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Lavish Destruction: Tritan Evolution, Book III

Lavish Destruction: Tritan Evolution, Book III

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Captain Asher Rawlings has proven himself to be a man apart. Relentless. Driven.

Stripped bare and exposed, I am helpless but to suffer his every debased whim.
And though he might be the last of the rare and dangerous things, he too is indentured to a higher power.

While death and vengeance don't wear the faces I'd dreamed of, my fall has taught me how to see. That it's aways been this.


Freedom, or death...

Main Tropes

  • Enemies to Lovers
  • Primal Hunter/ Prey
  • Rejected Mates
  • Villain Obsessed with Heroine
  • Dark Fantasy Non-Con/ Dub-Con
  • Jealous/ Possessive Villain Male Lead

Synopsis

Bound to a man I hate, I'm trapped.

All that I was is gone. Taken by a dog of the Empire, my once limitless power now feeds the beast who dares to call himself my equal.

Captain Asher Rawlings has proven himself to be a man apart. Relentless. Driven.

Stripped bare and exposed, I am helpless but to suffer his every debased whim. Made to swallow his bitter lies of safety and protection. Protection I didn't need before he dressed me in chains I cannot remove. Chains that funnel my goddess-given power directly to him.

And though he might be the last of the rare and dangerous things, he too is indentured to a higher power. Compelled to obey, he is ordered to burn my would-be saviors to ash—and he'll use my power to do it.

While death and vengeance don't wear the faces I'd dreamed of, my fall has taught me how to bend. To see the minute, overlooked details for the gift they can be, and know there is always another way out.

A perfect moment to strike.

Even if I have to be remade to seize it, because it's always been this.

Freedom, or death.

Sample of Chapter One

Head pounding, eyes puffy and swollen, I pried my lids apart, disorientated. A bed. I was tucked beneath heavy blankets in a dark room. Trembling, I pushed the comforter back, trying to distinguish between bedsheets and a mud-caked, crusty slave dress plastered to my skin.

“Ughh.” Forcing my hand through layers of filth matting the hair to my scalp, I tried to stop the ceiling from spinning. “Water,” I croaked. “Please…” But my inhuman rasp went unanswered, witnessed only by a still, dark room.

And I would have continued to lie there, trying to piece myself back together, if it weren’t for the flashes of green lighting up the backside of my eyelids.

Memories, screaming to be heard.

I blinked, trying in vain to banish the phantoms.

The turret loaded with impossible power. Muddy fingers wrapped about a silver chain. A hundred yards separating me from Belle and her good men.

My finger on a trigger that wouldn’t pull. The empty pulse of failure.

And behind it all?

Inky black eyes blazing with fury.

Captain Rawlings.

I gasped.

Goddess, this was his room.

His bed.

I rolled with a grunt, legs dangling, knuckles white on the edge of the mattress as I searched for familiar landmarks.

Two. There were two of everything.

Cursing, I squeezed my eyes shut in spite of the Elite ki dancing in the dark, forcing a breath into stiff lungs. I’d lost consciousness—that much was certain—but how long had I been out? And what had become of the good men trying to move a mountain? Had Alicia’s shields held? Had they been able to escape the fallout of this most recent of my failures? Or were they…

Throat tight, I swallowed the raptor trying to claw its way free of my chest, and stood. Swaying.

No. They’d had technology they were proud of. They’d had a plan—a good one. This was a setback, nothing more. Their shields would have protected them from…

My chains tingled, a shadow of the pain I’d felt on the field. A hint of the magnificent power the captain had wielded with nauseating ease.

Goddess, Alicia had made her shields with Triloth ki at best. And even if Ancaster had ever managed to perfect his technology to allow the mundane to use ki as if they were of the Blood…

Could they withstand the combined might of two Trila-Glís?

Could… anything?

Vision blurred with the hot, watery ache of failure, I stilled. Trying to draw breath, to quiet the empty scream of the Void echoing inside my head.

How many good men now filled that Void because of… me?

Because someone had finally managed to weaponize the darkness of an Empath starving for ki?

From the floor below, the deep rumble of a man’s voice penetrated my very skin, and though I couldn’t make out his words, I knew.

There was only one man whose ki I still felt through this prison of Glaith. Only one for whom the bond in my chest surged and danced, tugging at the fragile, tattered remains of the High Priestess’ cocoon.

Asher.

Teeth bared, I hauled myself toward the bathroom, swiping at the tears. Listing to the left, then right. I should have known he wouldn’t be far away, should have known he wouldn’t leave me to my own devices for long, the foul, Elite sonofawhore!

Clinging to the wall, I made the trek to the facilities, bladder full to bursting, head filled with poison.

The captain had taken too much.

In sheer selfish arrogance, I had allowed this game between us to consume everything I had been.

Finished with my business, I staggered to my feet, pausing a moment to let the black, twinkling stars recede from my vision. Sweat prickled along my hairline as I washed, glancing at the sealed bathroom window, stymied at every turn.

But he couldn’t have thought of everything. There was always a way out. There had to be.

Letting a ragged breath escape my lips, I pinched the bridge of my nose.

Think.

He’d crippled me with the chains, turned my ki against my only allies, potentially corrupted the High Priestess for Goddess only knew what end, and pulled me back from the very cusp of death with a level of proficiency in the art of wielding ki to which I had never even thought to aspire.

Any way I turned, any path I chose, he’d been there before me. Already laid traps to tie me down and keep me pinned under thumb.

Seething, I picked at the gold on my left wrist, thumbing the little scabs.

I’d failed on the field because I’d been unable to admit I was no longer what I’d been. Headstrong and filled with impotent, arrogant rage, I’d relied on ki that wasn’t mine. Tried to tap a well of strength I no longer owned.

And it had cost good men their lives.

It was time to employ a different tactic, for if I couldn’t be the weapon, then I’d find one. If I couldn’t find one, I’d make one. Ki did not define me.

Not anymore.

With a grimace, I left the bathroom, heading straight for the captain’s desk on silent, albeit unsteady, feet. If there was a weapon anywhere in this room, reason dictated it would be there. I rushed toward it, leaving a trail of flaking mud behind me, thrusting pens, paper, and various other stationery utensils aside. At length, I came across a letter opener, rusted and forgotten at the back of the middle drawer. Hardly the weapon of a vengeful crusader, and far from glamorous, but it would do the job.

Wrapping the crusty length of my skirt around my left wrist to keep it clear of clumsy feet, I made for the door. Unlocked, of course, for what threat could I possibly be to the untouchable Captain Rawlings?

Stifling a hysterical bubble of laughter, I seized the banister, listening to the murmur of male voices out of sight. Clutching the opener, I took a step—and wobbled, vision hazy. Sinking to my bottom, I watched the world tilt off its axis, trying to tether myself to the ground before I floated away. Maybe I could close my eyes for just… just a few seconds…

No. I ground my teeth, shaking the cotton from my ears. No. I’d confront the captain now—tonight—one miserable step at a time, weakness be damned.

And if he killed me for it?

Teeth bared, I slid forward on my bottom, using the railing to pull myself to the next step.

Hands laden with a silver tray piled with soiled dishes, Alicia appeared at the bottom of the stairs, shimmering in two places at once. 

I froze, squinting, trying to decide which image was the Eloran traitor and which was the hallucination.

Four pretty green eyes met mine, and she gasped, casting a quick glance over her shoulder. “What’re you doing, lass?” she hissed, and, setting the tray on the floor, rushed up the stairs, skirts hiked to mid-shin.

Goddess, but she moved fast. I squeezed my eyes shut, swallowing back a wave of nausea.

“You should be in bed, you wee stubborn thing!”

“Don’t.” I bared my teeth, clinging to the banister, toes and lips tingling. “This does not concern you.

“Right,” she said, hands on hips. “And what does ‘this’ entail, exactly?”

Scowling at the left-most version of her, I struggled to stand.

“Sit down before y’fall down,” she scoffed, but slipped her hands beneath my armpits, steadying me.

“No.” Pushing at her, trying again for the stairs, I said, “He’s going to answer for the things he’s done.”

“Are you out of your bloody mind?” she hissed, and plucked the opener from my fingers with startling ease. “Do y’really think you can take on an Elite warrior like Captain Rawlings with a wee bit o’ rusted steel?”

“I don’t expect you to understand, traitor.”

She made a sound at the back of her throat. Something that was almost a laugh. “I havna betrayed you, but I understand the need to take it out on someone, if you must. Go ahead, Priestess.” She released me, crossed her arms beneath her breasts, and cocked her head to the side. “Take a swing. Get it out o’your system.”

With a huff, I raised a trembling hand, shoving my filthy hair back from my face. “He killed them!” I hissed. “Your people and mine. They were coming to rescue us, and he erased them. Using my—” I choked. “He killed them all using my ki. Now give me back my blade,” I continued, knuckles white on the banister once more. 

She tucked the opener into the folds of her skirt. “Get your wee ass back into bed before he realizes you’re awake. The captain is white-lipped with fury, an’ he’s been into the drink. ‘Tis good practice not t’antagonize a man twice your size, if he’s tryin’ t’lose himself in the cups—’specially if it’s because o’you.”

Teeth bared, I dropped low, assuming a wobbly fighting stance.

“Stop. Stop—” she seized my arm, tugging me off balance and using my unsteady momentum to force me back into the captain’s bedroom. “You’re weak as a kitten, girl. In no state to go attackin’ one like the captain with nothin’ more than misplaced fury.” She shoved me toward his bed, closing the door behind us with a gentle click. “I took you for reckless, but I didna expect you’d be stupid as well.”

Panting, I tried to face her, hands pressed to the captain’s rumpled bedsheets.

“Now listen, an’ listen well.” She slapped the letter opener down on the captain’s desk and crossed her arms. “You’ll get nowhere but dead if you continue down this path.”

I didn’t blink.

“Fine.” She spread her hands. “Assumin’ you can get past me without falling down, you aim t’fight him. With what weapon?”

“You took it.”

“Wrong. Try again.”

“Perhaps you don’t understand what’s going on here, traitor.” Fists clenched, I pulled a breath through my teeth. “I have nothing. Because of him. He’s taken my ki. My freedom. And now whatever chance I had to regain that freedom lies dead in a mud-pit between here and there. If you won’t help me, then—”

“They’re not dead,” she said, cutting me off. “No one died this mornin’, though from what I understand, your wee stunt nearly put you in an early grave.”

Deflated, head spinning, I clutched at the blankets. “Not dead?” 

“Not even a captive was taken.” She smoothed her skirts then stooped, gathering the stack of documents I’d flung to the floor. “You may have lost what the Goddess gave you,” she said. “But you’re far from powerless. Look at me, lass. I’ve been given ample chance t’escape no less than three times since the auction—”

“And yet, here you are. Working for the worst of them.”

Her eyes fluttered closed. A breath hissing between clenched teeth. “And why do you suppose that is, hmm? Why do you think I stayed, when it would be easier and safer for me t’run?”

“What reason have you to leave? You’ve been promised freedom for your efforts. A comfortable life paid for by the Empire. The only rational solution is that you’ve been working for them. For years.”

“I’m here for you, you abominably silly chit.”

Brows pinched, I said nothing. Not quite daring to trust… fighting off the glimmer of hope.

She nodded, hip bumping the captain’s desk. “I know how hard this’ll be for you, what with your formative years spent with that great forest beastie. But you’re not a lion. It’s time to start thinking like a woman, Mila. Now, what are you armed with?”

I sat, perched on the edge of his bed, the slimy shock of realization oozing into my guts. “You want me to whore myself.” I swallowed, hard. “To the captain.”

She shrugged, reclaimed my letter opener and set the point into the surface of the desk. Spinning it. “Is it whoring to use the gifts the Goddess gave all women, then?”

Scowling and churlish, I said, “The Goddess is dead,” but couldn’t meet her eye.

“And yet, I still hear you using Her name under your breath when y’think no one is listenin’.” Her pretty green eyes lit from within. “It’s not whoring t’use what you got. An’ if you seek to fight him, you haven’t many other options.”

“And they call me insane.”

Lips tilting, she flashed her teeth. “There’s nothin’ quite so pliable as a man after he’s slaked his lust. It’s then you’ll notice the perfect moment to strike.”

I jerked, hearing Kas’ wisdom spoken with her lips flooded me with some much-needed perspective. And yet… “Anything”—I cleared my throat—“anything is better than that.”

“Oh, I don’ know,” she purred, grinning now. “The captain isn’t exactly hard to look at. You deserve a little pleasure too, girl.”

Jaw working on a mouthful of desert air, my cheeks burned. “I think you’re confusing pleasure and punishment.”

“And I think the lines can get a wee bit blurry from time t’time. Besides,” she continued, closing the distance between us, placing her hand on my shoulder, “the man is expectin’ you t’be difficult. He’s prepared for whatever mental thing you’re plannin’ to do next. Tell me, lassie, how’s that been workin’ out for you?”

I glanced at her hands, feeling nothing but a cool pressure. No hint of her life force through her skin on mine, and had to concede her point. 

“Right,” she said, and lifting a brow. “Play the part, Mila. Let him believe he’s won. Bring him t’your side as I’ve done with Marco, and we’ll be free of this place in no time. Together, and with any luck, the High Priestess herself in tow.”

Together? Only hours ago, I’d been flying toward freedom, without a thought for Alicia’s safety. But without my Truth, I couldn’t differentiate between fact or fiction. Couldn’t decide if her words were honest or designed. “I…” I shook my head. “I can’t.”

“Sure you can.” She plucked a matted hank of hair off my shoulder, rubbing it between two fingers. “Just get you cleaned up a little, work to ease that temper, and he’ll be putty in your wee dirty hands.”

Face burning, I twisted away. “N-No—”

Shrugging, she pressed the letter opener into my branded hand, then moved to the head of the bed, pulling the blankets down. “Then stay the course if you seek oblivion, lass. Use that rusty blade. Won’t take him long to tire of fightin’ a losing battle. And when he does, I’m sure he can find somewhere to put you. Like a wee dark hole with no way out?”

I clutched the opener, watching the blood shift beneath the twisted skin of my right hand.

“Just make a decision an’ see it through. But first you’ll be wantin’ to get your narrow behind back in bed. Won’t be seducing any man lookin’ like you just crawled from your grave. And certainly not that furious, piss-drunk captain.”

Lip curled, I scowled at his bed. “I’m not sleeping there.”

“On the couch then, lass.” She pulled the heavy blanket off the mattress.

My stomach growled.

Glancing over her shoulder, Alicia shook out the blanket, draping it over the couch. “Get some sleep, an’ then we can think about getting you something to—”

I waved her off. “I’m fine. It’s not the first time I’ve gone without food.” Though it was the first time I’d done so without the wild rush of ki restoring my energy and dulling my appetite. I cleared my throat, trying to soften the edge of my tongue. “Alicia… I… I’m…”

“No thanks or apology needed, Priestess,” she said, flashing a brilliant smile wreathed in bruises.

A raspy chuckle came from behind us, and he said, “I must be drunk if Mila is apologizing for something.”

I jumped, spinning to face him, and hid my blade with the length of my forearm.

The captain.

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