Soldier, p.31
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       Soldier, p.31

         Part #3 of Talon series by Julie Kagawa
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  Garret shuddered, and collapsed in my arms. Numbly, I lowered him to the ground, cradling his head and shoulders, as blood continued to pool from his side and drip to the salt. So much. There was so much blood. More than I ever seen in my life.

  “Riley!” I howled, and the rogue dragon dropped to the other side of Garret, snarling a curse. Tristan appeared somewhere behind me, looming over my shoulders, but I couldn’t take my eyes from the soldier bleeding out in my lap.

  “Garret.” I pressed a palm to his face, and those glassy, metallic eyes flickered to me. “Hang in there,” I whispered, as Riley snarled something at the other soldiers, something about ambulances and first-aid kits. I didn’t really hear him. “You’re going to be okay,” I choked out, feeling my eyes start to burn. Riley grabbed something from Tristan and held it to Garret’s side, trying to stop the bleeding. But the soldier’s gaze was only for me. “You’re going to be fine,” I said again, gripping his hand. “Just stay with me, all right?”

  Garret gave me that gentle smile...and his eyes started to flicker shut. “No,” I growled, squeezing his hand, willing him to stay. “Garret, no. Don’t do this. You can’t die on me now.” My voice broke, and I blinked hard to clear my vision, not caring about the tears streaming down my face and that dragons weren’t supposed to be able to cry.

  Garret’s hand tightened on mine. His eyes opened, steady and clear, gazing up at me, though it was clear he was fighting to keep them open. I swallowed the sob and lowered my head, brushing my lips across his.

  “I love you,” I whispered, knowing it was too late.

  Garret smiled. Then his eyes shut completely, his head fell to the side and he went limp in my arms. I knelt in the cold salt, holding the body of the human I loved, as the sun climbed slowly overhead and painted everything to the horizon in blood.



  I wondered if it was possible to die from nerves.

  I had nothing to be anxious about, I told myself for about the hundredth time. The mission had been a rousing success. The vessels had performed flawlessly; in a single night, they had swept through a town, eliminated every target and returned to the rendezvous point exactly as planned. None of the humans living in that place had survived or escaped. The vessels had hit hard and fast, and were able to destroy all targets without alerting a single outside source. A few had sustained minor injuries, and one had been wounded so severely that it had to be put down, but all in all, everything had gone according to plan. Talon couldn’t be more pleased. And I was the junior executive who had made it all happen.

  I should be ecstatic.

  “Mr. Hill? The Elder Wyrm will see you now.”

  I rose, managing to smile and nod at the secretary as I walked toward the pair of colossal wooden doors at the end of the hall. Nothing adorned the wood, no symbols or emblems, though the flat glare of a security camera caught my attention as I approached the huge frame. I had already passed the biggest, scariest security guard I’d ever seen in my life—a Gila who was possibly half a millennium old, judging by the way my instincts shrank back in terror—before coming into the office. He’d scrutinized my badge long enough to memorize every number on it, then reluctantly let me through. Even now, I thought I could feel his cold stare on my back as I walked steadily toward the looming entrance at the end of the corridor.

  My hand shook as I reached out and touched the gold door handles, and I took a moment to catch my breath. The Elder Wyrm has called for you, Dante. The leader of Talon, the oldest, most powerful dragon in the world is waiting right behind these doors. Think of what that means.

  I couldn’t think of the implications for too long. One, it was terrifying; only a handful of dragons ever saw the Elder Wyrm face-to-face. And two, I was expected. It would not do to be late.

  With a deep breath, I turned the handle, pushed back the door and stepped into the office of the Elder Wyrm.

  Surprisingly, though it was huge and modern with one entire wall made up of windows that showed off the brilliant blue sky, the office was simple and functional without being overly extravagant. The walls were bare and stark, no pictures, photographs, inspirational quotes or anything. The theme of the room was black, gray and white; the only spot of color a red coffee mug on the corner of the enormous black desk. A black leather chair sat behind that desk with its back to me, the leather so glossy, I could see my distorted reflection in the seat.

  Heart pounding, I walked across the room, my shoes making no sound on the gray carpet, until I stood at the edge of the desk, gazing at the back of the huge chair. I thought I could just make out a few silvery strands of hair drifting over the top, when the leather seat abruptly swung around to face me, revealing what was behind it.

  My mouth went dry, and I was sure I turned as pale as a sheet, as the massive aura of power hit me like a tidal wave, nearly knocking me down. Draconic instincts shrieked in utter primal terror, telling me to run, that the woman sitting calmly behind the desk could squash me like an insect and not even realize it.

  “Hello, Dante,” the Elder Wyrm said in a low, cool voice, regarding me with appraising green eyes. In her human form, she was a striking older woman with bright silver hair cut into a simple, no-nonsense bob. She wore an elegant gray business suit, a thin gold necklace with a tiny emerald at its heart and her perfectly manicured nails were as red as blood. “I’ve been wanting to meet you for quite some time.”

  My mind had gone blank. It was all I could do not to flee that tremendous presence, or drop to my knees and press my face to the floor. Fortunately, my training kicked in even when my brain had stupidly frozen. I felt a smile cross my face, and I gave a slight bow.

  “It’s a tremendous honor to be here, ma’am. I only hope I don’t disappoint.”

  The Elder Wyrm chuckled. “Quite the opposite,” she murmured, as that piercing gaze speared through me, like she was seeing all the way to my soul. “I have heard of your success with the vessels, Dante. And your attempts to retrieve your sister, though they did not turn out as we’d hoped, have proven your loyalty. Many in the organization speak highly of you. They say you are charming, resourceful, intelligent.” Her eyes gleamed, and the bloodred smile turned sharp as a blade. “Exactly how the son of the Elder Wyrm, and the heir to the Talon empire, should behave. I am quite proud indeed.”

  I suddenly couldn’t catch my breath. The world had gone hazy and surreal, and I was very aware of my heartbeat, thundering in my ears. The Elder Wyrm observed me a second more, then rose and walked to the huge windows on the opposite wall. I followed numbly, my whole world turned upside down. But through the shock, I could feel a savage, growing excitement. I understood now. Why I was special. Why I had been chosen. This changed everything.

  Beside me, the Elder Wyrm observed the city spread below us, and smiled.

  “Our enemies are in chaos. Now is the time to strike.”

  * * * * *

  Thank you for reading SOLDIER!

  What do you do when you’ve

  sacrificed all you have for what you believe in—

  and it wasn’t enough?

  There are dark days ahead

  as dragons’ wings black out the sun.

  Don’t miss book 4 of THE TALON SAGA


  only from Julie Kagawa and Harlequin TEEN!

  “Julie Kagawa is one killer storyteller.” –MTV’s Hollywood Crush blog

  Don’t miss a single installment of the Talon Saga by New York Times bestselling author Julie Kagawa!

  Talon (Book 1)

  Rogue (Book 2)

  Soldier (Book 3)

  Connect with us on for info on our new releases, access to exclusive offers, free online reads and much more!

  Other ways to keep in touch:
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  “Julie Kagawa is one killer storyteller.” –MTV’s Hollywood Crush blog

  If you liked SOLDIER, check out The Iron Fey series, also by New York Times bestselling author Julie Kagawa!

  The Iron King (Book 1)

  Winter’s Passage (Novella)

  The Iron Daughter (Book 2)

  The Iron Queen (Book 3)

  Summer’s Crossing (Novella)

  The Iron Knight (Book 4)

  Iron’s Prophecy (Novella)

  The Lost Prince (Book 5)

  The Iron Traitor (Book 6)

  The Iron Warrior (Book 7)

  Connect with us on for info on our new releases, access to exclusive offers, free online reads and much more!

  Other ways to keep in touch:

  If you loved SOLDIER, check out FIRSTLIFE—a thrilling new contemporary fantasy novel by New York Times bestselling author Gena Showalter!

  Firstlife is merely a dress rehearsal, and real life begins after death.

  One choice. Two realms. No second chance.


  Connect with us on for info on our new releases, access to exclusive offers, free online reads and much more!

  Other ways to keep in touch:

  If you loved SOLDIER, be sure to check out another great fantasy series—Blood of Gods and Royals!

  Imagine a time when the gods turn a blind eye to the agony of men, when the last of the hellions roam the plains and evil stirs beyond the edges of the map. A time when cities burn and, in their ashes, empires rise. Weaving fantasy with the salacious and fascinating details of real history, New York Times bestselling author Eleanor Herman reimagines the greatest emperor the world has ever known: Alexander the Great, in the Blood of Gods and Royals series.

  Read them now!

  VOICE OF GODS (Prequel Novella)



  Connect with us on for info on our new releases, access to exclusive offers, free online reads and much more!

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  ISBN-13: 9781460394182


  Copyright © 2016 by Julie Kagawa

  All rights reserved. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on-screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, down-loaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of publisher, Harlequin Enterprises Limited, 225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada M3B 3K9.

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental. This edition published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.

  ® and ™ are trademarks of the publisher. Trademarks indicated with ® are registered are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office, the Canadian Intellectual Property Office and in other countries.



  Julie Kagawa, Soldier

  (Series: Talon # 3)




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