Gambit by C.L. Denault
(The Prodigy Chronicles, #1)
Publication date: April 3rd 2021
Genres: Dystopian, Romance, Science Fiction, Young Adult
The Core wants her DNA. She wants her freedom. Let the game begin.
In Earth’s battle-ridden future, humans have evolved. Those with extraordinary skills rise to power and fame. Those without live in poverty.
Sixteen-year-old Willow Kent believed she was normal. But when a genetically-advanced military officer shows up in her village and questions her identity, long-buried secrets begin to emerge. With remarkable skills and a shocking genetic code the Core and its enemies will do anything to obtain, Willow suddenly finds the freedom she craves slipping through her fingers. Greed, corruption, and genetic tampering threaten every aspect of her existence as she’s thrust, unwilling, into the sophisticated culture of the elite Core city. To ensure peace, she must leave the past behind, marry a man she’s never met, and submit to the authority of a relentless officer with a hidden agenda of his own.
Her life has become a dangerous game. How much will she sacrifice in order to win?
I stood at the hearth to warm myself. The heat felt good against the room’s deep chill, and the dancing flames intrigued me. My family couldn’t afford wood as a fuel source. Trees were a precious resource in the Outlying Lands. Burning them required a permit and cost a fortune. Given the heaping pile of logs stacked beside the fireplace, neither of those obstacles had been a problem for Reece.
He approached me with another strange device. “Turn and face me.”
I did as he asked, noting the way firelight flickered over his dark hair and reflected off his eyes. The effect was startling. Who was this man, that he gave the order for a bluster’s death one moment and shimmered like a cat the next?
The device he held began to glow. A warm ray of light extended above me and washed over my entire body. When it finished, an image in my shape hovered above his palm. A red dot blinked on the lower right half.
Exactly where my dagger was hidden.
“Well, look at that,” he said. “My little butterfly has a stinger.”
I took a step back, knowing what he was going to ask of me. But I wouldn’t give it up, not the gift Mum had given me long ago, the one valuable thing I owned.
“Hand it over, Morrigan.”
“Don’t call me that. My name is Willow.”
He shrugged. “If you prefer. Now do as I say.”
I hesitated, and his icy-blue eyes narrowed.
“We can handle this one of two ways. Either you give up your weapon willingly, or I take it from you. And I assure you, I won’t be gentle about it.”
“But this is my only protection,” I said slowly.
“You won’t need it. I’m all the security you require.”
I didn’t want his security. I had my own, and his silky arrogance was starting to get on my nerves, calling forth an unreasonable yet potent desire to challenge him. “My mum gave it to me. It’s mine, and you’re not taking it.”
He cocked an eyebrow. “Oh, yes, I am. I won’t risk your attacking me when my back is turned.”
“It’s not for attacking, it’s for defending,” I argued irritably. “Which is exactly what I’ll do if you come any closer.”
“You are no match for me,” he said, with a husky laugh. An infuriating smile played at the corner of his mouth. “Do yourself a favor, and cease this childish game before you get hurt.”
Something desperate slid through my belly, hot and unrecognizable. It shook me with its intensity, and I had no strength against its will. Retreating another step, I felt for the weapon through my skirt. Vibrations tingled across my palms, and the skill’s power rushed through my veins. When I pictured the flat, silver surface of the blade, it trembled inside the scabbard as if ready to leap into my hand.
Let him try for it. He would regret laughing at me.
“Keep your distance,” I warned him, “or we’ll see who gets hurt.”
C.L. Denault is a speculative fiction writer who loves dreaming up tales of adventure and intrigue. A former systems analyst, she gave up her nerdy code-writing skills to care for her family (including a son with special needs) and currently lives among the vast stretches of cornfields in Illinois.
Writing and working out are her biggest passions, along with coffee and sci-fi. When she’s not hanging out with her husband and kids, she can usually be found at a library or tucked away in the shadowy corner of a hip coffeehouse. She’s also been glimpsed sneaking into her garage, late at night, to work on her time machine.
She enjoys connecting with people—especially those from other planets, nearby dimensions, and the future. To find her, just visit her website or social media pages. Or use a Stargate. Whichever is easiest.
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