Hollow City Coven Book 2
A frightful destination. A love that is destined. A fight to stay together.
As Gillian and Shayne embark on the next step of their journey, it takes an unexpected turn. Aboard a ship with an eerie captain and strange first mate, their passionate new relationship is put to the test. But finally making landfall at the fabled Midnight Market only compounds their troubles.
As Gillian searches desperately for the means to continue her quest, Shayne struggles to protect her. Though she’s pursued and seized at every turn, her own obsession is her undoing. In the Midnight Market there is only one law: everything is for sale. Everything.
What Readers Are Saying
With a F/F kiss, and some steamy action from Gillian and Shayne, this book continues to be hot and steamy. However, this installment is also mysterious and suspenseful. It also comes complete with an ending that leaves you wanting the next book in this series immediately.
Like a James Bond movie, the action is there just under the surface ready to erupt, and keeps you intrigued trying to guess what will bring the action to the surface. Meanwhile you have that 800 year old experienced warrior who knows Gillian will be his soulmate, but in her mid-twenties Gillian hasn’t come to the same conclusion yet.
Wow! I'm hooked! Poor Gillian has to brave the Midnight Market to gain the means to see Tenebris. Little does she know that the price will be excruciatingly painful.
The growing relationship between the two lovers ebbs and flows as the story takes them into dark and dangerous places. A very interesting twistleaves you wondering if this is the first time thru for these two, or maybe they have been here before and have yet to complete their mission's in life.
Wow! Hazel Hunter does it again. In depth, relatable characters take you on an emotional and sexy rollercoaster ride. I couldn't put it down.
The sun had almost set when the small plane started to make its final descent over the North Atlantic. Gillian stirred against Shayne’s shoulder. Her escort was already awake and peering into the dark.
“Is everything all right?”
He flashed her a quick smile. The red light in the plane reflected from the blue eye but not the brown one, giving him a distressingly lopsided look. With his falcon Vlasti perched behind him, he looked like an ancient wood god come to either point her way or damn her.
“Everything’s fine. Port Ilya’s right in front of us. We’ll be getting off soon.”
She touched his arm gently.
“Are you having second thoughts?” she asked softly.
Gillian might be young, but her life’s course was true. She was on the hunt for Tenebris, the legendary Hollow City, thought to have harbored the most powerful and ancient Wiccans of the world. That journey lay in front of her, but her coven master had decided that she wasn’t going to travel it alone. Shayne, an officer from the mysterious Magus Corps, had been sent to walk it with her.
He shook his head in response to her question, squeezing her hand gently.
“No. This is my mission, and whatever Jefford thought it was going to be when he sent me on it, it is a worthy one. I’m not going to abandon you, Gillian.”
She knew he’d been sent with her as punishment, a milk run designed to humiliate a man used to battle. But events had spiraled out of control as soon as they had left L.A.. His smile was warm, but the mention of his mission crushed her a bit. Though they had become intimate, there was something withdrawn about him.
Is that all I am, a mission?
She smiled at him as bravely as she could.
“I’m glad you’re here with me,” she said, drawing her hand back. “Port Ilya shouldn’t be a huge issue, but the Midnight Market… There are stories.”
Shayne snorted indelicately.
“The Midnight Market might be one of the most dangerous places in the world, whether you’re a witch, a shape-changer or whatever. The fact that you were going to wander in there without any kind of backup or weapon is utterly terrifying.”
“As terrifying as having our plane shot out of the sky and being hunted by four Templars?” Gillian asked innocently. As intended, it made Shayne grin.
“Cheeky little rabbit. More so, I would say. I know a man in the Magus Corps who accidentally traded his tongue for a glass of beer at the Midnight Market. It’s where fairy tales come to life.”
“What happened to him?” Gillian asked, against her better judgment.
Shayne smiled a little more grimly.
“Well, he still works and fights with the Magus Corps. He just does it without a tongue now.”
Gillian shuddered, jumping a little when Shayne touched her wrist. Her hands were sheathed in black leather gloves, preventing her power from overcoming her.
“Gillian, I know that locating Tenebris is what you want. I know it’s all you think about. But I want to make you this offer. I want you to know that if you want to turn back, if you want to wait until you’re older or until the Corps can field more men to help you get there, that would be fine.”
Gillian’s cheeks flushed red. She jerked her hand away from Shayne.
“You were just telling me a few hours ago that you understood why this was important and why Tenebris had to be found,” she said in bewilderment.
His eyes were so stern. That mouth that had so passionately kissed her was fixed into a hard line.
“I do understand,” he said. “But you didn’t tell me we were going to the Midnight Market until a few hours ago. That changes a few things. Do you even understand the danger you’re getting yourself into? Do you even know what might happen?”
Gillian’s temper was slow to rise, but it had started.
“I was in a plane that got shot out of the sky. I think I know it’s going to be dangerous.”
“Here’s the thing. That was nothing compared to what we might be up against. Do you understand? There were four men trying to kill us. Let me be more precise. There were four Templars who were trying to kill me and take you hostage. We still don’t know why. This mess is getting deeper and deeper all the time and–”
“If it’s such a mess, take yourself out of it,” Gillian snapped.
Shayne looked like he would have been happy to make a response. But the pilot, who was, after all, only separated from them by a stiff curtain, came on the intercom.
“Please fasten your seat belts, return your seats to an upright position, and stow any arguments. We’re on final approach and will touch down shortly.”
Gillian’s cheeks burned with embarrassment. In her pocket, her rat, Max, stirred uneasily. Her familiar could sense her discomfort, but for now he had to live with it just as she did.
She clicked her seat upright, tightened her seat belt, and hugged her backpack in her lap. In it were copies of all her notes, an exotic assortment of documents written in Greek, Latin, and a handful of cyphers that had been used across a span of three thousand years. Individually, they were obscure pieces of history. Together, they described a journey, one that could actually be taken. She knew she was going to stand in Tenebris. Whether she did it with or without Shayne was another story.
She risked a glance at him. He was staring out the window, his jaw tight. She didn’t understand. He wasn’t a coward. Throughout their entire ordeal in the forest, he had never faltered. What had changed?
The plane bumped down hard on the runway. The landing was rough enough to jar her teeth, but in a matter of seconds, the plane slowed, turned, and came to a stop. She heard the pilot unbuckling. A young-looking warlock with pale hair and laughing eyes, came through the curtain as she unlatched her seatbelt.
“We’ve arrived without being shot out of the sky, so please watch your step as you get off the plane. It would be downright ironic to bring you all this way, only to have you trip down the ramp.”
He opened the small door, jumped down, and lowered the stairs. He held out a hand to her. With her backpack in one hand, she held the edge of the doorway rather than take his hand. But she smiled gratefully at him.
“I guess you overheard us,” she said, descending.
The airman grinned.
“Well, the pilot who got shot down was a little pissed that Lena wouldn’t let her fly you the rest of the way. She has a problem with being made to rest after a dead stick landing under fire. You know how it is.”
Shayne laughed at that.
“We heard that she was fine. Nice to get some confirmation though. Tell her we owe her a drink when we get back.”
Only a quarter moon shone above, but the sky was pocked with stars. The air was crisp and cold. Port Ilya was tucked into a remote location within the Svalbard archipelago. The asphalt air strip receded into the distance, perfectly smooth in the dim moonlight, a patch of gleaming snow at its end. A short distance away, there was a small group of buildings along a rise. Just beyond those buildings was the port and the ships, the reason they were here.
“Are you staying long?” she asked the pilot.
He shook his head
“Long enough to refuel, then I’m back in the air. I’ve got another pickup.”
“At least the weather–”
A strange popping sound filled the air. Gillian instinctively ducked away from the plane, not sure if it had started on its own. She stared as the pilot slumped to the ground. Shayne seized her hand and started to run.
“Just run,” he shouted, shoving her ahead.
She looked over her shoulder just in time to see him spin and send a bolt of fire behind them. Above them, Vlasti screamed in fury. Then Shayne was sprinting towards her again. He grabbed her hand in a punishing grip. With nothing more than that, they were dashing for the shelter of the buildings across the nearby field.
“What was that?”
“Sniper,” he said, the word clipped and harsh. “Whoever it is, they have a night vision scope. That blast should have fried the damn eyes out of their head. If it’s a Templar, though, there might be more than one.”
Panic welled up in Gillian’s throat and threatened to choke her. She concentrated on keeping up with Shayne. They thudded into the side of a metal building, possibly some sort of hangar. Though she was breathing hard, she could smell fuel and oil. Her heart pounded in her chest, but she twisted against the corrugated metal to look back at the plane. She couldn’t see the body of their pilot, but she knew he was there. She could feel hot tears brim in her eyes. She had just been talking to him. He was going to refuel.
Shayne took her by the shoulders.
“Gillian, I need you to hold it together. Can you do that?” She didn’t think so, but she forced herself to nod. “Whoever it is, they’re still out there. Head for the town. Look for a bar, a tavern, a pub, any place where people are getting together. Blend in. The last place you want to be is somewhere out here. In Port Ilya, Templars won’t be welcome.” He glanced over his shoulder. “How they’re even here, I don’t know.”
“What are you going to do?” she asked numbly.
His grin was savage. “I’m going to do some hunting of my own,” he replied. “It’s the best way to protect you. It’s me they want to kill.” He gave her a gentle push towards the city. “Quick.”
She would have stayed to argue, but he was already melting into the shadows of the hangar.
The field between her and the tiny city seemed immense, brilliantly lit, and blank. But without thinking, she did what Shayne had said. She ran, as fast and quietly as she could.
They want to take you alive, she grimly reminded herself.
After an immeasurable time, she was across the field. She breathed a sigh of relief as she huddled at the back of a dark building. The salt smell of the ocean was strong here. It cleared her head, making her breathe a little easier. As far as she could tell, there were perhaps ten buildings along the main drag. As she moved into the alley next to the building, she realized most of them were nothing more than metal shacks. There were people walking up and down the street. She would have to ask someone where a bar or tavern might be. She glanced behind her to the airstrip. Was Shayne all right? The thought made her tear up again. She wiped furiously at her eyes. He would be all right. He had to be. She had to get to safety so that he could find her.
She had just stepped out of the alley when a hand grabbed her by the elbow. Before she could scream, something struck her in the center of the chest so hard the breath flew out of her body. Instead of crying out, she only choked. She doubled over with pain, leaning into the wall, unable to move or speak. A large man yanked her away from the shack, moving fast.
“No,” she choked out, digging her feet in as hard as she could.
But nothing phased him. To her horror, she found herself being hoisted off her feet, then she was slung over his shoulder like a sack. Her backpack fell to the ground. Max protested in her coat pocket.
The man carrying her had only run several feet when he staggered, dropping her hard. She hit the ground with a grunt, the air knocked from her lungs. In the next instant, she was dragged to her feet. For a moment, she thought it was her attacker. But this man was even taller. He stood calmly between her and the sprawled assailant.
“Three doors down is the Spoked Cat. Go there and have a seat. Let them know that Konrad Marin’s looking out for you. I’ll be along shortly.”
The man on the ground muttered something. He tried to get to his feet, but Konrad Marin whirled and kicked him savagely in the ribs. Even in the dim light, the gold cross that hung from the man’s neck glinted.
“Templar,” the man said, his voice unnervingly pleasant. “What in the name of the green earth do you think you’re doing here?” He glanced over his shoulder at her. “The Spoked Cat. Now.”
The murder in his voice was unmistakable. Gillian spun and fled, grabbing her backpack without pausing.
True to its name, the sign for the Spoked Cat was a large, wooden wheel, with a black cat at its center. She ducked inside. The air was thick with the smell of cigarettes and fried food. It was repulsive and familiar, a reminder of her teenage years in L.A. The tables were bare and scarred, a few of them occupied. She had just decided to hover next to the door, when the woman behind the bar eyed her warily. Heart still pounding, Gillian slipped into one of the booths on the near wall, where she could see the entrance. Though some of the other patrons were watching her, she steadfastly refused to make eye contact. Even so, out of the corner of her eye, Gillian saw someone approach––a woman.
She was dressed unseasonably light for the cool season, wearing only a pair of heavy canvas pants and a stained black tank top. She came right up to the booth and slid in across from Gillian.
“Er, I’m sorry, but I’m waiting for someone.”
The woman’s smile was uneven to the point of crooked. She had a round face framed by a pair of long, dark braids. She was round everywhere, Gillian realized, with large breasts, wide hips and a slightly hanging belly. Under the yellow light of the lamp overhead, her hands on the table were plump.
The silence stretched between them. Gillian looked around as though someone might help, but no one so much as glanced their way. Gillian cleared her throat.
“My companion will be here soon.”
The woman only nodded. Her large, dark eyes seemed so expressive. A thought suddenly occurred to Gillian.
“Do…do you not speak?”
The woman nodded, her shrug philosophical.
Gillian bit her lip. “Do you need help?”
The woman shook her head. She pointed at Gillian, raising an eyebrow.
“Do I need help?”
The woman nodded.
Gillian could only guess how she looked. But distressed and in need of help were probably at the top of the list.
“Thanks,” she said, relaxing a little. “I’m waiting for my…escort.”
The woman nodded, grinning, and flexed one arm dramatically. Though she was padded with fat, the muscle underneath stood out clearly.
Was she offering to be her escort?
“Thank you, I appreciate it. But I think I just have to wait.”
Gillian glanced at the door. Where was Shayne? Was he all right? She realized with a start that she was a little lightheaded and, as she put a gloved hand to her chest, she realized it was sore from being punched. But the thought of Shayne alone in the night, possibly fighting for his life, made every muscle tense. She ought to go out looking for him––except she’d only be a liability in a fight.
The woman cocked her head, gazing into her eyes, as her forehead creased with lines. Her thick lips pouted and then frowned. The woman suddenly took her hand, squeezing companionably. Gillian immediately recoiled, but then stopped. In the brief moment they’d touched, nothing had flowed from the woman. Instead, Gillian had the distinct impression something had passed in the opposite direction.
When the woman looked at her quizzically, Gillian felt ashamed she’d pulled back so abruptly. She tried to smile.
“Look,” she said shakily. “It’s just…I…I’ve had a hell of a day.”
In a split second, the woman was off her bench and swinging into the booth next to her.
Startled, Gillian tried to pick up her backpack and scoot sideways, when she felt gentle hands on her face, turning her around.
That was all the warning she got before the woman’s mouth was on hers.
Gillian tried to protest but the words were muffled. She tried to pull away, but the woman was strong. But as her lips pressed into Gillian’s, that strange sensation of reverse flow happened again. For a moment, it blanked her mind. The sight of the pilot falling dead, of Shayne slipping into shadow, of being punched, of Konrad rescuing her from the Templar, the memories suddenly seemed too distant to touch her. Inexplicably, worry and pain drained from her, as the strong woman deepened their kiss. Her mouth was warm, as her lips tenderly kneaded Gillian’s. An image of the ocean blossomed in Gillian’s mind, vast and green, warm and inviting. Gillian had only just begun to respond to the kiss, when the door to the bar banged opened.
The woman was up and out of the booth so quickly, that Gillian could only gasp as she opened her eyes. She had barely pulled the room into focus when Konrad Marin passed the woman and headed toward the booth––or at least he tried. Instead, she laid a hand on his arm, and pointedly rubbed her thumb and index finger together in front of his face.
He grimaced. “I know,” he said. “I’ll pay you Monday. Promise.” She let him go. Then she nodded in Gillian’s direction and headed to the door.
Gillian was still trying to collect herself as Konrad slid into the booth opposite her. He’d been about to say something but paused, examining her face.
“I see you’ve met Sal,” he said with a smirk.
Gillian’s face flushed hot. “Um…”
“I know,” was all he said.
Konrad was thin, his face nearly gaunt, under the black knit cap. Thick stubble covered his chin and cheeks. Though not old, his skin had the look of too much time in the sun, or scoured by a salty, sea spray. He took a pipe from his jacket pocket and a pocket knife from somewhere under the table.
“I don’t believe I’ve ever heard of a Templar in Port Ilya, let alone seen one. What business have you got with them?”
Gillian’s eyes were focused on the knife. Though Konrad had saved her, she didn’t know a thing about him. Someone had once told her that lambs didn’t thank wolves for rescuing them from the slaughterhouse. He flipped the blade out and began to dig hardened tobacco from the bowl of the pipe.
“Bad luck and a grudge, maybe?” she said. He tapped the pipe on the table to empty it. Then he folded the knife and set it aside. “My companion killed some of his friends.”
“Killed Templars eh?” Konrad lit a match on the rough wood. “Your companion has good taste.”
“I do,” Shayne said, coming to sit down at the table by Gillian’s side.
“Shayne!” She threw her arms around his neck. “Are you all right? What happened?”
His strong arms wound around her, and Gillian was sure she’d never felt anything so wonderful.
“I dealt with the Templar,” he said quietly. He pulled back, holding her face. “Are you all right?” She nodded, about to tell him about Konrad. “I also went back to the plane. I couldn’t just leave our pilot on the tarmac. I put him back in the plane and radioed Lena’s coven.”
In an instant, Gillian was back in that moment, talking with… She didn’t even know his name. Fresh tears began to fill her eyes. Shayne gently hugged her again.
“It had nothing to do with you,” he said. “Templars are to blame. As a matter of fact, I still have to find the other. I don’t like loose ends.”
“Well, with regard to that loose end,” Konrad said. “I might be able to put your mind at ease.”
Shayne let Gillian go and frowned at Konrad, who was puffing on his pipe. Shayne blinked.
“Do I know you?”
“Lots of people have known me,” Konrad said. “Especially if you’ve sailed the Atlantic for the last fifty years.”
“And I haven’t. Sorry, you just look familiar.”
“It happens. But as I was saying, I found your friend being accosted by a Templar. He’s been dealt with, as you say.” Konrad paused as the two men eyed each other. “Captain Konrad Marin of the Sirena,” the man said simply.
Gillian noticed that Shayne didn’t give his rank or affiliation with the Corps.
Konrad took the bit of the pipe between his lips and puffed, looking pointedly at her.
“Gillian,” she said, quickly. “Gillian Granger.”
“Pleased to meet you, Gillian Granger.” He took another puff. “I take it the two of you just arrived.”
Gillian had been about to say yes, but the pressure of Shayne’s thigh against hers stopped her.
“And you?” Shayne asked. “Have you been in Port Ilya long?”
“Nope,” Konrad answered quickly, and then coughed. “I tell you, killing Templars is mighty thirsty work, mighty thirsty.” He pointedly coughed again.
Shayne nodded. He waved at the barkeep and held up three fingers.
Konrad seemed content to smoke his pipe, and Shayne put an arm around Gillian’s shoulders. She wanted nothing more than to burrow into the safety of his embrace, but that would have to wait. The bartender arrived with three pewter mugs, grasping all three handles in one pudgy hand. Shayne took out a credit card and handed it to her.
Konrad was already tipping the contents of the mug into his mouth and swallowing loudly. He thunked the mug onto the table with an exaggerated “Ah” and used the back of his hand to wipe gold froth from his stubble.
“That’s more like it,” he said, smiling. “I put into Port Ilya for repairs and supplies a few days ago. I’ll be leaving soon to beat the winter winds.”
Shayne glanced at Gillian.
“I take it the Sirena is for hire?” she asked.
Konrad smiled at her. “For the right customer. Ay, that she is.”
“We’re heading to the Midnight Market,” Shayne said. “If you can take us there, we can pay you.”
Konrad’s smile vanished. He stared down into the tankard.
“The Midnight Market, you say. Hmm. Not many a captain who’ll sign up for that.” Shayne waited him out, taking a sip of what smelled to Gillian like beer. “I’ll wager there’s only a handful’s ever been there.”
“And are you one?” Shayne asked, a light note of challenge in his tone.
“Maybe yes,” said Konrad. “Maybe no.”
Shayne looked around the tavern. “Of course, Ilya is a port. No doubt there are many captains, many boats. It’ll be interesting to speak with them.” He waved at the barkeep, then made as though he were jotting a note in his hand. She nodded.
“What’s your hurry?” Konrad said quickly.
He finished his drink in two big gulps. The barkeep showed up in time to take his mug before it could reach the table. She slipped the credit card and bill to Shayne.
“No hurry,” Shayne replied easily. “But, as you say, the winter winds.”
As he put away his card, Gillian remembered the interchange between Konrad and the woman who’d kissed her.
“Or maybe Captain Marin isn’t in need of customers,” she said. “Maybe he’s content to remain in port for the season. That would only be–”
“That’d be smart,” he said gruffly. “I’ve never been that.” He looked between her and Shayne. “The Midnight Market, eh?” He glanced left and right, leaning forward. “Twenty-thousand. I’ll need all the money up front. But your timing is good. The Sirena can leave straight away.”
Gillian nearly gasped at the sum.
“You’ll get half now,” Shayne said, also leaning forward. “Half when we’re there. Otherwise, no deal.”
Konrad licked his lips, glancing down at Gillian’s mug. On an impulse, she pushed it toward him. He smirked as he snatched it up.
“Deal,” he said, before taking a few long swallows. As he set it down, he tried to stifle a belch. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand again. “If there’s no other Templars you want to kill, we can be on our way in an hour.”
“In the dark?” Gillian said, surprised. “Surely the tide hasn’t come in yet.”
Konrad’s smile was wide, his dark eyes glittering.
“Begging your pardon, Gillian, but the Sirena’s never listened to the tide.”