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Cursed | Hardback
Dating a demigod is dangerous business, especially when your boyfriend is hungry for more than your love.
It’s tough being the devil’s daughter. Add in the fact that I’m the top female rider in the Wild Hunt and it’s impossible to find a nice guy. My demon dogs and my ghostly horse intimidate most men. Even if they accept my demonic pets, my monstrous side sends them running.
It’s no wonder I fell in love with a figment of my imagination. And when Ian turns out to be the newest Huntsman to join our nightly search for all the nasties who snuck out of Hell, I couldn’t wait to turn our dream trysts into reality.
But love is hard. And I’m not the most forgiving woman. Ian has secrets that could destroy us both. A few kisses won’t make our issues or the curse hanging over my head go away.
No matter what I do, Ian won’t let me go. He’s my fantasy come to life. I only hope we can navigate the unseen threats and the underworld politics threating to tear us apart before it’s too late.
Ian Callahan panted through the rage gripping him. Something had caught his attention. He closed his eyes, blocking out the view of the rock-carved walls of his cell, and listened. The sound of a heartbeat reached his ears. It raced. So did his. Excitement fed his heart’s rapid cadence. He hadn’t been able to focus on anything beyond the wrath consuming him in days, weeks maybe. He’d lost track of how long he’d been chained spread-eagle to his bed.
He sucked in a deep breath, desperate to hold on to the awareness the person’s presence offered. The rich scent of vanilla drugged him. He moaned, or tried to, at the very least, but his roughened voice garbled the sound. The feeling behind it remained the same. He recognized the fragrance. It was her.
His dream lover.
She’d returned in his worst hour to tempt him. Arouse him. Make him beg.
The brown-eyed minx had ruined him. In all the years she’d visited him, she never fulfilled her wicked promises. Never gave him relief. She always disappeared before he could explode. She’d made him question his sanity and his sexuality. A growl crawled up his throat, even as blood rushed south, thickening his dick. It tented his shorts.
He groaned. His cock was so damn hard. Thinking about her always aroused him. Chained to the bed, he couldn’t even jerk off. He yanked on the chains and snarled.
Her gasp carried over his angry sounds.
She watched him.
Did she want him? He waited for the door to open, for her to come to him. Seconds passed with only her quickened heartbeat betraying her interest. He dragged in more vanilla-scented air but couldn’t pick up on her arousal. She wasn’t close enough, and his Huntsman’s sense of smell confused him more often than not. It was too new, much like the emotion that had landed him in Hell.
“Angel?” He didn’t care how she’d teased him before, or if she continued to do so. He needed her. “Come to me.”
He held his breath.
The clunk of boots answered him, each thump fading in volume.
“No! Don’t leave me.”
But she did. She abandoned him. Again.
“Forsaken, always forsaken.”
Her love, her passion, her soul—it belonged to him. How? Why? He didn’t know. The truth remained. She was his heaven, the only one a bastard like him would ever find, yet he feared she’d always remain just out of reach.
He roared his frustration and gave himself over to the rage consuming him.
* * *
Tegan paced the length of the living room in the Huntsmen’s new estate. She’d walked out of the faeries’ prison a week ago, but freedom had not been sweet for her. Guilt, jealousy, and sadness had left her on edge. The emotions had no place in her heart. To give in to them would likely push her into the abyss, where only rage ruled. She’d lived there once before. She had no desire to revisit it.
Her siblings, the other riders in the Wild Hunt, had sensed her unease. They’d tried to coax her into exploring the modern world. She’d refused. Losing herself in booze or meaningless sex wouldn’t help her deal with the fallout of her elder brother’s revelation.
Not only was her fantasy lover real, he was also the newest rider of the Wild Hunt.
Tegan paused in her restless loop around the room and faced the fireplace. A roaring blaze filled the hearth. The oppressive warmth it offered heated her body. Sweat beaded on her face. She licked a droplet off her lip and stepped closer, relishing the fire’s comfort.
She wasn’t chilled. The October weather in the Catskill Mountains of New York was mild. No, the blaze turning the room into a sauna was necessary to keep Rhys from cornering her and demanding an explanation for her behavior. Besides Calan, her leader in the Hunt, Rhys was the only other Hunter who had any authority over her.
That the Huntsmen had just been released from their personal hells should be reason enough to explain her discontent. It wasn’t, not in Rhys’s eyes. They had a duty to fulfill and a curse to break. Still, after dying over and over for a millennium to ensure the barrier to Hell remained intact, she deserved a small reprieve. A few days to adjust to freedom. Some time to get past her heartache. Was it so much to ask?
Yes. Yes, it is. The clock is ticking, and our time is running out.
Frustration choked her. She turned her hand over and stared at the jagged black line bisecting her palm. Her breath caught. The mark, the visual reminder of the curse she carried, appeared thicker than it had when she’d first stepped out of her prison.
The squeak from the door forced back her concern. She’d worry about what the change meant when she had time alone to think. Her siblings hadn’t given her much over the past week, and the woodsy scent of a campfire which swept into the room suggested another brother planned to meddle in her affairs. She couldn’t tell by smell alone which one braved her fury. They all carried the scent of Hell with them.
Tegan gripped the mantel, refusing to meet her brother’s probing gaze, and peered into the image of the male who’d haunted her for years. Unable to stop herself, she took Ian’s picture from its treasured spot on the shelf and let his features tease her.
Long, thick lashes framed the hazel eyes she’d fantasized about staring into while he loved her body. Full lips she wanted on hers were curved into a smile she suspected had broken many females’ hearts. Combined with his rough features and unkempt hair, he was simply…
She brushed her finger over his frozen image. Warmth pooled low.
“Ready to talk?”
Rhys’s voice shocked her enough to break her focused study of the human Huntsman. She returned the framed photo to its resting spot, then glanced over her shoulder. Her brother’s silver eyes drew her attention. He watched her intently, and the curiosity in his focused stare worried her. Tegan didn’t want him to take any interest in her affairs. He’d hound her until he uncovered every last detail. No way would she allow that. She had no desire to be on the receiving end of his pity ever again. Then it had been, ‘Poor Tegan. She’s too naïve. Too forgiving. Too gullible. Maybe she’s not cut out to be a Hunter in a man’s world.’
Nope. Whether Rhys had meant her to hear his words or not didn’t change the fact they were right. She had beentoo trusting. Not anymore. She’d learned her lesson. She didn’t need Rhys to give her another lecture on how men used women who enabled them.
With her gaze locked on to her brother’s pale silver eyes, she motioned toward the flames crackling inches from her legs. “What? Is the fire not hot enough to keep you away?”
A tic developed along Rhys’s jaw, the only hint of his discomfort. She knew exactly what the sight of the hungry flames did to him. Repeatedly being burned alive was the death he’d endured while imprisoned. She sympathized with him, but each of them had suffered. They’d all emerged half-crazed too. Duty, honor, and stubbornness demanded they endure and continue functioning. So they did. Simple as that.
He moved closer, maybe not as confidently as she’d normally expect from him, but he closed the distance. She had to give him points for that.
A foot away, he stopped with hands balled into white-knuckled fists. “Why should it? The death it offers is like an old friend. I do not fear its return.”
Tegan laughed. Rhys’s stoic expression fueled her bitterness. She stood on her tiptoes, the additional inches not bringing her close to his face. It didn’t deter her. Being the smallest of the Huntsmen never had.
“Liar. I hear the rapid beat of your heart. You fear it.”
He bent closer. His deadened gaze held her frozen in place. “I fear nothing, little sister.”
She smirked. “Prove it.”
Why she taunted him, she didn’t know. Actually, she did. Rhys had no doubt come to talk to her about Ian, not her mood or her past mistakes where men were concerned. Rhys couldn’t care less how miserable she was now or then, as long as she rode in the Hunt.
They needed every one of the Huntsmen to defeat their enemies, and Ian had proved his worth in battle, even if he’d only ridden a couple of days before succumbing to his rage. The obligation to help him deal with the weight and pressure of his new role belonged to all of them, yet none had been able to reach him.
No one besides her.
After a long moment, Rhys tilted his head. A lock of dark brown hair slid over one eye. He didn’t bother pushing it away or blinking. “You still enjoy your games, I see.”
“I have nothing else.”
“Don’t you?” He raised a brow. “Then let me give you something. Care to play my game?”
“No, I do not.”
She shoved against his wide chest. He didn’t budge. In her human form, she held little advantage. The power of the Hunt gave her the edge over her enemies.
“Why?” Rhys stepped into her personal space. “Are you afraid?”
He offered her a crooked smile. “Yes, I am.”
He’d always been proud of it too. Tegan worked her jaw. Finally, she blew out a rough breath. “What game—”
“—shall we play?” His smirk widened at her glare. She hated being interrupted. He knew that too. It didn’t stop him from antagonizing her. Like most siblings, they bickered.
Minutes passed. All the while, the heat from the fire at her back beat against her. Sweat ran down her spine, soaking her clothes. A sheen formed on Rhys’s tanned face. He didn’t move, even as perspiration beaded and trickled over his forehead.
She locked her knees, refusing to make anything easy for him. If he wanted to grill her, they’d do it in front of the flames.
“I’ll prove I’m tough enough to face my personal hell”—he lowered his voice—“if you do the same.”
She forced another chuckle. “Unless you’ve developed the ability to suck my life force from me, you can’t.”
Although being repeatedly ripped away from the dream she’d shared with Ian had hurt, it hadn’t been the punishment she’d endured for a millennium. Several times a day, she’d died by being turned into a lifeless husk, shriveled until only skin and bones remained.
Sheer will kept the memories buried.
He raised a brow. “Well? Yes or no.”
Tegan let a smile spread, a demented one, but the only kind she could conjure at the moment. “Yes.”
Rhys bent, never breaking their gaze, and shoved his hand into the hungry flames. The scent of burning flesh filled the room. After a moment, the sizzle of skin added to the sensory details of her brother’s stubbornness. She didn’t bother stopping him. He wouldn’t die from the minor wound. Even if he did, their tie to Arawn, the Lord of the Underworld, ensured they’d regenerate. They could not die permanently, not from the loss of their heads or any form of wicked torture conceived.
Some days, she hated that fact. Others, she was grateful. Today she couldn’t care less.
She let her beloved sibling burn.
He held her gaze. No flinching. No blinking. No sign he even felt the pain. Finally, Rhys pulled his hand free. He raised the mutilated appendage between them. The remaining charred pieces of flesh fell from his bones. Flesh regrew. Within moments, unmarred skin covered his fingers.
She stretched her arms out to the side.
“Go ahead.” She chuckled. “Turn me into a prune. The beating of my heart is annoying me anyway.”
Because it hurt.
Ian had broken it when she’d walked into his home and found the little slip of paper on his desk, inviting some unknown person to his wedding. A marriage to a female who wasn’t Tegan.
Stupid, stupid, stupid! She hated her ridiculous jealousy. She had no reason to feel it. At least logically. Emotionally? Hell, she was pretty sure she’d fallen in love with Ian via the dreams they’d shared.
“Your death is not a condition of this game.”
Rhys’s voice pulled her back to the present. She smirked. “Then I guess I win by default.”
His piercing gaze never left her face, nor did he speak. She ground her teeth.
“If you’re here to talk about Ian, don’t waste your breath. I just left the male. He’s too far gone for me to reach him.” She sidestepped, shoving against Rhys until he conceded and allowed her to escape.
She stopped walking. “Yes.”
“That’s not what I heard, angel.”
Rhys’s mocking tone set her on edge. “You spied on me?”
“Of course.” No apology. No remorse.
Tegan glanced over her shoulder. Rhys faced the fireplace, preventing her from seeing his expression. The lust in Ian’s voice when he’d demanded she come to him had been clear. To her, at least. Or maybe she’d wanted to hear it.
“He sensed a woman. You were right about suggesting sex as a tool to calm him. But I won’t be his crutch. I no longer allow males to use me.”
“That’s what Ian wanted?” Rhys caught her gaze. “The affectionate nickname meant nothing?”
“He probably confused me with someone else.” Like his dead fiancée. Tegan barely stopped herself from looking at Cynthia’s picture. Tegan had considered destroying the photo, but she hadn’t wanted to desecrate anything that belonged to Ian.
“If that’s what you want to believe, but we both know it’s a lie. He’s a Hunter now. As such, his senses are enhanced. He would’ve known you didn’t smell the same as Cynthia.”
Tegan rubbed her arms, hating that Rhys could read her so well, but not surprised. “I don’t know where you’re going with this, but I want no part of it. I fulfilled my promise to Calan. I went to Ian, but I can’t be what he needs to bring him out of his rage.”
A minute passed in silence, then another. All the while, Rhys stared at her. She shifted from one foot to the other. Rhys had always unnerved her. Too cold, too regimented, too disciplined—he was the most calculating of their Teulu, their family of Hunters connected to Arawn. Rhys acted as their strategist in battle and their counselor in life. The first he excelled at. The second was questionable. He approached their issues as if the source of their pain was a puzzle he needed to solve.
“You didn’t even speak to him.” Rhys’s assessing gaze lingered on her arms wrapped tightly around her middle. She dropped them. One corner of his mouth rose. “How can you be sure it’s sex he wanted?”
“His cock lengthened with my approach. I’d say that’s a dead giveaway, wouldn’t you?”
“Maybe.” Rhys gave a small shrug. “But it’s odd he didn’t have the same response to Rowan’s visit. I can’t help but wonder why.”
Rowan was the only other one of their sisters who’d walked out of the faerie prison with her mind pieced together enough to function. Tegan loved her sister dearly, but if Rowan had touched Ian, she’d bleed.
“Where are you going with this? I don’t care to dissect why he reacted to me and not Rowan, but I can promise you I won’t fuck him in order to draw him out of his rage.”
“My guess is you won’t need to. He acknowledged you. Go back to him. Talk to him. Touch him. Only then will you know for sure.”
Tegan glanced away before Rhys saw the longing in her expression. She wanted to return to Ian. No, that was a lie. She didn’t just want to be with him. She needed to run her fingertips over his skin, drag her tongue across his stubble-covered cheek, and kiss him. The yearning to reconnect with him was almost impossible to ignore, but the pain in her heart prevented her from playing out the scene they’d shared in their dreams.
His visits were the only thing that had kept her sane over the last few years. Knowing he’d had a life, or more specifically a lover, to indulge in after he walked away from Tegan left her in a state of depression. She was pathetic to want a man who’d only thought her a figment of his imagination. She did, though. Pitiful, that’s what I am.
Rhys’s sigh cut through her despair. “If Ian cannot be pulled from his rage, Arawn will withdraw the mark of the Hunt.”
Only one other human had been cast from their Teulu—Bjorn, her ex-lover. He’d died as a result, killing himself. Arawn had sworn it hadn’t been his doing, merely a coincidence that Bjorn couldn’t live under the weight of his sins. Arawn had simply exposed them, showing Bjorn the fate that awaited him upon his death: damnation. It was the outcome he’d found upon death too.
She slammed the door shut on the long-ago tragedy, refusing to revisit it. Memories of Bjorn left her as raw as the day she’d learned she was nothing more than a sex toy for him.
And here she was, facing the same fate with another human. The irony wasn’t lost on her. “Arawn wouldn’t risk it.”
“And why not?” Rhys cocked a brow. “Ian is nothing to him.”
“He is part of our Teulu.”
“Yes, but Arawn won’t allow him to live lost in a state of rage for eternity.”
No, Arawn wouldn’t. He’d consider it cruel. “There’s no guarantee Ian would regain his sanity after being banned from our Teulu. Actually, losing his connection to us might ensure he never does. We need each other.”
“That we do, but as riders of the Hunt, we must never falter or forget our duty to the humans.” He slipped his thumbs into his pockets and leaned against the mantel, taking the position she had. “We are not allowed a moment of weakness, and a Huntsman lost to his rage is a liability we can’t afford.”
She wrapped her arms around her middle a second time. The truth in Rhys’s statement churned her gut. The Huntsmen had powers even the highest-level gods did not hold. Many viewed them as a threat because of it. If word got out there was one among them who teetered on the edge of insanity, the other gods might very well call upon the Triad for their deaths. As much as it saddened her, Arawn was right to be cautious.
“Harley would be crushed if Ian was cast out and never regained his sanity.”
Rhys snatched Ian’s picture from the mantel and studied it. “Yes. Harley cares much for her half-brother, but Calan will comfort her. Of that I have no doubt.” He raised his gaze to her. “Whose shoulder will you cry on?”
“I have never spoken to Ian.” Which was true. They’d only kissed and stimulated each other through the barrier of their clothes. No matter how hard she’d willed words to come out of her mouth, they wouldn’t form. “Why would I suffer?”
Rhys snorted. He popped the back off the wooden frame she’d held and withdrew the matte print. “You lie, sister. Losing Ian would crush you, and his eventual death would destroy you. The truth is, his fate affects you more than any of us, including Harley.” He glanced from the picture to her face. “Do you think Calan and I didn’t know of your dream lover? Or what Ian’s visits meant to you? What he means to you?”
Calan, as their leader, could connect their minds, linking them, so they acted as one driven force during the Hunt. He’d always mentally nudged her, asking for entry, before joining with her. She’d been careful to shield all thoughts of Ian while Calan had walked through her soul.
“Ian is not… I mean, I’m not sure—”
“Enough.” The harsh command dropped between them, stopping her rambling. “I don’t care to hear your denial over the human’s unexplainable connection to you. It doesn’t change the facts. Arawn will send a succubus to Ian tonight, since you refuse to reach out to him. If she cannot draw him out of his rage, Ian will be cast from our Teulu. He will live out his life as a damn vegetable, sedated so as not to hurt himself or others. You know it as well as I.”
Unable to deny his prediction, Tegan held his gaze.
Rhys cursed. “So be it. Enjoy your guilt.”
He flicked the print into the fire and walked out.
Tegan waited for the slam of the door before she rushed forward. She reached into the hearth and grasped the brittle paper. Flames seared her skin. She ignored the sharp bite and blew on the remnants of the picture. Black edges surrounded the triangle that had survived. Only Ian’s face remained. His hazel eyes bored into her, accusing her of being weak.
She supposed she deserved the guilt her conscious dropped on her.
“Fine. I’ll go to him. Give him something to embrace besides his rage.” Though she wasn’t sure what that’d be. She’d already played the role of the other woman. It wasn’t one she cared to reclaim. Then again, her competition for Ian’s heart was dead. He’d killed her. Did that make Tegan the only woman?
We can have our chance. Make our dreams a reality. And then…
What? Live happily ever after? She groaned. Yeah, right? This is not a dream. This is real life, and I can’t expect Ian to just forget about Cynthia and fall in love with me.
Nothing made sense, not her emotions or the cruel fate she’d been handed. But there was one thing she was sure of—no way would she allow a demoness to touch Ian.
No one could touch him. Not until Tegan figured out where she fit into his life. And then? Well, that was up to Ian. If he wanted her, he’d have to earn her trust, proving she was the only woman for him. She’d learned the hard way not to blindly believe the words of anyone outside of her Teulu. Nothing was worth the risk of betrayal. Not the prospect of affection, power, lust…
And most definitely not love.
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: Ian (human), Tegan (Demigod, daughter of the devil)
All Series Titles
What readers are saying…
With underworld intrigue, a daring rescue of innocents from the fairy realm and a demon-fueled plot twist, there’s a lot of action, but at its heart, this is a story about the redemptive power of love. Strong-willed and determined, Ian matches Tegan’s fire, making for a red-hot connection in this passionate and emotional paranormal adventure.RT Book Reviews
This was a great book that had me hooked from the beginning. Nancy Corrigan is great at telling theses stories with such detail that you feel like you are in the book.Shawna Marie ★★★★★