We are so excited to have a new book coming out this November! Consort of Fire is the first book we’ve written in over a decade that is set in a new world. Our hearts and souls needed a break from the dystopian apocalypse, so we imagined a world of powerful magic, where the people who dream and hope hardest become literal gods… and the people who want to keep others small will do anything necessary to slay them.
Book One features a fearsome dragon god, his sunshine consort, and her murderous girlfriend. Oh, yeah… and they were sent to kill him. How will the three of them work out their issues? Read to find out… (And while their story starts in Consort of Fire, it will conclude in Queen of Dreams, available next year! But we promise… there are no abrupt cliffhangers here… and plenty of spice.)
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Once Upon a Time…
For three thousand years, an ancient dragon god has protected the borders of the Sheltered Lands. In return he makes only one demand: every one hundred years, the mortal ruler must send their heir to serve as his consort… for as long as they can survive.
Sachielle of House Roquebarre is the thirty-first consort to be sacrificed to the monster who guards the mountain passes. She is young, beautiful–and she has three secrets.
First: she’s a disposable orphan trained in seduction.
Second: her assassin-trained handmaid, Zanya, is the only person she has ever loved.
Third—and most dangerous: she’s cursed. Sachi and Zanya have five weeks to murder the Dragon in his bed. If they fail, the mortal king’s curse will steal not just Sachi’s life, but her very soul.
The Dragon has only one secret: he is nothing like what they have been told. And he will do whatever it takes to possess them both.
Want a taste of what’s to come? Read an excerpt below…
Sachielle dreamt of fire.
The flames licked at her limbs, undeterred by the spray dashing up over the barge’s bow. Carved wood dug into her palms as she gripped the railing and watched the blaze crawl slowly up her arms, obliterating the thick velvet of her ice-blue sleeves, leaving only crumbling char in its wake.
Such destruction. It tugged at something low in her belly. Plucked at the tight knot of her self-control, teasing. Taunting. This fire could burn her through, hollow her out and blacken her bones.
What would happen if she embraced it?
An attendant stepped closer and brushed surreptitiously at the flowing skirt of Sachi’s gown. Heedless of the roiling sheet of flame that had enveloped the fabric, she blotted at the droplets of river water that had soaked the velvet.
Sachi blinked, and the fire dissipated. Her waking dreams had been growing more vivid, but they’d never seemed this real. Even now, she was shocked to look down at pristine clothing and unmarred skin, without a blister in sight.
The attendant cleared her throat softly, and Sachi stepped back with a tight smile of apology. If they’d been alone on deck, she might have said the words aloud. But it wasn’t appropriate for a noblewoman to apologize to a servant, no matter how necessary or well-deserved it was.
“Oh, blast.” The light, musical curse heralded Naia’s arrival on deck.
Sachielle had met the newborn godling who’d been tasked with ensuring their smooth passage upriver, but they hadn’t really spoken. Unlike the blue- and green-skinned water sprites of legend, Naia looked human—rich brown hair and black eyes, with skin the color of sand at dusk, just a few shades darker than Sachi’s.
Right now, she stood, her fists planted on her hips, staring in consternation at Sachi’s wet dress. “I should have thought of it,” she murmured. “The river can get turbulent this close to the Falls.”
“Your dress.” Naia held out her hand. Slowly, silver droplets of water began to pull free of the wet velvet, drawn by her hovering fingers. They danced delicately in the air, joining and separating as they rose.
It was beautiful, and Sachi watched, spellbound, as Naia turned her hand in a beckoning gesture. The water, shimmering in the sunlight, coalesced in her upturned palm. She bent closer, whispering to the rippling ball of water, then blew gently. The drops dispersed, floating over the railing to fall once more into the river.
“Thank you. That was—” Sachi’s voice cracked, and she took a steadying breath. “Lovely.”
Naia dropped into a deep curtsy. “My lady.”
It was a form of address that no god, even a young one, would typically offer a human, regardless of royal lineage. But Sachi was something more than that now: promised to their god king, fated to be his bound bride.
The Dragon’s consort.
She could scarcely acknowledge the reality of it, even in the quiet privacy of her own mind.
Finally, Sachi spoke. “I must thank you for the ease and speed of our journey. A trip like this should have taken two weeks or more, and yet here it’s barely been one. Just eleven days to travel all the way from the capital.”
Naia blushed. “It was the least I could do. A simple matter, really.” Her gaze turned dreamy and soft as she looked out over the water. “I merely . . . asked for help. She’s quite eager to please, you know. This river.”
It shouldn’t have been such a jarring thought, the concept that the river could be a living thing with feelings and intentions. Sachi was, after all, standing next to a living piece of the Dream. But no one spoke this way in the city. Sometimes it seemed as though they’d all moved away from the notion of an interconnected world, one created and ruled by emotion. There were people, and then there was the world around them, a dead world of sticks and grass and water—things that existed only as resources to be exploited.
Naia edged closer. “Are you eager? To meet the Dragon, I mean?”
The previous consort had died after three incredibly well-documented years of fear and misery. The letters he’d written to his parents, begging them to end his marriage and bring him home, sat in the royal archives. And his body, repaired and preserved by magic, still lay in state nearly a century later.
Prince Tislaine, his epitaph read. Duty, honor, and ultimate sacrifice.
The flames surged again, burning Sachi’s palms this time, and she clenched her fists tight to hide them as she waited for the fire to subside. All descendants of the mortal kings possessed a measure of magic. It was their claim, the divine right of royal birth. The reason they, and they alone, were fit to rule the people.
But never like Sachi—never this much, this hot. This close to the surface. The magic of the mortal kings was a whisper compared to Sachi’s, a glowing ember eclipsed by a wildfire. And if anyone on their voyage might notice, it was the lovely Naia—newly born, so fresh from the Dream that its tattoo likely lingered in her mind as an echo rather than a memory.
But the spirit made flesh only smiled. “We’re nearly there.”
The barge cleared the last bend in the river, and a huge waterfall came into view. Water cascaded wildly off the ridge, falling to swirl in a turbulent pool at the base of the cliff. The Midnight Forest grew thickly on either side of the river, the trees’ big branches strong even in the shadow of the mountain.
To Sachi’s right, the broad, solid walls of a castle peeked through the forest. Blade’s Rest, seat of the Huntress. Their river journey would end here. They’d be met by the Dragon’s delegation, feast and rest at the Huntress’s home, then travel on come daybreak.
Sachielle looked up. She caught a glimpse of the spires of Dragon’s Keep, nestled between the snowcapped peaks above.
“Come,” Naia murmured. “They’re waiting.”
A single sharp clap behind them made all the attendants flinch. “Don’t stand around gawking like day-old hatchlings,” a husky, impatient voice snapped. “The princess’s things must be packed and prepared for the journey.”
The young women clustered around her dropped a series of deep, abrupt curtsies punctuated by murmurs of my lady before they scrambled to obey. Zanya watched them go, her arms folded across her chest, looking more like a military commander than chief handmaid.
Sachi held out her arm. “Please accompany us, Zanya.”
Zanya tore her gaze from the attendants and managed to smooth her features. The boat rocked beneath them on gentle waves, but Zanya crossed the deck with effortless grace and silently extended a steadying hand.
The crew had already laid out the gangplank, a wide board hewn from a single piece of wood, painted royal red and gold. Sachi’s toes curled in her slippers as she crossed it as quickly and gracefully as she could in her heavy skirts.
She was immensely jealous of Zanya’s wardrobe, which mostly consisted of shorter split skirts meant to be worn over tight trousers. No one chose to wear four cumbersome layers for the comfort or convenience of it. Even Naia’s robe would be preferable, though Sachi blushed at the thought of being clad in nothing but the sheer, diaphanous fabric.
She breathed a sigh of relief when they reached the solid safety of the dock, though the feeling was short lived as she faced the crowd gathered at the end of it.
There were guards, of course. Merchants, sailors, and people in court attire. Two horses, one with an empty saddle and another carrying a smiling blonde. A huge cloaked man beside her.
No sign of their dragon god. Unless . . .
Sachielle stopped in front of the cloaked man and curtsied. “My lord.”
The hood shadowed his face. She caught a glimpse of a beard and firm lips curving into a slight smile. Then he was bowing to her, a low rumble edged with wildness rattling out of his chest. “Princess.”
When he straightened, his hood fell back, revealing a hard face made of sharp angles, disheveled brown hair—and eyes the color of pure molten gold.
“Don’t be a boor.” The blonde dismounted her horse with enviable grace—no doubt due in part to the fact that she wore trousers as well. “Introduce yourself, and correct the dear lady’s misapprehensions.”
It was odd, how that small smile failed to soften his features even a little. “Ulric,” he offered in that same rumbling voice. “The Wolf.”
Sachi’s cheeks heated. “Of course.”
The woman shook her head with a low laugh, stripped off one glove, and held out her hand. “I’m Elevia.”
The Huntress. Sachi had heard the whispered prayers all her life, seen the sacrifices on pyres in the countryside and offerings on the mountain altars. This wasn’t a woman at all, but the god of the hunt, patron of those who stalked their prey in the forest, stared down the shafts of arrows, and prayed for a good kill.
Sachi wasn’t sure if it was madness or inevitability that led the Wolf to stand at her side. Even in the absence of malice, they were mortal enemies. Their natures would allow nothing else. Then again, without the one, could the other exist?
Perhaps they were only two sides of the same coin.
“Welcome to my home, my lady.” Elevia bowed. “It is a sincere pleasure to celebrate your arrival.”
“Sachielle, of House Roquebarre.” Sachi mirrored her movements. “And the pleasure is mine.”
“I daresay there is enough to go around. And you.” Elevia smiled at Naia, opening her arms. “You must be the new little one Dianthe spoke of. There are too few of you these days. You are welcome, cousin.”
Naia beamed as Elevia folded her into an embrace, and Sachi shifted her weight from one foot to the other and back again as she surreptitiously surveyed the crowd.
A cold knot sank through her middle like a weighted net, only to settle low in her gut.
He wasn’t here.
The Dragon hadn’t come to greet her.
The Wolf’s knowing gaze landed on her. “There was an incursion at the border,” he said quietly. “My brother sent me in his stead.”
Relief and irritation clashed within her. Quickly, Sachi schooled her features into a mask of vaguely expectant cheer. She’d have to be more careful here than she had been in the capital.
“I appreciate your efforts on my behalf.” Sincerity was her best remaining line of defense, and she deployed it ruthlessly. “More than you can ever know.”
“Do you ride, my lady?” Elevia led over the riderless horse, a beautiful blue roan with a mottled gray coat. “Blade’s Rest isn’t far, but you must be exhausted from your journey.”
Zanya had already drifted closer to the horse, her gaze skimming the saddle. As if the Huntress would have to resort to covert tricks if she wanted to remove an enemy. The threats facing Sachi here weren’t physical, but that wouldn’t stop Zanya from expecting treachery.
Apparently satisfied by her examination, she turned and held out a hand. “My lady.”
Zanya helped her into the saddle, then lingered to properly arrange her skirts as Sachi gripped the pommel.
Elevia mounted her horse in one smooth movement and clicked her tongue. The animal responded immediately, turning away from the dock toward the road. “To Blade’s Rest,” she announced.
To my destiny, Sachi corrected silently.
She would meet the Dragon, would smile and blush and bat her eyes at him. They would be bound, and she would live with him, attend his court. Share his bed. And then, when the time came, she would kill him.
Her very life depended on it.