The Boss (Fire's Edge)

By: Abigail Owen

Dear Reader, Thank you for supporting a small publisher! Entangled prides itself on bringing you the highest quality romance you’ve come to expect, and we couldn’t do it without your continued support. We love romance, and we hope this book leaves you with a smile on your face and joy in your heart.





xoxo

Liz Pelletier, Publisher





No, seriously this time. To Nicole for all your help and support and love!

Best writing partner, critique partner, sprinting partner, and friend a gal could have.





Prologue


My mate.

Finn Conleth had never experienced wonder, but this moment, looking down at the sweet, gentle human woman the fates had deigned to grant him as a mate, must’ve been it.

Fear niggled at the back of his mind, but he pushed it away. This woman was a rare and precious thing. Fewer were discovered each year, especially for his clan. And not every attempt worked, resulting in deaths of potential mates.

Finn told himself to remain confident. The Council had matched him and Phoebe. He’d chosen her, and she’d chosen him in return.

It had to be right. It was supposed to be right.

“Are you ready?” he asked.

She gave an eager nod, and her wide blue eyes gazed back at him with total trust. He’d known her only a few days, but he was sure she’d fit in with his Blue Clan back home.

Slowly, purposefully, he stoked the fire within his body—the inferno every dragon shifter carried inside themselves, even in human form—then stilled. The sound of his swirling fire, similar to the heaving of a forge’s bellows, broke the cadence of their breathing.

She blinked up at him and smiled. “Finn?”

What are you waiting for? A mating was a huge deal, but he was acting like a nervous virgin. Pushing through his hesitation, Finn placed his mouth over hers and released his flame into her body, starting the process that would turn her into the dragon shifter she was meant to be, and bond her to him for the rest of their extra-long lives.

Those blue eyes widened, and Finn breathed a sigh of relief. There. Only death could separate them now.

She opened her mouth, but instead of sighing with happiness, Phoebe tipped her head back in a silent scream as her body arched off the bed, lifting him with the force of the spasm.

Panic gripped him so hard, pain ripped through his muscles.

No.

She took a shuddering breath and this time her scream forced its way out of her, piercing the air with such agony his insides withered. Down her throat, he could see hateful blue flames consuming her from the inside out. Eating her body alive.

No, no, no. This can’t be happening.

The familiar, rich scent of fire turned sour as her flesh charred from the intense heat. On the outside, her skin turned black, then started to glow eerie red through ragged cracks—like lava with a dry and broken crust over the top of the red-orange liquid magma flowing below.

“No.” Finn’s voice broke over the word as he pulled her into his arms, rocking her.

Her soft skin became hard and rough against him. He couldn’t stop this. He couldn’t protect her from his. All he could do was hold her until the end. Helpless. Useless.

“I’m here. I’m here. Don’t be scared.” Gods, how could he tell her that? She was dying. Because of him. Could she even hear him?

Her screams abruptly cut off as her lips sealed shut. In his arms, she stilled. Her eyes, now ash black, stared back at him.

“I’m sorry,” Finn whispered. “I’m so sorry.”

As her spirit left her body, a part of Finn’s soul burned with her. The strangest sensation—like something tugged a part of his essence out of him—overtook him, and he grew colder, harder with each passing moment.

The glow inside his false mate dissipated, leaving only a charred body that slowly disintegrated, turning to cinders on the bed. Not even an ember remained of the woman he’d believed was his.

How could he have been so wrong?

Numbness consumed him as he curled up in the bed. Pain would come, he knew, but right now, he welcomed the nothing. Only one word echoed through his mind.

Murderer.

As he lay in her ashes, Finn made himself a vow. He would never try to mate again. He would never risk more of his soul or another woman’s life to this excruciating, unbearable death.

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