dragon. Capri didn’t recognize him, but that didn’t mean he hadn’t been one.

“The murders look identical.”

“That’s two bodies in a week and a half.” Not good. Most dragons had accelerated healing, making them difficult to kill. The only sure way to kill one was to remove his head, and there were only two possible situations for what had happened to the guy on the table — if he was, in fact, a drake. Neither of them was good news for dragonkind.

“His driver’s license says his name is Andy Reynolds. Now, he’s not in the registry—” Hiro pulled off her gloves and grabbed a file from her desk. “But with Kardas last week, I thought I’d give you a heads-up… no pun intended.”

“Thanks.” Not being in the drake registry didn’t mean he wasn’t a dragon. It could just mean he’d managed to slip under Prince Regis’s radar — something many drakes aspired toward. But with his soul gone, there was no way to tell if he’d had a dragon’s aura or not. Not until someone did some poking around into his private life.

“And even if this one was human, it’s still suspicious.” Hiro made a note in her file.

“Two beheadings so close together — suspicious is an understatement.” It wasn’t impossible to think a psychopath who decapitated his victims was on the loose. It had happened before. But the odds that he’d chosen a drake, possibly two, and killed them while unaware that they were dragons was slim. Killing a drake took planning and an understanding of dragon capabilities — like knowing you had one swing to do the job or needed to incapacitate the drake first, and it took enough sedative to knock out a rhinoceros for that.

“There are really only two options. A human knows about us or—”

“Or Regis is auditioning new assassins.” Capri resisted the urge to bare her teeth. It was inappropriate to show her pleasure over the situation, given how serious it was. But this was the perfect distraction. A few deaths, a little intrigue. Just enough to keep her occupied, albeit on her toes.

“If Regis is in the process of hiring, this assassin is doing a terrible job. This is a mess,” Hiro said.

“And one I haven’t been asked to clean up.” Which didn’t necessarily prove or disprove the theory that these were sanctioned assassinations. Although, if it had been a human murderer, Capri and the rest of the North American Clean Team would have been rushed in to eliminate any evidence of dragonkind. But if Regis was behind the killings and wanted to send a message to all drakes living outside of Court — and essentially outside of his immediate protection — leaving the mess might that message.

Hiro pursed her lips. “Regis has done this before.”

“Yes, but technology has changed since the 1500s. If it is him, it’s sloppy to let two bodies stack up in so short a time.” Capri bit back a growl. “That drake only follows his laws when it suits his needs, and then I get to clean up the mess when the humans start noticing.” But that was the way it was. Regis could do as he pleased because he was the prince, and she’d had to give up the only man she’d ever loved.

Keep dragonkind a secret, Capri. Clean up the mess, Capri. Follow the rules and you won’t be reborn with all your memories erased.

Hiro cleared her throat, and Capri jerked her gaze up. She hadn’t realized she’d been staring at the corpse.

“I didn’t ask you here for a pity-party,” Hiro said.

“No. If you had, you would’ve made margaritas.” Capri needed to focus on the job. Even if this wasn’t an official job, it could turn into one at any moment, and the more information she had, the easier it would be. And she liked this, liked the rush. She just had to stop thinking about Eric and everything would go back to the way it had been.

Hiro cocked her head, pulling Capri back to the conversation again. “Ptolemy has Cooper on the investigation, so we’re covered there. But just in case politics are involved, I thought you should know.”

Capri offered a smile. It felt forced, but it was the best she could manage at the moment. “Of course.”

All the bases were covered. The two drakes situated in the Newgate Police Department, Ptolemy, chief of police, and Ilan Cooper, detective, had the traditional angle, and when the shit hit the fan, Capri could swoop in, flash her FBI badge, and keep dragonkind safe.

Hiro made a note in her file and snapped it shut. “So, you still on for girls’ night tonight?”

“It all depends on what’s going on with work.”

Hiro raised a delicate eyebrow. “You haven’t missed girls’ night for a hundred years. Until the last two weeks, that is. If you miss again, I’ll think something is up.”

“You already think something is up.”

“There is that.”

Capri pursed her lips and focused all her attention on the corpse. Very few drakes knew about her indiscretion with a human, and Hiro wasn’t one of them. And even though she and Hiro were from different coteries, Capri had been friends with the other blue drake since the early 1800s. She didn’t think Hiro would see her confession about having a human lover as an opportunity to take advantage of her, but some instincts were hard to ignore, and she, like most drakes, had been protecting her emotional vulnerabilities for centuries.

The door to the examination room whooshed open.

“How’s my favorite medical examiner?” an oh-so familiar voice asked. Shivers raced over Capri, and her heart plummeted into her stomach.

Eric.

No, Eric was dead.

Which meant she hadn’t been imagining him in the hall. It had to be—

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