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First in Series Book Bundle

First in Series Book Bundle

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Get 11 novels, the first-in-series of each one of Juliana Haygert's series!

Main Tropes:

  • Enemies-to-lovers
  • Forced Proximity
  • Steamy Scenes
  • Magic and adventure
  • Secrets
  • Hidden Identity
  • And more!


★★★★★ "Very original storyline. You will question until the very end and never see it coming but love truly conquers all."

★★★★★ "Great story!! Couldn't put this book down. Read the whole book in one sitting. Exciting, breathtaking, nerve wracking, etc. I really enjoyed this book. Kept me guessing not the run of the mill story!!!"

★★★★★ "Enjoyed this book with the plot twists which kept my interest. Easy read and I found the sex scenes were also good."


  • The Vampire Heir: A young woman with a secret. A vampire with a death sentence. And a terrible fate that will destroy them both…
  • The Warlock Lord: A she-wolf who's been outcasted. A warlock with a dark destiny. And a journey that will unite them—or break them apart forever.
  • The Wolf Forsaken: A fae on the run. A wolf outcast without a cause. And a prince who will stop at nothing to get what he wants…
  • The Demon Kiss: A young woman with a secret heritage. A man who made a deal with the devil. And an academy where the students are just as dangerous as the demons …
  • The Midnight Test: An unprepared witch. A mysterious human. And a quest that will test them both …
  • The Darkest Vampire: Supernaturals around Portland are turning up dead. I’m next … if the vampire I just made a powerful bond with doesn’t kill me first.
  • The Night Calling: I’ve fallen for the alpha’s son … and he left me to die.
  • Winter King: His court is dying, and she’s his only hope …
  • Heart Seeker: "For over twenty years, I've been lied to--magic burns within my veins, and I'm unable to resist its call."
  • Destiny Gift: Her gift will bring light to a world of darkness…


The Vampire Heir (Rite World 1: Rite of the Vampire): a dark and mysterious paranormal romance about a vampire and a young woman with a secret.

The Warlock Lord (Rite World 4: Rite of the Warlock): a thrilling and kick-ass paranormal romance about a werewolf and warlock.

The Wolf Forsaken (Rite World 7: Rite of the Wolf): a heat-wrenching tale about a lost wolf shifter and a fae princess on the run.

The Demon Kiss (Rite World: Blackthorn Hunters Academy book 1): a fast-paced story about a young woman who finds out she’s a demon hunter, and the half-demon intent on protecting her against all evil.

The Midnight Test (Rite World: Lightgrove Witches book 1): a clueless witch is invited to join a powerful coven—but only if she aces a difficult test.

The Darkest Vampire (Rite World: Vampire Wars book 1): a witch releases a dark vampire from a curse, and becomes inadvertently bonded to him.

The Night Calling (Rite World: Night Wolves book 1): she was abandoned by her mate, left in the hands of a terrible half-demon … but now he’s back and ready to claim her.

Winter King (The Wyth Courts book 1): a fae king needs to sacrifice a pure-hearted human to save his kingdom from a terrible curse. 

The Heart Seeker (The Fire Heart Chronicles book 1): an urban fantasy series about a young woman who finds herself at the center of a mysterious supernatural world.

The Destiny Gift (The Everlast Series book 1):  a post-apocalyptic urban fantasy series about a young woman with a special power that can save the world.

The Vampire Heir Chapter One

Chapter One

I was here. I couldn’t believe it. I had made it.

Around me, the other ninety-nine people took over half the town square. While we waited for the train to come pick us up, they chatted and laughed and speculated how it would be, what we would see, who we would meet.

It was not every day Castle DuMoir opened its doors to the public. In fact, it only happened twice a year, and only one hundred lucky guests were invited randomly from the thousands, millions of requests they received.

And I was one of the lucky ones.

“Isn’t this exciting?” a girl beside me asked. A wide smile adorned her lips as she bounced on the balls of her feet. Her excitement was irritating, if not saddening. “I can’t believe I was chosen.”

“Exciting,” I said, though that couldn’t be further from what I was feeling. If I stopped to think about this, if I considered all that could happen, that would happen … I inhaled deeply, calming my racing heart, willing the shaking of my arms to stop.

“Oh.” She reached over and squeezed my arm. “I see the train coming.” She turned to me, her smile even wider than a few seconds ago, her brown eyes twinkling in the late afternoon sun.

The majestic, shiny black train slowed to a stop beside the small wooden platform that served as a station on the corner of the town’s square. The glass doors opened, and a tall, handsome man wearing a black suit and a burgundy tie stepped out under the wide, dark awning covering the platform. There was a silver cross brooch on his lapel—the symbol of Castle DuMoir.

“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen,” he said, his loud voice carrying over the crowd, shushing the guests. He grinned at us, which made his features even more handsome. “I’m Karl, your host for tonight’s adventure. I have one question for you. Are you ready for the best night of your lives?” The crowd cheered. “Then, please, come on in. Have your invitation handy as I’ll need to check it before you come onboard the DuMoir train.”

The guests hurried toward the train, pushing one another, trying to get in right away, as if the train would depart and leave them behind. Like a bouncer at a popular nightclub, Karl stood beside the door, making sure everyone who came through showed him their invitation.

The girl, still beside me, squealed as we approached the doors. “This is it. So exciting.”

She stopped in front of Karl and flashed her invitation. Karl nodded at her. “Please, come in, young lady.”

Then, I was in front of him. The man was taller up close, harder, more imposing. But his smile didn’t touch his blue eyes. I held his stare as I handed him my invitation, willing my hand not to shake. He plucked the beige paper from my hands and glanced at it. “Thea Harrington?”

I lifted my chin. “That’s me.”

He narrowed his eyes, but I refused to break under his gaze. This was just starting … I wouldn’t break down now.

The penny-sized brooch hidden in the inside pocket of my jacket trembled as he scrunched his nose and leaned away from me.

Karl tsked and returned the invitation to me, as if he was suddenly bored. “Welcome aboard, miss.” He gestured to the doors.

“Thank you,” I muttered, turning away from him.

A long, relieved breath escaped my lungs as I stepped inside the train.

The locomotive was even fancier on the inside. The darkened windows were large and curved upward, taking up most of the ceiling. Two columns of large, black leather armchairs stood on each side of the wide corridor, with touchscreen TVs and folding tables on their backs. Some chairs were turned back and a smooth wooden table stood between two rows.

From the magazines and articles I had read about the DuMoir visit, I knew there would also be a luxurious dining car, a movie theater car, a car with a pool, and even sleeping quarters.

I had started walking down the first car, when a hand grabbed my wrist. “Hey, sit here,” the girl from before said, tugging on my arm gently.

I held in a grimace. This was not the time to make friends. I looked around, but the seats were filling up fast, and what would be my excuse to her? She had already seen I was as alone as she was.

I sighed. “Sure.” I plopped down on the seat beside her.

She offered me her slender hand. “I’m Judy.”

“Thea.” I looked at her once more as I shook her hand firmly. She was probably my age, nineteen or maybe twenty, and she was pretty with auburn hair and tanned skin. I pulled my hand from hers and settled into my seat, looking straight ahead.

The girl, though, didn’t seem to get the hint. “So, how long have you been trying to visit DuMoir?”

I suppressed a groan. “Two years.”

“Oh, you’re lucky.” 

I frowned. Was I? “They don’t allow visitors younger than fifteen.”

“True, but my entire family has been trying for years, and finally, I got the invitation.” She tilted her head. “So, why do you want to see Castle DuMoir?”

The golden question. Everyone who was granted an invitation was asked that question. I clasped my hands together on my lap, glad I was shaking less and less, and told her what I had rehearsed for months now. “I’ve lived one town over for most of my life. There’s nothing interesting around here, except the fact that there’s a mysterious castle close by. Who doesn’t want to see it? To know the faces of the lords and nobles living inside it?”

Her grin was so big, I thought it would blind me. “Exactly! I don’t live in Crimson Glen, but my grandparents do. My parents were raised here until they got married and moved away, but we visit often. I’ve always dreamed of seeing the castle in person, to meet a prince, or a lord, or a royal guard, and …” Her cheeks gained a red tint, and she quickly averted her gaze.

Holy crap, this girl thought she was headed straight to a fairy tale. Cinderella going to meet the prince at the ball. Poor girl.

My anxiety and nervousness were replaced by a white-hot anger. Anger for this girl and her dreams. “Well, anything can happen,” I forced out.

She returned her eyes to mine, a small smile on her closed lips. “Anyway, I’m here to have a fun evening. I heard there’s a village outside the castle with actual taverns and inns and stables, like old stuff, you know?”

I nodded. “There’s also a lake and boat rides, and a small winery.”

“And to crown the night, a tour inside the castle and a masquerade party in the ballroom.”

A chill went down my spine. “That’s right.”

“So exciting,” Judy repeated for the tenth time or so. If I had to guess, I would hear that same tone coming from her at least another five hundred times until the end of this visit.

When the passengers were seated and the doors closed, Karl’s voice rang through the speakers. “Welcome aboard, ladies and gentlemen. Please, make yourself comfortable. Fun fact about our fabulous train: It can hit 250 miles per hour, but because DuMoir is only forty miles away and the scenery is beautiful at sunset, we’ll take this trip slow.”

A beautiful woman in a black suit, burgundy shirt and the silver cross pin appeared by my side. With a wide smile, she unfolded each of our tables, depositing on them crystal flutes filled with bubbling liquid.

“Thanks,” I whispered as she turned around and served the guests on the other side of the corridor.

“Please, enjoy a glass of one of our finest wines, produced at the DuMoir estate,” Karl continued. “If you need anything, our attendants can certainly help you. Enjoy the ride. We’ll be at the DuMoir Castle in less than thirty minutes.”

I eyed the flute and the champagne-like liquid in front of me.

I swallowed hard.

Beside me, Judy downed her champagne in one big gulp. With a loud, “Aahh,” she set down her glass and turned to me. “It’s delicious. Drink it.”

From the corner of my eye, I glanced at the attendants nearby. “I don’t really drink this kind of stuff.”

“But it’s great. You’ll like it.”

“No, I don’t want it.”

“Why not? We’re here to enjoy this visit. Here’s the first taste.”

I scrunched my nose. “I’m not—”

Judy exhaled. “Fine, then I’ll drink it.” I gasped as she grabbed my flute and drank the entire thing in less than two seconds. My throat went dry and my heart sped up. Again, I glanced at the attendants, this time not so discreet, but none of them were looking at us. Thankfully, Judy placed my now empty glass in front of me again. “Well, that was even better the second time around.” She chuckled.

“You have no idea what you’ve done,” I whispered, wishing she wouldn’t really hear me.

She shrugged. “This fancy trip is free. I’m eating and drinking and taking everything they hand me. And if you don’t want it, I’ll have yours too.” She grinned, still looking as innocent and cheerful as the girl who first talked to me in the town’s square not twenty minutes ago.

My fingers itched, and even though I didn’t know this girl, a sudden urge to reach out and hold her hand assaulted me, too strong to contain. A small gasp escaped through my lips, but instead of reaching for her, I sat on my hands and looked straight ahead, eager for this night to be over.

For this whole thing to be over.

The Warlock Lord Chapter One

Chapter One

From behind the bushes, I spied the herd of deer in a little valley. There were at least a dozen of them, eating the overgrown greens and warming themselves in the last rays of sunlight. 

Clueless of the werewolf pack surrounding them.

Everyone ready? I sent my thoughts to the wolves who had volunteered to come with me. When in wolf form, our minds were linked and we communicated via thought. The alpha was able to control this connection, sending thoughts to each wolf or blocking them. However, as the youngest and the first female alpha of our pack in more than two centuries, I was still trying to learn my newfound powers.

And a bunch of other things.

Like controlling a large pack of aggressive werewolves.

Ready. Wyatt was the first to respond, as usual.

But nobody else did.

I swallowed a growl, lest the deer hear me. I could see the other wolves across the valley. Moon be damned, why didn’t they answer me?

Are you ready? I tried again.

A handful of half-assed yeses sounded in my mind.

After we killed this herd and dragged them back to our pack for this damned feast tonight, I would have a talk with these wolves. I was their goddamn alpha. They had to do better than this.

Set, I told the wolves. The ears of one deer perked up. Now!

Teeth bared, I jumped from behind the bushes and—


Startled by the command in Charles’s voice, I skid to a stop right in front of the herd. I glanced around, realizing only Wyatt and I had attacked, and now the herd fled from us.

What are you waiting for? I put as much bite as I could into my words. A few wolves stepped forward, but they were too slow for my taste.

Instead of catching the entire herd in one fell swoop, we only got five deer before the others escaped.

When it was clear that was all we were going to get, I turned around and bared my teeth at Charles. What the hell was that?

Charles strutted out from behind the bushes. He stared me down with his dark brown eyes. Even though he was at least twice my size—maybe more in our wolf forms—I stood my ground. I wouldn’t buck to this big bully.

I’m sorry. I just thought it wasn’t the right time to attack. His voice dripped with sarcasm.

I let out a low growl. Did you forget who I am?

Charles growled in response. Believe me, I have not. 

Then you know you have to obey me. Everyone does.


I couldn’t believe he was being this direct. This stupid. And right in front of a bunch of wolves, who now surrounded us. I puffed my chest. I don’t care if you think it’s fair or not. It is what it is. And you obey me until it changes.

How about we change it now?

It was all the warning I got before he jumped on me. I barely had time to move back and avoid his hit and his sharp teeth.

What the hell? I directed to his mind only, but Charles didn’t answer me. He was too busy circling me, preparing for another attack. Charles, stop this now.

Again, he didn’t answer me. Instead, like a bulldozer, Charles ran toward me. I jumped to the side, but not before his paw found purchase on my side. His nails sank into my skin.

I let out a howl as the pain registered.

Shocked. I was shocked. In my year as alpha, I had heard rumors and insults, I had been glared at, but I had never been challenged like this. And I was certain Charles wasn't fooling around.

This was a challenge.

A challenge to become alpha.

Which meant, Charles would only stop once he killed me.

Damn it.

In my stupor, I barely resisted when Charles careened into me. I slammed against the hard ground, and he stepped over me, his sharp teeth close to my neck.

Give up, Luana, he said in my thoughts. Let me win this fight and I won’t kill you. Let me become the alpha then become my mate. We can rule the pack together.

The rumors had been right. Charles didn’t only want to take the mantle of the alpha from me, but he also wanted me as a mate. As if he could decide that. We had stood side by side several times, and the mating bond hadn’t snapped into place. I wasn’t his mate and he knew it.

It didn’t matter, because I would never be his mate, bond or no bond. Charles was a conceited and selfish wolf, who was even worse in human form. And not that handsome.

Finding strength in the depths of my core, I swiped a paw sideways, making Charles lose his footing. I pushed against him and rose to my feet.

I snarled at him. Never.

He showed me his sharp teeth. Such a loss.

Then he attacked again.

I sidestepped him, trying to think this through. As the alpha, I had become stronger and faster, but Charles was probably still stronger, not to mention a bigger and a more experienced fighter. If I wanted to win this fight, I would have to be fast.

Charles turned around and came at me again. He snapped his teeth close to my hind leg, and I jumped forward, putting distance between us.

Stop running from me, Charles said in my head.

Letting him think I was obeying him, I stood my ground. Charles snarled and charged me again. I waited—until the last second. Then I sidestepped him, angling my body. I jumped over him. Off balance, he hit the ground. I pressed my paw down on his snout and snapped my teeth an inch from his throat. 

I’m not going to kill you. His eyes widened in surprise. I won’t be that kind of alpha. But be warned. Next time you challenge me, I’ll make an example out of you.

I stepped back and held my ground, afraid Charles would attack me again. To my surprise, he pushed up to his wobbly legs, his head low.

You’ll regret this, he whispered in my mind.

And I believed him.

* * *

I didn’t regret taking down Ulric. He had been an evil alpha with only his pride and power in mind. He had sent me, a young, lower-ranked wolf, on what was supposed to be an easy mission, but looking back, I was sure he thought I wouldn’t survive. He had probably expected me to die when he sent me to spy on the vampires of DuMoir Castle. He never imagined I would have been captured and turned into a blood slave.

My stomach turned. I hated remembering those days, but things got better when I allied with Drake, who was now lord of DuMoir Castle. For a vampire, Drake was a decent man and wanted peace between the vampires and the other races. Because he had helped me and given me a family when my pack had abandoned me, I trusted him wholeheartedly. He and his mate, Thea, the Witch Queen of the Silverblood coven. 

No, I didn’t regret killing Ulric, but I did regret becoming the alpha. At first, it had been part of the plan—as alpha, the wolves of the Dark Vale pack would have to obey me during the battle when Drake and Thea retook DuMoir Castle. It had worked, but I wished there had been another way. Maybe if another wolf had been by my side, I could have let him take down Ulric and become the alpha. Then, I could have been his beta and avoided all the hateful glares—the same ones I felt now as I walked out of my cabin.

Since my fight with Charles, we had dragged the handful of deer back to our village, then I disappeared inside my cabin, while the others took care of the feast’s preparations.

Back in human form, I washed the deer’s blood and the dirt from the hard ground from my body, scrubbing the sponge over my skin, as if I could scour away more than dirt. Maybe my fate too?

After the shower, I donned leather pants and a suede vest and brushed my long hair down my back. Then, after a hundred deep breaths, I left the safety of my cabin and faced the wolves outside.

The pinprick of everyone’s hateful glares sent goose bumps down my spine, but I did my best to stay calm, to control my heartbeat and my breathing, so they couldn’t hear just how much I detested all of this—and use it to destroy me.

As much as I hated being alpha, I hated the idea of being killed even more.

I hadn’t even taken five steps before Wyatt showed up in front of me, holding a glass of our artisan beer.

“I thought you might want something to drink,” he said, smiling at me.

I eyed the glass. If it were Charles or any other werewolf, I would think the drink might be poison, but Wyatt was different. He was a teenager, who had lost his parents as a child, and because of that, the pack had raised him. He had had little guidance, but he was a loyal wolf nonetheless. I remembered him from before my mission, and he had always struck me as an upbeat and optimistic kid. Now a young man, he hadn’t changed much.

And he seemed to like me as his alpha.

At least one wolf in the pack did.

I took the glass from him. “Thank you.”

He stepped to my side and gestured down the road. “It’s almost ready.”

I looked around. Since werewolves decided to become more human than wolf many centuries ago, our pack had adopted an old human village with a handful of dirt packed roads and frail wooden houses lining them. With time, the wolves paved the roads with limestones and reinforced and expanded the houses. Despite the many wells for water and generators for electricity, the village still had a pre-Industrial feel to it.

My house was close to the edge of the forest and about eight houses from the center of the village, where a square was located. Following Wyatt’s gesture, we walked toward the square.

If the weight of the stares from the people walking by my house and coming to the feast had been heavy before, it was nothing compared to the moment I stepped into the square and joined the rest of the wolves.

After the DuMoir battle, our numbers dwindled, but we still had about a hundred wolves in our pack—which was a record since wolves didn’t do well in larger groups.

And right now, all the wolves stared at me and silence filled the air.

I cleared my throat. “Enjoy the feast, everyone.” I waved toward the tables set to one side of the square, where the food and drink were spread out.

Slowly, the wolves resumed chatting and laughing. Slowly, everyone ignored me. Slowly, I let out a long breath.

My relief was short-lived as I approached the big bonfire in the center of the square. Logs surrounded the fire, serving as benches, and on two of those logs sat Charles and his band of hateful wolves.

He stared at me, his dark eyes gleaming with the flicker of the fire. He raised his mug of beer toward me, then tipped it back, finishing it in two big gulps. The rest of his group patted his back and yelled, like drunks in a bar.

I shuddered, feeling like a stranger in my pack.

“Luana, my dear pup.” I cringed at Patricia’s voice. She was an elder she-wolf, who thought she was some kind of counselor to the alphas. She was probably the oldest wolf here, over a hundred years old, though she didn’t look a day older than fifty. The old woman stepped in front of me, looking more like a Romani in her long dress and bangles than a werewolf, and she smiled wide, showing off her yellowed teeth. “There you are.” She gestured to the table, where the limbs of the deer were now displayed—most of them still dripping with blood. “Thank you for securing our feast.”

Was she being sarcastic? I could never tell with her. She was the kind of person who smiled even when she was handing out an insult.

“You’re welcome,” I said, unsure what she really wanted. Because I knew she wanted something. She never started a conversation without a clear purpose.

She hooked her frail arm on mine and tugged me forward. I let the old woman guide me through the crowd in the square, because I wanted to hear what she had to say. Probably more gossip and her own reasoning about it. I was so sick and tired of gossip and rumors.

And an unruly pack that looked down on its alpha.

“I heard Charles gave you a hard time,” she said in a low voice. With our enhanced senses, I was sure half the pack heard her. “He can be such a prick sometimes.”

I steered us to the edge of the square, where it met one of the roads, and turned to her. “What do you want?”

She widened her eyes, pretending to be shocked by my tone. “My dear pup, I only want what’s best for the pack.”

I cringed again. I hated when she called me 'dear pup.' One, I wasn’t a pup, and two, I wasn’t dear to her. Not really. “And what would that be?”

She puffed her chest, preparing for a speech. “I believe we can’t live as we used to. Werewolf packs have always been patriarchal, where females weren’t allowed to move up the ranks. Unfortunately, the few female alphas we've had before didn’t last.” Her tone was calm and clear, and I frowned. The two females who had reached the alpha status in our pack had gotten there because they had been mates of the alphas when they died of natural causes. They assumed the position for a brief time—until a male wolf challenged their position and took over the alpha mantle. “But times are changing. I think we finally have one that will change history.”

Still feeling on the defensive, I crossed my arms. Was she really saying what I thought she was saying? “You think I can hold my position?”

“I do, but you might need help.”

And here we went. “And who would help me?”

“A mate.”

I blinked at her, sure I had heard her wrong. Wasn’t she just praising the future and the end of male dominance? “What?”

“Think about, my dear pup. As females, we’re naturally weaker than males. A female alpha doesn’t have much of a future, unless she has a strong male as her mate. He’ll help her secure her place. Especially if she bears pups who will strengthen the line of succession.”

I stared at her in horror. She was really telling me to get a mate and procreate. Just like that. “I don’t need a male by my side. I can steer this ship alone.”

She tilted her head, her eyes narrowing. “Do you really believe that? Didn't Charles just challenge you? Tomorrow, it'll be a stronger wolf, and eventually, you’ll succumb.”

My brows curled down at the thought. I wasn’t afraid of losing the alpha position, but I didn’t want to be hurt, or killed, in the process. However, what really made me sick was that most wolves in the pack still thought Ulric had been an amazing alpha. He had been ruthless and cold and greedy. He had brought more comfort and riches to the pack—at the cost of others. No, I didn’t like that. On this matter, I agreed with Drake and Thea. All races could live together in peace. We just needed respect and courtesy.

If I succumbed, if I were killed and another wolf secured my position, then our pack was doomed, and peace with the vampires and the witches would be gone.

I couldn’t let that happen.

I clenched my fists until I felt my nails digging into my palms. “And I bet you have someone in mind.”

She nodded. “Charles.”

What? I picked at my ears, once again sure I couldn’t have heard her right. “I’m sorry. I thought you mentioned the wolf who just tried to kill me.”

“I did,” Patricia said, seriously. “He’s not the strongest wolf in the pack, but he’s strong enough. And half of this pack is under his thumb. If you mated with him, then they would all be under your thumb.”

Even if the idea of having Charles as my partner didn’t disgust me, there was another problem to consider. “You do realize the mating bond isn’t something that can be forced, right?”

Besides, Charles, or any other wolf in this pack, would use me as a pawn. I would hold the title, but I bet that as soon as I mated with one of them, they would steal my power. They would rule instead of me.

“Then find another one,” she said, her voice gaining a slight hard edge. “Search for your precious mating bond among our pack, but do it fast. Otherwise, you’re doomed.”

She spun on her heels and marched back to the crowd. I watched as she joined a group of she-wolves near the bonfire and started talking animatedly. Patricia’s mate had been killed a long time ago, and her only son had mated with a wolf from another pack—a rare event—and moved to his mate’s pack. Patricia was alone here.

It seemed she was now trying to make an ally out of me. What was her real intention?

To her right, three werewolves brought out Spanish guitars and other instruments. In no time, there was music mixed with the chatter and the laughter around the square. There was plenty of food and drink.

Every wolf in the pack seemed happy. Carefree.

It was a shame I wasn’t.

The Wolf Forsaken Chapter One

Chapter One

The landscape outside looked just like my heart.

Cold, harsh, and buried underneath a ton of snow.

I clutched my mug full of steaming hawthorn tea with both hands and brought it to my lips, my eyes fixed on the view—a small valley and beyond it a mountain chain, with the sun dipping below it, staining the sky with rose and orange tints.

I knew I should have stuck to warmer places, where no one would guess a frost fae was hiding. I tried to. First, I hid in Florida, then Alabama, then Texas. I even tried hiding in Mexico. The heat in those places was too much for me to bear. Even northern California could be too warm for me.

So, over two years ago, I ended up moving north, to Montana, where the seasons were more pronounced, though it never got as hot as the south. But it got cold, too cold for the shadow fae. I was confident that here, deep into a frozen forest, hidden in a small cottage in the middle of nowhere, Prince Lark wouldn’t be able to find me.

I let out a long sigh, tired of being alone, of feeling lonely, but without a choice. If I left this cottage, if I tried to live in a normal town, I would be found.

A knock came from the door.

My heart stopped and the mug slipped from my hand, crashing on the crude wooden floor, and spilling hot liquid everywhere.

Channeling my magic, I positioned myself in the middle of the small one-room cottage. Whoever was here, hadn’t come because they were lost in the woods. They were here because they had come for me.

But how the hell had they found me?

“Open the door, Farrah, before I break it down.”

My magic slipped from my veins.

In four large steps, I reached the door and opened it. Eyes wide, I stared at my brother. “Daleigh.”

I hadn’t seen him in so long, but he hadn’t changed much. His fair skin seemed paler than before, and his white hair was longer, almost at his waist, but his blue eyes remained the same—cold and serious. Though his clothes had changed completely. Before, he used to wear his full armor, but now he wore gray pants, a thick white sweater, and a long white coat. At least the colors continued the same.

“I should give you props for hiding so well,” he said, walking past me, and examining the cottage.

I suddenly felt conscious of the tiny placed around us, and the mess I rarely tidied up. Deciding I didn’t care about his opinion, I puffed out my chest and asked, “How did you find me?”

Daleigh stopped, ran a finger over the dusty countertop of the corner kitchen, and raised his eyes at me. “I’ve been trying to find you since you ran away.”

I averted my gaze, remembering when and why I left everyone behind.

If only I hadn’t taken that dagger, if only I hadn’t made that damned deal. I exhaled, telling myself for the hundredth time that I shouldn’t cry for things I couldn’t change.

I just had to keep on walking.

“So what? You’ve come to take me?”

Daleigh’s hand clenched for a moment, before he opened and wiggled his fingers, trying to contain whatever feeling he didn’t want to show me. “Farrah, I don’t think I need you to remind you of your own deal. The three years are almost up. You have to go back now.”

“I don’t have to do anything,” I said.

I took a step back, putting more distance between ourselves. Daleigh was older than me and a true warrior. I might be a powerful fae, but he was stronger than me. If he decided to take me by force, I wouldn’t be able to win against him.

“Farrah, please, you know what is at stake here,” Daleigh said, his voice low, pleading. “If you marry Prince Lark, he’ll forgive us. His father will let us go back to the fae realm. That’s what we all want, right? That’s what we’ve always wanted.” His shoulders lowered one inch. “Can’t you do that for our people?”

My stomach knotted.

He couldn’t put this on me, damn it.

Long ago, our people were banished to the human world with no way of going back. If I went through with the plan, if I stopped running, our people would be able to return.

“You know it isn’t that simple,” I whispered, wishing my brother would stand with me just this once. “You’re asking me to sacrifice myself.”

But he only hardened. “For our people. Believe me, if I could have made a deal like that, I would have. I would gladly marry a whale if that meant my people and I could return to our home.”

“I’m not you, Daleigh,” I barked, my voice rising with my temper. “Besides, I was pushed away from our people, remember? I was handed to witches and left to die. I don’t care about our people!”

Daleigh flinched. Of course he remembered. He had been the one to send me away. And now here he was, begging me to help him. Pathetic.

“That was a mistake,” he said, his voice low. “I wish I could go back in time and found a better way to deal with all that was happening.”

And I wanted to go back in time and undo the deal I had struck. I deeply regretted what I had done for Luana, the werewolf who was now the alpha of the Starlight pack. Almost three years ago, I helped her steal the Dagger of All Hunting from Prince Lark’s fortress. However, the stealing part didn’t go too well. We ended up caught. Prince Lark, prince of the Shadow fae, whose father ruled the fae realm, had always been very fond of me, so I used that to our advantage. I promised him I would marry him in three years time.

Of course, I never had any intention of marrying him.

That was why I ran away.

That was why I left Wyatt behind.

Sometimes, I wondered how he was doing. Was he living with Luana and Keeran, helping them with the Starlight pack and the warlocks? Had he found a pretty werewolf and settled down?

My heart squeezed with the thought. Though I wanted him to be happy, it hurt me to think he had found someone.

Someone other than me.

I shook my head, sending all those troubling images away. “It’s too late. I’m not going anywhere.”

Daleigh stalked to me, towering me by an entire head. “My dear sister, I love you very much, but I won’t stand for this. You have a few days to change your mind. I hope you make the right choice.”

He started walking past me.

I asked, “Or what?”

Daleigh glanced at me over his shoulder. “Or I’ll take you to Prince Lark by force.”

I gasped. Deep down, I thought, hoped, he would never do that. But looking now at his icy blue eyes, I knew he would.

Without another word, or threat, Daleigh walked out of the cottage, slamming the door behind him.

I put a hand over my racing heart and tried breathing in and out, calming myself down. But my feelings became a turmoil and I had to sit down on the low couch to catch my breath, to process my thoughts.

My own brother would take me to an evil fae prince to save the people that once shunned me away? Was he for real?

I didn’t care about any of that.

I wouldn’t allow myself to be dragged away like that. To be handed to Prince Lark like a grand price.

I waited for about one hour, to make sure Daleigh had really left, then I jumped into action. As fast as I could, I packed some food, water, and clothes, put on a heavy coat over my shoulder, and left the cottage.

Once more, I was on the run.

The Demon Kiss Chapter One

Chapter One

The ride to the haunted house was quiet. 

Well, on my part. Mike drove his fancy Mercedes, with Karla in the passenger seat, and Noah and Alisha in the back with me. In the twenty minutes it took to drive from Spring Hill to the base of the mountain, they didn’t stop talking about their college plans, all the parties they would go to, all the fun they would have, and all the studying they would avoid.

I kept my eyes trained on the darkening sky, across the Colorado mountains, wondering what the hell I was doing. Seriously, what had gotten into me? It wasn’t like me to do something crazy like this.

But now that I was here, I couldn't chicken out. I would go through with this ridiculous game, get my money, and go home fifteen hundred dollars richer.

When Mike turned onto a dirt-packed road, I knew we were close. I fished my phone from the pocket of my blouse and texted my aunt.

Me: I’ll be late tonight.

A moment later, my phone vibrated.

Aunt Paula: Why? Is everything okay?

Of course, she would think something was wrong. I had no friends and never did anything other than staying home and checking on her at work. I had never stayed out late, except for when I was craving ice cream from the food truck that sometimes stayed open past midnight near the main square during the summer.

Me: Yeah. Everything is fine. See you later.

Aunt Paula: Later.

I was sure that, by now, my aunt had come up with fifteen ridiculous scenarios, trying to figure out why I was suddenly out. Like the hidden college applications in my bedroom, she would kill me if she found out where I was going and with whom.

When I was little, I had a phase when I couldn’t sleep at night. I thought there was a monster living in my closet. My aunt had been adamant that such things didn’t exist. When I watched horror movies and became afraid, she would yell at me, saying it was all make believe.

Ghosts and any kinds of supernaturals didn’t exist, she always said.

It took me a while, but I became convinced she was right by the time I was a teenager.

As for the group I was currently with, my aunt didn’t like them much. She had had some heated arguments with Karla’s mother and with Noah’s older brother. She always complained the rich people of Spring Hill didn’t know how to spend their money and wasted it on useless stuff. She thought they were vain, selfish, and arrogant.

I thought so too.

A moment later, Mike stopped the car at the end of the road. He pointed to a faded wooden sign nailed to a large tree trunk. “The house is supposedly that way.”

We hopped out of the car and trekked toward the house, using the lantern function on our phones to illuminate the way. I went ahead, avoiding talking to them. Not that they would talk to me, not when they were whispering about me behind my back.

“She’s crazy.”

“Is she that desperate for money?”

“I heard her aunt is crazy. I think she is too.”

“Did you know she’s not going to college? She’s going to stay in this hellhole. I almost pity her.”

I sped up, trying to put some distance between them and me, so I didn’t have to listen to their mean words. One thing my aunt had drilled into me was respect. Even when you didn’t particularly like someone or have anything in common with them, you showed them respect.

I guess their parents hadn’t taught them that.

Blinded by my rage and stupidity—seriously, why the hell had I volunteered to do this?—I only saw the house once I was practically at its doorstep. My stomach dropped as I lifted my head and took it in. The house was three stories tall, with a round turret on the right, a wraparound porch, and a balcony on the second floor. The wooden walls were rotten, the windows and doors broken, the roof either missing or caved in, and the grass around it overgrown.

As if teasing me, a chilly breeze brushed past me, sending a shiver down my spine.

“Now, that is one haunted house,” Noah said from right behind me.

“You could say that again,” Karla muttered.

Mike walked to me. “All right, Erin. See here?” He flashed the money in front of my face. “Fifteen hundred dollars. It’ll all be yours if you stay inside the house for an hour.”

Shit. So much for easy money.

I looked at each of them. They had gone to high school like normal kids, and now they all would be leaving our shitty town to go to college and pursue their dreams. They all also had way more money than me.

A part of me resented them for having more opportunities at their feet.

Another part of me was disgusted that I had come so low.

Too late to back up now.

“Just sit tight,” I said, forcing my voice to sound normal, even. “See you in an hour.”

Holding my breath, I walked forward. I forced my feet to keep moving at a steady pace, even when I stepped onto the porch and it creaked beneath my feet. Even when I pushed open the front door and almost fell back. Even when I entered the house and the light from my phone didn’t seem like enough.

I halted in the foyer, trying to find my bearings before picking a spot to sit down and wait. Wide, curving stairs hugged the wall on the other side of the broken chandelier lying in the middle of the foyer, and an archway opened underneath the stairs.

“Go farther inside!” Mike yelled from outside.

Groaning, I closed my eyes for a moment and thought about the money. Money. Money. Money. It was the only reason I was doing this, right?

It had been stupid, really. I had been alone at the town square, contemplating how I would go home and show my aunt the stack of college applications I had gathered. Although I had been homeschooled all my life, I knew all the kids and teenagers in town. When Mike and his gang walked past me, talking about their bright futures and the many colleges that had accepted them, I felt angry. Jealous. Why could they go, and I couldn’t? Because we didn’t have money? Because I would have to move away? Those didn’t seem like plausible excuses, even if my aunt was a freaking general and expected me to obey her every wish.

I had thought about running away several times, to live my own life and go to college and do whatever pleased me, but I knew my aunt would just go after me and either drag me back or come with me. To her, I would always be a little girl.

Then, these dumbasses had to talk about a dare. When Mike kept raising the bid for whoever went in the haunted house and none of them manned up, I volunteered.

I guess the biggest dumbass here was me.

Inhaling deeply, I opened my eyes and walked beyond the foyer.

I crossed under the archway and found myself in a living room. Spiderwebs dangled from the high ceiling, and a few furniture items were covered by white sheets and dust. I put a hand over my nose, trying to cover the moldy scent emanating from the house, and breathed through my mouth.

To my left, double doors, mostly off their hinges, opened to another room with built-in shelves that extended to the ceiling. It probably was a library once. To my right was another large room, which resembled a dining room, and beyond it the kitchen. The cabinet doors twisted on their hinges, and the appliances were missing, but it was easy to see this house was old—probably from a time when refrigerators hadn’t been invented yet.

Despite the look and odor, this place wasn’t bad. We all had heard about the haunted house just outside Spring Hill. I just never thought much about it. Who knew it wasn’t haunted at all, just old and uncared for?

Still, being alone in this house made me uneasy.

I went back to the living room and looked around, trying to find a spot without a lot of dust so I could sit down. Something shiny flashed to my right. I looked in its direction. There was something underneath the couch.

But I wasn’t here to find things. All I needed to do was sit down and wait. But as I turned my back, the shiny object underneath the couch seemed to shine brighter.

“What the hell …?”

Curious, I crouched down beside the sheet-covered couch and reached for the item. I picked it up and stood, my eyes on the strange item. It was a gold chain, with a pendant—thin metal twisted around a deep red stone. In my hand, it didn’t seem to shine as much, but it was still pretty.

Very, very pretty.

I glanced around the house. This necklace might have been here for years. If I took it, nobody would notice, right? I shook my head. What the hell was I thinking? Even if this jewelry was beautiful and expensive and ownerless, I couldn’t take it. It wasn’t right.

Yet, I didn’t want to drop it.

I couldn’t.

I put my phone down on the couch’s armrest, opened the chain, and hooked it around my neck.

An electric jolt coursed through me, making me gasp and almost driving me to my knees.

What the hell was that?

I reached for the chain’s clasp, eager to take off the necklace, but I couldn’t. The clasp wouldn’t open. Seriously? I didn’t want this damn necklace. I tugged on it, hoping it was so old that the chain would snap, but I only ended up cutting the skin on the back of my neck.

A moment later, a scream pierced the quiet.

My blood chilled.

“Erin, get out!” someone yelled from the outside.

I ran to the foyer, but the door shut in my face. Panic started in my stomach and spread as I grabbed the knob and tried to open the freaking door, to no avail.

“This is not funny!” I banged on the door. “Let me out!” Another scream echoed from outside, then it all went quiet. “Guys? You’re there, right? Open the door!”

Nobody answered.

I leaned my back against the locked door and inhaled deeply, trying to calm my nerves and think. This was a mean prank. Mike and the others had planned all of this from the beginning, I was sure. Why, I had no idea. I had never done anything to them. Regardless, they were having way too much fun at my expense. Screaming and locking the door to scare me? That was a low blow.

I would climb out a broken window and kick their damn asses from here to hell.

My heart beating so fast that it hurt, I ran back to the living room, past the couches, and to one of the French doors in the back.

I was a few feet from it when dark shadows appeared behind the glass doors.

My knees trembled.

The waist-high, gray-skinned monster hopped into the living room. They bared their pointy teeth and stared at me with their yellow cat-like eyes, as they dragged their large feet toward me.

“Stay back!” I cried, retreating a few steps.

But I halted, as soon as I realized there were more of them—coming from the kitchen, the library, the balcony from upstairs, the foyer … They had me surrounded.

I put my fingers to my temple and closed my eyes.

“This isn’t real. This isn’t real,” I repeated to myself.

But when I opened my eyes, the little monsters were even closer.

“Give it to us,” one of them said, his voice chilling, his words slurring.

Give what?

The necklace. I reached for it, but it wouldn’t open. It was stuck around my neck.

“I can’t—”

One of the little monsters jumped over me, his hands clawing at the pendant. Screaming, I fell on my butt. I tried pushing the monster back, but another one pulled my hair, while another tugged at my blouse, and another grabbed my shoe.

Holy shit, holy shit, holy shit. This couldn’t be real. 

I screamed. I swatted my arms and kicked my feet, trying to get rid of them.

It couldn’t be real. Monsters and ghosts didn’t exist.

A little creature tugged on the necklace, hurting my neck. I screamed, thinking he would decapitate me if he tugged any harder. I lifted my arm, pushing the monster back, but not before it scratched my forearm with its long, clawlike fingers.

Another one snatched the necklace and pulled harder. The chain broke, hurting me, scratching my skin. The little creature cradled the necklace, then dashed away. But the others advanced on me.


My breath caught.

I knew that voice.

“Aunt Paula! I’m here,” I yelled. I looked up at the second-floor landing.

My aunt stood on the ledge, where the rail had been broken and was now missing, her hair pulled up into a ponytail, wearing dark leather clothing and holding a sword with a dark blade.

She jumped over the balcony, landing effortlessly a few feet from me. With a murderous glint in her hazel eyes, she swung her sword wide, cutting through three of the little monsters.

Their bodies fell on the ground right beside me.

Then, the other monsters jumped on her.

I stared in awe as Aunt Paula moved like a ninja. She spun out of reach, stabbed and slashed, as if she had been fighting all her life. The awe turned into wariness. Who was she? How did she know how to fight like that? Why didn’t she ever tell me?

Aunt Paula lifted her sword above her head. A dark glow emanated from the blade and the remaining little monsters cowered. She turned to me and grabbed my hand. “Listen to me,” she said, her eyes wide, her voice absolute. “You have to run. Get out of here and run. Go back to our house and stay there.”

“W-what?” I held her hand. “What about you?”

“I’ll stop them, then I’ll join you.”

I shook my head. “I don’t like this.”

She offered me a forced smile. “It’s okay. I’ll be okay.” She freed herself from me. “Now go.”

I didn’t want to leave her alone in this damned house, but she seemed to know what she was doing. I nodded, then turned to run back into the foyer. I took two steps before I skidded to a halt.

A bigger, wider shadow fell in my way.

A monster at least five times the height of the little ones stepped forward. Dressed all in black and with fair skin and black hair, the monster looked almost human. Almost. His eyes were all black, his ears were pointy, his teeth were razor-sharp. A low growl came from his throat. Fear paralyzed me. I tried moving, running, screaming, but found myself frozen.

The monster lifted his big, lean, sharp hand.

“Erin, no!”

My aunt pushed me out of the way.

The monster dropped his claws.

My aunt’s body fell to the floor.

The Midnight Test Chapter One

Chapter One

The force like a cold wind mixed with an electric pulse ripped through me, and I gasped.
What the ...? Dozens of bad words crossed my mind, and I would have spat them if my cell
phone hadn’t dinged.

Amanda: So, did it work?

I sighed. If whatever was haunting this place stopped playing, maybe I could start the ritual
and find out.

Me: Hang on.

I knelt on the floor and resumed drawing a summoning circle. I could feel the entity
nearby, as if it were watching me, wondering what I was doing. I looked up, searching for the
moon, but both four-story dorm buildings did a great job of hiding it from me.

It was almost two in the morning, and even though it was Sunday, most students seemed to
have turned in early. Probably because fall classes officially started tomorrow. Good thing too,
because I didn’t need any curious eyes.

I finished the circle and withdrew a small leather pouch from inside my tote, which was
lying on the ground near my feet. I opened the pouch and shook the contents into the palm of my
left hand. The red hawthorn berry powder was running low, but I should have enough for
tonight's ritual. I made a mental note to stop by the Midnight Cauldron to buy more.

Focusing on my task, I pinched the red powder with my fingers and sprinkled the dust on
the ground, forming a six-pointed star in the center of the circle. After making sure there were no
gaps in the star, I cinched the pouch and threw it back in my tote. I pulled out my phone and sent
a message to my sister.

Me: Done.

Amanda: Now place the crystals on each point of the star and step into the circle, and then
call it.

I rolled my eyes.
Me: I know.

Amanda: Sorry. Force of habit.

Her powers manifested when she was eight, and she started learning magic right away. I
was six then, and even though I still hadn’t manifested, I sat through her lessons. I absorbed
everything. Amanda’s affinity appeared when she was thirteen—the ability to turn water into ice,
but only in small quantities. It was a fairly simple affinity, but she was happy with it. Until then,
I hadn’t even made a single spark with my fingers. My mother thought all the time I had spent
studying had been a waste.

Finally, on my sixteenth birthday, a sliver of magic appeared. To my mother’s disgrace, I
had been the oldest witch we knew to receive my magic, and also the weakest. However, I knew
it all. All the theory, all the history, all the spells, all the potions, and that knowledge, along with
my weak magic, made me somewhat useful.

But I still hadn’t discovered my affinity.

Amanda: Hazel, did you get it?

Suppressing a groan, I placed the fist-sized white crystals on each corner of the six-pointed

star. I looked around one more time, making sure nobody was in the alley or watching me
through the windows, and stepped into the circle.

The energy from the crystals flowed into me and I opened my arms, welcoming that bit of
extra magic. It rushed through my veins, bringing energy, life, and power. I smiled.

Veni ad me,” I chanted, funneling my power. I sent my magic to all four corners. I felt it
when it bumped into the other force, enveloped it, and pulled it to the circle. “Now you’re mine.”

The force struggled against me, but my magic was strong when backed up by the crystals.
The force crossed the circle’s barrier and my magic released it. Immediately, it tried to step out
of the circle. I almost laughed at its foolish attempts.

I channeled my powers. “Apparet.”

The air shimmered and smoke appeared, slowly forming the outline of a person. It was a
ghost. I knew it.

“Hazel Rose Levine.”

I snapped my head toward the voice and lost my grasp on my magic. The power of the
crystals faded and the ghost vanished.

“Shit,” I muttered.

A tall woman wearing a heavy white cloak with silver embroidery stood a good fifteen feet
from the circle. The magic within her was so powerful that I could feel it brushing against my
skin, filling the alley, chasing away ghosts.

A small brown owl appeared at the mouth of the alley, seated on top of a closed garbage
can. It hooted once, and somehow I just knew this owl was a familiar.

I stepped out of the circle. “Yes?”

She took off the hood, revealing a plain face with sharp lines. Still, she was beautiful in an
imposing, strong way. “I’m Lenora, one of the witches from the Lightgrove coven.”

My throat became instantly dry and my hands damp. Lenora ... she was one of the council
members of the Lightgrove coven. What was she doing here? I could only think of one thing.

“Um, have you received my request?” The one I had sent two months ago, when I first
arrived in New Orleans for summer classes. Several options had rolled through my mind since
then. One, they didn’t get my request. Two, they got it, and knowing how weak I was, chose to
ignore it. Three, they got it and were spying on me, waiting to see if I should be granted an
audience or not.

“We did,” she said, her voice grave. “We decided it’s time for us to meet.”

My heart skipped a beat. I truly wasn’t expecting this. “Really?”

She went on as if the excitement in my tone didn’t amuse her one bit. “Tomorrow evening.

At the appointed place and time.” She waved her hand and an old, rolled parchment blinked into
existence right in front of my face. I snatched it. “Don’t be late.”

“I won’t,” I promised.

She turned, but then stopped and looked around the tall buildings before her eyes settled
back on me. “You should be careful, walking alone in the middle of the night. New Orleans is
full of supernaturals, and most of them don’t have good intentions.”

I gulped. I had heard that, of course, but so far, I hadn’t encountered any supernaturals,
besides the one or two I knew about. But if she was warning me, then I should take it to heart.

The owl hooted again. Before I could answer, shadows surrounded her, and just like that,
she was gone—and her familiar too.

A thrill bubbled in my chest, and I reached for my phone from over my tote. I began typing
a text for my sister then stopped. What the hell? Who cared if it was past midnight? My mother
would want to know this no matter the hour.

She answered on the second ring. “They contacted you?” she asked, her voice alert.

I frowned. “How did you know?”

“Calling me at this time? That better be it.”

The excited feeling died down and I sighed. To her, that was the main reason I moved from

our tiny town of Oak Hill, middle of nowhere in Louisiana, to New Orleans. No matter how
much I wanted to go to college and live a normal life, since apparently I wasn’t cut out for the
witch thing. But she had made me promise, she begged me, to contact the Lightgrove coven, to
request an audience so I could introduce myself and also request a position within their ranks.

“It would be the biggest honor,” she had said.

Yes, it would. With the exception of my mother and Amanda, our family was the weakest
in our entire region, and I was the weakest of them all. She would love to have a daughter inside
the Lightgrove coven, the strongest, most powerful coven of light witches in existence. To my
mother, I could be there as a maid. She didn’t care as long as I got in.

“So,” she asked. “When will you meet them?”

“Tomorrow.” That was in less than twenty-four hours. My stomach knotted. I picked up
the crystals and stashed them inside my tote. “I’ll call you once I’m out.”

“Please, Hazel ...” She sighed. “Impress them somehow.”

How was I supposed to do that? My magic didn’t hold a candle to theirs. There was
nothing I could do that would impress them. Honestly, I didn’t know why they accepted my

I counted to ten before answering. “I’ll try.” I waved my hand to the circle. The red and
white lines turned to dust that drifted away in the soft breeze.

“If they ask you for a demonstration, what will you do?”

I scanned the alley one more time, making sure I hadn’t forgotten anything, then turned on
the heels of my high-tops and walked out the alley.

“I don’t know, mayb—” I bumped into something and tripped backward, but recovered
before my butt met the ground. My phone fell from my hand, and my tongue tingled with curses.
“What the f—?” I cut my words short and stared at the guy before me with wide eyes.

Even peering out from under a hood, his eyes pulled me in. He was breathtaking. His eyes
were the brightest blue I had ever seen, and they went well with his fair skin and his dark brown
hair, which was shaved close on the sides and longer on the top, but he didn’t leave it up in

spikes like Mohawks or fauxhawks. His puckered lips and sharp chin and jaw added to his
beauty. As if his face wasn’t enough, he was tall and wide. Peeking from his sleeveless hoodie,
his arms were inked and toned, and right now, gleaming with sweat. I didn’t know what to stare
at first. The tattoos or the muscles or the sweat running over his skin.

Frowning, Hot Tattooed Guy bent down and picked up my phone from the ground.
“Sorry,” he said, offering the phone to me.

I forced myself to swallow. “Thanks.” I put the phone to my ear and flinched when I heard
my mother yelling my name. “I’m here. I’m here. Sorry. I dropped the phone.”

Hot Tattooed Guy stared at me the same way I had stared at him. Was he checking me out
or was he simply curious about my unusual visual? My fair skin and pale blue eyes were nothing
new. But blond hair streaked in red, a bar on my left eyebrow, a tiny crystal piercing in my nose
(I had another, not so tiny, on my belly button, but he couldn’t see that one), eyeliner and
mascara, but no other kind of makeup, a tattoo of three stars on the side of my neck (I had more,
but he also couldn’t see those) were almost always something people stared at. Not to mention
the style of clothes I liked. At the moment, I wore a thin, off-white, short-sleeved tee, black
leggings, black and red high-tops, and had my red leather jacket hanging from my tote. Well, my
style might have been a novelty back home, but I knew it wasn’t here in New Orleans. Maybe he
was staring at me for another reason, then. People always told me I looked younger than I was.
Did he see me as a fifteen-year-old girl instead of eighteen?

His eyes met mine and I inhaled deeply. “Um, Mom. Can I call you tomorrow?”

“Sure,” she said, sounding a little suspicious.

“Bye.” I turned off the call before she could say anything else. I dropped my phone inside

my tote. “Sorry about bumping into you.”

Hot Tattooed Guy buried his hands in the pockets of his sweatpants. “It’s okay.” His voice

was deep and gruff. I told my girly side to be quiet before I acted like a hormonal high school
girl and giggled at him. “It was my fault too. I should have been paying attention to where I was

“It’s okay,” I muttered. For some reason, I wanted to make him talk more. “I’m Hazel.” I
stretched my hand to him.

Hot Tattooed Guy glanced at my hand before taking it and enveloping mine in a firm
handshake. “Sean.”

My hand seemed so small in his. My cheeks warmed and I pulled my hand back. Trying to
sound nonchalant, I tilted my head to the side, and said, “So, Sean, you run at this time of night?”

“And you talk on the phone with your mother in dark alleys?” he said, his tone tight. I
almost flinched. He averted his eyes. “Sorry. It isn’t my business.”

“Yeah, well, sorry I asked too.” As much as it pained me, I turned around and started
walking to my dorm building.

The breeze blew again, carrying one of the many flyers spread throughout campus
announcing the big welcoming party next weekend. Like everything in New Orleans, it would be
one big costume party, and even though the dorms had started filling up two days ago, everyone
was already talking about it. I stepped on the flyer and I picked it up, thinking about throwing it
away in the next trash can I saw.

I took another three steps before Sean said, “Yes, I was running.”

I stopped and glanced over my shoulder. Sean’s body was angled toward me. Now he
wanted to talk? I turned back. “Do you always run at this time of night?”

“Only when I can’t sleep.” He paused and touched a red macramé bracelet around his
wrist. “Which is often.”

“Oh.” I wanted to ask why. Why couldn’t he sleep? But I had never seen this guy before,
and right now, he intrigued me. I neither wanted to pry too much or risk pushing him away, but I
wanted to keep talking to him, even though I wasn’t sure what to say.

“How about you?” he asked, surprising me. He looked like the quiet, lonely type. Making
small talk wasn’t his thing. “Do you always sneak into dark alleys and call your mother at this
time of night?”

I smiled. Turning my own question against me. Touché. “Sometimes.”

His expression hardened, and the muscles in his neck and shoulders tensed. “You shouldn’t
be out alone so late. It’s dangerous.”

On instinct, I took a step back. Was he warning me he was dangerous? Not that I was
afraid. I really wasn’t. I had ways of defending myself. A normal human would never touch me
if I didn't want them to. But he didn’t know that.

“Right,” I said, playing along. “Well, classes start early tomorrow morning. I should get
some sleep.” I took another step back.

He nodded. “Good night.”

“Good night,” I said before walking the short distance to my building’s front door.

Once inside, I spied on him through one of the lobby windows. Sean remained in place,
staring at my building door. Slowly, his gaze shifted up—to the dorm windows? He shook his
head, turned around, and pushed into a run again.

I watched until I couldn’t see him anymore. Sean was intriguing, to say the least.

I peeked at the flyer in my hand. It would be nice to go to the welcoming party. To go out,
period. I spent most of my weekend nights hunting ghosts and putting them to rest. A welcoming
party on a Friday the Thirteenth wouldn’t be any different.

Fishing my phone from my tote, I climbed up the steps to my floor. There were several
messages from Amanda. As much as I wanted to answer her, I really should go to sleep. Just
because I was a witch, it didn’t mean I didn’t get tired, and knowing me, tomorrow I would feel
like a zombie.

The Darkest Vampire Chapter One

Chapter One

So this was the place that would change my life?

I stared at the shop across the street—peeling gray paint, a rickety wooden door, a narrow window covered with twinkling lights. A precarious and rusty metal sign hung from the top with the shop’s name: Arcana’s Cove. I had driven from Forest Creek to Portland for this? I wrinkled my nose. This place didn’t look legit, but Rex had promised it was.

I reached down and patted my boot, feeling my dagger tucked inside. I had received it from my father when I was eight years old. Twelve years later, and I hadn’t used it yet, but I liked to know it was there, just in case.

With a sigh, I crossed the street, the cool wind of early September messing my wild hair, and opened the door. A bell jingled as I walked in and a heavy scent of sweet incense filled my nostrils. I glanced around. The place looked even smaller inside. A horrid pink and gold wallpaper covered the walls and dark stains covered the beige carpet. A small round table sat in the center of the room with two chairs, a red tablecloth, and a crystal ball on top.

I frowned. Did people really think this crystal ball was real? Well, I didn’t know enough about the supernatural world. Maybe it was.

A short woman with unruly black curls and wrinkled brown skin and ridiculous orange gown with too much frou-frou walked out of the backroom, the green beads hanging from the doorway jingling in her wake.

“Welcome to Arcana’s—“ she started with a big smile, but when her dark eyes settled on me, her smile faded. “What do you want here?”

I glanced around. Was she talking to me? “Hm, do you know me?”

“No, but I can sense your magic,” she said. “It’s weak, but I know you’re a witch.”

“And so are you.” At least, that was what Rex had told me.

“I don’t deal with real witches, or any other supernaturals.” She gestured for the door. “You can go.”

“No, you pretend to be a witch and exploit innocent humans.” It was a nasty thing to say, but it was true. “Look, Fawn Strain, I’m not here to judge you.”

Her eyes bugged. “How do you know my name?”

“Rex told me.” He had also told me she went by Arcana to her customers. Only a handful of people knew her real name.

She bristled. “Of course he did. And what is your name?”

“Lavinia,” I answered, telling her my real name. I had no reason to lie. “I just need some help and I’m willing to pay.” I fished the thick wad of cash from the inside pocket of my leather jacket and showed it to her. “All I’m asking is a few minutes of your time.”

Fawn stared at the cash in my hand, her eyes narrowing. Usually, I didn’t have this crazy amount of money with me, or in my bank account, but I had stolen a fancy bracelet from one of my customers last week and sold it to Rex for this purpose only.

“Fine,” she snapped. She took one of the chairs around the table and pointed to the other. “Let’s make this quick.”

I sat on the chair and couldn’t help myself. I touched the crystal ball. “Is this real?”

Fawn snorted. “Of course not. It’s just glass with LED lights inside. But humans think it’s great.” She frowned. “Enough chitchat. What do you want, Lavinia?”

I let out a long breath. “When I was eleven, my mother put some sort of spell on me, like a blood promise, I think. She made me promise I would keep my magic hidden and only use it when it was absolutely necessary.” She had also made me promise I was going to live like a human and forget the supernatural world existed, but those had been only verbal. I hoped.

Fawn reached over and took my hands in hers. She turned them around, as if she could see inside them, at the weak magic running through my veins. “If it was a blood promise, I don’t think I can break it. Only your mother can.”

I was afraid of that, but … “I’m not sure it was a blood promise. I was young and didn’t know much about magic.” I still didn’t, but Fawn didn’t need to know about that. “Can you at least try?” For the amount of money I was offering her, I really hoped so.

The witch exhaled through her nose. “Fine.” She placed my hands on the table and rested hers over mine. She closed her eyes and started chanting under her breath.

A rumble of magic charged the air and I gasped. I rarely felt magic like this, like it was a current of air that brushed my skin. The hairs on my arms stood on end and I glanced around, as if I could see it. But there was nothing there. It was just magic.

My attention snapped back to Fawn as her chanting sped up. Her brows curled down in concentration. A jolt of magic raced up my arms and I bit my tongue not to yelp. My impulse was to pull my hands back, but Fawn held them in place.

“Don’t move,” she whispered between the chanting.

I stood still, barely breathing. If she could undo whatever had locked my magic away, I would endure this and more. I dug the heels of my boots into the floor and braced myself.

But no jolt or pain came.

Fawn stopped chanting, lowered her hands, and opened her eyes again. “It really is a blood promise, a powerful one. I can’t break it.”

My shoulders sagged.

That meant I would never be able to break it and I would never have my magic back. Without my magic, I wouldn’t be strong enough to hunt for my parents’ killers and avenge them.

I was stuck as a half-assed human.

“There has to be a way,” I said, my voice rising a pitch. It made me sound desperate. “Maybe you know of another witch, someone even more powerful than you, someone who could help me?”

Fawn offered me a sad smile. “No witch can break a blood promise but the one who made it. I’m sorry.”

No, I couldn’t accept that. If she didn’t know someone who could help me, or if she didn’t want to tell me, that was fine. Portland was a city full of supernaturals. Someone would know something. Someone would be able to help me.

She didn’t seem willing, though. I swallowed the ball of frustration and disappointment that had formed in my throat and slapped the cash on the table. “Here. As promised.”

Fawn reached for it and her fingers brushed mine as she took the money from me.

Another jolt of magic ran up my arm, stronger this time. A heavy shadow fell over the room, darkening our surroundings, and a chill pressed against me. No, no darkness. A whirlwind whipped around the room, and my long brown hair danced with it, the red tips slapping my face.

“What in the …” Fawn’s eyes rounded, and her mouth fell open.

I followed her gaze and saw a bulky figure standing amid the shadows, a silhouette in the dark. I swallowed hard. “W-what is that? Who are you?”

“It’s not a real person,” Fawn said, her voice faint. “It’s not even a demon, or a ghost.”

Frowning, I turned back to her. “What do you mean?”

The figure ran around us in a perfect circle, faster than we could follow with our eyes. Even though it wasn’t more than a black and lean form, we could see it was a man.

It didn’t make sense.

The silhouette stopped.

“I haven't seen one in many years,” Fawn said. “This is a harbinger. Something is coming, something enveloped in darkness.”

I looked at the shadows again, catching a glimpse of the figure before it disappeared. The shadows faded back and the lamps once again illuminated the space. “Or someone.”

The witch nodded. “Supernaturals have died in the Seattle area, and last week, a family of supernaturals died not even one hour from here.”

“Are you saying supernaturals are being hunted?”

Fawn scoffed. “Supernaturals are always hunted, but this is different.”

“Do you think this warning—” I gestured toward the room, indicating the shadow we had seen. “—is related to these deaths?”

“I don’t know.” She pushed to her feet and beckoned for me to do the same. “All I know is that our time is up. I have another customer coming soon.”

I stared at her for a moment. She could be lying about the client, but it was clear that she didn’t want me here anymore. Well, if she couldn’t break the blood promise, then she was of no use to me. It was a shame I had paid her so much for nothing.

“Thanks,” I muttered before turning to the door.

“Lavinia,” she called. I glanced at her over my shoulder. “Be careful. No supernatural is safe.”

I nodded then exited her shop.

As I walked to my car on the other side of the street, my mind reeled. Fawn couldn’t break the blood promise, which meant I would have to find another witch, someone even more powerful to help me. And what was that shadow thing? And that freaky silhouette? A harbinger, Fawn had said. Of what? The murders she mentioned?

I now had more questions than before.

I entered my car and turned on the engine. It was okay. Fawn said supernaturals weren’t safe. Well, my magic was weak, thanks to this damn blood promise, and only a handful of people knew I was a witch.

I was safe.

The Night Calling Chapter One

Chapter One

I lived in a gilded prison.

There were fleeting moments, a few seconds here and there, when I forgot. And all I had to do to be reminded of my prison was glance over my shoulder. A demon was always a few feet back, watching me.

Making sure I didn’t try to escape.


I sighed and rinsed my mug in the sink, my eyes across the marble counter, where Minsi was seated finishing her cereal.

For her, I tried my best to make this house—her house—not look like a prison, despite a second demon in the corner of the room watching her. Worse than these two was the other half-wolf, half-demon who lived in this house as if he were the king.

Well, in a way he was. Conri was the damn alpha, and we could do nothing about it.

I glanced across the family room to the left, where the foyer was located. Around a corner was the home office. Conri was in there and I knew that because of the two demons stationed outside the door.

Demons infested this gilded prison.

A door opened. I dropped the mug in the sink and went to Minsi. I pulled her chair back and helped her stand.

“Why don’t you go upstairs and finish getting ready?”

She pointed to her unfinished cereal.

I grabbed the bowl and handed it to her. “You can finish it in your bedroom.”

Heavy footsteps echoed through the house.

“Just … go.”

Her hazel eyes widened, understanding dawning on her. With trembling hands, she took the bowl from me. The metal shackle on her wrist clinked mine, but we pretended we didn't hear it or feel it. I had decorated mine with leather straps and metal spikes and Minsi’s with pink yarn and bedazzle. Better to pretend these were pretty bracelets than shackles.

I clenched my teeth, watching as the ten-year-old girl disappeared from the kitchen as if it was on fire, going for the second set of stairs in the mudroom, the demon Dixon following her.

Heavy footsteps grew closer, and knowing I couldn’t avoid the devil, I turned toward him. 

A wide smile spread across his lips as he entered the kitchen—the two demons stayed back.

To me, Conri looked like an MMA fighter with his cropped dark hair, trimmed beard, and stocky body. He wasn’t the tallest wolf, but he was muscular. He wasn’t one bit attractive and yet he had an imposing air around him, as if everything about him, even his movements, yelled he was the supreme predator here.

“Good morning, Raika,” he said, his deep voice with its usual chipper tone. It made me sick.

I crossed my arms. “What do you want?”

Conri gave me a once-over, as usual. I wanted to duck behind the island or run and hide in a hole every time he did that, but I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of knowing he bothered me.

I did my best not to squirm as he took in my appearance. I had been dressing in the same style for years now—cropped tank, shorts, fishnet tights, long boots, and sometimes a leather jacket if the weather called for it. All black, of course.

“Come talk to me,” he finally said, settling his eyes on mine. He gestured behind him.

This mansion didn’t look like a prison with its wide spaces and fancy country decorations. There was a formal living room, a family room, an entertainment room, a dining room, a breakfast room, and a sunroom with another long table to seat ten, two kitchens—one inside, another outside on the porch—and eight suites on the second and third floors with en suite bathrooms. The few times I had seen this house when I had been a child, a pang of jealousy had cut through me. The chic, white contemporary farmhouse style with medium wood accents had always been my favorite, and now I lived in it.

I hated it with all my body and soul.

“I’m good here.”

Used to my retorts, Conri’s smile didn’t lessen. “Suit yourself.”

He walked into the high-ceiling family room and hovered before the large stone fireplace. Two leather armchairs faced the fireplace, and Conri could often be found seated in one of them, drinking whiskey.

This time, though, he didn’t sit down. He stood there, his back to the fireplace. “For a while now, my gang and I have been gathering during the full moon to celebrate, and I think it’s time we did something bigger.”

Despite myself, I walked to the edge of the kitchen, where I could hear him better. Of course, the demon who watched me, Phell, moved with me.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“In less than two weeks, it’ll be my anniversary as the pack’s alpha, and I thought it would be a good idea to have a celebration in the main square with the entire pack.”

I blinked. Holy shit, was he insane? Yes, yes, he was. “No one in the pack will want to celebrate that with you. There’s nothing to celebrate.” In fact, if we did something on that date, it would be to mourn everything we lost—our loved ones and our freedom.

His smile faded. “I’m giving them an opportunity. If they want to be in my pack—“

“They don’t want to be your pack.” Conri stilled, his eyes rounded, and a vein on his neck popped. I crossed my arms and lifted my chin. “I don’t either, for that matter. I’m here because you force me to be.”

Conri’s eyes turned yellow and he advanced two steps. My insides tightened, but I held my ground. Hell would freeze over before I showed him fear.

“You will convince them to—“

“I don’t think you heard me,” I cut him off again. I was treading in dangerous waters. I knew it was stupid, but sometimes I couldn’t help it. I loathed this wolf-demon with all I had, and since there was no one else to talk to, to scream at, he served the bill. “The pack won’t come to your event, no matter what you want me to tell them. And I won’t come eit—“

Conri’s hand closed around my throat, yanking me upward. My toes barely touched the ground and I struggled to breathe. He leaned into me and bared his sharp, canine teeth in my face.

“You don’t get to choose,” he snarled. “You will do as I tell you, little wolf, or you know what will happen.” He dropped his hand and retreated a step. I gasped for air, my knees wobbling for having to bear my weight again so suddenly.

I slipped my hand inside my shorts pocket and gripped the long, metal nails I had there. It would be so easy to slip them in and swipe at his face. To hurt him.

But I had done that before, more than once actually, and all I got was a slap so hard that I went careening across the room. Minsi also suffered—he had left her locked in her bedroom for two days without food.

The bastard.

I let out a long, steadying breath.

As much as I wanted to beat him, certain battles weren’t worth the fight.

“Oh,” Conri started, his voice back to normal. “Next week is Minsi’s birthday, isn’t it? One year since everything changed. We should celebrate that too, even if only the three of us. Please, dress her up in something nice and—“

I lost it. I slipped two of the metal nails into my fingertips and swiped at him.

Conri didn’t seem startled as he stepped back, avoiding my swing by half an inch. A second later, the two demons were on me, holding me back.

Conri smiled at me, but this time, it was a predator’s grin. “You naughty little wolf. When will you learn there’s nothing you can do? You lost. Your mother is gone. Your friends are gone. Your weak alpha is gone. There’s no escape from this, and the sooner you accept it, the better.”

Still worked up, I jerked against the demons’ hold. Why me? Why did he single me out? Lucille was prettier and nastier. She would have fit his style much more. But … this wasn’t romantic, or for desire. Conri had never attempted to kiss me, to sleep with me. But since the attack, since he took over and became the alpha, he had ordered his demons to keep me safe while he slaughtered everyone else. Then he brought me to live with him at the alpha’s house, but never explained why.

“You know I’ll never behave,” I gritted out.

With a snarl, Conri let his hand fly. My head snapped to the side with the strike, pain spreading through my cheek and jaw.

“The next one will be on Minsi,” he barked. “Take her out of my sight!”

The demons holding me dragged me back and into Phell’s hand. He grabbed my wrist and forcefully pulled me back into the kitchen and toward the mudroom. I watched Conri as he turned his back on me and walked back to the fireplace, muttering things not even my wolf ears could hear.

I could have fought, but I didn’t because I knew Conri would hurt Minsi … and I would never let that happen.

Winter King Chapter One

Chapter One

The report I got this morning was nothing like I expected.

“Have you seen this?” I asked Kei, my most trusted general, as I reread the words scribbled on the paper.

They couldn’t be right.

“I have, Cade,” Kei said, his voice strained. “It’s even worse than they described. I think you should come with me and see it for yourself.”

“Snow above,” I muttered under my breath as I rolled the paper back up and dropped it on the long table in my study alongside many other reports and scriptures. I had so much to do, but this…if this was true, it couldn’t wait. I gestured to Kei. “Lead the way.”

Kei’s long body shimmered and changed. His white and silver armor disappeared, giving way to light gray fur as he hunkered down and shook his tail behind him. As a wolf, he let out a short yelp, letting me know he was ready.

I changed too, but as the king of the Winter Court, my wolf was pure white and much bigger than Kei’s.

I’m ready, I told him through the link we shared when in our wolf forms.

Without another second to waste, Kei dashed away, and I followed. We ran through the hallways and down the stairs of the White Palace, dodging servants and guards who were going about their days.

The moment I stepped out of the palace, the six White Knights, who had been standing there and waiting, shifted into their wolf forms and followed us. Kei was the general of my army, but the White Knights were my personal bodyguards. I liked to think I didn’t need them, so I kept them outside the palace. But since we didn’t know much about the threat mentioned in this morning’s report, I had them come with us.

The eight of us ran out of the palace grounds, through the White City, and into the forest, where we could stretch our legs and use our full speed. We zoomed through the snow, past leafless trees and broken branches.

What would take eight hours by horse took us two hours in our wolf forms.

We’re almost there, Kei said into our minds.

He slowed down, and we followed suit. The trees gave way to a valley, where one of the border towers was located, but instead of being covered in snow, the ground was pitch-black.

I shifted into my fae form. “What in the frost is this?”

The guards who usually stayed at the tower appeared before me.

“It started overnight, my king,” Aimon said, his head low. “It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen. It started right at the border, and like a wave, it has been spreading over the land.”

“It took over the tower,” Birch said, pointing to the once-white tower, now a mass of dark gray crumbles. “We tried to fight it with our powers, to push it back, but it didn’t budge. Whatever this is, we can’t stop it.”

As we watched, the darkness spread some more. It was slow, but every five minutes or so, it advanced half an inch, melting the snow and killing the land underneath, turning everything black.

My brow furrowed. What could this be? With steady steps, I advanced toward it.

“My king, be careful,” Kei said, using formal speech. He only called me by my name when we were alone.

I heard him, but I had to know what in the frost was this. I crouched down, stretched my arm, and slid my index and middle fingers from the snow to the darkness.

The moment the darkness touched my skin, it burned worse than the Summer Court’s sun.

“Snow above,” I hissed, pulling back.

Kei and the six White Knights were all over me in a flash, but I pushed them away. Staring at the advancing darkness, I took several steps back. I didn’t care about the pain in my fingertips. That would pass, and with the magic in my veins, I would soon heal.

But what about my land?

I glanced around. “Who did this?” From here, all I could see was the valley in front of us, now black because of the darkness, and beyond the dried Triad River and the Tywyll Forest.

A land of monsters.

“We don’t know, my king,” Aimon said. “But we have reason to believe it was the Tabred.”

A wave of rage coursed through me, and I suppressed a growl. The Tywyll Forest was a land without a ruler, but that only meant many groups existed and fought against each other and against the Wyth courts. One of these groups, the Tabred, had been at war with my court for centuries.

After I killed their leader years ago, the group had been oddly quiet.

Until now.

This freezing thing happened. I inhaled deeply and channeled my magic. It filled my veins. Ice, snow, frost, wind—it was all part of me, part of my court. It was who I was, what I lived and breathed for.

“Stand back,” I rasped.

Kei, the White Knights, and the border guards took many steps back.

And I let out my magic. It blew like an avalanche, relentless in its path. If a lesser fae had stood there, it would have been obliterated in less than a second. A higher fae would be able to withstand it for a minute or two, but it would weaken him and eventually kill him.

The Winter Court was me, and I was the Winter Court. There was nothing stronger, faster, more powerful than me, not in this land. Not in my kingdom. And anyone who threatened my people, my court, would suffer the consequences.

I sent all my magic, all its vast power, to the darkness, sure I could revert it. Sure I could make it disappear.

But minutes later when I pulled back, breathing hard from the effort, I was dumbfounded to find the darkness hadn’t moved back one inch. In fact, it only advanced a little more.

“What in the frost?” I had no words, no idea, no action.

Nothing had ever resisted the full power of my magic before.

“What should we do, my king?” Kei asked, his tone guarded, as if afraid of my answer.

I opened my mouth, but no freezing word came out, because I didn’t know.

“It’s a curse,” a new voice said.

I turned and saw her.

Mahaera, the kind and gentle goddess of Wyth. Her long, white hair moved behind her as if she were underwater, and her long, white dress hugged her voluptuous form.

“A curse?” I asked her. If someone could tell me what this was and how to fix it, it was one of the three sister goddesses.

Mahaera offered me a tight smile, but her dark eyes remained serene. “The Tabred has put a curse on your land.”

“This is….” I pressed my lips tight. Unacceptable? Insane? Many colorful words flew through my mind.

“Tell us what to do, my king,” Kei said, bowing his head low. “If you want me to gather our forces and attack them full force, I’ll do so.”

Mahaera tsked, her dark eyes fixed on the dying land. “Reigniting the war, which has been dormant for years, won’t break this curse.”

“What will?” I asked, taking a couple of steps toward her. “What will break this curse?”

She turned, fixing those wise eyes on mine. This version of her was calm and gentle, but she still always said the truth and impacted our lives more than we expected it in any of her versions. “Here’s what you need to do….”

Heart Seeker Chapter One

Chapter One

Everyone had to do things they didn’t like. Grocery shopping, cleaning, ironing, answering calls—who still used the phone for that?—and, in my case, going across town. Unfortunately, it happened more often than I liked it to. In the thirteen months I had been living in Broken Hill, this was the fifth time I’d had to come here.

Pulling my jacket tighter, I hugged myself and stepped off the bus. The weather here still boggled my mind. It was August and it was supposed to be hot, but here, up north, deep in the woods of Connecticut, it never got hot enough, not like California, Texas, Florida, or the other places I had lived before. And most days, it was chilly enough in the mornings for a jacket.

I glanced around and my chest deflated. This side of town, Southend, was meager and busier, and it wasn’t uncommon for people to be robbed in the middle of the street. But the one place that sold cheap pointe shoes, which I currently needed, was right in the heart of this neighborhood. My pointe shoes had been broken for a few weeks, and I tried holding on to them as long as I could, but now they just hurt. A new pointe shoe wasn’t that expensive, but I needed to save every single penny I could to pay for my tuition. 

Suck it up, Mirella, I told myself.

Sighing, I walked down the busy street, careful with the cracked, uneven sidewalk, and trying not to look around. And failing.

In rapid speech, vendors chatted with shoppers in hopes of convincing them to buy more than they wanted. Kids played ball in the middle of the closed street. Women, half-hidden behind some of the shops, moved suggestively.

Like any other Sunday, Romani caravans had come out with their clans and filled the square, playing and dancing flamenco right in the center of the street. A crowd gathered around them, clapping in rhythm with the songs. Some of the women walked around the crowd, offering palm or tarot reading.

I lowered my head and kept walking. Why did this store need to be on the other side of the market? Shit.

Something tugged at me, deep inside, and I glanced around. One of the women, a brunette with long, brown curls, big, dark brown eyes, and red lipstick on plump lips fixed her gaze on me. She had big hoops in her ears and a pink bandana covering her hair. She smiled, and I ducked into the crowd, praying for her to leave me alone.

I stepped into an alley. A red door was open on the left and the sign on the wall read: The Everything Shop. Past the door, I went up one flight of stairs and through another red door. It really was the everything shop. Tall, overstuffed shelves that reached the ceiling crammed the space. Pots, pans, soap bars, portraits, toys, notebooks, plastic plates and cups, paper towels, over-the-counter medicine, greeting cards, clothes, bikes, skates, helmets, dance shoes, and everything in between. If they sold puppies, I wouldn’t be surprised.

“How can I help you?” a young woman asked.

I told her the model and size of the pointe shoes I was looking for. She found them in the back of the store and brought them out to me. I tried them on to make sure they fit before paying and darting out of the place.

Once outside, I lowered my head and stayed as far away from the Romani people as I could.

The woman wearing red lipstick and a pink bandana stepped in my way, making me halt.

“Hello there,” she said, smiling.

“Um, excuse me.” I stepped aside.

She let me pass, but she kept walking beside me. “I’m Esmeralda. Would you like to have your palm read?”


“Oh, but it should be fun.”

“I’m not interested.”

“I sense something in you. I’m itching to read you.”

I stopped and turned to her. “I don’t care.”

She leaned closer and took a deep breath. Did she just … sniff me? Gross.

“I can feel … something,” she said, her voice carrying an enthralling lilt. I couldn’t tell if she was trying to mesmerize me or if she was the one mesmerized. “Can’t you feel it?”

I could. I could sense the something in me; I could feel it. I also could sense something in her. Like her strong sixth sense trying to break the walls I had learned to erect long ago. I had no idea how it worked, but I chanted in my mind: be strong, be strong, be strong. Hopefully, my walls would keep her out.

I stopped and glared at her. “Look, you may fool some idiots who want to believe in the shit you do, but you won’t fool me. You can’t read palms; you can’t sense anything. It’s all theatrics to steal money from people.”

She flinched as if I had slapped her. “Wow. Is that what you tell yourself so you can sleep at night?”

This time, I flinched.

Bingo. She hadn’t even read me and she knew the truth.

“It’s none of your business,” I snapped.

“Are you sure?” She tilted her head, watching me. “You’re just like me.” She waved her hand up and down, gesturing from my head to my toes—and I knew she meant more than my bohemian clothes.

I gulped. Then she grabbed my hand and leaned over it.

“Hey!” I pulled my hand back.

She lifted her face, now pale and sporting wide eyes. “I saw it.”

I glanced at my hand. Saw what? She had seen my palm for only a second. Besides, it was one thing to feel, to sense things, but to see them? That would take some convincing.

“Death is coming for you,” she whispered, as if saying the words would bring bad luck to her, too.

A chill ran down my spine.

What did that even mean? Playing it cool, I snorted. “Death is coming for all of us.”

“No, not like this.” Her spooked eyes turned into sad pools. “I’m so sorry.”

I cradled the hand she had touched, that she had read. This was bullshit. She didn’t see anything. It was all lies. Fabricated statements to enthrall her customers. However, the customers were usually told nice things, vague, hopeful things that made them come back for more.

Why would she say something so horrible to me?

“I’m sorry,” she repeated, retreating.

I watched as she rushed away and disappeared among the other Romani as if I had the plague.

Groaning, I turned on my heels and marched back to the bus stop. All the while, her words echoed in my mind.

Death is coming for you.

* * *

I spun once, twice, three times. Chassé, grand jeté, arabesque. The song ended, and I turned to my audience—girls of twelve and thirteen years old. They were one of my several classical ballet classes, and every now and then, they asked me to perform some solo from Giselle or Don Quixote or Coppélia. At this age, they were still in love with dance and thinking about pursuing it for real. Seeing me dancing these variations made them more excited about it.

I smiled and bowed to the sound of their applause.

“Miss Reyes,” Holly started. “Why aren’t you dancing with a big company?”

My smile fell. I got that question rather frequently. Honestly, I didn’t have a good answer other than I had never auditioned. Traveling to where most auditions were held cost money, and I didn’t have any.

I opened my mouth to answer, to tell them something, but I caught sight of the time on the clock over the door and changed the subject. “Time to go.” I waved them off. “See you next week.”

The girls filed to leave the classroom, and I whirled to the shelf in the corner and turned off the stereo. Through the wall mirrors, I saw two girls standing close to the back shelf where my bag was.

“Girls,” I called, and they jumped. “Can I help you with something?”

“No, Miss Reyes,” Serena said. Huddled together, she and Amy left the classroom.

A prickling sensation teased the base of my neck. Something was wrong. The pendant pinned to the inside of my bra strap warmed against my skin. I closed my eyes, and opened my mind. I sensed a disturbance in the air around me, around the dance studio, but couldn’t be sure. I tried pushing my senses farther away, but I didn’t know how. It was a miracle I was able to do this much.

Groaning, I snapped my eyes open.

The first time I had felt my sixth sense so strong I couldn’t ignore it, I was six years old. I fought it, thinking I was either going crazy or creating things out of boredom. Normal kids had imaginary friends. I had an advanced sixth sense. The fight lasted for over a year, until the force of that powerful sense broke me, literally driving me to my knees. Moments later, I found an old teacher from my elementary school having a heart attack in the library.

After that, it was hard to ignore the increasing sensation and the hard truth. The damn stories my mother had told me before bed, the Romani legends, were more than fairy tales. It was all true, and I was a Romani.

Of course, I never told anyone. It wasn’t until recently that I realized I wasn’t doing much to hide it, though. On top of my dark brown curls falling to my waist, my tanned skin, and my big greenish-hazel eyes, I dressed like a bohemian. Big earrings, lots of bracelets and rings and necklaces, ripped jeans or flowing skirts, blouses and dresses and jackets with lace or fringes. Odd boots or ballet flats. And everything colorful. I tried changing it so no one would know I was a Romani, but the change in style seeped into my mood. I wasn’t happy in regular jeans and tanks and black jackets. Or with my hair dyed another color or hidden. Or without jewelry.

This was me. It wasn’t as if I was looking for anyone’s approval.

My mother had been the same. She was an older version of me, with the same style of clothing and the same love for dancing, especially flamenco. I should have asked her about our ancestry, but I never summoned the courage. She never mentioned it, so I pretended I couldn’t feel her sixth sense, even more powerful than mine.

Sighing, I walked across the room and picked up my bag. It was open and my red, yellow, and orange bracelets were missing. What the hell? Oh, Serena and Amy. That was why they had stayed a little after class. Shit.

Shaking my head, I took off my pointe shoes, shoved my feet in my flats, and shrugged into my thin jacket. I slung my bag over my shoulder and marched to the lobby.

“Hey, Mirella,” Julie, the receptionist, said, looking at me from over her cat glasses. “How was class?”

I looked around. A few parents waited in the common room for their kids, but other than that, we were alone at the front.

“Aside from the fact that Serena and Amy stole my bracelets, it was great.”

Her eyes widened. “What?”

“I’m in shock, too. Do they have any other classes during the week besides mine?”

Julie shifted her attention to the computer and typed a few things. “They have jazz with Miss Dona tomorrow.” Miss Dona was the owner of the dance studio.

“What time?”

“Same time as your ballet class.” The one for four to six year olds.

“Good. Thanks,” I said as a young woman entered the dance studio.

I hadn’t seen her before, but I had joined the dance studio last July when I moved here, a mere thirteen months ago. She looked my age, so she could be an old student coming to visit. I had seen it happen a handful of times.

Julie smiled at her. “Hello. How can I help you?”

“Hi,” the young woman said, coming to stand before Julie’s high counter. “I just heard that you’re opening flamenco classes for adults, and I’m interested.”

“Oh, that’s great. The first class starts in three days. It’ll be one hour per week, every Thursday evening.”

The young woman smiled. “Cool, I can do that.”

“Great.” Julie gestured to me. “This is the instructor, Mirella Reyes.”

“Oh.” She turned her smile to me. The blue in her eyes caught my attention. Having boring hazel eyes, blues or bright greens always entranced me. Under a red beanie, her strawberry blond hair curled down to her shoulders. She extended her hand at me. “Hi. I’m Ellie Clarke. Nice to meet you.”

I shook her hand. “Nice to meet you, too.”

She narrowed her eyes at me, still smiling. “Don’t take this the wrong way, but I was expecting the teacher to be older than me.”

“I get that a lot. Don’t worry. I’ve been dancing since I was four, and I’ve been teaching for over five years.” One of the bright sides of my childhood had been all the dancing. My mother was a dance instructor, and it was only natural that I became one, too. By the middle of high school, I was teaching ballet and flamenco to the younger girls.


“Have you ever danced before?”

“I took ballet and jazz when I was little, but it wasn’t my thing. But I’ve always loved watching flamenco. I’m a big fan of Joaquin Cortez.” She lifted a hand and fanned her face. I almost smiled. “I guess I decided it’s time to try new things, you know?”

“Are you from around here?” Julie asked.

“No, I’m from Virginia. I started college here last year.”

“Broken Hill University?” Julie asked.


“Me too,” I said. “I’m in the dance program.” That was why I had moved here, because I had been accepted into the college. Granted, I only took a few classes per semester since I didn’t get a full scholarship and my salary at the dance studio was meager.

“That’s cool. I’m still undecided, but I’m leaning toward arts.”

“Sounds good.” Julie handed her a clipboard with some forms. “You can fill these out.”

“Cool.” Ellie took the clipboard and sat on one of the chairs edging the lobby walls.

For some reason, I lowered my walls and let my senses feel Ellie. I didn’t know how to read people, but I could get a sense of what I thought was their soul. Ellie emanated serenity and happiness. And she looked like—she had a small smile on her lips as she filled out the form. Smiling even when nothing fun was happening, because she was happy.

A little jealous pang raced through me. I had never been like that and probably would never be. I had been taught to be guarded, to keep my feelings to myself, to not trust anyone around me. No one.

That made for a very lonely life.

Destiny Gift Chapter One

Chapter One

When I was little, my grandma told me, “Nadine, before the sun left us, you could look up and estimate what time it was just by the position of the sun in the sky.”

Holding my breath, I walked out of the subway station into the street and looked up. All I saw were tall buildings, most of them in need of some love and care, reaching up to thick, dark gray clouds, the same ones that had been a permanent fixture in the sky for my entire nineteen years.

I wasn’t sure why I kept trying.

Exhaling, I focused on my task, on why I was uptown and not safely behind the gates of the university. To be honest, I wasn’t letting myself think about it too much. Otherwise, I would freeze. I would turn back around and flee. I would go home and pretend everything was all right.

One measured step in front of the other, I walked from the subway station to the next block. All the while my eyes stared straight ahead, and I breathed through my mouth. Even then I caught a sniff of the rotting smells of the city; my eyes drifted to the broken sidewalks, to the fallen street lamps, to the dying trees and dry dirt, to the homeless people hiding at the edge of alleys.

I swallowed the fear building inside me. As far as I knew, this had been a nice neighborhood until a couple of months ago. As nice as a neighborhood could be in this world. Larger companies and businesses moved out as soon as it started getting bad—poverty and robbers and bats—but not everyone could afford to pack up and move.

Like the psychiatrist I had scheduled an appointment with.

At first, I pushed my problems aside. I ignored them. But now I couldn’t anymore, and this was the only psychiatrist from the over twenty I called who had an appointment available. The others wanted to put me on a wait list at least three months long.

No, thank you.

I stopped at a corner and waited for a green light to change. I glanced up at the tall building with a mirror-like exterior across the street, reflecting more buildings and the dark clouds. There. Right there was the psychiatrist who would be able to help me with my problem.

The faint sound of wings flapping echoed through the street, and everyone looked up. Including me. Among the reflection of buildings and dark clouds, I saw the blurred line of a bat cutting through the sky. Thankfully, it disappeared with my next erratic heartbeat.

These damn bats …

The people in the street seemed to relax all at once.

A sigh escaped my lips.

But the bats weren’t the reason I was here, coming to this shady neighborhood after a psychiatrist. I needed help because I had dreams.

Dreams was the word I used to calm my mind. Visions was a more appropriate term.

The first one happened right after my arrival in New York nine months ago. At first the visions came once a month or so, but now they assaulted me once a week. I blacked out every time I had one. I could be cooking, studying, walking down the street, and I would simply zone out. I saw whatever the vision brought me, then I would wake up as if nothing had happened, as if I had not spent the last thirty seconds or fifteen minutes daydreaming.

I was reluctant to call my visions hallucinations. Yet now, heading toward a psychiatrist’s office, I guess I should. Hallucinations could be stopped with medication, right? That was why I was here—to ask the doctor to put an end to them. The visions were hindering my life. Last semester, I failed a class because I had visions during too many lectures and exams. Three days ago, I dropped a tray on a customer at the café where I waited tables. My boss almost fired me, accusing me of being distracted all the time. I was losing control of my life, and that made me scared.

On the other hand, if I stopped hallucinating, I would stop seeing him.

Every time I forced myself to think about this, about the dilemma of my life, I felt my soul ripping into two big chunks. But, in the end, his chunk was always bigger.

I could feel the smile taking over my lips. It was impossible not to smile when thinking about my Prince Charming.

A shove cut through my thoughts, and I scrambled to keep my balance.

“Move,” a deep voice said. A big man walked by with long steps, rushing through the crosswalk.

“Crap,” I muttered, gathering my wits and hurrying before the light became green again.

There weren’t many cars on the streets anymore, but people had gotten crazier. More violent and aggressive. Drivers didn’t respect pedestrians like they used to. Or at least that was what I was told.

A shrill cry brought a chill to my spine, and I froze in place, halfway through the crosswalk. Oh my God, it could only be the bats.

“Rain!” someone shouted. “Acid rain!”

Screams rang all around me. Everyone started running.

Another shove sent me stumbling back and into someone else. “I’m sorry,” I said, turning around to whoever I had bumped into, but the person had already dashed away.

My heart sped up and my hands shook.

Then it happened.

A little drop of rain fell on my cheek, burning as if I had extinguished the end of a cigarette into my skin.

The pain radiated over my face, jerking me awake and into action.

With erratic movements, I pulled my jacket over my head, trying to keep my hands under the leather, and raced back to the sidewalk. There weren’t many places to hide as most shops weren’t open to the public anymore, so I ducked under the awning of a small newsstand, pressing myself into a sea of bodies, just as the rain intensified.

The sizzling sound of the rain hitting metal and the people who still ran for cover was agonizing. I shut my eyes, wishing I could silence my hearing for a minute too.

Small and thin, I was easily pushed back and pressed against the cold wall of the stand. I laid my hand flat against it, realizing it was made of metal. I sure hoped there was something else underneath the metal, or that this specific kind of rain didn’t melt this kind of material as it sometimes did. It was impossible to know until after it started and caused damage. Meteorology was a profession from the past; no one could predict anything about the crazy weather or the world anymore.

Something bright above my head caught my eye and I looked up. A set of wooden numbers was nailed high on the metal wall. From the three numbers, only the eight shone as bright as a lantern.

“Help!” A broken scream reached my ears, and I forced my attention away from the freaky shining number eight. “Please, help me.”

I tried looking out through the crowd in front of me, but I was too short. Instead, I crouched down and saw it. A young woman, probably my age, on her knees right at the beginning of the crosswalk, howling in pain as she held up a backpack, trying to shield herself from the rain.

A gasp ripped from my throat, and my hand flew to my chest. Fighting against the rain washing over her and the water accumulating on the road, the young woman tried pushing herself up, only to stumble and fall on her knees again. Her foot seemed twisted.

“Help!” She croaked again. Her skin was marred with tiny red spots, her clothes were sizzling away, and her backpack was practically melting in her bruised hands.

I looked at the big men in front of me. “Do something,” I said over the heavy sound of the pouring rain. Nobody paid attention to me. “We have to do something.”

A tall man, who looked to be in his late thirties, looked over his shoulders, his eyes never meeting mine. “She’s lost. If you want to help her, it’ll be your doom too.”

I clenched and unclenched my hands as rage built inside my chest. I couldn’t believe these people would just stand there and watch.

I didn’t think; I just acted.

Adrenaline shot through my veins and propelled me as I pulled my leather jacket back over my head, pushed the big men aside, and ran into the rain. I rushed to the girl, who whimpered and trembled and cried desperately. Little droplets of rain singed the skin of my hands as I reached for her and, holding to her drenched clothes, pulled her up.

“Come on,” I said, biting back a scream of my own. “Help me so I can help you.”

I grabbed her arm and pulled it over my shoulders, not caring if it was over my skin or my clothes. Thankfully, the girl had more strength in her than I thought, and she carried most of her weight as I half-dragged, half-guided her back to the newsstand.

However, using their jackets and bags and even their shoes, the big men pushed us away.

“Hey, let us come under the damn awning,” I cried. But they just pushed us back again.

The rain continued falling, and my jacket was only scraps of fabric by now. My chest tightened as I realized we couldn’t stand here and keep fighting. The girl and I had to move. So, without wasting another breath, I tugged on her waist and guided her to the building behind the newsstand. There was no awning in sight, no porch or cover, and the ones I saw at a first glance seemed full of people. I didn’t want to waste time asking them to let us squeeze with them.

Instead, I went directly into the narrow alley beside the building. There had to be a place to hide in there.

I was right. The moment we stepped into the dark alley, the rain was gone. I looked up and saw balconies jutting out from both buildings, providing cover.

Relieved about our good luck, I helped the girl down to the dirty but dry ground, and she slumped against the wall. My breath caught as I knelt in front of her and looked over her. There were nasty red blisters everywhere, mostly second and third-degree burns. Her clothes were in tatters—her pants were gone from her knees down, and her shins were bleeding in several spots. Her shoes weren’t in much better condition, and I bet her feet were in even worse shape inside them. Even some of her hair seemed to have been burned away with the acid rain; blood soaked in her scalp. Her face … I gagged, realizing her face would never be the same.

“T-thanks,” she croaked, her eyes half open.

This girl needed medical attention right now. “Hang in there.” I fished my phone from inside my purse and—

Her hand shot up, grabbing my wrist and pulling it down. Her touch, still slick with the water from the rain, burned me and I bit back the scream that rose in my throat.

“T-talk to me,” she whispered.

“I would rather call for help.” I jerked my hand free from hers so I could call 911.

“It’s too late.”

“Don’t say that.”

“What’s your name?” I blinked. This girl was crazier than I was. Why the hell did she want to know my name when she was too hurt to even talk? “Tell me,” she insisted.

“Nadine. My name is Nadine Sterling. Now, just rest and hang in there. Save your breath. I’m gonna call for help.”

“I’m Rose,” she said, her voice a thin murmur. “T-thank you, Nadine, for coming for me. You’re a good person.” Then she closed her eyes. Heavy, her head rolled to the side and her body followed.

Mouth open wide, I just stared at her limp body. A sob rose in my throat, but I swallowed it. I hadn’t known this girl; I shouldn’t care. Except that I did. I always cared. I hated seeing innocents get hurt, and this girl had done nothing to deserve this horrible, horrible death.

I didn’t know how long I stayed there, staring at her, wishing I could have helped her sooner, wishing I had seen her before I had first reached the newsstand. Then maybe, just maybe, I would have been able to help her.

Eventually, the rain stopped and the people and traffic started moving again. As if nothing had happened. As if they weren’t hurt at all by the few droplets of acid rain that had hit them, as if there weren’t debris of melted awnings or signs in the middle of the streets, as if there wasn’t a dead girl in this alley.

Hands shaking, I stood and took a large step back.

I inhaled deeply as something sharp prickled my skin.

“No sudden movements,” a deep, coarse voice said from behind me. I didn’t move, but I could feel him. A tall man with a knife in his hand, pressed against my back. I whimpered. “Hand me your purse.”

“Okay,” I muttered, trying to clamp down my fear. Slowly, I reached for the strap across my shoulders. I sucked in a sharp breath and prayed the man was paying attention to the hand over my shoulder, and not the one I snuck inside my purse. My fingers wrapped around my pepper spray, and I slowly drew it out before pulling the purse over my head. “Here.”

The sharp sting of the knife loosened and I acted. In a rush, I stepped away from the man and turned around, swinging my purse in his direction. He raised his arms to block the attack.

“What the fuck?” he yelled, reaching for me. I had the pepper spray ready and sprayed it all over his face. “Bitch!” he screamed, clawing at his eyes.

I ran.

I ran for several blocks, zigzagging through sidewalks and streets, just in case the man wanted revenge, and finally hopped into the subway to go home. I sat down on an almost empty cart, my heart heavy, my mind jumbled, and my stomach in knots. What the hell had happened? A sob lodged in my throat as images of the girl dying in the rain filled my mind.

Five minutes into my subway ride, I gasped. I had left uptown without having set foot in the psychiatrist office.

My shoulders deflated. Damn it. All the trouble I had finding an appointment that didn’t conflict with my classes, lying to my roommate, and getting some time off work.

But maybe … maybe it was a sign. With the acid rain and the robbery to distract me, to stop me, I was almost convinced I wasn’t supposed to go to a psychiatrist and put an end to my visions.

Maybe I was supposed to be crazy.

Or maybe I was reading too much into the situation and should get off this subway and run back to the psychiatrist’s office before I lost my appointment and had to go through all this trouble again to get another one.

And just like that I was back in my dilemma: being crazy and having my Prince Charming, versus being normal and losing him.

I blew out a long breath, already sure of my choice.

I didn’t care that every Saturday night my roommate gave me a lecture about being young and pretty and smart, about going out, having fun, and making out. I had happily exchanged those parties she’d wanted to drag me to just to see my Prince Charming. And I would do it again.

Saying goodbye to him scared me, but it wasn’t the only thing that made my stomach shrivel. What if I was really insane? What if I was sent to a clinic under heavy sedation? What if I was given those shock treatments horror movies pictured so often? I couldn’t be incarcerated in a freak’s clinic—not willingly at least.

And I couldn’t lose my Prince Charming either.

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