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When you love a monster, one of two things happens. You become a casualty. Or they never let you go. Which is the better fate?
The devil is betting the fate of the world on me, his cynical son. The thing is, I’m sick of the otherworldly drama and the backstabbing and the games.
I’m a hunter. With my demon dogs and my ghostly horse, I track down the evil creatures who’ve escaped Hell. That’s my legacy. I am not a hero.
But there’s this human female… Her name is Allie. I never planned to fall in love with her. But I did.
And now someone has taken her from me.
I don’t allow anyone to touch or hurt or threaten my woman. Whoever did made a deadly mistake. I’m coming for them. And I don’t care if I leave everything burning in my wake as long as I return Allie to where she belongs. By my side. Forever.
“Get ready for the greatest advancement of the century.” Zeph banged drumsticks against the mahogany desk. The quickened beat matched Allie’s pounding heart and compounded the echo of blood rushing in her ears. With one more hard thump, he pointed at her. “Hell on speed dial!”
Allie laughed. It was impossible not to. Out of all the immortal Hunters who shared the Huntsmen’s upstate New York estate with her, Zeph had the best sense of humor. Plus, he beat his half brothers in the looks department. No doubt he’d be a fantastic lover too.
With her finger poised over the power switch, she grinned but didn’t get a chance to respond, not to tease him or correct him. Rhys bumped a shoulder into his younger half brother, knocking Zeph off-balance and inserting himself between her and every other man in the room. In other words, Rhys took his normal spot.
Arms crossed, Rhys propped his firm ass on the desk and tipped his chin to her. “That’s not what you’ve coined it.”
Allie’s smile wavered on a surge of lust. Darn Rhys. And darn his deep, erotic voice. Her days of celibacy were numbered. She had a debt to repay. Too bad it wasn’t for a sin she’d committed. Still, she couldn’t escape this fate. Even death would return her to this path. Again. She wanted off this hellish ride, but tangling with one of the devil’s children didn’t fit the Triad’s chaste plans for her life after death.
On a shaky exhale she could attribute to nerves as easily as to desire, Allie forced herself to look at Rhys. His chiseled features, piercing eyes, hard muscles, and firm hands didn’t hint at an ounce of tenderness. The emotion lived within him. She’d seen it too many times to discount his empathy as faked, even if his delivery lacked class. “It doesn’t matter what it’s called. I just hope it works.”
“Hellnet.” Rhys revealed the term she’d made up. “It matters. And it will.”
Confidence. Pride. Respect. Allie couldn’t decide which bled into Rhys’s tone, but it slowed her pulse and steadied her hand. She nodded and flipped the switch. Lights flashed. The computer booted. A cursor blinked, waiting for the password she’d reset at the first opportunity. No need for everyone to know there’d be two accounts accessible to Hell, but as admin, she needed to establish the connection this first time.
Allie glanced at Harley, the faerie she’d never considered a friend until they became inseparable. “Ready?”
Harley leaned into her mate’s side, and Calan swept her black-streaked blonde hair over her shoulder before tucking her against him. She cuddled into him, then grinned at Allie, warmth in her smile. “This is your accomplishment. All I did was whip up some glamor and chant a little. You did all the hard work. When you’re ready, I’m ready.”
With a few words, Harley downplayed the role she’d held over the past several months. Likely so Allie could take all the glory. Or bear the weight of failure. Either way, this moment had always been hers to secure.
She hit the Enter key.
The Hellnet symbol—two crossed swords—flashed across the screen. Then a view of an office she’d never seen replaced the logo she’d designed. Floor-to-ceiling bookcases overflowing with leather-bound titles, tall windows spilling sunlight across a wide-plank floor, and a massive wooden desk hinted at a normalcy Allie hadn’t expected in Hell. Even the attractive man sitting with an ankle propped on his opposite knee in the leather wingback chair appeared as ordinary as any of the Huntsmen—gorgeous and strong, but real.
The blond man stood and, just like that, power swept outward. He went from ordinary to something more.
“Father.” Calan greeted the man with a dip of his chin.
The devil returned the nod, then surveyed the room, addressing each Huntsman present by name and rank in the Wild Hunt, before settling on her.
Breath caught, Allie straightened.
“Alaia.” Arawn, Lord of the Underworld, aka the devil, and father to the Huntsmen, inclined his head. “Thank you for connecting me to my children.”
Blood drained from her cheeks while everyone in the room stared wide-eyed at her. The use of her real name, which she’d known forever but only her birth mother had ever used, caught her off guard. She forced a laugh. “Allie, please. My adopted mom obviously didn’t like that name for whatever reason. I’ve been answering to Allie forever.”
“Allie it is, then.” Arawn moved to the front of the desk and sat on the edge much in the same way Rhys had. “It is a shame we cannot meet in person, but such are the restrictions of our worlds.”
Preventing humans or those beings from Hell from crossing the barrier between the realms. Only the Huntsmen, with their tie to Arawn and their long-dead human mothers, could traverse the worlds. And so would the Key, of course. At least until she died and stepped into an even grander role. Supposedly.
She cast her gaze to the floor before any hint of veiled secrets bled into her expression. “Yes, a shame indeed, but I’m glad Harley could open this pathway. An instant line of communication with you will help in the fight against the Unseelie Court.”
“It’s sorely needed too. Dar has had many years to build his dominion. We are at a disadvantage.”
Silence descended. The other Huntsmen glanced between their father, her, the ground, some interesting spot on the wall, but Arawn’s focus never wavered. He watched her.
She coughed into her arm. “I gather that from what Rhys has said, but I honestly know little about what Dar’s done. Only that he needs to be stopped.”
Arawn slid his attentive gaze to Rhys, and Allie silently berated herself for mentioning his name. Rhys hadn’t disclosed any details about Dar, the Unseelie Court, or anything involving his time riding in the Wild Hunt. Actually, he’d been quite firm in that regard. She didn’t need information about the Otherworld. As a human who could technically leave the estate any time she wanted, gifting her with information that could help the enemy put Rhys’s Teulu, his family of hunters, at risk. He wouldn’t do that.
Nope. She shouldn’t have mentioned his name. Besides, what if keeping her out of the loop was Arawn’s rule? If so, Rhys would be punished if Arawn thought Rhys had disobeyed him. She opened her mouth, the desire to protect him strong, but Arawn faced her. Fixated on her. She shut her mouth.
“It’s not just Dar who needs to be stopped. There’s evidence Dar’s actively rebuilding his court with his half-breed children. Even when we do eliminate him, he’ll be leaving behind a dangerous legacy.”
Arawn’s statement was one she’d overheard being discussed among Rhys and his brothers. They were worried. Not everyone infected by chaos had turned Unseelie. Jade, the Chaos-infected faerie living under their roof, hammered home the dilemma.
Jade had done nothing to deserve death, yet she was too dangerous to be allowed to remain free. That distinction left the hellish Hunters in a quandary. Kill any infected fae they found now before they turned Unseelie. Or give them a chance.
Of course, Allie wasn’t supposed to know how the issue had been weighing on the Huntsmen. She raised a brow in surprise, albeit slightly faked, just like her life had been. “Really?”
“You didn’t know?” Arawn’s shock came off as genuine.
“Why would she? Allie doesn’t need that information.” Rhys cupped her elbow and moved her to the side and out of Arawn’s line of sight. “She’s merely a human caught up in our world. She’s not a fighter in it.”
The conversation picked up without her. Calan, Zeph, and their sisters, Rowan and Tegan, discussed where in the Underworld they’d set up Hellnet connections, while Harley detailed the precautions they’d put in place to secure the Huntsmen’s Hellnet-enabled cell phones while off the estate. Their words faded the longer Rhys stared at her.
“Alaia is a beautiful name.” Rhys brushed the loose strands of her hair from her cheek, and the caress of his knuckles over her skin sent tingles to all those places that had no business reacting to this immortal who could clip her wings as easily as he’d unleash her. “It’s fitting. Odd your adopted mother chose not to call you by your given name.”
“Odder that Arawn knew it.”
“Not really. Your birth mother was one of Minerva’s handmaidens. While my stepmother might not have been able to speak to her maidens on a day-to-day basis, she knew much of what was happening to them.”
“Until her powers were bound completely.” Allie grinned while silently cursing her second slip. As ‘just the human caught up in their world,’ she shouldn’t know the fate of Rhys’s stepmother. Excitement had made her sloppy. “Or so I’ve overheard.”
“You do like to linger in places you have no reason to be.”
Keeping her smile in place, Allie shrugged. “It’s simply the consequence of boredom. Wandering passes the time. Sometimes when I wander, I hear things.”
“You’ve spent months focused on building Hellnet. How could you be bored?”
“I didn’t spend every waking moment on the project.” She did take time to eat and sleep. Sidestepping the Hunter who tempted her more than he should, she turned to the patio. “But you’re right. I should be more respectful. I’ll start now.”
Rhys caught her arm. “Where are you going?”
“Outside, so as not to overstep my boundaries anymore. This is a family meeting, and I’m not part of it.” She shook off Rhys’s hold and moved to the patio doors. “Anyway, this is one of the warmest days we’ve had in months. A precursor of springtime. After the winter we’ve endured, I want to enjoy it.”
“It’s supposed to rain and ice later. Maybe snow next week.”
“Then I better enjoy the warmth while it lasts.”
Rhys said nothing else, nor did he make another attempt to stop her. She slipped outside and walked a few feet into the yard before pulling out her cell phone and accessing the program she’d spent months fine-tuning for the sole purpose of creating Hellnet.
Using her biometrics, she unlocked the app and went through the steps to duplicate the in-use Hellnet account, then changed the security parameters for both.
With the duplicate and private Hellnet path connected, she glanced over her shoulder. Nobody stood in the door watching her or peeked at her from the windows. She scanned the impressively built men gathered around the camera in the library and picked out Rhys standing next to Zeph. Both men carried on a conversation she couldn’t hear. Curiosity tempted her to sneak back and listen. Duty drew her attention to the phone in her hand.
She sent a text to Minerva’s private phone with a link to the personal account Allie had just created. After several minutes, the ex-goddess of love’s reply showed on the screen.
Well done. Alana would be proud of what you’ve accomplished.
A surge of pride warmed her. While Allie hadn’t spent much time with her birth mother, she held on to the memories and love of her. Allie rested her chin on the top edge of the phone for a moment and let the happy feeling settle over her, then responded: I’ve only done what was expected of me.
And you’ve granted Hellnet access to my handmaidens?
Allie had only spoken to one, despite several of her aunts knowing about her. Not yet.
The moment Minerva started typing, Allie quickly added: But I’ll text Jessica next.
Zayra. That is my handmaiden’s true name. And once I step out of Hell, there will be no reason for any of my maidens to hide who they are or what they are capable of. Their powers have never been restrained. They simply haven’t used them. For their safety and mine.
Allie held her fingertip above the screen and resisted asking why. It wasn’t her place to question a goddess. Zayra it is, then. I’ll get her set up with a Hellnet account and give her instructions on how to create accounts for the rest of your maidens. Then you’ll all be reconnected again. At least sort of, until I can actually pay your debt and free you.
Several minutes passed before Minerva sent another text. You can be more than just the Key. You can take Alana’s place in service to me.
Allie stared at the screen while her heart raced. As a maiden? One of your handmaidens of love?
One of my handmaidens, yes. Love? The message popped up, followed by an “lmao face” emoji. I’m no longer the goddess of love.
Allie resisted the temptation to reply with a confused emoji. But won’t you reclaim the title once I release you?
You are my last payment.
And that was not an answer to her question. More like a deflection. What does that mean?
You will have a small window to choose between my offer and the role the Triad has slated for you. Use the time between now and then to decide. You won’t ever get another opportunity to choose.
The Triad’s offer of wings?
An offer implies a choice. Once you complete your task, you become a servant angel upon your death, which, knowing the Triad, might come sooner than you expect.
In that light, her “reward” didn’t sound as special or grand. Is a servant angel different from other angels?
Yes. It’s a simple eternity. You do what you’re told. And you’re rewarded with the things that make you happy.
Tightness pulled at Allie’s features. She relaxed her scrunched nose and pursed her lips. Getting everything she wanted sounded great. Following orders wouldn’t be so bad either. Her very existence now revolved around her fulfilling a task she’d had no hand in creating. And as a handmaiden? What would I do?
Well… A maiden’s life isn’t simple. Not by a long shot. You don’t always get what you want either. But I can promise you will always make your own choices and own your own mistakes. Talk to Zayra about my offer, then think on it and give me your answer when we meet in person. Be warned, though. Once you become a handmaiden, you give up all you could’ve been with the Triad as your master.
Not a moment after Minerva’s text showed on the screen, she typed another. But you can’t decide on your eternity until you pay my debt. Have you chosen who will unlock you?
And become her soul mate.
Dots flashed, showing Minerva typing a new message. Remember. Any man will do. His role is insignificant. Simply a means to an end.
Easy for Minerva to say. She didn’t have to form an eternal bond with some random guy. I haven’t chosen yet, but I will before the week is out.
Then I’ll see you this weekend. Do not reach out to me until we see each other in person. It’s too dangerous to call or text. Anything you need…any advice you seek, my maidens can provide.
I don’t… The dots cursor blinked, faded, then blinked again as Minerva no doubt typed and deleted her response. My mate is occupied with his children at the moment. Probably will be for hours. After that… Arawn will hover as a shadow in my soul. He can’t know of my plans.
To leave Hell?
To reclaim my identity.
Minerva’s word choice sparked Allie’s curiosity, but the sense of urgency behind Minerva’s explanation quelled her inquisitiveness. Then I’ll let Zayra know to hurry.
Thank you. Be safe. Be strong. And choose quickly.
I will. Allie sent the reply, then deleted the conversation and faced the house.
Her gaze locked with the Hunter who always found her no matter where on the estate she wandered. Rhys leaned with a bent knee, foot propped against the side of the house and his arms crossed. A long-sleeved heather-gray shirt clung to him, showcasing his muscular arms, and jeans molded his thick thighs and long legs. Compared to his attractive younger brother, Rhys came off as rough. And downright hot.
The urge to go to him—seduce him—built into a compulsion. Except there was nothing pure about Rhys. Actually, he was about as far from angelic wholesomeness as any being on earth. He literally carried Hell with him. He wasn’t the type of man an angel would choose as a soul mate, but he tempted and excited her.
Rhys would also never let her go, even if he had to tear down the barriers of the heavens to get to her. And that would anger the Triad as much as when the god’s beloved archangel forsook his duties and followed Minerva to the Underworld.
Allie turned her back on Rhys. Choices awaited her. None involved the dangerously wicked Hunter who followed her everywhere. Even an angel had the decency to spare a damned man from experiencing hell.
Genre: Paranormal Romance – Gods & Demons, Fantasy Romance
Story Elements: Fated Mates/True Mates, Secrets, Betrayal, Second Chances
Book Length: Novel Plus: 70,000-90,000 words
Heat Level: 4/5
Main Characters: Rhys (Demigod, son of the devil) and Allie
All Series Titles
What readers are saying…
Great conclusion to The Wild Hunt series, with hints of mythology in its finale. This is an exciting PNR series with the fate of all kingdoms at its core. Well written with an engaging story line and brilliantly developed characters.Terry West ★★★★★