Amryn has many reasons to hate the empire. Her latest is her forced marriage to General Carver Vincetti, better known as the Butcher. If he learns even one of her secrets, he will kill her. And Amryn has many secrets. Not only is she an empath with forbidden magic, she's also a newly recruited rebel intent on destroying the empire—starting at Esperance.
Carver knows the rebels have infiltrated the remote temple of Esperance. His job is to hunt them down before they can wreck the emperor’s new peace. Despite the demons that haunt him, Carver is intent on his mission—but he’s not prepared for Amryn. From her fiery red hair to her surprising wit, his new wife has captured his attention. The attraction that flares between them is undeniable. Now he just has to determine if she’s the enemy.
When the newly married couples become targets in a violent game, Esperance becomes more dangerous than anyone anticipated. Carver and Amryn are about to discover that no one is exactly who they appear to be—especially each other.
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Please enjoy the following excerpt!
“Your body will adapt,” Carver said.
Amryn glanced over at him as they made their way down a wide stone staircase. “Excuse
“To the climate. The humidity is brutal, but you will adapt over time.”
She snorted. “If I don’t melt first.”
He felt a smile tug into place. “I felt the same in Harvari. But you will get used to it.”
“Forgive me if I don’t believe you. Isn’t Westmont unconscionably hot as well?”
“Compared to Ferradin, I suppose it might be considered that. I just think of it as the
warmth of home.”
“Ferradin can be warm,” Amryn said, swiping a quick hand over her hairline. “This
rivals the Scorched Plains.”
He chuckled. “I suppose it’s a matter of perspective.”
They reached the base of the stairs and turned right, following the directions they’d been
given. Other than a handful of guards and servants, they didn’t see anyone else in the
Wanting to keep her talking, Carver said, “I miss the ocean, and the sandy beaches of
Westmont. What do you miss from home?”
“Everything,” she whispered.
Her melancholy was like a barb against his skin, and he winced. A poor choice of topic
on his part, when she was clearly homesick.
She peeked over at him. “I miss the mountains.”
The admission was unexpected after her previous one-word response, but he grasped at
it gratefully. “Westmont doesn’t have many mountains, at least not near my home. I
remember the first time I traveled with my father and we came across a true mountain
range. I was terrified.”
She shot him a look. “Why?”
“I thought it would fall on top of me and crush me flat.” He shrugged. “I was only a
child, so it seemed a valid fear at the time.”
The ghost of a smile lifted her lips. “So mountains no longer scare you?”
“I didn’t say that. Frankly, I always feel a little trapped whenever I find myself
surrounded by them.” Her smile was proof that she was relaxing around him, but that
fact alone wasn’t what kept him talking. He found he enjoyed talking with her—liked
coaxing those rare smiles from her. “Mountains also steal the sunlight prematurely, and
they block the view of the rest of the world. And have you ever climbed one?”
“Don’t tell me that the emperor’s favored general is afraid of heights,” she said, one
He scoffed. “As if I’m the one with an issue if I have a rational fear of falling off a cliff
and plunging to my death?”
“You know,” she said a bit drolly, “I grew up playing on mountains.”
“Then it’s a blessing from the Divinities that you’re still alive.”
She rolled her eyes at that, but she wore an amused smile. “Has anyone ever told you
that you’re overly dramatic?”
“Yes. Just about everyone,” he added, making his tone as dramatic as possible.
He didn’t get a full laugh out of her, but she made a sound in her throat that could have
been the beginnings of one.
Perhaps charming his wife wouldn’t be as difficult as he’d feared.
He glanced over at her. “Why do you miss the mountains?”
His more serious tone chased away her smile, but she didn’t miss a step as they neared
the end of the corridor. “I feel lost without them,” she said, and he was surprised by the
honesty in her voice. “They’ve always surrounded me. Given me landmarks. When I’m
surrounded by mountains, I feel . . . safe.”
Something she clearly didn’t feel here.
Not that he blamed her. Esperance had already been a place of death, and they’d only
been married for a day.
She peeked over at him. “Why do you miss the ocean?”
He shrugged. “I hadn’t really thought about it . . . but I suppose I miss everything about
it. The sound of it, the smell of it—the way it goes on forever.” The ocean comforted him.
Reminded him of better days. Sometimes, in Harvari, he would close his eyes and try to
picture it. The salty air, the spray hitting his face, the gritty sand clinging to his bare feet.
The glitter of the water.
Sometimes, he could almost imagine the sweat and blood on his skin was water. Only
“You miss it because the ocean is home,” she said quietly.
He glanced at her. “And that’s why you miss the mountains.”
Her steps slowed as they reached the breakfast room. Beyond the arched doorway,
Carver could hear the hum of voices, and the scents of breakfast wafted into the hall. But
he paused with Amryn, the two of them standing alone in the hall.
This moment felt weighted, and he wanted to say the right thing.
“My father described the mountains of Ferradin,” he found himself sharing. “How snow
can top the peaks even in summer, making them a vivid blue and white on top, but
covered in trees and cliffs and wildflowers everywhere else. They sound breathtaking.”
Amryn stared at him, and as her eyes slowly narrowed, he felt a sinking in his gut.
“Your father has only been to Ferradin once, I think,” she said quietly. “To conquer it.”
She stepped around him and entered the breakfast room, leaving him standing alone in