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War's Passion Lia Davis

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Chapter One

A cold sensation rolled down Gwen's spine like an icy finger as she stepped out onto the back porch of her parents' Florida home. She focused her senses out into the cool evening, and inhaled the fragrance of night jasmine lingering on the breeze. The moonless, star-filled sky didn't chase away the feeling of menace lurking in the shadows, waiting. The awareness had clung to her since she'd woken that morning and she wished she could feel the creatures of the night like her best friend and adopted sister, Elle, could. Although Gwen descended from the gods themselves, sensing monsters wasn't her gift. As the great-granddaughter of Nyx, goddess of the night, Elle could see into the darkness and all her secrets.

Descended from the goddess of love, Gwen held the power of persuasion, and she could sway people, especially men, to bend to her will. The gift came from her father's side of the family—Tom Preston was one of Aphrodite's earthborn sons.

She loved nights like this as well as the calm that blanketed the small town of Perry. It was a few minutes before midnight and everyone slept. Elle had left early that morning to show her latest paintings and sculptures at a gallery in Jacksonville. It was the first time the girls had been apart since becoming friends in the third grade.

The sound of glass breaking behind her made Gwen's heart hammer and her stomach clench. Spinning, she saw three large men charge into her home through what used to be the front door. Splintered wood lay half in the kitchen, half in the living room, and the long rectangular windows on either side of the entrance were destroyed. Glass littered the living room floor.

Fear rushed through her like wildfire and she darted to the side to hide behind the curtain of the sliding glass door. Helplessness consumed her as she watched one of the men open drawers to her father's desk, dumping the contents on the floor. Another searched the living room, then stepped into the kitchen. Her heart sank as the third man turned toward the hallway.

Mom, Dad.

Without another thought for her own safety, she rushed after the man that went down the hall. Before she could make it, another man crashed into her, slamming her to the ground. Sharp, stabbing pain shot from her hip down her leg. Gwen screamed, hoping to wake her parents, as she clawed at the man's face, aiming for his eyes.

A loud thump followed by her mother's cry reached Gwen's ears. Terror filled her, cold and crippling. Tears ran down her cheeks. A moment later the man that went towards her parents' room flew backwards through the living room, and further until he crashed into the kitchen island. Then her father stood at the hallway entrance, hands fisted by his side.

"Let her go."

Gwen stared at her father in disbelief. His body glowed with power.

"You think to use mortal magic on me?" The man holding her laughed, then released Gwen and rose to his feet.

A bright flash of black and gold light filled the room, leaving a large black dragon where the man had been. Disbelief and horror twined through her veins as she stared at the creature. Smoke rolled out its long snout and the eyes almost glowed red. Shaking, she managed to scramble backwards to keep from being trampled by the beast—which was way too big for the house.

Her father held his hands out from his body, palms facing the dragon. A soft white light beamed from the center of his hands, then brightened and grew into a ball of bright white energy the size of cantaloupe before her father thrust it at the dragon.

Gwen screamed again, not knowing what she could do. There was a freaking dragon inside her home and her father...well, she didn't know what he threw at the beast because he'd never used his magic to that extent before. The ball of light didn't do anything but drive the dragon back a step. The beast whipped his tail around to hit Gwen. The blow knocked her out the back door. Landing on the deck, she watched in horror as the dragon breathed fire toward her father.

Tears streaming down her face, she shouted for her father to get out, but too late. Flames covered him and he stumbled forward, igniting the carpet with each step and the couch as he fell. The dragon let out a roar that rocked the house. The men that came with him rushed outside right before the beast blew out another blast of fire and swiveled his head around the room. The whole house engulfed in flames within seconds.

Agony ripped through Gwen's heart and she sobbed, but no one heard her.

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