No one with half a brain would rob the jungle’s most notorious energy cartel—but their power-producing stones are the only thing that soothes Cacao’s mysterious pain, and after being banished from his homeland for similar thefts, the lonely naga is desperate enough to try.
When his ramshackle thievery goes wrong, a chaotic escape leaves him chained to the cartel's prisoner: a self-proclaimed hero with a hidden stash of power stones so large that Cacao would never need to steal again. He’s determined to get his hands on it, even if it means guiding the annoyingly smug, annoyingly valiant, and even more annoyingly beautiful hero back home. But their path runs straight through the mist-laden and monster-filled swamp that exiled Cacao, with scheming poachers and a desperate cartel leader on their tail.
The selfish and the self-righteous can only flee together for so long before something snaps...
Return to Our Bloody Pearl’s steampunk-inspired world of merfolk in this fun, fast-paced adventure with a hate-to-love romance, a boat-load of sass, and even more heart.
THE THRUMMING POWER OF the ignits calls to me. Five small variants of the round stones lie in the gambler’s pot, their slight glow barely visible beneath the cartel boat’s canopy. From the shade of the nearby mangroves, I grip the blue ignit on my wire necklace of precious stones. Blue for thunder, like two of those in the pot. But the gamblers have a yellow and a pair of small reds as well.
The ignit beneath my fingers pulses into my scales, primed to soothe whatever skull-shattering nonsense my body decides to throw at me today. But one lonely stone can be easily lost, easily taken. With one stone, the pain still stalks just behind me, waiting to strike. Besides, I want the gamblers’ ignits.READ MORE
Tightening my serpentine tail around the roots of the half-submerged tree, I lift my head a little farther out of the water. I flick out my tongue. The boat humans smell of oil and gunpowder, of arrogance and cowardice and anger, and a touch of fear.
Three of them sit on the boat’s main deck, huddled around a table. The vibrations of their voices tingle across the patterned ridges along my scaly scalp. I feel the tug the nearest gives to their beard as they anxiously put down their cards, the slight splash of the lizard dipping into the river down-stream, and the landing of the parrot in the tree branches far above.
But the fishers don’t know I crouch so still that the murky water blends with the brown and black patterns along my half-snake body. The boat humans won’t notice me like this—won’t try to kill me. But if I stay here, those ignits will never thrum in my hands or hang from my wire mesh necklace.
My banishers said this desire would latch inside me like claws through flesh, like my spiny retractable teeth digging into a freshly caught capybara, like a viper’s toxin eating me from the inside out. And it has. Oh, it fucking has.
It’s just so hard to care now that it’s caught me.COLLAPSE
Asha on A Cat, A Book, and a Cup of Tea wrote:
“Once Stolen is a charming new stand-alone story, in the These Treacherous Tides series with lots of action, a great setting, characters to steal your heart, all with a heartwarming underlying story message of learning to love yourself.”
Rachel on cgpreads wrote:
“As in Our Bloody Pearl, Once Stolen excels at showing how ‘people’ and ‘home’ have only a blurry line between them. It sounds twee to use the term ‘the power of friendship’, but this is such a gorgeous depiction of how much belonging matters.”
“The world D.N. Bryn has created is vibrant and packed full of fascinating creatures, high-stakes drama, and characters that aren’t afraid to be flawed and multidimensional.”