Read Hunter Betrayed Online

Authors: Nancy Corrigan

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Erotica, #Romance, #Paranormal

Hunter Betrayed

Hunter Betrayed

Nancy Corrigan

 

Wild
Hunt, Book 1

 

Tainted
from birth, Harley lives a life cloaked in darkness and temptation. She resists
the lure of her evil legacy by holding the memory of her ghostly savior close.
Every night without him is agony. She fantasizes about him and yearns for his
body, but he’s not the protector or lover she’s envisioned. He’s a Hunter bred
to eliminate her kind. He’s also her only hope of salvation.

Calan,
the leader of the Wild Hunt, was created to protect mankind from the Unseelie
Court. For a millennium, he’s sacrificed to ensure the horrid creatures remain
in the Underworld, but his strength wanes. He must rely on his enemy’s daughter
to save him, but he doesn’t expect the intensity of their lust or love. Her
touch calms his wild nature and ignites his carnal desires. He’ll risk all to
save her, but doing so forces him to make the ultimate sacrifice, one that’ll
damn him to suffer forever in his own living hell.

 

A Romantica®
paranormal
erotic romance
from Ellora’s Cave

 

Hunter Betrayed
Nancy Corrigan

 

Prologue

1,000 Years Ago

 

Calan, eldest of the Huntsmen, leaned over the spectral form
of his horse. His siblings spreading out behind him followed suit. A prod to
his stallion’s flank and he urged the beast faster. Its sides heaved and breath
fogged the cold night air, but it made no sound, stealth its gift along with
speed. Its furious pace pushed him across the sky in a blur of motion few
humans would see. Connected to them, the phantom animals shared in the wrath
and urgency the Wild Hunt spurred among its riders. All seethed. All hungered
for retaliation. All lived and breathed as one.

The baying of his hounds lessened with the passing of the
countryside beneath them. They were closing in on their prey. Good. The
opportunity to avert disaster slipped away with each beat of the earth’s heart.
He fisted the mane under his palms and dragged in a breath of air laced with
the stench of evil. A smile spread. Victory hovered within their grasp.

He glanced at Rhys, his second-in-command. Already fully
transformed into his Huntsman form, Rhys caught his gaze with reddened eyes.
His longer muzzle displayed a mouthful of deadly teeth and curled talons
gripped his flaming obsidian sword. No words passed between them. They
understood the danger that awaited them. Rhys gave a single nod and veered off
to the right with half their legion.

A peek at Tegan, his third, showed her in the midst of the
change. Color leeched from her skin, leaving her as ghastly as the mare she rode.
Claws formed. Her angelic face lengthened and her petite frame gained mass.

She winked at him, a drop of blood oozing from the corner of
her eye. A tip of her chin and their remaining siblings swerved to the left,
leaving him alone with his favored steed.

Silence fell over the night. Colors blurred, the world
rushing by at speeds no mere human could fathom. Faster. Calan pushed his
stallion to the limit of its abilities. The fabric of the world around him
groaned, straining to maintain its woven pattern in the face of his wrath.

A flash of light in the distance indicated his destination.
Flames engulfed the village. He inhaled and inwardly cursed at the information
stamped onto the breeze. The pain of the last great priestess coated his
tongue. Raped by Dahm, the dark fairy prince of the Unseelie Court, she carried
within her womb the sacrifice needed to open the gates of hell.

Urgency added to the fury of the Hunt. His horse responded
to his unspoken plea, galloping harder until sparks trailed behind them. It
would sacrifice its very being to ensure their prey was caught. So would Calan.
The protection of the mortal world was his sole purpose in life. Born with ties
to both the human realm and the Underworld, the Huntsmen were the only ones
with the ability to stop the fairies from releasing their deviant creatures
along with the chaotic aspects of Hell.

He would not shame the memory of his beloved human mother or
betray the vow he’d given to his father when he’d joined the Hunt. Both would
be honored. He wouldn’t accept anything less. If he did, the fairies would gain
complete control over the world.

They had almost succeeded too. The barrier separating the
realms was damaged. A crack had developed, one that had required the
intervention of all the gods to seal. The fix hadn’t come without cost,
however. The condemned fairies paid it by repeatedly dying. Their pain and fear
fueled the magic that upheld the seal. Not for much longer, though.

Dahm had stolen the dagger used to deliver the curse. He
planned to transfer it to a fairy who had not yet matured and gained
immortality—his newborn child. Once his babe died, the curse would be broken,
the barrier would fall and the realms would merge.

No. It won’t happen. I won’t allow it.

There was time to avert disaster. They had not missed the
birth. The priestess still writhed in the throes of labor pain. Blood dripped
from the edges of the flat surface to coat the glyphs etched in the base,
infusing them with her powerful essence. A grunt accompanied the female’s push.
The raven head of her babe crested her birth canal. Dahm climbed onto the altar
and poised between her spread thighs, the dagger held in his raised hand.

Calan reached for his siblings, tying them together and
giving him more power than he’d ever known. He leapt from his horse and tackled
the dark prince before he could strike the blow. The clang of the blade upon
the stone rang through the night. Roars echoed in his ears—his, Dahm’s and that
of his siblings. Metal cracking against metal resonated around him. The fury
and wrath of the Huntsmen as they fought Dahm’s army of sluaghs, human puppets
created to serve the fairies, added to the festering rage consuming him. Calan
accepted it all and used their frenzy to feed his.

He clawed at the fairy’s malformed body, ripping his
leathery sides open. The bitter smell of bile and the ripe scent of waste
twined with Dahm’s malevolent taint. The once-beautiful Seelie male had
succumbed to the infection he had willingly invited inside. It had made him the
first of the Unseelie—tainted by chaos, corrupted by madness and damned to a
living hell. Rotten from the inside out, his hunched back and elongated limbs
reflected the monster he’d become.

They rolled across the sodden ground, swiping and tearing
each other to shreds. Both evenly matched, their battle turned into a back and
forth exchange of fists and claws. Each time Calan gained ground, Dahm
countered it. Blood soaked them both, along with sweat and gore. Frustration
threatened to consume Calan. He couldn’t fail. The fate of humankind rested
upon him.

Memories of time spent with his human stepfamily returned to
him. Laughter, happiness—he’d understood the emotions once, years before the
Hunt became his life. He often took the recollections out as treasured gifts to
study, absorb and remember why he rode. He embraced the images, needing
anything that would give him additional strength. His mother’s pale-blue eyes,
ones he’d been told matched his, filled his vision. For her descendants—his
relations—he had to succeed.

He led the male in the brawl then pulled his last punch. The
opening gave the fallen fairy the chance to strike the deathblow. Dahm raised
his clawed fist to take it. Calan caught his hand and used the hold to flip
their positions, trapping Dahm below him. The dark prince roared and bucked,
but Calan gripped Dahm’s oversized, misshapen head between his hands. One tug
and the Hunt would end, once and for all.

The baby’s first cry pierced the night.

“No!” the priestess screamed.

Calan peered over his shoulder. Hatred distorted the
female’s face as she sawed at the umbilical cord with a jagged piece of rock.
She tossed it then reached for the discarded blade. His heart skipped a beat.
She raised it over her babe’s bloody body.

By the gods, no!

Calan released his nemesis and dove toward the altar. He
shoved the priestess’s hand away and curled his body around the innocent life.
The blade meant to transfer the curse to the newborn melted bone as it slid
into Calan’s shoulder. Searing pain spread and he shook under the force of the
fiery ice slithering through his veins. The burning chill, the spark of life
and the precursor of death, became his world. It demanded his suffering, an
eternity of it to make up for crimes he’d never committed.

He screamed, yet no sound emerged. His cry of fury echoed
inside his head. Every particle in his body rebelled against the misery
shredding his soul. It was magic of the purest kind and stolen from the fabric
of the universe.

Words skittered through his mind, ones he knew by heart,
ones he’d spoken millennia ago. The hellish, unending curse delivered upon the
Unseelie Court weaved its spell upon Calan, but the shrill cry of the newborn
he still cradled made it worth it. He’d saved the child from experiencing the
pain ripping him apart. For that alone, Calan willingly shouldered it. For the
fate of the world, he embraced it.

His choice was made. The barrier could not break. He would
pay the price the curse demanded in pain and blood. If he didn’t, Dahm would
simply repeat the tragedy Calan had stopped today. He couldn’t risk failure.

He opened his mental pathway to Rhys. Anguish consumed his
brother’s mind. Worry for his sibling surfaced. He pushed it aside for the
moment. Duty came first.

Rhys, I have accepted the curse. You must defeat Dahm
while I maintain the barrier.

Only then would Calan be freed.

He waited for his brother’s acceptance. Only his pained
groans answered him.

Rhys?

Can’t. We are…connected. Your pain is…ours.

Gods, no! He hadn’t realized what would happen. He reached
for each of his siblings and found them all suffering with the same level of
agony.

He couldn’t wipe the world of all the Huntsmen, not while
Dahm roamed free. Calan fought the magic weaving its way into his soul. He was
kicked to his back and the infant plucked from his hands before he could do
more.

Dahm pressed a distorted foot to Calan’s chest and leaned
over him. The monstrous face of the fallen fairy faded. Glamour, the magic of
the fae, weaved a mask of beauty over the malevolent soul contained within the
dark prince. Perfectly formed cheekbones, full lips and green eyes formed in
the blob of rotten flesh. Blond hair sprouted where none had been and his body
thinned to the leanly formed frame he preferred.

“Foolish, Hunter.” Dahm sneered, showing off black stubs for
teeth, the last of his unholy form. “Do you think your sacrifice will save the
world?”

Calan struggled to make his mouth work, but his lips
remained pressed together. His muscles burned, seized and contorted against his
will. He forced his lids to drop, the glare all he could manage.

Dahm grinned. “I see the curse is already working upon you.
Enjoy it, Hunter Calan. Your suffering will not be enough to hold the
splintered barrier forever. The curse was meant for the fairies, not the
Huntsmen. Once the magic destroys your minds, you won’t be able to pay the
price demanded of it. The barrier will fall and I will win anyway.”

He glanced behind him and spoke in the rapid, fluid language
of the fae. The garbled response of a sluagh carried over the crackle of flames
continuing to destroy the village.

Calan’s heart skipped a beat before pounding in his chest at
the fate he’d been handed—imprisonment in the fairy realm, a place no other
human or god could transverse.

He strained against his traitorous muscles locking him in
place. No use, he was too weak.

In a desperate attempt to stop Dahm, he drew strength from
his siblings once more. Instead of trying to make his leaden limbs move, he
used the power to force the curse onto his siblings. One of them had to
survive.

Forgive me.
He sent them his regret and his promise
to save them.

Murmurs of acceptance flowed through his mind. Life returned
to Calan’s body.

He pushed from the ground. A sluagh yelled a warning. Dahm
turned and thrust a clawed fist into Calan’s chest, breaking ribs and tearing
muscle. Talons sank into his heart. He grabbed Dahm’s arm, but he was too late.

Pain radiated outward.

His heart took its last beat.

He fell but death didn’t claim him. Like the mature fairies,
it never would. He would forever return to his body, alive and whole. While he
healed, he watched his siblings disappear, one by one, their bodies transported
into the fairy realm. There they would suffer under the weight of the fairy’s
curse until their minds broke.

The truth settled in his heart. He could no longer deny it.

He’d failed everyone. And soon, hell would take over the
world.

 

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