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Authors: Mel Teshco

SeducingtheHuntress

BOOK: SeducingtheHuntress
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Seducing the Huntress

Mel
Teshco

 

Book 3 in the Nightmix series.

 

She wants to kill him. He wants to possess her body and give
her ultimate pleasure.

Isabella suffered an unimaginable loss at the teeth and
claws of a vicious
nightmix.
She grew up wanting nothing more than to
hunt and kill every last shape-shifting black panther in the kingdom.

What she doesn’t expect is to go from hunter to hunted. Never
expects to be captured by the
nightmix
monster, Reuben, and taken to his
cabin, where he plays her body like a finely tuned instrument. Their erotic
connection is explosive, but Reuben is the enemy.

Or is he…

 

A
Romantica®
fantasy erotic romance
from Ellora’s Cave

 

Seducing the Huntress
Mel Teshco

 

Chapter One

 

Isabella Daycroft shivered with excitement and not a small
amount of fear as her father and his comrades thundered past on their mounts
before disappearing into the pine forest. Didn’t her fellow hunters realize the
bloodhounds had picked up a false trail and that the shape-shifting, monstrous
black panther—
nightmix
—had been shadowing them the last few minutes?

Obviously not. Hoofbeats and baying dogs faded quickly into
the distance when her wild-eyed gray mare pranced and tossed her head with a
snort. Isabella ignored the mare’s skittish behavior and pulled the red hood of
her shirt forward. She needed to ensure it concealed her face and freshly cut blonde
hair.

It was for her own safety that her father had only recently
allowed her on these hunts if she was disguised as a boy. To be attacked and
killed by a
nightmix
was bad enough, but to be first raped by the thing
if it turned human…?

Her mouth dried. She’d kill herself before allowing a filthy
nightmix
near her body.

Eyes narrowing, she searched for any movement through the
trees. Despite her small stature, she could more than take care of herself. Her
archery skill was unrivaled by all her peers, male and female. And that was
despite the fact she hated killing wild animals and mostly practiced on clay
targets.

Little wonder her father thought she was soft. But deep down
she knew he wanted only to protect his last surviving kin, after a
nightmix
—a
rare human and panthershape shifter offspring, cursed with an unnatural
appetite for killing people—had murdered her twin brother fifteen years ago.

But her father had finally come to realize that nothing would
stand in her way of destroying at least one of the beasts who took pleasure in
killing humans.

Her hands clenched the reins, hatred for the thing they
hunted burning through her body. The mare tossed her head with a snort, and
Isabella leaned forward, stroking Millie’s silky soft neck in an attempt to
settle her.

Swiping the sweat from her palm onto her pants, she turned
the mare away from the direction of her group, who’d long since disappeared
amongst the huge pine trees that made up the
Scantia
forest. Her
comrades’ sole objective right then was to destroy the hated shape shifter.

Thankfully, Isabella was the least of their concern.

Good. She wanted no one’s help. This kill was hers alone.

She’d prove her worth. And though eradicating the
nightmix
monster mightn’t end the torment she carried within, it’d sure as hell ease
the pain for a short while. Her father was the only other person who understood
the need for vengeance that was burned into her psyche.

Her face went hot. Yes, destroying the
nightmix
would
come all too easy.

She twitched at the hood of her shirt once again, resenting
the distinct clothing of the
nightmix
dissenters. It was the same attire
that’d once been worn by
larakyte
dissenters—humans who despised those
who could shape-shift into silver panthers. But the bright color was little
more than a beacon to their enemies. Surely it was beyond time they ditched the
old ways and wore clothes that blended with their surrounds?

No, her people were zealous with tradition and venerated the
dissenters of old. Nothing would persuade them to change their ways.

A twig snapped perhaps a hundred yards ahead. A grin twisted
her lips, adrenaline for the hunt making her hands unsteady as she reached
behind her back to draw an arrow from her quiver.

It was time.

Her mind emptied of all but her goal as she looped Millie’s
reins over the pommel of her saddle and allowed the mare to surge back into a
gallop. Using the pressure of her legs to steer her mare, she braced her bow
and elevated it to the mark ahead, where she knew the bastard was hiding.

Waiting for her?

She frowned, her pulse thudding. She’d waited fifteen long
years for this. Her father had already killed his share of
nightmixes
.
It was her turn now. This was
her
chase. Her kill. She wouldn’t allow
the beast to turn it around on her.

The huge
nightmix
bounded into plain sight. Millie
didn’t slow. But Isabella’s aim wavered when the beast eyeballed her for
perhaps a second or two before he swung around and backtracked, zigzagging in
and out of the tree trunks ahead. Keeping just out of range.

Isabella’s breaths came short and fast.
Damn it!
She
should have let her arrow loose while she’d had the chance! Her hands shook
with the effort not to shoot and make up for her hesitation. But although her
aim was nearly always true, she needed a clean shot.

She bit into her bottom lip, tasting blood. But the pain
that lanced through her wasn’t physical, not in the least. A sob built in the
base of her throat as memories—brutal and horrific—threatened to consume her.
She choked them back. She’d give in to her emotions later if need be. First
she’d avenge the death of her brother, Benjamin. Her murdered kin deserved that
much at least.

The
nightmix
abruptly stopped and looked back, as if
waiting, beckoning for her to follow him. Even from a distance she could make
out its wide, distinct red eyes that stared at her with unblinking
intelligence.

Every one of her muscles tensed. Did the beast think she
wouldn’t have the nerve to hunt it down? Did it think she’d have second
thoughts? She whooped loudly, urging the mare faster still before she released
the arrow—simultaneously to her horse abruptly pitching forward.

Oh shit.

She hit the ground hard. A cry burst from her lips. Then she
lay dazed and winded for long moments, unable to move. To breathe. And so angry
at herself for a moment it hurt even more than her physical injuries.

The
nightmix
had deliberately led her toward the
treacherous bog. And she’d fallen for it. Literally.

The bitter rage she kept just beneath the surface threatened
to bubble over. With great effort she repressed the emotion. She needed her
wits. She needed to assess the situation. But most of all, she needed to get
back into the saddle.

She thrust the shirt’s hood off her head, ensuring nothing
would obstruct her vision as she slowly scanned the area. Thank the goddess,
the
nightmix
wasn’t anywhere in sight. She focused on Millie. The mare
had managed to pull clear of the bog and stood still as she’d been trained to
do, but the horse quivered with fright, ready to gallop home at the slightest
provocation.

“Easy, Millie.” Isabella sat gingerly, taking in slow and
steady, pine-scented breaths to fill her starved lungs. She squeezed her hands
experimentally, relieved to find full range of movement. A slow smile spread
across her face at the familiar weight of her smooth, hardwood bow. It would
take more than a nasty fall for her to surrender her weapon.

She touched her brow, where a good-size lump had already
formed. But it was the blood she could see pulsing through her pants from a
deep gash on her thigh that worried her most.

She released a pained breath as she tried, without success,
to lurch to her feet and take hold of the nearby reins dragging on the ground.
Without Millie, survival wasn’t likely. Dizziness rushed at her before she
crumpled onto her ass with a curse. Knees bent, she clutched at her wound to
try to stem its flow.

Fighting for consciousness, she repressed a groan. She was
such an idiot to deliberately go off on her own. Even if her people were to
somehow stumble across her, she’d probably be long bled out. She wouldn’t last
more than two or three hours at most.

Hands sticky with blood, she removed her quiver of arrows
and pulled off her shirt. She used the material to bandage her thigh. But dread
tightened her throat as crimson washed right through the already red material.
She closed her eyes for a moment, trying to gather her panicked thoughts.

She was in desperate need of the
wort
moss that
thrived in moist areas of the
Scantia
forest, where it grew on the lower
trunks of pines. When pressed onto a wound, the moss adhered and helped stop
blood loss. But it was its naturally occurring coagulating agents that could
well save her life.

She scanned the closest pine trees. Her belly roiled. Bloody
hell, was there any moss growing in this part of the forest?

Millie let loose a nervous snort. All thought receded as the
hairs on Isabella’s nape prickled to attention. Goddess help her, the
nightmix
was behind her. Ignoring sudden nausea, she slowly reached for an arrow
from her quiver on the ground before raising and drawing her bow.

She turned, fighting off a fresh wave of giddiness thanks to
her blood loss.

The black monster, easily twice the size of a normal
panther, looked almost as bad as she felt. He staggered down a small incline
with an arrow—her arrow—embedded deep in his chest. Her aim wavered. Odd, his
brilliant eyes that were fixated on her weren’t aggressive or hate filled.

Quite the contrary. His stare appeared…gentle.

He could easily have attacked her. Instead he lay carefully
on his side, panting and ever watchful.

Her vision blurred. Doubts suddenly accosted her. Was she
really ready to kill this creature? She screwed her eyes shut for a millisecond
before refocusing. She’d lost too much blood, it’d made her gullible. The beast
was a
nightmix
. It didn’t have one good bone in its body!

Sweat dripped into her eyes even as she shivered with cold.
Damn it, she wasn’t going to last much longer at this rate. The creature was
obviously playing the waiting game. Then he’d eat her piece by leisurely piece
as she lay unconscious on the ground.

He growled and shuddered, his bones grating and skin
shrinking.

Fuck
.
While she’d drifted into indecision he’d
already begun to shift.

Destroy it now, before it becomes like you!

She gritted her teeth and took aim. It was kill or be
killed. She knew how much harder it’d be to send an arrow into something that
appeared human.

Too late.

Her scant few seconds of weakness gave the beast enough time
to fully shift shape.

Her muscles burned from holding point position. But she
could no longer destroy the…man. Her breath ceased right along with thought as
she stared and stared at every woman’s fantasy come to life.

If one discounted the arrow lodged low and deep in his
shoulder, the male was stark naked, masculine perfection. From the top of his
disheveled dark hair tipped with blond, to the wide shoulders, strong abs and
long, muscled legs.

Her toes curled as inexplicable longing pulled at her.

She grimaced, shaking off her delusions. His angelic form
carried a devil inside.

He chose that moment to look up. Her breath hissed. His eyes
were no longer red. They were the brilliant blue of a darkening sky, filled
with intelligence and…humanness. His stare holding hers, in one quick motion he
grasped the arrow embedded in his shoulder and wrenched it free.

As his anguished cry pierced the air, she clenched her jaw
and turned a deaf ear. If not for a
nightmix
attack, her brother would
have turned twenty-three this year too, sharing a birthday with her. Spots
filled her vision as she fought off another wave of dizziness. She swallowed.
She’d die of blood loss soon and there wasn’t a damn thing she could do about
it. Didn’t mean she had to die alone. She squared her shoulders and re-sighted
her target, aiming for his heart.

She wouldn’t miss this time. Her strength quickly ebbing,
she released the arrow.

A dull thud sounded. Then everything went black.

 

She came to slowly, her thoughts muddled. The
all-too-familiar rocking motion of being on horseback was soothing and
pleasant, as was the hard human wall at her back. But when a vague scent of
musky cat breached her nostrils, she stiffened.

Goddess help her, she was in the arms and at the mercy of a
nightmix
in his human form.

Her eyes flicked open wide. Millie’s head bobbed sedately up
and down in front of her.
This
was the mare that wouldn’t let anyone
near her, let alone ride her? But Millie’s defection was the least of her
concern right then.

She stared straight ahead. A breeze tickled her torso,
making her feel all kinds of exposed without her shirt. Guess she should be
grateful she’d pulled on a bra top to aid her disguise, and for the
practicalities of being on horseback. Not that the gauzy
rakkia
cloth covered
overly much. It was why many of the hot-blooded
Zaneean
women who lived
in the desert kingdom had embraced the “outer” wear.

She swallowed. Had the
nightmix
examined her
half-naked form?

Fury stirred back to life within. The heat of her flushed
face made her aware of the contrarily cool, soothing pressure on her thigh. She
looked down.
Wort
moss peeked through the gash in her pants. The
nightmix
had tended to her?

Her belly sank. Did he plan to keep her alive so he could
torture her first? Or worse? Her mouth dried and she fought to keep calm even
as weakness threatened to pull her back under. “What do you want from me?” she
croaked, staring straight ahead.

“Funny, I was about to ask you the same question.”

Her hands clenched and unclenched. “You already know what I
want from you and your kind.”

“Let me take a guess,” he said in a lazily amused voice,
“you want to rid the world of all us dangerous
nightmix
shape shifters.”

Antipathy rose as if bile in her throat, threatening to
choke her. But at least the emotion gave her momentary strength. “Is it amusing
to know that your life means death to countless humans?”

BOOK: SeducingtheHuntress
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