With her love affair lying in ashes, an inscrutable stranger fans the embers.
On the verge of starting a new life with the man she loves, novice witch Hailey Deveraux’s world is yanked from underneath her. Without explanation, Major Kieran McCallen has abandoned her at the doorstep of a new coven. Though her heart and soul tell Hailey that he loved her too, it doesn’t change the shattered spirit he leaves behind.
Though Hailey must restart her life yet again, the remote Castle coven of Wyoming is different. From the smallest child to the most experienced Wiccan, they seem to embrace the strange gift that she brings, especially the enigmatic coven master, Piers Dayton.
Though Piers already knew that Hailey would fit into his future plans for the coven, he had no idea how perfectly she would fill the jagged hole in his life. Though he begins slowly with the elfin and fragile Hailey, his need to dominate her unleashes desire in them both. But before she can truly learn the extent of her power, a vile evil breaches the coven’s border.
So unexpected! No way to be prepared for the twists in this book. Totally unprepared and anxious to see how the resolution will happen. Next book!Kindle Reviewer
I really really want to hate Kieran for just leaving her with really no explanation, and I think because of that I'm really rooting for Piers in this story.Genna, Kindle Reviewer
Looks like Hailey has found a new home. The people of Castle are accepting her, but can she get over Kieran and the way he left?Kindle Reviewer
A wonderful continuation.Kindle Reviewer
Hazel Hunter writes each story as if it is a chapter in a person's life. Each book brings you a portion of their story and leaves you both satisfied and wanting more. I fully recommend this and all of the Hazel Hunter books I've read so far to anyone looking for a good read.kj, Kindle Reviewer
The tiny plane banked alarmingly, and Hailey yelped in dismay, clutching the armrests of her seat. From the pilot’s cockpit, Julie laughed, a sound that rolled like barrels of root beer.
“Don’t worry, sweetie,” Julie said. “I’ve made this descent hundreds of times.”
“You’ve never had a problem with it before?” Hailey asked hopefully.
“I’m still here, ain’t I?”
Hailey could have said that was less than comforting, but then the plane started losing altitude quickly. Though it made her belly a little queasy, she couldn’t take her eyes off of the view through the passenger window. Stretched below her and nestled between two sheltering peaks was the last thing that someone would have expected to see in the remote Wyoming wilds. The Castle looked like a French palace, spread out low and sprawling across what had to be a protected valley. Whether it was nature or Wiccan magic that had carved out the perfect space for the Castle, Hailey couldn’t say, but she could tell that unless one knew exactly where it was, it would be practically invisible.
Hailey jumped as the radio buzzed. Julie was calling in. Her guide was a big bluff woman in denim and flannel who had met Hailey at the airport in Casper. Hailey liked Julie right away, and she began to entertain the tremulous thought that her welcome at the Castle would be a warm one.
Her awakening as a magic user had at first been a revelation. The realization that she belonged to a group of ancient magic users had at first made her feel as if she had found a family, one that had been denied to her since her parents died. Then when the full scope and nature of her powers became known, she realized it was all just a bitter dream.
That had all changed with the arrival of Kieran McCallen. Even the thought of his name made her flinch. It was Kieran who had been unafraid, who had convinced her to find her true potential, to see how deep her powers could go. He had maddened her, encouraged her, supported her, challenged her, and finally, he had loved her.
Hailey believed that he loved her with all her heart and soul. That was what had made his abandonment even harsher. If she thought about their stilted goodbye in the Wyoming airport, she would start to cry, so instead she focused on the Castle below.
Kieran had told her that it was an elite coven dedicated to study. It was a place for powerful witches and warlocks to hone their talents for the betterment of their kind. It was a place where he had promised that she would find a home. He had also promised that they would go there together. A suspicious, ungracious part of her wondered if it was all a trick. Perhaps Kieran had seduced her to bring her away from the Angioli coven in Italy, meaning to dump her in Wyoming all the while. Hailey shuddered. That would mean that he had essentially prostituted himself to bring her to the Castle. She couldn’t tarnish their time together with that. Nor did she really think it was true.
The aircraft landed with the gentlest bump on a long, grass runway. Julie slowed the plane, then turned and taxied back nearly to the beginning. She let it roll into longer grass off to the side, then into a small hanger the size of a barn. She cut the engine, bringing them to a stop.
“Welcome to the Castle, honey,” she said comfortably, opening her door. Then she paused. “It’s a great place, but can I give you a piece of advice?”
Hailey nodded curiously.
“Just about everyone here is the best at something. Maybe they’re top-notch firecrackers, or maybe they’ve been fighting Templars since the flood. Most of them are great people, but when you get together too many people who are the best, well, it can make them kinda act like assholes.”
Hailey giggled a little.
“So take no crap?” she asked, and Julie grinned.
“You got it in one, sweetie. Now, I know you have some real special skills in your toolbox.”
“You know about what I can do?”
“I don’t let anyone on my plane unless I know what they can do or they’re in a world of hurt.” Julie winked. “Piers filled me in.”
Hailey felt her world slightly tip sideways. As long as she had been a witch, her power had been met with incredulity and fear. Julie’s calm acceptance was unheard of.
“What we respect at the Castle is strength and cleverness. You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t have plenty of both. Don’t be afraid to show it, okay?”
Mystified, Hailey nodded. On the back seat, her snow owl familiar Merit hooted in irritation from her large cage. When Hailey reached her fingers between the bars, Merit responded by grumpily nipping at them.
“Brave new world, Merit,” she murmured as Julie hopped out.
Hailey did the same, folded her seat forward, and took Merit’s cage.
“I’ve got to do the post flight check,” Julie said, clipboard in hand. “So go ahead and walk up to the gate. Can’t miss it. There ought to be folks there to meet you.”
Suddenly Hailey felt as shy as a kindergartener on her first day at school. She didn’t want to leave Julie behind. She had found comfort in the bigger woman’s assurance and friendliness. Stepping away from that felt risky. She took a deep breath and told herself not to be a child. With her small pack slung over her back and her owl’s cage dangling from one hand, she stepped out of the hanger.
A blast of cold air made her regret her thin green dress immediately. She held the cage a little more securely in her hand. It was still summer, but at this high altitude, the chill was a permanent thing. She hustled for the barred gate that Julie had indicated. There was a tall wall that surrounded the Castle, and from her perspective, it looked impregnable.
When she came to the gate of iron bars twisted to form an intricate and dizzying pattern, she was surprised to find that it was open. There was no one to guard it, and she slipped inside. She felt like she was getting away with something that she shouldn’t have. A certain part of her delighted in that, while another part wanted her to wait for Julie.
It was foolishness. Julie had said that she was welcome, and she had no reason to think that the woman was lying to her. Taking a tighter grip on her owl cage, she walked down the stone tunnel that she knew from overhead observation would lead to a courtyard.
Before she had cleared the entryway, she heard a shout, and her blood went cold with fear. It was followed by what sounded like cries of anger and fear. In the space of a heartbeat, she made her decision. She threw Merit’s cage open, letting the owl flutter free. Perhaps Merit could make a difference in what was to come, and perhaps she couldn’t. Either way, her beloved white owl wouldn’t be vulnerable and stuck in a cage if the worse was to happen.
Merit cleared her cage door with a whoosh of wings, but Hailey didn’t stay to see it. Instead, she sprinted the last yards of the tunnel, running full speed at the cries which only seemed to become louder and angrier.
For a moment she was dazzled by the late afternoon light. Then when her vision cleared, she was appalled by what she saw.
There were perhaps five young children in front of her, and as she watched, one of them was lifted into the air and thrown hard by a tall man. The other children danced around him, trying to protect their friend, and a little girl with her hair in Bantu knots only narrowly escaped being grabbed next.
Hailey didn’t think. She couldn’t think. Instead, her body was pumped full of fear and nerves, and she darted for the man who was attacking these small children. She swept the little girl with Bantu knots behind her, and she hip-checked another little boy out of the way. Then she was in front of a man who looked so tall that he practically blotted out the sun. With her teeth bared, she reached for him and grabbed his wrist. Her power opened a channel between them. In a space that was shorter than a second, she saw an ocean of light, heat and warmth that went on forever. This was his power, and though her own was not nearly so vast, she reached for his with everything she had.
She felt it flow into her, giving her the ability to do whatever she needed. It wasn’t her power, but she could use it. This was what made her so frightening to most Wiccans, but right now she didn’t mind. Right now, Hailey was grateful for the fear that she instilled.
She stepped back, teeth bared and her hands full of fire.
“All right,” she shouted. “Back the hell off.”
Instead of lunging for her the way he had for the children, the man actually stepped back and looked at her with surprise. The moment of silence drew out further and further, and slowly Hailey became aware of a few things.
Instead of using her distraction to run away, the children were staring at her with varying levels of curiosity and confusion. One little girl even looked a bit vexed, as if she had been denied a treat. The second thing Hailey realized was that there were people watching from the walls. Some had quarterstaves and some were merely sitting in workout clothing, watching with curiosity. None of them seemed upset or frightened by what they had seen.
She gazed around herself, her nerves wound up tight and nearly hurting. She had an inkling that she was making a fool of herself. Her hands were still bright with fire, however, and she did not put it out.
“Why did you do that?” said a little voice.
To her surprise, it was the smallest child who said it. Though many Wiccans were born among the normal human population, there were a fair number who were born to Wiccan parents and grew up aware of their powers. This young girl was seven at most, and the ends of her pigtails were coated in ice, a sure sign of her mastery over cold.
“Do what?” Hailey asked, her voice shaking slightly.
“Stop our practice,” the girl said as if it were evident, and a nearby boy nodded.
“It was just getting good, too! We were going to get him down that time.”
“He threw one of you!”
A slight cough made her look behind her to see the boy who had been thrown so savagely floating in the air behind her. He waved, a slight blush on his cheeks.
“I’m fine,” he said anxiously. “I really am, miss.”
Her own face turned red with humiliation when she heard a few muffled snickers from the people watching by the walls. Self-consciously, she allowed the fire to go out and turned to the big man who she had attacked.
“I’m so, so sorry,” she said, unable to meet his eyes.
Now that the first shock had worn off, she found a tide of cold fear coming over her. She had taken power from someone who had not permitted it. She had tapped into him in a way that was utterly unacceptable.
The covens she had lived at before would have considered that a cause for immediate ejection, if not worse. The fear of her powers was old and ingrained. In the past, it had been punished ruthlessly. Her own fear welled up and threatened to choke her. Had she forfeited her place with the coven so easily? Had she come all this way and lost everything before she had even entered the Castle itself?
The man was striding towards her, and Hailey flinched. She didn’t think he would strike her in front of all these people, but her first instinct told her to be wary and afraid. The first words out of the man’s mouth were not the ones that she was expecting at all.
“That was amazing! Can you do that whenever you want?”