It’s Release Week! Shades of Fae is Live!
I am so excited about this week’s launch of the Shades of Fae multi-author box set! There are 23 amazing full-length novels in the set and it’s only .99 this week!
Hunted, book one of a brand new series, is exclusively in this set for the next 3 months. Keep reading to get a peek at chapter one.
Make sure you download your copy of the Shades of Fae box set before the price goes up!
Hunted, Chapter One
The bell on the door chimed and I set down the glass I was washing. “Kitchen’s closed if you’re looking for food. Last call for drinks in five minutes.”
The newcomer brushed the snow off of his dark coat, then lowered the hood.
For a moment, my eyes widened and my lips parted in surprise before I caught myself. Needing an excuse to turn away, I picked the glass back up and put it on the shelf behind me. My hands trembled and I tucked them in my apron pocket before I turned around to face him.
I was met by violet eyes staring at me. His long blonde hair hung loosely around his angular face. He was stunning. One of the most beautiful faces I’d ever seen. I blinked, breaking my eyes away from his, reminding myself he wasn’t human, and he was dangerous.
The Fae set something on the bar top, then sat down at a stool. I glanced down and saw that the object he’d set down was a long iron stake. My heart thundered in my chest. Not only was he Fae, he carried the tool of a hunter. Alarm bells were blaring in my head as I thought back to everything I’d done to cover my trail over the last seven years. I’d built a home here. Nobody knew I was here illegally. Nobody knew I was half dark fae, escaped from the Dark Realm.
“Never seen an iron stake before?”
My eyes were still locked on the object on the counter. I shook my head and looked up at the Fae. “No, not in real life.”
That was a lie, of course. In my father’s court in the Dark Realm, iron stakes were used to keep his subjects in a constant state of fear.
“Don’t worry,” he said. “They’re only deadly to those with Fae blood.”
“Like you?” The words left my mouth before I could think them through.
He smiled, then pulled off his gloves, setting them on top of the stake. “You’re astute for a human.”
“Mage.” I shrugged my shoulders, thankful that my mother had been a mage. It was a good excuse for covering up my occasional slip ups when I did something that humans shouldn’t be able to do. The magic I used to mask my dark fae heritage kept me from giving off any magical signature so I often let on that I was human. In this case, it was better if he knew I had some magic just in case I slipped.
He nodded, then leaned in closer to me.
I held my breath and the hair on my arms stood on end at his closeness.
“Any chance I can get something from the kitchen? Even a cold sandwich?” He winked.
I let out a nervous relief sound that resembled a laugh. He probably thought I was flirting with him, which was fine by me. Taking a deep breath, I smiled. “I’ll see what I can do.”
Escaping to the kitchen was a relief after being so close to a hunter. It was the first time I’d seen a hunter alive. In my father’s court in the Dark Realm, captured hunters were decapitated, their heads left on spikes outside the palace walls.
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, trying to shake the memories of my prior life. When I left there, I wasn’t sure what I was doing. It had been the day after my older sister had been killed. She was three days away from her twenty-fifth birthday, the age when our father no longer owned us according to dark fae law.
My father had never had a single half-fae child that made it to that age and I never thought I’d live to see my twenty-fifth birthday. Now that I was six months away, the only thing I wanted was to stay hidden until I was old enough. I just needed to stay alive and out of the Dark Realm for six more months. A hunter in my place of work wasn’t a good sign. Right now, I just needed to keep him happy and get him to leave.
The kitchen was empty, the cook sent home two hours ago when we stopped food service. I walked past the line toward the walk-in cooler and stepped inside. There had to be something I could throw together so he would eat, and go away.
On the bottom shelf, I spotted a few boxes of cheesecake and pulled one of them out. I’d been working at Lou’s bar for five years, starting out as a server, which meant I’d made all the desserts any of my tables ordered. It was the only thing I knew how to make in the kitchen.
“Jess, is that you?” Lou called out from his office.
“Just me,” I said.
He came around the corner and stopped next to the counter. He wore a baseball cap over his dark hair which looked out of place with the slacks and the oxford shirt he was wearing. At least he’d taken off the tie.
Lou was only a few years older than me and had inherited this bar from his father, also named Lou. They were one of the few human families that moved to Realm’s Gate after the Dragon Queen’s Awakening which led to supernatural beings forced out into the open.
The chaos that followed in the wake of the battle with the Dragon Queen was also what allowed me to sneak out of the Dark Realm with few complications. It seemed like so much longer than seven years ago.
Despite being human, and despite being almost as new to Realm’s Gate as me, Lou never seemed out of place here. It was his home and this bar was the most important thing to him.
Lou looked at the cheesecake on the plate in front of me. “Your roommate back from her trip?”
I laughed. Lou had been flirting with my roommate for years but still couldn’t get up the confidence to ask her out. “No, she’s gone for a few more weeks.” I lowered my voice to a whisper. “Hunter, he asked for food.”
“You sure he’s a hunter?” Lou asked.
I nodded. “Iron stake and all.”
“Huh.” Lou walked past me to the kitchen doors, pushing them open.
I wasn’t sure why he wanted to go talk to the hunter, but maybe it meant that I’d be able to clock out and let Lou take over serving him. Even in Realm’s Gate, the largest city of magical beings in the country, hunters were rare.
After I put the cheesecake box back in the walk-in, I carried the slice I’d plated back to the bar.
Lou sat on a stool next to the hunter and the two of them were engaged in a conversation that looked like it had been going on for hours. Lou was just one of those people who everybody liked and he was good at striking up conversations, well, with the exception of my roommate, Paige. In fact, in the years of working for him, I’d nearly slipped and told him the truth once or twice. I’d made it a rule to never drink around him. You didn’t want to lower your inhibitions around Lou if you had something to hide. He didn’t do it on purpose, he was just a people-person. He’d talk to anyone.
“Hope you like cheesecake,” I said as I set the plate down in front of the hunter, careful to avoid the iron stake.
“Thanks, Jess,” the hunter said.
My skin prickled and I blinked at him a few times. “I never told you my name.”
The hunter slapped Lou on the back. “Lou was telling me all about your first week as a waitress.”
Lou and the hunter laughed as if sharing an inside joke. My first week had been miserable, I was lucky to still have a job after making the mistakes I had, but I didn’t understand how it became the topic of conversation.
“That’s nice. And your name is?” I didn’t have Lou’s people skills. Without taking my eyes off of him, I grabbed a roll of silverware from the stack under the bar and held it out.
The hunter smiled and took the silverware from me. “It’s Roan.”
“He’s an actual hunter,” Lou said the same way someone might revere a famous rock star.
I shifted my weight and crossed my arms over my chest. “Yeah, I figured that out.”
Hunters used to operate in the shadows, but a few years ago, they were given special permits to do their jobs within the confines of human law enforcement.
Humans didn’t like sending in their people against criminals who were immortal by their standards. So, in came the hunters. With the power of both the supernatural world and the human world in their hands. In my opinion, it was taking things too far and I didn’t trust any supernatural being who was willing to work enforcing the laws of humans.
“He’s after an illegal supernatural being.” Lou’s face lit up like a small child learning curse words for the first time.
My blood ran cold. Why was the hunter telling Lou that?
Before I could say anything, Lou started talking again, but I didn’t hear what he was saying. I was too worried that Roan was here for me.
Lou laughed at something he’d said and Roan joined in. I smiled at them, trying to pretend like I’d heard the joke.
“Thanks for the food,” Roan said, wiping his mouth on the napkin. He pulled his wallet out of his pocket.
“No need,” Lou said. “On the house. Stop by any time.”
“That’s very kind of you,” Roan said. He pulled a few bills out and set them on the counter in front of me, then winked. “Thanks, Jess.”
Words failed me as I watched him walk out the front door.