Everything is in turmoil as Herne and Ember struggle to keep up with the collateral damage caused by the war against Typhon. The Dragonni have risen up and panic runs rampant. And now, an old enemy reappears--stronger and more dangerous than before. Once again, the Hippocampi call for the Wild Hunt's help when Straff, the son of Blackthorn, returns to his old haunts. Herne and Ember concoct a desperate plan to stop the psychotic Ante-Fae, but thanks to a miscommunication, Ember finds herself in the hands of the enemy. It's a race against time as the Wild Hunt tries to rescue Ember before the King of Thorns takes out his revenge on her.

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Book Cover: Blood Dreams
Part of the Blood Queen series:

THE BLOOD QUEEN SERIES IS BEING DELAYED TILL NEXT YEAR AND PREORDERS HAVE BEEN CANCELLED. IF YOU PREORDERED THE BOOKS YOU WILL NOT BE CHARGED FOR THEM.

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Blood Ashes cover
Part of the Blood Queen series:

THE BLOOD QUEEN SERIES IS BEING DELAYED TILL NEXT YEAR AND PREORDERS HAVE BEEN CANCELLED. IF YOU PREORDERED THE BOOKS YOU WILL NOT BE CHARGED FOR THEM.

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Blood Roses Cover
Part of the Blood Queen series:

THE BLOOD QUEEN SERIES IS BEING DELAYED TILL NEXT YEAR AND PREORDERS HAVE BEEN CANCELLED. IF YOU PREORDERED THE BOOKS YOU WILL NOT BE CHARGED FOR THEM.

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An Ante-Fae Adventure

Witching Time: An Ante-Fae Adventure
Book 14 in the Wild Hunt Series
Release date: October 2020

It’s Mabon, and Llewellyn’s friends—Marigold and Rain—are running a harvest festival on their farm. Llewellyn and Raven open a vendor’s booth to join in the fun. But Raven soon discovers the farm has a deadly past. When she encounters the spirit of a teenaged girl who was thought to have been a runaway, she quickly discovers the girl was killed.

As she attempts to prove the girl was the victim of a deadly ritual gone awry, a series of terrifying paranormal events begins to occur. Raven soon realizes that the spirit of the killer is still lurking on the land, and the race is on. Raven must prove that the girl was murdered before the killer’s ghost strikes again, because he’s willing to sacrifice anyone and anything who threatens to reveal the secrets of his past.

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
8. Witching Bones
9. A Sacred Magic
10. The Eternal Return
11. Sun Broken
12. Witching Moon
13. Autumn's Bane
14. Witching Time
15. Hunter's Moon (forthcoming)

Excerpt:

Chapter 1

I stared at Kipa. “Why do you have a box of cigars? You don’t smoke.”

He was holding a box of cigars in one hand and a box of chocolates in the other, looking all too wide-eyed. The past couple of days he had been too bristly for comfort, and I wondered what was going on. Right now, he just looked uncomfortable.

“I thought your father might like them. If he doesn’t, I can always give him the chocolates.” If he had been wearing a dress shirt, I swear, he would have been tugging on the collar by now. As it was, he was wearing a dark green V-neck sweater, a pair of tan cargo pants with a leather belt, and a pair of Fluevog ankle boots with a harness strap on them. They were very rock ‘n roll, and fit his style perfectly. His hair, a deep brown, was brushed, but hanging loose to mid-back, and he had trimmed his beard and mustache. He was gorgeous no matter what he wore, but today he had really spiffed himself up.

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His eyes were shining, as brown as my own, and it dawned on me that he was trying to present a good appearance for when my father arrived. I let out a soft sigh. “Dude, thank you. I know what you’re doing and I wish you’d stop worrying. Curikan’s going to love you.”

“In my experience, very few fathers want to meet the man who’s fucking their daughter.” Kipa laughed nervously and set the cigars and the chocolates on the table. “Seriously, I know I shouldn’t be nervous, but I am. What if he doesn’t like me? What if he wants you to stop seeing me?”

I tried not to roll my eyes. We had played out this scene every single day the past week. It had never occurred to me that Kipa might actually have insecurities, but they had been presenting themselves loud and clear ever since my father called to say he would arrive shortly after the equinox.

“Kipa, I’m young for my people, but I’m still an adult. I see who I want to see. And trust me, if either one of my parents was going to hate you, it would have been Phasmoria. My mother’s far harder to win over than my father, and she thinks the world of you.” I leaned up on my toes to give him a kiss. The metal hoops of his dolphin-bite piercing were cool against my lower lip, but his embrace was warm and I wanted to scramble into his arms and rub myself against him. Kipa had that effect on me.

My recent time spent in therapy had helped immensely and I almost felt back to my old self, and that included my libido. “You want to do me before he gets here?” Even though we’d had sex the night before, I was more than ready to go again.

Kipa pressed closer to me, kissing me on the nose. “I want to do you all the time. If we could be in bed twenty-four/seven, I’d be happy about it. But I’m afraid that’s not going to happen because I promised Herne I’d show up at the Wild Hunt this morning. He’s got news from the Spiral Web about Gyell and the white-dragon twins.”

The Spiral Web was a secret organization of dragon shifters who were on our side, intent on helping us take down Typhon, the Father of Dragons, and the Luminous Warriors—the dragons who followed him.

That took the oomph out of my sails. Reluctantly, I gave him another kiss.

“Well, that puts a crimp in things, but I understand. Go and be careful.” That phrase—Go and be careful—had become a running refrain between us. We were facing a deadly enemy and everyone at the Wild Hunt Agency had a target on their back. As did I.

“I promise. Remember to lock the door, set the wards, and wand your car if you go out,” Kipa said, stretching and yawning.

“I’ll be going out. I’m reading cards down at the Sun and Moon Apothecary this morning, then I need to shop for groceries, so yeah, I’ll remember.”

Because of the dangers we were facing, Yutani—a coyote shifter from the Wild Hunt—had created wands for everybody at the agency that could detect bugs, bombs, and other such devices. He had made one for me, too, since I worked with them on occasion. When we ran them up one side of the car and down the other, they would emit a high-pitched beep if there was something amiss. The wands weren’t a guarantee of safety, but they could still catch a wide variety of monitoring and explosive devices.

Kipa shrugged into his leather jacket as I walked over to the sliding glass doors leading out into the side yard, off the kitchen. It was raining out, the clouds crowding thickly over the Puget Sound area. The leaves were still covering the boughs but they were in mid-change, turning brilliant shades of copper and rust and yellow as the autumn days began to deepen. While they weren’t ready to go spiraling off the trees, summer was definitely long gone.

As I opened the sliding door, letting fresh air filter in, I noticed a tang to the morning—that chill that foretold nights filled with woodsmoke and the heady scent of petrichor. This was the first hard rain of the season, and from now on, sunny days would be few and far between.

“I think the season’s going to be rainier than usual,” I said, staring at the downpour.

“I think you’re right,” Kipa said, coming up behind me to wrap his arm around my shoulders. “How are you doing, love?”

“I’m better,” I said, leaning back against his chest. “Sejun has managed to remove most of the triggering emotions. The memories I can deal with, as long as the emotional triggers aren’t there. But I tell you this. If I ever see Pandora again, I will do as much damage to that bitch as I can. I may not be able to kill her, but she’ll never put her hands on me again.”

Pandora, the daughter of Zeus, had kidnapped and tortured me. With the help of an Elven counselor—Sejun—I had come to terms with the memories and I actually felt stronger than before. He had helped me turn the panic into determination. Add to that, I wasn’t nearly as naïve as I had been a few months back, and I felt more capable of facing the world. But I was holding a long, dark grudge against Pandora. One day I wanted to meet her on the battlefield and best her. I wanted her to think twice before ever again trying her tricks on another person.

“I know, love. That’s why the extra wards—she’s still out there. I know. And so are Gyell, Aso, and Variance.”

The latter three were dragons determined to bring down the Wild Hunt agency. But all four of them, including Pandora, weren’t as frightening as the force behind them.

Typhon, the Father of Dragons, had set his sights on enslaving the world, on turning it into a dragon free-for-all buffet. Which was why Kipa and I were helping at the Wild Hunt—they were on the frontlines of this battle. The gods were tackling Typhon, who was a Titan, and Herne’s agency was out to stop his emissaries.

I glanced up at Kipa. “I think it’s going to be a cold and dangerous winter.”

“I agree,” he murmured softly. “But we’re together, and that’s what matters.” And once again, the Lord of the Wolves turned me to face him and pressed his lips against mine.

***

After Kipa left, I wandered into the kitchen to rinse our breakfast dishes and put them in the dishwasher. Raj joined me. A gargoyle, he was my best friend, and I took care of his every need. He was about the size of a large rottweiler, with leathery gray skin and puppy-dog eyes. His wings had been cut off by a demon when he was a baby, and I had managed to rescue him via a winning hand in a poker game. I’d paid a powerful witch to wipe Raj’s memory so he wouldn’t remember the pain the demon had inflicted on him. He had lived with me ever since.

“Raven seems quiet today. Is Raven okay?” Raj asked. He walked on his back feet and his front knuckles, a lot like an orangutan. Now, he sat down on his haunches, leaning forward with his hands against the floor.

“Raven’s fine, Raj. Raven is good. She’s just thinking about the autumn.” I tried not to worry Raj. I wanted him to have as carefree a life as he could.

Gargoyles were intelligent, but their intelligence came through in a different way than human or Fae, or—like me—Ante-Fae. They seemed childlike because they perceived the world in a vastly different way.

“Autumn’s fun. Raj likes to go chasing leaves.” He looked glum. “It’s raining. Will Raven still take Raj for a walk later?”

I winced. “Raven’s sorry, Raj. She needs to stop at Llew’s shop and then go grocery shopping. But when she gets home, she’ll bake chocolate chip bars! How about tomorrow?”

Raj thought for a moment, then nodded. “Raj can wait. Raj will watch Acrobert and the Alphas.” He paused. “Raven’s father comes tonight, right?”

“That’s right,” I said.

Sometimes it was hard to describe family relationships to gargoyles. In the wild, they lived in extended family units and sometimes they never knew who their birth parents were. Everyone within each generation was considered a mother, father, sister, or brother. I wasn’t sure how the dynamics worked, but I had been doing some research on the subject and it seemed to be the norm among the various gargoyle clans.

I paused, turning to kneel by him. “Would Raj like some potato chips while he watches his show?”

Raj nodded, his eyes practically glowing. “Raven usually won’t let Raj eat potato chips this early!”

“It’s a special day,” I said, pulling a bag of chips out of the cupboard and shaking out a small bowl of them. “Just wipe the crumbs off if you spill any.” I carried the bowl to the sofa, waiting till Raj got himself situated with the remote. Handing him the bowl, I returned to the kitchen, relieved to hear the television blaring. I had a lot on my mind and really didn’t feel like trying to talk to Raj while I worked.

I took a last look through the fridge and cupboards, jotting down what we were low on, then set the dishwasher to run while I was out. Heading to my bedroom, I stopped to peek in on the ferrets. I had already fed them and changed their bedding, and now they were tuckered out, asleep in their cages. They had several active play sessions a day between which they were out like a light. Finally, I slipped out of my robe and shimmied into black transparent tights. I dressed in a black full skirt, a black mesh turtleneck, and a purple underbust corset. Sitting on the bed, I pulled on a pair of ankle boots covered with buckles and hardware. It wasn’t terribly chilly, but I added a black and plum bolero jacket. I brushed my hair again—I already had my makeup on—and grabbed my purse.

Raj was fully engrossed in his show, so I kissed him on the forehead, made certain all the wards and the alarm system were set, grabbed the wand that Yutani had given me, and took off for my car.

***

The Sun & Moon Apothecary was owned by my friend Llewellyn Roberts, one of the magic-born. He was a fairly powerful witch, married to Jordan Roberts, a tiger shifter who owned the coffee shop right next door—A Taste of Latte. I stopped there first, and ordered a triple-shot caramel mocha with extra whipped cream, then made my way through the bustling streets over to the magic shop.

Herne had helped the United Coalition—the government council—to hold a press conference, warning the nation about the dragons. It had been a move nobody wanted to take, given the possible panic that might ensue. But when the shadow dragons preceding their father’s return had spread out, bringing the dead back to life to attack the living, warning the public had become a necessity. Typhon’s father was Tartarus—the Titan who ruled in the Underworld—and so Typhon and the shadow dragons were keenly in tune with the world of the dead.

I didn’t think any of the other dragons could bring the dead back. Some were in league with Typhon, while others were on our side. When push finally came to shove, nobody on this planet would be able to ignore the fireworks. Dragons weren’t subtle.

I darted into Llew’s shop just as a deluge of rain drenched everyone who was caught outside. The raindrops pounded down, beating a rhythm on the sidewalk. I paused in the door as the wind picked up, driving the rain sideways.

“Boy, if this is the first rain of the season, I dread thinking what it will be like when we’re into the thick of autumn,” I said, hustling over to my table by the window. I set down my cup and then shrugged out of the jacket. Shivering, I scooted over to one of the heating vents on the floor and stood directly over the heat that radiated up.

“Hey, Raven,” Llew said from behind the counter. He had a perplexed look on his face. “What should I take to the farm this weekend? What do you think would sell best at the fair?”

Llewellyn had booked a booth at his friends’ harvest fair that weekend, and I was going along to read the cards. Llew and I had agreed to a twenty-eighty split on my readings, and that was fine with me.

Rain and Marigold Childs, who owned Dream Circle Farms, were a human pagan couple who lived on the outskirts of Woodinville. Rain had taken Marigold’s last name when they married, even though people kept making jokes about how she was a “rain child.”

They sold eggs, flowers, jams, jellies, and honey that they harvested off their farm, and in the autumn, they sold pumpkins and corn during their harvest fair. Come November, they shifted focus and sold vendor spots to local artisans for the winter holidays.

“Potpourri for the autumn, cinnamon sticks, pumpkin pie spice, garlic braids for magical protection. Actually, any protection oils and charms you take will probably fly off the table given everybody knows about the dragons. I’m surprised there hasn’t been more panic.”

Shortly after the announcement there had been an initial surge in hoarding, but people seemed to have gotten comfortable again, and while visits to graveyards were limited to certain hours during which the cemeteries had protection, the majority of people didn’t seem to have made any adjustments to their lives.

“Good idea. I’ll pack up everything for protection and cleansing that I have.”

Llew was a handsome man, lean and lanky with a perpetual smile. His hair was silken smooth, braided back to keep it out of his way. He had grown out his goatee into a neatly trimmed beard and mustache and was wearing a pair of purple jeans, an autumn-leaf print shirt, and a pair of sneakers. He was eclectic, for sure. He was also one of the best friends I had.

“You might want to take some autumn-themed candles,” I added. “You know, spiritual visitation, venerating the ancestors, house cleansing, that sort of thing.”

“I’ll add those into the mix, along with some orange, yellow, and green tapers.” He glanced over at me. “You have two clients this morning, but I kept this afternoon free as you asked.”

I read the cards at Llew’s shop a couple days a week and I had a steady clientele. I was accurate and to the point, and I took the time to help my clients decipher how the readings fit into their lives. It led to repeat customers, which was always a bonus.

My first client was a young woman who wanted to know how her freshman year in college was going to go. The cards predicted she would be a big hit with the geek crowd and ace her studies, and she seemed satisfied by the time we finished.

The second client was a regular, and he asked the same question he always asked. I was running out of advice to give him. I was also running out of patience.

Gary was a nervous man who lived alone. In his mid-thirties, he was a homebody and afraid to put himself out there. His idea of a wild time was to have a beer with his pizza. He also worked the night shift as a security guard in a big office building. In other words, the dude barely knew anybody, worked a cockeyed schedule, and desperately wanted to meet a nice woman with whom he could settle down.

The cards told me pretty much what I could have surmised on my own: If he didn’t get his ass out in public, he wasn’t going to meet anybody. But the thought of going to a bar made him cringe, and when I suggested he join a group that pertained to his side interests, which were birdwatching, reading, and toy poodles, he kept making excuse after excuse as to why it wouldn’t work.

“Gary, you’re never going to meet anyone if you lock yourself in your house all day. The universe doesn’t just toss women like Mardi Gras beads.” I shuffled the cards and put them aside. The reading had said the same thing the last three readings did.

“But why won’t the cards tell me what to do?”

“They have. Three times in a row. They’re telling you the same thing each time because you haven’t got the message through your head yet. I don’t have a different answer for you because there isn’t one.”

He stared at the table, a glum expression on his face. “But I don’t like going out.”

“Do you want to find a date?” I leaned back and folded my arms across my chest. “Either you get your ass out of your house or you sign up for an online dating service and go out with someone the computer matches you with. Hey, that might be the ticket. Why not give it a try?”

He frowned. “What if we don’t get along? What if we have nothing in common? What if I just don’t like her—or she doesn’t like me?”

He was starting to spiral. “Gary, listen to me. Focus.” I held his gaze. “If you don’t like her, you don’t have to go out with her again. If she doesn’t like you, she’ll just refuse a second date. What can you lose, except one evening?” I stared at him, waiting.

Fidgeting, he finally looked me in the eye. “All right. But I’m afraid.”

“Of what?” I was getting irritated. I had cut off clients before when they kept coming back, wanting a different answer without doing the actual work.

He shifted in his seat and finally leaned across the table and whispered, “I’ve only gone out with three women in my life. I’m just…” He blushed and stared at the table.

I reached across the table and patted his hand. “You’re shy. There’s no crime in that. A lot of people are. But you have a lot of wonderful qualities, Gary. You’re smart, you have a good job, you actually want a relationship instead of just somebody to fu—” As he blushed even deeper I quickly shifted to, “sleep with.”

“Thanks, Raven. I suppose you’re right. Unless I put myself out there, how am I ever going to find someone? I’m just not sure what to do.”

I thought quickly. “Let’s get Llew involved. He’ll set you up with a spell to meet someone who’s right for you.”

As the blush on Gary’s cheeks faded, he gave me a genuine smile.

I motioned to Llew. “Gary needs a love spell to attract a good match for him. Could you get him set up with something? I’ve got to run. My father’s coming in tonight and I have to go grocery shopping and get home before he meets Kipa without me.”

While I was certain my father was going to like Kipa, I had a sudden vision of my boyfriend stumbling over his words and blurting out something the wrong way. If I was there, I could smooth the introductions.

Llew motioned for Gary to follow him. “Come on, let’s go get you situated. Have you ever done any magic at all?”

Gary shook his head as Llew led him over to the counter. Feeling a little guilty about foisting Gary off on Llew, I gathered my things and slung my purse over my shoulder. Dropping my cup in the recycling can that Llew kept in the shop, I glanced outside. The rain was still thrashing the streets. No matter what, I was going to get soaked on my way back to my car.

Steeling myself, I pushed open the door and made a run for it.

COLLAPSE

Playlist for Witching Time

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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Book 13 in the Wild Hunt Series
Release date: August 2020

The Father of Dragons has returned to the world and all hell is breaking loose. A group of vrykos is running loose, threatening to spread plague through Seattle. A shadow dragon has his sights set on destroying the Wild Hunt. And in the midst of the chaos, Ember’s facing a major decision brought on by a twist in her status with the Queen of Dark Fae.

But when the shadow dragon attacks her friend Viktor and drags the half-ogre into the world of the dead, Ember must set aside her personal drama and journey to the Phantom Kingdom to rescue him. Will she be able to save Viktor before it’s too late? Or will she lose her own soul to the armies of the dead?

 

Excerpt:

Chapter 1

The afternoon sun splashed through the windows overlooking the alleyway, the blinding glare so bright that I squinted, tilting the blinds to block out the light. I was in the break room, foraging through the refrigerator, looking for lunch. I had forgotten to bring anything, and Angel was away from her desk so she hadn’t remembered to order in. I finally chose a frozen fried chicken dinner and popped it in the microwave, turning as Viktor entered the room.

“She said yes!” He bounced into the break room, rattling the floorboards like a troupe of dancers on a rickety stage. “She said yes, she said yes, she said—”

“Let me guess,” I interrupted, grinning. “She said yes!”

The half-ogre nodded, beaming. “I can’t believe I’m getting married!” He looked around. “Where is everybody?”

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The break room was empty except for me, surprising given it was one p.m. on Friday afternoon. We normally all ate lunch together, but today was different.

“Herne’s in his office, talking to the mayor. Angel’s downstairs at urgent care.”

“Urgent care? Is she all right?” Viktor’s smile slid off his face.

I hurried to reassure him. “She’s fine, or she will be. She got into a fight with a splinter. She rammed it right under her nail this morning.”

“Ouch. How’d she do that?”

“She was out in the garden, trying to prune one of the bushes. One thing led to another. She tried to coax the splinter out, but half an hour ago she gave up and Herne told her to go down and get it looked at. As for the others, Talia took the afternoon off. She’s got a headache. Kipa’s not coming in today, and Yutani is in his office, talking to ComputaGeek. We need an upgrade to the computer system, apparently, and he’s giving them the specs. Rafé won’t be in till later, of course. Charlie, either.”

Rafé was our new company clerk, and he came to work in the evenings, so that he could do all the filing and organizing needed after we were all gone. It also prevented him and Angel from getting tired of working together, although it did cut down on how many dates they went on. But Angel said it had been good for their relationship, and they both seemed happy. Rafé working evenings served another purpose. He was able to work with Charlie Darren, our resident vampire, on the evenings Charlie came in, and they got more done together than apart.

“Oh. All right.” Viktor sounded a little dejected.

I took one look at him and realized he was disappointed. He was bursting to tell his good news, and I could tell that he wanted everybody in the office to know. I settled back in my chair, fork and TV dinner in hand.

“So tell me, was she surprised?” I had planned on eating at my desk, but Viktor needed to celebrate and I was determined to make him smile.

He thrust his hands in the pockets of his jacket, sitting down beside me.

“Yes and no, actually. Sheila told me that she thought I might be about to propose, but she hadn’t wanted to get her hopes up, just in case she was wrong. However, she didn’t expect a diamond. My mother gave me my grandma’s ring to give to her,” he added, suddenly somber and staring at the ground.

“Oh, that sounds lovely. Your grandmother, is she still alive?”

“No, I’m talking about my mother’s mother, who was human. My maternal grandmother. Besides my mother, Nanna was the only one who fully accepted me for who I was. I still remember her telling me, ‘I love you because of who you are, and everything you are goes into making up your nature, Viktor. Both your human side and your ogre blood.’ Nanna never once tried to deny my ogre heritage, nor did she praise my human side more.”

Viktor had told us many times that he was estranged from his father and his father’s people, but I hadn’t realized that his mother’s side hadn’t accepted him either.

“I’m sure she’s watching over you,” I said. “When did she die?”

Viktor shrugged. “Long ago. My father had traveled to Russia and that’s where he met my mother, back in 1767. He married her and brought her home on a sailing ship, back in 1768. Her parents and her two little sisters came along with her. They settled up on Mount Rainier in the ogre compound. The ogres accepted Tatiana—my mother. She and her family were among the first settlers in this territory, but they lived in the village Keyren, the ogres’ village. It was hidden deep in the mountain, though now it’s moved to the area surrounding the national park.”

“I knew your father’s people had first lived up there, but once Mount Rainier was turned into a national park, I wasn’t sure what had happened.”

“After my parents split, we moved down into what’s now the Puyallup area. My grandpa Viktor was strong and with me to help him, we made our homestead thrive. I’m named after him. He wasn’t all that fond of me, but he didn’t mistreat me.”

“I wondered about your name.”

“Right. At first my name was Yalt. In Ogrísh—the language of the ogres—it means Blessed Between Worlds. My father named me. But when the clan leader instructed him to disown me, my father formally reclaimed my name and gave me to my mother. Among my father’s people, if you’re turned out from the community, they steal your name and you’re no longer allowed to use it, under pain of death. So Mother renamed me after my grandpa.”

That seemed harsh, but then, ogres weren’t a gentle people. They could be brutish and crude, although you’d never know it by how Viktor acted. “How did the local natives feel about you and your family?”

“They were friendly enough. They didn’t care for the ogres, which was understandable given my father’s people are given to thievery and loutish ways, but they didn’t hold my blood against me. We farmed and my mother kept the cows and chickens. We traded with the local tribes for what we needed. I think my grandparents longed for their days in Russia, but they never blamed my mother or me.”

“They never went back, then?”

He shook his head. “How could they? If they took me along with them, there would be so many questions and no one would accept me back home. If they left me and my mother, we would have died in the wilderness. No, my grandmother swore up and down we’d make a comfortable home, and we did.”

“She sounds like a strong woman.” I wondered if Viktor had any living relatives besides his ogre family. I had heard him speak of his mother, but she was human. “Your mother…”

“Tatiana is still alive. She remarried when I was eighteen. I don’t often talk about it, because my stepfather died twenty years after they married and he’s long gone. He fell into a river and drowned before anyone could save him.”

“But she’s alive?”

“Yes, Pierre was one of the magic-born. On their wedding day, he offered her a potion that would extend her life by some three hundred years and she decided to accept it. He offered it to the rest of her family as well, but no one else wanted it. The only problem is, longevity potions and spells don’t guard against accidents and murder. So my mother lost him in 1817, and decided that she’d live out the rest of her life, but she wouldn’t seek to extend it further. She told me she’s seen and done more than most people ever get the chance to.” He suddenly blushed. “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be so chatty today. I’m sure this is all very boring.”

“On the contrary. I’m fascinated.” I finished my meal and crossed to the counter, where I poured myself a cup of coffee. Viktor was usually reticent about his family, so him opening up made me feel like he trusted me a little more. “Coffee?”

“Thanks, with cream.”

I handed him the mug and set the dish of creamers in front of him. “What about your grandmother? You said you miss her?”

“Oh, I do. Grandmother Anna used to call me her ‘big boy’ and she’d hold me on her lap. By the time I was four, I was the size of a ten-year-old human, but she never said anything bad about my size. My grandmother’s hair smelled like apples and hay, and she always had a cookie in her pocket for me.”

“How old were you when your parents split?”

“I was…oh…ten? Eleven? Somewhere around there. As it became apparent I wasn’t going to reach the expected size of an ogre male, my father started acting out against my mother. He blamed her and wanted nothing to do with me. The leader of the ogres ordered him to either cast me out into the wilderness, or for her and me to leave. My father told my mother she had to choose.

“I overheard that fight. It isn’t a pleasant memory,” he said, closing his eyes. “In the end, Mother chose me. She told my father to go to hell. The next day, we gathered our things, and my father relented enough to give us the supplies to last through the summer while my grandpa and I built a little cabin. We left the mountain and moved down into the Puyallup valley. Grandpa died of a heart attack five years later, but my grandmother and my mother kept the homestead going. Pierre came along a year or so later and he did wonders adding on to it.”

I pressed my lips together, thinking that all of us at the Wild Hunt had been through one form of hell or another. Well, maybe not Herne, and probably not Kipa, but we had all faced our demons as we grew up.

“I’m sorry it was so hard. Your mother has always supported you, hasn’t she?”

He nodded, his voice softening. “She’s never stopped being my cheerleader. She loves Sheila, and while we’ll never have children of our own—Sheila really doesn’t want to go through pregnancy—we thought we’d adopt. My mother likes the idea. You’ll meet her at the wedding, which will be on Imbolc. Sheila honors the goddess Brighid, though she’s not a priestess. So we thought it would be nice to get married then.”

“I’ll be there with bells on, Viktor. Congratulations again.” I reached up on tiptoe and threw my arms around his neck, giving him a long hug. “You deserve happiness, and so does Sheila.”

At that moment, Herne entered the room. I spun around, poking Viktor on the arm as I did so. “Tell him before I do.”

Herne glanced from me to Viktor and a slow smile spread across his face. “You did it! You asked her?” He tossed his file folders on the table and hurried over to Viktor’s side, grabbing the half-ogre’s hand and shaking it as Viktor nodded, grinning.

“Yes, I did—we’re engaged! The wedding will be on Imbolc. We were wondering if you would mind hosting the wedding at your house, Ember? We want a garden wedding—we’re hoping for snow, but that’s something we can’t control.”

“Of course you can! We’d be thrilled to host it. I know Angel will agree.”

“Thank you. And…Herne, I have a special request. If the answer’s no, that’s fine, but I don’t want Sheila to know until our wedding day.”

“What is it? You know you can ask me for anything, man.” Herne pumped Viktor’s hand again, his voice cracking just a little.

One look at Herne’s cornflower blue eyes and I knew that he was putting on a good show, but behind the smile was a trace of worry.

I hadn’t answered his proposal yet. I was close to an answer, but the ramifications of what it meant to be the wife of a god had set in, and I wanted to be fully aware of what I was promising before I gave my word. But Herne was struggling with my hesitation and I knew I had to give him an answer soon.

“I was wondering if you might ask the Lady Brighid if… You see, Sheila reveres her, and I know—I just know if Brighid were to oversee the service or even send her blessing…” Viktor faltered, wincing. “I just realized what I’m asking.”

“No, good gods, man, it’s not a problem for me to ask her. She might say yes. The Lady Brighid can be extremely generous about things like this.” Herne turned to me. “I have to go visit my father in Annwn tomorrow. I’ll drop by Brighid’s palace then and see what she says. Do you want to go with me?”

I shook my head. “Actually, your mother’s coming to dinner at my house tomorrow around six.”

Morgana had been to my home once or twice, but always with Herne, and sometimes with Cernunnos. It felt awkward asking her to come solo, but I wanted to have a heart-to-heart chat with her, and I didn’t want Herne listening in.

Herne cocked his head, squinting at me. “All right, then. Well, you are pledged to her.”

That was another thing. How would that work once Herne and I were married? If I became a goddess—a thought that freaked me out—what the heck did that mean for my interactions with Morgana? It was too much to think about right now.

“So, are we on for Lughnasadh tomorrow night? Marilee’s leading the ritual, if we’re still all good for it.” I leaned back in my chair, thinking about marriage and holidays and all the celebrations that made up our lives.

Milestones were important. They were reminders of crossroads in our lives, and the touchstones that kept us connected to the cycles of the earth. We called it the Wheel of the Year, and the Fae and other Cryptos weren’t the only ones who celebrated the Sabbats—the name for the eight great festivals that marked the quarters and cross-quarters of the year. Human pagans also celebrated the holy days, and together, we bridged gaps in age and race and even species, coming together to mark the tides of life in joy and in sorrow.

“We’ll be there with bells on. Or, corn tassels. Marilee has done wonders for you, and for Angel.” Herne gave me a quick peck on the forehead. “I’ve got to run. Will I see you tonight?”

I shook my head. “No, Angel and I decided we need a girls’ night. It’s been too long since we’ve just climbed into our PJs and binge-watched some of our favorite shows with a big bowl of popcorn and a tub of ice cream.”

Snickering, he merely nodded. “I get it. No boys allowed.”

“Right.” And because I wanted to set him somewhat at ease, I added, “You know before too long I won’t have that option. Not if you and I are…” I paused, biting my lip. Was I really ready to say yes? But then I caught a glimpse of Viktor over at the refrigerator. This was his night and I didn’t want to spoil it for him.

Herne leaned in and gazed into my eyes. “Are you saying…”

“Not yet.” I gave a covert nod toward Viktor. “But soon. I promise you, before the week is up, I’ll have an answer for you. I just have a couple more things to decide.” I kept my voice low, not wanting Viktor to overhear. “Meanwhile, why don’t you take Viktor out tonight, to celebrate his engagement? Get Yutani to go as well, although he doesn’t drink much.”

Yutani, our IT guy and a coyote shifter whose father was the Great Coyote himself, was a borderline alcoholic. He kept himself sober and when he did drink, he never had more than one or two drinks. He was tightly wound, and a Dom, and altogether, a good man who walked on the freaky side of life. But then again, weren’t we all a little freaky?

“Good idea. We don’t have to go to a bar. I think I could persuade Yutani to go bowling.” He glanced over at Viktor. “Hey, want to go bowling to celebrate your engagement? We can take Yutani and Rafé with us as well.”

At that moment, my phone rang. I glanced at the caller ID. It was Angel. Frowning, I answered. “Hey, what’s up? How are you? When are you getting your butt back up here?”

She didn’t bother to answer. “Ember, turn on the TV. Channel 8 KPOZ. Hurry.”

I grabbed the remote from the counter and pointed it toward the break room television and switched it on to channel 8.

“This just in,” the newscaster said from behind the desk. “The town of Klarkson, on Highway 2, has been overrun by creatures that no one has yet been able to identify. They’re attacking the townsfolk. Several people have been seriously injured, including five children. Right now, police are swarming the graveyard from where the creatures are believed to have originated, but officers have been forced to fall back twice. Bullets are proving useless, and the creatures are inhumanly strong and appear entirely uncommunicative. Mayor Willis of Klarkson has appealed to the National Guard for help, and there’s so much chaos that no one seems to know what course of action to follow.”

The news anchor held her hand to her ear, pausing, then looked bleakly at the camera. “I have a report from the Klarkson Hospital. They are reporting the admittance of four adults in critical condition, along with three children who are also critical. If you are in Klarkson, police ask that you please stay in your houses and lock your doors and windows.”

I turned down the volume, looking at Herne. “What the hell?”

He was staring at the screen, a solemn look on his face. “This started in the graveyard? You know what I’m thinking.”

“Yeah, me too. Typhon.” I returned to my phone call with Angel. “How did you find out about this?”

“Urgent care has a TV in the waiting room and I’m waiting to pay my bill. You think it’s Typhon?” She paused, then added, “I have a feeling in my stomach, Ember—it’s not good.”

When Angel had a gut reaction to something, we paid attention. She was human, mostly—and I say mostly because we suspected that she had some degree of magic-born blood in her system—and she was an empath. She was also my best friend and had been since we were eight years old and got in a mud-wrestling battle that netted us both a trip to the principal’s office. After that less-than-auspicious start to our friendship, we bonded instantly.

“Not good, how? Not good as in, gee this sounds nasty, or not good as in, we’d better get ready or get our asses kicked?” I wasn’t sure where Klarkson was, but I knew that I didn’t want to go there.

“Not good as in, we’d better get prepared because there’s something much bigger on the horizon.” Her voice drifted off and after a moment she said, “I’ll be up shortly.”

I shoved my phone back in my pocket and turned to Herne. Both Viktor and he were watching the footage out of Klarkson. There wasn’t much yet, and they were running the same clips over and over, along with video taken by the townsfolk using their cell phones. A lot of it was fuzzy and indistinct, but after a few moments, a clip came on that was clear as a bell.

The creature looked a lot like a zombie in many ways, but there was a brightness to the eyes that whispered “cunning” to me. But zombies weren’t cunning. They had some form of sentience, but they weren’t the brightest bulbs in the socket. These creatures were corpses in varying stages of decay, but they crouched low, skulking along, and there was a malevolence to them that felt like more than the feeding frenzy of zombies. Nor were they ghouls. Given I’d spent most of my adult life cleaning up messes with sub-Fae and the undead, I could spot the differences.

“What do you think they are?” I asked Herne.

He shook his head, his gaze fixed on the screen. “I don’t know, but we’d better find out.”

“Angel thinks we’re in for something big.”

As we watched the report spinning out, I could feel the hair standing up on my arms. Angel was right. Typhon was sending something new at us and, whatever it was, we weren’t going up against a mere batch of skeletal warriors.

I took a deep breath, letting it out slowly. All the joy that I had felt over Viktor’s announcement had drained away. We were truly entering the war against the Father of Dragons, and life wasn’t going to let us forget what we were facing. After a moment, I turned and headed down the hall, poking my head into Yutani and Talia’s office. Yutani glanced up and I saw that he was watching the news on his tablet.

“You saw?”

He nodded. “Yeah. But it’s worse than that. The local channel just came out with a report. Something similar is happening in the Worchester District. We’d better get ready to rumble.”

As he stood, I cursed under my breath. Just what we needed right now. Angry that we couldn’t have one day to celebrate—just one day to breathe—I gave him an abrupt nod and headed for my office. It was time to get suited up and ready to go.

COLLAPSE

Playlist for Autumn's Bane

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
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: 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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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

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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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When the clock strikes midnight, dark spirits rise….

Lose yourself in a collection of ten spellbinding novels from NY Times, USA Today, and national bestselling authors! Demons and vampires come alive in these pages, creeping out after midnight along with shifters, fae, witches, and other denizens of the dark. This boxed set will enchant you from the very first page!

After Midnight includes these ten full-length paranormal romance and urban fantasy novels:

Unquiet Souls (Project Demon Hunters: Book One) - Christine Pope
Misbegotten (L.A. Nocturne: Book One) - Kat Parrish
Soul Marked (I Bring the Fire: Part Seven) - C. Gockel
Dark Descent (The Arondight Codex: Book One) - Nicole R. Taylor
Reborn in Fire (Untamed Elements: Book One) - Kasey Mackenzie
Sacrificed in Shadow (The Ascension Series: Book One) - SM Reine
Shoot the Messenger (Messenger Chronicles: Book One) - Pippa DaCosta
Deadline (Blood Trails: Book One) - Jennifer Blackstream
Fury Rising (Fury Unbound: Book One) - Yasmine Galenorn
Beyond the Night (The Heroes of New Vegas: Book One) - Colleen Gleason

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