The Dark Huntsman by Jessica Aspen
An evil queen, a dangerous man, and a witch, tangled together in a tale of Snow White…
Desperate to save the last of her family from the murderous Faery Queen, Trina Mac Elvy weaves a spell of entrapment. But instead of a common soldier, the queen has released the Dark Huntsman, a full blooded fae with lethal powers.
Caged for treason, Logan Ni Brennan, is ready to do anything to win free of the manipulative queen, even if it includes running a last errand for her…murdering a witch. The sight of Trina, ready to fight despite the odds, gives him another option: use the witch as a chess piece, put the queen’s son on the throne, and bring down the queen forever.
As the queen slides into insanity and her closest advisor makes plans to succeed to the throne, Logan secrets Trina away in the enchanted forest and makes a decisive move in his dangerous game of manipulation. But the gaming tables of fate turn on him, and when Trina’s life is threatened he discovers he risks more than his freedom…he risks his heart.
Targeted Age Group:: adult audiences only
Heat/Violence Level: Heat Level 4 – R Rated
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I love fantasy, romance, and fairy tales, so the opportunity to twist all of these into a story was too much temptation to resist. I've always thought the huntsman was the true hero in Snow White. He gives up everything and risks his life for her, while the prince only rides in at the end to save the day. Having a dark alpha hero like Logan made this even more interesting. It's always fun to dip your toe into the dark side. With the Tales of the Black Court I'm able to explore the lands of fairy at my leisure and tell tales of elves, witches, and evil queens. Who wouldn't want to write that story?
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
Since The Dark Huntsman is a twist of Snow White, I knew I needed several basic characters. The evil queen has been done so many times, I needed a new type of evil queen, and Aeval fits the bill. She has amazing powers and three personas that she physically turns into when threatened. But she's not the real bad guy. Behind the throne is her 'loyal' servant, Haddon. Developing his character was even more fun because he's always helping her, while helping himself. I can't wait for you to read the whole series and see what happens as he manipulates the power of the queen.
Of course since this is a romance, everyone wants to know about the hero and heroine. Trina is a gypsy witch from earth and her family has been unfairly persecuted by the queen. They are almost all gone, just herself and her two cousins and aunt are left, and they are always on the run. But Trina decides to make a stand and figure out why the queen has it in for the MacElvy's. When you twist a fairy tale you have to decide how to remain true to the original tale, and Snow White is a ninny. She takes apples from strangers and moves in with seven men. Crazy girl! I needed to balance a smart heroine with the mistakes that kept faith with the original fairy tale, so when you read Trina's story, you'll see her overcome by magic. Luckily, she fights through, and she has Logan to help her.
Logan is a true dark fae. He's ruthless and out for himself. Until he falls in love with Trina. Then he's got problems. When you are serving the Queen of the Black Court, you are walking a fine line, especially since the queen is a little insane. Logan's struggle to become the hero is one of my favorites, so I hope you enjoy it too.
Many of my readers love Solanum, Logan's smart-ass talking puca. Solanum has no morals, and the only thing keeping him in check is an ancient bond to Logan's family. I always get the question when he is getting his own book, and I'm thinking about it. But I love his crazy, unpredictable behavior, so it won't be any time soon!
I can't wait for you to discover the romance and magic of the Black Court and its characters. From Logan and Trina, to Haddon and Aeval, they're people I'll never forget. I hope you love them as much as I do. 🙂
Sudden light burned into Logan’s face and his eyes flinched shut. He forced his shaking arm up and hid behind it as he tried to remember where he was. Cold seeped into his aching body from the uneven stone floor as he stayed under his arm and hid from the torchlight, staggered at the realization that he was alive. Weak, wobbly, and defenseless. But alive.
A heavy hobnailed boot kicked him in the side. “Here ‘e is sir.”
He groaned and curled into a ball, peering up through long, matted and tangled hair at a heavyset, chuckling troll with only one working eye. “I got ‘im out of the hole yesterday, but ‘e’s still not in good shape.” Another rusty laugh came from the troll. “But I guess that’s to be expected after fifteen year’n the hole.”
Fifteen years. Had it been so long?
Logan barely heard the troll’s dissertation on oubliettes, prisoners, and rates of death. Had he been in hibernieth, the Elvetian form of stasis, for fifteen years? What had happened to his friends and family? What had happened to the prince between now and the day their world had collapsed? The day he’d been stuffed into his tiny damp prison.
He pushed up on burning arms, collapsing in a panting heap. The troll laughed and kicked him again. Logan lay on the hard stone mentally apologizing to his clan and liege for his weaknesses. He had no strength to face whatever death was to come. His fate was sealed.
“Is this the best you could do?” A sharp male voice cut into Logan’s ears, too used to the sound of silence. “He doesn’t even look like a lord, let alone the murderous Huntsman. The queen thinks he’s a fricking miracle worker.”
“Nope. No way.” Another chuckle wheezed out. “If you send me down a healer, might be we could get ‘im fixed up by afternoon, good as new. Then the queen can do with ‘im as she likes.”
“Humph” came from beyond the glare of the torches. Then a sigh. “All right. I’ll send someone. Fix him up.” The voice curled in disgust. “And be sure to wash him. He reeks.”
“Yes, sir.” The troll dragged Logan across the floor by one arm. He hummed a tuneless something that screeched into Logan’s ears but couldn’t cover the sound of Logan’s shoulder joint popping out of place.
Pain ripped through him. He struggled to stay conscious and ignore the excruciating messages shrieking in his arm from being hauled like a sack of grain along the rough floor. The troll dropped him on the stones, paused and opened an ironbound door. Logan tried to make his stiff muscles work, managing only to scrape and bang his limbs on the doorframe as the troll seized him and shoved him into the cell. He landed hard, his face grinding into the slimy stones. Curling instinctively into a ball, he managed to protect his gut from the last hard kick of the troll’s boot landing on his dislocated shoulder. His lungs seized up, his vision went black, and his head exploded into bright white stars.
The cell door clanged shut.
He sucked in slow aching breaths as the heavy footsteps receded down the corridor and reminded himself that he’d be out soon. And then he’d face the queen.
Fifteen years in this hell-hole and the bitch thought he’d bow to her wishes.
He worked at unclenching his muscles. First his fists, then his jaw. Then each sore and aching muscle until he could sit up, his left arm hanging at an awkward angle. He guessed he wasn’t as ready to die as he’d thought. His body might be in terrible shape, but his mind was still sharp. He’d do what he had to do. Kill, cheat, steal. It wasn’t as if he hadn’t crossed lines before. But this time…
This time he would take down the Faerie Queen of the Black Court. No matter the price he paid. He reached up with his right arm, got a good grip on his left triceps and pulled. The shoulder ground and popped back into place, and Logan passed out from the pain.
Clean, mostly healed, and doing his best to hide his exhausted body’s shaking from the one-eyed troll, Logan exited the dungeons. He strolled as casually as possible to the first solid patch of sun and lifted his face to the warmth. Closing his eyes in ecstasy, he breathed a prayer of thanks to the Goddess. She must still favor him and his cause, despite his misbehavior, or he would never have gotten out of the queen’s oubliette.
His skin soaked up the heat of the sun like a sponge soaking up a fine wine, but the heady pleasure of it stopped short of reaching the icy cold that lay inside his bones and threatened to never leave. He was out. But not free.
“So, she released you,” a low vibrant voice said behind him and his knees went weak in a surprising rush of relief. He turned, squinting his still sensitive eyes at the shadow that detached itself from the tower’s stone walls and became the form of a beautiful young man with ebony hair and soulful dark eyes.
“Solanum,” Logan said. “You’re here.”
Solanum swept low into a bow, and when he rose, his eyes glowed deep red before flashing back to black, so fast anyone else would have thought it their imagination. But not Logan.
“And where else would I be, master?” The familiar mocking edge of the puca’s voice was razor sharp. “I am your family’s faithful servant, you know.”
“Good. I’ll need you.” Logan threaded his way through the crowded courtyard filled with fae who worked at the prison. Busy Tuathans, dressed in everything from fine seventeenth-century brocade vests to expensive suits and ties, raced back and forth on the business of the Black Court. Large lumbering trolls, the queen’s favored jailers, smacked smaller winged faeries and gnomes of all sizes out of their way. Logan avoided them all and headed for the exit into the town. He didn’t look back. He knew the puca would be right behind him.
“I thought you might need me.” Solanum shadowed close behind, sliding through the crowd with ease and working it like a professional. Winking at those who gave the pair admiring looks and likely evaluating which ones would taste the best.
Logan shook his head. Pucas were rare, hunted nearly to extinction eons ago. He’d never seen another besides Solanum. If the crowd of fae only knew that the docile sexy human servant at his heels was really a creature with the ability to destroy all of them with a single breath, they’d be running for their lives.
“What’s it to be?” Solanum asked. “Are we finally searching for the prince? Are we rousing your mother’s family to war? Are we sabotaging the Black Court with fire and brimstone explosives?”
“No.” Logan turned down an alley heading through the cobbled streets and aimed straight for the town gate that led into the open lands of Faerie. He kept silent until they were far from the prison town, out in the wild fields close to the creeping mist of the outlands where the reality of the queen’s domain was weak, and no one would overhear. “She merely wishes me to kill a few witches.”
“And that’s it?” Solanum’s eyes glowed. “After she took your position, destroyed your life, and imprisoned you in that rat infested hole, you’re going to lick her boots and kill for her?”
“If I don’t, she’ll have me back in the hole before another night.”
“And if you do?”
“She’ll release me forever.” He turned away, a vain attempt to conceal his shaking from the puca. He sure as hell didn’t believe the queen, but it didn’t matter. He had to play her game, for now, or go back into the oubliette. And he was never going back into the oubliette.
“Well, then.” Solanum danced a little jig at Logan’s side, sending tendrils of mist flying. The mist rose, morphing into a vague humanoid shape that wove and danced with the puca for a few steps before dissolving back into the ground. Solanum shimmered, his body dissolved into black mist that reformed around his red eyes into the shape of a tall black stallion. He pulled back his lips revealing sharp teeth in a wicked horsey grin.
“I’m all for death and destruction, even something as weak as witches,” the puca said. “Where do we go?”
Logan whistled out into the potential of Underhill. Nothing happened. A fierce anxiety clenched his muscles, then he relaxed, as out of the coiling mist his pack of giant red hunting hounds swarmed. Emotions back under control, he turned to the puca and said, “Wyoming.”
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