Piper started out as a magic-less apprentice only to become the wielder of the most powerful weapon in existence, but the cost of that power has been blood and pain. As she and Ash retreat into the Underworld to escape the coming daemon war, he’s all she has left – but if she can’t find her strength, she’ll soon lose him to dangers in his world that even he can’t fight. Read the exhilarating conclusion to the Amazon best-selling YA urban fantasy series in UNLEASH THE STORM by Annette Marie…
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Excerpt from Unleash the Storm:
Stopping in front of her, Ash lifted his arms and spread his wings to their full span.
“What do you see?” he asked, his voice oddly flat—revealing nothing of his thoughts.
She considered him. A hundred answers jumped into her mind for what she saw—the man she loved, for starters. A powerful draconian. A dragon in human shape. A fearless warrior. But he was looking for a particular answer and she didn’t know which one. Unlike Lyre, who could keep a conversation going in circles until she was dizzy, Ash was a straightforward guy. He wasn’t the type for word games, so she decided to cut right to the chase.
“What do you want me to say? I see the same thing you do in a mirror.”
He dropped his arms and snapped his wings in and out restlessly. His gaze shifted around the forest—everywhere but her.
“I don’t look like the others,” he finally said.
She tensed just a little. So that’s what he was getting at. He’d never before mentioned the differences between him and the others.
“Not that different,” she said cautiously. “You’re still very much a draconian.”
“I know I’m just as draconian as they are,” he said, half-mumbling. He sighed. “But I’ve always been different, and not just in appearance. I’ve never been able to fit in with them.”
She chose her words carefully when she answered, wary of inflicting an unintentional wound. “Well, the others are all related, aren’t they? Your bloodlines are different, so it’s logical that you wouldn’t quite blend with the extended family group.”
His eyes flicked toward her. “But what bloodlines do I have?”
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CHASE THE DARK (Steel & Stone Book 1)
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His fist closed around a handful of her hair and the next thing she knew, she was flying through the air. She hit the coffee table and the legs snapped, dumping her onto the floor. She rolled over as Ether turned back to Ozar, murder written in every line of his body. Ozar’s laughter abruptly cut off and his muscles bulged as he prepared to defend himself.
“Stop!” Piper shrieked.
Both combatants went rigid. She paused halfway to her feet, wary at their reaction. Bloodthirsty berserkers didn’t normally freeze at her command. Ether and Ozar straightened from their aggressive poses and focused on the other end of the room. Piper followed their gazes and felt her blood chill.
A newcomer stood in the doorway, cloaked in shadows. Menace clung to him, speaking more clearly than the dark clothing and leather accents to his outfit. She couldn’t make out his face but she felt the touch of his gaze as he took in the scene.
“What are you doing, Ether?”
Piper shivered as his voice slid through her like hot silk, rubbing against her bones.
Ether cleared his throat. His eyes were no longer black, but pale blue and wide. “Ash,” he mumbled. “Ozar ate Shishu and I—”
“And it’s your own damn fault. Don’t break the rules because you didn’t protect your own. No bloodshed.”
Ether cringed, not daring to argue. Ash’s attention shifted to Ozar. “You’re leaving the Consulate tonight.”
Ozar blinked vacantly. “What? No, I—”
“You’re leaving. Tonight.”
Ozar hunched his shoulders. “Yes … right away.”
Ash stood in the doorway for another moment. Piper kept her gaze on the floor as his stare swept over her again. If she looked up, he would see her fury and that would be bad. Damn him. This was her job, not his.
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“Piper!” he roared.
She bolted, arms flailing for balance as she ran for the waiting car. The back door opened. She caught a glimpse of Miysis before he moved back to make room for her.
“Piper, get back in here right now!”
She dove into the darkness of the car. Miysis reached across her and pulled the door closed as the car began moving. Piper glanced out the window in time to see Quinn running across the lawn after her, fear stamped across his face. Her insides squirmed with guilt. He couldn’t know who owned the black car and he couldn’t have seen Miysis in the shadowy interior. All he’d seen was his daughter, wearing a dress for the first time in years, sneaking out to a mysterious car with unknown occupants one night after he’d found out she was possibly participating in illegal activities. She hoped he didn’t think she’d just been picked up by a pimp.
Miysis eased back into his seat as the car sped up. She pulled her skirt down to where it belonged and gave him a quick once over. Her heart sank. He looked like a million bucks in a smoky gray tux with a silvery vest and a fancy-collared shirt. His honey blond hair was tousled in a perfect mix of messy and deliberate and his golden-green eyes almost glowed in the dark interior of the car.
Sitting next to him, she looked ridiculously cheap and underdressed. His gaze flicked over her stupid little dress. He opened his mouth to speak.
“I didn’t have anything to wear,” she wailed before he could complain. “I didn’t have anything.”
“I know,” he said with a hint of a smile. “That’s why I brought you something.”
He pointed to a long garment bag hanging beside him.
She blinked. “You bought me a dress?”
He smiled, by all appearances totally serene. “You didn’t think I would let my date go in rags, did you?”
“Your—your date?” She gaped at him. “I’m going as your date? I—I thought you were making me one of your attendants or something.”
Daemon royalty always had a gaggle of advisors, attendants, and bodyguards following them around.
“Really, Piper. How would I explain the daughter of the Head Consul waiting on me? You should be glad I didn’t have a date already.”
“But—but—” She goggled.
Miysis was one of the top-ranking Overworld daemons. Going as his date was like going to a coronation with a member of a royal family. She’d never imagined he would go out on a limb like that for her. The entire political community would be gossiping about it for months. She might be the Head Consul’s daughter, but compared to Miysis, she was a dirt-poor commoner.
“But aren’t you worried what people will think?” she asked.
“I’m looking forward to seeing the looks on their faces,” he said with satisfaction. “The confusion and alarm will be priceless. They won’t know what to make of it.”
She thought about it then shrugged. “I guess if you don’t mind …”
He canted one eye toward her. “Do you?”
YIELD THE NIGHT (Sttel & Stone Book 3)
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The daemon rose to her feet, shedding her glamour in the same movement. Her wild red hair drifted outward, suddenly immune to gravity. Her ears were now pointed, cheeks hollow beneath dramatically sharp cheekbones. Her eyes were huge and black as coal. Her body, more willowy and lightweight than ever, coiled in readiness. Narrow red things—scales? feathers?—rose in lines on her arms like a cat’s hair standing on end.
Before Piper could even finish her protest, Kindra sprang out of the trees. With impossible speed, she flashed across the expanse of lawn. Piper swore under her breath and ran out after her, keeping low.
Kindra was on the first man before he could turn. Piper didn’t see what Kindra did but the man screamed as he fell. The others spun toward the daemon. She dashed away, almost too fast for the eye to follow, then reappeared, making a grab for a second one. The third got his gun up and fired but Kindra abandoned her target and flashed away, a dark blur. His gun flipped up, hitting him in the face, struck by an invisible blow from the daemon. He staggered, brandishing his rifle and wildly looking around for Kindra.
Between the darkness, the haze of rain, and the lethal daemon, none of them noticed Piper coming.
FEED THE FLAMES (Steel & Stone Book 3.5)
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 #3).
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“So your spell will disable the collar for . . . how long?”
“Maybe five minutes.”
She masked her shock. Most daemons performed magic through on-the-spot spell-casting. Magic could also be woven into materials such as metals and gemstones, but that was far more complex. Creating weavings that could interact with other weavings was high-level magic. She couldn’t do anything like that, and neither could Ash. Sure, they’d learned how to set a spell in a piece of stone or metal, but they weren’t inventing intricate, interactive weavings.
Developing new magic was the life’s work of the most gifted daemon minds. The only daemons she knew with that kind of talent worked at Chrysalis, Samael’s most sinister business. They’d developed some of the most complex magic she’d ever heard of, like the collar that had nearly killed Ash.
She studied Lyre, swallowing the touch of suspicion trying to creep into her voice. Spell weaving wasn’t something a daemon picked up on the fly.
“Where did you learn to make stuff like that?”
He rolled his eyes. “You’re right. This is the perfect time to share my life’s story.”
REAP THE SHADOWS (Steel & Stone Book 4)
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An animal snarl ripped through the silence as the beast dove for them like a half-ton missile. She threw her hands up and cast a shield. Black fire exploded outward when the creature slammed into her spell. The dragon rebounded into the air, great wings beating as it roared.
Piper spun to see that all the apprentices were on the ground, having thrown themselves down when the monster had charged them.
“Get up and run!” she yelled.
Lexa yanked Lee up by his arm. “Go!”
The apprentices scrambled to their feet and bolted down the alley. Lexa ran after them, but Piper’s eyes were locked on the second shadow. It held still, standing on the rooftop with partially spread wings. She could feel the burn of the draconian’s gaze on her. He was here for her.
With a frantic glance toward the fleeing apprentices, she turned and ran between two buildings. Just before her line of sight was cut off, she saw the dragon swoop over the heads of its prey, letting out a terrifying roar even as it deliberately missed them by several feet. It must be herding them away.
Fighting for calm, Piper sprinted down the narrow passageway between buildings—too narrow for a draconian’s wingspan. Darkness enclosed her but she didn’t dare create any light. She ran on, stumbling over cracks and garbage. She could feel the press of the draconian’s stare and knew he was following her, not the others.
Ahead of her, the passageway opened up into a wide street faintly illuminated by a single streetlamp. She skidded to a stop just short of the sidewalk, lifted her gun, and waited.