Thanks so much for taking the time to read this sneak peek of The Domina which releases October 22nd! It’s the final book in the Ascension series, and if you haven’t started or want a refresher, book one The Affiliate is FREE right now. Which means you can whispersync the audio for only $7.49!
Now, on to the main event! Enjoy the first chapter of The Domina!
Cyrene stalked from the war tent.
Her magic was a living, breathing fire within her. It took all of her self-control to rein it in and not unleash it upon the figureheads who called themselves rulers. The sheer incompetence of bickering after what had just happened. Not that she had told them everything. The truth was still yet to be known, even to her.
She had spent all day and half of the night listening to them squabble over their loss. While the person who could truly explain it sat under guard within Cyrene’s own tent.
Her throat closed up at the thought. Perhaps she had stayed so long in the war tent, debating their next move, because, though it was tiresome, it was preferable to what she would find waiting for her.
And what she wouldn’t find.
Mikel—slain to protect the love that had only just returned to him.
Ahlvie—stolen by a dark goddess.
Avoca—decimated by his capture.
And another who was a lie.
Vera…or Benetta…or Benny. The woman Cyrene had put her trust in, trained with, walked across the world with her as a companion. Only to find out she wasn’t what she’d seemed. Not a Master Doma. Not a dragon-bound Society member. Not even…her friend. Not by a long shot.
She was the Creator. Creator!
The mother of all Doma. A goddess in her own right. And had been in hiding for two centuries. Maybe longer. She had fooled everyone. Even Cyrene.
Cyrene stopped before the tent flap and rested her palm on the hilt of Shadowbreaker, the Tendrille metal singing to her. She didn’t need to walk in there with her temper flaring. She needed to remain calm, get the information that they needed to win this war. That was all that mattered now.
She took a deep breath and let her excess magic drain into the honeycomb center of the red ruby in the hilt of her sword. A sword forged from the metal of the gods and immune to magic. A powerful weapon that had done next to nothing against the Destroyer, the dark goddess, Malysa.
Her anger rose up again, and she tamped it down. Vera had deceived Cyrene. And now, Malysa had taken control of her generals and was hell-bent on destroying the world once and for all. Cyrene could face Vera’s deception and Avoca’s sorrow and Orden’s disappointment if it meant fulfilling her destiny. She could.
She swallowed, released her energy, and stepped into the tent.
It was exactly how she had left them all those hours earlier. Vera was tied to a chair at the center of the room. Avoca was lying back on the cot, staring up at the ceiling, unseeing. The ice-white blade she normally carried was discarded nearby. Orden was reading out of a small notebook and glanced up at Cyrene’s entrance.
“What was decided?” he asked, setting the notebook aside.
“Nothing,” Cyrene said on a sigh. “Half of them want to push forward into Aurum and claim it. The other half want to march on Byern and claim it. Malysa is a secondary concern when land can be captured.”
“As expected then,” Orden said.
Cyrene nodded tightly. “Half of them are still adjusting to the revelation that magic even exists. There’s a clear divide between Gwynora and the Network and the Eleysian generals who seem to think they have the advantage because they have the numbers.”
“And Brigette?” Orden asked. “Did she call for your head?”
Cyrene scowled. Brigette was a problem. Though, technically, she wasn’t the queen of Eleysia at the moment, she had much sway. She had been the queen after her parents were murdered, but when the capital city was destroyed by Byern—thanks to Kael Dremylon—they had called a vote of no confidence. She was in the midst of a Queen’s War to reclaim her title. And she clearly thought blaming Cyrene for her parents’ deaths and throwing her weight against Cyrene would help her regain her throne.
“I’ll take that as a yes.”
“I’ll handle it.” She slid her steely-blue gaze to where Vera sat. She hadn’t said a word since Cyrene entered, but she was watching. “What’s Malysa’s next move?”
“I don’t know,” Vera said softly but not weakly.
“You have deceived me, Vera. Benny. Whatever I should call you,” she spat the words out.
Vera turned her palms up in surrender. “Vera. I am Vera now. Benetta no longer exists.”
“Fine,” Cyrene said with a shake of her head.
“I will tell you everything you wish to know, Cyrene. You can trust me.”
“We’ll see about that.”
“I know that I have lost your trust, but I have never done anything to harm you. I even trained you.”
Cyrene dismissively waved her hand. “You did it to put me on the path of the prophecy. You wanted me to defeat your sister. You had ulterior motives.”
“That does not mean that I don’t care for you.”
“Can you help us defeat her?” Orden asked, standing to his considerable height and doffing his characteristic floppy hat.
“I can give you all the information that I have, but I do not personally have the magic capable of containing her again. When I tried to stop her last time, it took every ounce of my ability. Something was severed. I no longer have full access to my magic, as you have seen in the time that we have been together.”
“Great,” Cyrene said sarcastically.
Vera frowned. “But I will give the last of my magic so that you can see our story.”
Cyrene raised an eyebrow. “What does that mean?”
“I want to tell you the story of the two goddesses, but I think it would be better for you to witness it firsthand. Then, you can be clear that I am not lying.”
“See…your story. How?”
“On the spiritual plane.”
“But you can’t access spirit magic.”
“No,” Vera agreed. “I used to be able to. It was part of the reason that I am now dragon bound to Ameerath. I thought that a dragon would allow me better access to spirit magic. To keep an eye on my sister. But it saps my energy, as if it were feeding on my very soul.” She frowned and glanced down at her hands. “I can do it once more for you, but that will be all I have.”
Cyrene understood then the sacrifice that Vera was suggesting. Not just that this spirit magic would drain her…but it would also tap her magic. She would be bereft of it. A sacrifice.
Orden must have come to the same conclusion. “But what if we need your magic again? What if we need your help against the Destroyer?”
“She can’t,” Cyrene answered for her. She saw it on Vera’s broken face. “If she could have been any help, she would have already done it.”
Vera nodded, and a tear slipped down her cheek. Raw emotion displayed before Cyrene. “Please let me do this one last thing.”
“We’ll vote,” she said. Her gaze shifted to Orden. “You?”
He narrowed his eyes at Vera, as if trying to discover her subterfuge. “I don’t like it. But we need the information.”
Cyrene turned to Avoca. She hadn’t moved. She was still staring, empty-faced, at the ceiling. “Avoca? What is your vote?”
Avoca didn’t respond.
“Avoca?” she repeated.
Finally, Avoca blinked once. “Do whatever you want, Cyrene.”
Cyrene frowned and met Orden’s worried look. Avoca had taken Ahlvie’s disappearance with Malysa worse than Cyrene had expected. They’d had a secret wedding before they left Kinkadia, and now, her husband had been forced into Indres form and captured by the goddess of destruction. Cyrene could hardly blame her for being upset, but she hated that her fierce warrior friend was falling apart and not rising to the occasion.
“It’s settled then,” Cyrene said after a moment. “I’m going to release you from the bonds. If you attempt to flee…”
“I wouldn’t cross you,” Vera said at once. “I just lost my sister and my brother-in-law in one fell swoop. We still have to bury Mikel.” She swallowed around the pain. “I’m not going anywhere. This is where I belong.”
Cyrene took a deep breath and then nodded. Orden untied the knots that held Vera in place. She rubbed her raw wrists and then shook out her ankles.
“Let’s do this,” Cyrene said.
“Perhaps you should sleep for a bit,” Vera said. “Replenish your well.”
“You’re not my teacher anymore.” Cyrene did need to sleep. She was bone-weary. But she didn’t have time to rest. Not with this war while they stood on a killing field.
Cyrene gripped Vera by the arm and marched her out of the tent. They walked out of the camp, past the guard on watch, and out into the open field. She reached out for the bond that called her dragon, Sarielle, and breathed a sigh of relief to feel her nearby.
My dragon bound, it is good to hear from you. Much has passed. Akeera has gone to the dark goddess. Shall we hunt them for their insults to our honor?
Cyrene smiled at Sarielle’s enthusiasm. Her greatest wish was for adventure. They had known that the other could bring that the second they laid eyes on each other. Part of her wished that she could do just as Sarielle had suggested and run off to take down Malysa on her own. But she knew, after what she’d seen on the battlefield and the way she had stalked Cyrene’s dreams, it was going to take more than that to win.
“Come down. We must link and enter the spiritual plane.”
As you wish.
A few minutes later, both Sarielle’s and Vera’s dragon, Ameerath, appeared before them. Sarielle’s dark red scales shone bright from the light of the full moon. Her neck proud as she tucked her wings in tight. Ameerath seemed warier, as if she knew what was to come.
“It’s okay, Ameerath,” Vera said. “I have requested this.”
Cyrene of the Doma, this is ill-advised. I do not wish harm to my dragon bound. She has already lost much, and though she did not share her true identity with you, her heart has shown true through your entire encounters. Your anger is warranted but not your doubt of her character.
“Thank you, Ameerath,” Cyrene said with a small curtsy to the ancient dragon. “I appreciate your insight. If there is another way to go about this, then present it now.”
No one spoke. Neither of the dragons came to a conclusion. Vera clearly knew it for what it was. She smiled sadly at her dragon and patted her flank.
Vera held her hand out to Cyrene, who stared at it as if it were a trap. Then, with trepidation, she put her hand in Vera’s, and together, they opened the door to the spiritual plane.
Eep! So much goodness to come! This is my longest book to date coming in at 157k words and almost 700 pages! It’s a mammoth that reads like a short book because so much happens and there are no breaks! So hitch up and let’s get going.
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✦ Audio → coming on release day (narrated by Erin Mallon)