Feel like a Hump Day excerpt in the midst of your holiday shopping … and, you know, work? We’ve got you covered! Today we’re taking a sneak peek at Nancy Corrigan‘s upcoming Hunter Decieved. This Wild Hunt series starter, “adds a sexy spark to this unique take on demon and fae mythology,” according to our reviewer. Let’s take a peek at what happens when Fairy-human hybrid Harley Callahan and Calan, leader of the Wild Hunt, get close.
“My God.” Harley let out a nervous laugh. “You’re gorgeous.”
“No, not gorgeous. I was bred for war.” Calan swept his hand down his chest. “This body is merely a reflection of what was required to fulfill my purpose.”
She tilted her head and studied him with narrowed eyes. Her gaze caressed his skin and left a trail of heat in the wake of her perusal. Her blue eyes widened as her attention focused on his groin and the straining length there. She swallowed hard.
He wished she’d move closer so he could wrap his hand around the tender column of her throat. He wanted to feel the wild beating of her pulse against his palm. As if she’d heard him, she took several steps into the room, but stopped too far away for him to touch her. He curled his fingers.
Patience. He refused to send her running. He’d waited too long for her and freedom.
“And your purpose is to stop the fairies?”
It was voiced as a question, but he heard the acceptance of the truth in her tone. Had she realized what it meant for her? He pushed away the thought. She came to him despite it, and if he mated her, it wouldn’t matter. She would be invisible to the Hunt and would escape its wrath. If he didn’t? Life would take its natural course. He couldn’t save everyone. Harsh but true.
“Yes. The riders of the Hunt were created to seek out the members of the Unseelie Court and return them to the Underworld.”
“I thought they lived in the fairy realm? Some magical place of castles and whimsical creatures?” A small smile played on her lips. “Maybe with unicorns and dragons? I’ve always wanted to soar through the sky on the back of one and feel the wind blowing my hair around me.” Her grin widened, and her eyes twinkled. “I’d feel free.”
“When the fairies were beloved among the nonhumans, they lived in the fairy realm.”
“When they were good, you mean?”
“Yes, when they were Seelie.” He nodded. “But then their king became corrupted, and his Court followed him into damnation. They were condemned to suffer eternally for their crimes.”
“And you were created to retrieve them.” She cocked a brow. “You weren’t born?”
“My sire walked among the humans for one year and one day so he could create his Teulu.” At her pinched brow, he added, “His family of Hunters. We are his children, born of different human mothers.”
“Your mother willingly conceived you?”
She closed her eyes on a long, slow exhale.
He waited for her to ask the question he dreaded answering. From his time in the mortal world, he knew firsthand what humans thought of his father, Arawn. They called him the devil. Sick. Corrupted.
He wasn’t. Arawn was simply the god chosen to rule over the Underworld, but Calan didn’t want to get into a discussion about his heritage. He wanted Harley to unlock him.
She didn’t ask about his lineage, though. She took a single step closer. Her intelligent eyes scanned the space, a replica of his bedroom in the fortress he’d once called home. All the furnishings fit the position he’d held, and none reflected the era in which he’d lived. They were magically fashioned to meet his needs.
The large, high bed was as soft as the finest down, and the wardrobes contained an endless supply of garments to match the current period. On the table next to the deep, cushioned chair, a pitcher of wine and bowl of decadent food offerings never emptied. Everything he’d coveted stood just out of reach, another torment. The same could also be said of the woman before him.
“You are lucky, then.” She ran her finger over the rim of a wineglass. “At least your mother wanted you.”
Pain laced her statement, but her expression remained the same. He studied her a moment, looking for some clue as to whether hate festered in her heart. None showed. Only a soul-deep weariness emanated from her. “Yours didn’t?”
She shrugged. “She was raped by a member of the Unseelie Court. Seeing me every day no doubt brought back memories she wished she could’ve forgotten. She cared for me, though.” She glanced at him. “Did her best to protect me. I was lucky.”
No lesser member created her. Dar had. He was the only pure fairy left. The Huntsmen had captured all the other Unseelies, and the chances any of Dar’s other half-breed children having lived to maturity were slim. The taint Dar had infected them with would have turned them into beacons in the night, drawing redcaps and sluaghs to them. Without a way to defend themselves, the immature half-breeds would’ve become no more than food sources. Besides, the strength resonating from Harley hinted at how very powerful she’d be if she embraced her heritage. She’d rival her father.
“Dar, their leader, sired you.” He’d bet his life on it.
“Condemned me, you mean.”
He shrugged, the only response he could manage. He didn’t want to speak of what her future would entail if he didn’t bind himself to her.
She glided to the wall, the sway of her hips a wonderful sight, and slipped the torch she carried into the empty holder. “Why?”
The question could’ve meant a number of things. His fate rested on his ability to convince her to willingly pick up the key from the pillow on his bed and unlock him. He couldn’t risk alienating her by answering incorrectly. Many of his responses wouldn’t please her.
“What do you mean?”
“If you were created to hunt the fairies”—she peered over her shoulder—“why are you here? In chains?”
“Because during the fight that should’ve wiped the last fairy from the earth, I was led into a trap. Dar imprisoned all the Huntsmen that night.”
“There are more Hunters like you?”
“Yes, my flower, and once I capture Dar, he will join his brethren in Hell and my siblings can be released.”
She wrapped her arms around her chest. “Don’t call me that.”
The change in subject didn’t surprise him. The topic she’d latched on to did, however. “Why? It’s a pleasant nickname.”
“It makes me feel beautiful.” She dropped her hands, balling her fists at her sides. “I feel the taint festering in my body. Every day it grows. Soon I’ll be as monstrous as Dar.” She advanced on him. A few feet away, she stopped and scrunched her nose. “Am I right?”
He reached for her. His fingers fell short of her chest, and she didn’t close the scant distance. He let his hand drop. “You’re still pure.” Mostly.
She groaned. The agonized sound cut at his heart.
“But not for long.” She took one more step closer. “Am. I. Right?”
He grasped her arm and tugged her struggling body against his. She shoved at his chest, but he wouldn’t allow her to slip free. He slid his hand down the length of her spine to her rounded bottom and pressed her against his straining cock. She stilled.
“Keep embracing that rage, and you’ll spiral into the darkness you’re fighting.”
Her chest heaved. Each exhale pressed her breasts into his hardened muscles. After a moment, she fisted his shirt and clung to him. “I don’t want to be like them.”
He lifted her with a hand on her bottom. She gasped but grabbed his shoulders to steady herself. He held her gaze and asked the one question that had bothered him for years. “Then why didn’t you return to me? I promised to save you.”
She turned her head. He nudged her with his chin until she focused on him. She sighed. “I was afraid.”
“Of everything, Calan. My family had just been attacked by monsters, and you show up as a disembodied pair of eyes. Then…” She shook her head. “I wasn’t about to believe a ghost.”
“Do you still think I’m a ghost?”
“You’re changing the subject.”
Yes, but the lust darkening her eyes suggested it wasn’t an unwanted diversion. With the conversation steered in a different direction, he wanted to explore it.
“And you’re avoiding my question.”
She skimmed her hands over the rough material of his shirt to the leather twining at his neck. With trembling fingers, she undid the binding. The fabric parted, revealing his upper chest. She traced the contours of his exposed muscles and settled her palm over his heart. Warmth spread from where she touched him and made him very aware of the female he held, a woman he’d wanted from the first moment he’d looked into her eyes.
“Not a ghost. You’re real. I’m glad too.” She leaned closer. “I’ve fantasized about you for years, and this…” She ran her fingertips over his cheek. “This face is more captivating than any I could’ve imagined.”
The rightness he’d experienced nine years ago returned, stronger than before. He wanted Harley’s lips on his. Needed it. “Kiss me.”
She shook her head.
“Harley.” He waited until she met his gaze. “Kiss me.”
Hesitantly, she pressed her mouth to his. He nudged at the seam of her lips with his tongue. She parted them, and he slipped inside. Her flavor hit him. She tasted of candy, a delectable treat he could easily become addicted to. He moaned and kissed her harder. After a long moment where he led her into passion, she dragged her fingers through his hair, grabbing sections of the short strands and tugging him closer.
On a whimper, she linked her legs around his waist. Her heat pressed against his stomach. He automatically arched his back to line up his erection with her sex. Her small stature and his tight bonds prevented him from experiencing her tempting warmth along the length of his shaft. It didn’t dim the lust consuming him. The scent of her arousal and her squirming body intensified it.
He took control of the kiss, needing her wild. He wouldn’t settle for anything else. Quicker, deeper, he stroked his tongue with hers. She tightened her grip on his hair and returned his passion. Their teeth banged as the melding of their mouths grew wicked, and her blood flavored the kiss. Blood that held the tang of pure chaos. It was her taint, a curse from her father and the reason she was turning into a monster.
He turned his head, breaking the kiss. The evidence of the stain working its way through her body and soul, infecting her slowly and steadily, dimmed his runaway desire.
She eased back. The weight of her stare forced his lids open. Tears welled in her eyes, yet her expression remained neutral. “You can taste it, can’t you? It’s not just me.”
He nodded. “It acts as a disease. Dar became infected when he turned his back on the strict laws of the Seelie Court and opened himself up to the chaos. It gave him strength, power, everything only the highest-level gods could achieve, but he was never meant to harness the uncontained raw force. It corrupted him.”
She swallowed hard. “And he passed his infection to me.”
Unable to lie to her, he met her gaze and let her see the truth in his eyes. A single tear trailed down her flawless cheek. She shoved away from him and fell back on her rear. More tears dripped from her eyelashes, while anger contorted her face. She trembled, visibly fighting her emotions.
“Be calm, Harley.” He reached out to her with his mind as he’d done earlier in the day. She shoved him out.
“Don’t try to pacify me.”
“I’m not. I’m trying to help you.” At her narrowed eyes, he sighed. “Giving in to anger will quicken your transformation into an Unseelie fairy.”
She dropped into a crouch, rocking on the balls of her feet, then stood as tall as her petite body would allow. She raised her chin. “I’ll kill myself first. I will never become like them.”
“You’ve matured. It’s too la—” He snapped his mouth closed, not soon enough. Her eyes widened. She took a backward step.
The thought of her leaving him sped his pulse. He strained against his bonds and stretched his arm toward her.
“Don’t leave me.” She froze at his words. “Don’t condemn me to suffer here when I could be hunting Dar. You do want me to stop him before he rapes another woman and gets her with child, don’t you?”
Her eyes turned to saucers. He hated seeing the despair and sadness in them, but he couldn’t allow her to abandon him.
He inhaled slowly and forced his muscles to relax. “That’s right. While I hang here, unable to carry out my vow to protect humanity, Dar is creating more babes who will suffer the fate you’ve been handed. Your sisters and brothers are dying as we speak.”
“They’re going to die anyway!” She strode closer but stopped just out of reach. “Once I release you, you’ll carry out your purpose. You’ll kill Dar, then sweep the world and pick off each of his tainted creatures, including his children…including me. Won’t you?”
He reached out a metaphysical hand and cupped her mound. She squeaked and tumbled forward, exactly the response he wanted. He caught her with his free hand and yanked her against his body. She fought him, pushing and squirming against his iron grip. He reached around her rear and pressed his hand between her legs. She stilled and stared at him, shock and desire simmering in her dilated eyes.
“And what about the humans who die to sustain his redcaps or the unfortunate ones who are turned into sluaghs?” He narrowed his eyes, letting her see the seriousness in his pointed questions, hoping she’d understand. “And don’t forget the humans that his creatures torture and rape for fun. What about them? Only the Huntsmen can mete out justice, but we can’t because my siblings struggle under the curse they were never meant to carry.”
He hated having caused her discomfort, but the situation was too important. She needed to understand that he couldn’t allow any corrupted fairy to live, even if it meant killing her siblings.
“It is only because of the Huntsmen that the barrier to Hell remains closed. That is Dar’s goal. He wants to free his Court from Hell and rule over the human world. Only my siblings’ endurance has stopped him.”
He considered telling her how they upheld the barriers—by offering their pain and suffering to appease the fairy curse Arawn had placed upon the Unseelie Court as punishment for their crimes against humanity. The myriad of emotions that flashed across her face stopped him. He couldn’t risk pushing her over the edge if she knew what awaited her should she turn Unseelie.
“I promised you I’d live, but now you’re telling me it was all for nothing. I’m fighting the inevitable.” She stood on her tiptoes, bringing those turbulent eyes closer to his. “I would’ve given up years ago if it hadn’t been for you. You lied to me. I have nothing to live for except this, releasing you. I’ve watched friends and family suffer and die so I could live long enough for this moment. Am I right?”
The full impact of what she’d endured hit him with her confession. She’d fought the darkness and won…for him. He’d seen with his own eyes how quickly the fairies fell once they became infected. The chaos acted as a drug, and the euphoric high it gave lured even the most noble to give in to the temptation.
The woman before him had experienced the effects of it. Although still mainly Seelie, there were pockets of damage on her aura. She’d tasted the power being Unseelie could give yet had turned her back on it. He’d been right. She was his salvation, his heaven.
The decision he’d made nine years ago was the right one.
She was his.
“No, my precious flower, you’ve lived long enough for us to save each other.” He stroked his thumb over the opening of her cloth-covered sex. “Kiss me. Open yourself up, and let me inside.”
Hunter Deceived will be available in digital on december 29. Preorder your copy: Amazon | BN | Kobo | iBooks | All Romance. And if you’d like to check out more Hump Day excerpts, we’ve got ya covered.