The Hunter's Year Cover Photo

The Hunter’s Year Chapter One

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The Hunter's Year Summary 

Persi Colt, a young Monster Hunter with ambitions to be the greatest of them all, finds herself tangled in a conspiracy between her Hunter Family and a secret movement in the underground to breed hybrid monsters and take over the human world. Everything she’s ever known is turned on its head when she befriends two brothers who ask her to question her upbringing and introduce her to a world of Pulses, betrayal, and, the most shocking of all, love. Persi must choose between her family and the protection of the monsters she’s sworn to kill. Only, Persi realizes maybe it’s not the Others that are the monsters. Maybe it’s the people closest to her. 

The Hunter's Year Cover Photo

The Hunter's Year Chapter One

Diary entry #11 - January 1, The Year of Persi

"I have no idea who I am. Not in the cute, amnesic, I-lost-my-memory-in-battle way. It’s in the pathetic, disastrous, I-have-no-personality-to-stand-on way. And if I do have something to stand on, it’s the personality of eight people crammed into my brain at once. I talk too much one day. Too little the next. I’m angry. I’m soft. I want to kill and heal at the same time. Harm, Help. End, Save. I love things one moment and hate them the next. I’m hyper-focused and hyper-unaware. And I say all these things that I don’t actually believe but it’s like I can’t stop. Ever. Things just tumble out of my mouth like word vomit.

You’d think this was the ramblings of a bipolar teen but, no such luck. I can’t even get diagnosed as nuts ‘cause I’m too normal in front of the doctor. Too weird for my friends. Too mad in front of my leaders. Too happy when the other students give me attention. And I hope it gets better. I hope I stop finding out what people want me to be and I can just think about what I want me to be. God, it’s not like anyone likes me the way I am anyways. So, I’m going to stop. And here’s the ten-step plan.

Step one: Vision Board…

      I closed my journal and turned toward the poster board on my bedroom floor. I glued the edge of a picture while my tongue peaked out the corner of my mouth. My brow was pinched together, my eyes narrowed, and my neck crooned forward as I swiped the glue stick over each corner. It was slow. Thoughtful. Neurotic long swipes until every millimeter of that picture was covered in glue. 

I sat up and lifted the picture as if I were holding the answer to the world’s problems. My eyes fell on the curved letters at the top of the board. “The Year of Persi” was sprawled out in big, thick, gold letters. Don’t worry, this was a good thing for humanity too, not just my self-esteem. 

My board did affect a lot of the world when you thought about it. Vampires. Lycans. The whole realm of Others. They were havoc on society and I knew deep in my gut that I would be the one to stop them. I, Persi Collins, would be the greatest hunter known to man. My eyes watered as I thought about it. My hands shook with pride as I imagined my name talked about in hushed reverent tones. People would look at me like I was their queen. Like I was–

I cried out as a pencil jammed itself into my backside. I reached around for it, my soft reverie shattered.

“Hey, Loser,” My roommate said with a cackle. “God, I nailed you just in the right spot, didn’t I?” 

I tried reaching for the pencil again but my shoulder buckled. “What the hell is your problem?” I said. 

Anna came up behind me and tore the pencil out. She lifted my shirt and whistled, “Yeah, that’s a mark right there.” She slapped my head and bounced over to her bed. “What are you doing anyways?” she asked. She looked over, her face fallen and then scrunched. “Oh, you’re pulling an Oprah,” she said.

I frowned and sucked in a breath, “I am not pulling an Oprah. Vision boards are essential to success. Millionaires, Hunters, everyone has done them since–”

“Since Oprah told them to,” Anna said. She kicked off her boots and reached for her new pair. “Honestly, I didn’t think you’d still be here.”

I straightened again and ignored the stinging in my back. “Well, I just–”

“Come on, Persi,” she said. “Everyone’s going. Well everyone that matters. Come on, it’s just a little hunt out in Caloopsa Falls, nothing big. Xavier says we might even get to use a portal for this one.” 

I turned around, the tacky picture stuck to my thumb. “What do you mean a portal? That’s not allowed. That’s against everything the Hunters–”

“Relax,” She said and rolled her eyes. “God, you’re such a suck-up. Xavier knows what he’s doing. His father basically runs this place so it’s not like we’ll get in trouble. Besides, the worst that can happen is we end up in the wrong place and can’t portal back.” 

I stared at her. A million thoughts flew through my mind. Acid rose to the back of my throat. That was in fact, not the worst thing that could happen. Someone could get cut in half by the portal. Someone could get lost in an infinite loop. Someone could– I took in a deep breath for four seconds. Held. Let go for eight. 

Anna stood up, “Come on, Persi. Stop being a little bitch.” 

“I am not being a little bitch,” I said with my neck and eyes sticking out. “I’m– I’m just-”

“Look,” Anna said and came over. She turned me around to my half-finished vision board. 

The greatest Hunters in history stared back at me. Weapons I’ve never touched before sat on that board. New training exercises and a world of martial arts looked on until my fingertips were buzzing. 

“This is one step closer to becoming that girl you’ve been dreaming about,” she said. She leaned in close, her words slow and pointed. “A girl people are scared of. Who people want to be. The girl that becomes that scary story the monsters tell their children. You’ll become that thing that goes bump in the night, Persi. Just. Like. Kora. Mostiv.”

The name was like a drug to me. I soaked her words and didn’t worry about the sincerity. Even if she were just baiting me, the truth lingered in the air. I would be the next Kora Mostiv. I’d be the legend at bedtime for the Others. It was just a matter of time is all. 

I drew in a breath and lurched for my boots and go-bag. I kicked off my slippers and put on socks, “Fine,” I said. “But we have to make sure Collins doesn’t hear us, okay? She’s already mad at me for spilling that lemonade on her gun.” 

Anna sighed, “You do spill things a lot don’t you,” she said. It wasn’t a question.

I rolled my eyes, “It’s fine. I cleaned it before it got sticky,” I said.

“Speaking of,” Anna said. She came over and pulled off a picture glued to my shoulder. She looked down at it. “A picture of Angelina Joli?” She asked with a crumpled brow. 

I looked up at her, my face blank. “She was a delight in Tomb Raider,” I said.

Anna put her face in her hands. She balled up the picture and grabbed her coat, “Ten seconds or I’m leaving you,” she said. 

I rushed to lace up my boots and grabbed my jacket. I took in a big breath and reveled in the excitement of being asked to go on a hunt.

 “Let’s go,” I said. 

My chest was tight as we walked out into the hallway. Monitors hiked up and down those halls all day and night waiting for stupid kids to sneak out. I’d never done it before really. No one had invited me to go on private hunts, especially not with Xavier. Hunts were reserved for the top six in class. The most popular. The best fighters. It might come as a shock, but that did not describe me. 

“Can you not stomp your feet?” I said, my step, light and focused. Anna’s was loud, fast then slow, too spaced out, too close together. “God, it’s like you’ve never learned to walk before.” 

Anna smiled and peered around the corner, “You know what, Persi? I’m being real nice to let you come tonight.” She turned around, her eyes dark, “So, shut up.” 

I pulled back my comments and followed her down the hall. Truth was, she was right. She was being nice. For a prick at least. 

We made it down to the basement, one more door we had to go through to make it out into the world. When we got there, I looked back into the shelter of the Facility and ached to go back. Then I remembered what Anna said. “Stop being a little bitch.” So I did. I gathered my strength and pushed through the door.

My mouth hung open as a monitor stared back at us. 

His mouth was hung open too, his hands waving smoke out of the air. “What the hell are you two doing out here?” he asked. His eyes narrowed. “I assume you’re catching your breath and going back up to bed.” 

Anna stepped in front of me, “And I assume you’re smoking a contraband cigarette and not a roach,” she said. 

He rocked back. Eyed us. Lifted the rolled-up weed to his mouth and took in a long drag. He coughed a couple times, “As you were,” he said. 

Anna grabbed my arm and pulled me past him. “Honestly, that guy gets dumber and dumber,” she said.

“Aren’t you sleeping with him?” I asked. 

Anna huffed and jerked me along at her speed. “You don’t sleep with people ‘cause they're smart. You sleep with them because they–”

“Hurry up,” Xavier said under the cloak of tree shadows. 

I looked at Anna and wanted to know the real reason you slept with someone. 

“Oh, who brought Candy Corn?” Tessa said and rolled her eyes. 

It’s me. 

I was Candy Corn.  

Not only was my body the exact shape of a candy corn kernel but I dyed my hair once four years ago with contraband dye. Guess what color it turned? 

Anna crooned her neck out, “Well you brought your shitty boyfriend, so I brought my roommate. Deal with it, Tess, or I’ll stab you for real in sword class tomorrow,” she said.

Tess sucked in a breath and eyed me. Her lips were pulled up, her eyes pinched together, and her face contorted. “Ew,” she said and shook her head. 

“Hey,” Anna said with a glare. “She’s my roommate, I get to say ‘ew’, you don’t.” 

Once again in Anna’s and my relationship, I didn’t know whether to be grateful or insulted. I looked toward Xavier and my chest tightened again. For a sixteen-year-old, he was beautiful. Tall, thin, muscles just big enough to peer out of his shirt sleeves. Of course, then he was wearing a jacket. I swallowed. “What a lucky jacket,” I said with a mournful sigh.

The group turned to me, their faces matching each other. “What?” Tess asked.

I went wide-eyed. Did I say that out loud? Ah, Crap. “Um, nice jacket, Xavier. It’s the new model, right? For the Alpha team?” I asked.

He stared at me, his nose scrunched. “So?” 

Anna put her head in her hands, “Christ,” she said. “Look, are we leaving or not? I would like to progress this night before Collins checks our rooms and puts out an FTB.” 

“FTB?” Tess asked. 

“Find the Bitch?” Anna said as if the answer was obvious. 

I looked over at Xavier who was looking over a journal with the intent of a lion on prey. “Need help with the big words?” Anna asked. 

Xavier stared at the paper. “Sorry, is my attention to detail bothering you, Anna?” He looked over the page again. “Someone put something shiny in front of her while I open the portal. A penis will do too.” 

Anna gave a sweet smile, “Too bad your micro package won’t.” 

Xavier waved her away, “Let me focus, okay?” 

I looked up then closed my eyes. Let him focus, let him focus, let him focus. 

“God, she looks like she’s going to pee herself,” Tess said. “Relax, Candy Corn, none of us have died on a hunt before.” She paused. “Well, except that one time.” 

I opened my eyes and stared at her. 

Tess was beautiful. 

I hated that. 

She was tall, leggy, and had curves for days. Her boobs caught the eyes of every hunter young and old. Mine were pinned against my chest until there was almost nothing there. I tried coughing them out once and all it got me was a sore throat and strange looks. Then there was the stuffing phase. Tissue had fallen out during sparring practice– an event I had also not lived down. I crossed my arms over my chest at the memory.

Tess’s boyfriend Jake was off to the side. He looked impatient and stood with crossed arms and a dark hoodie almost covering his face. “Great Xavier,” he said. “Make us wait in five-degree weather before cutting us in half.” 

“He’s not cutting us in half,” I said. I paused and looked at Xavier, “Right?” 

“Good for me,” Jake said. “We’ve got midterms coming up. Getting cut in half sounds better than what Collins had planned for us.” He paused and looked at me. “Didn’t you disable her gun yesterday?”

Well, that certainly sounded better than the truth. “Uh, yeah,” I said with a shrug. Anna looked at me sideways. “Figured someone should do something. She’s been a terror since getting promoted.” 

Tess glared, “You spilled a drink on it, hon. Doubt it did much of anything.” 

ˆI looked down. “More clever than tripping my way into a kill,” I said. 

My eyes went wide. 

So did everyone else's. 

Tess’s mouth puckered up, loaded with curses and venom. Xavier burst out laughing. “Ah, that’s fair Tess,” he said.

“I didn’t trip,” she said and crossed her arms. “I knew exactly what I was doing the whole time–”

“You weren’t even supposed to kill him,” Jake said with a grin. He pulled his hoodie back and his smile grew. “You were supposed to assist Carmichael in the interrogation. He wasn’t even a prey, he was an assist,” he said. Tess looked down. “We lost a hundred years of intel because of you.” 

“Hey,” I said and held my hand out. “Come on, it’s not like she meant-”

Tess took a step towards me so fast, my mouth clamped up. “If I want your support I’ll ask for it. Now, shut up,” she said. Her eyes narrowed. “And next time you want to be a bitch you better lean into it and not back down like a coward.” She looked me up and down and shook her head. “Pathetic,” she said.

Anna pulled me back and towered over Tess, “Oh look, Tess is pretending she has some actual claws. Careful, darling or the next trip you’ll have might land you in the infirmary.” 

Tess puffed out her chest, “You know what? Nobody’s put you in a place in a while, have they?”

“Oh my God,” Xavier said and stood up. “Shut the hell up all of you. Now, I am trying to do something that could get us thrown into the brig and I would like to do that with a little solemnity.” 

“Solemnity?” Anna said and turned to him with a pinched brow and condescension. 

“Solemness,” Jake said with confidence. “He means solemness.” 

“Solemnity isn’t a word, Xavier,” Tess said and rolled her eyes. 

I rubbed my face. “Solemnity is definitely a word,” I said.

“Nerd,” Tess said. 

Xavier’s shoulder sank and he held up two fingers. “One, y’all are idiots. Two, be quiet or I’m portaling us into my dad’s office.” 

Tess smothered a smile, “Wonder what we’ll see in there?” She said with a snicker. 

I frowned and looked as Xavier’s face fell. The rumors were rampant about his father and Collins. Apparently, someone had walked in on them in the armory getting frisky about three months before that night. Since then, two other people had seen them. Xavier’s poor mother held her head high in the group, but I knew it had to affect her. But what could she do? Divorce was one thing in the human world. It was another in the Hunters. 

“Nice, Tess,” I said and crossed my arms against the cold. “How about we turn a spotlight on your family?” She looked down. “Or any of ours?” The group looked down. “So do what Xavier said, just shut up. And open the portal already, I’m sick of standing here.” 

Anna looked at me, a light look in her eyes. She turned her lips down and nodded. “You heard her. Open the portal,” she said. 

Xavier sighed and bent down to look at his journal one more time. “Fine,” he said and stood. He closed his eyes and raised his hand. Xavier swirled the air until energy built up in his hand. It was just enough to push out the bitters and form a blue and silver circle in the air. 

“Holy shit,” Anna whispered next to me. 

I concurred and swallowed down the little yelp that appeared in my throat. Using bitters was forbidden by Hunters. It was like this seductive influence that morphed your life into anything you wanted it to. Then it tore apart every fiber of your being. Made your health fail. Took your body and consumed it with pain and agony. And the thing was, you couldn’t stop. It gave you just enough to keep you searching after new accords. New ways to make your life better. And it gave just enough reward to keep you addicted, all for it to kill you in the end. 

I knew. 

It happened to my mother. 

“Well, don’t lose your nerve now,” Xavier said. 

It was just me and him in the woods. I looked around and everyone else had gone through. “Wh-”

“Come on, Persi,” he said with a grin. “Show ‘em what you got.” He winked at me after he said that. It was a small move that sent my heart into a panicked state. 

I should have smiled back. Batted my eyes. Gave him a shy but worldly look. Instead, I laughed, punched his shoulder, and went “Aye, aye captain.” 

He did not wink at me a second time that night. 

Stepping through the portal was like having all your atoms torn apart and then reassembled on the other side of your destination. I was spat out into a part of the Caloopsa woods, my spine crunching into a scorpion position. My face smashed into the ground, my heels almost touching the back of my head. 

Laughter burst up in the quiet air, and I looked up. Jake, Tess, and Anna had their hands slammed over their mouths and little squeals of laughter escaped them.

“Would you guys shut up?” Xavier said, coming through the portal. “This is Other territory. It’s not a game here.” 

I lifted my head, my legs back on the ground. Leaves stuck all around my hair and a thick smear of mud covered my cheeks and mouth. A groan escaped me, “Yeah, what he said.”

Anna smiled and lifted me, “This is going well so far,” she said. I glared at her as I rose. She helped brush me off the leaves and wipe my face. 

I stretched out my back a moment and looked around.

The fear of a new place tightened like a chain around my throat. We were far out of Texas. Somewhere in California is what I thought when my eyes darted around. Giant redwoods were around them. Their trunks were thicker than a bus and they were as tall as skyscrapers. New ash was on the bark from the fire that ravaged California just weeks prior. It smelled like smoke and burnt paper. New vegetation was growing in sparse patches across the floor of the woods and along paths the animals and brave parkgoers walked. 

I looked around and shook my head, “Shit.” 

“What?” Tess said. She clutched a single stake to her chest, the fear in her voice like a welcome to any Other out there. 

I hadn’t noticed the group's supplies before. I was too stupid and in awe that I was actually being asked to go on a hunt. I was excited at the prospect of showing myself that I didn’t think about the idiots I was getting in trouble with. It was like a switch went off. A panicked, mom mode for survival. 

“All you brought was a stake?” I said and slung my pack on the ground. 

“So?” Tess said. 

“So, do you have any idea where we are right now?” I asked and looked up at all of them. They were silent. I gave an angered grin, “You guys really are idiots,” I said.

“Um, why is Candy Corn acting like she’s the lead here?” Tess said. 

Anna stared at me, “Want to share? Roomie?” She asked.

I pulled out a compass and tried to get my bearings. “We’re in California right now, in the Redwood Forest. Any idea what likes to live in the Redwood Forest?” 

“Lycans?” A voice said behind them. 

I turned. A shadow in the night turned just so his face shone in the moon. I rose to my feet and swallowed. It was a boy about eighteen. Tall and gigantic. 

“Maybe vampires?” another voice said behind them. 

The group turned towards the new voice. I kept my eyes on the lycan and drew in a deep breath. “Xavier, now would be a good time to get that portal open,” I said. 

“Ooh,” The boy from behind sounded like he was closer. “A Hunter pulsing out bitters? In our territory?” 

A smile appeared on my face. My heartbeat never rose. My breath never left my body. I counted the steps it would take to get out my silver. Drop down. Open bag. Find silver. Raise it high. Jam it in the Lycan’s skull. All before he used otherworldly speed to meet me where I was and crush my throat with his hand. 

“Xavier, do something,” Tess said. Her eyes were wild. The fear in her voice had doubled and her hands shook so much she almost dropped her stake.

Xavier was frozen. Stunned and locked into place like a possum playing dead. I looked over at him and thought he might consider dissolving into the ground under the right circumstance. Anna’s chest heaved up and down, her hand gripping her stake so tight it was white. 

“We weren’t supposed to see anything, Xavier. We were supposed to walk around, get drunk, and be home by two,” Anna said. She turned to him, a glare in her eyes. “Turns out you can’t do anything right,” she said.

Jake held up his hands and shook his head, “I do not know these people, I was just taking a walk by myself,” he said.

The Lycan was stalking closer. 

I raised my jaw, the only sign of panic, a gentle shake in my hand, “What do you want?” I asked. God, my voice was so even. There wasn’t even a tremble in it. It was so assured and sturdy. 

“Your life,” The lycan said with a grin. 

I turned to see the other boy. He was tall like the other one. Thinner and paler. He was a vampire by the looks of it. “Why are you working together?” I asked. “You’re a lycan and he’s a vampire. You’re supposed to hate each other.” 

“Oh we do,” The vampire said. “But turns out, we hate Hunters more.” 

I swallowed. “Good to see we’re a unifying force in the Underground,” I said. I turned to the Lycan. He was closer than before. Just far enough to not be able to reach for her, but close enough to smell the fear on her. “What do you want?” I asked. 

“Look man, stay back,” Jake said and jumped back far enough to run into me. I held firm and pushed back on him. We were all in a tight little circle now. It was like every fight pattern we’d ever been taught was thrown out the window. Every knowledge of territory and region was lost in the wind. They were idiots. Complete and utter idiots. But I’d gone with them. That made me an idiot too. 

“Everyone stay calm,” I said, not knowing where I found the certainty. “They’re not going to hurt us. It’s not in their best interest.”

The Lycan smiled, “How do you figure?” 

“This is a Redwood,” I said pointing to the tree. “You don’t live here, the Fae do and they’re not going to take kindly to a pathetic Lycan and his henchman vampire killing in their territory,” I said.

“Is that true?” Tess said to Anna. 

“So you’re here illegally just like we are,” I said. “In fact, I’m pretty sure with the tribal ink on your leg, you’re more of a threat to the Fae than the Hunters are.” The lycan wore shorts despite the freezing air. His Left leg was thick like a tree trunk and tattooed with long curved snakes. The closest lycan who favored snakes was Katou up near the Canadian border. I took a shot and puffed out my chest. “Your leader is the biggest threat to the Fae on this side of the world, and they’d love nothing more than to pick off a loser like you,” I said. 

The vampire flashed in front of me and a scream caught in my throat. I was barely able to stand. My legs were about to buckle and I put all my strength into staying on two feet. 

“Who the hell is this?” The vampire said and sniffed around me. “She’s young. Sixteen at the most.” 

I glared at him and found my voice again, “So are you, dumbass,” I said.

His eyes raised, “How do you figure?”

“You don’t have the grace of an ancient,” I said. “Neither do you by the way,” I nudged my head towards the Lycan. He grinned. The vampire had a necklace on him. It had a slight glow to it in the dark with A symbol of a particular bat imprinted on it. Like a talisman or a sunlight necklace. Then there was the tattoo around his face. It covered the latter half of his mouth and down his neck like most vampires– but it was the same design as the Lycans. 

I looked back up at them. “And by the smell of alcohol on both of you, I’m guessing you were doing what we were doing. Chillin’ in a place we don’t belong and just being stupid teenagers. So back off and let us go before the High Court gets involved.” 

The vampire stared at me, his brow pinched up. “Why would the High Court get involved?” He asked.

“Cause I’m the leader’s son,” Xavier said, finally brave enough to speak up. 

The vampire touched the lycan’s shoulder, “Brother, do we feel like starting a war?” He made a thoughtful noise and smiled ear to ear, “‘cause I might feel like starting a war.” 

The lycan sighed, “Can we just kill them and be done with it?” 

“Told you I heard something,” a voice said around them. 

My eyes closed, and my heartbeat finally matched the rhythm of the situation, “Xavier. Open the portal. Now,” I said.


“Now,” I said and whipped around to him. He froze for a moment longer before he fell to his knees and buried himself in his journal. 

I turned back to the strange boys with a smile, “Well, it’s been a delight. Have fun with the Fae,” I said. 

Seven silver orbs appeared around them. They were glowing balls of light that floated in the air and carried up voices of deadly songs. I looked back at the Others. “You have two choices here. Run or fight.” My eyes raised, “I’d choose run,” I said.

“We don’t run, Persi,” the vampire said. 

My eyes opened wider than a cavern. Another scream caught in my throat as the vampire looked at me with a sweet smile. How did he know my name? How the hell did a vampire know my name? 

My hand was back to back against Tess’s. Her grip on her dagger was as tight as anything. I tapped her fingers as I talked, keeping my hands hidden behind my body. “Mind reader?” I asked. The vampire smiled. “Good, then you know your options. The Fae hates you. So do the Hunters and The second that portal opens, we have a fleet of our fighters ready and armed for you and your friend. But that’s not your issue. The Fae is,” I said. I looked around. “This is a warning, Leech. You stay here a few more seconds and a war with you and your coven’s name is all over it.”

The lycan sighed and looked up. “So many interesting ways for us to die tonight.” He smiled up at the sky, “How glorious is that?” 

I heard the sound of the portal opening. My hand gripped Tess’s stake, “Are we ready, Xavier?” I asked.

He nodded behind me. “Look we won’t come back here, okay? Let’s just call this off,” he said.

“A hunter with his tail between his legs?” The lycan said and laughed. “How quaint. Fine, Andrew, let’s go,” he said. He turned and started walking. “We’re leaving now,” he announced to the Fae with an amused lightness in his voice. “Party’s over.” 

I stared at the vampire, his neck crooned up to the trees above them. My group loaded into the portal, Xavier being the first to go through. The threat wasn’t gone though. I could feel it in my bones. Feel the energy coming off the vampire in waves of desperate blood hunger. 

I took a step back and he lurched for me.

 His hands came around my throat and his eyes turned black. His mouth opened, fangs out and ready for the strike. 

My hand had been raised before he moved. The stake slammed into his chest and he gasped. His skin turned gray in an instant and he fell to his knees. I tore the necklace off his body and jumped through the portal before the lycan had a chance to react. 

My body tumbled through the portal. My atoms were split apart and sewed back together in a few seconds. Then I was spat out on the other side in a stupor, my mind too numb to start reeling right away.

The group was around me, a complete and utter silence over each one of us.

It was Anna who took the first question, “What the hell just happened?” She asked. 

I was too stunned to speak. All I could do was stare at the place the Portal had just been opened. Stare into the space where they’d all almost died.

“What the hell was that?” Tess asked. “How did you know all that?” She asked me. 

Xavier was pacing back and forth with his hands on his head. “Oh my God, my dad’s going to kill me,” he said. “What if they go to their leader? What if the Fae come looking for us?”

“I never want to do that again,” Anna said and shook her head. “Never. Ever, ever.”

Jake looked at me and held up my hand. The vampire’s necklace was clasped inside and dangled like a trophy. “You killed him?” he asked. His eyes were high and wide. “Damn, Persi.” He shook his head, his eyes raised. “Damn.” 

Anna looked at me, “Where- where did all that come from?” 

I was staring into nothing, the fear of the situation finally permeated through my facade. Tears welled up in my eyes and I stood. Anna reached for me and I tore away from her. “Leave me alone,” I said. All the strength was gone from my voice. Reality had sunk in and I was no longer the strong woman that attacked a vampire. I was back to a scared little girl. 

I got up and started toward the facility. I could feel the group’s eyes on me as I walked. No one said anything though. Not a mock. Not a call for Candy Corn to calm down. Just silence. 

The monitor was in the hall, baked out of his mind and dead to anyone coming in or out. I pushed past him and went to my room unaware if anyone saw me. 

I stood in the center, the necklace clasped in my hand. 

My breath was coming in short little bursts now. Panic was about to take over. Truth was, I didn’t know if I’d killed the vampire. I didn’t know if I’d taken my first life. 

It was different than I’d thought it would be. It was a right of passage. It was the hope we’d been instilled with since birth. 

Kill the Others. Kill them all. 

And now, I’d tried. I’d felt his skin pop open as I jabbed the stake in his chest. I’d felt the tip of the wood crash against ribs and sink into cold flesh. 

And it was awful. 

The mirror caught my eye. My face was harder than before. My hair was mussed and my skin was covered in mud. I closed my eyes and tried to push out the cold, anxiety built up in my chest. I tried viewing that night as an adventure. As a good thing. As a step toward becoming the person I’d been dreaming about.

Only the vampire and lycan had the same tattoo markings. That was impossible. It was against everything in the Subground, everything the Hunters knew and had been taught. And there was no one I could talk to about it. No one could tell me why a vampire and lycan had been in Fae territory or why they were working together. 

All I could do was push it down and go to sleep. Forget all about it. Forget that gut feeling brewing in my stomach. 

But that’s the night the dreams started. The nightmares. The lust. The joy and fear. And it was all because of the necklace clasped around my hand. 

Tune in next week for the next installment of The Hunter's Year! 

Aight. Stay Saucy, 

XOXO - Kate

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