Fallen Ashes by T.F. Walsh

Last of your kind? Check. Being hunted by everyone? Check. Waking up magically bound to the world’s most cocky and annoying assassin? Wait, what?

Survival has always been on the top of Fallen’s To Do List as being the last Dragon shifter in Tapestry had painted a target on her long ago. But after being captured and magically tethered to an assassin who could kill her in an instant, time is running out. With the fate of an entire world at stake, Fallen has to find a way to get out alive, with or without her unwanted companion…her incredibly sexy unwanted companion.

Exiled from the Kingdom and on a mission to save his stepfather from the Collector, Saber’s life is already a mess. But he never could imagine that he’d be hexed into a mindless shadow assassin or worse, being kidnapped and mystically-bound to a hot blonde vixen that has a crazy obsession with fire. Sexy/strange/fire-chick aside, he has got to find a way to get out of there but Fallen isn’t in the least being helpful with their escape plan. Seriously, can things get any worse?

Magically-bound, determined, and both fighting an undeniable attraction, can Saber and Fallen work together to free themselves and save their world by defeating the Collector? Or will time slip out of their grasp and all will be lost?

Targeted Audience: 21+

Author Bio:
USA Today Bestselling Author, TF Walsh emigrated from Romania to Australia at the age of eight and now lives in a regional city south of Sydney with her husband. Growing up hearing dark fairytales, she's always had a passion for reading and writing horror, paranormal romance, urban fantasy and young adult stories. She balances all the dark with light fluffy stuff like baking and traveling.

What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I have always loved dragons and creating fantasy worlds, and Fallen Ashes is about a parallel world that exists right alongside Earth.

Read more, including a sample from the book
Sample from Book:

CHAPTER ONE

Outside the Kingdom of Vaie

25 Years Later

Fallen Leneth’s stomach growled with enough intensity to awaken a sleeping troll. Magic always smelled like caramelized sugar, but with fatigue dampening her senses, getting up was out of the question. Plus, weekends were for sleeping. She curled in on herself when the pitter-patter of tiny paws scurried up the side of her thigh.

Wait, she didn’t have a cat.

Her heart slammed into her breastbone, and she jumped up so fast when something wriggled underneath her body. Streaks of light from a window revealed a mouse scurrying across the floor and diving into a crack.

Fallen’s back pressed against a wall. “W… where am I?” She winced from a jolt of pain pummeling through her skull. The tilting room settled, and she rubbed the sore spot on the top of her head.

At first glance, Fallen could have sworn she was still dreaming. But when the cold from the concrete wall leeched into her skin, she fought the urge to scream. How the hell had she gotten here?

This room wasn’t her apartment or any place she’d ever seen before. A heavy door stood to her left, and across from that, an open window the size of a shoebox was located high on the wall.

By the appearance of the dilapidated room, she guessed she had somehow been transported to Tapestry—a parallel world to Earth. Both connected by magic; humans on Earth and draes on Tapestry.

Standing on shaky legs, she stumbled to the door and grabbed the metal handle.

Electricity zapped through her bones, shaking her to the core. “Crap.” She reeled backward and cradled her aching arm against her chest. The same damn magic she’d smelled earlier.

All draes were born with varying abilities of magic. The majority were so tiny that the most they could muster was crossing the thin veil separating the two worlds. Yet, the kingdom contained Spell Forgers. Those folk were powerful and used enchantment to capture strays like her since living outside the kingdom was forbidden under Queen Kesra’s command. Sure, the Earthlings had no idea Tapestry existed, but Fallen had lived in their cities most of her life. Resembling a human helped a lot.

Except now, at the notion of being caught by the queen, fear was a knife, slowly dragging across her flesh. She’d heard rumors of the queen’s victims’ fingernails being plucked out, one by one, until the captives revealed where other strays hid. And if that didn’t work, the castle’s dungeon was an amusement park of torture devices.

The lump in her throat refused to dislodge as she paced back and forth in the room while she tried to ignore the crunching underfoot. Lifting a boot revealed tiny rat bones wedged into the crevices of her sole. Nice.

Get captured by the queen, and death awaited if you’re lucky. Her mom’s words repeated in her mind.

“Yeah, yeah. That’s not helping.” Fallen had no intention of following in the footsteps of the poor rodent squished under her boots.

The last memory she had was chasing a feaster into the woods. The goblin had a stolen dog in its arms. Fallen had saved the cute Chihuahua but hadn’t given up on the goblin. Two feet tall with a nasty set of fangs and an unabating thirst for blood, the creatures fed on unsuspecting children and animals. The bastards kept crossing the veil into the human world for midnight snacks. After entering the forest in her pursuit, Fallen’s mind had gone blank.

She twisted her hair into a ponytail over a shoulder and marched to the door, her fingers tightening around the golden strands. She raised up on tiptoes and peered through the viewing window without touching the barrier to avoid getting shocked again. Directly outside, the corridor was in worse condition than her cell. Cracked walls with gaping black holes. On either side, the corridor stretched out into darkness. And something else… no sign or sounds of other prisoners.

Fallen bit her lower lip, and the earlier burnt candy smell now churned in her gut.

The odor reminded her of the time she’d eaten a bowl of worm porridge… on a dare. That challenge had won her a dragon’s claw but also had her vomiting for days. Another escapade had involved two goblins who abducted and tied her to a tree outside their shack. Those warty tricksters had minuscule magical abilities so they couldn’t be the ones responsible for kidnapping her this time. And glancing down at her legs, she still wore her jeans and tank top, so it wasn’t that kind of hijacking. Trolls were walking meatsicles. Half-draes maybe, yet her thoughts kept returning to the kingdom. Spell Forgers spent years crafting spells… just like the one keeping her locked in this cell.

She stretched her arms forward, bones cracking. Time to escape because she had no intention of meeting her captors.

When a glint of sunlight hit her inner wrist, she froze.

Whoa, if I’d gotten a tattoo, I would have remembered. Except the coin-sized pattern indented in Fallen’s flesh had no ink and left no pain beneath her touch.

As if she’d awakened a memory, the previous night’s dream came shattering into her mind. With it, sadness flowed inside her, cold and unending.

Fallen recalled the vision of a dark room containing one male and one female Creator. She remembered thinking the Blood Moon would approach in four weeks—a time when it was said the Creators brought Tapestry beings to life. At those memories, the Creators’ emotions—love, light, and happiness filled Fallen with an aching hollowness. Furious and exhausted, they couldn’t keep watching magical beings continue to kill each other. The viciousness worsened with each passing year and the Creators believed that eliminating magic would solve the problem. Somehow, they decided to give all races a last chance.

One Creator had said, “I chose each of you to be a representative and champion of your people. And I selected individuals for a simple reason: none of you has found a life mate yet.”

Her mind back to the present situation, Fallen knew failing in that part of her life wasn’t from a lack of trying, but finding a perfect partner took time. Yet, she, along with the rest of the chosen, had only been given four weeks to find their own true love before the Blood Moon. Otherwise, every race would become human. Magic would vanish. And the only clue to her soul mate was the imprint on her arm. Fallen traced the tattoo of the circular dragon, biting its own tail, wings fanned wide. Now more confused than afraid, Fallen had never received a dream from the Creators before, but she’d heard of draes who had.

The urge to cry came and went like a powerful tsunami, crashing into her heart. The Creators’ emotions still burned inside her, except the threat held a darker message. Tapestry and Earth were connected by magic; one couldn’t exist without the other. Removing magic meant the worlds would tear apart and extinguish. All life would end. The Creators were merciless, but could they deliberately cause the separation?

Focus. That was what she needed. Fix one problem at a time. Even though her nerves were as thin as paper… escaping this prison was a priority. Then she’d deal with the Creators.

Spinning around, she sized up the room to change her mind’s focus. About ten feet wide and deep.

A quick shake of her body and she embraced her innate power. Her ribs and spine shifted ever so slightly. The flesh across her shoulder blades ripped with a scraping sound. She bit back a scream, clutching her fists tight, fingernails digging into palms. Her plan wouldn’t work if the guards realized what she was doing. They’d sedate her, and she’d wake up in a chamber with no space to shift. Obviously, it meant they hadn’t yet worked out her ability… yet. Fantastic.

In a flurry, she altered form. The only change was the wings unfolding from her back. They lengthened to fill three-quarters of the room. Full transformations were unheard of, and even her partial-shift was more ability than any existing draes possessed.

Translucent material, the color of polished pearls, stretched out between wing cartilage, gleaming in the light. At the tips, sharp, claw-like projections curved into long fingernails.

A fresh sense of freedom overcame her.

With a quick succession of flaps, her feet lifted off the ground. The sensation raised the hairs on her arms the same as it did each time she took flight. With her ability under wraps, she rarely had the chance to release her wings, yet most of her dreams were filled with scenes of flying free.

Fallen beat the wings faster, the roaring sound an encroaching storm in her ears. She angled to funnel the force of the air toward the door. Thunderous pockets of wind battered the entrance, even in the small space. Paint peeled from the walls. Dust rained down from overhead. What if the place fell apart around her? No time to focus on the possibility.

Huh? The door hadn’t even rattled.

With a great inhale, she tapped into the storm lying dormant in her chest. Steam expelled from her nostrils in short puffs. She unleashed the floodgates. A plume of fire exploded out of her mouth, centered on the door. The corners of her lips tingled as if she’d sipped boiling hot tea too fast. That was the one spot she felt the smarting of fire. A vulnerability the Creators used to remind her she wasn’t untouchable.

Glowing embers leaped and skipped along the enchanted enclosure. They fizzled away just as quickly. Not much withstood dragon fire, and yet here it hadn’t helped.

Her insides constricted as if someone was strangling her with only the air around her. If she didn’t escape now, how could she fulfill the Creators’ mission? Then both worlds would be flattened, and everyone would die. Getting captured by the queen wasn’t going to help the situation. Rotting in her royal prison and being tortured until she gave up another drae living outside the realm certainly wasn’t the answer.

Fallen’s eyes prickled. For months, she’d told herself to move to another city. Damn. Another country. As far from the kingdom as possible, in case they caught her, but she never did. How could she when everything about the nearby forest reminded her of her mom? She remembered the oak trees they’d sleep in while hunting rogue trolls. And cliffs Fallen had jumped off when learning to fly. A vision appeared in her mind of the meadow where she’d scattered her mother’s ashes.

She spun on the spot again, rotating the airflow. Faster. The cone of air surrounding her sucked up dust and debris into a massive cyclone. Fallen flung herself backward and out of the cyclone she’d generated. Hair whipped around her face. The gale knocked her off balance. She lashed her wings back and forth. The echo of a rocket ship barreling through space shook the foundations of the room. Fallen hurled fire into the twister and flames licked the ceiling.

She’d make it work and be out of this crap-hole prison in no time. Then, she’d triple the strength of the protection spell around her apartment, stay indoors for a week straight. And never enter the woods again in either the Tapestry or human worlds.

Waves of black smoke swallowed up the ceiling.

Working her wings, she drove a gust into the vortex. It catapulted into the door, again and again, the sound thunderous. If it attracted her captors… even better. She’d burn them into retreat. Besides, this had to work because dragon fire burned through rock. Sweat dripping down the sides of her face caught in her lashes and hair.

Shimmering energy and flames twisted along the walls feverishly, revealing the enchanted cage.

Still no fracture.

Rage became her friend. The wings weighed heavy on her shoulders as her feet again touched the floor. Her knees buckled, and her resistance crumpled along with her body.

The cyclone fizzled out with a screech.

Fallen gasped, and her ears rang, each thick inhale constricting her chest. She lay in the room with no visibility, her lungs aching from the lack of fresh air. She pushed up onto hands and knees, scrambling until she found the door.

Please, open, please.

She reached up and tugged on the handle, this time expecting the sharp charge of electricity that whipped into her and jerked her backward.

Her stomach sank. No effect. All of that for nothing. The beat of her heart pounded faster until she wasn’t sure if it was a continuous hum or it had stopped altogether.

The quiet skulk of panic clawed through her. If she couldn’t use her abilities to get out, what could she do next? Wait to be tortured? There had been a reason her mom taught her to keep away from the kingdom. She was a dazmeu. The last dragon shifter. Fallen was sought after for too many reasons… all involving death.

Someone coughed outside her room. “I take my roasts medium rare. Not a fan of charcoal.”

Her captors!

She climbed to her feet. Through the viewing hole, she found the corridor still empty. Fumes drifted along the passage in a mist-like formation.

“Who’s there?”

“Prisoner next door. Where’s the smoke coming from?” The voice was deep and rough. She imagined it belonged to a huge guy. A troll?

“Why are we locked up? Who’s responsible?” Speaking caused a coughing fit. Drawing on the last morsels of strength, she beat her wings and drove the smoke out the barred window behind her. With the ease of crossing her arms, she withdrew the wings. Her bones shifted and flesh knitted, leaving her skin as smooth as the day she was born.

“What magic are you using?” His toned swelled with a strangled inflection of his voice when he said the m word.

Fallen’s arms covered in pinpricks. This was why she kept her distance from everyone. No one could discover her dragon form existed. “How long you been locked up?”

“Three months, but most of that was in a different prison. I just arrived here overnight.”

Damn. Maybe Fallen’s capture had zero to do with the kingdom. She touched the edges of her mouth, which still smarted.

The prisoner’s voice sliced her thoughts. “With your magic, we could escape.”

A nagging sensation coiled in the pit of her belly about this guy. Something was off. “How?”

“Give me your word you’ll break me out as well.”

“No deal.” Her answer was immediate. She didn’t do teamwork or trust a stranger who’d ask too many questions.

“Fine. After a few weeks, you’ll get used to the rats chewing on your ears as you sleep. The slop they call a meal. Oh, and the guards giving you a daily body check.”

A shiver ran down her spine. She paced in a circle over burn marks scorched into the cement floor. Were there other prisoners? She stepped closer to the door. “Hello, anyone else out there?”

“Just you and me. Interesting, ‘cause no one’s been able to master fire in forever. You’d make a popular commodity.”

“It was a spell.” Her muscles stiffened. No way would she help someone who referred to her that way.

“Look, Fire Girl, your attempt flopped.” His voice dipped into a raspy tone. Damn, if he didn’t sound sexy. Of course, he wouldn’t be. She’d find a hideous half-goblin in the next room. Great. Those guys were such freakin’ kleptomaniacs. A memory flashed in her head. One minute she’d been having a nice chat and a wonderful time. The next moment, the guy was running away with her leather jacket. The thing had cost her $500. So rude.

“Let’s work together,” her neighbor continued.

“Tell me how to get out, and I’ll…” The rest of her response stuck to the forefront of her mind. If she helped the prisoner, he’d ask questions, probably tell his friends how she’d cast a spell and harnessed fire. Before long, she’d have a gang of trolls hunting her to sell to the biggest buyer at the Wart Markets.

“Knew you’d agree.” He broke her concentration.

She couldn’t sit around and wait for her captors. What if they discovered her dragon side? Then she might as well sign her own death warrant. Escaping was the priority. “Fine.”

“Target the gap beneath the door. It’s a weak point.”

Fallen retreated and her gaze dipped. Yep, he was right about the gap. She clenched her hands and focused on the center of her chest where the lava burned. The inferno darted to the back of her throat and spewed out. It engulfed the bottom of the door. Crackling and flickering, plumes of smoke spiraled upward. In seconds, the golden blaze gorged on the door. A shower of sparks connecting with the enchanted prison floated to the ground like fallen stars.

“Did it work?”

“Hang on.” Another attack and a great sizzle erupted. An electric charge snapped across the room, striking Fallen with sharpened spikes. Spasms wracked her muscles, and blackness crept around the edges of her vision. Next thing, she found herself curled up on her side, shaking. “F-fff.”

Electrocuted! Really? Because her day hadn’t already sucked enough.

A piercing shriek of an alarm blasted outside the cell.

“Now it sucks worse.” She staggered to her feet, gaining feeling on wobbly legs.

“Hurry,” her neighbor shouted. “Get out.”

She dragged open the burning hot door and stepped into the darkened hallway lit only by dozens of holes piercing the ceiling.

A barren passage stretched out on either side, swallowed by shadows. Which way, which way? The alarm blared in her ears.

“Fire Girl, remember your promise.”

She twisted toward the prison door a few feet away. Beyond the viewing window were dark eyes with thick lashes that didn’t belong to a troll or goblin. A drae with pale scales at the corner of his eyelids. Her pulse kicked into the crazy zone because it was rare to meet another full drae outside the realm. Maybe her reaction was from the zap giving her a stroke. Or the knock on her head. One of those rats better not have bitten her and given her a disease.

Footfalls echoed closer, louder.

“Tick, tock. Let me out.”

Her gaze swept back and forth along the passages. Which direction were the guards coming from? Just go.

“I’ll tell you which way to escape.”

How would he know? He’d been locked up just like her. She sprinted past his prison cell and mouthed the word sorry. About twenty feet away, she bumped into something spongy and invisible. Bouncing backward, she stumbled and crashed onto her butt, debris sticking to her palms. Why did the Creators hate her?

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