The Archer (The Blood Realm Series Book 3)

By: Jennifer Blackstream

Blood Realm Series: Book Three

"The hunter becomes the hunted… "

A master of lies seeking the truth…

Robin is a sidhe whose glamour is unrivaled. More than mere visual illusions, he creates phantasms that smell real, sound real, feel real. A notorious trickster with an attention span even shorter than his temper, he spends his time haunting the forests of the kingdom with his merry band of misfits, robbing anyone who enters the woods with more gold than good sense. Redistributing the wealth to the less fortunate has given him a hero’s reputation, a novelty that helps to stave off the boredom he detests so passionately. But now something—or, rather, someone—has snared his attention…

A huntress in hiding…

Marian wants to be left alone. Alone without the gardener’s constant nagging about her lack of care for her lands, alone without the company of the narcissistic men who won’t take no for an answer, and alone without the infuriating fey who’s harder to lose than a bad cold. She’d dispatch him herself if she wasn’t already under the weight of a four hundred pound eric for murder…

Gold changes hands, and Marian’s eric is paid with Robin’s gold, indebting her to him and roping her into his band of thieves. Will the sidhe discover her secret? Will he survive it if he does?

Chapter One

Come on, you wee bugger. Just a little bit closer.

Marian held her breath and stared down the thin length of her arrow at the bushy red tail flicking around the base of a tree no more than thirty yards ahead. The white tip waved in a mockery of a flag of surrender, but the little beast remained stubbornly protected by the thick trunk of the rowan. She licked her lips in anticipation, willing the sly fox to put just an inch of its tender hindquarter a little farther to the right…

“Lady Marian!”

A deep female voice thundered through the trees, the sound reverberating down the shaft of Marian’s arrow. The bushy tail vanished, her vulpine prey becoming no more than a blurry red streak as it bolted across the forest floor and vanished into the brush.

“Argh!” Marian dropped her bow, arrow still nocked in a pathetic refusal to fully acknowledge the lost opportunity. Her finger itched, the indentation in the pad a reminder of how long she’d been holding that shot, how patiently she’d been waiting for her prey to make itself vulnerable. All ruined now.

She ground her teeth, sending a dull, throbbing pain through her jaw. “This is unacceptable.”

“Lady Marian, there you are!”

Sticks snapped under the steady, heavy gait of someone who had no business traipsing around the woods when there was hunting going on. Even if she hadn’t recognized the voice, she would have recognized those footsteps. Loud, confident, and completely oblivious to anyone else’s need for silence.

“Damn your eyes, Ermentrude, what is it now? The little blighter’s gotten away, so this had better be good.”

Ermentrude came to an abrupt stop, muddy brown eyes darkening as her ruddy face flushed an even darker shade of red. “Damn my eyes, is it? Well that’s a fine how do you do. And haven’t I come all this way down here to fetch you when by all rights you were supposed to meet me in the gardens more than an hour ago?” She huffed, cheeks bloating with the force of the expelled air. “Damn my eyes, indeed.”

Blast and drat. Is it that late already? What time was that meeting? Noon?

Marian pulled the arrow from her bow, tapping it impatiently against her thigh. “Ermentrude, I must remind you again about your tone, to say nothing of your volume. You’ve just cost me my prey—a fox that I have no doubt you’ll be complaining about come the morrow when you find your garden has once again been made into a series of food cubbies for our local red tails.”

Any other servant would have backed down, bowed her head and apologized immediately. Of course, any other servant wouldn’t have spoken to the lady of the house in that manner to begin with.

Ermentrude crossed her chubby arms as best she could, her coarse brown gardening vest crumpling under the duress. Her eyes narrowed until they looked like wizened almonds. “It’s not my garden, Lady Marian. It’s your garden. A garden in which we were supposed to meet to discuss progress as per arrangements you agreed with yesterday.” She shook her head, her fraying straw hat threatening to fly off somewhere to die a respectable and long-deferred death.

She’s got you there. You did agree to the meeting, and you are the one who missed it. The proper thing to do is apologize.

“And I was on my way to the meeting when I spotted the fox and remembered what you were saying yesterday—I believe in the same conversation that the meeting was mentioned.” Marian jabbed a finger at the other woman. “You said the foxes were tearing up the garden, and there was nothing to be done about getting rid of them on your end and so I needed to do something about it.”

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