Happy Tuesday and welcome to my stop on the blog tour for A RUINOUS FATE by Kaylie Smith! I’m so excited because today I have an excerpt of the book to share with you! This book is truly amazing and I’m so excited to for you to find out more about it, PLUS enter for a chance to win a print copy!
Series: Heartless Fates #1
Published on January 3, 2023 by Disney Hyperion
Genres: Fantasy, Queer, Romance, YA
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Author Links: Website, Twitter, Goodreads, Instagram, TikTok
Fate does not choose the weak. Fate chooses the ready.
Calliope Rosewood is a witch with a long streak of bad luck. Like all witches in Illustros, her fate is directly tied to Witch’s Dice—powerful artifacts that have blessed her kind with limitless magic but also set them on a path toward destruction. Cursed with unspeakable powers that terrify even the most dangerous witches and fae, Calla deserted her coven four years ago and has been in hiding with her two best friends since. But Calla is also hiding a grave secret: She is only three Rolls away from becoming the last Blood Warrior and starting the Final War that will decimate her people and eradicate their magic.
After a betrayal from her ex leads her one step closer to fulfilling that age-old prophecy, Calla is desperate to do whatever it takes to reset her fate... even if that means journeying into the deadly Neverending Forest with said ex and his enticing, yet enigmatic older brother to find the one being who can help her forge her own path. As Calla ventures farther into the enchanted woods, she finds her heart torn between her past desires and the alluring new possibilities of her future and learns that choosing your own destiny may come with deadly consequences.
The midnight constellations grinned down on the forest with polished teeth. The Fates were in good spirits tonight.
The girl’s captor, however, was not.
She leaned back from the cottage’s open window and watched from the corner of the cluttered room as her liege frantically wove threads across the entire expanse of the ancient map hanging on the wall. The usual dark, inky color of the thread used to track the Fates and their bargains was gone. Instead, tonight the thread was the color of blood.
The energy in the room was odd in a way that was abnormal even for this cottage, and she moved toward the large dining table in curiosity, peering at the delicate parchment that her captor ripped open only moments before. The letter had suddenly appeared on the table, unannounced—as things often were within the demonic forest—and sealed with gilded wax. Whatever the note contained shifted the entire mood in the air around them.
She looked down at the messy black ink scrawled over the page. As she reached out to run her fingertips over the paper, her blood began to pulse through the midnight veins that spiderwebbed beneath her translucent skin as it sensed the heavy magic that lingered there. She squinted to try and decipher the words and quickly realized it was not a letter at all—it was a contract.
Across from her, her captor continued working the thread with their long gray fingers. It was as if they were trying to outrun a ticking clock she could not see. Over and over, they ran the thread across the map with increasing fervor. From the far corner of Estrella, to deep within the Northern Fae Courts, the bloodred thread rapidly pursued across all of Illustros, turning the once clear map into a jumble of crisscrossing lines. Until finally, everything went still. Not even the monstrous forest around them dared to breathe or shed a leaf.
Her liege turned away from their weaving as movement from the table caught their eye and it took only a moment for her to realize what had captured their attention. The contract.
There at the bottom, where it had been blank only moments before, four names were now signed in blood.
Calliope Rosewood was looking fate dead in the eye. Her opponent unfurled a devilish grin as he sifted through the black deck of cards he had been shuffling for the past few minutes. “Your move, Calla.”
At the sound of her name, Calla finally tore her gaze away from the red Witch’s Die the other witch had just spilled into the center of the table—careful not to let the magic cube touch his bare skin—and looked down at the last bit of money in front of her. It was just enough to ante up this one last round.
She took a deep breath as she brushed the pad of her thumb over the last of her gilded spéctrals and thought about her next decision. If she lost and had to take the die, she would be exactly two rolls away from being cursed—well, from being more cursed. On the other hand, if she folded now, not only would she still have to take the die, she would also lose all the money she already bet. Which was not really an option considering she and the girls were only three days away from being evicted. Again.
Calla twisted her mouth in disdain as she scooped up her remaining gold coins and tossed them into the pile with the rest of the wagers. They landed on top with a metallic clink. There was no going back. Her opponent’s grin widened.
Calla watched carefully as his hands shuffled the deck several more times, his nimble fingers bridging the cards with a noisy whoosh before he reached out to place the stack in front of her.
She didn’t break the other witch’s stare as she randomly picked a place on the stack to separate in half and place to the side. He scooped up both halves and added them back together before finally dealing out the cards with quick, precise flicks.
The room grew deadly silent, and as Calla fanned her cards in front of her, she reached out with a quick sweep of her magic to assess the others. Which was, of course, cheating. She didn’t care.
Based on how fast his blood was rushing through his veins, Boone, the hulking drunk to her right, was stressed. The giant was one of the regular gamblers at the Starlight Inn and even without using her magic, the nervous look he was unsuccessfully trying to hide told her that he’d definitely been bluffing his way through this round. The hint of a smile from behind her other opponent’s cards, however, told her that he thought he would be having much better luck.
How adorable, Calla thought as she casually tucked a strand of her dark brown hair behind her left ear.
Calla had two aces, and while that wasn’t exactly a guaranteed win, it certainly meant that she had the upper hand. As she glanced through her long lashes at the Onyx witch sitting across the table, the look of disdain she usually wore whenever she was in his presence melted away into the poker face she had been perfecting.
Ezra Black didn’t know it yet, but this game was hers.
Over the last few months, she had spent many of her nights here—in this exact room of the inn’s basement, with these exact people, playing this exact game. Tonight, however, was different. The stakes higher. Deadlier. For once, it wasn’t the all too familiar scent of dark magic wafting down from the upper floors that had her stomach twisting in knots.
Calla looked back down at the brand-new cards in her hand, their glossy black surfaces standing out sorely against the muted background of the basement. She was trying to ignore how her heartbeat thudded in her throat as she waited for the other players to decide how many cards they wanted to exchange. She had never wanted to win a hand of cards more. Especially against him. Especially after their last encounter.
Her grip on the slippery cards momentarily tightened at the thought of their last drunken night together, and if it wasn’t for her immaculate ability to court patience, Calla knew she might just whip the cards at the other witch’s head like throwing stars. Last night, she had not expected to find a neatly folded note tucked under her windowsill, signed with Ezra’s scrawling signature, and she definitely hadn’t expected it to be an invitation to a game of cards. Calla knew she should not have let Ezra goad her into gambling with him, but there was something inside her that could never quite resist the opportunity to knock the smug bastard down a peg or two.
She stole another glance at the center of the wooden card table, almost flinching as her eyes went straight to the bloodred Witch’s Die that glistened there. Even the dull light of the basement could not tarnish the die’s effect, the side of the cube with six black dots practically glittering as it faced her. Taunted her.
Calla hated the number six even more than she hated the Onyx witch sitting across from her.
Ramor, an older troll with horrible posture who liked to boss around Boone as if the giant were some sort of henchman, grunted from Calla’s left. She darted her eyes back to the cards in play, realizing it was finally her turn. She considered her hand for one last moment, her blood humming as her magic sensed Ramor suddenly flush with anger. Boone looked more defeated after exchanging a few of his cards back to the dealer.
“How many do you want, Calla?” Ezra challenged.
She blinked at him. His gaze didn’t waiver.
All she needed was to outplay Ezra. Ezra, who knew exactly what her Rouge magic was capable of, who was currently making an effort to steady his breathing so she couldn’t read his blood pressure. Too bad for him she could always read his face.
Calla stared knowingly across the tottering table, narrowing her eyes at the Onyx witch as she ignored the heavy weight of the die in her peripherals. The second his jaw clenched—imperceivable to anyone who may not have known his face as well as she did—she flashed him the haughtiest smile she could manage.
“None. I’m all in.”
Ramor made a shocked, indignant sound beside her.
“All right.” Ezra narrowed his gaze. “Then call.”
Ramor and Boone revealed their hands, but neither Calla nor Ezra paid them any mind. When Calla threw down her two aces, the slap of the thick cards on the grainy wood sounded like a clap of thunder echoing through the room.
An exhale rushed out of Ezra’s mouth at Calla’s declaration of victory. Ramor and Boone groaned miserably at losing the pot, their spéctrals now Calla’s. Ezra’s face seemed to drain of blood as his hand immediately, almost involuntarily, whipped out to stiffly grab the Witch’s Die. As she watched the die settle into his palm with a brief crimson glow, she almost had a flicker of regret, but she quickly stamped it down. She was not one roll closer to starting a few centuries worth of servitude tonight and that was all that mattered.
Calla leaned over the table; the coins jingled against one another as she hurried to gather them into the small velvet satchel that was strapped across her chest. Ezra stood up with lightning speed, throwing his chair back into the damp brick wall behind him with an ear-splitting screech. He tightened his fist—balled around the die—with unconcealed fury, his knuckles white with strain. She didn’t hesitate as she swept the last of the spéctrals into her bag, not daring to look at his face, and as soon as the last coin fell into the satchel with a plink, she turned for the open door.
If it had momentarily escaped Calla that Ezra was an Onyx witch, the unnaturally fast flick of his magic that swept a gust of wind across the room to slam the door to her escape did well to remind her of exactly what he was capable of: indomitable control of most of the elements. She almost faltered a step as she began inching away from the table and toward the door, twisting her face over her shoulder to bare her teeth at him.
“You can’t do this,” she asserted. “I won!”
“You cheated, you mean,” he glowered back.
“If anyone here was capable of cheating,” she accused, “don’t you think it would be the one who dealt the cards?”
Ezra’s coal eyes seemed to darken as he stalked toward her, giving Calla the feeling that her accusation wasn’t such a shot in the dark. “You forget how well I know you, Calla,” he said as his mouth stretched into a sinister grin. “Your pretty little poker face may fool everyone else, but it isn’t fooling me. You’ve been cheating all night.” She gave him a mocking smile in return. “It’s nice to know you still find me pretty.”
The words were like acid in her mouth, but she shoved down the memories of feelings they conjured and focused on getting closer to the exit.
“When have I ever suggested you weren’t?” He lifted a brow. “Oh, my mistake,” she said sarcastically. “You just implied that I wasn’t good enough for you.”
“I told you from the beginning I wasn’t here to play nice. Did you think you were an exception to that?”
It took all her effort not to flinch at his words. “How clever of you to hide your intentions in plain sight. And to think I once assumed you were all beauty and no brains.”
He glowered. “Enough. You cheated, and you’re not leaving until you take this die from me.”
“You may want to work on your sportsmanship, Black.” She spoke with an air of nonchalance that was entirely bravado. “Accusing people of cheating just because you lost isn’t a very good look on you—”
“Are you going to pretend,” he said, edging closer to her, “that I wasn’t the one who sharpened your gambling skills? Or that we haven’t spent the last few months pulling this exact con on a hundred other fools?” She held her breath as he came closer still.
“Or that I can’t sense when you use your magic just as well as you can sense mine?” he murmured.
Another step closer and Calla’s entire body could feel the familiar warmth of his magic as he paused only two feet away. She braced herself to run.
“Did you just call yourself a fool?” Calla quipped.
His forehead furrowed for a second, before giving her a hard, annoyed look. She needed to get out of here now.
Ezra went to speak again, and Calla used the opportunity to throw out a blast of power, seizing every ounce of blood in his body with her Rouge magic and throwing him back into the card table. She quickly turned toward the exit as the center of the wood splintered with a crack from the sheer force.
Maybe that amount of force wasn’t completely necessary, she thought for a fleeting moment before shaking it away. No. Damn him. The few seconds she had bought herself were soon diminished when a callused hand gripped her wrist. The charged vibration that traveled up her arm from the skin-on-skin contact made her gasp. “Pretty boy said you cheated.” Boone’s awful breath heated Calla’s face as he towered above her. Ramor moved in quickly from behind to trap her between them.
So preoccupied with Ezra, she had completely forgotten about the others, an oversight she wanted to kick herself for.
“Let me go,” she hissed at Boone, yanking at his grip.
She could already see the bruises that were going to form on her fair beige skin where his giant fingers were circling her wrist. His abnormal strength was making it incredibly hard for her to fight against him.
“Not until you give us back our money,” Ramor said, a sharp poke in her lower back almost making her gasp. She tried to wiggle away from the tip of his blade, but the giant’s grip was much too strong, holding her firmly in place. The knife at her back dug in a little more, the troll clearly growing impatient.
Calla was starting to sweat as she tried to decipher what to do. She knew she didn’t have much time as she glanced back to where Ezra was grunting atop the splintered table on the ground. She could hear his hiss of frustration as he tried to stand.
He looked supremely pissed. Damn it.
That’s when she felt it, a bit delayed from being dormant for so long, but the call from deep inside of her was always unmistakable. Her Siphon.
The hunger of that call felt so jarring—she had never gotten used to the way the unnatural warmth spread through her body every time her skin made contact with someone else’s. As if she had a sudden rush of fever, her entire body from her scalp to her toes flushed, and she could feel how the darkness within her ached to drain the life out of the giant through her touch, her blood pressure spiking at the prospect.
She slammed down on the urge to siphon and summoned her Rouge magic instead. It didn’t matter how much trouble she had gotten herself in—she would not give in to that darkness.
Calla reached out with her Rouge magic and started popping the blood vessels in the hand Boone was using to hold her. The giant let out a yelp as his grip loosened, and she quickly side-stepped from between him and Ramor, the latter’s knife slicing through the back of her shirt and scraping at her skin as she moved. Before Ramor could follow her, she flicked a hand toward Boone’s head, making all of the blood rush elsewhere, causing him to faint and flatten Ramor to the dirty ground with him.
In the time it had taken her to bring down the giant, Ezra was back on his feet, brushing away chips of wood and dust from his clothes. Cursing, she spun and lunged for the door, grabbing the knob and twisting frantically as Ezra bolted toward her. She stumbled up the basement steps with a speed that surprised her. Ezra easily leaped over the two struggling bodies on the ground and before she could open the door to the stairwell, she felt his wind whip through the air. She slipped on the steps and crashed forward, gripping the stone as hard as she could before she tumbled all the way down. She grunted as she rolled to her back and lifted a hand. The wind ceased its spiral around her body as she tightened every blood vessel beneath Ezra’s skin, making his eyes bulge with strain as his magic dissipated in the air between them. Calla knew she should be careful about using every ounce of Rouge magic she had on reserve, but she needed to be able to hold Ezra in place long enough to haul herself up the rest of the steps. Ezra’s strength was much more substantial than her own considering her half-witch status. She pushed her aching body up from the stairs as fast as she could manage, keeping her hold on the Onyx witch in place as she took the steps two at a time. When she finally made it to the top, she could feel her body begin to sag from the effort and she let go. As she burst out of the stairwell and into the main floor’s lobby, the first thing Calla noted was that the scent of dark magic was so much worse on this level of the inn. She had to resist the urge to gag at the charred smell that permeated the old building. She wove her way through the bustling crowd, closer and closer to her escape. Just a few more steps and—
“You’re not going anywhere,” Ezra snarled, yanking her into him by the back of her shirt.
As her back snapped against his torso, Calla could feel the hard muscles of his chest and abdomen through his thick black sweater. Nothing unusual, considering most Onyx witches were known for their strength and combat skills in addition to their elemental magic, but Calla couldn’t help the small shiver running through her veins as she leaned back against this Onyx witch.
Stop that, the little voice in her mind admonished her. She was furious at the traitorous thoughts—thoughts that were reminding her of exactly what the muscles beneath his sweater looked like. Images of the few times she had gotten a glance of the lean planes of his stomach flashed through her mind, thoughts of how she had once imagined herself running her hands over them and up into his long, disheveled midnight hair . . .
She gritted her teeth and elbowed him in the stomach as hard as she could. She spun around to face him as his grip slackened, and he let out an angry grunt.
“It’s no one’s fault but your own that you have to make a Roll of Fate.
You were the one who brought the Witch’s Die.” She let the frustration at her momentary lapse in thoughts color the heat in her voice as she seethed at him.
“And you were the one who cheated,” he accused angrily, drawing the attention of a few people nearby.
“I wasn’t here to play nice—did you think you were an exception to that?” Calla parroted in a mocking tone.
“Is there a problem?” a smooth, masculine voice asked from behind Ezra.
The newcomer was an inch or two taller than Ezra, who was already over half a foot taller than Calla’s five feet and five inches. The stranger had short, striking cobalt hair and bright silver eyes. Calla’s Rouge magic immediately reached out to assess the possible new threat and as soon as it identified his power, she couldn’t help but grit her teeth.
Another Onyx witch.
Ezra directed his dark gaze to the taller witch for a brief second, and it was all Calla needed to slip away and dart for the front door. The few annoyed exclamations from the patrons she pushed through were completely ignored as she made her way out as fast as she could, her adrenaline spiking as she burst wildly onto the dark cobblestone street. When she didn’t sense Ezra following, she sighed in relief, hoping his friend managed to distract him as long as possible. The sharp winter air pierced her skin, and she shuddered as she realized she had left her cloak back in the basement. Letting out an irritated sigh, she rubbed her hands down her arms for warmth, the thought of having to buy another cloak frustrating.
Well, at least I got the money, she assured herself, patting the satchel at her hip to make certain it was still on her. With the amount she won tonight she could buy a new cloak and pay her rent for the next few months. She and the girls could also stop using Delphine’s influence to shoplift apples every morning for breakfast.
At least for a little while.
She took a deep breath as she hooked a left down another street and started a brisk pace up the road as Estrella’s famous blue-and-purple stars winked above her.
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