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The Hunter's Moon by Elle Cross


Overview: Corbin Troy is the newly-appointed lieutenant in New York’s Major Case Squad—an elite unit specializing in incidents involving the Remnant Gods—and she just caught her bloodiest case yet.
New York City—home to the mysterious, formidable Remnant Gods—welcomes strange and magical beings that don’t always play well with humans…or their laws. The promise of power can be a corrupting force, blurring the lines between good and evil.
But for police Lieutenant Corbin Troy, the lines are clear and orderly, with one that stands out in stark relief: The good guys always win.
With a confidence borne from years of experience and near-prophetic hunches, Corbin dives straight into her latest case: a grisly double murder that leaves her with more questions than clues. Even when all her senses tell her that she’s walking into certain danger, she refuses to back down. After all, the bad guys always lose.
Except this time, the bad guy she’s chasing is targeting her and he has the advantage: he knows who she is and has marked her for death. At least, that’s what everyone else seems to think. Corbin, though, isn’t so sure.
As the Hunter’s Moon rises, and the veils between worlds thin, Corbin follows her gut headlong toward a showdown that will shake the foundations of her beliefs.


The Hunter's Moon by Elle Cross Book Chapter One


The scent of blood was thick in the air. I smelled it as soon as the elevator doors opened. The metallic tang with just a hint of rot hit my nose just right and made my eyes blur.

I blinked the water from my eyes as I strode in. Wouldn't do to show how affected I was by the smell.

I slid my gaze over the frightened hotel staff huddled away from the room cordoned off with garish police tape. They seemed to be holding themselves together. The night-duty manager soothed the room service attendants as I stepped up to the responding officer and took him in with a sweeping gaze. He was tired, not used to working the night beat with his daytime eyes. There was also a bit of dazed confusion that crinkled the middle of his forehead, as if he was deciphering a riddle. Whatever horror he’d seen, he was probably not ready for; at least not this side of town.

I understood his bias. We were in a nice neighborhood, nice part of town. This hotel was just a couple blocks away from where I’d chowed down at dinner with my best friend Vesper, who was definitely into the finer things.

But bad things happened in even the nicest of places. This officer would get it soon enough. "Whatcha got for me?"

Good thing the boy wasn't as dopey as he looked. He answered in a clipped manner, straight and to the point, which I appreciated. "A couple of DB's found by housekeeping." He nodded in the direction of the stunned civilians cowering in a corner. "I kept the perimeter clear, and the crime scene techs are on their way."

He didn't say anything about the fact that I was out here before the techs. I didn't need to tell him that I was in the neighborhood.

I nodded. "I'll scope it out from here." Then walked on.

He coughed a little in his throat, a sound that made me turn back to him. "You didn't just have dinner, did you, boss?"

I cocked my eyebrow at him. "I may have?"

"There's a stack of buckets. Left by the cleaning service. In case one may be needed."

I narrowed my eyes at him. He didn't seem to be the type to waste words and yet here he was talking shit at me. "That all, Officer?"

He nodded.

I moved into the suite, and once the doors opened, the smell assaulted me some more. How much blood was there?

And then my eyes adjusted to the scene before me and there was a high-pitched tone that I belatedly realized was a scream buried in my head. I crushed it down, deep down, into the recesses of my mind.

I was not going to freak out in front of another officer let alone civilians.

My composure nearly broke, but I hyper focused on bits and pieces at a time. For the moment, I ignored whatever was on the bed. Instead, I let the weight of my entire focus fall on one random spot, on the wall directly opposite from where I stood at the entrance.

The blood was grouped together like a spray. I followed the dots and splatters up the wall until my head craned back. There was more on the ceiling. A lot more.

I focused my gaze even sharper. Yes, there was gore up there, more so than on the walls. Almost as if the initial bodily projectile hurtled upward. The overspray splattering on the wall.

I slowly scanned down and finally allowed my gaze to rest on the bed.

The tableau atop it was like a work of art, and that was how I needed to see it. Artwork. Mixed media. Objects.

The figure on top was bowed back, as if captured in a mid-swoon. The arms were outstretched in surrender to some external force. Mouth open, eyes closed, forehead furrowed, in either pleasure or pain or both.

The body on top knelt astride another figure who was similarly arched.

They looked to be statues almost, as if they could be breathing, except that both of the figures' rib cages were torn open and pried apart.

I took in all I could, checked out all the different angles, scanned the rest of the room and into the bathroom. And then left.

I passed the first unit of Crime Scene techs on the way in.

Nodded at the oncoming officers strolling in from the elevator, who nodded back.

I made it across to the opposite side of the floor, where the ice makers and vending machines stood. I grabbed a discarded ice bucket and promptly emptied my dinner into it.

An hour or so later, I finally left the hotel, breathing in the crisp air  as I tried to forget the stench of that room.

Moonlight flooded the city streets. Fucking Hunter's Moon was nearly full and red. It was going to be a blood moon. Fitting.

I was only a few blocks away from the garage where I’d parked before dinner. It was a good thing it was one where the parking attendants knew me and comped my tickets. I approached my car and tried not to act surprised when a well-built man with sleek blond hair seemed to appear out of nowhere from behind a pillar. His coat billowed around him despite a non-existent breeze.

It was as if all of Deimos’s men walked right off a fashion runway, and Balin, one of his guards, was no exception.

He was, however, the most present of the bunch, popping up around crime scenes lately. He stopped trying to hide from me. Likely because I could always see him, much to his annoyance and my delight.

If he weren’t so uptight, he’d be hot.

"You hanging out in parking garages now?" I called out to him.

He flicked an eyebrow up, but otherwise didn’t acknowledge my words. "Deimos wants to talk."

Now it was my turn to raise a brow. The only reason the big D had to talk to me was Vesper. I checked my watch and saw that I didn't have any missed messages or anything dire.

Balin must have seen my hesitation. "Ms. Tallinn is fine."

I searched his face and decided I believed him. "So what, no limo?" I asked. Driving around in that limo felt weird to me, namely because it was so not me. It was a relief not to see it.

He nodded his head toward the elevator. "No, we thought this would be faster."

When he moved to the parking garage elevator, I was curious. I looked around, searching. For what, I didn’t know exactly. A reason to turn him down? A killer in the shadows? A hidden coffee stand? In the end, I stepped in line beside him.

When a black card appeared in his hand, I was instantly intrigued. He pressed it against the elevator panel, with its everyday, flat metal box and round up button. Yet the door opened to a lush, modern elevator car, complete with wood accents. Was that mahogany? Whatever it was, this was clearly not the dingy car I’d ridden in multiple times.

I kept myself from openly gawking at it and tsked. "Something tells me that we're not meeting him at the top floor of this parking garage."

Balin smiled in answer, green flecks sparkling in his whiskey eyes.  "You'd be right, Lieutenant."

The elevator brought us to the top floor of Janus Holdings. Not a surprise.

I smelled vanilla and cinnamon. "Ooh, did Sage make cookies again?" I asked. The fresh air had settled my stomach post-vomit and my appetite came roaring back in full.

"I believe so," Balin answered.

As if on cue, Sage appeared with a platter of cookies. "Hello, Lieutenant, would you like a cookie? I wanted to try out a flavor called snickerdoodle. Something that fun to say should taste delicious."

I grabbed one and inhaled it in two bites. "Magical." I picked up another one, and when she gestured to a gleaming carafe, I helped myself to the coffee. I washed down my second cookie with it. "Absolutely magical, Sage."

She blushed, her cheeks matching her pink suit perfectly, which probably had a fancier name for the color. Something like champagne or rose. "Mr. Deimos should be ready for you now, Balin."

He nodded at her, indulging her unspoken request to eat a cookie. I wasn't shy about taking another one and munched on it as I followed him to the boardroom.

Deimos paced in front of the panoramic windows, the Hunter’s Moon red and full. He was in his usual fancy suit that was probably custom-tailored, given the fit. Gray and black, which complemented his brooding leader persona well. He stopped his pacing to acknowledge me. "I'm glad you could be here, Lieutenant."

I dropped onto the couch in the seating area and helped myself to the coffee service laid out on the table. "Yeah, let's pretend you invited me here and I accepted, et cetera," I said with a flick of my fingers. "Tell me what's up."

Deimos turned to face me fully. He was a formidable figure with the bright red light of the moon behind him. "I hear your dinner was cut short."

Gee, considering I was dining with his girlfriend, I could guess where he’d heard that. "Yeah, unfortunately, a few people chose to get themselves killed so, you know, I got called in."

Deimos resumed pacing, back and forth in front of the window. Not for the first time did he remind me of a restless jungle predator. "What were your impressions of the crime scene, Lieutenant Troy?"

I froze in mid-motion as I was bringing my coffee to my mouth and swiveled my gaze toward him. "You know I cannot comment on an active investigation." As if he hadn't tried to hide behind the whole ‘Human laws don't apply here’ nonsense before.

He looked at me as if weighing me, trying to figure out how best to play an angle. He was used to throwing down deals and whatnot. And I knew that he was some big hotshot in the Forgotten Realms or whatever Vesper called them.

But I was used to facing down big and powerful men. He was no different.

Besides, I had an in. That was the nice perk of being the best friend of the woman he loved.

His face softened, just a touch. "Well played, Lieutenant."

"I ain't playing." I went back to sipping my coffee as he strolled around to sit on the couch opposite me. Balin remained standing by the door as if he were the lookout.

Deimos leaned back, a casual pose as he rested an ankle over his knee. "Show me what you recall of the crime scene. I know that you must have recorded it somehow."

My guard went up. "Show you?"

His eyes had that tinge of red in them now. "Yes, show me."

"How am I supposed to do that? I ain't letting anything into my mind."

He smiled. "You don't need any of that. Just start talking about what you saw and it will come back from there."

I was skeptical and I wanted to tell him to get himself fucked, but this was the man Vesper loved. If I were honest, I would have wanted to ask her for his help anyway.

And fine, dammit, I was honest enough to admit that the whole thing unsettled me. "First thing's first, hotshot. There was some crazy juju there. And I'm talking crazy."

Deimos chuckled, a swallowing sound in his throat that resonated with my heartbeat. "I can imagine."

"No, you cannot. I haven't lost it like that in, well, ever. Not even when I was rookie. Never. But I lost my dinner after that scene, and I ain't ashamed to say it. It was gruesome and terrible and not right."

I gritted my teeth and felt a crop of goosebumps take over my body. I wanted to rub feeling back into my skin, but kept my hands firmly around my coffee cup.

Deimos leaned toward me and spoke softly. "Trust me. I can imagine."

I looked at him then, and there was a shared experience there that made me realize that he must have seen something similar in his own time. I looked to Balin, and his flinty expression told me that he had experienced something like that too. Somehow, not feeling so alone made me feel better. Like this wasn't just something I needed to carry by myself. "I just need to speak it aloud?"

He nodded.

I sighed. "Okay, then."

And then I closed my eyes and relived the crime scene.

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