Desperate Betrayal, by Hildie McQueen
Crescent Moon Press, 2012
Cynden Frasier (Cyn) is a member of a group of immortal warriors, the Protectors, assigned to protect humans in Atlanta, Georgia, the epicenter of a major uprising in demon activity. When Cyn is approached by a beautiful woman in a dirty alley, he is intrigued by the fact that she can see him for what he is, a terrifying demon slayer, and still dares to approach him.
Emma Blake, a half-demon, has to convince Cyn to help rescue her sister from powerful demons. Terrified that the Protector will kill her if he realizes what she is, she still goes against every instinct and approaches Cyn for help. Despite knowing that she is leading them both into territory so wrought with treachery, neither of them may survive.
Can Cyn and Emma overcome betrayal, the ancient rules that prevent Protectors from taking a wife, unless she is his one true mate? And if they do, will it even matter?
In Hildie McQueen’s Atlanta, there are Protectors and demons. Three castes of the latter, in fact, walking around looking very human, and they are mostly up to no good. Scottish Protector Cynden Fraser, like his brothers-in arms, suffered a brutal growth spurt in his early 20s that left him a walking Greek statue—beautiful, massive, ageless—gifted with the strength and speed necessary to hunt demons. The Protectors are permitted marriage in only two incidences: encountering one’s life-mate, which is rare, or by arrangement of the order’s leader, Julian, aka “The Roman.”
These men exist to stand between mankind and the threat of evil. Period.
The mating rules of the Protectors have never been a problem for Cyn. While he has a voracious appetite for women, it’s rare that any one woman can hold his interest passed a third orgasm. Furthermore, he’s hit a dry spell, a mixed blessing of sorts because he has lots of other problems that need his attention. His Protector friend, Roderick Cronan, was recently been abducted. The demon father of Cyn’s adopted son is making noise about wanting custody. The demon population in Atlanta is growing bigger and bolder. The last thing he needs is girl trouble.
So, when Emma Blake approaches him a) knowing who he is, b) knowing what he is, and c) begging for his help to free her sister from a high-level demon strong-hold, he turns her down flat. There are enough demons to deal with on the street. He doesn’t intend to walk into a nest of them to rescue a woman who he is certain is already dead. Emma is persistent, but even after she tells him that Roderick is being held in the same compound, he continues to refuse.
Still, Cyn wants to believe her. He doesn’t want to accept that Roderick is dead, or that the man’s wife and son will be without him, so Cyn does commit to a rescue. Julian commits several other Protectors to the mission, including Cyn’s cranky brother Kieran, and pretentious Lord Fallon Trent. Cyn is a man who understands the value of keeping friends close and enemies closer, so Emma remains close at hand, but out of earshot of the mission plans. It unnerves Cyn that he’s drawn to the woman, even while sensing there’s something off about her, even while suspecting that he can’t trust her, even while knowing that she is going to betray him.
That something is a big deal. Emma is half-demon, born to a human mother and a demon father. And while the story about her sister is true (as she knows it), it’s also a trap to lure Cyn to a master demon named Gerard. Julian is holding another master demon captive. Gerard is sure that two of the world’s most powerful Protectors will suffice for a prisoner exchange. Even though Cyn knows the moment of truth is coming, when Emma finally does betray him, it cuts him deep.
In Desperate Betrayal, Hildie McQueen balances a series of betrayals against a theme of trust and forgiveness. It is hard to let our loved ones go, but that burden can be impossible to bear when that person is all that remains of your family. Cyn is lucky among the Protectors to have a brother who shares his calling and immortal gifts. He can step into her shoes and ask himself if he could sacrifice his brother for the sake of a lover, but forgiveness can be another burden impossible to bear and his does not come easily. McQueen lets the emotions of the events play out naturally, rebuilding a relationship between Cyn and Emma amidst the manifestations of one demon’s lust for power and other’s greed.
Desperate Betrayal is an action-packed novel with steamy sex and a tense atmosphere that lives up to its title. It also moments of unnerving brashness and incredible sweetness. The story of Atlanta’s demon hunters continues with Desperate Surrender, which focuses on Cyn’s brother Kieran and Wendy, a human he saved years ago. I would sincerely recommend this book (and series) to fans of Lynn Rush’s Wasteland series, Jean Murray’s Soul Reborn, and SyFy’s Lost Girl audience.