Authors: Sadie Hart
Tags: #paranormal romance, #shapeshifter, #fantasy romance, #hounds, #wild hunt, #love and longing, #hellhounds, #romance and fantasy, #immortals romance, #weredog, #haunted hearts
What the Heart Haunts
Copyright 2011 Sadie Hart
Cover Art Designed by Sadie Hart
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: This is a work of
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of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual people,
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What the Heart Haunts
Nalla didn’t do blind dates. Especially not
on a night where the Hunt was riding her strong. They’d run
tonight, she could feel it all the way down to her toes. She
clenched her fingers around the beer in her hand and tried not to
remember the thrum of magic pulsing down her spine, the wild bays
of Hounds filling her ears. She blew out a sharp breath and wished,
not for the hundredth time, that she had a god to pray to for
She was tired of fighting it all alone.
But Herne would no more accept her prayers.
She lifted the bottle and drank a deep swallow, trying to let the
alcohol burn away the call of the beast inside her. Her Hound had
never understood, never would. Exile didn’t sit right with a dog
who’d happily curl back up at her master’s feet.
“Nalla, right?” A tall, bushy haired man said
as he slipped into the booth across from her; brown hair fell
across his eyes in waves. It hung nearly to his chin, messy.
And a dark knowledge curled up her spine at
the sight of him. His eerie gold eyes were the same flash of a
wolf’s at midnight, with nothing but the moonlight reflecting in
that haunting gaze. A Hound of the Hunt. She knew it by the
dog-like rumble of his voice, the answering wild in his eyes. The
way her beast clamored in her breast, trying to break free.
, it screamed at her, in deep, baying barks that told
her she’d been banished from the sky for too long if her control
was this far gone.
Her lips pursed and she fought the urge to
get up and walk out of the bar, leaving him sitting there alone.
She should have known this was a set up. “And what would you have
He looked startled, gold eyes flashing
slightly as he glanced around. Finally, his focus settled back on
her. “You are Nalla Underwood, right?”
Nalla froze, her breath locked tight in her
chest. He didn’t know. Oh. She exhaled on a rush. Her fingertips
itched to reach across the table and run over the strong line of
his jaw, down his neck, to press that black shirt against his chest
and feel the muscles she knew she’d find there. He was a Hound, an
actual Hound of the Wild Hunt, sitting in front of her. She’d never
thought she’d see that again. She bit down on her bottom lip and
held herself back.
Why had Herne sent a clueless pup down to
her? Or was this one nothing but a stray?
Either way, tonight she could have what she
hadn’t had since her exile. The thought made her wet her lips,
moisture pooling between her thighs. It would be the closest thing
to a true Running that she’d had in a good, long while.
“I am. I’m guessing you’re my date?” Nalla
tipped her beer up at the waitress as the woman passed, “I’ll take
another.” Nalla flicked her gaze to him.
He shook his head. “Just water for me.”
“So your name is?”
“Uh. Khost. Khost Wylde.”
She almost smiled. He had to be from Herne;
she hadn’t heard that last name passed around in awhile. Normally,
if a Hound was sent down to bargain with a human, they used that
name. It wasn’t something a pup that had wandered loose from the
pack would know.
. She let the name roll around in her
brain. Ethereal. Breathy. Like the wind unleashed on a night made
for a good Hunt.
Nalla wondered if he would miss running with
the Hunts, because he wasn’t going back. Not after tonight.
She let the barest hint of a smile curve her
lips. “Pleasure to meet you. You’ll have to forgive me, I don’t
normally do the blind date gig.” He blushed a little and she
laughed. Yeah. She hadn’t taken him for much of a dater either.
Then again, Herne never had liked his Hounds
Hounds of the Wild Hunt couldn’t have mixed
loyalties and sex had a tendency to cloud judgment. She’d know.
After all, it was that particular sin that had gotten her lover
beheaded with Herne’s axe and her sentenced to exile among the
mortals. It’d been a hellish four hundred years too. Alone in a
world where everyone else died.
Nalla shook her head. Khost had to be new.
She didn’t recognize him and he obviously hadn’t been running long
enough to be able to sense when another Hound was in his presence.
She leaned over the table, elbows braced against the lacquered
wood. “So Khost...do you really want to sit around a table all
night, or would you rather take a walk with me? Live a little on
the wild side.”
A grin slashed over her face, purely
predatory. She made sure to put some magic behind her words. Herne
had sent her a pup and she’d make sure that immortal bastard
realized his mistake. After she’d wrung his Hound out and had the
pup straggling after her like a dog for a bone, she might send old
Herne a tip. If he wanted something from her, he should come get it
Nalla let her voice turn sultry as she
whispered, “So whaddya say?”
Khost shifted in the booth, watching her. She
seemed off. Edgy. Wild. He had to roll his shoulders at the last
thought. The whole night felt wild to him. Alive. Sweet Herne, but
he wanted to run. Not be sitting down here to try and track down
some valuable his god had misplaced. He just wanted this to be done
and over with.
Don’t let her know what you are
had whispered, when she’d begged him to do this.
He won’t miss
you, not tonight. You’re too far down in the pack for him to
But she’d misplaced the hunting horn a few
centuries ago and apparently, with the winter solstice on its way,
and the correct alignment of the ether-realms...she needed it back
or Herne was going to have Cissy’s head on a chopping block. And
this woman here was supposed to have it.
She’ll keep it close to her, so all you have
to do is make nice.
And apparently go for a walk with her. The
thought of stepping outside into the wind, feeling the fresh air in
his lungs and Khost wasn’t sure he could keep it together. He
shivered. His skin was damn near twitching off the bone. This was
the last place he wanted to be. But he’d seen what happened to a
Hound that displeased Herne; their god didn’t take nicely to
failures and he really didn’t want to see Cissy’s head rolling over
a cloud covered field.
Khost leaned back, one hand raking through
his hair as he blew out a breath. One walk couldn’t hurt.
Then...what? Fuck, he didn’t know how to do this. Make nice? What
did that even mean? Maybe a walk would give him time to think.
“Yeah. That’d be good.”
Her smile widened enough to flash teeth. With
one last tip of her beer, she swallowed another gulp, tossed a
handful of bills down on the table and eased out of her seat,
sidling closer to him. Heat scalded up his arm, raising the hairs
as every muscle in his body jerked to attention.
body screamed. Khost gripped the table to keep his hands off her.
If he didn’t watch himself he was going to grab her and haul her
after him for miles as he shook off the urge to be running loose in
Herne might not miss him tonight, but Khost
was sure as hell going to miss the Hunt.
He stood up, edging away from her. She just
shook her head, wavy blonde hair bouncing around her face, and she
led him out the front door, the bells chiming behind them. The cool
touch of the night air was like a drug, his reaction instant. Every
nerve in his body came alive, burning hot and heavy. Khost
staggered a step, drawing himself up short before he could bolt off
into the darkness.
“Let me just snatch my jacket from the rig,
then we can go.” She tossed him a look over her shoulder, her steps
light, fast. Short, quick strides took her straight towards the
semi at the edge of the parking lot. A forest stretched out behind
the truck, the rumble of a highway nearby the only sound in the
She jerked open the front door and grabbed a
leather jacket, shoving her arms into it before yanking it up onto
her shoulders. One handed, she dug her hair out from under the
collar, then reached down and tugged on a small gold chain, freeing
a necklace that had been hiding under her shirt.
Cissy had to be shitting him. Fucking
How the hell was he supposed to get the horn
when it was less than two inches tall and hanging from her freaking
Nalla cocked her head. “You cool?”
“Yeah.” His gaze dropped to the gold necklace
dangling over her shirt, just a hair higher than the dip between
her breasts. The symbols spelling out the Hunt were etched in the
side. This couldn’t be a coincidence, a human female wouldn’t know.
Damn. A witch, maybe?
“Well, then let’s go.” She swerved into him,
her shoulder bumping his and he staggered, anticipation flaring
through him. He felt the Hound inside him leap at her touch, felt
the dog want to play and he was ready to race after her, barking
into the full moon sky.
But she didn’t take off into a sprint. Of
course she didn’t. She wasn’t a Hound and humans and witches didn’t
have a mad longing to kill themselves by running blind in the woods
at night. Khost stuffed his hands into his jeans pockets and
playfully knocked back into her, keeping his breathing even. Play
along. Wait for an opportunity to snatch and grab.
Pine needles broke under his shoes as he
followed her into the forest. Her steps were light, quick, as if
she were fighting back a jog. That or it was his imagination. His
instincts were screaming at him full tilt.
, he wanted to
shout at her. Shivers trailed through every muscle in his body and
his bones ached with the need of it all. Nalla reached up and
snapped a branch off a tree, waving the twig in the air.
“I love nights like this. So...feral.”
She rolled the word off of her tongue and
Khost closed his eyes, clamping his jaw shut to stave off a howl.
His head tipped back and the muscles in his throat constricted, but
Khost held the sound back. Nalla moved closer. Her leather jacket
brushed his stomach. Her breath was hot against his neck. Khost
automatically went to step away, to put distance between him and
her, when she caught him by his shirt and pulled him closer.
She curved a hand around the back of his
neck, pressing his head down as she stepped into him. “Khost?” she
whispered against his lips, making his name sound like a sigh of
the wind. An ancient howl, sounding deep, lost in time. Faint.
He trembled. His throat worked twice before
he managed, “Yeah?”
“Sorry about this.” Then she closed the
distance between their lips and kissed him.
Nalla felt him tense against her, his breath
hissing out between his teeth. His muscles bunched as if he were
ready to bolt, and for a second she thought she’d misjudged him.
But when her palms slid to cup his face on either side, holding him
to her, he broke. A staggered gasp spilled from Khost as his hands
found her hips and dragged her flat against him. His whole body
shook, but he didn’t run.
There was power in his hands, strength. An
answering wildness she hadn’t felt in so long. A keening whine
spilled out of her lips. She shouldn’t...this poor man didn’t have
a clue. Didn’t stand a chance. She was going to ruin him, for one
night, for a chance at revenge, but when she swept a tongue at the
seam of his lips and they opened, Nalla couldn’t stop herself from
slipping inside. He tasted sweet, like cinnamon and spun clouds,
and sweet Herne, like a wild night of running through the sky. It’d
been so long since she’d tasted stars and moonlight that she didn’t
want to stop.
Nalla stepped into him, shoving him against a
tree. Khost gave a low grunt, his arms winding around her hips as
she pressed herself tighter to him. Loving the way the muscles in
his stomach clenched when her hips touched his, loving the shiver
that trailed through his thighs. Nalla broke the kiss and nipped
over his jaw. The ache to run pouring out of her. It’d been so long
since she’d had anyone else.