Hello, everyone! I’m Ella Summers, and I’m a fantasy and paranormal author. I have a FREE NOVEL for you today. It’s called , and it’s the latest book set in the world of my bestselling Dragon Born series.
They were lovers. Now they’re enemies.
A magic shock wave cuts across the world—fracturing reality, leaving only a dark Shadow World in its place.
Former monster-hunting mercenary mage Sera Dering is fighting for her right to exist. Labeled as an abomination, she’s caught in a supernatural war that has been raging for centuries between her kind and the Magic Council’s Crusaders. But when people from both sides begin to go missing, Sera has to team up with Kai Drachenburg, the Crusaders’ commander. She soon discovers that the mysterious fog rolling across San Francisco is only half as dangerous as the sexy, powerful dragon-shifting mage who brings out memories in her of a forgotten world.
As the commander of the Crusaders’ North American army and a member of one of the world’s oldest magic dynasties, it is Kai’s sworn duty to hate Sera. But as they work together to fight the magic fog plaguing the city, he finds himself drawn to her in ways he cannot understand. Their new alliance is tested, however, when they begin to realize that someone close to them is behind the dark spell—and that the fog is more than it seems.
AND HERE’S THE BOOK…
The Fairy Queen was packed that Saturday afternoon, not surprising considering it was the best dress shop in all of San Francisco. The bundle of tiny silver bells over the door jingled, signaling new arrivals: a pair of combat mages, dressed in leather and denim and armed to the teeth with enough steel to make even a former monster-hunting mercenary like Sera gawk at the ostentatiousness of it all. As they stepped inside, she reached automatically for her sword—but she dropped her hand the moment they turned toward the rack of dresses on summer clearance. It appeared they were just regular shoppers after all.
“I’ll take the one on the left,” Lara told Sera, her head peeking over the rack of white wedding dresses she’d been browsing. “You go for the one on the right. She’s giving those sundresses a shifty look.”
“Sorry,” Sera said. “I thought they might be assassins.”
“I don’t think anyone is crazy enough to come after the mage who defeated the Grim Reaper.”
Maybe Lara was right. In the past few weeks, no one had made a move against Sera, even though the whole world knew by now precisely what she was. Whether they were afraid of her or simply afraid of Kai she didn’t know. But she couldn’t just let her guard down. The supernatural world considered her an abomination. Sooner or later, someone crazy enough would come along and try to grant her an early grave. There were more than a few members of the Magic Council who were still sour about the fact that they weren’t allowed to kill her—at least not if they didn’t want her dragon-shifting fiancé to step on them.
“I’ll watch the door,” Lara said. “You concentrate on your assigned mission.” She held up the only scarlet wedding dress amongst a sea of white fabric.
“I don’t know. It’s a bit ostentatious, don’t you think?” Sera fingered the stitching on the dress’s high thigh slits. Well, at least she could kick in that skirt.
“My brother shifts into a twenty ton dragon. He loves ostentatious.” Lara waved the dress in front of Sera. “Try it on. You know you want to.”
“I think I stand out enough already.”
“Well, you won’t be wearing that big sword on your wedding day.”
“No sword? I was thinking it would make a great accessory.” Sera smirked at her.
“It’s a good thing you’re not planning the wedding.”
“Afraid I’d scandalize your parents?”
Kai and Lara hailed from one of the supernatural community’s oldest and most powerful magic dynasties. The Drachenburgs owned the world’s largest magical research company and had a seat on the Magic Council, the organization that ruled the supernatural world. And along with all that power and prestige came a generous helping of age-old traditions. That was just part of being one of the magical elite. If someone had told Sera just a year ago that she would be marrying into one of these dynasties, she’d have laughed in their face.
And yet here she was.
“You’re the woman who finally got my brother to settle down, the one who tamed the dragon. The perfect son.” Lara rolled her eyes with sisterly affection.
“Of course our parents adore you,” Lara continued. “They never thought Kai would marry. Like ever.”
Luckily, the Drachenburgs didn’t have a problem with her unusual magic. And they were refusing to let anyone else have a problem with it either. Sera had never had anyone except her own family look out for her like that, but Kai’s family was. That meant a lot. There weren’t many people who would stick out their neck for a Dragon Born mage.
Long ago, the Dragon Born had been respected, worshipped even. But the supernatural community had turned against them the day they’d learned that the Dragon Born weren’t dragons but instead people with a split persona: a mage side and a dragon side. Sera’s dragon was a part of her, but during battle she could break away from her, taking corporeal form to fight alongside her.
After the Magic Council had made that little discovery seven centuries ago, they’d labeled the Dragon Born abominations and had hunted them to near extinction. The only Dragon Born mages who’d survived had done so by hiding what they were.
The stupid thing about all of this was the Magic Council considered the other two kinds of dragon magic—mages who could shift into dragons like Kai, and mages who could summon strands of brilliant magic and bind them together into the form of a dragon—as the epitome of all magic. Dragon shifters and dragon summoners were the top of the top, their futures forever secure in the mage hierarchy.
And yet everyone continued to hate the Dragon Born, all because a few of Sera’s kind had once decided it would be funny to convince the supernatural community to worship them. It probably hadn’t taken much convincing either, likely nothing more than landing in the middle of their village. A full-grown dragon was an impressive sight to behold.
“Are you all right?” Lara asked Sera, her smooth forehead crinkling with concern.
“Fine,” Sera assured her with a smile, shaking aside the worried thoughts buzzing around inside of her head. She couldn’t spend every waking hour worrying about what the Council would or wouldn’t do. She had to live life. “And I think that I will try that dress on.”
Lara’s mouth lifted into a smile as Sera took the scarlet dress from her and headed for the dressing rooms at the back. Maybe she really should wear red at her wedding. The color looked good on her, and wasn’t that what the wedding was all about: her and Kai? Not the bureaucracy. Not the hurdles.
You break down hurdles, her dragon Amara commented inside her head.
Sera chuckled, leaning her sword against the wall. True. She set her boots down beside it. But I think we have to play this song and dance for just a little longer. We have to give the Drachenburgs the wedding they’ve been waiting for.
Plus, you want to wear a pretty dress, Amara said.
Pu-lease. I’ll have you know that I’m a kick-ass mercenary. She tossed her clothes into the corner.
Former mercenary. You work for Kai now.
I thought you approved of my decision.
I do. The monsters are more interesting, and the pay doesn’t suck. Kai isn’t an insufferable penny-pincher like your last boss. And there are other benefits.
Like my own armory closet, Sera said, beaming.
And nookie with the boss.
You have the maturity of a twelve-year-old. You know that, right?
I’m a part of you. I’m only as mature as you are, Amara told her.
Sera couldn’t argue with that, so she looked at the dress. Over or under?
Under, Amara told her, projecting an impish smirk into her head. You wouldn’t want to mess up your hair.
Before coming to the Fairy Queen, Sera had spent three hours sitting on her rear end at a hair salon. Lara had made the hairdresser try out a dozen different elaborate styles before they’d finally settled on one. Sera wasn’t sure who had suffered more, she or the hairdresser. But of one thing she was absolutely positive: this is why so many people eloped.
She wished she could just bolt out of here and go find Kai. Then the two of them would go back to their apartment to eat pizza and laugh over cheesy action movies as magic flames burned peacefully in the fireplace. From the day they’d met, they’d had to deal with one crisis after the other. But now they had some time to rest, to enjoy things. They should be spending it together. Who knew how long they’d have before the world went to hell again.
Sera had just finished zipping up the dress when her jeans buzzed. She reached down, digging through her pocket until she found her phone. Kai’s name shone on the screen, as though he’d read her thoughts. As though he’d known she was thinking about him.
She grinned and answered the call. “Hey.”
“So, what’s up?” she asked, turning to get a better look at herself in the mirror.
The skirt of the dress kissed the floor, the fabric folds hiding the side slits nicely—but they were still there, just in case monsters crashed the wedding. Geez, what was wrong with her? She shouldn’t be thinking about monsters crashing her wedding.
“I just got out of a meeting,” Kai said.
“On a Saturday? They don’t give you a break.”
“The world does not stop because it’s the weekend.”
Especially, not if you were running a multi-billion dollar company. Or fighting evil supernatural masterminds.
“What was it this time?” she asked. “Researchers fighting over growing plots for their plants? Escaped wildebeests? Kitten with a sprained ankle?”
The phone line buzzed softly with his laughter. “One of these days, that smart mouth is going to get you into trouble.”
“Too late. It already attracted your attention.”
“Yes, it has,” he replied, his words dripping with satisfaction. “I’m finished here. What do you say we go train your magic for a few hours?”
Sera had spent years hiding her magic—a consequence of wanting to stay alive when the punishment for her existence was death—so she was still getting the hang of it. Kai was helping her. Training with him was brutal because he didn’t hold back, no matter how much he liked you. She often ended their training sessions with more than a few scrapes and bruises—or even broken bones. But it was making her stronger.
Kai was a firm believer of the ‘what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger’ philosophy. She’d once had the line printed on one of the muscle t-shirts he liked so much.
“Training, you say?” she replied. “Tempting.”
“I’ll buy you pizza afterwards.”
“Wizard House Pizza?”
“Of course,” he said immediately.
It was no wonder he was such a successful businessman. He knew everyone’s weakness. And pizza was hers.
“Now you’re just making it impossible for me to refuse,” she told him.
“Kai, I wish I could, but I’m busy for the next…” Week? Month? Who knew how much more wedding stuff Lara had planned for her. “Busy until tonight.” If Lara wasn’t done with her by then, Sera was abandoning ship.
“What are you doing?” He said it perfectly casually.
“Trying on wedding dresses with Lara at the Fairy Queen.”
At that, he laughed out loud. “Try not to sound like you’re being tortured.”
“It is torture. She’s making me try on everything. After awhile, the dresses all start to look the same.”
“You’ve defeated demons and Grim Reapers and basically every monster on this earth, Sera,” he said. “You can handle my twenty-two-year-old sister.”
“It was only one demon and one Grim Reaper. And your sister is freakishly stubborn.” Sera grinned. “She must get that from you.”
“Indeed.” He chuckled. “I can be there in ten minutes.”
“You want to try on dresses?” she teased.
“No, I want to help you try them on. And take them off,” he added, his words loaded with suggestion.
“Kai, I’m not making out with you in Nelly’s changing room. She would kill me.”
“Who said anything about making out?” He clicked his tongue. “You need to get your mind out of the gutter, sweetheart.”
“Come say that to my face, dragon,” she shot back.
“Thank you for the invitation. I believe that I will.”
“Wait, stop,” she said quickly, backpedaling out of the hole she’d just dug for herself. “Lara says the dress has to be a surprise. She doesn’t want you to come.”
“But you do. And you just invited me. See you soon.” Then he hung up, the devious dragon.
Sighing, Sera stepped out of the dressing room, her skirt swaying gracefully as she crossed the floor. Lara’s hazel eyes lit up the moment she saw her.
“Perfect,” she told Sera, wiggling her pink-tipped fingernails. The color perfectly matched the flowers on her yellow sundress. “That’s the one.”
Sera stood inside the circle of mirrors, turning around. The dress was beautiful. There was no denying that.
“So,” Sera began as Lara walked around her, brushing down the wrinkles in the dress. “Kai is coming here.”
Lara froze. “Damn it, Sera. I told you not to invite him. This is top secret.”
“Come on. We’re not infiltrating an enemy stronghold. It’s a wedding. Shouldn’t the groom get to see the dress too?”
“He’ll see it when you walk down the aisle,” Lara replied stubbornly.
“Well, actually, he’ll see it in about ten minutes. Less than that if he ignores the rules of the road.” Which he probably would. Kai believed the rules were only for people without supernatural response times and the ability to magically nudge other vehicles out of the way.
As instantly as she’d stopped, Lara was moving again, shoving Sera back toward the changing room. “Not if I can help it. Hurry. Get changed out of the dress before he gets here.”
Sera was about to argue about the utter ridiculousness of this all when dark shadows fell over the shop, like someone had taken out the sun. Sera slipped past Lara, hurrying toward the shop’s large glass windows to peer outside at an eclipsed sun.
But it wasn’t just any eclipse. The moon in front of it looked strange, like it was doubled. Like one was a shadow of the other.
“This isn’t right,” Sera commented.
Weird magic was brewing, building up to something. She could feel it in the air. In her blood.
A shrill note sang out, piercing the cold silence. Magic erupted, a wave of unfathomable energy tearing down the street. Buildings shattered, one after the other, the cacophony of magic swallowing the screams of everyone caught in its wake, silencing them.
The shock wave was almost to the Fairy Queen. Sera didn’t stop to think. There wasn’t time for reason, only action. She tackled Lara to the ground, covering Kai’s sister with her body as the shop’s windows exploded, raining glass down upon them.
Magic rippled through her, swirling inside her mind. Images flashed through her head, images of herself doing things she’d never done, of a world that never was. She saw her city torn apart by strife. She saw herself and Kai on opposite sides of a war, fighting each other—hating each other.
It’s not real, Amara said.
It can’t be. Sera pushed against the wave of images flooded her mind, drowning her. One by one, her own memories began to fade out, replaced by a life not her own. She fought against this dark magic.
And she lost.
Kai, I will find you. They can’t keep us apart, she promised, her tears mixing with her fading memories as the new, cruel world consumed her.
* * * * *
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