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Excerpt: Stoking The Embers (The Dragon Duels #1)

The Dragon Duels is a complete modern fantasy series featuring dragons, romance, and a deadly competition.

Teaser copyright 2021 Laura Greenwood


When my name is finally called, I'm escorted further into the building towards an office I never even knew existed. Something about it is more off-putting than I want to admit. I think it's because everything is too lavish, especially after the dreariness of the ash. I have to hand it to whoever keeps the place clean, they've done an admirable job of making it look as if the constant raging fires don't affect anything inside. The deep red of the curtains is completely unblemished, and the pale wooden desk doesn't appear as if it's even had a day's wear.
But nothing about this room tells me anything about the person who works here and what to expect. I've never heard of anyone being called into this office before.
That's because none of them come back.
I push the thought away, refusing to accept the possibility. If there's anything I can do that means I won't have to leave Mila alone to fend for herself, then I'll do it. I hate the idea of my sweet sister going it alone and becoming as jaded as the rest of the city is.
The door behind me creaks open. I try not to turn around to see who walks in. They want me to be on edge, and I'm determined not to let them see how much they're getting to me.
"Raine Mason, you have an interesting file," a woman's voice says.
I bite my lip to stop me from saying anything I shouldn't. I'm not sure what this situation is, but I don't want to make whatever is coming worse for me. Especially if it might get back to Mila.
The woman walks into view, and she's nothing like I expect with her power suit and her hair in a tight bun. She's the kind of woman who likes to torture people for fun, which doesn't bode well for me.
"I'm sure you know why you're here," she says, slapping my file down on her desk. At least, I assume it's my file. Maybe it's full of blank sheets of paper so she can do this for dramatic effect. I wonder how many people it gets to?
I can count myself in that number.
"I don't," I admit honestly.
She raises an eyebrow, but stays silent. Is she trying to smoke me out and get me to admit to something? It's not going to work. If I know what she wants me to say, then I'd say it. Unfortunately for me, I don't.
"I really don't," I assure her. "No one's told me anything since I got called out of line." Other than a few one-word commands.
"I see the guards need to work on their manners," she says, though her tone of voice suggests she doesn't particularly care whether or not they do.
I try not to fidget as she jots down some notes. Why have they brought me to this woman if she isn't going to do anything?
As if on cue with my thoughts, she sighs and sets down the pen. She links her fingers and folds them together, using them to appear as if she's a stern headmistress about to kick me out of school. It takes everything in me not to squirm in my chair. Instead, I settle for touching my fingers to the charm around my wrist, glad I didn't forget to put it on this morning. This woman has got to be evil, so perhaps it can help me against her.
"You've been selected for an opportunity," she says firmly.
"Oh?" Why do I get the impression her words aren't as good as they sound?
"You've been selected to be part of the Dragon Duels," she says as if she's commenting on the weather.
I frown. "Selected?" That's not how it works, is it? I don't know much more than is publicly available about the legendary duels, but I do know they can be gruelling.
"Selected," she repeats, as if it'll make more sense the second time.
"How long do I have to decide if I want to accept?" I shouldn't dismiss this opportunity out of hand, but I'm reasonably sure I want to say no. I'm not in the market for premature death.
Her cold gaze pierces into me. "You don't. This isn't optional."
"Your options are the Dragon Duels, or death, Miss Mason. Though I suppose if you're really inclined, we can transfer you to the Marriage Market."
I grimace, that sounds even worse than potential death by dragon.
"And my sister?" I whisper.
"She'll be sent the standard payment given to any participant's family."
"But she won't be brought into the Duels?"
"No, Miss Mason. You're the one who has been selected."
"But how? I didn't put my name in anything." I struggle to understand how this has happened. Did I sign up for something accidentally and forget about it?
The woman flicks open my file and pulls out a sheet of paper, pushing it towards me. I scan it, recognising the words, but not what they mean. According to this, I filled out an application for the Dragon Duels two months ago. Except that it's not my handwriting on the page in front of me.
"I didn't submit this..."
The woman scoffs. "The number of times I've heard that is unreal. The facts are the facts, Miss Mason. You filled out this form, now you've been selected and you must go. Your sister and your employer will receive the standard compensation owed to them for this."
"My employer?" I squeak.
"Yes. They lose an employee, they are compensated. That's how it works."
Horror wells up inside me as I realise what's happened. Someone in the company filled this out so they'd get a payment for me going. And now I'm trapped.
The woman takes my silence as agreement, though at this point, I'm not sure what else it can be. It seems I don't have a choice about any of this.
"You'll be taken directly to the holding facility for the Duels. They begin in a week, and you'll have time to rest and eat between now and then. You are not to try and escape. Any attempt to abandon the Duels will result in your immediate execution. Should you win the Duels, you will be offered a position with the Dragon Defenders."
"And if I turn that position down?" I ask.
"I wouldn't worry about that," she dismisses.
Ah. I see. If I turn down the position, I'll end up dead. If I even get there.
"Can I say goodbye first?"
"There is no time for goodbyes. Your transport is waiting for you in the yard."
My eyes sting with the threat of tears, though I try and fight them off. I refuse to let her see my true emotions. She doesn't deserve them, especially because I'm certain she'll enjoy them too much.

The Dragon Duels

Urban Fantasy Dystopia, Complete Series

An urban fantasy dystopia series following Raine as she takes on the Dragon Duels in exchange for a pardon after illegally using magic. 

Series Overview: 
Heat Level: Low - Relationship Type: m/f - Build: Medium - Point of View Character: Single first person POV, same throughout books - Cliffhangers: Yes (complete series) - Tense: Present

Please note: Escaping The Chains is a standalone which deals with issues surrounding domestic abuse (there is no romance between the main character and her abuser). Please read with caution. You can find out more about the book here.

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