Onyx Dragons: Alexandrite
Onyx Dragons: Alexandrite
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Dragon shifter Alexandrite is such a rare and beautiful color that more than one female has tried to forcefully add him to their "collection." To escape, he encased his heart in a protective coating of ice. But now he can't stop his cravings for sassy barista Nicole, and her adorable hot takes are starting a very dangerous melt...
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Loved it. The characters in this book are very special. They aren't like the characters in past books as Alex and Nicole had difficult childhoods. Alex is drawn to Nicole not understanding why, but finds out that she isn't just a weak human. Nicole ends up helping to save earth and the dragon's planet, too. This book has great characters, lots of action with adventurers, secrets to uncover and of course, love and love scenes. Once I got reading this book I didn't want to put it down.
- Boss Dragon
- Virgin Heroine
- Alien Abductions
- Sassy Barista
- Damaged Hero
- Heat Level: 3 out of 5
Dragon shifter Alex is beautiful.
But a lifetime of being targeted for his beauty has turned his heart into ice.
Only Nicole, the smart-talking human who wears her heart on her sleeve, can show him what it means to be normal. In a family of high achievers, she's a simple barista. Self-acceptance is kind of her jam.
Now ruthless dragons from Alex's past are threatening to invade Earth. They've set their sights on taking Alex, too.
But Nicole's not letting Alex–or her planet–go without a fight.
This steamy, complete romance novel contains the power of true love, a dragon shifter who's found his family, and a truly addictive cup of coffee. These dragon invaders don't know what they're up against. The dragon empire is about to be rocked by a simple barista from Earth!
Intro Into Chapter One
Intro Into Chapter One
Hi, guys, this is Nicole.
I’m starting this YouTube channel because a month ago my family blew up, my house burned down, I lost my job, and I realized I have no friends.
I kind of spent so much time trying to hold everyone else’s lives together that I forgot to focus on my own.
Anyway, I’m in therapy again, going twice a week, and it’s really helpful. I’m subbing in the coffee shop I worked at in college, even though I don’t know anybody anymore, not even the manager. It’s just a temporary job, until…
I have to figure out what I want. And the problem is that I don’t trust myself to know what I want, to even identify what I want, because…
Well, because I don’t trust myself.
Back when I had a family, I got told all the time that I was making things up, or feeling hurt for no reason, or my memory was wrong. So I’m posting a video on the Internet where I’m absolutely sure nobody will ever say hurtful things or call me wrong again. Ha ha ha.
(tucks lock of dark hair behind ear)
Yeah, I can’t figure out what I want. I still have to figure out who I am.
Maybe I’m not the only one?
That’s what I was thinking…
Oh, and the absolute last thing I want is to put myself in a position where I’m told, ‘You’re crazy, Nicole, that never happened.’ Like, I would kill myself if I just had to swallow that toxic waste down again. So I’m documenting my life 24/7, like the Nicole Truman show, minus the conspiracy and whatnot. So you can see I’m not making it up.
Why would you think I’m making anything up? “UNEMPLOYED GRAD TURNS BARISTA” isn’t exactly world news.
Well, yesterday, in the shop, I served a dragon. Alex.
That’s not the weird part. He comes in all the time since my brother Darcy’s wedding to his sister Amber a couple of weeks ago.
My brother has an exciting life. Ha ha.
Anyway, Alex asked me for a venti caramel macchiato with extra whip.
I told him to get real. This wasn’t a Starbucks.
We laughed, because he does this every day. We’re both dorks. Except he’s the good-looking one.
So then he asked me for my help.
And then it got really weird.
* * *
Nicole checked her first video post.
Twenty views. Zero comments.
She shouldered her messenger bag, patted the long-haired wiener dog dancing next to the door, handed him his daily Milk-Bone, and squeezed out of the neat town house where she was house-sitting. While she descended the stairs to the street, she replied to her sister Jackie’s text that had been sent a couple of hours ago from New York. My video career hasn’t taken off yet. Don’t bother to make graphics.
A second later, she received this reply. Influencers start at zero. Tara says the graphics are in your email.
Nicole rolled her eyes to disguise the very real warm feeling squeezing her heart. The only thing I influence is my boss’s internet speed.
Jackie replied with a laugh-crying emoji.
Nicole picked up the red scooter where it had been abandoned on the sidewalk, centered her phone camera over the barcode between the handlebars, and paid for the rental via the transit app. She hopped on and scooted down the city hill, across the Morrison Bridge, to the boutique shopping district around Hawthorne.
Portland at five in the morning on a weekday was quiet, and this was the only time that it smelled vaguely like the ocean, even though they were close enough to do Tillamook in a day trip. Mount Hood loomed in the east. The sky was just beginning to lighten when she stopped in front of the Fresh Beans coffee shop, ended her trip in the app, and stowed the scooter next to a throng of similarly abandoned rentals.
It was funny how she used to have to walk or take mass transit everywhere. Then, one day, the scooters popped up, and life was totally different.
Like how only two months ago, Nicole’s siblings had all lived at home and worked the family lingerie business. In one single weekend, her parents split and left forever, their house burned down, the lingerie business was sold, her brother got married, and her sisters moved to opposite coasts.
Things changed in an instant.
Take how everyone always thought Earth was alone in the universe, and then one day five years ago, dragon aliens had landed, and life was totally…
Well, not different, exactly. The dragon shifters stuck to themselves. Only a couple of hundred lived on Earth, and so even though one dragon family had a clothing export office just over the river in Vancouver, she hadn’t met a dragon face-to-face until her brother Darcy’s wedding to dragon-shifter Amber.
No, dragons hadn’t affected her life that much at all.
Nicole fitted her key in the lock of the small shop just as the bling-bling of the bread delivery bicycle sounded. She waved and put her shoulder to the stuck bakery door. “Hey, Pike.”
“Morning.” The massive, bearded mid-fifties man grabbed a big paper bag from the small trailer and followed her in. “How’s the job search?”
“Sorry to hear that.”
“It would be a lot easier if I knew what I wanted to do.”
Nicole navigated the dim café, set her messenger bag on the rarely used chair behind the glass counter, and tied on her apron. She lifted her black hair into a bun and flipped on the espresso machines.
“Hey, Pike. How’s going back to culinary school and starting your own business?”
“At fifty? Awful.” He crouched beside her, snapped on gloves, and stocked trays of buttery croissants, cream-swirled doughnuts, crisp biscotti, and succulent sweet breads. “If I didn’t have sciatica, I’d go back to truck driving.”
“That bad, huh?”
“It’s not the baking.” He balanced a stack of delicate rose-honey macarons on a silver tray. “It’s the number of coffee places—carts, mostly—that don’t want to pay me for the job. They say the product didn’t sell. Great, where’s the product? Oh, it disappeared. Uh-huh, then pay me. No, no, we didn’t sell it, so we don’t owe you.” He lifted a pecan turnover and addressed an imaginary foe. “Yes, Melissa, you do owe me for the apple tarts you stuffed in your own mouth. If you don’t like it, you don’t get any more.”
He sighed. “I wish. If I cut off everybody who’s done this to me, I’d never pay rent.”
Nicole washed and dried her hands. “People suck.”
“You got that right.”
She set out her equipment, weighed her beans on the scale, tossed them in the grinder, and pulled her first shot.
A little too fast, and a tiny bit sour.
At home, she’d drink it without complaining, but Fresh Beans was a professional coffee shop and customers paid artisanal prices for the delivery of artisanal coffee. She twisted the dial a micrometer and ran more beans through.
Not fine enough.
She ran the test a third time, and even before she tasted it, she could tell from the richness of the crema and the instinct of her experience that the third time was the charm. Nicole dipped in a fresh spoon for her taste—perfect—and used the rest of the shot in a no-foam soy latte for Pike.
He accepted the to-go cup. “Hey, you’re a pal. Take something.”
“I don’t want to be a Melissa.”
“You’re not, right? You share your product, I share my product.”
“I shared my boss’s product. I’m not the owner.”
“She’s the owner’s daughter.”
Nicole made the oof sound. “Family businesses are a one-way ticket to lifetime therapy.”
“You know it.” He nudged a chocolate-filled puff pastry in her direction. “Nutella and dark chocolate. Baked fresh this morning.”
“Okay, you got me.” She squeezed the fluffy puff and took a bite. The first taste exploded sweet pleasure in her mouth. “This is a keeper. Oh, wow. It’s orgasmic.”
He chuckled. “I’m going to put that on my business cards.”
“Do it.” Her eyes about rolled back in her head. “Everything you make is so delicious. I’m glad you’re not truck driving.”
“You’re one of the good ones, Nicole.” Pike flattened his bag and headed out the door. His bike bling-blinged as he rode off to the next delivery, Portland-style. At least in August, there were a few days without rain.
She finished the puff, washed her hands again, and then ground the beans, started the drip, filled the condiment carafes, and stocked the silverware cases.
Her messenger bag vibrated. Inside, her brother’s voice called out, muffled, “Nicole? Nicole!”
She raced over and rummaged for the source. Her fingers closed over a vibrating triangle the size of an eraser. She pulled it out. “Darcy? Can you hear me?”
“Yeah, it sounds like you’re in the room with me.”
“It sounded like you were inside my messenger bag.”
“That would be a trick.” Darcy laughed. At six feet, he had to duck through low doorways. “Want to see another trick? Put the eraser thing on the counter and press the button on top.”
She did as he said. A virtual blank screen projected above it, just below the coffeehouse painting that declared, “With enough coffee, I could rule the world!” Darcy’s cheerful, familiar face glittered in the center and then solidified as if it were a real screen.
“Very Star Wars.” She passed her fingers through, and the screen disappeared. “Oops, I killed you.”
“Press the button again.”
She did, and the screen returned. “Cool.”
“Did you get the sticky necklace it snaps into? When you turn it into record-only mode, Amber thought you could wear it more easily than your phone when you’re moving. And the recordings can be converted to a human movie file, but Amber says that’s a lot harder to edit.”
Nicole checked on the drip coffee. “It’s great to have a big brother with amazing dragon technology.”
“You want to hear the craziest thing?” He scratched behind his ear. “They put in that universal language implant the moment I left Earth, right? It turns out someone exported Latin American telenovelas, and so I’ve been catching up on a whole genre of TV I never thought I’d see, much less enjoy.”
“You’re enjoying it?”
“It’s no Bollywood, but it’s pretty good, actually. Keeps my mind off the fact we can’t leave.”
Right. She made casual conversation while she finished the daily setup for the café. “Still stuck on Amber’s alien estate?”
“Until a new dragon Empress is declared. Apparently, they decide by a bare-knuckle battle royale. Three heirs have already died.”
He stared at her.
She didn’t mean to be flippant, but the succession problems of the Dragon Empire happening forever far away from Earth had as much to do with her life as the mating dance of caterpillars in Zimbabwe.
If Darcy and Amber hadn’t happened to honeymoon at Amber’s mom’s home on the Outer Rim, like, a week before the old Empress had entered her death sleep—whatever that meant—and gotten stuck there when everything shut down, it would be no more than a sentence during the nightly news—which Nicole never watched.
“You guys are going to be okay?” Nicole queried in his continued silence. “You’re not in any trouble, right?”
“Trouble? Oh, no. Mother Onyx is…” He shook his head. “She’s, uh, something else. And Amber’s no slouch in the dragon intimidation department. Plus, we’re just a medium-sized estate on what was formerly the hinterlands of the Empire.”
“If you’re in the hinterlands, what does that make Earth?”
“Siberia,” he replied. “Outer Mongolia. Second star to the right and straight on till morning.”
“That’s why Earth got left alone for so long. Nobody wants to live in the Outer Rim, much less beyond it. The only dragons fighting over this estate are politicians doing it for a line on a piece of paper somewhere that says they increased their family holdings by x number of properties. So don’t worry, okay?”
“Sure. You got quiet, and you don’t do conflict, so…”
“Oh. Yeah, it’s these implants. I think you didn’t say this, but I heard you say, ‘Wow.’ And it was even in your own tone of voice.”
“Ha ha, you’re right. I said Bart Simpson’s favorite Spanish phrase.”
“Ay, caramba!” The r’s rolled off Darcy’s tongue in a natural way, as if he’d just completed an immersion program. “What’s amazing is that I can produce Spanish when I’m talking to someone else. Or Portuguese. Or dragon.”
“Dragon? What’s that sound like?”
“I don’t know, because it just comes out. It’s spooky.”
“That would be so handy. You could travel the world, speak any language, and communicate with anyone.”
“You should get one and become a translator.”
“If I got one, then job security is out the window because dragon technology is getting shared down to us lesser mortals, aka humans.”
He blinked and then frowned. “Uh, don’t tell anyone about the projector, okay?”
“No problem.” She smirked as she pulled chairs down and slid them under the round tables of the café. “Who would I tell?”
Her brother’s worried brows pulled down.
Aw. Her heart warmed. Darcy worried about her. That was the real reason he was calling. “I should let you get back to your honeymoon.”
“Amber’s on patrol. Hey, Nicole, I’ve got to ask you—”
“Hello?” The front door handle rattled and the door pushed in, and a backpack-lugging student poked her head through. “Hey, are you open?”
Nicole planted her black combat boots and pointed at the wall clock shaped like a cat. “We open in fifteen.”
“The door’s open.” The student shoved the rest of the way in and beelined for the register. “I want a regular nonfat mocha with extra whip.”
“Then you’ll have to come back in fifteen minutes.” Nicole walked to the door and barricaded it from the three people converging on her.
“But I’m already inside.”
“Which means I can’t finish until you’re outside.”
The student stared at her.
Nicole stared back.
Her heart used to thump. Conflict used to make her sweat. She used to um and aw and hiccup if she had to contradict someone, and the stress was so much, she cried every night.
But that was old Nicole.
Before several years of therapy, several kick-butt therapists, and, well, before everything burned out.
She was new Nicole.
And it had been a long time since she’d stuttered when she had to deal with strangers or customers.
The student sensed that argument was futile. She rolled her eyes, exhaled with gusto, and stomped out the door. “I’m never coming back here!” She slammed the door behind her. The bell crashed against the door hard enough to make a dangerous crack.
Nicole checked for damage.
Darcy gave his usual nervous laugh. “Making friends, huh, Nicole?”
“You’ve got to set boundaries, or people will walk all over you.” She turned the dead bolt, something she’d meant to do after Pike left to avoid exactly this scenario. “The first time you serve somebody fifteen minutes early, there’s suddenly a line out the door, you get behind before you’re even open, and the original person leaves a nasty review because they’re an entitled jerk who will never be satisfied.”
“Makes sense. I, uh, better let you finish getting ready.”
“I’m ready.” She sat behind the counter, propped her feet on the stool, and poured herself a small, relaxing cup of drip coffee. “But you can go.”
He glanced at his watch and yawned again. “Are you sure? Oh, hey, how was your first video?”
“About as successful as the rest my life right now.”
He smiled hopefully. “You’ve always followed your truth, Nicole, which means that this is the start of a great new era.”
Happiness at her brother’s goofy, sweet, always-look-on-the-good-side optimism warred with embarrassment, and embarrassment won. “Uh, at twenty views, I wouldn’t say it’s started, exactly.”
“Sometimes, it takes a little time for the rest of us to catch up.” His smile faded, and worry wrinkled his eyes. “I meant to tell you before, but…Mom woke up a couple days ago.”
The coffee soured in her stomach.
He kept talking. “Sometime, if you’re up to it, if you want to talk with—”
“Oh, it’s opening time.” Nicole jumped off the chair and hovered her finger over the button. “Got to go.”
Darcy waved cheerfully. “Have a great day! Talk to you tomorrow.”
“Right, bye!” She ended their two-way broadcast, clicked the dial next to it to set the mode to passive recording, and stuck it to the wall behind her to record her in the café. She checked that her ‘Smile! This Café Is On YouTube!’ sign was still taped to the cash register and the second sign was posted in the window.
The student who was never coming back here was first in line outside.
Nicole turned the dead bolt and stepped to the side for the crowd to hustle past her to the counter. The line looked around for someone to help them get their coffee fix. Nicole ambled at a safe pace—she wasn’t sprinting unless someone was in danger—and then logged in to the register.
“Um, can I order?” the student demanded.
Nicole did not comment on the short length of never and made her what ended up being a completely different drink from her first order. As Nicole had expected, the student didn’t tip.
She got into the rhythm of the morning.
Fresh Beans was located in a heavy student area, so most of their sales were simple lattes and such until midmorning, when the freelancers and entrepreneurs set up their remote offices. They liked fine coffee and long conversation, and she didn’t mind. Baristas were like bartenders, except that they worked mornings before people had their coffee, and they didn’t get paid as well.
At the one o’clock lull, her relief arrived.
And so did he.
She knew before she saw him. A ripple of shock and a heightened murmur electrified the café. So, even though she was bent over getting a half-soy, half-nonfat, extra-hot mocha with two ice cubes, the hairs on the back of her neck stood up and everything tightened.
Nicole stood, oriented on the pickup counter, and tried to hand it off. “Your drink.”
“Hmm?” The woman, a shaved-head new punk with colorful tattoos, shredded jeans, and callouses from playing bass, couldn’t tear her eyes away from Alex waiting at the order counter. “Sorry, what?”
“Your iced, hot-soy, nonfat mocha is ready.”
“Oh! Thanks, hon.” The bassist, who was younger than Nicole but spoke with a from-somewhere-in-the-South twang, collected her in-house mug. “I was struck by an apparition. Is he, by any chance…?”
“A dragon? Yes.”
“Oh.” Her lips pursued, and she studied him again. “I was going to say Justin Bieber.”
Then Nicole did the fateful turn and braced herself.
But nothing really prepared her for the breathtaking first sight.
The dragons were beautiful, all of them, in a zero-fat, I-could-be-a-male-model-or-an-Olympic-athlete-or-both way, but Alex took it a level up. His jaw was chiseled from stone, his cheeks were hollow, and his bones were sharp enough to cut glass. Designer shades hid his eyes. He was dressed in a tailored gray suit that must cost more than their entire café, polished black loafers, and his blond hair fell perfectly from the straight three-quarter part. Small lavender cuff links glinted at his wrists.
He had a way of looking at people like he could see secrets under their skin, and had a coldness in his smile that extended to his heart too.
Hot, manipulative, and emotionally unavailable? The trifecta. Of course he made Nicole’s insides quiver.
Even standing still with one hand splayed casually on the counter, he commanded attention. “Nicole. I need you.”
The gorgeous softness of his voice, like velvet and chocolate, caressed her ears and made the customers listening in swoon.
She swallowed. “Ha ha. I told you at Darcy’s wedding that lines don’t work on me.”
Until Alex, anyway.
“Too bad.” Alex’s lips tugged into a heart-stopping smile. “Think of the fun we could have.”
“I’m thinking. I’m thinking…”
“But right now, I need you…to take your money back from this.”
This meaning the guy next to Alex, hunching his shoulders and on tiptoes because Alex’s other hand clenched his throat.