Reap the Shadows (Steel & Stone Book 4) by Annette Marie


  Steel & Stone: Book 4

  By Annette Marie


  Piper is feeling a bit overwhelmed. With Seiya and Lyre missing, Ash recovering from near fatal injuries, and the Gaians picking fights with daemons all over the city, a girl can’t help but think she might be in over her head. And this time, she’s on her own.

  Before she even has a chance to investigate the Gaians’ new stockpile of mysterious, high-tech weaponry, an old enemy ambushes her: Samael’s henchman Raum. He wants Ash’s help and won’t take “get lost” for an answer. She doesn’t know if she can trust Raum, but even more than that, she can’t trust herself with Ash. Sooner or later he’ll catch up to her, and she fears she won’t be able to walk away from him a second time.

  Despite her feelings, it will take their combined strength to face a frightening discovery about the Gaians. She and Ash begin to realize that the daemon war is coming to Earth, and they might be the only ones who can stop it—if it’s not already too late.


  Chase the Dark

  Bind the Soul

  Yield the Night

  Feed the Flames

  Reap the Shadows

  Unleash the Storm

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  Reap the Shadows

  Book Four of the Steel & Stone Series

  Copyright © 2015 by Annette Marie

  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 Ahner

  Cover, Book Interior, and Website Design by

  Midnight Whimsy Designs

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

  Model: Miranda Hedman

  Editing by Elizabeth Darkley

  ISBN 978-0-9939102-8-9 (EBOOK)

  ASIN B012BVW81E (Amazon)

  Version 10.11.15


  PIPER rested her hands on the stone railing in front of her and stared across the dark landscape. Steep mountains clawed at the twilight sky, their dark peaks raking the horizon. Above, the glow of three moons fought with the slowly swirling clouds.

  Atop the tallest summit, a massive beast was perched. Its great wings were half spread, its long neck curled in an elegant S-shape. Its mouth was open in a ferocious but silent snarl. The clouds shifted and moonlight rushed down to light the stone dragon carved into the peak with loving detail.

  As she studied the dragon’s shape, she became aware of a presence beside her. She turned.

  “Beautiful, isn’t it?” the blond woman remarked, her sultry voice soft.

  “Natania,” Piper murmured, glancing over the woman’s perfect curves, clothed in a dark red gown with silver embroidery.

  The long-dead haemon smiled coyly. “I must say, you’re much better company when you’re asleep.”

  Piper’s brow scrunched. She had been sleeping, hadn’t she? But this was no dream. It wasn’t the first time she’d come face to face with the soul bound to the Sahar Stone, except last time, she’d initiated the contact deliberately.

  “How did I get here?” she asked. “I wasn’t using the Sahar.”

  Natania turned back to the vista before them. Their balcony was carved into the side of a mountain, high above the valley floor somewhere below, invisible in the shadows.

  “No living person has seen this place,” Natania said, sadness saturating her voice and tempering the edge that bordered her words. “It hurts my soul that it no longer exists outside my memories.”

  Piper turned back to the valley, her gaze travelling from the stone dragon to the balconies, some lit by torches, that dotted the sides of the mountains. She then looked over her shoulder at the far side of the balcony on which she stood, where an archway bordered by a carved geometric pattern led into a dark abode. This wasn’t just a mountain range; it was a community. Each balcony was the entrance to a home.

  “Draconians live here, don’t they?” she asked.

  Natania touched one hand lightly to the stone railing. “They did, but no longer.”

  “Not for five hundred years,” Piper murmured. Not since the Taroths, the ruling family of the draconians, had been wiped out.

  “Congratulations,” Natania murmured.

  Piper frowned. “Pardon?”

  “Congratulations,” the woman repeated, smiling. “You came so very close to ensuring the end of the Taroth bloodline.”

  Piper flinched. Some of the odd, sleepy lassitude enveloping her dropped away, and guilt and wariness flared. “No one knows for sure that Ash is a Taroth. And even if he is, who says he’s the last one?”

  “Oh, my dearest, he is most surely a Taroth. You have seen his true form. Have you not seen any other draconian out of glamour?”

  “You know I have.”

  “Did you not notice anything different?”

  “Seiya only has two horns on each side of her head, not three like Ash,” Piper said with a shrug. Having different fathers, their family resemblance wasn’t that strong.

  Natania smiled again. “You will see no other draconian with sets of three, I promise you.”

  “Only Taroths have three horns?” she asked.

  Natania slid one finger along the pattern carved into the railing. “I am pleased he survived. His mind is enrapturing—such fury within him. So much like my Nyr.”

  “Nyrtaroth was full of fury because you drove him insane—on purpose,” Piper pointed out.

  Natania smiled. Silver glinted in her eyes, along with a glimmer of madness.

  “You won’t get the chance to do that to Ash,” Piper added.

  Her chest ached at her last memory of him: unconscious in the ryujin city. But no matter how much it hurt, she wouldn’t waver in her decision. She wouldn’t return to him, not until she was strong enough.

  Nearly ten days had passed since she’d returned from the Overworld. Ten long, miserable days plagued by thoughts of Ash, wondering if he was okay, if his healing was going well, if he’d woken up yet—and if he had, what he thought of her disappearance. There was every chance he would be furious at her for leaving him behind, but hopefully he would understand that she’d had no choice.

  Lyre and Seiya were still missing. Piper had been trying to find them. She’d started at the ley line, investigating the spot where they’d originally gone through to the Overworld—the same spot where she and Ash would have met up with Lyre and Seiya on Earth if all had gone to plan. She’d found what she thought might be signs of a struggle: freshly broken branches, a couple of leaves with blood on them, and a single scrap of red material that could have come from a Ra soldier’s uniform—maybe. She really wasn’t trained in that kind of thing, but it was the best lead she had, so she’d gone with it.

  She’d then headed to the most obvious place where the Ras would take a prisoner: their embassy. But after too many nerve-wracking days of scouting the area and watching the building, she still didn’t know whether Lyre and Seiya were actually inside. She couldn’t just walk up to the front gate like last time.

Ash might have had some ideas, but he wasn’t there—and he wasn’t going to be. The ryujin healer Hinote was more than capable of making sure Ash didn’t attempt to leave before he was strong enough, which meant Piper had some time yet to find Lyre and Seiya. Once Lyre and Seiya were free, they would meet up with Ash, the daemon trio would vanish forever, and she would never have to witness Ash’s reaction to her desertion.

  “I know why you did it.”

  “Did what?” Piper asked, focusing again.

  Natania’s smile sharpened as she observed Piper’s pain. “Left him.”

  Piper rolled her eyes. “Of course you know. You know everything in my head.”

  “I know the real reason. Not the paltry, martyring excuses you tell yourself.”

  “Why then?” she asked. Natania loved to mess with her, but she didn’t really care what the woman had to say. She’d made her decision.

  Raising her hands in a light shrug, Natania answered, “You are afraid.”

  “Afraid of what?”

  “Of him.”

  “I’m afraid of Ash?” Piper repeated.

  “Oh yes. You know.” Natania leaned closer until all Piper could see were the woman’s silvery eyes. She put two fingers under Piper’s chin to hold her gaze. “You are afraid of him. Afraid of his power. Afraid of his darkness. You know in your heart that he will destroy you.”

  Piper pushed Natania’s hand away, shaking her head. “You know you’re insane, right?”

  “He will betray you. They always do. You tell yourself you are protecting him, but it is your own life you wish to protect.”

  “Ash would never hurt me.”

  “He already has.” Her hand darted out, fingernails raking Piper’s throat—the same spot where Ash’s claws had pierced her neck. “And he will again. He will not be able to stop himself.”

  Piper took a step back and leaned her hip against the stone railing. “You’re one to talk. You were sleeping with two daemons—at the same time.”

  “I knew exactly the monsters I was bedding,” Natania replied, haughty arrogance coating her voice. “You still want to believe Ashtaroth isn’t so far from human.”

  Piper huffed, blowing her bangs away from her face. Of course she knew Ash wasn’t human—that daemons weren’t human. She’d learned that lesson over and over, starting years ago with Micah and relearning it yet again in the Overworld when she’d experienced firsthand a taste of how the daemon mind worked.

  She waved her finger mockingly at Natania. “You knew what they were, but you still didn’t see it coming when they turned on you.”

  Surprisingly, Natania didn’t lash out with a retort. Instead, her mouth flattened into a hard line. “I knew from the first day that one or the other would likely be the death of me. What I had not anticipated was the reason behind it.” She lifted her chin. “You, however, haven’t the slightest idea what to expect from the beast who has stolen your heart. He will destroy you.”

  “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

  “Do I not? I have been in his mind as well, do not forget. I know him far better than you.”

  Piper hesitated, then shook her head. The drifting clouds slid across one of the three moons and shadows fell over the valley, deepening the darkness. The glow of the torches on the balconies flickered welcomingly, beckoning visitors to a safe landing place.

  “Why did you bring me here?”

  “My prison is lonely, dearest Piper. Would you deny me the simple comfort of your company?” Natania turned and sat on the railing, kicking her feet out like a little girl, watching the skirt of her dress flutter. “Have you noticed anything strange about your magic?”

  Piper sighed. She was almost getting used to Natania’s sudden topic derailments. “I have two distinct kinds and they don’t mesh well.”


  She waited for Natania to continue. Her magic was completely new to her and Natania knew perfectly well that Piper’s knowledge was dangerously limited.

  Natania stroked a lock of her golden hair. “What happens when fire meets oil?”

  Another sigh. “The oil burns.”

  Silvered blue eyes met hers. “Your magic is like fire and daemon spells are like oil. Do not forget it.”

  Piper went still as a memory flashed through her mind: hitting a griffin’s shield with her magic, and the daemon’s shock when his shield disappeared in a burst of orange light.

  “Are you saying—”

  “Did you enjoy your first experience with your inner daemon unleashed?”

  Piper shivered as she recalled the strange, serene state of shading. “It was ... interesting.”

  “It will become even more so,” Natania said with a coy smile.

  “What do you mean?”

  “You have yet to fully yield to the predator within. Do not expect it to continue to be so easy.”

  Piper frowned. “You mean using magic?”

  “Oh no, that will only grow easier with time.”

  “What won’t be so easy then?”

  Natania rose to her feet, her gown swirling around her legs. She paced slowly to the opposite end of the balcony, putting her back to Piper, and laid her hands on the stone railing.

  “I had a brother,” she said, her voice barely more than a whisper. “He, being male, had only one bloodline of magic. After I freed my daemon blood, he became jealous that my power far outstripped his. One evening, he taunted me and taunted me until I lost my temper—until my inner daemon overwhelmed me and I turned on him.”

  Her heart beating a little faster in dread, Piper watched the woman.

  “When he saw what he had awakened,” she continued, the words coming slowly, dragged from within her, “he was afraid. And his fear ... it fed the daemon inside me. I reveled in it, in his terror. He ran from me, and I hunted him. It was glorious. It was the greatest high, the sweetest moment when his warm blood spilled across my hands.”

  Natania turned to Piper, her eyes no longer silver with madness, but deep blue and filled with sorrow. “I loved my brother. He helped me survive through the years until I could step into the Void with any hope of survival. And yet when the daemon ruled in me, I did not remember that. I did not see my brother. I saw my prey.”

  The woman shook her head wearily. “It was years before my sweet moon helped me forgive what I had done. So many times in the eternity that I have been trapped here, I have relived the memory of that day, but the end never changes, no matter how much I want it to be otherwise.”

  “I’m sorry,” Piper whispered.

  A shiver ran through her as she remembered the deadly mix of calm instinct and murderous rage that had burned through her after Miysis’s men had attacked Ash. She’d fully intended to kill Miysis—but that had been different from Natania’s sadistic hunt of her terrified brother. Miysis had been her enemy, not a dearly loved sibling.

  Natania’s shoulders lifted and fell with a deep sigh. “The daughters of man are not made to bear the weight of daemon blood.” She suddenly smiled and silver glinted in her irises. “Who do you think will feel the cutting touch of your claws first, dear Piper?”

  “No one I don’t want to cut,” she said. “Ash told me I don’t experience shading like a daemon.”

  “It was only your first time, love. The instincts take time to wake. Daemons learn control from infancy, but you and I ... we have too much power with too little control.”

  “I won’t kill anyone I don’t want to,” Piper insisted.

  “You speak as though you have any sway over what will come. You will understand very soon.” Smiling to herself, Natania turned to face the dark valley. Her eyes rose to the colossal dragon carved into the tallest peak. “You fear neither Ashtaroth nor your inner daemon, but you should fear both. All that remains is to wait.”

  “Wait for what?”

  “For which will destroy you first.”

  The vista of jagged mountains blurred. As Natania and her memory of the draconians
’ homeland melted into darkness, Piper thought, for just a moment, that she saw the stone dragon atop its peak rear its head back and spread its vast wings, blotting out the sky.


  PIPER opened her eyes. She blinked at the ceiling, taking deep breaths as she tried to banish Natania’s words from her mind. The woman’s insanity seemed to come and go, but Piper refused to give any credence to her predictions about Ash betraying her or her daemon blood turning her into a mindless killing machine. Sitting up, she glanced at the shimmering, pale leather armguard—made of dragon scale—wrapped around her left arm. Beneath it, the Sahar lay against the skin of her inner wrist.

  When her mind had last joined Natania’s inside the Stone, Piper had initiated it. It troubled her that she’d slipped into the Sahar while asleep. Definitely not good. What if Natania had deliberately pulled her into the Stone? Even more not good.

  Her room was pitch dark and she suspected it was still at least an hour before dawn. She considered trying to get a little more sleep, but Natania’s words were already digging at her, burrowing into her subconscious. Exactly Natania’s plan, she was sure.

  She crawled off her cot and pulled on her boots. After sweeping her hair into a high ponytail, she donned her weapons—a sword, daggers strapped to her thighs, throwing knives on her upper arms, and two handguns holstered on the back of her belt. Overkill, probably, but these days she’d rather carry more weapons than less.

  She slipped out of her room and into the dark hallway, lit only by the dim glow of an emergency light. She passed closed doors behind which other people slept on cots just like hers, then trotted up the stairs and out into the echoing sanctuary of the church. Resting one hand on the hilt of her sword, she tilted her head back to take in the high vaulted ceiling of the massive room. Only the heavy wooden pews had survived the church’s abandonment. Her father, and the others who were using the old church as their hideout, had already removed the garbage and debris. In the darkness, it almost looked respectable.

  At the back of the echoing room, she entered the base of the church’s tower. Covered in dust and crumbling bits of rock, stone steps spiraled upward. She ascended swiftly and pushed open the rotting door at the top. The bell was long gone, but that wasn’t why she’d climbed three stories. She stepped up to the arched window and sat on the stone sill to peer out.

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