Heir of the Dog Black Dog - Hailey Edwards

Chapter One

Flaming red hair. Check. Pasty white skin. Double check. Breath like a slaughterhouse in July... I inhaled deeply then wrinkled my nose. Yep. Houston, we have a troll sighting.

Now would be a great time to have a partner. Too bad mine was an ex in every sense of the word.

Buzzing at my ear preceded a manic giggle as a drunken sprite landed on my shoulder and dry-humped my earlobe. Gross. I thumped him in the stomach and sent him tumbling through the air. Four of his buddies zipped past me, whooping with amusement.

Yeah. Real funny. Pick on the marshal. Pests. Sprites were the fae equivalent of mosquitoes, and the town of Wink, Texas was infested.

My flicker of inattention cost me. The troll had gained more ground.

I tugged on the cuff of my glove from habit then tightened my grip on my satchel and followed my mark deeper into the crowded back streets heading toward the O’Leary Bazaar, a nightly street fair held by fae vendors, mostly Unseelie, where you could buy anything your heart desired as long as you were willing to sell your soul to afford it.

No refunds or exchanges.

“Love charm for the pretty lady?” A damp palm grasped my wrist. “Find a man—fall in love.”

A trow, a bowlegged woman with a gangrene complexion, jerked me a step toward her booth. Leather bags hung from twisted cords around her neck. The one she jangled in my face boasted a red anatomical heart on its front. As its innards tinkled and its spell awakened, the bloody outline pulsed.

Shrugging free of her, I wiped her slimy residue off my skin and started walking. “No thanks.”

The last thing I needed was a man. My heart was still mending from my last breakup.

“Two coppers for the charm,” the trow cried. “Pretty lady. Charming lady needs a charm.”

I shouldered through the crowd until a head of flame-bright hair came back into view. Bodies parted to ease his brisk passage then clumped together to slow my pursuit. Unseelie solidarity. Nice.

“Charm.” That same toad-skinned hand closed over my arm. “Lady needs a—”

Gritting my teeth, I spun toward the trow and noticed the cloudy pink sweat dotting her forehead and dribbling into murky eyes frantically darting between my face and some point past my shoulder.

“Trows,” I said thoughtfully. “They’re troll cousins, right?”

Her answer involved peeling her eel-skin lips from her ichor-stained teeth and hissing at me.

“We can finish this later.” I scanned the street until spotting a flicker of ginger bobbing over the sea of inky-haired sameness. I bolted in that direction as pain razored across my forearm. Dark blood welled and glistened in the furrows the trow had raked in my flesh, but I healed before a single drop fell.

“Finish this now,” she growled. “Pretty lady.”

“Fine.” I was closer to the troll than I had been all week, and I wasn’t leaving the bazaar without him.

I raised my left hand, let the trow see the shimmering wards stamped into the black leather glove I wore, let her wonder what all those bindings meant. And then I showed her. Murmuring my Word, I sensed the protective magic locking the glove at my wrist relax. I removed it and flexed my fingers.

Runes covered my skin from wrist to fingertips, casting a soft peridot glow around my hand.

Her rheumy eyes flared. “Cú Sídhe whore.”

Every person on the packed street craned their necks. Mouths fell open. Bodies shuffled the hell out of my way. No one spoke. They barely breathed while I strolled the narrow gauntlet they formed, taking time I didn’t have so all saw the markings, my birthright, and understood what they meant.

Sometimes it paid having Macsen Sullivan for a father.

Ahead of me, the troll glanced back. His bone-white face contrasted with his scalding hair. Stark blue eyes pierced mine. Freckles crawled like ants over his bulbous nose. His teeth, when he smiled, were so much worse. Square pegs, each thicker than my thumb and made for grinding, edges too dull to slice through flesh.

Trolls were fond of chewing their victims to a squishy pulp without breaking the skin. They cut off the head and rolled up the corpse starting from the toes, the same way humans used a tube of toothpaste, squirting out the goo then discarding the empty wrapper in the nearest trash bin.

Grinning, the troll licked his lips. He flipped a table then darted behind a row of booths. When he bolted between two buildings, I broke into a sprint. If I lost him now,