Feed the Flames (Steel & Stone) by Annette Marie

  Beside her, Lyre struggled to stand, one hand holding the arrow in his leg. He couldn’t run. He couldn’t fight.

  She raised her swords, the frozen battle calm engulfing her. Silent and fiercely determined, she threw herself into their midst.

  Her sword slashed for the first one, hit his shield, and nearly flew out of her hand. She spun past him, infuriated by her lack of magic. Swords slicing through the air, she danced through the group, faster than any of them, and delivered death. She whirled in and out of their stabbing halberds in the cramped corridor, one by one finding their backs to deliver a lethal strike when they were too slow to shield. As she spun through them, their blades found her flesh again and again, scoring her skin.

  A halberd ripped her sword out of her right hand. She pulled a long dagger and drove it into the next griffin, her tail sweeping out to trip another. She slammed them with her wings, shoving them into the wall. A halberd blade tore through one wing, rending the leathery membrane. Agony seized her lungs. She pivoted and threw her dagger before he could shield, impaling his left eye.

  A heavy blow caught her across the backs of her legs. She fell onto her knees. One of them grabbed her arm. She rolled, slamming both taloned feet into him, shredding his flesh. Spinning and jumping to her feet, she found herself surrounded by the remaining seven, their blades pointed at her. Her limbs trembled from exhaustion but she lifted her remaining sword anyway.

  “Seiya!” Lyre yelled.

  She whipped her head around just as he threw something—a tiny, sparkling gem. It flew over the group and hit the floor on the far side of the Ra daemons. In the darkness of the tunnel, she saw three golden flashes of light.

  She threw herself onto the floor as the gem exploded.

  The force sent her tumbling. She skidded to a stop, her ears ringing and her body aching. She didn’t have the luxury to recover. She pushed herself to her feet, stumbling from dizziness, and staggered through the billowing smoke.

  Lyre was half leaning against the wall. She grabbed his arm and hauled him up. Taking as much of his weight as she could, she broke into a staggering run down the corridor. Zala was waiting for them just beyond a door somewhere at the end, ready to whisk them away into the night. They were almost there.

  A whistle of wind. Lyre jerked hard and fell, torn out of her grasp. He hit the floor, another arrow sticking out of the back of his shoulder.

  She spun around as one of the daemons with a crossbow drew another arrow and began loading it into his weapon. Seiya was faster. She pulled a black steel dart from the band around her upper arm and threw it while his eyes were still on his crossbow. He collapsed like a marionette whose strings had been cut.

  Four more shadows materialized from the smoke—more Ra daemons still standing after the explosion.

  She grabbed Lyre’s arm again and tried to pull him up. He cried out in pain and his black eyes lashed her.

  “Go, Seiya,” he gasped.


  “Just go! The exit is right there!”

  “I’m not leaving you!”

  “Get out of here before it’s too late!”

  “Go!” Ash shouted. “Go before it’s too late.”

  “I’m not leaving you!” she screamed, reaching down to grab him again.

  He grabbed her neck and yanked her face down to his until his eyes filled her vision. Black. Magnetic. Alluring. Impossible to resist.

  “Run away,” he commanded.

  The musical words wrapped around her. Every layer of the strange, beautiful harmonics of his voice slid through her mind, binding her will. He released her.

  Run away.

  She stood. Her body turned. And she ran.

  Run away.

  Voices shouted behind her. She ran. She didn’t stop. Couldn’t stop. His voice whispered over and over in her head, filling her with the need to obey, obliterating her thoughts. Obliterating her will.

  Run away.

  She ran right into the double doors at the end, bouncing off them. Grabbing the handle, she flung herself through the door and stumbled into the open space beyond—the interior of a small warehouse. She caught a wild impression of several parked vehicles surrounded by Ra soldiers, astonishment obvious on their faces as they turned toward her.

  A warm, familiar presence entered her mind—followed by a sudden sucking sensation in her head as her dragonet pulled on her magic. At the far end of the warehouse, one of the steel loading bay doors exploded in a swirl of black fire. Zala in her full dragon form burst through the remains of the doors, her wings spread wide as she let out an earsplitting roar.

  All attention immediately went to the enraged dragon inside the warehouse.

  In that moment where shock held the Ra soldiers in its grip, Seiya launched herself across the cement floor, running full tilt—faster than any human. A griffin appeared on her left, dropping the box in his hands and diving for her. She sprang upward with a beat of her wings, almost screaming from the agony of wind and pressure on the bleeding tear. She landed on the other side of the daemon and ran for Zala as the dragon rushed toward her.

  They met in the middle of the room, and in that moment the griffins finally reacted. Seiya threw herself at Zala as someone shouted to stop them. The dragon ducked her head, scooping Seiya onto her back. As the griffins ran for them, weapons drawn and magic glowing in their hands, Zala spun and bolted back the way she’d come. A griffin threw a blast of golden magic at them, but Zala flared her wings and black fire erupted over her body, harmless to Seiya but deflecting most of the griffin’s spell.

  She bent low over the dragon’s neck as Zala leaped through the demolished door and out into a dark, dirty alleyway. Her wings flared wide and she bounded skyward. In moments they were airborne, sweeping away from the furious griffins behind them and vanishing into the night.

  Run away.

  Tears streaked her cheeks, icy cold as the wind raked at her. She’d run away, and she didn’t know if she could ever forgive herself.


  SEIYA crouched on the rooftop, staring into the sunrise.

  Half a dozen blocks away, the Ra embassy was silhouetted against the golden sky. The pale exterior shone white in the morning light. It was beautiful. Hatred burned in her at the sight.

  Her body ached. She’d treated her wounds as best she could, but she couldn’t heal them without magic. The slices on her arms and legs didn’t bother her as much as the tear in her wing, where every touch of the breeze on the torn edges was like a kiss of fire. If it wasn’t healed soon, she might never fly properly again.

  Zala perched on her shoulder and nuzzled her hair worriedly. Seiya gave her an absentminded pat, struggling to contain the roiling emotions within.

  Again, she saw Lyre on the floor, the arrow sticking out of his shoulder, yelling at her to leave him. And again she saw his eyes—midnight orbs swallowing her soul—as he used the full potency of his aphrodisia to bind her will to his and command her. He shouldn’t have been able to do that to her in a few spare seconds—especially with the collar locking away most of his magic—which meant he must be a very powerful incubus.

  He was far too easy to underestimate. His easygoing flirtations disguised the cunning, cutting intelligence beneath. He’d discovered how to get magic out of his collar, something she never would have figured out. His spell that had melted the door had easily overcome an obstacle that had stopped her cold. His explosive weaving had been as powerful as any explosion she could cast. She, the fearsome draconian with years of combat training, would never have escaped without him.

  You should ask Piper. Miysis’s words.

  It was a question she desperately needed to ask. Somewhere, her brother needed her. She was certain he did. He hadn’t come for her and that meant he’d been captured, hurt, or killed. She refused to believe he was dead. She had to help him. But there was no guarantee she could find him or if she did, that her presence would make any difference.

  But right
now, Lyre needed help—and she was already here. Her eyes rose to the embassy again and a shudder ran through her body and soul. Time was running out for Lyre. If he ended up in the hands of his family, who knew whether she or Ash could ever find him again.

  She bit her lower lip, feeling as though the foundation of her entire life was shifting underfoot. Ash was everything to her—her reason for living. They were supposed to be together, protecting each other’s backs. But Lyre had been right: her bond with Ash wasn’t the only thing that mattered in the world. Other people mattered. Lyre mattered. As much as she wanted to run straight back to Ash to make sure he was alive and unhurt, she couldn’t do that. She couldn’t be that selfish. Maybe she understood a little why her brother kept going to Piper’s rescue.

  Letting out a long breath, she rose painfully to her feet and tucked her wings against her back. Zala chirped softly. Seiya carefully straightened, testing her injured muscles. Her gaze roved over the embassy one last time. Since Maasehet wanted Lyre’s family’s money, she was sure someone would have healed his injuries. Sooner or later, they would move him out of the embassy, and she would be there, waiting.

  Turning away from the sunrise, she grimly braced herself for what was to come. For her whole life, Ash had been all she’d had, and she’d always been willing to die for him. But she wasn’t in Asphodel anymore. Her world was bigger than that place, bigger than just her and Ash against Samael. There were other things worth fighting for—worth dying for.

  Lyre needed her, and she wouldn’t abandon him. Maybe it was hopeless. But even with no magic and a torn wing, she could still make them bleed.

  To be continued in

  Book 4 of the Steel & Stone series:


  REAP THE SHADOWS is now available for pre-order!


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  Thank you for reading Feed the Flames! This story was a special project for me. I loved this opportunity to get inside the head of a Steel & Stone character other than Piper and provide a glimpse of Seiya’s inner self to readers, and I hope you enjoyed it too!

  My heartfelt thanks as well to my editor Elizabeth for another fantastic job. And, of course, a huge thank-you to my wonderful husband for his ceaseless support and unending patience with all my complaints about editing.


  Annette Marie lives in Western Canada with her husband and their adorable, hell-raising kitten Caesar. She’s decided one cat is probably enough.



  Annette Marie, Feed the Flames (Steel & Stone)



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