Castle Coven Book 6
Finding acceptance, love and happiness is worth the fight—even if it claims her life.
Though Hailey, Kieran, and Piers have survived the Shadow Walk Prison, the news they bring with them is dire. Templars have allied with demons to eradicate all Wiccans. The horrifying and deadly combination has the covens and the Magus Corps scrambling, with no clear means to survive.
Nor has Hailey come through unscathed. Even Liona, the most ancient witch of them all, can’t tell Hailey the meaning of her changed eyes. Though Hailey may have left the Shadow Walk Prison, it seems not to have left her.
Even in the midst of the turmoil, as the final battle draws nigh, she and her lovers forge a new relationship. For the first time in her life, Hailey knows love and true happiness. But as she struggles to fulfill her destiny and protect the people she loves, the Shadow Walk Prison beckons with an opportunity she can’t refuse.
What Readers Are Saying
A fantastic end to a seriess. What happens when you add a witch, a major from the Magus Corps, and a Coven Master? Unlimited power, or so it seems.
What a great action paranormal romance. Character in the storyline was wonderful. Story was wild.
I read this series on my Unlimited Kindle; however, I plan to buy the whole series so I can reread it as many times as I want.
WOW!!!!! I did not see this coming.
Hailey could not escape the idea that she had done something wrong. Kieran and Piers stayed close to her the entire way back to Wyoming from the Alps. When they had been on the long commercial flight, she kept her head down, ensuring that her unnatural eyes were not noticed by the flight personnel that took care of them.
“But it doesn’t hurt, right?” Kieran asked, an edge of anxiety in his voice.
He was a big man, big enough that his shoulders were a little cramped in the airline seats. In another situation, his anxious questions would have been amusing, but Hailey had never felt less like laughing.
“It doesn’t. It doesn’t at all. I’m fine if I just ignore how I look in the mirror.”
It was true. When she looked in the mirror, most of her features were exactly where they were supposed to be. Her hair was still red and wavy, her skin was still fair, and she still had the same smatter of freckles over her nose. However, her eyes, which had been green since the day that she was born, were a deep and unsettling purple tinged with an ugly green. The color suffused them from the pupil through what used to be white. Though she could see just fine, the discoloration was a constant reminder of their journey in the Shadow Walk Prison, the hallucinatory dreamworld inhabited by demons.
Piers, her other lover, was uncharacteristically silent most of the way. He smiled comfortingly. He had handled the travel arrangements with competence and care. But when he wasn’t on the phone with the Castle, he was often lost in his own thoughts.
It made a certain amount of sense, Hailey figured. He had only gone to the Alps in the first place because she was involved. Not only was she his lover, she was a member of his coven, the sanctuary for Wiccans known as the Castle. As the coven master, he took his responsibilities to his people very seriously.
Kieran had checked in with his own superiors at the Magus Corps as well. While on their rescue mission in the Alps, they had found that the Wiccans’ ancestral enemy, the Templars, had found a way to control Wiccans infested with demons, creating supernatural powerhouses that were capable of immense destructive power. Those Templars were on the verge of launching an attack, and the Magus Corps had to be ready.
When they landed in Wyoming, Hailey was struck with a sense of déjà vu. It hadn’t been all that long ago when Kieran had taken her from her home coven to Piers’s. Just as she had then, Julie, a skilled pilot and witch, was there to greet them. They would make the last part of the journey in her small plane.
As they threw their luggage into the hold, Hailey quirked an eyebrow at Kieran.
“Not going to run off on me again?” she asked softly.
“That was not well done of me,” he admitted. “Duty called, and I’m bad at resisting it.”
“I understand that,” she said, buckling herself in. “I just want to know if it is going to happen again.”
His large hand closed over her small one.
“I wish I could tell you I would never leave you again,” he said, his voice soft and regretful. “After this business with the Templars is over, I would swear to it. But right now? With what we know? I don’t even know myself where I’m going to be in twenty-four hours.”
Hailey felt her heart twist at his words. She knew that she couldn’t expect him to stay when there might be a war in the works. She understood it, but she still couldn’t stem the tide of sadness that overwhelmed her.
His hand on hers tightened and he leaned close to press his lips to hers in a soft kiss. No matter how she felt or what was going on, she could still take pleasure in this. She could still love the taste of him, the woodsy scent of his skin and the warmth of his body.
“I love you,” he whispered. “I love you so much. The only thing I want more than to be at your side is to keep you safe. I can’t promise you that I won’t leave, but I promise that when I return, it’ll be to stay for good.”
Hailey nodded, trying to hold back her tears. It was enough. It would have to be.
She started to speak, but then Piers sat down on the seat across from theirs. Julie’s plane was tiny. Hailey reached across the aisle to touch Piers, running her fingers over the angle of his jaw. He looked up at her surprised, then pleased.
“It’s going to be all right,” he said.
She quirked an eyebrow.
“Are you trying to convince me or yourself?” she asked.
He didn’t respond, and she got the idea that he was holding something back from her. It was a feeling that nagged at the back of her mind, something that made her feel nervous and uneasy. She tried to tell herself that it was just a feeling, but she knew herself far too well for that. There was something going on. Whatever it was, she told herself that Piers would tell her when the time was right. After all, he was the master of the Castle. He had been away for quite some time. That meant that there were things that were on his mind, things that were running through his head.
The flight from the airport to the Castle’s airstrip was not a terribly long one, but Hailey felt her eyelids droop. The last few days had been intense, taking her around the world and through an entirely alien one. She dozed off into a fitful slumber. Her dreams were fraught with things that she couldn’t quite control, things she couldn’t quite figure out. People were calling for her, she was needed, but she couldn’t tell what was going on.
When Kieran gasped, she was happy to shed the vestiges of sleep, sitting up to see what had surprised him so. He was staring out the window, eyes wide. Hailey smiled.
“It’s the Castle,” she said. “It’s home.”
The Castle was nestled between two mountain peaks, a building which combined the grandeur of the castles of the old world with the modern luxuries of the new one. In the fading light of the day, the walls of the Castle were dyed a beautiful gold, giving it the radiance of a storybook palace. Hailey remembered her own reaction to the place, how she had both craved what it stood for while being wistfully certain that it wasn’t for her.
“You’ve been here before,” she murmured, taking Kieran’s hand.
“I came overland up the mountain,” he said with a shrug. “I knew it was a beautiful place, but I couldn’t imagine something like this.”
“You should be able to imagine it quite easily,” Piers said firmly. “This is what the Magus Corps wants to protect. This is what you are defending from the people who would harm it.”
Kieran flashed a smile that was almost shy at the other man.
“I understand that is the Magus Corps’ mission. In all honesty, however, the Magus Corps is a great deal more about warring than it is about protection. I joined to protect things that I thought important, but I…I don’t think I ever knew how grand those very things could be.”
Hailey could see the battle on Piers’s face. He and Kieran weren’t lovers, not quite. They were linked by their love for her, and though at this point, they had a great deal of esteem for each other, they were still very much opposite sides of the same coin.
She knew that Piers’s regard for the Magus Corps was historically indifferent at best. Like many coven masters who defended their covens on their own, he didn’t care for the Magus Corps’ interference with his affairs or the affairs of the people he considered under his protection. Kieran, on the other hand, was a man well-used to a wartime authority, where his word could change the course of battle in a heartbeat. He was used to demanding and receiving total obedience, something that he was more than willing to forfeit in bed with her and with Piers, but which made him bristle when in the field.
“Stay at the Castle as long as you wish,” Piers said softly.
To Hailey’s surprise, the voice he used was a shockingly intimate one. It was close to the same one that he used when he commanded them in bed, when he was making suggestions that should have made Hailey blush.
Kieran turned to him with a slightly regretful half-smile.
“That voice doesn’t actually work on me when I’m not ready to get naked,” he pointed out. “But thank you. I do appreciate the thought.”
Piers shrugged, smiling a little in return.
“It was meant in good faith. The Castle is a shelter for all, and that includes you.”
“We’re entering in to some unusual times,” Kieran responded. “I don’t know if I will be able to use the Castle the way that you intend, but thank you.”
From the cockpit, Julie announced the landing. The plane, obedient to her controls, shifted as they lost altitude.
Returning to the Castle felt like returning home, but a certain part of Hailey wished that they had never landed, that they continued to soar above. In the sky, there was nothing that could hurt them. There was nothing that could change the peace and the love that existed between them. On the ground, Piers was the coven master, Kieran belonged to the Magus Corps, and she was always going to be somewhere in between. No matter how much she might wish it, however, there was nothing she could do to keep the plane in the air. The plane landed, and she stumbled off it.
All around them, people were waiting to welcome Piers back. Kieran was right behind her until a call on his phone pulled him away. He was frowning, talking in low and urgent tones to the person on the other end. In the midst of all of the hustle, Hailey felt oddly lost. She couldn’t see the friends she had made in the crowd. She was thinking that she should slide back to her room for a shower to wash away the travel grime when a small hand looped through her arm and pulled her aside.
Liona di Orsini was a small woman with long silvery hair. Her eyes were as dark as obsidian, and even now, when her expression was kind, there was something about her that made Hailey just a little nervous. She was one of the oldest Wiccans known, and though she looked no older than Hailey herself, there was a sense of ancient power around her.
She seized Hailey and pulled her away from the crowd as neatly as a wolf separating a calf from the herd. Just inside the doorway to the main part of the Castle itself, she unexpectedly threw her arms around Hailey’s neck, pulling the younger woman into a crushing embrace.
“Do you know what you have done for me?” she whispered fiercely. “Precious girl, do you even know?”
“You…you spoke with Lucius.”
Lucius was a man who had proved instrumental to their success in the Alps. He had been captured and tortured by Templars for what must have been years, until he had all but forgotten what it meant to be a human being. Hailey had reminded him, and from there, he had remembered his love for his long lost Liona.
“He contacted me using Piers’s phone. We spoke. He cried.”
“He refused to come with us. He wanted to continue scouring the fortress where the Templars were,” Hailey said apologetically. “Piers made arrangements for him to come in a few days though.”
“What do you think a few days matter when I have kept one eye out for him for the past few centuries? You have brought him back to me, and that is all I care about.”
Hailey smiled tremulously at her friend, meeting her eyes for the first time. Liona’s eyes narrowed.
“I see you have had some adventures of your own.”
“Yes. I spent time in the Shadow Walk Prison, and I think some of it has chosen to follow me home.”
Liona’s grin was hard, and if she was not totally convinced that Liona was on her side, Hailey would have shivered a little bit.
“Well, we shall see about that. Come with me.”
• • • • •
Piers had given Liona her own rooms at the Castle. In many ways, it was a modern space with neutral though charming furniture and a state of the art computer that Liona had obviously been using. However, there were also signs that Liona had made the space her own. There was a vivid violet tapestry thrown over the back of the couch. On the coffee table in front of the couch was a small mirror set with candles. This was where Liona seated Hailey, lighting the candles as she did so.
Hailey breathed in the scents of sandalwood and copal, letting them cleanse her. They were strong scents, and perhaps in another environment, she would have been more sensitive. However, here with Liona, it felt just right.
Liona dimmed the lights throughout the apartment and shuttered the windows. Now the only light came from the candles. As Hailey watched them curiously, she could almost see them shimmer and swim.
“All right now. Let’s see what is looking out of your eyes.”
There was something uncomfortable about that phrase, something that made Hailey want to hide. Instead, she took a deep breath and sat as Liona positioned her. Liona’s hand on her jaw was gentle, moving her face back and forth.
“Hmm. Let’s see how well this goes.”
Liona lifted one of the candles, a thick pillar that smelled strongly of fresh juniper. It was a bold and bracing scent, causing Hailey to breathe deep. Liona held the candle between them so that the flame danced just a foot from Hailey’s nose.
“Look only into the flame,” she said. “Don’t look at my eyes, just look into the fire.”
Hailey tried to do as she was told, but in many ways, it was difficult. The flame of the candle danced enticingly, but beyond were Liona’s dark eyes, glittering and gorgeous. Hailey took a deep breath and concentrated on the flame.
She let her mind drift because there were no battles here, nothing that needed to be fought, nothing that needed to be resisted. She had almost fallen into a trance when Liona sighed, taking the candle away.
“Well, that’s a relief.”
She went to turn on the lights as Hailey looked after her in concern.
“What do you mean?”
“I’ve never seen eyes like the ones that you possess, but I have heard about it. People who spend too long in the Shadow Walk Prison often carry things out with them. In some cases, what they carry out is a demon, smuggled away in their mind and looking to do them harm.”
“Something that would turn me into a monster.”
Liona’s laugh was dark.
“Something like that. In some cases, they will turn you into the twisted monsters that Lucius told me about. Not all demons crave blood, however. Some crave the small deaths that people can stretch out over the course of fifty or a hundred years. Some of them hide so well that you will never think they are there at all.”
“Is such a thing possible?”
“More than possible. Some people simply become cruel. Perhaps they become cruel to themselves, or perhaps they become cruel to others. If you ask them if they are all right, they will tell you that they are, unaware that there is a demon hiding behind their eyes, telling them that person is weak or this person is a traitor. Over the years, they can do just as much evil as those intent on physical destruction.”
Hailey thought of the sly traps set by some of the demons she had seen and the way the Shadow Walk Prison itself seemed to pull out the darkest bits of her personality and her soul. The idea of something like that hiding behind her eyes was enough to make her ill.
“But you saw nothing like that?”
“I sat in front of your eyes like the best kind of bait, another soul open to yours and willing to see what would happen. No demon came looking, and I think you are safe.”
Hailey only breathed in relief for a moment before Liona started speaking again, her voice low and practical.
“That is the worst thing I have ever heard happening when people bring back the Shadow Walk Prison as you have done. The rest, well, we shall just have to see.”
“See? See what?”
“You may find that your attraction to the Shadow Walk Prison grows. Don’t look so disbelieving. A place like that, when you are in total control of your mind and the world around you? Some witches and warlocks have made themselves absolute rulers of the space for a while.”
“Then what happened to them?”
“They collapsed underneath their own minds and souls, I imagine. No one should live in worlds entirely of their own making. Others see visions, and still others find that they can walk through the Shadow Walk Prison more easily without harm. Still others, well, it’s just a strange look that they have.”
Hailey closed her eyes. She didn’t feel any different. She didn’t feel linked to the Shadow Walk Prison, and she certainly didn’t feel as if a demon was going to come out of her.
“So we just wait and see?”
“So much of life ends up telling us to wait and see, yes. It is not easy, but you can bear it. You have borne so much.”
Her eyes still closed, Hailey smiled a little when she felt Liona’s fingers trail down her face from brow to chin. The other woman’s touch was light and sweet, making her think of the flutter of dove’s wings against her skin.
“It is not so much,” Hailey murmured softly. “I’m only tired.”
Liona shifted so that she was a little closer to Hailey, so close that Hailey could feel Liona’s sweet breath against her chin.
“Are you tired, dear one? Would you like to sleep for a little while?”
Hailey started to say yes, but something about Liona’s tone, sincere but with an undercurrent of teasing to it, made her pause.
“I’d like to shower, I think,” she said slowly.
“Of course, your long journey…”
“I might like it if you joined me.”
Liona’s laugh was soft and husky. When she spoke next, her lips brushed against Hailey’s.
“What a good idea. I shouldn’t want you to slip and fall because you are so tired after all.”
Hailey was unused to the freedom that she, Kieran and Piers had given each other to explore where they would. Some tiny part of her wondered if she was doing right. Then Liona was leading her to the bathroom where she ran the water and turned to Hailey with an expectant look.
“Come here, let’s get you out of that.”
Hailey mutely allowed Liona to strip her of her clothing and then guide her into the gentle spray. She watched in appreciation as Liona stripped herself. Liona’s body was a great deal like hers, both slender and small breasted. When Liona stepped into the spray with her, Hailey couldn’t help but embrace her, pulling her close for a kiss.
Liona kissed her for a moment before pulling away with a smile.
“I believe you’re in here to get clean.”
She picked up the washcloth, soaping it before running it all over Hailey’s body. Under the warm spray, Hailey leaned against the tile wall, closing her eyes as Liona cleaned her all over. Whenever she tried to return the favor, Liona smacked her hand.
“Let me look after you, dear one,” Liona murmured. “I’ll get my turn in a bit.”
Hailey wondered if she should be worried about it, but it simply felt too good. Liona’s slow and gentle motions and the heat of the water made her fall into a sleepy languorous haze, something that struck her as amazingly luxurious after the days she had had.
Liona was so gentle that she almost didn’t notice the other woman’s clever hands stroking between her legs. Those slippery fingers were working between her folds and touching the tip of her clit before her eyes flew open.
“That feels good,” she murmured, almost shy.
“Good, that’s what it’s supposed to feel like. Here, lean this way.”
Liona positioned Hailey so that she was braced, both hands flat against the tiled wall. Liona’s bare foot nudged Hailey’s feet apart so that she had access to Hailey’s most tender parts. For a brief moment, she simply pressed herself against Hailey’s slick back, pressing her breasts and her hips firmly against Hailey’s body. For a long moment, she rubbed herself against Hailey, purring with pleasure.
“Let’s see how you feel like this.”
Her hand slid against the curve of Hailey’s buttocks, seeking low and between her legs. Hailey whimpered when Liona inserted two fingers inside her damp opening, prising her open with nothing more than pressure.
“Tight,” Hailey murmured in surprise.
“Yes, and lovely as well. Tell me if it hurts.”
“And if it doesn’t?”
“Well, if it doesn’t, ride my fingers until you climax.”
Hailey didn’t think that she could climax without having her clit touched. She never had before. However there was something persistent about the way that Liona was touching her, something so perfect about the shape of Liona’s fingers inside her. Obediently, she pressed herself down on Liona’s hand, riding it just as Liona had told her to.
She could feel the pressure building up in her, powerful and remorseless. She thought for a moment it was an orgasm, but it rose and fell like the tide. Every time she thought she was getting close, it pulled back again, making her moan in frustration.
“It’s right there, it’s yours, take it,” murmured Liona, breathless behind her.
When the pressure rose again, Hailey clamped down hard on Liona’s hand, working her own muscles until they whimpered. The orgasm that swept over her was so powerful she screamed, pounding her hands against the tile. It was as if every muscle in her body had tightened and then released all at once. She couldn’t bear it, so she let it go.
Behind her she could hear Liona laugh. In her head, it was only white noise, only the echoes of a pleasure so intense she could have cried. She was distantly aware of Liona pulling her hand away, of the water that continued to stream down around them.
Liona helped her out of the shower, drying her off in a caring way that made Hailey feel like she wanted to cry.
“Liona…do you like me?” The words were garbled, but they were painfully honest.
“Of course I do, dear one,” said Liona firmly. “Come here, lie down. You can rest for a little while, poor thing, you deserve it.”
“And then your turn?”
Liona’s laugh was clear and lovely.
“Then my turn, dear one.”