Book Tour & Giveaway: The Dragon’s Devotion, Antonia Aquilante
is a scholar with a secret—his magical Talent allows him to turn into a dragon,
and he isn’t alone in that ability. Long ago, dragons were hunted fiercely,
until they went into hiding, becoming things of legend. Corentin has traveled
the world with one aim—to protect his people and keep their secret safe. Drawn
to the principality of Tournai by news of someone close to discovering that
secret, he hopes to avert suspicion. His attraction to the too-serious Bastien
isn’t convenient for his purpose, but it isn’t something he can ignore either.
Earl of Ardesia, inherited his title unexpectedly when his parents were killed
in a sailing accident along with the parents of his cousin, Prince Philip.
Since then, Bastien has devoted his life to the obligations of his family and
estate—so much so, that it has caused tension between him and his siblings. His
world is further shaken when he receives an anonymous letter informing him that
the tragic boating accident may, in fact, have been murder. Bastien throws
himself into investigating whether the allegations are true and finding out who
killed his parents.
and Bastien become closer, the mystery of Bastien’s parents’ death draws him
further into danger. Corentin feels compelled to protect Bastien, but the
threat is closer than they know. Now, Corentin must decide whether preserving
his secret—and potentially his people’s safety—is more important than saving
the man he loves.
The Dragon’s Devotion
Antonia Aquilante © 2017
All Rights Reserved
Corentin circled his neck and rolled his bare shoulders and back, trying to
loosen the stiffness there—impossible because his muscles weren’t really stiff.
But he did it anyway. It was just that he hadn’t changed and stretched his
wings in far too long. Whether real or imagined, it had always been this way if
he didn’t use his Talent regularly. Only how was he to accomplish that in this
city where he could change unseen, and few places close to Jumelle where a
large dragon would go unnoticed.
to deal with it. He’d managed a few night flights out over the sea when there
wasn’t much moonlight. He’d have to get away for another as soon as he could
without rousing suspicion. Not that he was being watched, or that anyone
suspected what he was, but if a foreign scholar slipped away too many times
with no explanation and someone were to notice… He didn’t want to take the
risk. He’d come to the principality of Tournai to make sure no one knew of
dragons; he wasn’t going to risk anyone finding out from him.
shirt from the cabinet in the corner. It wasn’t entirely appropriate for the
university, but the more formal shirt and tunic he’d been wearing for this
morning’s early lecture had been ruined when he’d walked into a sorcery
student’s experiment out on the lawn. The lack of formality of his new attire
wouldn’t be a problem since he’d only be working in his office.
and was letting it fall over his shoulders when he heard the creak of the
floorboard a step inside his office, warning him too late that he wasn’t alone.
about pushing the door closed since he was usually the only one on this
corridor. And he’d just been chastising himself about not giving away his
caused the creak froze just inside the room. His tall frame was elegantly and
expensively attired, his pale blond hair perfectly styled, his exceedingly
handsome face brimming with shock and curiosity. Corentin’s stomach sank. He
knew what this man was—he’d made a point of avoiding him because of that
knowledge. Master Savarin, the most powerful sorcerer in Tournai, stood just
inside his office. He’d obviously seen the markings on Corentin’s back, the
faint, shimmering scale pattern that marked him as one with the Talent to
become a dragon.
curses running through his mind. Anyone who saw the pattern would know what he
was. Or, anyone at home would know, at least. He’d come to Tournai because
there were whispers of the prince’s cousin Etan looking into dragon legends.
Lord Etan, a young scholar who often lectured at the university, was
well-respected, and his interest was enough to worry Corentin. But Etan had
only theories—some quite close to the truth but nothing proven.
Savarin know? He was a powerful sorcerer, and a scholar as well, which was why
Corentin made a point of avoiding him. Corentin had already displayed too much
of his power by using it recently to help find a kidnapped child, but it could
still be passed off as merely a powerful fire Talent. Dragons were myth and
legend these days. He could bluff his way through this… as long as Master
Savarin didn’t know what the markings signified.
present a casual demeanor he didn’t feel. He reached for his spare jacket,
shrugging into it as he spoke. “Master Savarin, isn’t it? What can I do for
are those? On your back.”
movements unhurried. He would not look as if he was trying to hide anything.
“On my back? You mean the tattoos? I suppose they’re not quite genteel, but…”
are not tattoos. I’ve never seen tattoos that look like that.”
asked, keeping his voice mild.
the circles you move in. Or at least I haven’t seen many tattoos during my time
here at the university.” Was this argument going to get him anywhere except
into more trouble? He needed to divert attention from the markings, not discuss
you think.” Master Savarin’s attention never wavered even as Corentin used his
most forbidding stoney mask.
they’re different from the ones you’ve seen.” Maybe that would be the end of
still haven’t seen anything like that.”
in Savarin’s eyes, Corentin wondered if he’d gone too far. Was it the words or
the smooth tone with just a hint of flirtation that took him a step further
than he should have gone? The question was what would Savarin do. And what did
laugh probably not out of place at the court of Prince Philip and his consort
Amory. “No one could, but I’m certainly doing my best.”
his desk, letting out a laugh of his own and fixing a charming smile on his
face. He could still divert this conversation. “A fellow traveler. I’m doing my
best to see everything as well. Insatiable curiosity, I suppose.”
experience new things on my travels.”
slightly, regarding Corentin in a way he couldn’t decipher. “Of course,
sometimes I don’t have to leave home to find new experiences.”
flirting. “A true scholar is always learning.”
the first place.”
heard where you’re from.”
here. A small place in the foothills of the Nashira Mountains.” Not exactly the
truth but close enough. “No one’s ever heard of it. A reason to travel, yes? If
you come from somewhere so small and isolated?”
didn’t have the same experience.”
about Savarin’s vague origins. “No, you wouldn’t have. Jumelle is a vibrant,
busy city from what I’ve seen. So many people from so many places. So much
knowledge here at the university.”
travels, I’ve never heard of magic of the kind you performed.”
to appear calm at least. “Magic I performed?”
him nowhere, but he did it anyway. And of course Savarin proved him right,
because the man wasn’t stupid. “Yes, the magic you used to help recover Master
Tristan’s baby daughter when she was kidnapped earlier this year.”
himself for using the magic, and he’d done his best to avoid Savarin’s attempts
to question him about it. But what could he have done? He hadn’t met Master
Tristan, who was a merchant in Jumelle, before that day. He’d gone to have
lunch with Etan and found the palace in an uproar because his infant daughter
was missing. As much as he wanted to not draw attention to what he was, he
couldn’t have lived with himself if he hadn’t offered to help.
and Savarin in finding the baby. Both Etan and Master Tristan had been
extremely grateful, and Etan, who was soon to marry Tristan, had said he was in
was happy to be able to help. Horrifying that a baby would be stolen from her
home,” he said.
being special. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
how you would know.” His words came out sharper than he intended, and he
regretted it immediately, but there was nothing for it now.
Savarin said, showing no reaction to Corentin’s slip in tone. “You told Lord
Etan, Master Tristan, and Lord Flavian that you have a fire Talent, but I’ve
never seen someone with a fire Talent do what you did.”
fire Talent in the world.” He tried to say it lightly, almost joking, but
annoyance at the questioning was layering over his worry.
magic and the different Talents people possess. I have a touch of a fire Talent
myself. So I know something about it.” Before Corentin could decide what to say
next, Savarin continued. “At first, when I’d heard what happened, I was simply
curious. I wondered what you’d done and if I could learn how to as well. But
when I asked to talk with you, you put me off. And soon I realized you were
avoiding me. That’s when I got suspicious. Because you had no reason to avoid
interrogated about an uninteresting bit of magic used to help someone recover
me. And it wouldn’t have been an interrogation. It would have been two
scholars—two men with Talent—discussing magic. From what I’ve heard, you have
no problem engaging with scholars here. You and Lord Etan meet often to talk
about your respective work. Given that, surely you can see how I might suspect
you’d done something you wouldn’t want anyone to know about? Something that
might even be dangerous to Tournai or its royal family.”
remember I used the magic to help Tournai’s royal family.” Corentin kept his
voice steady, but he silently cursed himself. He hadn’t meant to become more
conspicuous by putting Savarin off, but he’d needed more information, and a
plausible story. Keeping away from him had seemed best if the alternative was
giving away who and what he was. Now he wasn’t so sure.
wasn’t anything other than what could be termed condescending. But Corentin
expected arrogance from him. “Neither does that mean you don’t have bad
intentions. A smart man knows to bide his time, to gain the trust of others,
some loyalty, and whatever you think, I helped out of the desire to see an
innocent child brought home to her father.” Corentin regarded Savarin steadily,
not giving him a flicker of anything he might twist into more suspicion. “I
assume you used your magic to help for much the same reason.”
that reflects poorly on you. You’re lucky I haven’t alerted anyone else to my
the threat in those words. He’d heard rumors, whispers, of spies being found in
Jumelle, sent to ferret out information by the conquest-mad emperor of Ardunn.
The Ardunn empire had been conquering and absorbing countries to its east for
years, and it was rumored that its emperor had his sights set on Tournai, which
was wealthy and strategically located on the western half of the continent. He
had no love for Ardunn himself—the empire’s borders had expanded far too close
to his home, which remained safe and hidden only due to the impassable
mountains—so he could understand that there might be an air of caution. Would
vague suspicions be enough in Tournai’s current climate? Savarin was trusted.
Would his word be taken without any other proof?
or am planning to do.”
concern is for the safety of my country and its royal family when they are in
such close proximity to an unknown and potentially dangerous magic.” Savarin
seemed about to say something else, but at that moment, the university bells
chimed the hour. He cursed under his breath. “I have to go to the palace for a
meeting with the princes.”
“Of course. We’ll finish our discussion at another time.”
come to some sort of decision. Dread flooded Corentin. “No. I’m not going to
chance you getting away from me again.”
when I return from my meeting,” Savarin said as he stepped back through the
to wait for you, but I can’t see what you can do otherwise.”
that was almost a smile, but very definitely smug, and Corentin’s dread grew
stronger. Corentin strode toward Savarin, not sure whether he would throttle
the man or stride past him and away, putting an end to an infuriating and
nerve-wracking confrontation. Before he could make the decision, he hit an
invisible barrier in the doorway and stumbled back a step.
the magic that barred his path, a wall he couldn’t see. “What have you done?”
finish this,” Savarin said, as if it made complete sense for him to trap
another person against his will, as if it was all right.
avoiding me, and I can’t have that. We’ll continue our discussion when I
but the sorcerer had already turned away, and a moment later he had disappeared
down the stairs.
About the characters
I’ve often called the characters in books the people in my head. Sometimes I’m not sure exactly where they come from—my subconscious just puts things together and presents me with something. It usually isn’t everything about a character. I figure more out as I think about the character’s traits and background, and I figure out even more as I write. I think the beginning of the writing for me is still about my getting to know my characters. Main characters, but supporting and side characters too.
Naming characters is a lot of fun for me. There are people who will tell you otherwise about me, because I do get frustrated sometimes, but that’s only because I want the perfect name for each character. My first drafts are usually riddled with descriptions in brackets like [brother] or [best friend] because I never know everyone’s name at the beginning—I don’t even know all the characters that will pop up in the story at the beginning!—and I want to take my time finding the right name. I’ve always been interested in names. I used to buy books about names that discussed their origin, history, meanings, and popularity among other things when I was a teenager (and got some really strange looks doing it), but I was interested, and I was writing stories even then and wanted unique names for my characters. I still buy books, and I study them, making lists and marking pages, every time I have to name characters. I also have a few name websites that I like, and I’m all over them when I have characters to name. In the Tournai world, there are a lot of supporting characters that pop up in some books, so I’m not naming as many characters with each new book, but there are always new characters since each story stands alone and introduces new places and people
I love to create casts of characters that move through a world, that readers can get to know little by little as they read more about them. Some of those characters will end up with stories of their own if I’m writing a series, and a lot of those I won’t ever have planned when the character first made an appearance. They were meant to be a good supporting characters, and then they decided to bother me until their stories get told. I have a whole list who are waiting, and I’m excited to tell their stories.
I don’t generally base characters on real people. Sometimes I’ll take a trait or quirk from someone I’ve met or seen, but not the whole person. There is one character that is sort of an exception. When my first book came out, my cousin’s husband was so excited and proud of me. It was really sweet of him. At the holidays that year, he told me he wanted to be a character in one of my books. Every time I saw him, he’d ask me about it. He said he didn’t care who the character was as long as he didn’t die. Finally I decided to give in, and the supporting character Stefan was created. He isn’t exactly Steve, but he has a lot of Steve’s characteristics. Even after I’d written a few scenes with the character in them, I was still kind of worried. I liked them, but I worried that Steve might not, even though he wanted to be a character. I sent them to my cousin to take a look, and she liked them, so the character stayed. I’m not sure if Steve’s read them yet, but he was really excited when I told him. I’m also not sure I’ll ever base a character on a real person again, but watch for Stefan in The Dragon’s Devotion. He’ll be drinking wine and telling embarrassing stories about one of the grooms at a wedding, which is so something Steve would do.
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Antonia Aquilante has been making up stories for as long as she can remember, and at the age of twelve, decided she would be a writer when she grew up. After many years and a few career detours, she has returned to that original plan. Her stories have changed over the years, but one thing has remained consistent—they all end in happily ever after.
She has a fondness for travel (and a long list of places she wants to visit and revisit), taking photos, family history, fabulous shoes, baking treats (which she shares with friends and family), and of course, reading. She usually has at least two books started at once and never goes anywhere without her Kindle. Though she is a convert to e-books, she still loves paper books the best, and there are a couple thousand of them residing in her home with her.
Born and raised in New Jersey, Antonia is living there again after years in Washington, DC and North Carolina for school and work. She enjoys being back in the Garden State but admits to being tempted every so often to run away from home and live in Italy.