The Cursed, an all-new dark, captivating paranormal romance and second highly anticipated book in the Coven of Bones Series from USA Today bestselling author Harper L. Woods, is available now!
He was the deception waiting in the night; the truth I never saw coming. After a lifetime of manipulation, I finally learned the truth. I was his puppet—even if I never saw my strings.
Even knowing how deep his betrayal runs, I can’t shake the undeniable connection between Gray and I—the way a single glance from him sets my soul on fire. We are not the same. We’re enemies, poised to battle for the future of the very thing I’d wanted to destroy.
With the Covenant gone, the revenge I thought I wanted is no longer my priority. The witches that remain played no role in my aunt’s death, and the only person standing in the way of righting those wrongs is the very man determined to keep me in his bed.
But the remaining members of the Coven will never forgive me for the role I played in their demise and subjugation, and the worst part of all is that I can’t even blame them for it. I’d been naive, believing my own delusions of grandeur when destiny clearly had other plans for me. Plans that had been set in motion centuries before my birth.
But even that had been a lie, and now it is my duty to do everything in my power to undo it.
To protect my Coven from my husband’s hatred—no matter what the cost.
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PROLOGUE LUCIFER THE MORNINGSTAR
Fifty years prior
Loralei Hecate wandered the halls, her deep ebony hair swaying as she moved. The piece of onyx held in her palm would do nothing to protect her from the creature hunting her, but that didn’t stop her from clinging to it like a lifeline as I followed in the shadows. Her best friend was a White, giving Loralei the gem to protect herself against that nagging feeling of being followed that she just couldn’t seem to shake.
The only protection she would have found was safety in numbers, and she’d been foolish enough to leave the haven of her bed at night. It hadn’t taken much for me to lure her away, just the quiet whisper of a call so subtle it didn’t activate the amulet around her neck.
I followed after her, keeping to the shadows to avoid her notice. It would take the right place for her death, because as much as she needed to die, I didn’t want her to suffer. I didn’t have any need for her final moments to be filled with fear and darkness.
Her death was nothing personal. In fact, her death was a sacrifice designed to bring everything to fruition.
Centuries of planning depended on this moment and relied on the ceasing of her heartbeat, but the role she had played in the years leading up to this had earned her a token of my respect.
Loralei stopped suddenly, spinning to look back at me. The vivid blue of her eyes shone in the darkness, shimmering like moonlight with a faint purple tint that was so reminiscent of her ancestor, Charlotte. Her forehead twisted as her mouth parted in a silent scream while she moved, dropping the onyx crystal to the floor.
The protection of the stone lay forgotten when she found me stalking after her. She didn’t know the truth of who I was, of what I was beneath the meat suit I called home, but nothing good could come from a Vessel stalking his prey in the night.
I took a single step toward her, coming to a halt suddenly when a mismatched stare looked in my direction. A woman stepped into the dim light shining through the windows, approaching Loralei hesitantly. There was something unreal about her body, as if she was there but not, and if I reached out to touch her, I wondered if I would find flesh or only the faintest whisper of a half-forgotten memory.
Loralei ran, sprinting forward and heading for a bend in the hall as the woman searched the shadows I called home. She saw nothing, her eerie multi-colored stare darting all over and searching as if she could feel me but not see me.
But I saw her.
I felt her. As soon as those purple and amber eyes landed on mine, I knew exactly what she was—who she was. Her inky dark hair fell over her shoulders in soft waves, the slight burgundy tint to the bottom reminding me of the finest merlot. Her body was curved and soft with thick thighs that I could just imagine wrapped around my head, and breasts that would bounce when I fucked her.
My intentions for ‘the daughter of two’ had never been to make her mine. They’d never been to keep her, but simply to use her for what her unique combination of magic could offer me.
That all changed when a growl rumbled in my chest, sinking through my body. The floor shook beneath my feet with the force of it, the windows rattling in the wall as the pieces of destiny clicked and clacked together in an endless symphony like the clatter of bones swaying in the wind.
Loralei clutched the bag of bones at her hip as the young Hecate witch turned and followed after her aunt, the ghost of her visage flickering in the moonlight. Her gaze dropped to that bag of bones as if she felt the call, part of her recognizing that they would one day be hers.
She wanted them, and all I wanted was to take what was mine.
“I don’t have what you seek,”Loralei said into the nothingness. Her stare remained fixed on me, her body flinching with each step I took. The halls pulsed in recognition of what moved through them as I released the little bits of power I could access in this form, filling the university with my presence.
The younger Hecate witch, the woman who hadn’t yet been born, faltered, catching herself with a hand on the wall. Both witches’ breath fanned before their faces as the temperature of the hall dropped so low it seared.
“Loralei!” the younger witch called in panic. Loralei snapped her gaze to the side as if she too saw the strange witch, her eyes widening with recognition. She dropped her hand away from the bag of bones that gave her power, her body stilling as I watched something arch between them.
“Run, Charlotte. Run!” she screamed as the other witch moved closer to help her aunt.
There was a certain familiarity in her, pulsing off her in waves that reminded me of the original witch. Of the one who had called to me in the woods that night and begged for the tools to seek her revenge.
But the name was all wrong for her, as if the part that remained independent of that familiarity rebelled against the notion of being so thoroughly tied to the ancestor who had started it all.
I struck, a clawed hand slipping out of the shadows so quickly that I doubted the new witch even saw me. Loralei’s chest unveiled three red, deep slash marks tearing her open as blood splattered against the younger one’s face. She reached out as she fell to her knees, grasping her niece by the arm as the floor shook beneath her. I took a step closer, ready to take what was mine, even if it ruined everything.
My body moved as if in a trance, as if she’d used the bones she didn’t possess to command my body.
“Wake up, Willow,” Loralei whispered as her eyes rolled back.
That name was right. I stepped closer; my attention riveted not on the witch I’d come to kill but on the one I planned to own one day.
I swept my claws across her shoulder in three sharp, fast movements. Willow screamed as her blood sank beneath my nails, covering my fingers and making me feel complete for the first time in centuries. I raised them to my mouth, earning my first taste of my future.
She moved to turn to look at me, and I wondered if the curious creature would see me standing there. I wondered if she was already mine as I leaned forward, dragging my nose through the hair on the back of her head and inhaling her scent.
“Wake up!” Loralei screamed.
The ground shook beneath me as my rage heightened, the witch bleeding out doing everything in her power to take my witchling from me. Willow fell, her knees ready to crash against the stone.
Until she vanished.
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