His Choice - Carrie Ann Ryan
Carrie Ann Ryan Carrie Ann Ryan
Carrie Ann Ryan Carrie Ann Ryan

His Choice

Book 3.5 in the Dante’s Circle Series

As the youngest son of Lucifer, Fawkes has long since known what paths his future could take. He could follow his father’s footsteps, stealing the souls of humans and slowly lose his own, or starve himself and wither away until he finds his true half and forms a bond that can not only save his life, but his soul.

Leslie Masterson’s life has been one torment after another. A submissive wolf, she’s tried to hide in the shadows of her Pack and find the will to live another day. After her brother—the man who has beaten her verbally and physically her entire life—is killed when he challenges the Alpha, Leslie finally sees a path to freedom.

It only takes one look between the two for them to know that they could be the answer to each other’s prayers, but some of the Pack isn’t ready to let Leslie go. It will take the strength of a fiery demon from hell and the love of a submissive wolf to overcome not only their past, but their chance at a future.

read an excerpt

His Choice is Book 3.5 in the Dante’s Circle series

His Choice


Chapter 1

“You’re a disgrace to the name Devil, son,” Lucifer spat as he paced the long dungeon. “You had such promise and then you’ve thrown it all away. Or at least, you’re planning on it. Don’t lie to me. I know all.”

Fawkes looked up through the blood running down his face, stinging his eyes, and lifted a lip in a sneer.

He was twenty years old—young to most but a grown man to others—and yet the way his father treated him it was as if he was the adolescent who needed a good scolding.

Not that his father had ever acted the caring paternal figure.

“You’re the actual Devil, Dad,” Fawkes said, his voice slightly hoarse from screaming. Sometimes the screaming helped the pain, even if it did annoy him Lucifer enjoyed it so much. “I’m just one of your many sons.”

Lucifer rolled his eyes—a gesture that made him look as immature as he acted—then ran a hand over his red horns that stood a foot out from his head—the exact matching pair to Fawkes’.

“You’re my last son, Fawkes. The others are either fierce warriors and soul eaters or dead. None of them however, ever chose the path you’re looking at. No son of mine will. They all died in battle or because they were idiots. I won’t let you sully my good name. It’s time for you to make your choice and eat the souls of humans.”

Though Fawkes was chained to a wall in his father’s favorite torture room, he didn’t feel threatened by the man humans feared more that the things that went bump in the night. Actually, his father was the thing that went bump in the night. Lucifer just wanted Fawkes to fall into his deadly footsteps, taking souls and becoming dark.

Fawkes wasn’t sure he wanted to do that though.

He’d seen what the other possibility could be and, frankly, that looked better.

Harsher.

Deadlier.

Once a demon reached twenty, he had a year to reach a decision before his life started to fade. Demons needed souls or a mating bond in order to survive. Without souls, they would die slowly and painfully. Once they reached their three hundredth birthday, they’d fade from existence—excruciatingly. They only had that first year though to take their first soul, or they’d harm themselves to the point that they’d need a true half—the one person, or persons in a triad’s case, that was meant for them and would create the perfect mating bond—in order to survive.

Since demons didn’t find their true halves with other demons—a punishment for their killing existence—they had to venture out into the human and other realms in order to find the person—or persons—who would not only be part of them, but save their lives. Demons could mate with each other and create more demon offspring, like his father had done with the many women who’d given birth to Lucifer’s progeny, but they would never find that perfect…peace within that mating.

Another demon, Balin, had been one of the few to actually choose against becoming evil. The other demon had almost died because he’d refused to do what almost all other demons had done in order to survive. It was only because Balin had found Jamie and Ambrose that he’d survived at all.

Now Fawkes was old enough to make his choice.

Lucifer narrowed his eyes. “Are you even listening?”

Fawkes blinked. “Uh…yeah?”

Lucifer spat then let the fire running through his veins rage from his palms. He spent his energy toward the wall, scorching a line of black soot in an arch before fisting his hands, letting the fire burn itself out.

Fawkes had to learn that handy trick.

“You have less than six months until you have to choose. If you don’t take your first soul, you’ll waste away until you find your true half. It doesn’t matter if you take souls after that because you’ll still fade away. That’s what Balin didn’t understand before and that’s why you will take a soul. Now.”

“It’s my choice Dad. Mine.”

“I’ll do what Pyro to Balin and keep you here until you have to make the correct choice,” Lucifer threatened.

“Pyro was a sadistic bastard.”

Lucifer gave him a bland look. “I’m the Devil, son. No one is worse than me. It would do you good to remember that.”

Fawkes held back a groan. His father had to be the most conceited demon out there. No demon was allowed to be stronger or fiercer than him.

“Yes, you’re more of a sadistic bastard than Pyro ever was,” he deadpanned.

Lucifer blinked slowly then pressed a button on the wall. The chains attached to the manacles on Fawkes’ wrists pulled up and turned, forcing his gaze to the opposite wall and leaving his back to his father’s ministrations.

This couldn’t end well.

The first crack of the whip was a familiar sting. He’d been beaten all his life, but not to the point others in his father’s care had been. He was still whole, still himself.

He knew others out there hadn’t fared as well.

Lucifer snapped the whip again, the pain arching across Fawkes’ back a heated flame. He gritted his teeth and let his father finish his ministrations before finally Lucifer gave up.

“I’d lock you up but the last thing I need is the other demons thinking I can’t take care of one of my own,” Lucifer spat. “You’ll have to make the choice yourself, but if you make the wrong one…”

Fawkes didn’t answer his father’s unspoken words. No matter what, the Devil wanted his due and Fawkes would have to take the blame. He just didn’t know if he could last as long as Balin had.

He thought of the angel and demon pair that had promised him sanctuary in the human realm. If he went to them now, he might be condemning himself to death, but that might be better than what he’d do once he took a soul.

One didn’t come back from that whole.

His father left without another word, slamming his hand into the button on his way out the door. The manacles around Fawkes’ wrists opened and he slammed onto the floor. He ran his tongue over his molars to make sure he didn’t crack one with that jolt then stood on shaky legs. He’d been hanging for a few days and his body had weakened just enough that he knew he needed to either leave the hell realm soon or do something he might regret.

He looked down at his leather pants and boots and shrugged. They would have to do in the human realm because he wasn’t about head back to his room and try to get his belongings. He had a feeling if he happened to cross Lucifer’s path again, his father might not be so easy-going and trap him in a dungeon.

Again.

With conscious thought, he forced his human glamour over his body, his horns disappearing from this head. He’d have to make an effort to hide the red flecks in his black eyes, but maybe Balin would be able to help him with that. Fawkes had only ever been to the human realm a few times and that was only on training missions so he could learn how to blend in if necessary.

Despite what other Houses of demons might want to do, he knew one of the most important things he could learn was to keep the supernatural secret. Humans were far more dangerous when they knew the truth about what lay hidden within other realms.

Using some of the last energy he had since he was so freaking hungry, he opened a portal to the human realm. Thankfully, he knew where Ambrose, Jamie, and Balin lived so he could make sure the portal ended in their backyard, rather than in someone else’s home. He let his scent signature seep along the portal so the triad would know who was coming and stepped through. The last thing he needed was to end up on the wrong end of Balin’s sword because he hadn’t announced himself. Plus, Fawkes was unarmed thanks to his dad—not something he truly wanted to be.

He stepped through, the burning fire surrounding him licking at him like hungry flames. It didn’t hurt any worse that what his father had done to him recently, so he didn’t care.

As the last of the flames died away he blinked open his eyes and smiled.

“It’s about time you showed up,” Ambrose said. He stood in the backyard of his home, his arms folded over his chest and a frown on his face, though there was no hiding the mix of laughter and concern in his eyes.

“I was tied up,” Fawkes explained. From the look on Ambrose’s face, he had a feeling the warrior angel knew exactly what he meant by that.

“Are you here for good?”

Fawkes shrugged. “I’m not sure yet.”

“Ambrose, stop interrogating the boy and let him come inside,” Jamie said from the back door.

Fawkes smiled and pushed past Ambrose to sweep Jamie in his arms. She laughed and wrapped her arms around his neck as he inhaled her scent. He’d helped save her once before and now she was going to try to save him.

Something along her scent triggered the protectiveness within him and he froze.

“You’re pregnant.”

Jamie smiled full out and nodded. “Yes, Becca is as well.”

Fawkes remembered hearing about Jamie and her six girlfriends who had all been struck by lightning. They were all now—or would be soon—supernaturals in their own right, rather than humans.

“Balin and Ambrose are actually letting you walk around now? I’d have thought they’d wrap you in bubble wrap and force you to sit the entire time.”

“Don’t think it hasn’t crossed my mind,” Balin said as he walked up behind Jamie. “Now get your paws off my mate.”

Fawkes grinned then leaned to kiss Jamie on the cheek. She laughed while Balin and Ambrose each growled in turn.

Hell, he’d needed this—the teasing and laughter. He wanted the smiles and happiness that he saw on the other demon’s face. It could happen for Fawkes, he knew that, but it would be a long journey.

Balin frowned. “You’ve made your choice, haven’t you?”

Fawkes shook his head. “No, not yet. I have time, but I wanted, no needed to see what else was out there.”

Jamie took his hand and led him into the triad’s home. “Go take a shower and get into some of Balin’s clothes since you can’t walk around in just leather pants in broad daylight while in the human realm.”

“I don’t know babe, humans are just as weird as everyone else,” Balin teased.

Jamie rolled her eyes and put her hand protectively on her stomach. “Shut it. Go show Fawkes what he can wear and the guest bedroom that he can stay in.”

Fawkes opened his mouth to say something but Jamie held up her hand.

“You’re staying with us, at least for the night. If you want to go somewhere else to roam or learn about what this choice means later, sure. Right now though, you’re staying here and eating dinner with us. Hunter and Becca will be here soon to eat and I’m sure they’ll want to see you.”

Fawkes nodded, remembering the animalistic wolf, Hunter. He’d also helped save him as well and had heard that the wolf had mated Becca, Jamie’s friend.

Balin squeezed his shoulder, forcing Fawkes’ gaze to his. “Everything will be okay. You know that right?”

Fawkes nodded but knew he was lying. It wasn’t a choice that came easily to a demon. Sure, if he were human, not taking souls and slowing dying without knowing if he’d ever find his true half wouldn’t seem like as tough a choice.

He wasn’t human though.

He was the son of the Devil himself and had to make his choices on his own.

He could do it if he had to, but he didn’t know if he wanted to.

What kind of person did that make him?

Oh yeah, a demon.

He nodded toward the others then followed Balin to the guest room where he’d be staying for the time being. After he took a shower and put on Balin’s extra jeans and button down, he looked in the mirror and smiled.

He looked almost human. Who knew?

“Stop trying to look pretty and get your ass out here,” Balin called from other part of the house and Fawkes rolled his eyes.

Balin had always been like a big brother to him—more so than his actual blood brothers. The other demon had shown him how to fight, how to use a sword, and how to protect himself from others who knew that killing the son of Lucifer would exalt them into legends.

He walked into the living room to find Hunter with his arm wrapped around a beautiful redhead who had to be Becca sitting on the couch.

Hunter smiled at him, though really, on the wolf it looked more like a threat than a true smile.

“Good to see you, Fawkes.”

Becca grinned and stood up to give him hug. She smelled of sweetness and growth from the child in her womb. He looked over her shoulder at Hunter’s glare and snorted.

“It’s nice to meet you, Becca, but you better pull back a bit or your mate will kill me. Slowly.”

Becca threw her head back and laughed. “Yeah, that sounds a bit right. Don’t worry though, he won’t kill you.”

“Maybe maim,” Jamie added in. “Only slightly though.”

“We made fajitas and all the fixings so it’s pretty much serve yourself at the table,” Balin said as he handed over a beer to the non-pregnant people in the room.

Fawkes took a sip and winced at the unfamiliar bitter taste. “How is it I’ve never had one of these before?”

Hunter snorted. “Are you even old enough in the human realm?”

“Shit, I forgot about that,” Balin said as he reached out to take it back.

Fawkes raised a brow. “I’m a demon and almost twenty-one. I have more to worry about than those few months.”

Ambrose just shook his head and sighed. “I’m not in the mood to deal with human politics. I’ve seen enough of it in my time.”

“That would be a long time, right honey?” Balin teased.

“You’ll pay for that later,” Ambrose growled.

The two males’ eyes darkened and Fawkes had a feeling he’d be using some earplugs later that night to block out any noise from the master bedroom.

Fawkes watched the others make their fajitas and copied them, using extra salsa like Balin since apparently demons liked it hot. The spices mingled on his tongue and he washed it down with his beer, wondering how the hell he’d got here.

“What’s wrong, Fawkes?” Jamie asked.

“Nothing really,” he lied.

She narrowed her eyes and he laughed softly. “I don’t know what I’m doing. I left my dad’s chamber without really thinking about the consequences.” The table got quiet at the thought of what must have happened in the chamber, but he didn’t elaborate. He didn’t need to, considering what each person at the table had been through on their own.

“I know when you left hell before, Balin, you all gave me the opportunity to leave if I needed to, but I didn’t know if I was ready. I don’t know what I’m doing.”

“Do you want to take souls?” Balin asked point blank. “Do you want to end human lives because that’s how you think demons should live?”

“No. I don’t want to kill anyone who doesn’t deserve it.”

“You’ve answered your own question then,” Ambrose added. “You’re confused because you’ve been on the path that’s easy and paved with your father’s intentions. I know that isn’t the one you want. It might kill you, but you’d have been lost to us and yourself if you’d taken the other path. You’re here for a reason, Fawkes.”

Fawkes swallowed hard and looked at his half eaten plate. “What do I do?”

Jamie reached out and gripped his hand. “Stay with us. We’ll help you anyway you can. You have years, Fawkes, years to find your mate.”

“You won’t be in the same position I was in either,” Balin added. “You won’t be forced to go back to hell. Lucifer has no place in the human realm, no matter how hard he tries. You can travel to the other realms as well, at least most of them, and look for your mate.”

Fawkes snorted. “So spend my whole life searching for someone who might not exist?”

Balin narrowed his eyes. “At least you’ll have the option unlike others.”

Fawkes nodded, remembering that Balin’s father had forced him to stay in hell until he’d lost enough energy that he hadn’t been able to go to the other realms to search for his mate.

“Enjoy life, Fawkes,” Hunter said, surprising Fawkes that the wolf would speak of enjoyment when he hadn’t any before he’d met Becca. “Don’t take the time you have for granted. You’ll have years to find her. Fate will provide, you have to believe in that.”

“It looks like I’ve made my choice,” Fawkes whispered, knowing he’d made his choice the moment he’d left hell in the first place.

Jamie squeezed his hand. “You’ve decided to be good. That’s okay, Fawkes. We’ll help you live.”

Fawkes looked at the people who had welcomed him without reservations and blinked hard. He might have made one choice, but that didn’t mean there weren’t others to come. He still had to find the one woman for him, the one that could create the mating bond and provide enough energy that he wouldn’t fade away.

The idea of fading away though paled in comparison to what he’d have to do if he chose souls over the humanity that he wanted to emulate.

He’d taken the first step. Now he just had to find her.

end of excerpt

His Choice

is available in the following formats:

May 27, 2014

ISBN-10: 1943123349

ISBN-13: 978-1943123346

Reviews of His Choice

“When two very lost souls find each other and finally find hope you can’t help but be elated that two of our favorite side characters in the Dante’s Circle series find each other.”

Literal Addiction