WITCHING MOON: An Ante-Fae Adventure
Book 12 in the Wild Hunt Series
Release date: June 2020

When you dance with Death, you have to be willing to roll the bones...

Still shaken from her run-in with the serial killer, Raven turns to a new and unlikely friend. But the Ante-Fae Trinity has dark secrets in his background, and he threatens to destabilize Raven and Kipa's relationship. When Trinity introduces Raven to a secret garden, it quickly becomes the place of nightmares. Will Raven’s recklessness endanger her friends as well as herself? Or will the Wolf Lord and Raven's dearest friends not only put the nightmare to rest, but also drag Raven back from the edge of the chasm?

Excerpt:

Chapter 1

Even though it was a few minutes past nine, the sun was just beginning to dip below the horizon. Dusk was spreading out over the city as the echo of birdsong played through the trees, jumping from swaying bough to swaying bough. The firs and cedars were thick in the cemetery, along with a massive yew tree, its multitude of trunks weaving together to form a thick foundation rising out of the ground. The spirit in the yew tree was ponderous and ancient, watching over not only the cemetery but the entire area. Its energy leached into many a house and hearth for miles around.

I stood near a mausoleum, staring at the spirit who was hovering in front of me. She had been dead for so very long, but now she had woken up from her slumber and was staring down at me, pissed out of her mind. I took a deep breath and stepped back.

“Go back to sleep, old mother. Return to your grave, Lenora Maureen.”

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My voice rang clear and sure, as I forced as much energy into the command as I could. I had the power to drive her back to the Phantom Kingdom. She couldn’t move on, not until she let go of her anger and accepted her death, but I should be able to break her hold on the material world and send her packing.

However, Lenora didn’t want to go. Instead of obeying me, she reared up, her misty form taking on substance. Crap. That’s the last thing I needed. Ghosts who could take on corporeal form were the hardest to deal with.

Old mother, back into your bed to slumber! Return to your grave.” I intensified my focus and as I did so, the opening in the fabric of the Veil became visible. I could see the rip that led to the Phantom Kingdom as clearly as I could see the mausoleum.

The Phantom Kingdom was the world in which all realms intersected, and it stood outside of time and space. There, spirits who hadn’t yet gone on to their rest or a new life wandered, looking for rips in the Veil so they could return to the world to which they were still so attached. The Phantom Kingdom also led to the Dreamtime, the spirit world, the astral realm, and other etheric altaverses. It was the universal realm that acted as a gateway to all other worlds, both physical and energetic.

I focused on the opening, softening my gaze. The rip didn’t look like a natural portal, but rather like it had been torn open. Over the past few months, more and more tears like this had occurred, and they were directly related to Typhon’s waking. He had not yet come into the physical realm, but he was awake and hiding out someplace in the Phantom Kingdom. As he spun out his plans, more breaches in the Veil were occurring. This was the fifth time I’d been called out by Herne and the Wild Hunt to drive angry ghosts back to the grave.

Feeling both irritated and exhausted, I resorted to one of the oldest tricks in the book. It was an old remedy, but effective. I opened my traveling bag o’ magic and sorted through it until I found what I was looking for. Goofer dust. A variant of the usual hoodoo blends, I had mixed it with the specific intent to drive ghosts back through the Veil. First, I had blended a mixture of graveyard dirt, ground black pepper, silver filings, asafetida, and powdered raven’s bones. Then I added clippings from my mother’s hair—which she had willingly given to me—and charmed the whole mixture in Circle, invoking Arawn’s energy into the cauldron.

Hand on my hip, I stared up at Lenora. She was rapidly taking form and it occurred to me that I’d better work fast, because by the look on her face, she was getting ready to dive-bomb me.

Frowning, I edged back a step as I tried to twist the lid off the jar of goofer dust. Apparently, that’s all the impetus Lenora needed. I went flying through the air and landed on my butt at the base of a fern. The goofer dust went rolling to the side as I landed on a sharp rock jutting out of the ground.

“Motherfucking…” I groaned as I eased my tailbone off the rock, but froze as the spirit came barreling toward me again, this time in the shape of a misty ramrod.

“Oh no you don’t!” I rolled to the side, grabbing up the jar of goofer dust. I came to a squatting position, keeping my eye on Lenora. The attack had disrupted her form, and she was now a scattered mist, but she was trying to gather herself together again—the mist was beginning to coalesce again.

Panting, I wrenched the lid off the goofer dust and waited for her to attack me again.

“Come on, bitch! You want a taste of me? Come on, try it again, I dare you!” I usually had respect for the dead, but not when they were trying to kill me. And with her attack, Lenora had crossed the line into my I don’t give a fuck category. I would do whatever needed to send her back to where she came from.

As the sun vanished below the horizon, Lenora took on an ethereal glow, shimmering in the twilight. She was eerily beautiful, like a memory caught in time, transparent and tragic. Her face was vaguely skeletal—she had lost the vestiges of the woman she had once been. Chances were, she hadn’t chosen to wake up. Chances were good that the Father of Dragons had been responsible for her waking. But even though it wasn’t her fault, she was here now, awake and angry, and I was her current target.

“Time to go back to the grave, Lenora.”

As she began to take form again, the mist thickening, fear rose in my throat. She’s just a spirit, I whispered to myself. You’ve tackled far harder jobs than this before.

But then, before Lenora could attack again, I caught a glimpse of my hands. I was wearing fingerless lace gloves, but they couldn’t hide my memories. My nails were shiny and new, they had grown in quickly, but there were scars all over my fingertips. I stared at them, feeling dizzy, and then…

***

I was staring up at Pandora, chained to a metal table in a cavern, and nobody knew where I was. The blonde who had been so friendly to me at Fire & Fang was now leaning over me, gently stroking my face. But there were stars in her eyes and she swayed as I watched, the look on her face terrifying and cruel.

“I’m afraid this is going to hurt you a lot more than it does me, darling,” she said, her smile turning feral. She held up a wicked pair of pliers. “We’ll start easy, how about that? Now, buck up. I know you can handle this, lovely one. You’re one of the Ante-Fae. You can handle far more than you think you can. I promise you that.”

I tried to speak, but my tongue felt like cotton. She had charmed me so I couldn’t say a word. I could scream, but I couldn’t form words.

I struggled to speak, but I could barely open my lips. Frustrated, I let out a faint noise, the sound ripping out from my throat.

“Oh, love, don’t thank me.” A sneer replaced the smile. “Trust me, by the time I’m done with you, you’ll curse me, you’ll hate me, you’ll fear me, and with every scream and every tear you shed, I’ll feast on your sorrow. You’ll never, ever forget me. I’ll live in your dreams and your nightmares.” She raised the pliers and moved away from my face, turning her attention to my left hand.

I felt her take my fingers, but couldn’t see what she was doing. She had me shackled to the table, and the iron cuffs chafed at my wrists. Thank the gods I was Ante-Fae and not Fae or my skin would be blistered and burned by now. As it was, the iron would take its toll but it would take longer to do so.

As she held my index finger, I stiffened, realizing what she was going to do. I shifted, fighting against the restraints, but to no use. The cuffs were rock solid.

“Don’t worry, this won’t take any time at all,” Pandora said.

I tensed as I felt cold metal touch the tip of my finger. And then, the next moment, she laughed as a blistering pain registered through my finger. Before I could scream, she moved onto the next finger and by the time the screams ripped out of my throat, she was on the third. My voice echoed against the ceiling, ricocheting off the walls.

Pandora laughed and moved up to gaze in my face. “Delicious. You’re absolutely delicious.” She licked her lips, looking lascivious and wanton. As the fire spread through my hand and into my body, she returned to my side and took hold of the fourth finger.

Once again, the flames roiled inside…

***

Lenora cackled as she body-slammed me to the ground and I shook out of my memories. I rolled up, crouching low as I finally yanked the cap off the goofer dust. As the ghost launched another attack, I poured a mound of the dust in my hand and tossed it at her.

The dust hit her square in her face and confusion spread over her face as she went reeling back through the rip in the Veil. I held my hand up to the rip, focusing on smoothing it shut, and the tear sealed back together.

Lenora was back where she belonged. At least, for now.

I sat down on the grass, staring at the graveyard around me. It was quiet now, and although I could see a few spirits wandering the grounds, none of them seemed out of place or intent on causing trouble. I leaned back, bringing my knees to my chest. I wrapped my arms around my knees as the sound of birdsong echoed around me. As dusk settled, I gazed up at the emerging stars and began to cry. Around me, the spirits passed by, giving me muted looks of sorrow from their shadowy realm.

***

“I’m home,” I said, opening the door. I had texted ahead. Kipa was constantly nagging me to let him know where I was and that I was all right. While I understood why, the truth was—his constant need for reassurance was beginning to bother me.

Raj came lumbering up to rub against my legs. While I had always loved him, lately we had grown closer. He kept an eye on my moods and it was as though he could sense I was lost in my thoughts again, trapped in my memories.

“Raven looks sad,” Raj said. He stared up at me, his eyes wide and welcoming. “Is Raven in the bad place again?”

That was Raj’s way of asking if I had slipped into another flashback. Ever since Pandora had kidnapped me, I found myself slipping into fugues, reliving the things she had done to me. And if Ember and Trinity hadn’t come to my rescue, I’d be dead by now. I was all too aware of that fact. I prided myself on my ability to take care of myself. We Ante-Fae were hard to kill, but when a goddess took it into her mind to turn sadist, there wasn’t much that mortals could do to stop her. And I had been reminded all too violently of my mortality.

“Raven’s all right, Raj. Raven’s home now.” I knelt down and wrapped my arms around his neck, kissing him on the head. “How’s Raj doing?”

Ignoring my question, Raj said, “Kipa misses Raven. Raven spend time with Kipa?” He gave me those big brown puppy-dog eyes that only gargoyles, cats, and dogs could muster.

I bit my lip, feeling torn.

Kipa had been nothing but wonderful since I had come home from the Healing Center in Annwn. But as much as I appreciated Kipa’s protection, I chafed against it. Part of me wanted to retreat inside his arms, to beg him to go with me every time I left the house, just in case that psycho bitch was still gunning for me. But another part of me wanted to fight back, to prove that she wasn’t ruling my life now.

I pressed my lips together, stroking the leather hide of Raj’s back. He looked so worried that I finally smiled and nodded. “Yes, Raven will spend time with Kipa. Raven loves Raj.”

“Raj knows Raven loves him. Does Raven love Kipa?”

Kipa and I were still dancing around those words, though I had the feeling he really did love me. But neither one of us approached the thought easily, and neither one of us took the declaration lightly. So the words remained unspoken, and I figured that—if they came—they would come in their own time. However, when it came to Raj, there was a fine line between love and like. He looked so anxious that I just nodded.

“Yes, Raven loves Kipa.” And it was true, if I let myself admit it.

Satisfied, Raj wandered back to the living room where he fired up the television. The lively sounds of Acrobert and the Alphas blared out, breaking the silence. I leaned back against the door, took a deep breath to steady myself, and then plastered a smile on my face and headed toward the living room where Kipa was waiting with Raj. He glanced up, his eyes lighting up.

“I’m glad you’re home. Did you scare away the ghost?”

“She’s back in the Phantom Kingdom, but it wasn’t easy.” I shrugged off the light jacket I was wearing and hung it on the coatrack. “I swear, there has to be a better way to deal with the situation. The gods are no closer to having an answer than they were last month, and things are getting very real, very fast.”

Kipa scooted over on the sofa and patted the cushion beside him. “The gods are doing everything they can, but as long as Typhon’s hiding out in the Phantom Kingdom, there isn’t much we can do. To be honest, none of us know how to drive him back into stasis. There’s a lot of talk and bluster, but not much to act on. Did you have any trouble tonight?”

“No, it was all pretty standard.” I didn’t want to tell him about the flashback. I was tired of having flashbacks, and I felt like I should be over them by now. Also, if I told him, he’d start to panic and then he’d try to make things better and we’d only end up in an argument.

“Is there any spaghetti left? I’m still hungry.” Instead of sitting beside him, I headed toward the kitchen. I saw his smile fall away before I left the room.

He followed me into the kitchen, leaning on the counter as I rummaged through the refrigerator and found the cold spaghetti, neatly packed away inside of a plastic tub. Kipa had certainly gotten better at cooking over the past month or so, and he had also taught himself how to clean up after I had laid into him about leaving a sink full of dishes for me to do. I knew he was trying, and I wished I didn’t feel so prickly.

“You want me to heat that up?” He moved to get a plate, but I shook my head.

“I like cold spaghetti. I’ll just eat out of the container.” I grabbed a fork before he could get it for me, and skirted him as I headed toward the table. He caught me around the waist though, pulling me in for a kiss. I stiffened, but let him kiss me on the cheek, then quickly disentangled myself and headed for the dining room.

“Do you want me to stay over tonight?” He followed me, but didn’t sit down. Instead, he stood behind one of the chairs, leaning on the back of it. He was gorgeous, and he cared, and I hated that I really didn’t want to be around him right now. I felt horrible because he was so good-hearted, but that was also why I didn’t want him around right now. I was snapping at anybody over every little thing, and I didn’t want to make him a target.

“No. Go ahead, I’m sure you must have things to do. It’s so late that I think I’m just going to eat dinner and crash for the night.” We had only had sex two or three times since I had escaped Pandora’s lair. When anybody held me too tightly, even for a hug, I began to panic.

His shoulders slumping, Kipa let out an exhausted sigh. “Fine. I do have some errands to run.” He paused, glancing at me.

I could feel the hesitation there and finally set down my fork. “I know you want to say something. I can tell. Please, just be honest.”

“Do you even want me around? I’ve tried to give you space, I’ve tried to help. I don’t know what to do anymore. I don’t know if you want me here, or if you just want me to leave. I’m never certain that you mean what you say nowadays. I don’t know if you even still like me.” The broken notes in his voice almost broke my heart.

Tears flecking my eyelashes, I turned to him. “I don’t know what to say. I do care about you, more than you can possibly imagine. But I’m not coping very well with the aftermath of all this. I don’t like being touched. Every time somebody hugs me, I feel like I’m trapped. I wake up in a panic if the blankets are too tight. I’ve…” I paused. I hadn’t told him about the flashbacks yet.

“What? You’re not telling me something.”

“Kipa, I’ve been having flashbacks—I had one tonight while I was fighting that ghost and it gave her the chance to knock me over. I’m afraid every time I go out. I know I should be stronger than this. Hell, what she did to me hurt, but it wasn’t as bad as what she did to the others. And I survived. I’m one of the Ante-Fae. I’m supposed to be strong. I’m supposed to be able to cope with things like this.” I stared down at my spaghetti, not wanting to see the look of disappointment on his face.

Kipa pulled the chair out and slid into the seat. He didn’t reach for my hand, but his voice was soft. “Raven, you may be one of the Ante-Fae, but you’re still young. And you’ve never had to face anything like that before. Pandora didn’t get as far with you as she did her other victims, but she was headed there. You have a right to be terrified. Neither I—nor anybody else—expects you to come through this without help. If you think that I expect you to just pretend it didn’t happen, or be some strong silent heroine, you’re totally wrong. I do want to be here for you. And I’m okay with not having sex right now. I’m okay with you not feeling capable of cuddling or hugging right now. What I’m not okay with is you keeping all of these emotions bottled up.”

I hung my head. “Great. I feel guiltier than ever. No, really, you are being so good about this, and I feel like I’ve just turned into a total bitch.”

“I wish you would talk to someone. I wish you would talk to Ferosyn. You have PTSD, and don’t you even try to deny it. He could help.”

It felt like I could barely breathe. I wanted to say yes. I wanted to ask for help. The trouble was, I wasn’t quite ready. I felt like I was trapped in some horrible dream and every time I turned, there was something to remind me of that night. Whether it was the new teeth growing in my jaw where she had ripped out all my molars, or whether it was looking at the shiny new nails on my nail beds, or whether it was catching a glimpse of the scars on my body when I looked at myself naked in the mirror, Pandora was everywhere in my reality. Her reminders were everywhere on my body. It didn’t help that she was still alive, either. The gods were immortal, and I felt like I’d never be free of wondering if she was still out there somewhere, waiting to come after me again.

“I wish I could, too. I wish it was simply a matter of me saying yes, I want help. I just don’t think I can talk about it yet, to anybody. Any therapist is going to want me to relive it, and I don’t think I’m ready to go through it again.”

“Raven, you’re facing it every day,” Kipa said. “You’re coping with this alone, locked in your heart. Nobody can handle memories like yours without a little help.” He paused, then let out another sigh and stood. “I’m here when you need me. I’ll spend the night at my place, but if you call, I’ll come running. You don’t have to say anything, you don’t have to do anything except just say the word—just one word—and I’ll be here. Meanwhile, I’ll give you some space.”

“I’m sorry,” I said, tearing up. “I’m so sorry.”

“You have nothing to be sorry for.” Kipa slipped on his leather jacket, and headed for the door. Pausing, he looked back over his shoulder. “I’m not letting you push me away. I know that’s not what you want, and I know you’re trying to protect me from your moods. Trust me, I can handle far more than you think, and I’ve seen far worse. I’m here when you need me.” And with that, he patted Raj on the head and took off out the door.

I pushed back the container of spaghetti, trying to steady my breath. I wanted to cry. I wanted to scream. I wanted to break things and throw things. It was like I had an inner spring that was coiled so tightly that it was ready to break. Finally, I managed to calm down. I stared at the table until I could breathe again, then began eating again.

COLLAPSE

Playlist for Witching Moon

Air: Moon Fever; Playground Love; Napalm Love
Airstream: Electra (Religion Cut)
Alexandros: Milk (Bleach Version); Mosquito Bite
Alice in Chains: Sunshine; Man in the Box; Bleed the Freak
Android Lust: Here & Now; Saint Over
Band of Skulls: I Know What I Am
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
Blind Melon: No Rain
Boom! Bap! Pow!: Suit
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: Emergence
Crazy Town: Butterfly
Danny Cudd: Double D; Remind; Once Again; Timelessly Free; To The Mirage
David Bowie: Golden Years; Let’s Dance; Sister Midnight; I’m Afraid of Americans; Jean Jeanie
Death Cab For Cutie: I Will Possess Your Heart
Dizzi: Dizzi Jig; Dance of the Unicorns
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
Elektrisk Gonnar: Uknowhatiwant
FC Kahuna: Hayling
The Feeling: Sewn
Filter: Hey Man Nice Shot
Finger Eleven: Paralyzer
Flora Cash: You’re Somebody Else
Fluke: Absurd
Foster The People: Pumped Up Kicks
Garbage: Queer; Only Happy When It Rains; #1Crush; Push It; I Think I’m Paranoid
Gary Numan: Hybrid; Cars; 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
The Hu: The Gereg; Wolf Totem
Imagine Dragons: Natural
In Strict Confidence: Snow White; Tiefer; Silver Bullets; Forbidden Fruit
J Rokka: Marine Migration
Jessica Bates: The Hanging Tree
Korn: Freak on a Leash; Make Me Bad
Lorde: Yellow Flicker Beat; Royals
Low: Witches; Nightingale; Plastic Cup; Monkey; Half-Light
M.I.A.: Bad Girls
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
Marilyn Manson: Arma-Goddamn-Motherfucking-Geddon
Matt Corby: Breathe
NIN: Closer; Head Like A Hole; Terrible Lie; Sin (Long); Deep
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
Puddle of Mudd: Famous; Psycho
Red Venom: Let’s Get It On
Rob Zombie: American Witch; Living Dead Girl; Never Gonna Stop
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: 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
The Verve: Bitter Sweet Symphony
Vive la Void: Devil
Wendy Rule: Let the Wind Blow
Yoshi Flower: Brown Paper Bag

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Witching Moon