Feed the Flames (Steel & Stone) by Annette Marie




  FEED THE FLAMES

  Steel & Stone: Book 3.5

  By Annette Marie

  DESCRIPTION

  In this short story addition to the Steel & Stone series, discover the fate of Seiya and Lyre following the conclusion of YIELD THE NIGHT (Steel & Stone: Book 3).

  Seiya wants nothing more than to disappear with her brother, safe from all the enemies that would tear them apart. But now she, along with Lyre, has been taken prisoner. Separated from Ash, his fate unknown, and tormented by memories of her imprisonment in Asphodel, she must put her faith in Lyre and his carefully guarded secrets. To have any chance at escape, they’ll have to work together to find a way out—before they learn what fate their captors are planning for them.

  THE STEEL & STONE SERIES

  Chase the Dark

  Bind the Soul

  Yield the Night

  Feed the Flames

  Reap the Shadows

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  Feed the Flames

  Book 3.5 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

  Editing by Elizabeth Darkley

  arrowheadediting.wordpress.com

  ISBN 978-0-9939102-7-2 (EBOOK)

  Version 7.22.15

  CHAPTER 1

  PAIN broke through the deep silence of unconsciousness. Seiya’s eyelids flickered. She drew in a harsh breath and pain lanced the right side of her rib cage.

  She opened her eyes. The darkness resolved into a concrete ceiling. Her body ached. Tension tightened her muscles as her senses strained. Slowly, silently, she sat up. Her gaze darted across her quarters—a tiny, barren cell with bars on three sides and a solid concrete wall at her back. A prison cell.

  Panic flashed through her as a hundred memories of other dark cells dragged their claws across her soul. But this wasn’t the bastille. This wasn’t the Underworld.

  Where was she?

  She breathed deeply, controlling her fear. Beyond the front bars was a wide hall with a single, solid steel door broken only by a tiny window, the only source of light. Another set of four cells filled the space on the other side of the hall, making eight in total. All were empty except one. She turned to the cell on her left. A body was sprawled awkwardly on its side, unmoving but for the shallow shift of shoulders with each breath. Lyre’s pale hair seemed to almost glow in the darkness.

  She tamped down on another wave of dread. Her brother wasn’t here. If she was imprisoned, where was Ash?

  Concentrating on her slow, calm breaths, she rose to her knees and shuffled to the edge of her cell. She leaned against the bars, ignoring the ache in her muscles, and stretched an arm between them. Barely managing to pinch Lyre’s pant leg between her fingers, she gave his leg a gentle tug.

  “Lyre?” she whispered.

  No response.

  Tugging again, she called his name a little louder. He didn’t stir.

  She retracted her arm and pressed her back against the cold steel bars, shivering partly from the chill of the dank basement, partly from dread, and partly from the bone-deep memories dancing on the edges of her thoughts—memories of other underground cells, of other nights waking in the dark and knowing what would inevitably follow.

  Closing her eyes, she wrapped her arms around herself and concentrated on steadying her heartbeat and gathering her strength. Her body ached from the aftermath of a battle, but she couldn’t remember it ... Her brain was trapped in a haze of lingering nightmares from a past she wished to forget.

  Another deep breath.

  What did she remember? The last thing she remembered?

  A face rose in her mind: Piper. Piper with three teardrop scales on her forehead—ryujin markings. The haemon girl had transformed into part daemon.

  Yes, she remembered. They’d gone to the Overworld to save Piper. She’d unlocked her daemon blood to control her magic.

  Seiya squeezed her eyes tighter. Then what? A sensation tickled her memory—a hand on her arm. Ash taking her elbow and leading her away from the others. He’d leaned down and whispered in her ear, telling her to go through the ley line first, to be careful, that the game wasn’t over yet. He didn’t trust Miysis, that scheming, green-eyed Ra daemon. Neither did she.

  Her shoulders tensed as memories flooded back.

  She’d stepped out of the ley line, back onto earthly soil, and the moment her foot had touched the grass, smoke had exploded at her feet, obscuring her in a white cloud. A single surprised gasp had filled her lungs with the drug. Dizzy weakness had followed almost instantly.

  The attackers had come from all sides. She’d fought them—she must have—but she couldn’t remember much more than a cloudy recollection of enemies closing in around her ... and then pain.

  Her eyes slowly opened as bitter anger rose through her like a wave of ice. Ra daemons. She’d been ambushed by Ra daemons. She glanced at Lyre, who was still unconscious from the same drug they’d used on her. It would have affected him more strongly than her; draconians were naturally resistant to drugs and poisons. A tingle of fear whispered down her spine. What if the drug had been too strong? What if he didn’t wake?

  She shuffled back to the bars and stretched her arm through again. She caught his pant leg, and this time pulled his leg closer so she could grab his ankle. Carefully, she dragged him toward the bars, straining against his dead weight at such an awkward angle. When he was near enough, she took his hand and pressed two fingers over his inner wrist, closing her eyes. His pulse beat against her fingers, slow but steady. She counted for over a minute until she was sure. His heart was strong. Hopefully he would wake soon.

  She placed his arm over his chest in what looked like a comfortable position and moved back from the bars. All she could do for him now was find a way to escape, so she focused on her options. Her weapons were gone. A cool weight around her neck confirmed what she’d known from the moment her eyes had opened: a magic-depressing collar was strapped to her neck. The usual hot swirl of power inside her was silent, cold—unreachable.

  If only she had her brother’s talent for breaking collars.

  She closed her eyes again, but this time, she wasn’t searching her own thoughts. She was searching for another’s.

  Zala?

  A delighted greeting touched her mind. Rejuvenating and calming, Zala’s pleasure warmed her in the wintry cell.

  Neither humans nor other daemons understood the bond between draconian and dragonet. Her kin preferred it that way. They didn’t want their enemies knowing how much they could hurt a draconian by hurting her dragonet. Their bond was complex and deep, a lifeline from soul to soul.

  Seiya focused on her connection to Zala. She couldn’t read her dragonet’s thoughts, and neither did she “speak” directly with her bonded. Instead, they simply willed the other to know whatever it was that they wished to share. The passing of thoughts and feelings was instant, intuitive, and intimate.

  As soon as she composed the desire to know what had happened
, the answer instantly arrived in her mind. Zala was not a captive. The dragonet had escaped the initial attack and hid, just as Seiya had always insisted Zala do in an ambush. She had watched Seiya’s capture, hoping for a chance to help. Lyre had been ambushed right afterward, and then the griffins had positioned themselves once more, waiting.

  Over an hour had passed before a group of Ra daemons had come through the ley line—including Miysis and his subordinate, Koen. Koen had been bleeding from deep cuts to his face, while Miysis had appeared uninjured except for a bloody bandage around one hand. Ash hadn’t been with them. If he’d come through the line at all, it had been after Zala had left to follow the griffins. Her bonded had tracked them as they’d taken Seiya and Lyre, both unconscious, into the city and to a tall building. Seiya saw the building through Zala’s memory—the Ra embassy. Zala couldn’t get inside, so she’d chosen to wait at a safe distance for Seiya to wake up and tell her what to do.

  Seiya suppressed her dread. Ash should have come through the line. He’d been supposed to come right after her. Even if he’d been delayed, the only reason he wouldn’t have come for her was if he’d been ambushed too. What if he hadn’t been captured, but killed?

  No, she couldn’t think that. She wouldn’t.

  Rage boiled inside her, icy and sharp. Piper. This was Piper’s fault. That stupid girl was always dragging them into her dangerous messes.

  Seiya pressed a hand to her face as guilt trickled in after the anger. Remorse always followed whenever she gave into her fury with Piper; the conflicting emotions were driving her mad. Piper had saved her and Ash from Asphodel, had broken their chains, freeing them from Samael. She was the reason Seiya didn’t have to face another night in the bastille, awaiting Samael’s newest torment, mind game, or emotional poison.

  Piper had saved her and Ash, and she should be grateful. But she also feared more than anything that, sooner or later, Piper would destroy them both.

  With a sharp shake of her head, she cautiously climbed to her feet. Pain dug into her side—bruised ribs. She hoped she’d put up a decent fight when the Ra daemons had ambushed her. She hoped she’d made them pay in spades for every bruise.

  Forcing herself to focus around the fear that haunted her every thought, she scrutinized her cell from top to bottom, searching for a weak point. Zala couldn’t get into the embassy to help her escape. Neither could the dragonet return to the Overworld to find Ash; she couldn’t cross the Void by herself. Seiya was on her own.

  After examining the cell, she faced the door, studying the lock and hinges. The bars were too heavy, but maybe ...

  She glanced around the room and cells—no guards, no sentries, no witnesses. Lifting her chin, she closed her eyes and dropped her glamour.

  Tingles rushed across her skin, obscuring all other sensations. Then it faded, and she opened her eyes. The dark space had become even clearer with her perfect draconian night vision. Exhaling a slow breath, she spread her wings as wide as the cell allowed, relishing the euphoric stretch of stiff muscles.

  She focused on the cell door. With the release of her glamour, her fear and dread had faded, but the urgent need to get out, get out, get out had increased tenfold. The urgency pounded in her head, overwhelming her. She could sense the weight of the building above her, the open sky too far.

  Taking aim, she sprang at the door in one motion. She planted her feet on the bars on one side of the frame, talons scraping the steel, and grabbed the door with her hands. Then she braced herself and pulled. The metal hinges groaned in protest. She strained harder, tail lashing the air for balance, wings half spread. A metallic creak. She threw herself into another massive heave.

  Her hands slipped. She crashed to the floor.

  Swearing under her breath at the pain in her ribs, she rolled to her feet and glared at the bars, one hand resting on the hilt of the short sword along her thigh. They hadn’t been able to take her weapons from her while she was in glamour, but the weapons were no good to her trapped in a cell.

  With a sigh, she pulled glamour back over her true form. As the tingles swept over her body a second time, the feral urgency in her head quieted, and fear returned. She absently shook the aches out of her hands. Maybe Ash could have broken the hinges, but she wasn’t strong enough. She would never be as strong as him, physically or otherwise.

  She paced a quick circle around her cell, then returned to the spot nearest Lyre. She sat and leaned against the bars, struggling with her fear. She would have preferred to face a horde of enemy warriors than to be locked in an underground hole, a helpless prisoner.

  Closing her eyes, she curled one hand around the collar and searched in vain for a hint of her magic. Shoulders hunched, she bowed her head and concentrated on breathing.

  Ash was out there somewhere. He would come for her. She had to believe that.

  Because if he wasn’t, she wasn’t sure how long her sanity would last.

  CHAPTER 2

  SEIYA crouched in the long grass, hugging Zala against her chest.

  The night would have been pitch black to most daemons, but she could see well enough. The heavy stalks of grass were taller than her and swayed in the harsh wind like angry waves. Above, a shimmering layer of stars lit the moonless sky.

  She waited, the occasional tear slipping down her cheek as her heart pounded in her ears.

  Minutes stretched, with no sound but for the deafening rustle of the wind-beaten grass. He would come. He always came. He’d promised he would never abandon her. She had to believe him.

  Another tear escaped her control. She couldn’t do this alone, she just couldn’t.

  The last hour had been a blur of blood and terror. The mad rush through the endless courtyards of Asphodel. The guards who’d tried to stop them. Their blood. The insides of their bodies, exposed to the world in violation of nature. Seiya wasn’t squeamish, but she’d never seen her brother deep in the battle mind before, where every movement was bound to the purpose of destroying his enemies. Every strike of his sword was filled with the grim, unyielding determination to win. She’d never seen the frozen promise of death in his eyes as his blade flashed for the kill.

  Someday, she wanted to be able to fight like him. Someday, she would fight beside him.

  Anxiety coiled inside her. He was bleeding. He’d already been injured when he’d left her, luring the guards away while she hid. They were out of Asphodel. They’d run all night, but not fast enough. She hadn’t been fast enough. The guards had caught up to them, and now Ash was somewhere in the long grass, killing them one by one before they could find her.

  Somewhere out there, he was wounded and exhausted. She blinked rapidly. He would be all right. He was her brother. He was Ashtaroth. At only fifteen, he was already a match for Raum. No prison guard could defeat him. They would escape.

  She waited, legs aching from crouching for so long. Zala shivered in her arms, whimpering softly. Seiya cooed to her, eyes flicking left and right as her senses strained. She held her wings tight to her back and kept her long tail still in the grass. The urge to lash it back and forth, an outlet for her tension, was almost too strong but she couldn’t risk the noise. It felt good to be in her true form; the Hades guards would always punish a draconian out of glamour. They didn’t like feeling frightened.

  In a sudden rush of sound, Ash burst out of the grass.

  Blood streaked his face, running in rivulets from a cut along his hairline. His eyes were blacker than ebony, his skin deathly white. The three spines on either side of his head swept back, framing his face and adding a regal cast to his features.

  “Come!” he gasped. He grabbed her arm, his grip painful, and hauled her to her feet.

  “Ash!” she exclaimed, as Zala dashed away into the grass to scout ahead for them. “What—”

  “Hurry!”

  He yanked her into motion, breaking into a stiff jog. He was moving strangely, pressing one arm tightly to his side, but he didn’t stop, didn’t let her question him. With
her heart in her throat, choking her, Seiya ran after him. Light gleamed off one of his furled wings, the leathery membrane shining with blood. The grass whipped by her, slapping her arms and tangling around her feet. She stumbled but didn’t fall, her hand tight around Ash’s as he pulled her relentlessly through the infinite field.

  The sea of grass ended abruptly, and they ran out onto a bed of gravel—the edge of a stream. The water gurgled with mocking cheerfulness as Ash halted, chest heaving. Beyond the stream, the other half of the meadow stretched, and beyond that, a rocky ridge rose up in an unbroken wall.

  “There,” Ash said between gasps for air. “At the ridge. The ley line.”

  Relief rushed through her. Another mile. They could do it. They would escape.

  He turned to her. His eyes were still black, his face paler than snow.

  “You can make it, Seiya,” he said roughly.

  She blinked, her relief sputtering like fire in the rain. “W-what?”

  “You—” His voice turned to a soundless rasp. He sucked in a breath. “You need to get to it. You can make it. You know where the hideaway is on Earth.”

  Alarm shot through her. “I—but you—”

  “More soldiers are coming,” he said hoarsely, fighting for breath. “You need to go.”

  “I won’t go without you!” she cried, tears burning her eyes. “Why would I go without you?”

  She squeezed his hand hard—and realized, for the first time, what she was feeling. She released him, lifted her palm to the starlight, and saw his blood dripping off her fingers.

  He flicked a glance at her bloody hand and murmured, “I can’t run anymore.”

  “You—” Her eyes flashed to where his arm was pressed hard against his side. Blood trickled off his elbow. Horror filled her, expanding in her chest, squeezing her lungs. “Ash—”

  “You need to go.”

  “I’m not leaving you!” she yelled, reaching for him.

  He grabbed her upper arm and thrust her toward the stream. She stumbled, flaring her wings for balance, her trembling legs barely holding her up.

 
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