Bind the Soul by Annette Marie




  BIND THE SOUL

  Steel & Stone: Book 2

  By Annette Marie

  DESCRIPTION

  The most important rule for an Apprentice Consul is simple: Don’t get involved with daemons. Well, Piper is planning to break that rule—big time.

  After a near-deadly scandal with the Sahar Stone, she has the chance to return to the only life she’s ever wanted. All she has to do to keep her Apprenticeship is forget about Ash and Lyre. Ash might be enigmatic and notoriously lethal, and Lyre might be as sinfully irresistible as he is irritating, but they’re not bad for a couple of daemons.

  There’s just one problem: Ash is missing.

  Really, she shouldn’t risk her future for him. He lied. He betrayed her. But he also saved her life, damn it. Wherever he is, he’s in trouble, and if she doesn’t save his sorry butt, who will? But with every dangerous secret she unravels, each one darker than the last, she slips deeper into Ash’s world—a world with no escape for either of them.

  THE STEEL & STONE SERIES

  Chase the Dark

  Bind the Soul

  Yield the Night

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  Bind the Soul

  Book Two of the Steel & Stone Series

  Copyright © 2015 by Annette Marie

  www.authorannettemarie.com

  All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations for review purposes.

  This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons, places, or events is purely coincidental.

  Cover Design Copyright © 2015 by Annette Tremblay

  Cover, Book Interior, and Website Design by

  Midnight Whimsy Designs

  www.midnightwhimsydesigns.com

  Cover Photograph (female model) Copyright © 2015 by Miranda Hedman

  Model: Miranda Hedman

  www.mirish.deviantart.com

  Editing by Elizabeth Darkley

  arrowheadediting.wordpress.com

  ISBN 978-0-9939102-2-7 (EBOOK)

  ASIN B00ODOAOQO (Amazon)

  CHAPTER 1

  PIPER frowned at the mirror, ignoring the massive crack and missing shards. Her outfit wasn’t bad, but considering where she was going, it was pretty tame. The black, corset-style tank top laced up in the front, giving a peekaboo view of a deep purple camisole with lace-trimmed edges. Her skirt, also black, had a similar lace layer underneath and barely came halfway down her thighs. Knee-high black leather boots and leather wrist bracers contrasted nicely with the lacy look, while draping, white gold chains around her neck softened the overall ensemble.

  With one last scowl—Lyre could complain all he wanted about how little skin she was showing—she reached for the last garment: a pair of tight black shorts. She normally wore them during workouts, but now she pulled them on under her skirt. She turned around and bent over, checking the back view. Nothing like attempting to fight your way out of a deadly situation while trying not to flash people.

  Satisfied, she turned toward her bed.

  “What do you think?” She held out her arms and rotated side to side. “Passable?”

  From her spot on Piper’s pillow, the small dragonet blinked slowly. Zwi was a cat-sized, dragon-esque creature with mottled gray scales, leathery wings, and a silky black mane that ran down her back to a tuft of fur at the end of her tail. Her large golden eyes were normally bright with interest but for the last two weeks, they’d been dull and glazed.

  Piper sat on the edge of the bed and gently brushed her fingers over the dragonet’s mane. “Hey, girl. Don’t be sad.” She smiled encouragingly. “Do you want to come with us? Lyre thinks he has a decent lead this time.”

  Zwi lifted her head, her tail flicking from side to side. She mewled loudly.

  “Yeah? You want to come?” Piper hopped off the bed. “Let’s go then!”

  She paused to slide two long daggers into the sheaths built into her boots. Then, after listening at the door for sounds of life in the hallway, she shut off her bedroom light to make it look like she’d gone to sleep. Asking permission to leave the Consulate was not an option.

  Her relationship with her father had reached an all-time low. One might have imagined that they could have only grown closer after all their near-death ordeals five weeks ago. After all, he had entrusted her with the Sahar Stone—the most coveted lodestone in existence that any daemon would kill to possess—without telling her what it was. Then he’d gotten himself blown up. She’d done all the work, including most of the almost-dying, while he lay in intensive care.

  So maybe she had lost the Sahar in the end. But she’d saved her uncle’s life and cleared her and her father’s names. That counted for something, right? Based on his reaction after she’d told him the Sahar had been stolen by a harpy that most likely worked for Samael, she was guessing no, it didn’t count. The ruthless warlord of Hades was the last daemon who should have access to a magical weapon with unlimited power.

  She slid her window open, trying not to seethe over her father’s lack of appreciation for what she’d gone through. Zwi came to the edge of the bed, silently watching her. Piper climbed out and balanced on the sill as she reached for the rain gutter above. Grunting with the effort, she heaved herself onto the roof. Zwi scurried up beside her, her head high as she surveyed the dark yard.

  Piper tiptoed a dozen yards across the sloped roof toward a huge tree. Zwi trotted ahead of her and leaped easily onto the nearest branch, vanishing among the leaves. The moon glared brightly overhead but did little to penetrate the shadows beneath the leafy canopy. Piper carefully eased onto the thickest branch and began climbing down. She paused six feet from the ground to survey her options. As she made the wide step from one branch to another, a voice floated up in the quiet night.

  “Hey there, beautiful. Nice view.”

  She froze mid-step, a foot on each branch, and looked down. Lyre stood below, grinning up at her. His eyes, however, were not on her face.

  “Lyre,” she sighed, “you are such a pervert.”

  “If you weren’t wearing those little shorts, I would be a happy pervert. Instead, I’m just a thwarted would-be pervert.”

  She rolled her eyes and completed her step onto the next branch. “Help me down, would you?”

  “You need help?” he asked in disbelief. Obligingly, he stepped over and held out his arms.

  She grinned and jumped off the branch. He yelped when she crashed into him, knocking him on his back, while she landed neatly, one foot on either side of him.

  She smirked. “That was for looking up my skirt.”

  He sat up, pouting. “But you had those stupid little shorts on.”

  She looked over her shoulder as she stepped away from him. “But you didn’t know that until you were already looking, did you?”

  His pout flashed into an unapologetic grin as he swung to his feet, unharmed by her pounce, as she’d figured. Daemons were hard to injure.

  Like Piper, Lyre had dressed for the occasion. His dark jeans fit the exact right way. The sleeves were torn off his black shirt, baring his sculpted biceps and shoulders. One upper arm had a silver chain wrapped repeatedly around it, an elaborate Celtic symbol dangling from the lowest strand. Other silver accents tied the outfit together. He looked absolutely mouth-watering without any apparent effort on his part.

  But it wasn’t the clothes that made Lyre stand out. His pale hair, carelessly tousled and begging to be touched, looked almost white under the moon. His skin was a flawless hone
y-tan, not quite brown but beautifully rich and deliciously smooth. His eyes, though, were what sealed the deal: dark-flecked amber, intense, intimate, expressive. Those eyes could look into her soul and whisper every luscious fantasy she would never admit she had.

  “So how are we getting there?” she asked as he caught up to her.

  He gave her a smile that made her knees go weak. “You’ll see.”

  She allowed him to take the lead as they ducked into the forest that made up the expansive backyard of the Consulate. Because of their history of secrecy from the general human populace, Consulates were almost always in private locations outside cities. Daemons preferred anonymity whenever possible.

  She followed Lyre through the trees and occasionally spotted Zwi ducking in and out of nearby shadows. They looped back to the winding driveway and stepped onto the open, moonlit dirt road. When she spotted the vehicle tucked behind a bush, she gave Lyre an incredulous look.

  “A motorcycle? Seriously? Where did you get that?”

  Lyre grinned as he wheeled it out of the shrubbery. It was black and red, rusty, and none too clean, but still—a motorcycle. About twenty times rarer than a running car.

  “Borrowed it,” he replied lightly. He tossed her one of two helmets.

  “You stole someone’s bike?”

  “No, I borrowed it. Legitimately.” He jammed the helmet on. “Always jumping to the worst conclusion.”

  She grinned an apology and pulled on the helmet, engulfing her head in the smell of stale cigarette smoke. After a moment’s hesitation, she climbed on behind him and took a firm grip on his belt. He kicked the bike to life.

  “Ready?”

  “Wait.” She glanced around. Zwi darted out of the shadows and clambered up Piper’s leg. The dragonet stationed herself on Piper’s back, her small head tucked beside Piper’s neck.

  “Okay, let’s go.”

  Lyre gunned the throttle and the bike shot forward, spitting gravel. She threw her arms around his waist as they sped forward at breakneck speed.

  The drive into the city passed in a blur of dark trees and abandoned outskirt communities. Piper watched the dark, ghostly skeletons of buildings slide by. Seven decades of decay had reduced them to crumbling walls and scattered debris. Nature was quickly reclaiming what had been abandoned after the Third World War had devastated the modern world. Who knew what would be left of civilization if daemons hadn’t sacrificed their anonymity to stop humanity from destroying itself.

  Of the surviving population, the majority had dispersed to the countryside to form small, safe communities that subsisted on a barter-based economy and lived without the luxuries of decades past. A few larger cities had come out of the war in one piece, and the rich, the smart, and the desperate had quickly migrated to them.

  Bristol, the city nearest Piper’s Consulate, was one-third deserted, one-third inhabited by jobless criminals and vagrants, and one-third jealously guarded by average families trying to eke out a living. Piper went to school in one of the better neighborhoods and shopped in its stores. If she hadn’t been born the daughter of two Consuls, life in one of those neighborhoods would have been the sum of her existence. She couldn’t imagine a worse fate than a life without a higher purpose. That’s why she needed to become a Consul like her parents. Consuls, above all, were peacekeepers. They kept the peace between individual daemons, between daemon castes, between daemons from different worlds, and most importantly, between daemons and humans.

  Unfortunately, her chances of becoming a Consul weren’t great even though she was qualified in every department except one: magic. Only haemons could be Consuls because it took magic to deal with magic, and daemons had a lot of magic. Her father was a haemon—the offspring of a daemon and a human—as was her mother. This rare combination of having two haemon parents was normally lethal. To save Piper from the two magical bloodlines she’d inherited from her parents, a daemon healer had sealed her magic before it could kill her, leaving her alive but without magic and, in the eyes of daemons and haemons, powerless.

  She discarded that unpleasant line of thought and focused on the once-in-a-lifetime ride. Lyre handled the motorcycle as though he’d been riding his whole life. Deep in one of the worst neighborhoods of the city, he finally slowed and chose a secluded corner to park. Once he cut the engine, Piper could feel the deep bass thumping in her bones. Music. Really loud music. They had arrived.

  Bathed in a bright spotlight was a massive warehouse with double metal doors in the front. If not for the lights, the building would’ve blended right into the decrepit street. Lyre approached the doors with confidence, while Piper lagged behind, fighting a wave of dread. She didn’t exactly have good memories of the place.

  The Styx was a nightclub that celebrated inhibitions of all types. Piper’s last stopover had involved a lot of blood and pain, and somehow she doubted this visit would go any better.

  CHAPTER 2

  INSIDE the doors was a long, dim hallway guarded by a beefy daemon bouncer. Lyre offered whatever code word passed for “open sesame” and the guy waved them on. Piper grimaced when they reached the mask room. To free guests of all vestiges of self-control, all partakers had to wear identity-concealing masks.

  Lyre chose a black and silver mask. Piper picked a purple one with long tassels and a sulky expression that matched her camisole. Together, Lyre and Piper ventured into the club.

  Red light emanated from almost every surface, interspersed with flickering blue spotlights. Everything else was black. The effect was just as creepy and mysterious as she remembered. The music hammered at her, the beat frenzied and driving. It was early enough that the place wasn’t packed, but nearly a hundred people were already swaying and grinding on the dance floor.

  Scattered among them were a handful of daemons that hadn’t bothered to hide their inhuman nature. Daemons usually disguised themselves with glamour, but the regular rules didn’t apply at the Styx. The exact nature of glamour was a mystery to Piper. She’d been taught that it was a convincing illusion, but then she’d seen a six-foot-tall man drop his glamour to become a ten-foot-tall minotaur. No illusion could make a beast like that fit through doorways.

  She followed in Lyre’s wake as he cut a straight line toward the large bar at the back. While he talked up the bartender to wrangle them backstage passes, she watched the nearby dancers. Two girls wearing belts and fishnets and little else had gotten tangled together. A guy with a one-foot-tall Mohawk was trying to help without much success. Piper snorted when one of the girls smacked the guy in the head, knocking his mask half off. He was wearing more eyeliner than Piper.

  Lyre caught her eye and gestured for her to follow. With a growing sense of déjà vu, she followed him off the dance floor and into a businesslike hallway. At the end was a comfortable sitting room with posh furniture and dark, vaguely lascivious paintings on the walls. Piper’s steps slowed as she walked in and pushed up her mask. Last time, it had been her, Lyre, and Ash entering this room. Ash had negotiated the deal that had earned them the location of the Gaians, the group that had attacked the Consulate, unintentionally framing Piper for stealing the Sahar.

  “Well, well, well.” The voice drifted in from the hallway behind Piper. She turned and her mouth dropped open.

  The first time she’d met Lilith, the stunning woman—correction: stunning succubus—had been dressed like an innocent college freshman, all soft curves and childlike smiles. Tonight, Lilith looked anything but innocent. Her black leather corset barely covered her ample chest, and her matching miniskirt was so short it was almost nonexistent. The five-inch heels on her thigh-high boots looked like they should require a liability waiver to wear. Her blond hair was pulled back in a tight, sleek ponytail that made her cheekbones stand out in sculpted sharpness. Her makeup was dark, bold, and sultry.

  Lilith smiled cattily and tapped one blood-red fingernail against her matching lips as she eyed Piper’s outfit. “I can’t say I expected you back, Minx, my dear. In fact,
I recall saying you were no longer welcome.”

  “My name is not Minx,” she replied flatly. The ridiculous nickname Lilith had given her when she’d fought in the illegal basement ring was as demeaning as it was stupid. “And I don’t remember you saying that . . . explicitly.”

  “Hi, Lilith,” Lyre said neutrally, coming up beside Piper. “How’ve you been?”

  “Fair enough,” Lilith said coolly. “Let’s skip the pleasantries. Why are you here?”

  Lyre gave a little shrug. “We need your help.”

  Lilith threw her head back in a harsh laugh. “Do you know how much money I lost the last time I helped you?”

  “We’re here about Ash.”

  Lilith’s sneer froze in place. She swept her ponytail off her shoulder and gestured abruptly. “Sit down then.”

  The three of them took seats on the sofas, Piper and Lyre across from Lilith. Piper watched the succubus closely, trying to interpret the shadowy thoughts sliding behind the woman’s eyes. The three of them stared silently, judging one another.

  “You know he’s missing,” Lyre finally said. “Do you know what’s happened to him?”

  Piper swallowed hard. Five weeks ago, after escaping the Gaians and barely surviving a choronzon attack, Ash had disappeared without a word. Two weeks ago, Lyre had discovered that Ash had gone into the Hades territory in the Underworld—just about the last place he should have gone. No one had seen him since.

  Lilith shrugged in response to Lyre’s question. “Why should I tell you anything?”

  “Because we’re Ash’s friends and we care about him.”

  “You, yes.” Lilith turned to Piper. “You . . . not as much.”

  “I’m his friend!”

  Lilith’s eyebrows rose. “Are you really?” she mocked. “And how long have you known him? I believe you spent a total of . . . five days with him?”

  Piper clenched her hands into fists. “That was five full days together and we were fighting for our lives for most of it. You get to know a person fast under those circumstances.”

 
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