Welcome back. I’m Robin, your temporary host. Ran asked that I make that clear. I guess he doesn’t want you thinking that this change is permanent. It’s definitely not. I’m a woman on a mission, but my Scribe said I need to do this, and I have to admit that I’m enjoying this.
I hope you are too. It’s not every day that I get to speak directly to you, who are reading my story. It still boggles my mind that my life is just a story for you. I hope it ends well.
Melinda won’t tell me how it ends. Maybe she doesn’t know. After all, every choice we make affects our fate. We’ll see, but not today. I’ve still got a lot to do and learn, but I’ll get to that soon. Before I return you to the excerpt from my first book that lays out how it all started for me, I am required to make a few announcements, so here they are:
- The latest episode of our podcast is out.
- Shards For His Gift (Ran’s current project) is speeding toward the finish line, and we’re voting on covers over on Patreon.
- And my third book, Rogue Ranger, is coming out on March 10, this coming Friday, but you can buy it from our store and BookFunnel will deliver your copy right now!
Oh, and Ran says hello again. He seems to think you’ll forget about him if he doesn’t remind you about his existence. As if that would ever happen. He’s far to memorable. That’s the end of the announcements, and now back to how I lost the most important person in my life.
But I won’t rest until I get her back.
by Melinda Kucsera
Chapter 1, part 2
The temperature dropped as the tent flap parted again, letting in a cold gust of wind and a triangle of pale moonlight. Said light glinted off the buckles holding her assailant’s outfit in place as the womanish creature chuckled. Metal discs connected by silver rings clothed the creature holding a knife to Robin’s throat—if you could call that ‘getup’ clothing.
The metallic ensemble ended at the creature’s midriff. A divided skirt picked up where that left off, but it petered out well before a pair of hooves, not feet. Well, wasn’t that interesting? Enough to finally clear out the last cobwebs from the restless night.
Silver hooves—the sight triggered a vague memory, but it fled when a pair of pale green eyes that glowed captured hers. The creature leaning over her grinned, showing off a set of perfect teeth. She was part deer and part human and just plain creepy.
“What do you want?”
Robin gripped the knife hidden inside the makeshift pillow under her head. She’d managed to work her whole hand under there without drawing her captor’s notice. Unsheathing it would be risky, but she felt better with a weapon in hand even if she couldn’t use it just yet. Years of training and ingrained muscle memory should help her land at least one solid blow even in this dim lighting. All she needed was an opening. Come on, bitch, give me one.
“I think you know what I want.” Her visitor traced the tip of her knife along Robin’s throat. “I ride the longest night where no light but mine shines. Pay the toll or heads will roll.”
The rhyme struck a chord in Robin’s memory. So did the silver horns curving up from either side of her attacker’s heart-shaped face. This thing was part of the Wild Hunt. Oh crap.
Robin stared at her long-necked captor who bore more than a passing resemblance to a deer except hinds didn’t usually have horns just stags did. Brown fur so fine it blended to look like human skin kept her exposed bits warm, and there was a generous portion of her curves so exposed to the elements. A riot of brown curls tumbled down the Huntress’ back, and a leather band kept those locks out of her eerie eyes. They were pale green mirrors reflecting Robin’s growing horror.
The Wild Hunt, oh, God, anything but those monsters. Robin looked away, disconcerted by the promise of pain in those eyes. Her nightmare was just beginning. Before it ended, whose lives would it claim? Not my baby, please Mother of God, protect her.
Rosalie wasn’t crying anymore, and the silence inside the tent was becoming as oppressive as the shifting shadows sliding over the Huntress’ sleek fur. A tear slid down Robin’s cheek at the thought of her sweet daughter lying in the bassinet beside her pallet, and the Huntress grinned. Outside, the wind howled and pummeled the tent with invisible fists as it gusted past again. By some miracle, the tent stayed up despite the onslaught.
“What do you want?” Robin asked again because she needed an answer.
“Your life, your death, either will suffice.” The Huntress shrugged as if she had no preference, nor any skin in this game.
Nearby, metal clanged, and a woman grunted. That must be Cat. Or had some unlucky band of adventurers lucked on to their camp? Rescue might be only seconds away.
It was possible. This trail had looked well-traveled before a storm had dropped a foot of snow on it. Robin had seen enough evidence to corroborate that assumption, or she wouldn’t have made camp here, and they were heading for one of the most trafficked waterways in the country, the River Nirthal.
Some of her hopes must have written themselves on her face because the Huntress threw back her head and laughed again. The bitch thinks she has me cowed. Not likely, since her father was a Ranger. He’d be scandalized to see his daughter so easily taken.
Robin took advantage of that momentary inattention to swing her knife up and out of hiding. It slammed into the Huntress’ blade, shoving it aside then Robin was rolling aside to avoid that next blow and move the fight away from the bassinet and her too-quiet daughter. She’d have to check on Rosalie after the fight. She couldn’t risk doing so now.
The Huntress scowled as she danced aside to avoid the kick Robin had aimed at her. She must drive that creature away from her daughter. Robin frowned when her booted foot didn’t connect with its intended target. Damn, she had so looked forward to sinking her cleated sole into that creature’s face. Well, at least she’d put some space between them.
But Robin was still on the ground, which was a bad place to be a moment later when the enraged Huntress stomped down with her cloven hooves. Robin threw her knife, missed the skinny deer-woman—damn that canny bitch—and had to roll quickly out of the way of another silver hoof aimed at her abdomen.
Robin slammed into another body. Thankfully, this one was supine and much taller than she was. Oh, thank God, Fate, whoever was listening—an ally at last!
Robin shook that blanket-wrapped bundle for all she was worth, hoping her fellow traveler was still alive and armed. The two warrior women sharing her campsite were a lucky find. Fortunately, they’d decided to team up with Robin for a while. What luck that was. Three women traveling together made a less enticing target, especially when they were all armed. “Wake up! We’re under attack.”
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