The Silver Spider

Dragon, Stone & Steam #2

A fae witch with a rare skill, coveted by a powerful Lord. A dragon shifter unafraid to start a war. A tentative new bond threatened by a quest for vengeance.

Kill the man who almost caused her sister’s death. That is Serephone’s only goal. She might not survive the attempt, especially when she must battle mages, trolls and fight in a tournament to the death…but if she dies, she’ll take some of the bastards with her.

Her enemy, a powerful mage determined to use Serephone’s unique magic for himself, sees lifetime servitude as a much better option than death.

Amnan lived through a war, and the death of his beloved mother. He’s old enough to know when to follow his heart—and when to follow a woman. He’ll be damned if he lets his possible mate take off to a Dome and get herself killed dueling with flesh traffickers.

He goes after her, but in order to save her, he must sacrifice his freedom. And even then, she may be snatched away from him forever.

The Silver Spider is book 2 in the Dragon, Stone & Steam series and can be read as a HFN standalone dragon shifter urban fantasy romance—with a swashbuckling dash of steampunk adventure. For readers who enjoy the following genres:

  • Urban Fantasy Romance
  • Paranormal Romance
  • Futuristic, dystopian, alternative history or post apocalyptic romance
  • Futuristic Steampunk


Readers who enjoy titles from Emma’s favorite authors like May Sage and Grace Draven will enjoy Silver Spider.

For fast paced, romantic tension in a unique futuristic setting, download now.

CHAPTER ONE

Serephone stood in a darkened bit of hallway just outside the ballroom, silver spiders crawling over her hands. Marriage puzzled her. She understood, intellectually, the benefit of a single woman marrying a rich man, who did not appear to be a complete knave. But appearances were usually deceiving.

She watched her new stepfather, laughing raucously at something his youngest, pretty, blond son whispered in his ear, a wolfish grin on his face. Her oldest stepbrother, Nuaddan, whom she’d only met today, was sitting in his father’s chair, as still as a stone statue and with less personality. She’d steer clear of him—he’d looked at her once, and the hell in his eyes trumped hers a hundredfold. Whatever his story was, she didn’t know and didn’t care. She just knew she wanted no part of it.

The middle son—and weren’t middle sons traditionally the ones with all the issues?—was nowhere in sight. Serephone’s eyes narrowed and she shifted her vision. The room hyper-focused as she rapidly scanned the guests, hearing sharpening in tandem. She could only keep it up for a few minutes at a time without risking an awful headache, but it was worth it to keep tabs on that one. She had two unmarried sisters, after all, and after Maddugh promised her mother, Kailigh, to dower them all, what better way to keep the money in the family than to have his sons seduce and wed his stepdaughters?

It was a brilliant scheme, and Sere couldn’t really fault the logic behind it. But….

“Plotting, Serephone?” a voice said in her ear.

She turned, spiders skittering up the loose sleeves of her formal black jacket. She’d refused to wear another gown. Look what had happened last time she’d been trapped in a dress—Cinvarra almost kidnapped and Sere hunting her prey with fancy skirts tripping her up. Her hand rose in automatic response, fingers curling into claws.

“Don’t swipe me with those pretty claws of yours, sister,” Amnan said. “I’ll swipe back.”

How had she not heard him? Sneaky, just like a man. Her hand lowered to her side. “I am not your sister.”

He crossed his arms and leaned against the wall, chest facing her, though he watched the crowd as she did.

“No?” His head turned, swampy green eyes focused on her face. “What are you then, if not my dear, beloved sister?”

His voice dropped to a nearly sensual croon on the last three words. Serephone stared at him, stonily, and refused to respond. He’d not get a rise out of her. Whatever game he was playing, and she was certain what it was, he could play with his hand.

Amnan was handsome, in a Dwyrkin kind of way. At least Maddugh pretended to be more a man of the people. Amnan didn’t bother. He slunk around, sticking his nose in everyone’s business, stirring up trouble—the trouble with the miners had been all his doing, on the orders of his father. And had almost gotten Cin killed. Serephone wouldn’t forget that anytime soon.

“Go play,” she said, and turned away from him, allowing her spiders to come out of hiding. She didn’t trust him one bit.

They emerged from under her sleeves and crawled up her jacket, a swarm of tiny, half-mechanical, half-magical creatures infused with the nascent green light of her magic—and fully at her command.

Amnan smiled, the expression lazy. “Nice toys, Sere. You should put them away before one gets dropped in a punch bowl. Accidentally.”

She was nowhere near a punch bowl. And if one of her spiders dropped, it would be no accident. But she was close enough to an annoying, second son with vague ideas of seducing her that she thought setting a spider or two on him to dissuade whatever scheme he had in his mind, would be just the thing.

“Step closer…brother,” she said, smiling. With what might pass for a smile.

He eyed her, and shifted away…slightly. Fire flaring in his eyes to show her he wasn’t without fangs of his own. “Lady Kailigh sent me to bring you back into the fold of her ample bosom,” he said. “Do I tell her you’re too otherwise occupied, standing in the dark plotting murder and mayhem?”

“No murder. If your Da behaves.” A bet she was itching to place, but that would be disloyal to her mother.

“My father is very well behaved. The rest of us? Not so much.” His teeth flashed in an almost smile, a mirror of her own. “You’re an interesting girl, and I usually squash ants, when they feel the need to threaten me.”

She shrugged. “Not threatening you. Just keeping you informed. Stop sniffing around me.”

His smile faded, a subtle hardness on his face. Amnan straightened from his slouch and stepped forward, ignoring her spiders, ignoring her stiffness, when he invaded her space. She didn’t like men who were taller than her.

“I plan on doing plenty of sniffing, woman. You’re a danger—to yourself, mostly. But, I won’t let you do something foolish because you haven’t dealt with your issues.”

And what would he know about her issues? Or that she was contemplating mischief? Just because she had a few choice mechanisms in place in case Maddugh proved to be a villain.…

“I know what you’re doing, Serephone, and you’re going to stop as of now. They are married. Stop testing my father.”

So, he’d noticed. She’d figured her mother would have said something sooner, and Maddugh seemed oblivious. But she’d just wanted to ensure the man didn’t have a secret streak of cruelty, or laziness, or dishonesty. So, she’d arranged a few little tests over the last several days. It was for the good of the family. Her family.

Serephone’s hand rose, palm up, and several of her darlings pooled in the cupped palm. “My mother. My sisters. I’ll protect them, whether you like it or not. Blow off.”

His hard eyes lingered on her face for several silent moments, then softened. “Come to the party, Sere. Nothing will hurt your family tonight.”

* * *

Amnan didn’t take his eyes off Serephone. Sly, sneaky woman. He’d get his hands on one of those half-mechanical spiders of hers. However she was powering them, it was the key to her magic. The key to the puzzle that eluded him and his father.

“She doesn’t trust us,” he said to his father. “It’s a little insulting.”

“She’s not to blame.”

Amnan glanced at his father’s carefully neutral expression. “You aren’t telling me something.”

“It’s not my something to tell. Serephone has her reasons for her caution. Respect them.”

He considered the words, trying to imagine all the reasons a woman might have to feel a reflexive, deep-seated suspicion of anything male. None of the reasons were good ones. And all of them brought his dragon roaring to the surface. He stilled, containing the gnashing battle urge. Kailigh and her daughters were now his to protect as members of his household, but there was something about Serephone that tugged on the most savage of his instincts. She wasn’t his, not in that way. He shouldn’t feel like this.

“What are they?” he asked Maddugh, watching her skulk around the room.

He’d escort Sere to her mother and sic Kailigh on her—Serephone would stand still and listen to her mother, and no one else.

“They must be fae,” his father said. Or rather, repeated. They’d had a variation of this conversation a half-dozen times before, but with no conclusion.

“Why would one of the fae leave their half-blood child? They are obsessive about binding anything related to one of their Lines.”

“I don’t know. I suspect some scion played in the human pool without permission and either didn’t know he had offspring—or didn’t care.”

It didn’t explain why the girls were more fae, and less powerful, than their mother. “Kai appears slightly more human. But she is stronger.”

Maddugh watched his wife, expression thoughtful. “For now. If they are fae, they haven’t reached maturity yet. The genetics can be interesting when it determines the time for puberty.”

He stiffened. ”So, are we considering the girls adults?”

His father glanced at him. “Do you think they would allow you to consider them children?”

No. He supposed it was time to make his intentions known to his father, and head off any objections now. “Serephone intrigues me.”

The Lord’s smile was dry. “I’m sure. Be careful with that one—she’s not entirely…,” he paused, looking for a polite word.

“She’s sane enough,” Hrutha said, approaching with his usual insouciant stroll. He held a wineglass loosely in one hand, hair disheveled. “Sorry, darlings, couldn’t help but eavesdrop. Amnan—are you really considering that one?” He shuddered dramatically. “I’m certain she has fangs—and not in her mouth.”

“Hrutha,” Maddugh said, irritated. “You will show respect for your new sisters.”

Hrutha smiled lasciviously. “Oh, I intend on showing plenty of things to a particular sister. She hates my guts, you know? Delicious fun.”

Amnan sighed, suppressing both an eye roll and the instinct to put a fist in Hrutha’s face on Persia’s behalf. If he hadn’t known for certain Hrutha had never actually harmed a woman, or embroiled her in so-called fun against her will, he would have had to lock his youngest brother up decades ago. He was a dandy, and a menace.

“You need a real job,” Amnan said. “Dabbling in mercantile doesn’t keep you busy enough.”

“Hmm.” Hrutha snatched a fresh wineglass from the tray of a passing server. “I was thinking of taking over one of the local bordellos. Adding a bit of class to the town’s offerings of fine entertainment establishments.”

Maddugh grimaced. “My father—and your mother—would throw a flaming fit if they knew one of my sons was a Madam.”

Hrutha laughed uproariously. “Madam! What a word. I must tell Nuaddan.”

“You should have eaten him at birth,” Amnan said sourly as Hrutha trotted away. “As I was saying.”

“You were, I believe, informing me of your intentions in courting Serephone.”

“Courting is a strong word. Putting out feelers.”

Maddugh shrugged. “Do not dishonor her, or my wife. And be careful—that girl is not a toy, Amnan.”

* * *

He stalked her around the ballroom, keeping just out of the line of her vision. Ignoring the fact that stalking her was psychotic at worst, questionable at best. But he knew the woman was up to something. He’d tried simply parking himself at her shoulder, but she’d turned and hissed at him, the little, silver spiders studded along her clothing like jewels—he pitied any poor male, who thought those things were ever decoration—turning with eerie synchronicity and looking at him. They didn’t have eyes, but they were looking.

So, he backed away, hands raised, fangs carefully tucked in his mouth. They’d retreated by instinct at the hiss, and the threat of her little minions. Kailigh watched with amusement and Nuaddan simply stared from the chair he occupied—their father’s chair, but Maddugh ignored his eldest son’s breach of protocol. The fact that Nuaddan had emerged from his forest cave was enough for now.

Maddugh, damn him, had the ten-piece musical group strike up a rowdy jig. They’d learned dancing from humans, the Travelers, during the first few years on earth. In fact, Amnan knew his people owed the Travelers a debt that hadn’t yet been repaid for their help in acclimating to the environment, teaching the dragons that humans were not just talking meat, but dangerous. Too many of his people had died mistaking two-leggers as simple prey.

Serephone glanced over her shoulder right at him, smiled, and stepped into the crowd of gathered dancers. Maddugh had opened the doors of the castle two hours ago to let in townspeople, and anyone who wished to enjoy the post ceremony festivities. He’d have to talk to his father about that. The wench disappeared, the mask of twirling and laughing, not-quite-sober bodies disguising her retreat.

She was playing with him. He tamped down the instinct to hunt. Hard, sometimes, to restrain his true nature and cage himself in the two-legged form. A dragon female would have known better, than to challenge him in that way—would have known she was issuing an unmistakable invitation. He admired his father’s restraint in courting Kailigh, but then Maddugh was old, and canny. He knew how to approach his prey from the side and pounce when it least expected it.

Poor Kai. She thought she had Maddugh managed, but she’d learn soon enough.

Amnan watched for a slender figure clad in a black, velvet jacket over a deep purple gown that swished around her legs as if it was a skirt and not cleverly cut trousers. And became suspicious when he couldn’t find her, not even by scent.

So, the slippery wench wanted to play? They would play, and he would enjoy it. But, he would be careful with her.