THE ROSE AND THE DRFAGON was my first real "Romance" novel. It was published in 2004 but written in the 1980's so when it was finally released, many of the futuristic elements had to be revised because they were now in existence!

(New Yorker Miranda Wilson is hired by millionaire shipping magnate Dominic Andrus to be nanny to his triplets. When she discovers that her new employer is actually the head of an interplanterary crime syndicade and is currently engaged in a war with another crime family, somehow she manages to take it in stride. When Dom is called away because one of his ships has been bombed, he gives Miranda explicit instructions about anyone who appears claiming to be his "representative....)

It was nearly six months later. It was raining. It was also nearly three o'clock in the morning.

Miranda couldn't sleep, a fact that was becoming more and more common as the weeks wore on without word from either Dominic or his son.

Tonight was another No-Sleeper and she was in the living in nightgown and bathrobe, fortified with cans of pop and a huge bowl of popcorn, half-watching Insomniac Theatre. The feature movie was an early ‘Fifties black-and-white called Not of this Earth, a variation on the aliens-among-us theme. It brought to Miranda's mind what Dominic Andrus had said on the day of her interview and abruptly, she looked a little more closely at the actors portraying the aliens.

They were shown as appearing exactly like Earthings except that their irises were totally white, making them seem to be blind, hiding this difference behind dark, almost opaque sunglasses....

A sound from the outer foyer made her look up.

Someone was knocking on the door, so softly that if there hadn't been a lull in the

soundtrack, she wouldn't have heard it.

Puzzled, Miranda stood up and went into the little hallway, wondering who could be calling at this hour and how they'd gotten past the security guard downstairs without being announced.

For a brief instant, she hoped it was Dominic Andrus or Niki, then realized that either would have used his key.

She touched the intercom beside the door. "Yes? Who is it?"
The voice that answered was totally unexpected and sent the most disturbing thrill down her spine--it was the deep, slightly hoarse voice of the man who’d called Dominic Andrus aboard the Alexa.

"Dominic sent me."

Standing on tiptoe, Miranda squinted through the little peephole in the door, trying to see the speaker.

On the other side of the door, everything appeared dark.

She blinked, looked again, then realized that the man was standing directly in front of the viewer and she was staring at this chest, and no matter how she twisted to look upwards, she couldn’t get a glimpse of his face.

God, he must be tall!

Two sharp raps on the door make her jump.

"Are you going to let me in or not?"

He struck the door again, less sharply this time.

“I-if you're from Mr. Andrus, prove it!" she stammered into speaker, remembering Dominic's warning, and wincing as she realized he could hear the fear in her voice.

"Glad to!" came the reply. "But not out here in the hall!"

What to do? She didn't want to let him in, but--

"Just open the door a little and I'll hand you the message."

After a moment's hesitation, she unlocked the door, making certain the burglar chain was in place, pulling it open just enough to stick her hand through, "Okay, give it to me--" and was staggering backward trying to keep from falling as the door was flung open, screws tearing out of the woodwork as the burglar chain ripped out of the frame and both door and Miranda were flung against the wall..

She regained her balance, managing to keep from making a hole in the paneling as the man stalked into the hall.

Behind him, the door struck the wall and rebounded, swinging shut.with a crash.

Miranda shrank back , one hand to her mouth, the other drawing her bathrobe tighter around her.

He was beautiful, the most beautiful man she'd ever seen, at least as tall as

Dominic Andrus, had dark hair and--Miranda’s heart gave a frightened thump-thump-- wore dark glasses.

In the middle of the night, inside an apartment building--and he's wearing sunglasses!

He had on what appeared to be a black jumpsuit and he looked perfect, the only flaw marring the beautiful face was a little scar following the curve of his left cheek.

Abruptly, she saw something else. He was armed, with a holster and gun similar to Niki's.

Now he reached up and took off the glasses--Miranda prepared to scream--but the eyes behind the lenses weren't white, as she'd feared. They were the same cat's-green as Dominic's.

He smiled.

“I didn’t think anyone was stupid enough to fall for that old trick!”

Miranda didn’t answer, just stared at him.

"I'm Kitten--" he began and Miranda started to laugh. She couldn't help it, even as she heard the slight lilt of hysteria in the sound.

If anyone looked less like a kitten, it was this man. A panther maybe, stalking his prey but a kitten--? No. Kittens were cute and soft and cuddly and-- harmless....

He scowled.

"You must be the one I'm to see. Miranda Wilton--"

"Wilson," she corrected, swallowing the last bit of laughter.

A slight shrug.

"I’m glad my name gives you so much amusement!" His words were stiff and insulted.

She colored slightly. "I’m sorry. It's just that--"

A gasp behind her made them both looked toward the stairs. Ardala stood there, staring at the man as if frozen, eyes wide and fearful.

"Kit! Oh, no.... No!"

Both hands went to her mouth to stifle a sob as tears overflowed the blue eyes and she turned and ran from the room.

Miranda started after her but he caught her arm, pulling her around to face him, his back to the stairs.

"Forget about her! I need to talk to you. Where can we--"

"Duck, Miss Randa!"

Janus was crouched in the doorway, gun aimed at the stranger.

The man whirled, snatching his own weapon from its holster and Miranda dropped to the floor, arms wrapped protectively around her head, eyes squeezed shut.

Nothing happened.

Miranda opened her eyes.

Janus had dropped the gun to his side and straightened, bowing quickly.

"Master Kit--" he said something in a strange, soft language and the man answered, short and clipped.

Janus bowed and left the room.

"Now--" the man caught one wrist and hauled her to her feet, voice slightly exasperated, "--where can we talk?"

Miranda steadied herself as he released her.

"Here. Right here."

For a moment, he stared at her. Yes, he was definitely the most handsome man she'd ever seen and if she wasn’t so uncertain of him and so damned scared....

She attacked first.

"If you're from Mr. Andrus, prove it!"

He looked surprised.

"Prove it?" He gestured toward the stairs. "Ardala and Janus recognize me and you still want me to prove it?"

She nodded. "I most certainly do! Don't you have something to show me?"

He looked angry. "Stupid nonsense! Dom always did like a little drama! Why don't we lurk in the shadows and throw passwords at each other?"

He cupped one hand against his mouth and hissed theatrically, "The blue mouse sails across the sky--"

More colorful than Dominic's real passphrase but Miranda refused to be diverted.

Struggling between laughter and fear, she folded her arms across her chest, affecting a calmness she didn't feel. "Nevertheless...."

"All right-- " He began to tug at the neck of his jumpsuit; it didn't have buttons, the cloth just parted under his touch.

Miranda stiffened. "Wait a minute! What are you doing?"

He had the suit half-opened now, she could see his chest and thick dark hair.

"Showing you what you want to see!" He pulled again and it opened to his waist.

"But--"

Before she could utter another word, he turned his back, sliding the suit off one shoulder.

"There!"

Miranda stared.

On his right shoulder was a tattoo--no, not a tattoo, something else...It had been cut into his skin, the healing scar covered with color. His shoulder had been embossed with the sign of the Andrus Rose and Dragon.

It was the most beautiful, and the most cruel thing Miranda had ever seen. Before she realized it, one hand came up to touch his shoulder.

The cloth was pulled up and over it, leaving her standing there with hand outstretched. He turned around. Miranda dropped her hand.

"Satisfied? Can we talk now?"

"Not yet...." She spoke softer now, still slightly shaken, wondering how much it had hurt. "You...there's something you need to say..."

"Oh, yes.” He straightened. "I have a message from the Jaharl Dominic."

Miranda relaxed. For a moment, she thought she was going to fall. She hadn't realized she'd been so tense.

"H-how is he?"

A shake of the dark head.

"He's been wounded--"

At Miranda's quick gasp, he went on quickly, "Don't worry, he'll be all right. Three Talutis got past Niki but he stopped them before--"

"And Niki? Is he--" She didn't even finish the sentence. Things like this just don't happen! They don't!

"He acquitted himself well as Dom's Hahn. He was hurt, too, but it was superficial."

"Oh, thank goodness...." She breathed the words, suddenly not able to speak any louder, thinking of Ardala.

"We’ve got to leave immediately. There's a danger of--"

"Why can't we stay here?" she protested. "Wouldn't there be more chance of the-the Talutis getting the Tripps if we go with you?"

He shook his head.

"I'm to take them to Soldotna."

"Soldotna?”

"My home. It's like a fortress. Better security than Dom’s, uinfortunately...." There was a look of irony on the dark face. "The Talutis know where the Tripps are. It's just a matter of time before they show up here."

"But we're in a penthouse apartment. They'd have to get past the security guard downstairs and up twenty stories--"

She stopped. He had gotten past the guard, hadn't he?

"What makes you think they'd come from the ground?" he demanded, giving her a pitying look. "They could come from the air, as they did when they blasted our ships!'

"B-but the police-- We can ask them for protection--"

"New York's Finest can't stop them! Besides, explanations would be...awkward...." He shook his head. "No, you're to stay with me and Ardala is to go to Dom."

She had to trust him, had to accept what he said.

"I-I’ll wake the children.”

Leaving him standing there, she went up the stairs, and down the hall to the bedrooms.

Behind her, she heard footsteps and Janus say, "Something to drink, Master Kit?" and the harsh voice answering, "Just some water, Janus--if it doesn't contain too many pollutants! Kill the germs with a couple of ice cubes!"

Ardala's door was open. Miranda went in.

Ardala was crouched on the bed. She looked up, eyes red and wet.

"Dom's dead, isn't he? And Niki, too."

"No."

"No? Then why didn't he come back? Why'd he send--"

"He's been hurt , Ardala. Nicki, too--but they're both going to be all right. M-Mr Kitten--" God, how stupid that sounded! "--says so."

The relief on the girl's face made Miranda want to cry, too.

"Ardala--" She sat down on the bed, taking one of the girl's hands. It was ice cold. "This Kitten, who is he?"

Ardala looked up at her as if the question surprised her.

"Why, he's Dom’s brother. I thought you knew!"

Dominic Andrus' brother!

No wonder he was so handsome, though he definitely lacked his brother's manners.

She stood up. "He wants us to leave as soon as possible. Get packed!"

She left Ardala throwing clothes into a single suitcase and went to the Tripps' bedrooms, waking each child, telling them what had happened.

"Your uncle is here to take us to Soldotna."

"Uncle Kit is here?" Adrian asked.

Before she could answer, all three were dashing down the hall to the living room where Kitten stood with the glass of water Janus had brought him.

They tackled him around the waist, water and glass flying as he staggered backward and righted himself against the onslaught of the three pajama-clad little bodies.

Janus deftly caught the glass, dodging the shower of water spilling from it.

"Uncle Kit!"

He caught Diana in his arms, hugging the little girl quickly as she planted a loud kiss on his cheek, Adrian and Paris clinging to his waist.

"By the gods! I think you three are more rowdy than my own brats!" he laughed.

Miranda stopped on the stairs. Great! Another handsome man, and he's taken! Miranda, this is your year to strike out!

He set Diana down, saying quickly, "No time for questions, kids! Get packed and let's get out of here!"

"How are we going?" Miranda thought to ask, her passportless state coming to mind. "By plane?"

"No-- My ship." A quick smile heightened his resemblance to Dominic. "It's anchored in the harbor."

1 comments

  1. Mary Marvella // December 14, 2007 at 9:39 PM  

    Like as much as I did the first time, Toni.