New York Times bestselling author Robert Asprin and Jody Lynn Nye up the ante in the latest tale of dragons in the Big Easy!
As head dragon and owner of a successful gambling operation in New Orleans, Griffen McCandles has a lot on his plate. Especially since the Krewe of Fafnir-a society of dragons-has asked him to be the king of their Mardi Gras parade. Being the king is a huge honor, and despite the extra responsibilities, Griffen can't resist the Krewe's offer to lead the biggest party of the year.
But not everyone is happy with Griffen's new leadership status. A group of powerful dragons is out to bankrupt his business, from the inside out. And when a young dragon in Griffen's employ is murdered, it becomes clear that certain dragons will stop at nothing to dethrone the new king...
"You can't say no, Mr. Griffen," Etienne said. "Destiny's waitin' for you."
"Not my destiny," Griffen protested. "Just because you dreamed something doesn't mean it's going to come true. I don't have to follow what you think you know. The future's malleable."
"Not so much as you tink it is," Etienne replied with an assurance that roused ire in Griffen.
"Why should I do it?" he demanded.
"To stop fate," the werewolf said simply. "The bad things dat will come if you don't. You a good man. You wouldn't let anything happen to this city. You've made yourself at home here. New Orleans has welcomed you, son. You bring people together in a good way. You gotta keep on doin' it, and the Krewe of Fafnir's part of it." He grasped Griffen's forearm and looked into his eyes as if searching for something. "Come on along on Tuesday evenin'. Meet the department heads. Don't say no now. What do you tink?"
Griffen gave one more good look at the roaring dragon head in the corner. Its eyes seemed to glitter at him.
"I'll think about it," he said.
He had to get out of there before he agreed to the offer. It was too tempting. If there was anything he had learned in the last few months, it was to go over the details and ask questions, and more questions, before saying yes. He'd been guilty of rash behavior that had hurt him and the people who loved or trusted him—or both. He turned to leave.
In the wide doorway, a broad silhouette stood between him and the outside. Griffen recognized the shape of a man who might have been mistaken for a big-boned, muscular and somewhat overweight biker. His heart sank as the figure swaggered toward him.
"You thinking of running a krewe, on top of everything?" Lieutenant Harrison asked, his broad face skeptical.
Matters were still not perfect between Griffen and Harrison, not since the masquerade ball at the end of the conclave in October. The New Orleans detective had learned about Griffen's secret in the course of his investigation of a crime. They'd gotten along so well before that. Griffen had thought they had formed a cooperative bond that would do them both good, but he had left out one little detail, that he was a dragon. He had believed that he could keep the truth about his heritage hidden, but it had all come out in a completely disastrous way.
Most humans were going to be freaked out about learning that heretofore mythical creatures existed, let alone living anonymously side by side with them, but when someone trusted you, and you didn't let them in on that little secret, "Oh, by the way, I'm a hereditary dragon, and so is my sister. There's a bunch of us around town. We're generally not a problem, but you have to look out for the vampires, werewolves, fairies, shapeshifters, selkies and others who are here, too." To the man who is trying to enforce law and order with no more than his wits, some martial arts training and standard police issue weaponry, the world is going to seem like a much scarier place. Griffen had pulled the figurative rug out from under him and rendered him less effective at his job. Harrison was finding it hard to forgive the omission. Griffen did not blame him; he blamed himself. He had been avoiding Harrison until he could figure out a way to make it up to him. Simple explanations were out of the question. A full disclosure, over a really good meal and drinks, with time for as lengthy a Q&A session as Harrison chose, plus the acknowledgement that Griffen owed him a favor, a big one, might do the trick, but Griffen had not yet felt ready to do it.
"Uh," Griffen said, lamely. "I've been asked to be king."
"Good idea," Harrison said, with a nod. "Make you fit in better, especially if you are reviving a dormant krewe. Tradition means a lot around here. We've got more of it than you folks from up north."
"I'm considering it," Griffen said, determined to be honest with Harrison. "I'm not sure I have the manpower to cover the responsibilities I would have. I was spread too thin…" He had started to mention the convention. Harrison stiffened, but Griffen didn't have a choice except to continue in that painful vein, "over Halloween, and I don't want to screw up something as important as Mardi Gras."
"Good that you're taking the time to think something through," Harrison said grimly. "You got all the permits?"
"Yes, sir," Etienne said.
"You have a theme worked up yet?" Harrison scanned the room, taking in the half-finished floats with an experienced eye.
"It's a secret, lieutenant," the werewolf said, with a grin that was almost a leer. "But you're invited to de tableau ball. Come on aroun' and see."
Harrison echoed the grin, which looked no less feral than Etienne's. "I'll do that, if only to look at this guy in his king costume."
Griffen was alarmed. "Uh, no. I'm not even sure I'm going to do it."
Harrison's face changed from grim to shrewd skepticism. "Oh, you'll do it, McCandles. I know you—or I thought I did."
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