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Bated: Reverse Harem Dragon Shifter Fairytale (Goldilocks and The Three Dragons Trilogy Book 1) by Delia Castel (1)

Prologue

“You killed my parents, and I will kill you!” The hand gripping Marigold’s neck lifted her off her feet and slammed her against the wall.

Pain ricocheted through Marigold’s skull, making her head spin. Flailing in his grasp, she tried to wriggle free, but the man’s crushing grip cut off her air. “Stop,” she rasped. “I can’t brea—”

“Who sent you?” he snarled. The man’s green eyes blazed.

Marigold gave her head the barest shake. How in Igneous could he think that a human female of five feet six could possibly overpower and mortally wound a pair of dragons over three times her size? She clutched at his hands, her fingers still sticky with the dragons’ blood.

The man leaned into her, his green eyes blazing with insanity. Marigold’s stomach lurched, and a scream stuck in her constricted throat. His face burned as red as his hair, and angry veins stood out on his temple like bolts of lightning.

She forced herself to calm. This wasn’t the first time she’d faced down an angry shifter. Although the officers at the House of Corrections were bear shifters—mild in comparison to a fire-breathing beast—she’d survived their violent tempers. If she kept a cool head, she would survive this enraged dragon… as long as he didn’t shift.

“Who are you?” He shouted a spray of alcohol scented breath.

She moved her lips, but no sound came out.

“Talk, before I smash your skull!” He shook her so hard, her eyes rolled around in their sockets.

Marigold’s fingers tightened over the hand crushing her neck, hoping he would take the hint, because she could barely focus, let alone muster enough air to speak. “…Gold.”

“Well, Goldilocks…” He pulled his lips back into a sneer, exposing teeth that seemed to sharpen before her eyes. “I will give you a quick death if you can tell me who sent you to kill my parents.”

“I didn’t—”

“Then it’s a slow, torturous demise.” Fires danced in those manic, green eyes, and he raised a clawed hand.

Marigold didn’t even have the left strength to even whimper. The dragon shifter was going to rip her to shreds and then burn her remains. A rasping sob escaped her throat, and she cursed the day she had encountered Lord Arctos. If the wretched bear shifter hadn’t confiscated her mother’s bracelet, she would never have gone to prison for stealing it back. Marigold would never have been released to serve the rest of her sentence in a brothel, and she would never have had to bludgeon her parole officer for wanting to break her into her new profession.

The man grabbed her hair and twisted. Marigold squeezed her eyes shut and gritted her teeth. Somewhere, beyond the deafening whoosh of blood rushing through her ears, she thought she heard him give her another chance to answer. It was of no use. Protesting her innocence would only enrage him further.

“Say something!” he roared.

Her hands dropped like lead weights to her side, her head fell forward, and she let out a final cry. He was going to kill her, and there wasn’t a thing she could do to stop him. The only thought that gave her a measure of comfort was that she would die wearing her mother’s precious bracelet.

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