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Sneak Peek

Want a sneak peek of what's coming next for Rebecca Grey? A Cursed Hunt is available for preorder on Amazon and you can keep scrolling for the first chapter!

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Deep within the stone confines of the mausoleum, Elton Hamza’s body remained on display. Strips of chemical-soaked cloth circled his once proud form, slowing the deterioration of his body only minimally. The lid to his coffin remained open but only for a day longer before the stone would be sealed over him in his forever resting place. 

Few servants came to whisper goodbyes. Even fewer were the people who’d called him ‘friend.’ Most faces that looked down at the corpse remained strangers to the man he’d once been. There was no family to cry over the life that had ended, just those who wished to be seen paying their respects to one of the richest men in the empire, second only to the emperor himself.

Word spread through the countryside faster than messengers could send their pigeons to the kingdoms. Rumors took off like flames over dead brush. From butler to maid to barkeep to the waiting ears of commoners and noblemen alike, gossip pointed many accusing fingers. What was it that had ended his life at the age of fifty-five? The fine continent of the Augustine Empire had many guesses, each more outrageous than the next. It could have been the significant trauma from his brief time at war and his body finally gave up, an enemy assassin, poison slipped in his cup by a bitter servant, a broken heart from the loss of his wife and only child during childbirth, or lastly—an idea only whispered by those who were truly brave enough to suggest it—that his previous business partner had come to seek his revenge. No matter the cause, there was a vacancy within the hierarchy of their economy. 

Far from Elton’s grave, there was a newfound bounce in Remis’ steps as he paraded down the corridor. Passing the red banners of Augustine and the white banners of the Erskine family, Remis hummed knowingly to himself. Yes, things might just work in his favor. He’d waited a long time for something like this to happen, something even remotely important. Something that would take the entirety of his father’s attention. It was perfect timing too since he was only months away from leaving for the last of his schooling. It was so perfect, he wondered if this sudden death that would call his father away on business was fate finally giving him a break.

The excitement of such a thing finally coming to fruition would be a high he would ride for days to come. Though someone’s death was hardly a reason to celebrate, Elton Hamza’s death, specifically, would fill many cups with expensive wine this evening. Remis already knew which bottle he’d reach for when he met with his friends tonight. A bottle aged nearly as long as he’d been alive. It sat in the wine cellar with twenty years of dust accumulating on it. 

It didn’t exactly bother him too much to want to celebrate the man’s passing. Remis wasn’t particularly fond of men like the great merchant. Men who cared more for money than they cared for the people and the world around them. Selfish men without empathy—like his father. 

Hushed voices carried down the long hall. His ears tingled with interest as he strained to hear any bit of gossip he might manage to obtain. Several maids in their long gray garbs met his eye and rushed to curtsey. He tipped his chin to the small huddle of women who whispered feverishly. Offering a sly smile and a “Good morning,” in his tilted accent, he watched as they straightened and scattered. In their wake was nothing but the swish of skirts and the empty space where a secret once lived. 

Absently, he scratched at a growing itch on his palm and continued to navigate through his home toward his father’s study. With water dampening his trousers nearly up to his knees and clumps of mud falling from his boots that squealed against the polished wood floors, he was not fit to be seen by the staff much less his father. But had he not been wading into the lake behind his house in a spontaneous fit of need to grasp what little magic he could amongst the waters, he wouldn’t have heard of Elton’s death from the stable boys who were headed into the kitchens to grab breakfast.

What a fool he would have looked if he’d still been lying amongst his sheets unknowing of this news. That thought only led him to wonder if the woman from the tavern yesterday was still lounging in his room. With any luck, she’d have already dressed and excused herself. A beautiful woman sneaking out of his bedroom was not as rare an occurrence as it ought to have been. His ears burned a little with the shame of not seeing her off. It’s what any gentleman would have done, yet often he forgot that he was supposed to even be a gentleman.

Large doors, painted a terrible shade of brown, loomed at the end of the hall. A familiar sensation started to tie his stomach into knots. His legs tingled with the desire to turn and flee, but he’d learned long ago that running from his father would result in something far worse than what this meeting could ever entail. And this meeting should be one of great news for Remis. So he fixed a smile to his face, steeled his spine, and opened the doors.

Immediately, the woody smell of incense met him. Only one lantern lit the room, the curtains closed to keep the bright rays of the sun off the hundreds of books that lined the shelves. Remis blinked into the near darkness until his vision focused on his father’s silhouette. Wide shoulders hunched over parchment as his quill was guided with purposeful strokes. 

The small grunt his father made was as much welcome as he expected he’d get. With that, he closed the doors behind him and ventured forward. He grimaced when he caught sight of the mud that transferred from his shoes to the rug at the center of the room. Thick threads of maroon and navy shaped a swirling pattern that one might only describe as ‘dizzying.’ It was possible that the design itself might distract from the splatter of sludge. 

“Well, I’m here.” Remis managed to settle into one of the large chairs arranged before his father’s desk without looking as nervous as he felt. The leather under him remained warm enough to have him wondering who had been here only moments before. 

“You’re late.” His father’s nearly black eyes lifted, finally, to meet his. They were alike in the slender length of their faces and the sunken hollows of their cheeks. Remis knew when he looked at his father that he was getting a rare look at his future. One day he’d have creases around his eyes too. Though he desperately hoped that he’d be able to avoid developing the V-shaped wrinkle between his father’s brows from scowling so much.

Despite the intensity of his father’s direct attention, Remis refused to so much as shift. He liked to think he’d grown used to the weight of it, but every day he had to force himself not to flinch. His father clicked his tongue and set his quill down. “And you’ve drug mud in as if you’re no better than swine?” He arched a thick brow, cheeks reddening.

“It is quite early in the morning, and I’d been out for a ride. The heavy rains from last week are still flooding the bottoms.” Remis pointed out as if that might be enough explanation. It wasn’t a lie, at least not entirely. Artemis Lexmore needn’t know his son had dunked himself into the lake to try and find some connection to the magic that seeped from the world around them. Especially not when the old man already thought magestry was far beneath him and that the elemental gifts were what created monsters amongst men. Remis and his atrocious interests were a disgrace to the family in his father’s eyes. 

Despite the unease that his father’s presence gave him, he was still able to muster a smile. Because no matter what would happen today, Elton Hamza was dead. That would mean his father had great opportunities ahead of him…ones that would require him to travel to the capital or busy himself in this very study writing important letters. Hopefully for several long months. With any luck they might not see much of each other until Remis was already packed and off to start his next years of schooling.

“So you’ve heard the news then, I can assume.” His father’s beard, grayer than Remis last remembered it, twitched as his lips curved into an exaggerated smirk. His fingers, clad in sparkling silver rings, drummed against his desk. 

“Good riddance, I say.”

“For once we may actually agree on something.” Artemis stood. His palms held his weight as he leaned forward, watching his firstborn son. “He leaves behind no heir for the fortunes he’s built. He has no brothers, nor cousins, nor wife, nor apprentice. His business ventures are available to be sold and bought up.”

“How odd for a man to have no one close to him.” Remis nodded along, feigning his concern. His father’s perpetual frown deepened. 

“Elton was a paranoid man. It’s a good thing he didn’t have anyone close to him. Who knows what he might have done out of his own crippling fear. I loathe to even imagine it. That being said, it might not be easy to get these businesses that he has invested in and grown, despite his passing.” He rounded the desk, snatching up the paper he’d been scribbling on moments before. “I want the Lexmore family to benefit from this.”

“Better than the Maine family.” Remis had met the twins that ran that family business a time or two and they’d always been cruel…and unsettling. They were, of course, also their biggest competition when it came to what made them the largest amount of money—dyes and imported fabrics. He shot another look at the mud-splattered rug and rubbed his itching palm. 

Elton Hamza didn’t work exclusively in one market. No, the man, brilliant at business as he was, had his hands in several vastly different businesses. So Remis imagined it wouldn’t be just the Maine twins who’d be eager to insert themselves into these soon to be open deals. It would be merchants from all corners of Augustine that scrambled from their holes to beg for a fraction of his legacy. 

“Exactly. So you understand the importance of this.”

He met his father’s stare not sure why he was still watching him with such relentless concentration. “Yes.”


And if there was anything his father truly loved, it was money. More than the wife he’d lost in childbirth—then promptly forgot about when he remarried a woman only two years older than Remis. More than his sons. Possibly more than life itself. 

“A business that might one day be yours,” he reminded his son. “And it is my money that is paying for you to go to this…mages training.” He spit the words out as if they were rotten. Remis stilled sensing the direction this conversation was going—nowhere good, though that’s how most talks with his father went.

Whether his father wanted to admit it or not this country ran on more than money, it ran on magic. Even Artemis Lexmore needed it for his business in some capacity. With this schooling and his natural-born talent, Remis could use magic to become anything he’d like. All of the best blacksmiths had a mage on staff if they were not one themselves. All naval crews were captained by mages, and even a couple of the warlords had a mage in their employ. Yet his father was of an older generation, an outdated way of thinking, so to open his mind would challenge the fragile reality he’d created. It was mages who stepped up to do the work and better the country when witches were hunted to near extinction. 

“I want a Lexmore to be the next great merchant of Augustine,” he continued. “We have the capabilities, the drive, and the blood. We will stomp out anyone who tries for it. Including the Maines.”

Remis could feel the heat of his father’s gaze on him now. Something too akin to nervousness fluttered in the lower half of his stomach. He looked up through the strands of sweeping brown hair that played before his eyes. 

How far might the blood of a merchant family trickle down? Remis was sure he didn’t have much of it running in his veins at all. The politics of business were painfully uninteresting. His father may expect him to take over the business one day, but that day was far enough away he could pretend it didn’t exist at all. 

“You will make the finest merchant Augustine has ever seen, Father.” He attempted another small smile. With his father trying for new enterprises, he’d be away, leaving Remis to build upon his own dream separate from the crushing weight of the family business. This should all feel like a relief but so far he was only beginning to feel sick. 

Remis dreamt of a world where he might venture out on his own and no longer stand under the daily control of his father’s cruel hand. It was so close he could taste it. “Will you ride for the capital after dragonis season?”

It was his father’s turn to grin. “No, my son. This is a task for you.”

And Remis’ heart leapt with joy only to have it tumble into the acid of his stomach. 

“You can’t be serious.” He clutched the arms of the chair, the leather squeaking as he leaned forward.

“Deadly. And you’ll leave immediately. Tonight is the best.”

Today? So soon? No ordinary man made it far from the city during dragonis season when the beasts came down from their mountainous homes and searched for their meals at the edges of many cities. 

Augustine was home to two dragon breeds. The dragonis and the bold wings. Both were deadly. Bold wing dragons were trained and ridden by scale riders. The dragonis, though, were smaller, ganglier, and wholly untamable. Did his father truly think he could accomplish something so dangerous?

“Why not send a crosser? Why me?” Remis stood, and his father leaned forward with a sneer. At least a crosser, who made travel during this season their profession, stood a chance at survival. 

“A crosser can’t negotiate business on my behalf.”

“No.” Remis took a step closer. “I won’t—” His head snapped to the side. Heat blistered his skin, warmth trickling down his cheek where the back of his father’s ring-adorned hand had met his face. 

“You will do as you're told, or I will rip this to shreds.” Artemis held the paper up for Remis to see. Upon first glance, it was simply a contract but when he looked closer the realization settled on him. The paperwork required from his father for his admittance into the mages' school. What Artemis held was the entirety of Remis’ dreams. Without this training, he’d never go further than elemental magic conjured in fleeting amounts from nature. He’d be nothing. Another no one with an inkling of a gift never built to prosper. Remis would be what his father truly wanted—trapped within the family business.

He swallowed back the anger that flooded him and tasted the blood on his lip. “What of the dragonis?” Remis asked, his voice a husky shell of what it should be. 

“Surely, you and your abilities can get past them.” 

Hardly anyone got past the dragonis. Riding through their territory that separated Augustine from the capital during this season was a death sentence. Perhaps his father never meant to send him to become a mage after all. Because there would be no way to survive this. Not even with the hint of a gift he had.

Artemis slid the paper back onto his desk, smirking down at his son. “Ready your things and say your goodbyes. A carriage will be waiting with your provisions by dusk.”

He stared back at his father for several minutes, holding his stare. Artemis’ eyes were a dark shade of brown that bordered on black, the same eyes Remis had also been born with. In the depths of his gaze there was no kindness, not even the spark of love a father might feel for his son. There was nothing. An emptiness claimed his father. One that Remis was sure was born out of greed. How could one hold any amount of love inside of him when the want for wealth was all that consumed him? 

He turned from his father without another word. What else could he say? Artemis was not known for being a man who negotiated with those below him. His commands were law in this house and his son was a slave to it all. 

Time was already slipping from his hands. There were only hours for him to prepare for an impossible journey. A thousand different tasks came to mind, though most would do little to help him survive. 

The itch on his palm grew more demanding by the moment. His steps echoed down the corridor as he scratched at it until the skin became raw. When a bead of blood formed, he stared down to find the shape of an eye cut into his palm. 

Fear clogged his throat and took up the room in his chest that was meant for his heart and lungs. He blinked several times. This couldn’t be real. 

A myth. A curse. A magical branding. Another way for his life to come to an end.


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