USA Today Bestselling and Multiple Award-Winning author Merrie Destefano writes lyrical tales of magic, mystery, and hope. Her books have been published by HarperCollins, Entangled Teen, Walter Foster, and Ruby Slippers Press.

A Place of Magic by Merrie Destefano

Madeline MacFadden ("Mad Mac" to fans of her bestselling magical stories) spent blissful childhood summers in Ticonderoga Falls. And this is where she wants to be now that her adult life is falling apart. The dense surrounding forest holds many memories, some joyous, some tantalizingly only half-remembered. And she's always believed there was something living in these wooded hills.

But Maddie doesn't remember the dark parts — and knows nothing of the mountain legend that holds the area's terrified residents captive. She has no recollection of Ash, the strange and magnificent Darkling Fae who once saved her life as a child, even though it's the destiny of his kind to prey upon humanity. And soon it will be the Harvest. . . the time to feast.

Once again Maddie's dreams — and her soul — are in grave danger. But magic runs deep during Harvest. Even a spinner of enchanted tales has wondrous powers of her own.


The Wild Hunt makes another appearance in the Storybundle – this time descending on an unsuspecting yet haunted small town - in this dark and enchanting read by excellent author (and fine friend) Merrie Destefano. – Anthea Sharp



  • "A dangerous and dark fairytale which grabs you and holds you until the very end. The worldbuilding is imaginative and beautiful."

    – Carien, 5 stars on Goodreads
  • "A dark and enchanting read."

    – Teril, 5 stars on Goodreads
  • "Reminded me of a scary fairy tale. At times it left me breathless."

    – Renee, 5 stars on Goodreads



Madeline MacFaddin was just a girl—bony, pale-skinned and wild—when Ash stumbled upon her in the woods. He knew instantly that she was nothing like her parents, both of them still asleep back in their rented cabin, the stench of rum and coke seeping out the windows and doors.

She should have been scared when she saw him, appearing suddenly in the russet shadows, but she wasn't. Her long dark hair hung in a tangle, almost hiding her face. At that moment, Ash realized that she lived in a world of her own.

Just like he did.

"Do you work at the inn?" she asked, her gaze running over his form curiously.

Ash nodded.

Somehow she had recognized him. True enough, they'd seen each other often. He did work at the inn. He brought her parents fresh linens and coffee every morning. But this was his free time and, since he was fae, he no longer wore human skin.

"You're different. Not like the other one."

Ash frowned, unsure what she meant. He cocked his head and then followed her pointing finger with his gaze. She gestured toward a trail that led deep into the woods, all the way to the edge of his territory.

"Have you gone that way?" he asked, concerned when she yawned.

She nodded and stretched, all of her barely as tall as his chest.

Ash heard him then, one of his wild Darkling fae cousins, calling to the little girl. Maddie lifted her head and listened.

"He wants me to come back." She shifted away, started to head down a path that led to shadows and darkness. In that instant, a stray beam of sunlight sliced through the trees, fell upon her milky skin and set it aglow, almost like fire.

That was when Ash saw them.

She was surrounded by imaginary playmates. Transparent as ghosts, though they were only visible occasionally. An arm here, a leg there, a laugh that echoed and followed after her.

He quickly glanced at her forearms, bare for it was midsummer, and they bore no mark. No one had claimed her yet. She was still free.

He could have claimed her right then and to this day he sometimes wondered why he didn't. Maybe because she was so small—only seven years old, much too young to harvest—though his wild cousin wouldn't think so.

The calls of the other fae were growing more insistent; the trees began to moan beneath his magic, and Ash grew angry that this intruder would consider hunting on his land.

Maddie walked away from Ash then, and without thinking, he followed her, just like one of her imaginary playmates. They jostled alongside him, all of them watching her, hoping for a moment of her attention.

Up ahead, the trees parted to reveal a wide grove, filled with thimbleberry and wild peony, their fragrance as intoxicating as incense. Ash saw his adversary then, right there at the edge of his territory, the land that Ash had claimed nearly a century earlier with a terrible curse. This creature was one of the barbarians who regularly raided the other mountain villages and he stood akimbo, his dark gray skin glistening in the dappled light, his wings spread broad and proud.

The young girl gasped and stopped walking.

Ash grinned.

This wild fae must have disguised himself when she'd seen him earlier. Pretended to be a woodland creature—a fox or a squirrel. But now he had grown confident in his spell over her, bold enough to expose himself for what he truly was—a dangerous predator.

Maddie glanced back toward Ash and whispered, "He looks like an angel, don't you think?"

What does she think I look like? Ash wondered.

"He's beautiful," she said.

"No, he's not."

Even from this distance, Ash could see the wild Darkling's brutish features, the flattened nose and splayed legs, the long fingers with broken claws and the yellow teeth. His stench carried on the wind, unwashed flesh and carrion blood. Centuries of poor breeding had spawned beasts like this, and it was apparent that this creature was near as old as Ash, probably near as strong too.

The wild fae's eyes began to glow, pits of yellow fire in the shadowed glen, and he lifted his chin, in both defiance and melody. An Evenquest song drifted from his lips, sweet as clover honey; the chanted poetry began to wrap itself around Maddie like ropes of silk. With just this tiny sliver of magic, the creature had her under his spell.

Her eyes fluttered and her limbs waxed soft and supple, her knees began to bend beneath her. Ash grinned wide when she fell to the ground, asleep.

She was still on his land and safe.

The fool hadn't known that you must tempt children nearer before you begin to sing, for the magic of home is too strong for them, a fact Ash knew all too well. That was how his own curse began, nigh on a century ago—by him breaking all the laws.

"Give her to me," the wild Darkling fae growled, a fierce expression folding his face. His shape wavered when the sunlight grew stronger, passing from behind a bank of thick summer clouds. His naked skin sizzled and he drew away from Ash into the shadows. "She is my spoil. 'Twas my enchantment that drew her here!"

"Nay. And you know it well," Ash argued. "All that which lies within my boundaries is mine and mine alone."

"'Twasn't always that way, though," the other fae teased, trying to draw Ash out to battle. "Time was your mate shared this land with you. 'Til you killed her."

Ash's blood turned to venom. He left the child on the ground and stepped nearer the forest's edge. With one hand he reached through sun and shade until he gripped the wild Darkling by the throat, then he squeezed.

He had been wrong.

This villain wasn't nearly as old or as strong as Ash.

"Didn't happen that way at all," Ash said through gritted teeth, "though I thank you for reminding me."

Both of his hands were about the wild Darkling's throat then, tightening, driving the life from his ragged carcass as he flailed and clawed. Ash held him, breathless as if the wild one had plunged beneath a pool of icy water, his strength failing.

Until the child moaned behind them.

She was waking up.

"Begone, foul beast," Ash said in lowered tones. "Leave and never return or I promise you, I will finish what we have begun on this day. And you will cross over into the Land of Nightmares, never to return." He released the wild Darkling fae then and the creature fell to the ground like a sack of dead rabbits, loose and unmoving. Only yellow eyes glaring up and the shallow movement of his chest proved that life still flowed through his bones.

Ash turned away from his adversary, shifting his skin at the same time, assuming the familiar features of Mr. Ash, caretaker of the nearby inn and groundskeeper of the forest. He sang his own soft enchantment as the child opened her eyes, changing her memories just a bit so she'd forget about the wild creatures she had seen here today.

She wiped a hand across her forehead and yawned.

"Miss MacFaddin," he said, adding a note of surprise to his voice. "Have you taken a nap in the woods?" He reached a hand down to draw her to her feet.

She nodded as she looked around them both, a bit confused.

"I did," she answered, her brow furrowed as if she didn't believe her own words.

Some enchantments take instantly. Others take days. Eventually, she would forget that she had seen Ash in his true fae skin.

"Let me walk you back to your cabin and safety, young lady," he said, putting one hand ever so gently upon her shoulder.

She glanced up through that wild tangle of dark hair, her eyes filled with mystery and curiosity and something that he didn't see very often. Gratitude. Some part of her still remembered what she had seen, he realized, and that thought made him strangely glad.

They parted at the forest's edge, her cabin in sight. She turned at the halfway mark, when she was fully surrounded by green meadow; she waved at him and smiled. He saw her imaginary friends gather about her, only this time he could see who and what they were.

A cowboy, a princess, a fairy, all pale as ghosts.

And another shadowy creature—new to the pack—stood away from the others, wings folded neatly at his back.

This last creature was Ash.