The Hunter’s Curse

Never let a demon see you sweat.

Zachariah Williams isn’t just the darkest, most gothically gorgeous member of my new academy monster hunting squad…he’s broken in a way I deeply understand. The son of a small-town preacher with a big-time skillset, he’s faced down monsters his whole life, a natural-born demon hunter whose deep empathy and shattered soul makes me crave his glance, his smile, and, okay…his hands all over me.

Trouble is, he’s also got one killer of a family secret: right after he falls in love, Hell on earth breaks out. The only way to stop it? Sacrifice whoever’s captured his heart.

Talk about a second-date buzzkill.

Of course, I haven’t been fighting monsters practically since the cradle to back down now. Zach and the entire Wellington Academy monster hunter squad are becoming my stand-in family, and that means more to me than I ever expected.

And if someone’s gotta take out a bunch of fire-breathing demons without getting hot under the collar, I’m still the right girl for the job.

**THE HUNTER’S CURSE is book 2 in the Monster Hunter Academy series, a slow-burn urban fantasy romance with a fast-talking, sharp-witted heroine, four hunters-in-training hot enough to make your palms sweat, and way too many monsters to hide in a closet. Keep your blades at the ready and dive in!**

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PROLOGUE: ZACH

She should never have come here.

I lifted my hands to test the cool morning air. Today’s demonstration was supposed to be something simple, easy. I’d done this demon sunrise ceremony nearly a half dozen times now, though the ones in the late spring were always better than the ones in the fall. Demons weren’t always afraid of the sunshine. They liked showing off.

They weren’t the only ones. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to the rush I got from watching the faces of students move from skepticism to belief to awe. Not so much of a rush that I craved my own group of followers like my dad, but enough that I enjoyed impressing people.

Especially certain people—like a brand-new monster hunter I had no business looking at twice, even if she was now technically part of our team. Hell, especially because of that. I should stay far away from Nina Cross, keep her safe. Protected. Never mind the fact that she was Tyler’s girl—a guy who’d been nothing but awesome to me since I showed up on campus, a fish out of water flopping around on the banks of Boston Harbor.

But I couldn’t help myself. Nina was more like me than any of the guys were—reckless to the point of being stupid. Fierce. Angry. Proud. She was a fighter through and through, and she’d earned her scars. I knew what that was like.

She also wanted to find her family, and even though she should be careful what she wished for, I wanted to help her. More than that, I wanted to look deep into her eyes, connect with her. Truly know her. And though she was warded against me, I couldn’t stop thinking about pushing into her mind more. Harder. In ways I shouldn’t even be considering.

The moment Tyler, Liam, Grim, and I had all worked together to bring Nina into our monster hunting collective, it got a million times worse. Something seemed to crack wide open inside me, dark and forbidden. She was the girl I couldn’t have. The girl I couldn’t stop wanting. The girl I’d sacrifice to save my own fucked-up life, if I believed everything I’d been told. 

I blew out a harsh breath. She shouldn’t have come here.

Never mind my problems; we had a job to do. To hear Commander Frost talk, we were on the brink of a full-on monster outbreak, the first in generations for Wellington Academy. Nina wasn’t just a hunter, she was a harbinger…and that meant monsters would be following hard on her heels.

I could handle that. Darkness shouldn’t be feared or even respected, necessarily, but it did need to be understood. Right before it was blasted back into the bowels of hell. I’d always been good at that, though I tried to keep it quiet. I was here at Wellington to get smarter, stronger. To change the script for my family once and for all. So most of the time, I flew under the radar, playing it cool. These once-a-semester demonstrations for Demonology 101 were the only time I tried to tempt the demons out of the shadows.

The demons didn’t always play along, of course, but part of me really wanted them to put on a show this time. Which was stupid. I needed to stay focused.

All I wanted to do was focus on her.

A light moan reached my ears, followed by a low, haunting laugh, as if someone was watching me from the decrepit old chapel that served as the stage for this sunrise ceremony. Bellamy Chapel had always bugged me, though it had long been abandoned, its doors hammered shut and sealed off from idle eyes. Now the old chapel served little purpose other than to look spooky on the edge of a monster hunter academy. But that moan, oddly, heartened me. The demons were going to show up today. I could already feel them.

Like I could feel her, despite the bracelet she wore to keep me from getting too close. That first moment we’d met, I’d touched Nina’s mind, and my heart had nearly exploded. Liam had given her the bracelet to shield her, and she was clearly Tyler’s girl, so I’d tamped down my emotions, hard. After all that, I’d thought maybe she’d stay free of me, maybe I could keep her safe. But then, we’d made the Run. She’d joined the collective. And I knew I was screwed.

The scornful laugh rolled over the cemetery, making my skin crawl. There was something there. The soft sneer was unmistakable, taunting me from the shadows. Your time with her will come, boy. Enjoy it. Because then she’s going to die.

I rolled my eyes. Demons had been my family’s stock-in-trade for generations. But I was done with them and the curse they’d laid upon us.

Fuck you, I thought back just as succinctly.

Fuck me, too. Because what I felt for Nina Cross wasn’t safe, and it sure as hell wasn’t smart. It was far more dangerous—for everyone.

Mine,” I whispered.

She should never have come here.

Monster Hunter Academy Series