The dragon and the rose, p.1
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       The Dragon and the Rose, p.1

           Addison Moore
 
The Dragon and the Rose


  The Dragon and the Rose

  Celestra Forever After

  (Book 2)

  ADDISON MOORE

  Edited by: Sarah Freese

  Cover and interior design by: Gaffey Media

  Interior formatting by: Amy Eye of www.theeyesforediting.com/

  Copyright © 2014 by Addison Moore

  http://addisonmoorewrites.blogspot.com/

  This novel is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to peoples either living or deceased is purely coincidental. Names, places, and characters are figments of the author’s imagination. The author holds all rights to this work. It is illegal to reproduce this novel without written expressed consent from the author herself.

  All Rights Reserved.

  Books by Addison Moore

  New Adult Romance

  Burning Through Gravity (Burning Through Gravity 1)

  A Thousand Starry Nights (Burning Through Gravity 2) 2015

  Fire in an Amber Sky (Burning Through Gravity 3) 2015

  Beautiful Oblivion (Beautiful Oblivion 1)

  Beautiful Illusions (Beautiful Oblivion 2)

  Beautiful Elixir (Beautiful Oblivion 3) 2015

  The Solitude of Passion

  Someone to Love (Someone to Love 1)

  Someone Like You (Someone to Love 2)

  Someone For Me (Someone to Love 3)

  3:AM Kisses (3:AM Kisses 1)

  Winter Kisses (3:AM Kisses 2)

  Sugar Kisses (3:AM Kisses 3)

  Whiskey Kisses (3:AM Kisses 4)

  Rock Candy Kisses (3:AM Kisses 5) 2015

  Celestra Forever After

  The Dragon and the Rose (Celestra Forever After 2)

  Perfect Love (A Celestra Novella)

  Young Adult Romance

  Ethereal (Celestra Series Book 1)

  Tremble (Celestra Series Book 2)

  Burn (Celestra Series Book 3)

  Wicked (Celestra Series Book 4)

  Vex (Celestra Series Book 5)

  Expel (Celestra Series Book 6)

  Toxic Part One (Celestra Series Book 7)

  Toxic Part Two (Celestra Series Book 7.5)

  Elysian (Celestra Series Book 8)

  Ephemeral (The Countenance Trilogy 1)

  Evanescent (The Countenance Trilogy 2)

  Entropy (The Countenance Trilogy 3)

  Ethereal Knights (Celestra Knights)

  It was pride that changed angels into devils.

  — Saint Augustine (354 - 430)

  Prologue

  Skyla

  The rose—forever trapped in a bed of thorns—tires endlessly to unfurl its beauty. It strains its fragile neck to the sky, twisting, yearning for the warmth of the sun’s love. It is my husband’s affection that I long to bathe in—his unending love, infinite and eternal. The mighty flame of love we share burns brighter than the sun. It is only my lover that can set me free from this cage of thorns. But our bond of trust, the golden thread that weaves our souls together, has broken. His deception, his horrible truths have become a grievous, incurable wound. This cunning life he chooses is the poison at the bottom of the well.

  The enemy—in the end—would prove to be death. The shadow of its long, sharpened sickle has hung over us from the beginning. It taunts us still. We are its favorite toys. It offers only two alternatives, lose your life now, or lose your life later. Death has an impeccable record of taking down its prey. How do you win a game that’s been rigged from the beginning? Destiny has already outlined our fate. It’s not ours to win or lose, it’s ours to choose to play. But my beloved and I will win. After all, the chosen come from blessed assurance. The chosen come from victory.

  The dragon—he comes in stealth like a thief, ready to take down kingdoms, dismantle monarchies, and topple governments. The veil between the spiritual world and that of this has faded. No longer is the spiritual battle hidden behind a vellum sheath. Instead, it is here, fought before our naked eyes. It is a battle of angels and demons, of principalities and dominions. Some battles are granite against granite, and others a dragon devouring a rose. But the dragon, in all his splendor, should never forget that the thistle of a rose is always poised to sting.

  The wicked world—it aches for a touch of the majestic. A new king rises—his kingdom all too eager to serve. He revels in the glory as the crown slips slowly from his head. And as the thorns of truth press in around him, he’ll discover what destiny has known all along—perhaps, sometimes, some people are simply better off dead.

  1

  Sleeping with the Enemy

  Skyla

  In theory, and shockingly in practice, you could dissolve a body in acid—eventually washing it down the drain, ridding yourself of the grisly evidence. The thought hums through my mind stiff like a cold motor as I wait for Gage to come back from the hell he’s thrust himself in. No, it’s not Gage I’d like to dissolve—not yet anyway. I currently have a running list of Counts and Fems alike that I’d like to drown in acid. Although, in all fairness, that little scientific maneuver is best reserved for purebred humans whose mothers don’t hold a prominent seat in an angelic court of law. I’m afraid, for now, the dissolving of entrails will have to be crossed off the list.

  About a dozen insane thoughts, all of them coincidentally involving murder, revolve through my mind as I lie in the tiny, dank room, the slight hint of mold lingering in the air. Rain claws at the window like sharpened fingernails attempting to penetrate both the glass and my sanity. The morning sun breaks through the clouds briefly before a downpour hits from nowhere, sort of the pattern my marriage is following—just a glimmer of sunshine then buckets of agony wailing from out of nowhere. Gage and I were on the road to a unified front, a new us, in the name of all that is holy, in the name of this sacred union we’ve immersed ourselves in—and then he ran off and did the unthinkable.

  My thumb smooths over my wedding ring as a wave of anger burns through me. It courses through my veins, sears over my heart like a river of magma. That scene from last night plays in my mind on an unstoppable loop. My thoughts have become a slave to the theater of fright Gage has provided.

  The tiny room illuminates with a quiver of lightning, silver like my mother’s eyes. A second after that thunder roars over the island, barbarically loud, perfectly satanic, as if a celestial beast had unleashed. I hug the sheet like it’s a body. Silent tears snake down my cheeks, burrowing through the ridiculous layers of makeup Brielle caked on me last night in an attempt to turn me into a pixie fairy. Halloween at Dudley’s blazes through my mind—Gage and I making up, making love on Marshall’s immaculate king size bed with the fresh scented sheets. I flick a finger at the rat’s nest beneath me. Ellis helped me haul this diseased-riddled mattress up to the apartment. I’m sure it’s laden with parasites and STDs, exotic plagues one can only find in the petri dish of a college town alleyway. Our hands and feet are probably going to turn necrotic and have to be amputated. On the bright side, it’s probably just infested with lice. Nevertheless, it’s my first bed with Gage, and I know deep down I should appreciate it, but I don’t. Right now I don’t appreciate a damn thing because Gage—my husband—is off surrendering his soul to darkness.

  Last night, Gage and I came home with a fire in our hearts and lust in our bellies. Passion leashed our tongues together. Any bedtime routine I may have been accustomed to was promptly thrown out the dirty little window of this filthy apartment Ellis furnished us with. I bury my face in the bed. My head pounds from the feat of achieving zero sleep last night. Mascara melts into my eyes, burning like acid as my lashes flutter, demanding I stay awake. It’s been hours since I’ve come back from my light drive with Logan, and, yet the bed is still void one warm body, that of my husband.

  I swallow
hard as that horrible scene from last night replays in my mind.

  Once upon a time, Gage declared he would be ordinary. The idea is laughable. Especially now after wickedness revealed who he is, what he’s capable of. Especially now that I know what he’s done. Logan and I witnessed the entire nightmare unfold with our own eyes as Gage declared his loyalty to the Steel Barricade—to the Fems—and sealed it by touching Celestra blood to his lips from a chalice. Hell, he guzzled it. Then Demetri pierced Gage’s hand over Wesley’s until they were skewered together in a blood bonding ceremony reminiscent of a junior high sleepover. It happened. Gage Oliver expanded his black-feathered wings and flew willingly to the dark side.

  I groan into the mattress. This can’t be happening. Gage and I had just hurdled the reality of his unthinkable DNA—we were solid as gold, and now the trust between us is once again fragile as a spider web.

  The door creaks open, and instinctively I clutch the sheets around my chest.

  A jag of lightning illuminates the room, pale as alabaster. Gage blinks his signature grin at me—all teeth and eyes like the Cheshire cat. He’s wet from the shower with nothing but a butter yellow towel wrapped around his waist. Gage Oliver is a God. And now I’m faced with the fact he might just be a heretic, too.

  A heated breath hitches in my throat. I’m caught off guard at what little effort he needs to put in to arouse me. Just the idea thunderously pisses me off. I don’t want to be aroused by Gage, at least not right this second. I want to wrap my hands around his neck and throttle him for joining forces with his wicked newfound family. God forbid he lie to my face because I don’t know what would stop me from reaching into his chest and squeezing some sense into his beating heart.

  “Where were you?” I lean on my elbow as shadows fill in the room again. I could have asked a million questions, hell I could have told him to get out, but I figure an accounting of the last few hours is a good place to start.

  “Here and there.” He tosses a duffle bag in the corner before reaching behind him and grabbing two pillows.

  Here and there—the Tenebrous woods being the ominous “there.”

  “I went to Paragon and picked up a few things. Your pillow, mine.” He gently lays them at the head of the bed before slipping in beside me. “Everything okay?” He gently rubs his thumb over my cheek.

  “Yeah, everything’s fine.” I can hardly whisper the words. It’s all I can do to keep the fire from blazing in my eyes. I hope he knows what kind of hell he’s messing with. I hope I do.

  Gage holds the fragrance of soap and mouthwash, his signature scent, which happens to be my favorite on him. There’s nothing better than a fresh scrubbed Gage lying naked in my bed. Expect maybe now.

  “I’m sorry I was gone so long.” He reaches over and strokes my cheek tenderly. Gage is a god as far as looks are concerned. Whenever we’re at school, the coeds twist their bodies just to get a look at him. It’s hard to believe he’s all mine. Gage has achieved celebrity status at Host University simply with those sharp cobalt eyes.

  The day brightens the window, and the rain starts to soften just like my heart.

  He breathes heavy over my neck. “I wanted to get breakfast for us and got sidetracked.”

  Sidetracked. Honestly, I don’t know where to begin.

  “Did you get breakfast?” I’m amused that he thinks bacon, of all things, is enough to get him off the hook for his celestial offenses—or in the least buy him some time.

  “Breakfast?” He looks puzzled by the concept entirely. My eyes drift to his sculpted abs, the hard V of muscle that lead to a dark bed of curls my fingers ache to comb through. His eyes are clear and bright, sirens the color of the hottest flame. He has dimples that girls dream about, lust over quite literally. They speak their own earnest language that I live to decode. His hair is black as raven’s wings. The stubble on his face gives him that heady wicked appeal—only now I’m thinking it’s a bit more genuine than I once believed. Gage Oliver is a walking, dripping sex God that I once counted myself blessed to find my body pinned beneath nightly, and now I’m not so sure if he’s a blessing or a curse.

  “You left a note in the kitchen. Something about milk.”

  “Yes.” His head cinches back, disbelieving. He’s either amazed we’re still having the conversation, or amazed he’s been caught. The room brightens with the dull hope of sunlight, and I catch him wince. “I forgot all about the milk.”

  “That’s okay.” I figured he would, what with all the interdimensional jaunts he’s had to endure in one evening. Keeping us in dairy would have been quite unexpected. And, ironically, Gage has proven himself to be the master of the unexpected. I strum my fingers over his bare chest. His muscles are serrated, sharp as kitchen knives, and I take in a ragged breath that gives away the fact I’ve just had a good cry.

  “Hey.” He pulls me on top of him, and my hair rains a golden curtain to one side. “What’s going on?”

  “I had a nightmare. It was stupid.” Severely stupid, as in below my level of comprehension. It takes everything in me to scramble my thoughts. I might let Gage into my body, but there’s no way I’m letting him into my mind. The thought of Gage willfully bonding with Demetri and Wes has my blood curdling.

  “I promise you, Skyla.” He pulls me closer until the heat from his chest sears me. “I will never do that to you again.” His eyes bear into mine with an eerie glow in this dim light, and for a moment I wonder if it’s natural or if by surrendering to the dark side he’s physiologically morphing into something I soon won’t recognize—inside or out.

  “Do what again?” Here it is, his window of opportunity to come clean, to tell me this was all for my benefit in some twisted Logan-logic type way. Years ago, Logan joined rank with the Countenance in an attempt to give me the upper hand. Surely that’s what this is. It can’t be anything else. I won’t let myself believe it. “You can tell me, whatever it is.” A moment thumps by. You can slice the tension, thick as butter.

  “I will never leave you all alone in our bed to island hop for clean underwear.” A crooked grin breaks out over his face. “Now, come here.” He takes a careful bite from my cheek. “It’s time I gave you a proper good morning.”

  My heart sinks, my adrenalin soars—all this up and down makes my stomach boil with nausea. Gage had his window and chose to slam it shut with a veil of truth so far from the real story it borders on ridiculous.

  A slow brewing rage percolates in me. It starts deep in my bones and snakes through my veins until it’s pulsating through my ears. Gage is playing a dangerous game—one which lists me, his wife, as the enemy.

  He rolls me onto my back, his mouth finding a home over mine.

  If he wants to keep his big, bad secret to himself, I’ll let him for now. I’m not in the mood to unleash Demetri and his demons around the room anytime soon like a coven of rabid bats. No, this war would gain traction, build to a roiling boil and take place on the battlefield of my choosing. This morning, this apartment, this bed would remain sacred for now.

  Gage reaches over and holds up a condom with a devious look of triumph. The dark stubble peppering his cheeks gives him a villainous appeal, and I won’t deny finding it alarmingly hot.

  There’s something different about him, his playfulness, his eagerness to take me, his eagerness to keep me in the dark.

  I thought we would never let another secret wedge its way between us.

  I was wrong.

  He pulls back examining me for a moment in the light. “Do you realize how much I love you?”

  “Tell me.” It comes out sad, foreboding.

  “You and I are meant to be, Skyla. This is no mistake.”

  Gage thinks we’re meant, that we’re not a mistake.

  “I don’t care whose son you are.” I comb my fingers through his damp hair. “You were meant for me.” Dear God. According to destiny we were meant for one another in the most nefarious way. I glance down at the condom in his hand. That alone is our saving
grace. I’d rather die than give Demetri’s lineage a celestial boost. But, then again, the thought of never having Gage’s beautiful children guts me on a primal level. “Do you think we’ll survive what lies ahead?” My voice shakes as I say the words because if Demetri is involved, nothing good can lie ahead. He’s already stripped me of my father, and now he has Gage.

  “What?” His brows furrow giving him that demonic sexy look that melts me. “Where did that come from? We’ve got this.” His arms swivel around my waist as he draws my chest to his. “It’s you and me.”

  “No secrets?”

  His cheeks cinch until his dimples invert, but his smile melts to nothing. Gage doesn’t bother answering the question, and that alone is answer enough. His mouth crashes over mine, and I’m done. Gage sinks his arms down my body, until his hands find a home over my hips. His fingers squeeze in as he parts my legs with his knee. His heated kisses run down my neck, down my chest until his hot mouth covers my nipple. Gage takes his time pulling me in, sucking me down until I’m almost there without much more than the magic his mouth has to offer. His fingers slip between my thighs, and he enters me softly at first then thrusts in with a roughness, a preview of what’s to come. I grip his hair, weaving my fingers in his slick locks, giving a stronger tug than intended. A part of me wants to hurt him, put a little pain in his heart like he has mine. A part of me wants to push his mouth off my body and ask him to vomit up the blood he ingested earlier. Whose blood were they drinking anyway? Doesn’t he realize that dark, sanguine liquid he downed at the nefarious toast was from another human being? A Celestra?

  My lids slit open, and I watch as his dark hair bobs silently over my chest.

 
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