Castle Coven Book 2
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.
What Readers Are Saying
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!
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.
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?
A wonderful continuation.
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.
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?”
Instead of glaring at her, the man’s face was lit up with curiosity. He stopped short of touching her, but she could see that he wanted to know everything about her. It wasn’t the beating and expulsion she had been afraid of, but it was still startling.
“Can you do that again?” he asked expectantly.
Hailey gave a tiny nod.
“Could you do it again right now?”
Before Hailey could babble something in response, someone’s low laugh echoed through the courtyard. Everybody turned to see Julie striding out of the entryway, an amused smile on her face.
“I think you’re terrifying the poor girl, Piers. Did you forget your manners again?”
The man shook his head in chagrin.
“You know, I did. I’m sorry.” The last was offered to Hailey, along with a large hand in greeting.
Tentatively, she shook it, still aware that everyone was watching.
“Still, you must be Hailey Devereaux.”
“I suppose I must be,” Hailey said, a small smile tugging at her mouth.
There was something about this man that she instinctively trusted, much as she had trusted Julie. He was lean but built, more a runner than a wrestler. He was tall with blond hair that was tied back in a small ponytail. In the bright summer light, his eyes were a deep and chocolatey brown. His face was perhaps a hair too severe for traditional good looks, but his smile made up for it.
“I should let you go to your rooms so you can decompress and rest up, but I confess I’m curious.”
“Are you? Was the sample of my powers not enough?”
Hailey was surprised that a bantering tone had come into her voice. She wondered if it was just the adrenaline wearing off.
The man Julie had called Piers shook his head.
“Not even a little. So far, all I know is that you can surprise me when I’m playing with little children. I want to see what you can really do.”
Hailey bit her lip. She knew that she should go find the coven master and present herself, but the confinement on the long flight and her hurt heart needed a little bit of recklessness.
“All right,” she said. “What do you want to see?”
“Well, I’ve seen your fire, what about the opposite? Can you do ice?”
Ice and cold had been Kieran’s power, but she didn’t have time to flinch. She didn’t allow herself to think about it at all. Instead, Hailey reached out her hand. Without a single moment of mistrust, he rested his hand in hers. Once again, she could feel his power pulsing like a world of light, and this time, she could feel that it was freely given.
She had done this with Kieran as well, but she had to shut that pang away.
Hailey pulled the power from him as easily as scooping a cup of cold water from a pool, and she let it fill her. She concentrated on the opposite of heat, the way warmth could be pulled from a space. She spread her hands a foot apart, and between them, ice crystals started to form. She wasn’t interested in showing off sheer power at that moment. She wanted precision, and the crystals formed layer by layer. Soon there were a dozen glittering pieces of ice dancing between her hands, melting slightly in the bright sunlight.
“Beautiful,” Piers murmured, and she could see that he had stepped close to watch.
Hailey could not say whether it was an imp of the perverse that whispered in her ear at that point or not, but she couldn’t resist. With just a flick of her finger, she sent one of the ice chips darting down the neck of Piers’s loose shirt, making the man yelp with surprise.
“That was a dirty trick,” he said with a grin, and she shrugged.
“I think you’ll find that I’m full of them. Now have I sated your curiosity enough?”
He shook his head, an amused glint in those dark eyes.
“Never. But I suppose I should offer you something in return. What would you like?”
Hailey wondered if there was a shade of flirtation in his tone.
“I need to find the coven master of the Castle,” she said reluctantly. “I should let him know that I’ve arrived.”
“Easily done,” said Piers. “I’ll take you to his library.”
Hailey nodded. “My bags…”
“Someone else will see to that. Come here.”
To Hailey’s shock, she found herself clasped tightly to the man’s chest. Distractedly, she realized that he smelled of juniper soap.
“What are you–”
Piers leapt into the air, and in a matter of seconds, they were high above the courtyard. She was looking down at the people far below, watching them watch her. She should have been afraid or upset, but instead, all she felt was a reckless glee.
“Ha, I should have known you were a flyer,” she said to him.
“Oh? And why’s that?”
“Everyone knows that witches and warlocks gifted with flight are unpredictable and wild,” she retorted. “All the old books say so.”
“Hmm, and what do the old books say about mouthing off before you’re back on solid ground?”
“On that they are silent,” she responded with affected dignity. “But you better take good care of me. You can’t rough me up too much before I see the coven master.”
“Rough you up. You know that doesn’t sound like exactly what I want to do with you.”
There was a definite flirtatiousness to his voice this time, and Hailey found herself blushing. She was saved from having to respond, however, when they found themselves at a window in one of the Castle’s many towers. Piers entered, and easily set her down on her feet inside.
The room was small, but incredibly luxurious. The tower’s round walls were lined with books of all kinds, and the floor was covered with a thick, plush carpet that looked like it had been knotted by hand. Off to the side was a large traditional wooden desk, and on top of that, unexpected amidst the traditional furnishings, was a sleek, little laptop.
Hailey wondered what kind of man kept this library. She wondered if he was kind or stern, if he would see her as a person or as a tool. She turned around and to her shock realized that Piers was perched on the edge of the coven master’s desk.
“Um, should you really be doing that?”
“Why shouldn’t I?” he asked, tilting his head slightly.
“Because you’re…because the coven master will…”
Under his patient eyes, she stuttered to a stop, and then she frowned.
“You’re the coven master, aren’t you?”
He grinned, and she realized that he didn’t need to be classically handsome. When he really smiled, he was gorgeous.
“I am. I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist. It was simply too good a chance to get to know you.”
Hailey was torn between feeling incredibly angry or amused about the situation. On one hand, he had taken advantage of the fact that she was new in order to play a prank on her. On the other hand, she wasn’t sure that she would have been able to be as open and as easy with a man who she knew immediately as the coven master of one of the most beautiful places she had ever been. She decided that since she had tried to drain him and set him on fire when she first laid eyes on him that she would settle on amused.
“I’ll call it even if you forget about me thinking that you were going to harm those kids. You weren’t, right?”
He shook his head.
“No, that was me just doing my part for training the children. Eventually, they would all have latched on to me and I would take them for a little flight.”
“And what does that train them to do, exactly?”
“I don’t know, to hang on, perhaps? You did quite well yourself.”
She flushed a little, thinking of their brief flight.
“Well, I can fly too. I’ve done it before.”
“And it takes more to impress you than that, I’m sure. Hopefully, you’ll find things at the Castle that intrigue you and encourage you to stay, even if you were unimpressed with me.”
Hailey started to protest that she wasn’t unimpressed. Then she saw the laugh lurking at the corner of Piers’s mouth and gave in.
“All right then, impress me,” she said challengingly. “Show me what makes this place so very special.
Something new lit up Piers’s face, and she realized that it was an immense sense of pride and pleasure that he took in his home.
“We strive to please. I’ll show you around the Castle, and at the end, you can decide for yourself. Come along. We can just take the stairs down this time.”
Hailey followed behind him as he led the way, and she wondered what in the world she was getting into.