Prowled Darkness - Carrie Ann Ryan
Carrie Ann Ryan Carrie Ann Ryan
Carrie Ann Ryan Carrie Ann Ryan

Prowled Darkness

Book 7 in the Dante’s Circle Series

Humans aren’t as alone as they choose to believe. Every human possesses a trait of supernatural that lays dormant within their genetic make-up. Centuries of diluting and breeding have allowed humans to think they are alone and untouched by magic. But what happens when something changes?

Eliana Sawyer’s life was rocked from its foundation twice in as many years. She risked her heart and had it shattered into a thousand pieces when Malik left her with no warning. While she’d normally raise her chin and ignore the pain, she can’t forget what he gave her before he disappeared from her life.

Malik Ward is a prince amongst the lion shifters and knows that one day he will have to take a mate. Only, his people can never mate with humans. Under the mistaken impression that Eliana was only human, he forced himself to leave before they’d crossed a line and he broke his vow to his people. Now that he knows the truth about Eliana, however, it will take more than groveling to win back the one woman fated to be his.

While Eliana and Malik embark on a new sensuous path that might lead to disaster, the realms aren’t ready to allow the final lightning-struck human to be enveloped into their fold. The couple will have to combat those plotting against them, as well as the broken promises and heated emotions they share.

Warning: Contains a Leo with a bite that’s worse than his roar, a woman with one last chance at the life she’s always dreamt of, a flame that could extinguish with the wrong sacrifice, and the final journey in the bestselling Dante’s Circle series.

read an excerpt

Prowled Darkness is Book 7 in the Dante’s Circle series

Prowled Darkness


Chapter 1

Time changed in an instant. One minute, you’re drinking a beer with your friends, talking about the increasingly scary storm outside; the next, you’re flying through the air with your body slamming into the nearest wall when lightning strikes. Or rather, when lightning strikes inside the room and hits you and six of your friends dead center.

Eliana Sawyer’s life changed the moment she felt the energy of the gods ricochet through her body. The world as she knew it became grey, and the things that went bump in the night became all too real. The paranormal world wasn’t that of fiction anymore; now, she lived it. The way she saw the world, the way she saw life and fate changed. She couldn’t plan a future the same way she had. She couldn’t fall in love the way she’d thought to in the past.

After the lightning strike, six of her friends had found out the hard way what happened when they fell in love with someone paranormal—they became paranormal themselves.

Now, years later, here Eliana was—alone, all too human, and on the outside looking in.

Of course, she wasn’t that alone anymore. She never would be again. While her friends had fallen for angels, demons, dragons, and wolves, she’d fallen for a mere human. A human that had taken her heart and shattered it into a thousand pieces, all the while leaving her with nothing but an echo of what he had once been, what they had once been together.

That wasn’t the only thing he’d left her with.

He’d also left the life currently growing in her womb.

Eliana pressed her hands over her belly and tried to not think about everything that had happened in the past, and instead, worry about the future. Of course, the only thing she’d been doing for the past eight or so months had been worrying, but she couldn’t seem to do anything else. Her emotions ran from excitement over the new baby because, damn it, she was going to be an amazing mother; to dread over the fact that she’d be doing this alone. The stops between the two emotions weren’t picnics either.

Malik had left her high and dry with no way to contact him—going so far as to change numbers so his friend—and Eliana’s friend’s mate—Tristan couldn’t even get ahold of him. Tristan had tried to reach out as soon as he’d heard about the pregnancy, but Malik was nowhere to be found. She didn’t want to think about the fact that he’d so clearly cut all ties with the part of his past that was about her, but it was hard not to when the evidence of their relationship was currently doing a little dance on her bladder.

The little squirt tended to do that at all hours of the night. And the day for that matter. She’d heard stories from her friends about how some of them had sleeping little babies during their pregnancy. How those babies had been content to hang around and only perk up with a dose of caffeine. Yet her squirt was apparently a future soccer star.

Why wouldn’t her baby be? It wasn’t as if anything else in recent years had gone easily for Eliana, so why would this?

Little squirt decided to do one last kick straight to her bladder and Eliana winced. There would be no holding back the literal floodgates if she didn’t get out of her chair and waddle her way to the bathroom. Whoever said pregnancy was a gift and women glowed during it clearly hadn’t met her. Of course, maybe if she’d had a partner during it instead of freaking out all by herself, it would be different.

And that was enough of that. No more pity party. So what if Malik didn’t want her and didn’t know he was about to be a father. Or rather, a sperm donor since he’d actually have to be there to be a father. She’d do this on her own like she did everything else, and she’d live her life while trying not to ruin her baby’s.

Easy.

She gripped the arms of her chair and tried to lever herself up. Only, when she made a grunting sound, nine men of varying sizes and species came at her, arms outstretched.

So maybe she wasn’t so alone.

Since all six of her friends had found their mates and three of them had happened to find two mates, they didn’t lack for men in their group. Only single men.

Eliana tried to wave them off but ended up wincing as little squirt did a summersault.

Seth was the closest to her and gave her a little grin.

She wanted to punch his face. Dimple and all.

“I’ve got you, Eliana,” Seth said smoothly. He was a big man, all lean muscle and youthful features. He may be older than her since he was a merman and all, one who’d been around the block, but she was pretty sure she was the one who looked her age. He and Tristan had mated Amara around the time Eliana had found herself pregnant, and Seth had therefore declared himself keeper of Eliana.

One of many.

She hadn’t missed the pitying looks on the others’ faces. One of them was a ten-thousand-year-old dragon, but she could still see the sadness in his old eyes. They all felt sorry for her as if she were nothing but an incubator, all alone and manless. What they should have figured out was that plenty of women were single moms; she wasn’t exactly an outlier.

Except for the tiny detail that she was the last lightning-struck without a mate, and therefore, human. Eventually, she’d start to age and the rest of them wouldn’t. They’d pop out even more babies than they already had, and she’d have to watch as they made their families and thrived in new realms as well as the human one.

She’d die as a human while the rest of them mourned her.

But they’d be able to watch over squirt when she was gone. And squirt’s children, too.

There may still be a chance that she’d find her mate, but it didn’t mean fate would align for her perfectly. She was single and pregnant, so clearly fate had fucked with her already. If Malik hadn’t been human, she would have thought he was the one for her. She hadn’t had that same weird connection the others had felt, but he still could have been the one for her. He’d never met her friends since everyone had always been so busy with their own realms and she’d wanted to keep him to herself. Since he was human, she’d known he wasn’t her mate, wasn’t her true half, so it would have been weird to introduce him to a new world if he wasn’t ready for it.

And, thankfully, she’d never trusted him with the secret of the paranormals since he’d clearly been on a different page than her.

“Eliana, honey, didn’t you need to get up?” Seth somehow put his arms under her knees and behind her back and had her out of the chair and on her feet in the next instant. “What’s wrong?”

She shook her head as Lily and Amara stood up as if to come closer. “I’m fine. Just thinking, and I have to pee.” She inhaled through her nose and let out the breath. “Thank you.”

With that, she waddled past Seth and the others, knowing if she didn’t get out of there she’d make a fool of herself—and not just by peeing her pants.

She hadn’t even closed the bathroom door before she heard the others start to speak about her. She might not have supernatural hearing, but it wasn’t hard to figure out whom they were talking about.

The others had somehow gotten it in their brains that they needed to take care of her so they were all at Dante’s Circle, the place where it had all started, to try to have a normal night. Most of them had babies with them or were pregnant.

Lily and Shade had their little Kelly, who wasn’t so little anymore since she was walking and talking and going to an angelic preschool. Ambrose, Balin, and Jamie had Sami, who went to the angelic school with Kelly. Hunter and Becca had little Hazel, who kept wanting to shift into her little wolf form even in the human realm. Apparently, Hunter’s dominance was helping her keep her shifting under control.

Dante, Jace, and Nadie were pregnant. Or rather, Nadie was, but her dragon and bear mates hovered like no other. If Eliana weren’t so pregnant herself, she might have found humor in that. Faith and Levi weren’t pregnant yet, but Eliana had a feeling it would happen any day now. The same with Amara, Tristan, and Seth.

It was scary to think that just a few short years ago, she and her friends had met up at the bar where Becca had worked, one that happened to be owned by a dragon, totally unaware of the inner workings of what truly went on around them. Now they were having babies, saving the world, and finding mates.

Eliana washed her hands when she was done letting the baby take care of her bladder and tried not to scowl at herself in the mirror. She didn’t like acting as though she hated the world. She might not be as sweet-tempered as Nadie or soft-spoken as Lily, but she’d never been as…hostile as Faith. She’d always figured she landed somewhere in the middle of the pack when it came to personalities. Not too harsh, but not too sweet.

Forgettable.

She closed her eyes and tried to push the doubt away. It wasn’t easy when all she saw when she did was Malik’s face when he’d kicked her out of his place. He hadn’t physically touched her, but he might as well have thrown her away with the day’s garbage.

She hadn’t been good enough for him and, apparently, she’d just have to deal with it.

Eliana splashed some water on her face and let out a breath. “Stop it,” she snapped at her reflection. “He’s gone. He left you. So the fuck what? You’re going to be a mom. So stop acting like a little fool and learn to be an adult.”

“Some pep talk,” Faith said from the doorway.

Eliana flipped her friend off and rubbed her back with her other hand. She was due in a couple of weeks, but the doctor had said it could be any day now. She wasn’t ready for this, and no matter how many times she lied to herself saying she was, she never truly believed it.

“Your back hurt?” Faith asked as she moved toward her.

Eliana held out a hand. “I’m fine. Just the normal pain from lugging around squirt.”

“Pain and fine don’t usually go together,” Faith said dryly as she pushed her way toward Eliana. When her friend rubbed Eliana’s back, tears sprang to her eyes.

Damn it. Malik should be the one rubbing her back. Malik should be the one making sure she was okay and trying not to comment on how swollen her ankles were.

Freaking hormones.

She let out a breath, annoyed with herself yet again. Malik wasn’t here, but this baby was. She didn’t know the sex because she’d wanted to be surprised, something out of character for her. Usually, she wanted to plan things perfectly, but since the baby wasn’t planned, she’d wanted to keep it all in the same theme.

She wouldn’t be alone for much longer; soon she’d be a mother. And no matter how much her heart hurt, no matter how much she wanted to scream or cry over the fact that she didn’t have a clue what she was doing, she would be damned if she’d hurt this baby because of it.

This was her baby, and she’d love him or her until the end of days.

Faith leaned into her and Eliana held back a sigh. She loved her friends, she really did, but she knew once she had this baby, she’d be even more more separate from the rest. The others might not know it, but she did.

“Talk to me, Eliana,” Faith whispered as she leaned into her shoulder, still rubbing her back. “What’s going on in that head of yours?”

Eliana closed her eyes a moment before opening them to meet Faith’s gaze in the bathroom mirror. There was no use hiding from Faith. The other woman always seemed to know everything. In fact, all her friends did these days.

“I’m scared,” she admitted.

“Of course, you are,” Faith said simply. “If you weren’t, I’d be worried about you.”

Eliana raised a brow. “More worried than you already are?”

Faith shrugged and took a step back, keeping her hand on Eliana’s back. “We love you. You can’t lose us, even if you feel like you have to. I know you’re scared about the baby and pissed off that that asshole Malik isn’t here, but we’re here. We’re going to be kickass aunts and uncles, and you’re not going to be able to get rid of us.”

Eliana let out a watery snort. “Things are going to change, Faith.”

“I know,” Faith said softly. “They do every week it seems like these days.” Her friend let out a breath. “I never really thought about what it would be like for the last of us.”

Eliana blanked her face. She didn’t want to hear what Faith had to say, but telling Faith what to do never ended well. Her mate, Levi, was about the only one who could really do it.

“We all knew our lives changed the day the lightning struck,” Eliana said coolly. If she let her emotions show, she’d break, and she wasn’t ready for that.

“Yeah, and six of us have found our true halves. Six of us went through the agony of our first change and found our way into our new realms. I never thought about what it would mean for the seventh.” Faith’s eyes filled with tears and she quickly blinked them away. Eliana didn’t want to see her friend cry. The woman rarely let emotions that could prove a weakness show.

“All it means is that I don’t turn furry or have pink wings like you.” She tried to smile as she said it, but Faith didn’t even blink at the pixie joke.

“I’m not going to let you fade away, damn it. None of us are. I don’t know what we’re going to do, but you are not going to stay human.” Faith crossed her arms over her chest and set her jaw.

“You really have no control over that.” No one had control of anything.

Faith raised her chin. “Watch me.”

And with that, her friend stormed out of the bathroom, and Eliana followed. Her ankles hurt and she wanted to sit down. Though her heart ached to think about what would happen when the others couldn’t find a way to keep her with them in the long run, she pushed it aside. Little squirt deserved more than that.

She made it back to the table, and the others gave her solemn nods as if vowing something she wouldn’t be able to control. But if that’s what they needed to keep sane, then they could do it. It wasn’t as if it would upset her more than she already was.

Seth handed her a glass of water and she grinned at him. “Thank you,” she said. There. That was nice. Not the crazy pregnant chick.

“You’re welcome. Do you need anything to eat? I can get you something.” He was out of his chair before she could answer, hovering as if waiting for an order.

She couldn’t help but laugh. “I’m fine, Seth. Take care of your mate. I won’t break.” She looked over at the others. “I won’t break,” she repeated. A vow of her own.

They nodded back at her and Tristan scowled before muttering something about fate under his breath.

Eliana sighed. “Fate had nothing to do with this, Tristan,” she said calmly. “Malik was human. He wasn’t my mate, wasn’t my true half. He’s gone now, and I’m going to be a mom. That’s not fate. That’s life.”

Tristan froze, his jaw setting. “What did you just say?”

She blinked. “That’s not fate. That’s life?”

He shook his head, his hands shaking. “No, about Malik being human.”

She didn’t understand why he was acting this way. “Malik was human. Right? I mean, he’s your friend and all.”

Tristan cursed and stood up quickly, practically knocking his chair to the ground. “No. Malik is a lion shifter. He’s in line for the throne. I thought you knew he wasn’t human and that’s why…fuck. Oh, fuck.”

Eliana set the glass down on the table, afraid it would slip from her fingers. The others talked around her, asking her questions, speaking to Tristan as if he held all the answers.

“He…he never met any of you.” She took a deep breath. “And I never mentioned…it’s not like I have lightning-struck on my forehead or anything.” Her eyes stung and she tried to focus. “He’s a…he’s a lion?”

“Why didn’t you tell us?” Amara asked Tristan, worry on her face.

“Because I thought you knew!” Tristan scowled. “I swear to the goddess, I thought you all knew.”

Dante shook his head and tapped his tongue ring to his lip. “None of us met him. I thought at one point I scented a lion on Eliana, but that could have been anyone.” The dragon met Eliana’s face. “While you were dating him, we didn’t see much of you. None of us knew.”

She tried to catch her breath. “So he’s a lion. Okay. But that doesn’t mean he’s my true half. I didn’t change into my paranormal self when he had sex like what happened with the rest of you. He didn’t claim me as his. So he was just some random lion that left me. We aren’t mates.”

Tristan looked pained. “It’s not that simple, Eliana.”

She set her jaw. “Why? Why is the fact that Malik left me not simple?”

“Because lions don’t mate the way other supernaturals do.”

The hairs on the back of her neck rose at the sound of the deep voice behind her. She knew that voice. It haunted her dreams, and at one point, had made her shiver just from being softly spoken.

She slowly turned her head so she could see the man that had shattered her heart. His dark hair looked like it hadn’t been cut since she’d last seen him, so long now it brushed his shoulders. His light brown skin stretched over thick muscles and she couldn’t breathe at the sight of him.

“Malik,” she whispered.

He glowered at her then let his gaze trail to her belly. “It seems we need to talk.”

It seemed they did.

end of excerpt

Reviews of Prowled Darkness

“It really shows you something about the character when you see how easy or hard it is for them to admit wrong and ask for forgiveness.”

Garden of Eden

“PROWLED DARKNESS by Carrie Ann Ryan is a totally awesome finale to the author's addictive Dante's Circle series!”

Reading between the Wines

“I loved the characters and the whole idea of the story line. This is a good, fast paced story that you'll really enjoy.”

Romancing the Readers

“If you don't know the genius that is Carrie Ann Ryan you should read all her books, and quickly!!! I love her wit, sense of humor, brilliant ideas, intelligent plot and developed characters. Her books are unique and so is this one.”

Bitten by Love