Life isn't easy when you bear the mark of the Silver Stag...

Typhon, the Father of Dragons, is rising, and in his wake so are throngs of the departed. Amid the fallout, a serial killer who has been possessed by Typhon emerges, targeting necromancers, psychics, and anyone who can control or deal with the dead. The deputy mayor approaches Herne and the Wild Hunt, asking for their help.

Ember and the Wild Hunt head out on the trail of the killer, only to find themselves drawn into the dark underbelly of the Vampire Nation as they try to prevent the assassin from striking again. But the killer’s far more dangerous than anyone predicted, and the next target is Raven BoneTalker. Can Ember and Herne keep her safe, or will the killer slide beneath their radar and claim Raven as the next victim?

Series Reading Order:
1. The Silver Stag
2. Oak & Thorns
3. Iron Bones
4. A Shadow of Crows
5. The Hallowed Hunt
6. The Silver Mist
7. Witching Hour (An Ante-Fae Adventure)
8. Witching Bones (An Ante-Fae Adventure)
9. A Sacred Magic
10. The Eternal Return
11. Sun Broken
12. Witching Moon (An Ante-Fae Adventure) --Coming Soon
13. Autumn's Bane

Published:
Genres:
Excerpt:

Chapter 1

The new moon had just passed, and the only sign of her presence was a thin crescent as she moved into her waxing cycle. I gazed up at the sliver of light as I waited beside the massive maple tree in the park. The leaves were almost full size, and they whispered lightly in the April night. We were into a warm streak, with the days running in the high sixties and the nights in the upper fifties. Beltane was nearing—a little over two weeks away—and I could feel the energy build, especially when I was around Herne. It had been a year since he had come into my world and changed everything in my life.

I turned at a low huffing sound and there he stood, my magnificent god, in his alter shape. The silver stag glimmered, brilliant and luminous, his back as tall as me, antlers rising like silver tines against the shroud of darkness that surrounded us.

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He slowly approached me and I bowed my head. I always felt his divinity more when he was in his stag form. He leaned down to breathe against my cheek and the scent of his musk swept over me. I threw my arms around his neck, gazing into those sloe eyes, and pressed my face against his throat.

“I love you,” I whispered. “I cannot believe how much I’ve come to love you.”

He gently stepped away from me, kneeling onto his front knees. I swung up onto his back and leaned forward, bracing myself with my hands on either side of his neck. He stood, waiting for me to give him the signal.

When I was properly situated, I said, “I’m ready,” and we were off, racing through the woods under the pale moonlight. Herne wove through the trees toward a ravine, and down we went, through the undergrowth, a blur of movement. In his silver stag form, Herne could move faster than any normal stag or elk. This was his domain. The forest was his world, and as Lord of the Hunt, he ruled over it with his father, Cernunnos, the Lord of the Forest. Together, they embodied the woodlands of the world, and their presence was within every leaf of every tree, every animal that called the forest home. They embodied the wild, and ran with the Wild Hunt.

And…Herne was my boyfriend.

That last thought made me laugh. It seemed so mortal, but the gods shared a number of traits with mortals, with the Fae, the humans, and shifters alike. And when I had gone to work for the Wild Hunt—the agency, not the actual Hunt—a year ago, I had quickly fallen for Herne, and he had, against all odds, fallen for me.

I wasn’t sure how long we had been running, it could have been five minutes or twenty, but Herne pulled to a stop next to a trickling stream. The greater Seattle area was rife with both ravines and streams, and the forest wild permeated the cities around the area with tenacious fingers, large swaths spreading between the condos and skyscrapers, shading the spacious streets of the city. The grass and weeds continuously broke through the concrete on sidewalks, jutting up through the cracks to prove that nothing manmade could keep the wild at bay for long.

Herne kneeled and I slid off his back, my thighs warm from pressing against his sides. I wandered over to the stream, kneeling beside the bank. The water played like music and I could sense there were several elementals nearby, dancing through the eddies and swirls that splashed over the stones at the bottom of the streambed.

Here in Western Washington, almost all creeks trickled over a bed of the rounded river rocks that had been left in the wake of the alluvial deposits. As I reached toward the whitecaps, a spray of water rose up, forming into a translucent being that was vaguely humanoid. It reached out and touched my fingers, and I closed my eyes as we met.

I know you. You are one of the water Fae.

The thought came unspoken, filling my mind. Only it wasn’t a thought in words, but in emotions—a sense of familiarity. I smiled at the gentle mind-touch.

Like recognizes like. I am part Leannan Sidhe, I answered. How are things here in the park? Is everything going as it should? I patterned the thoughts into emotions and images that the water elemental would understand.

Herne and I were reconnoitering. We had heard rumors that there were unnatural forces stirring in the park. Given the current state of affairs, we had decided to check it out for ourselves. There was too much at stake to just hope for the best or rely on rumor.

The elemental paused, then I felt a quiver of fear coming from it.

I have seen nothing unusual, but something is approaching. There are those who have rested in the arms of the forest for many years, deep in their death sleep, who are now slumbering uneasily. Their bodies are long gone but their spirits are approaching a wakeful state. What lures them out of their long sleep, I do not know.

And with that, the water spirit dove into the stream and flowed back into the current, and within seconds, it was gone.

“What did it say?” Herne asked from behind me.

I turned to face him. He was in his human shape now, rugged and gorgeous, with shoulder-length hair the color of wheat that was approaching his mid-back. I’d asked him to let it grow—I loved a man with long hair, and Herne wore it well. He had a five-o’clock shadow, the stubble making his jaw look even stronger, and his eyes were cornflower blue. He was wearing a pair of dark jeans and a leather jacket over a dark blue muscle shirt. His belt buckle—a silver stag—gleamed in the dim light from the sliver of moon overhead. I had given it to him on Valentine’s Day, and he wore it constantly now. He was wearing motorcycle boots, with chains and studs.

“According to the elemental, the spirits who have made their rest in the park are waking up. From what I gathered, given the images it showed me, these are mostly spirits of Native Americans who died on this land before any settlers came in, though there are also some of the settlers here, and a few people who’ve been murdered here. They’re all spirits who should have moved on, who should be long gone. As to what’s responsible for waking them up, I have no idea and neither did the water spirit.” I rubbed my chin, glancing around us.

The Seattle area had been inhabited for at least four thousand years, first by the earliest Coast Salish natives, and then, starting in the mid-1800s, by European settlers coming in. Plenty of people had lived and died in the area.

Herne regarded me gravely. “Typhon?”

I pressed my lips together, then let out a sigh. “Probably.”

“Reports are coming in from Mielikki’s Arrow, Odin’s Chase, and all the other agencies like ours. This is happening worldwide. Typhon may still be in the process of waking, but his reach is extending out to affect all areas of the world.” Herne sat down on a nearby boulder, frowning. “We knew this was coming.”

“I know.” I didn’t want to think about it, but we had to face the fact that we were running on borrowed time. It wouldn’t be long and the world would be a chaotic mess when the dead returned, in both spirit and physical form. And all we could do was wait, and take care of the collateral damage when it arose.

“Come here.” He held out his arms.

I sat on his knee, leaning against him as he wrapped his arms around me. He reached up to kiss my nose, the warmth of his breath stirring my blood. I moaned gently as his tongue slid between my lips, and he shifted, lifting me into his arms as he stood. He carried me over to a mossy bank beside the stream and lay me down, kneeling beside me.

“Jeans off,” he whispered.

I unbuckled my belt and unzipped, sliding my jeans down, along with my underwear. As I tugged them off over my boots, he whipped off his belt, then followed suit, his jeans down by his knees. He was facing me as I lay back on the grass, his eyes glowing in the darkness surrounding us. The fire rose inside me, and I pulled up my shirt and began to finger my nipples beneath the lace of my bra. Herne let out a wicked laugh and knelt between my thighs, his tongue searching for my center, bathing me lightly at first and then harder. I caught my breath and reached down to tangle my fingers in his hair.

He wrapped his hands around my hips, holding me firmly as the swirl of his tongue drove the fire higher. I moaned, wanting to feel him inside me, wanting him to drive the length of his shaft deep into my core.

“Fuck me,” I whispered, reaching down to pull him up.

Herne’s eyes glinted, shining as they began to glow. He let out a low grunt and grabbed hold of me, rolling so I was on top. I slid down on his shaft, dropping my head back as I braced myself against him, hand to hand. I laughed, feeling wanton and powerful, and as I began to ride him, he laughed again, lifting me up as he thrust to meet me.

I let go of his hands and he clasped my waist. “Touch yourself,” he ordered.

I reached down with one hand to slide my fingers across my clit, and with my other, I cupped my breast, shaking my hair out to stream down my back.

I rode him hard, and as the stars began to wheel overhead, I felt dizzy with our passion. With one swift move, he smoothly rolled me over, still inside me, and began to drive himself deep into me, his chest pressed against mine.

“You’re mine, love. You belong to me,” he said, his voice husky. His eyes were glowing fully now and he began to thrust in earnest, driving me hard against the soft moss below us. The scent of spring soil rose to greet us, mixed with the spray of the stream. The smell of wild roses surrounded us, heady and intoxicating. I closed my eyes, merging into the energy of the Hunt. Herne was everywhere around me, and the feel of the forest called to my blood, to my heritage.

I let go, spiraling into the web we wove between us. The magic of our sex built the world anew each time we came together. As we renewed our passion and our love, I could sense the journey stretching out ahead of us. It was still new, but I had set foot on a road from which I couldn’t turn away. I had made my decision, and nothing in the world would ever be the same.

“Ember, my love,” he whispered as he gave one final thrust and then stiffened, pinning me to the earth below. I let go even as he did, capitulating as the waves dragged me under. As I sank into the orgasm, the world expanded, the storm shaking me to the core. I burst into tears, overwhelmed, and pulled him tightly against me.

Herne rested his head on my breast, breathing hard as the ripples of our climax began to subside. After a moment, he raised his head, his hair tickling me as it trailed down to caress my skin. “Never leave me,” he whispered. “Stay with me, Ember. Please.”

I gazed deep into his eyes, and right there, right then, I realized that I had everything I wanted in my life. “I don’t plan on going anywhere,” I whispered back, kissing him on the nose. “I don’t think I could leave if I wanted to. You and I are too tightly bound for me to leave you. You’ve become a part of my life, a part of my world. A part of me.”

He kissed me again, and we rested in the shade of the forest as the stars continued to wheel overhead in the darkened sky.

***

On our way back to his house, I found my thoughts returning to the park. Even though I had been focused on sex, the moment we dressed I began to notice the energy that the elemental had warned us about. The forest felt uneasy, and though the magic from our union had calmed the immediate area, it didn’t take long for it to begin to feel agitated again.

“Can you feel it?” I asked.

Herne gave me a solemn nod. “Actually, yes. The forest is ill at ease. I’ll come out later and speak to the trees, see if they have anything to tell me.” He shook his head. “I fear we haven’t even begun to see the effects that Typhon will bring with him.”

Typhon was the Father of Dragons, a Titan who had been cast into stasis thousands of years ago, but now had managed to shake himself out of his slumber. And as he woke, the dead would follow him, returning from the spirit world to enter ours, for he was born of Tartarus—the god who meted out punishment to the dead.

We had been preparing for Typhon’s arrival for several months, ever since Cernunnos and Morgana had first warned us of his approach. While we at the Wild Hunt Agency couldn’t take him on, we were assigned to take care of collateral damage while the gods worked together to find a way to drive him back into stasis. So far, they didn’t have a clue on how to do that.

“Come, let’s get home before sunrise,” Herne said, stepping back from me. I shielded my eyes as he transformed into his stag self. The light was so bright that it almost blinded me. As he knelt for me again to straddle his back, I couldn’t help but wonder how many nights we would have left to run free in the woods and make love under the stars. How long before Typhon stretched out his wings to cover the light? And how much longer before our days—and our nights—were spent chasing down the dead?

But at least, Herne would be at my side, and for that, I was ever grateful.

***

My name is Ember Kearney, and I’m a tralaeth. That’s an ugly word that I’ve reclaimed. I’m half–Dark Fae and half–Light Fae, and according to the Fae Courts, never the twain should meet. But they did, in the forms of my father, who was Dark Fae, and my mother, who belonged to the Light Court. When I was fifteen, they were murdered for daring to love across borders, and as the product of their love, I was considered untouchable in the Fae Courts, a half-breed who shouldn’t exist. As far as I was concerned, they could all go fuck themselves. My parents’ families had been in on the double murder, and I had no use for any of them save for one uncle whom I had only recently met.

Until a year ago, I had set myself up as a freelance investigator/bounty hunter, but then life had intervened. In the space of twenty-four hours both I and my best friend, Angel, had gone from struggling to make our way in the world to being employed by Herne, who ran the Wild Hunt Agency. My official job was to help keep peace between the Fae Courts—or, at least, helping to contain the collateral damage, which seemed terribly ironic given my heritage.

But that job had expanded, and now in addition to keeping the ever-warring factions from offing innocent people with their petty sparring, we had branched out to facing the coming darkness. And somehow, within a very short time, Herne and I had been drawn together, and I was learning what it meant to be the consort of a god.

And to complicate matters, I was pledged to his mother Morgana, a goddess of the Fae and of the sea. And my father had been pledged to Herne’s father—Cernunnos. In the past year, I had seen things I never dreamed existed, and I had passed through the Cruharach—a ritual all members of Fae undergo as a rite of passage when they come of age.

A lot had changed in a single year, but even with the coming shadow, I wouldn’t alter anything that had happened. For the first time in my life I belonged to something bigger than myself. I had my own home, I had friends who formed an extended family, and I had found love. And all the darkness in the world couldn’t overshadow all of that.

***

I yawned and dragged myself under the shower. I didn’t like pulling all-nighters, but we had no other choice than to check out reports when they came in. It was seven a.m. and we needed to dress and head into work. After soaping all the grime off, I blasted myself with cold water and almost shrieked, but it shocked my system enough to drive the brain-fog away.

After toweling off and blow-drying my hair, which had grown noticeably longer over the past year, I dressed in a spare outfit I had left at Herne’s—a blue corset over black jeans. I fastened a silver belt around my waist and zipped up my stiletto ankle boots. I didn’t anticipate needing to go gallivanting around the forest today, and if the need did arise, I kept a spare pair of boots at work, one more suitable for tromping in the woods.

“Triple-shot mocha?” Herne asked as I entered the kitchen. While I showered and dressed, he had grilled ham and cheese sandwiches and was now pulling shots of espresso.

“Quint shot, please. I need more caffeine than that to make it through the day. All-nighters aren’t that easy, even for the Fae. We don’t all have the constitution of a god.” I stuck out my tongue at him.

He playfully returned the gesture. “Fine. Five shots. Seriously, though, if you need a nap, you can come in late.” He didn’t even look winded.

“No, that wouldn’t be fair to the others. I’ll manage, though I may grab a few winks this afternoon, if we’re not run ragged.” I paused, sniffing. I could still smell his musky scent from where I was standing. “Um, not to be indelicate, but don’t you need a shower before we go? I love your scent, but…”

“But I’m a little funky for the office?”

“I was going to use the word ‘rank’ but yeah, that works,” I said, grinning.

He laughed and handed me my drink. “You eat and I’ll have a quick rinse.” He headed for the bedroom.

I slid onto a tall stool at the kitchen island, taking a long sip of the iced mocha before devouring my breakfast. I was still hungry when I finished, so I poked through the cupboards and found a box of doughnuts. Herne kept plenty of snacks around for me. The gods didn’t need to eat nearly as much as the Fae or even humans, but he liked food and made sure his fridge was well stocked. I had finished my second one and was on my third when he re-entered the room, clean-shaven, tidy, and smelling like fresh rain.

“Yum, the new bath wash you bought does the trick.” I polished off the rest of the doughnut. “I left your sandwich alone.”

“How generous,” he said, catching me by the waist and pulling me in for a long kiss. He swatted my ass. “All right, love, let’s get this show on the road.”

As we gathered our things and headed out to the car, I paused, staring at the sky. It was a clear morning and the sun was shining, but there seemed to be a pall over the city. With a sinking feeling, I realized it wasn’t smog. It was an energetic cloud, hanging low and ponderous. I could sense when a storm was about to break, and right now, I could sense a dark one on the horizon. Suddenly pensive, I kept my thoughts to myself as we headed downtown.

COLLAPSE

Playlist for Sun Broken

Air: Moon Fever; Playground Love; Napalm Love
Airstream: Electra (Religion Cut)
Ben Howard: Esmerelda; Oats in the Water; To Be Alone; Burgh Island
The Black Angels: Currency; Hunt Me Down; Death March; Indigo Meadow; Don’t Play With Guns; Always Maybe; Black isn’t Black
Black Mountain: Queens Will Play; Buried by the Blues
Brandon & Derek Fiechter: Night Fairies; Toll Bridge; Will-O’-Wisps; Black Wolf’s Inn; Naiad River; Mushroom Woods
The Bravery: Believe
Broken Bells: The Ghost Inside
Camouflage Nights: (It Could Be) Love
Colin Foulke: Emergency
Crazy Town: Butterfly
Danny Cudd: Double D; Remind; Once Again; Timelessly Free; To The Mirage
David Bowie: Golden Years; I’m Afraid of Americas; Let’s Dance; Sister Midnight
Death Cab For Cutie: I Will Possess Your Heart
Dizzi: Dizzi Jig; Dance of the Unicorns; Galloping Horse
DJ Shah: Mellomaniac
Don Henley: Dirty Laundry; Sunset Grill; The Garden of Allah; Everybody Knows
Eastern Sun: Beautiful Being
Eels: Love of the Loveless; Souljacker Part 1
Eminem: I’m Back
Faun: Hymn to Pan; Punagra; Sieben
FC Kahuna: Hayling
The Feeling: Sewn
Flora Cash: You’re Somebody Else
Fluke: Absurd
Foo Fighters: The Pretender; Come Alive; All My Life
Foster The People: Pumped Up Kicks
Garbage: Queer; Only Happy When It Rains; #1Crush; Push It; I Think I’m Paranoid
Gary Numan: Dominion Day; Prophecy; Dead Heaven; Hybrid; Cars; Soul Protection; Confession; My World Storm; Dream Killer; Petals; Ghost Nation; My Name Is Ruin; Pray For The Pain You Serve; I Am Dust
Godsmack: Voodoo
The Gospel Whisky Runners: Muddy Waters
The Hang Drum Project: Shaken Oak; St. Chartier
Hang Massive: Omat Odat; Released Upon Inception; Thingless Things; Boat Ride; Transition to Dreams: End of Sky; Warmth of the Sun’s Rays; Luminous Emptiness
Hedningarna: Ukkonen
The Hu: The Gereg; Wolf Totem
Imagine Dragons: Natural
In Strict Confidence: Snow White; Tiefer
J Rokka: Marine Migration
Jessica Bates: The Hanging Tree
Low: Witches; Nightingale; After Hours; Plastic Cup; Half-Light
Many Rivers Ensemble: Blood Moon; Oasis; Upwelling; Emergence
Marconi Union: First Light; Alone Together; Flying (In Crimson Skies); Always Numb; Time Lapse; On Reflection; Broken Colours; We Travel; Weightless; Weightless Pt. 2; Weightless Pt. 3; Weightless Pt. 4; Weightless Pt. 5; Weightless Pt. 6
Matt Corby: Breathe
Nirvana: Lithium; About A Girl; Come As You Are; Lake of Fire; You Know You’re Right
Orgy: Social Enemies; Orgy
Pati Yang: All That is Thirst
Red Venom: Let’s Get It On
Rue du Soleil: We Can Fly; Le Francaise; Wake Up Brother; Blues Du Soleil
Screaming Trees: Where The Twain Shall Meet; All I  know
Shriekback: The Shining Path; Underwater Boys; Over the Wire; This Big Hush; Agony Box; Bollo Rex; Putting All The Lights Out; The Fire Has Brought Us Together; Shovelheads; And the Rain; Wiggle & Drone; Now These Days Are Gone; The King in the Tree
Spiderbait: Shazam!
Tamaryn: While You’re Sleeping, I’m Dreaming; Violet’s In A Pool
Thomas Newman: Dead Already
Tom Petty: Mary Jane’s Last Dance
Trills: Speak Loud
Tuatha Dea: Tuatha De Danaan
The Verve: Bitter Sweet Symphony
Vive la Void: Devil
Wendy Rule: Let the Wind Blow
Yoshi Flower: Brown Paper Bag

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