Spellbound – YA Paranormal Romance – FREE
Wylde Debraux is 16: Sassy, fiercely independent—and the Wyvern princess of the desert tribe of Kiir’vanan. When her father demands she choose a suitor within a fortnight to become her mate, Wylde rebels…and finds herself face to face with her enemies.
Born without power, Kascien Trump is a slave to the Magi. He’s as trapped as the bio-engineered dragonhounds he breeds and fights for his master. Then Wylde blazes into his life, offering him the possibility of freedom, and he knows she’s probably his only ticket out of there. Alive, anyway.
But when Wylde’s captured, the spellbound slave and the fiery dragon-shifter have to put aside their differences and work together to outwit the Magi and escape the clutches of Kascien’s corrupt master…or lose themselves trying.
“I’ve heard enough. My word is final—pick a prince in a fortnight, or I’ll pick one for you.” King Reitsch’s words boomed down the corridor with the power of an explosion, ringing like a terrible bell in Wylde’s ears.
She stared at him, shocked at the outburst a moment before her eyes quickly narrowed. “You can’t do this to me! This is my life.” She jabbed herself in the chest with her thumb. “Mine. You can’t just rule it like everything else! It doesn’t belong to you.” Her last words were snarled, the tips of her canines sharpening into dagger points.
Her father stared at her for a long minute, the gleam in his golden eyes molten. He dragged a claw-tipped hand through his hair, then spun on his heel. Without looking at her, he murmured, “Go to bed, Wylde.” He reached for the doorknob and Wylde’s world spun circles, dizzying as she staggered back with a hawkish screech.
She wouldn’t be ruled like this. He couldn’t do this! She bit back a retort, chomping on the inside of her cheek until she tasted the copper tang of blood. She breathed in a short, sharp breath through her nose, then turned and fled the hall.
He couldn’t make her bond with someone she didn’t love. Her skin buzzed and her mind spun as she tore up the marble staircase, taking the steps two at a time. Her hair floated behind her like a storm cloud and as she burst through the door to the roof, the muggy summer air laced through the tangles like wet fingers.
She forced her breathing to slow, in and out again as her pulse thundered. It took a few minutes for her body to catch up with her. Energy hummed deep within her, magic traipsing through her veins, begging for release.
He wouldn’t act like this if Mother was still alive.
She blinked back the burn of tears and let the breeze carry her to the edge. Her gaze stole across the horizon, the light of the moon casting the sands of Vanla in a blue-violet hue. The stars dotted a black velvet sky, tiny pinpricks of light, and Wylde raised her arms. She looked out over the village of Haven and sighed.
He didn’t own her. His blood might run deep within her body, but he had no control over her soul. She threw her head back and let loose another shriek, the sound piercing the silent night air like a siren. Not at all human, but then again, she wasn’t one.
Before anyone could come up and stop her, Wylde lunged. Three steps and she was suddenly mid-air, careening towards the ruthless ground, hundreds of feet from the top of the Nest. Her silk dress fluttered in the wind as she fell: Down, down, down.
She pulled her arms close to her body as curved raptor claws sprang from the tips of her fingers and toes. Her legs coiled up against the warmth of her stomach, knee joints cracking the silence like one of the Free Ones breaking a branch underfoot. A long serpent’s tail sprung from her tailbone, winding behind her with a deadly spike at the tip, and at the same time, her face contorted, giving a push and allowing for a double row of fangs.
She rolled her shoulders, then spread her arms and they were suddenly wings, the leather spread tight against the wind as they caught it, staggering her fall. She swooped outwards with a dragon’s call as magic flitted across her skin, leaving shimmering midnight blue scales in its wake until only patches of her flesh were left.
She slid through the air, her wing-beats light as she caught the thermals and stretched out. The air tossed her coffee-dark hair over her shoulder, keeping it out of her eyes. Her vision dimmed and twisted and then she could see the rocks in perfect clarity among the dark desert sand.
For a moment, all of her anger and frustration was forgotten—flying was like a drug: Every time you took flight, you wondered why you stayed on the ground in the first place. But it all came rushing back at the thought of choosing a mate for nothing but status.
Wylde flew across the desert, circling around as it thinned into fields and forests below. She breathed in, filtering through the smells of the Free Ones—the beasts of the wild—and the heady scent of the woods they lived in.
Beyond that were the Districts: Magi territory. She thought of Bluff then, to the confident smirk on his face as they explored the very edge of the city. They’d made a habit of it, and it had cost them nearly their lives.
She knew now, as long as she stayed away from the Shining Cities, she was safe. She skimmed the treetops, eyes darting about for the creatures in the forests, wild and free. She zeroed in on a small herd of deer grazing in a field, left without the protection of their stag.
She dipped down slowly, zeroing her sights on an elderly doe with a jerk to her gait, her tail the only flash of white on her tawny body. Wylde dove, her wings pulled tight against her lithe body until she could smell the herd rushing up to greet her. Their heads jerked up in alarm and with wild eyes, they leapt into action.
Wylde’s toes sprang open, deadly talons on each digit widening, not unlike a bird’s. They clamped down on either side of the old doe’s neck. She landed hard enough to snap its spine, the animal spasming sporadically as they hit the ground in unison.
Wylde sprang away, crouching next to the fallen deer, her wings receding into clawed hands which spread, splay-fingered, on the ground. The doe’s brown eyes were wide, still hanging on. Wylde stroked her fingertips against the velvety nose as nostrils flared.
The doe shuddered and then the last breath left her lungs and she was merely a shell of herself. Her soul ripped free with one final jerk. Wylde, graced, watched as the whisper of a ghost found her legs and took off into the woods, her spectral form blending in to the wisps of mist gathering around them before disappearing.
“Thank you, Free One.” The Wyvern’s voice was thick as she uttered a soft Vanlan prayer and sliced her claws across the doe’s throat. Ribbons of crimson flooded free and Wylde bent down. Heat still pulsed off the corpse, the smell of the blood sickly sweet, making her mouth water.
With both hands, she lifted the deer’s heavy head, bringing it close and licked the blood flowing from the wound. The taste of the doe’s lingering energy made Wylde’s stomach roar, a gargoyle statue brought to life by the pallid light of the moon.
And baring her fangs, she began to feed.
Watching the drakehounds maul each other night in and night out was becoming a dirty job that he would rather avoid. It was just his luck that he couldn’t.
His task was to fight the hounds and gather the bodies of the losers, the ones who failed, and take them to the Pyre to burn them. Alive. Supposedly, that way their souls would be erased so the weaker beasts might not come back in another form. Not that Kascien believed in reincarnation. Not among genetically-engineered mutants, anyway.
The loser was still fighting valiantly, her fangs buried into the scruff of her opponent, blood soaking her muzzle as she ripped and tore. She was a leggy, barrel-chested hound of epic size, though considerably smaller than any male of her breed. Her paws were large with webbed toes, thick claws muddied with dirt and flesh. Her sleek fur was a rich mahogany with the faintest of cream and black streaks brindling her pelt. Scales lined her sides like armor, although they didn’t keep her safe like they should’ve, pieces torn away from skin and hanging in flaps. She was beautiful, for a hound, and when she fell under the crushing jaws of her opponent, Kascien couldn’t take it anymore.
Grabbing the hefty sterling pry bar that leaned against the edge of the fence, he swung open the gate and crept closer to the fighting hounds. He said nothing—sound aggravated them and he didn’t want to die tonight—and jabbed the winner in the face with the weapon.
He slid it between the hound’s jaws and twisted with a little more force than was necessary. The drakehound snarled and Kascien whacked him across the face in a sort of ‘take that!’ motion. The beast hissed and backed up, his tiny ears pinned to the sides of his spike-adorned skull.
The loser panted heavily, her forked tongue wet against the concrete. Kascien knelt down beside her, touching her face and feeling the familiar ache in his heart. She glared up at him with one slit-pupiled golden eye and there was a hidden warning there: Just you wait for your turn, boy.
He stood and turned back to the male, who was sitting smugly in the corner of the ring. He sidled up to him, pry bar raised, just in case the beast tried to take off his arm. With his free hand, he clipped the drakeskin leash to the spiked collar that wrapped tight around the hound’s neck.
The drakehound growled a vicious rumble meant to intimidate. Kascien merely shot the hound a ‘whatever’ glare and hauled back on the leash, leading the great beast out of the ring, leaving the loser behind. He’d get to her in a minute. She wasn’t going anywhere.
Reaching into the pocket of his worn jeans, he found the stubby piece of Portal chalk. Imbued with a magic spell that resonated with what little Mage blood he had in him, Kascien reached out and drew the outline of a door large enough for both him and the hound.
“The Kennel,” he said as he touched the chalk to the middle of the outline and drew a pentagram. The inside shimmered, a soft static sound filling the air as the Portal opened its gaping mouth and if he squinted, he could make out the silver bars of the Kennel awaiting their arrival. He tugged the drakehound through with a grunt.
The Kennel was a large building hidden just off the edge of Albany, mostly brick and steel, with barred slits for windows. It was neither heated nor cooled, and in the midst of summer it was sweltering. The walls were lined with heavy metal cages, the bars crafted of purse sterling silver—a rather expensive set up, but no one could deny the Sovereign had money.
Kascien unlocked the gate with the key hanging around his tattooed neck; the surface of his skin was rich with magic that swirled and contorted across his pale flesh. Even though he often denied it, he was imprisoned, just like the drakehounds he tended to. Just without bars holding him back. He was free to roam the Districts, but he was a slave, his blood not pure enough to warrant any positive attention from the clan of Magi.
He hauled on the leash, but the beast balked.
“Come on, you lousy furred handbag.” He gave a groan, planted his feet, and pulled. The hound hissed air between his fangs and for a moment, it was almost comical. Kascien bit his lip, sighed, then drug out the chalk once again. He made a circle around the dog, dragging the chalk across the cement floor.
“Cage B-2,” he said, then drew the pentagram. In an instant, the ground shimmered and the hound disappeared into thin air.
“Three. Two. One.” He slammed the door of cage B-2 just as the mutant appeared in the center, looking confused.
“I win.” He smirked at the dog, whose expression turned furious as he lunged for the gate. Kascien locked the door with the key and took a step back, letting the hound snarl and shriek as his skin touched the silver and sizzled. If there was one thing dragons couldn’t handle, it was silver.
He Portaled back to the ringside and grabbed the loser’s chain, which was coiled on the ground. He stepped forwards, only to freeze. He’d left the freaking gate open and the loser, in all her brindled, bloody brilliance, was gone, replaced by a trail of blood that led down the alley and into the city.
“Shit, fuck, damn,” Kascien snarled as he hauled the chain over his shoulder and headed after her.
He followed the path through Albany and it led him to the very edge, where the sidewalk, roads, and buildings all abruptly ended and a thick patch of forest began. Well he sure as hell wasn’t trekking into the woods at this time of night just for a hound that would die of blood loss before dawn anyway. It was just a matter of time. Even if it pissed the almighty Sovereign off.
Turning on his heel, he headed back for the city, suddenly exhausted. His entire body felt leaden and he just wanted to curl up and fall asleep.
The next time she reincarnated, he’d burn her for sure.