Title: The Hunted
Series: 9INE Realms
Release: January 6, 2020
Genre: Dark Fairy Tale Retelling
Let the hunt begin …
After witnessing the murder of his mother by a mermaid, Prince Eryx Bloodhurst of Atlas makes a deal to sedate his need for vengeance: they’ll catch the mermaid who did the deed, but he’ll pay for it with his crown.
Arelle, third princess of the Blu Sea, has never known the true cruelty of the forbidden lands firsthand, but she will soon. The halfling prince with murder in his eyes and the sea’s songs in his blood will make sure of that.
He should kill her.
Perhaps, keeping her might be worse.
Two kingdoms are falling. One king is losing it all and another threatens to ruin everything. The rules of the land and sea are changing. Secrets of the past are spilling.
And all because of a prince and his little mermaid—whether they live or die—nothing in the realm will ever be the same.
In The Hunted, Bethany-Kris opens a new world—the 9INE REALMS—for readers with a dark fairy tale retelling, and pulls inspiration from the cult classic favorite and the Hans Christian Andersen original to redefine what it means to be The Little Mermaid.
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Bethany-Kris is a Canadian author, lover of much, and mother to four young sons, two cats, and three dogs. A small town in Eastern Canada where she was born and raised is where she has always called home. With her boys under her feet, snuggling cats, barking dogs, and a spouse calling over his shoulder, she is nearly always writing something ... when she can find the time.
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“You never tried to run.”
So many did.
And were killed for it, too.
“No,” his mother said quietly.
Anthia’s walk came to a stop, and so did Eryx’s beside her. Her violet eyes—the one thing he hadn’t taken from his mother because he wasn’t full-blooded like she was—met his blue stare, and he mirrored her soft smile. “Now, that, you really should know the answer to.”
“I think I do.”
“But maybe you want me to say it?”
“Maybe,” he agreed.
“For you. I never ran because of you.”
So yes, he had known. He was just selfish enough to admit he liked that answer, too. Even if he shouldn’t.
“Do you know why else I sang to you?” his mother asked. “When you were little, I mean.”
“I don’t even remember it.”
“Not here,” his mother said, pointing at her right ear and winking. Then, she pointed at her heart before also gesturing at her mind. “But in these places, you can’t forget them. The water songs—the siren’s calls, Eryx. It’s the thrall of the mermaids. Families hear them singing for miles. Mates, even farther. Through waters and storms and wars … we hear them inside. You hear them, too. Why did you think you came to find me here?”
“I thought the songs were a way of warning …”
Anthia grinned. “Or a way to call someone home.”
The wind blew again, and this time, his mother sang with it, the melody twisting and curling with the breeze and through the trees. He stood right beside her, heard the song as clear as day, but it almost seemed to echo within him, too.
Except when she stopped …
Well, the song didn’t.
But it wasn’t his mother singing anymore.
Anthia’s head tipped up, and the paleness of her face became far more prominent when her eyes widened like the two moons beginning to peek through the heavy, dark clouds overhead. The song continued on, coming closer and … higher?
Eryx looked upward into the fruit trees. “Who is sing—”
His mother made an inhuman noise. “Run.”
His stare snapped back to his mother. “What?”
“You’re more like them than us, and that’s all the mermaids will see. Run, Eryx.”
She didn’t give him the chance to argue about it. The singing in what seemed like the trees above them came louder with every passing second. Her hand locked around his wrist, and she darted back up the channel of high water fruit trees. She ran like the wind, but he was still faster. It didn’t matter because he stayed behind her as they weaved through the narrow trail beside the trees, avoiding low hanging branches that swung in the suddenly heavy winds.
The storm had arrived. He should have listened to the rustling of the leaves. The creak of branches.
He might have heard the mermaid when she dropped down on top of them. Except he didn’t. Not until it was too late.
Red hair and violet eyes. Fingernails sharpened like claws that dug into his throat and teeth bared with a vicious hiss slipping past snarling lips. She was naked, shifted from her water form to walk on land although she attacked from the trees.
Eryx’s mother’s screams pierced through the howling winds, but from which direction he couldn’t be sure. All he could see was violet eyes and fire-red hair intent on ripping the throat right out of his fucking neck.
Not at all.
“I’d give anything to have that mermaid.”
To kill her.
“I don’t think you would,” his advisor replied.
Eryx met the man’s gaze in what remained of the shattered mirror. “Name your price.”
Because he knew …
If there was ever anyone in this realm who could see something like this done—capturing that mermaid—it would be Mattue. His reach went farther than the king could possibly know, but Eryx did. And he didn’t mind making a deal for his soul with Mattue to get what he wanted, either.
“You know what it would cost you,” the man replied quietly. “Your father expects you to take your banishment with dignity and come back to royal life ready to marry and behave. He’s not going to accept anything else from you, Eryx, and if you cause him more issues, but especially where it might concern the people—”
He would be dead.
“My crown. That’s what it would mean.”
“—but I wouldn’t mind taking it in your place.”
Eryx didn’t drop the man’s stare. “You are next in the succession, seeing as how I’ve not produced an heir with a woman yet.”
It seemed far too pleased.
“It appears I am.” Mattue shrugged. “I could find someone to catch your little mermaid … if that’s the deal you want to make, Eryx.”
He didn’t even need to ask the question of himself, really.
In the mirror, he met his own stare. Mattue faded away in the background of the jagged reflection.
Let the hunt begin.