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The Dragon Finds Forever (Nocturne Falls #7)
Author: Kristen Painter

A single gold coin.

It should be hers. It was her birthright. Her freedom.

Her prison.

Monalisa Devlin watched the shiny coin dance through her father’s fingers like a toy. It was one of the countless many that Padraig Devlin owned, but this one he spun over and under his long, nimble digits, like it was a game. Which it kind of was. A game about reminding her. About taunting her. About keeping her hungry.

She could practically feel the weight of the gold against her palm. Not that she’d ever touched it, because he’d never given it to her like he was supposed to when she turned eighteen. Just one more disappointment on her ever-growing list.

And to think, she’d even done her pedicure in a gold glitter polish because she’d been so excited that she was finally going to get her coin.

What a waste.

Leprechauns were strange creatures. Crafty. Greedy. Mean. Ambitious. And the one before her wasn’t just her father, he was also the king.

She forced herself to tear her gaze away from the gleaming object and meet his eyes. “I did what you asked. I want the coin.”

He smiled and shook his head. “And I told you this loose end still needs to be resolved. Take care of it and the coin is yours.”

It should have been hers on her eighteenth birthday. Twelve years later and she was still waiting. She closed her eyes for a moment and gave herself briefly over to her emotions. Anger. Frustration. Irritation. Helplessness. And a little fear. All of those swirled inside her as she stood before her parents. But she shoved them down and opened her eyes. “You can’t make me do this. I won’t.”

“I can, Monalisa.” Her father’s stern look was something she’d seen so often, it held little sway. His toothy grin was still unpleasant to look at, though. “And I will.”

He absolutely could, and he absolutely would. That was the story of her life. “I don’t want to do this.”

Her mother, Tavia, sighed and rolled her beautiful, pixie eyes. “You should have thought about that before you stepped into the arena. What’s done is done. Now you must finish it.”

“I didn’t step into the arena by my own will either, in case you forgot.”

Padraig waved a lazy hand. “I am your father and your king. You have no choice.”

Monalisa ground her teeth together to keep from saying the things dancing on the tip of her tongue. She let a long second pass, gathering her control. “If I do this, I get the gold. I get my freedom. I have to. You cannot go back on your word again.”

Her father jumped to his feet, anger turning his face uglier. He was nearly half a foot shorter than she was, but then, most leprechauns were short-statured. Even the king. “I did not go back on my word. You didn’t finish the job you agreed to.”

She’d seen him angry before. It didn’t frighten her. “I did exactly what you asked me to do. How was I to know he’d end up injured and refuse to honor his contract with the League?”

Padraig shook his head. “It doesn’t matter what happened. You have to finish the job. Get him to agree to the fight, and I’ll give you your piece of gold.” He snorted in obvious disgust. “And you call me greedy.”

“Greed has nothing to do with it.” Anger overtook the other emotions. “That coin should have been mine years ago, but you’ve held it over me because you know the second I have it, I’ll leave.” She would too. Being gifted one of her father’s precious coins would release her from his power. She would finally be able to do whatever she wanted. And heaven knew, her life had been on hold long enough.

Her mother clucked her tongue. “Such an ungrateful child.”

“Because I want my freedom? Because I want to be free from both of you?” The hurtful words left Monalisa’s mouth before she could stop them, but her parents knew how she felt.

Her father was a bully. King of the leprechauns and as mean-tempered and greedy as any who’d reigned before him. And her mother, the beautiful pixie, had been married to him in an arrangement meant to bring peace between the leprechauns and the pixies. The marriage had accomplished that, but Tavia had been swept up in the power and glamor of the royal life, becoming just as manipulative as her husband.

Together, the pair was given a healthy respect in Nevada’s supernatural community and was known worldwide because of her father’s casino, the Shamrock, and the supernatural fights held in its secret arena. It wasn’t like the Titan Fight League could hold its MMA bouts just anywhere.

Having mythological creatures like dragons and griffins and centaurs going round after round for an equally supernatural audience really limited the available venues.

Her father provided one of only fifty arenas in the world where the TFL could hold bouts, and his was one of the largest. Throw in the private gaming and party rooms in the casino reserved for supernaturals, and Padraig Devlin wasn’t just the king of the leprechauns, he was also the unofficial leader of Las Vegas’s supernatural Mafia.

Monalisa had had enough. She lifted her chin. “I want to live my own life. I don’t want to be a princess anymore, I don’t want to live in Vegas, I don’t want to be part of this fast-paced, corrupt life.” She just needed that coin. Then her father’s sway would finally be broken.

“This life you hate so much,” her mother said, “has kept you from wanting for a single thing.”

“Except for my freedom!” She groaned. “And I don’t need or want the rest of what this life provides. The cost is too high. Don’t you see that?”

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