An Unlucky Moon - Carrie Ann Ryan
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An Unlucky Moon

Book 3 in the Dante’s Circle Series

Hunter Brooks spent the last few years in hell, fighting in the demon games and forced to take chances that would haunt the nightmares of even the fiercest men. But now, he’s back in the human realm, ready to take on the Pack that left him behind…and take the mate he just met.

Becca Quinn is one of seven lightning-struck women—a human who isn’t quite so human anymore. She only needs to find her true half to unlock all that she could be. A dangerous, sexy wolf has saved her life twice, and yet she knows nothing about Hunter—only that she wants to know everything she can learn.

Between the Pack’s council and the strangers who could take everything away from them, Becca and Hunter have more battles to wage, and everything to fight for. But when Hunter’s dark past takes over their courtship, and Becca struggles to keep up with her new life, they’ll have to rely on each other and the fate that brought them together to survive.

read an excerpt

An Unlucky Moon is Book 3 in the Dante’s Circle series

An Unlucky Moon Characters Profiles

An Unlucky Moon

Chapter 1

The fiery depths of hell were a cool afterthought compared to the torment of what lay before him. Hunter Brooks ducked the punch aimed at his head and rolled to the ground, coming up on his feet a few yards away. He never let his gaze leave his opponent, even as he moved his arm to stop a kick to the neck.

The low roll of thunder in the distance set his wolf on edge, but he tamped it down. The rain would come eventually, and Hunter wanted to make sure he was done with this before then. The circle was already a mud pit, the wet sludge clinging to his torn jeans—he didn’t want to deal with more of that.

His wolf brushed along the inside of his skin, an animalistic presence that wanted revenge, blood, and death.

The man within him wanted the same thing.

The other wolf came at him at his fastest speed, but Hunter was faster. His hands shifted to claws, and he slashed out, catching the other wolf along the shoulder. His opponent screamed as blood seeped from the deep wound, but Hunter didn’t care. He squeezed his fingers together, cutting the other man deeper.

His opponent met his gaze, the anger all but lashing out at him.

Hunter had seen the depravity of a winged demon bent on quenching its thirst and lust on decaying corpses within the depths of the gladiator games.

This wolf had nothing on that.

His opponent slashed his claws down Hunter’s side, but Hunter moved too fast for the other wolf to break the skin.

He’d spent enough time playing around with this wolf, allowing him to think he actually had a chance. Hunter lifted a lip and showed fang, growling deep within his chest. The air around him seemed to freeze, and time stood still.

Hunter cocked his head to the side as fear seeped into the other wolf’s eyes. Finally, the other wolf knew its life relied on Hunter’s mercy.

The others called Hunter an animal.

They called him depraved.


Yes, this wolf had something to fear, but death would not be among them.

Not today.

Hunter kicked out then twisted, causing the other wolf to fall to his knees in pain. He gripped the bastard by the neck and squeezed.

“Forfeit,” Hunter growled, his voice scraping against his throat from lack of use.

The other wolf’s eyes rolled back, and then he slammed his hand to the ground twice.

The murmurs and howls around them forced Hunter to look at the crowd. He and the other wolf stood in the center of the Nocturne Pack circle, blood and mud covering their bodies and worn jeans. Other members of his Pack growled around them. Some had looks of relief on their faces. Others held a bit of fear…or anger.

The latter would have to be dealt with soon.

“Matthew calls forfeit,” Liam Murray, council member and one-time friend, called out. “It is up to Hunter whether to call death, but the circle has chosen. Hunter is our Beta.”

“As it should have been in the first place,” Josiah, their Alpha, spat. “I have spoken and the circle has agreed. My choice reigns.”

“For now,” Dorian Masterson whispered, though Hunter wasn’t sure if anyone else had heard the bastard.

Hunter had keener senses than most wolves due to his bloodline and destiny. His stint in the gladiator games of hell had only honed them stronger. He’d been back only a month, and he still didn’t feel as though he fit in his skin. Everything had changed in his absence.

The council had grown with more power. His Alpha had grown weaker without Hunter there to protect him. Josiah’s last protector had perished

Samuel…Samuel, Hunter’s brother, had died protecting the Alpha when the council had tried to take over.

None of it made sense to Hunter. He’d fought for his life countless times and killed so many demons and other supernaturals that he wasn’t sure the blood would ever leave his hands, yet when he’d returned to the human realm, he’d faced another battle.

His own Pack.

Hunter rolled his shoulders then stalked toward his Alpha, who stood surrounded by the five council members. That alone pissed him off to no end. The council should have no place near the Alpha. There were only advisors on good days and whispers on bad ones.

Yet they stood there and had demanded a fight to the death to secure the position of Beta.

A position that Samuel had held.

A position Hunter had held before he’d been taken by the demons and forced to serve.

He knelt in front of his alpha, glaring at the others as he did so.

“My Alpha,” Hunter grumbled then turned his head to the side to bare his neck. Others gasped around him, but he ignored them. They should have been the ones to bare their necks, but they’d become lax in their duties and rituals.

They’d thought the Pack was a democracy.

They would soon be proven wrong.

Josiah put his hand on Hunter’s shoulder and nodded. “You’re a fine Beta, Hunter. You will make me proud. You make me proud.”

Something warm started to fill him, piercing through the ice at his Alpha’s words, then dissipated. His wolf howled within him and hardened against the intrusion. No, it wouldn’t do any good to warm at his Alpha’s words.

Hunter wasn’t a warm man. He was a killer—his Alpha’s killer. He’d been raised to be that wolf, and he’d fulfilled that promise in hell. Now he was back within the confines of his Pack and ready to kill again.

Or at least that’s what he told himself.

“Hunter, good fight,” Alec Brennan, another of Hunter’s one-time friends and council member, said as he slapped his shoulder. “You almost killed that Lloyd wolf.” A vicious gleam entered Alec’s eyes, and Hunter grunted.

“Let the wolf live in his memory of defeat,” Hunter growled. “I’m not in the mood to kill a useless slug who isn’t worthy of the title Beta.”

“Watch what you say about my son,” Gregory Lloyd snarled. The older council member tried to come at him, his teeth bared, but Alistair Jacobs—the remaining council member—held him back.

“It would do no good to fight like animals,” Alistair drawled. “We might have the wolves at our beck and call, but we will remain civilized.”

Hunter snorted at that. There had to be over a hundred wolves surrounding them in human form, each shirtless, ready to shift if necessary. Each adult male—and some of the juveniles—were marred with scars and tattoos that celebrated their victories in battle.

At any moment, since the circle was over, they could break out in brawls to release the tension.

There were only two ways to release the tension riding through their bodies—fighting and sex. As wolves, they didn’t care about privacy and modesty. If there was a woman—or a man, if that was their inclination—in front of them, they’d fuck them hard, letting the stress and worries from the day seep away.

Since there were no willing partners at the moment, Hunter was sure a fight would break out soon. Blood and sweat would soon permeate through the air, filling Hunter’s nostrils to override the stench of betrayal and anger that poured from the wolves that had lost their hope today.

Today, like most other days, fighting would rule over sex.

The females were back in their homes—what few females they had. Wolves were born, not bitten, in their world, unlike what the fandoms believed. Though it was easy to get pregnant, it was hard as hell to keep that baby and even harder to produce a girl.

Their absence at the circle meeting had been the council’s decision, not the Alpha’s. Their history had always held their women in deep respect. Not only were they wolves in their own right, but strong fighters as well. They were feared among the men if someone threatened their pup.

Yet the council had declared them weak in Hunter’s four-year absence. Apparently the women—and men—who had fought back against the council taking over had been beaten or killed.

Nothing was right in the Nocturne Pack.

Hunter kept blaming the council for all of it, but he knew it wasn’t the five of them. No, it was three of them who held the power—or at least thought they did.

For now.

“Come on,” Liam whispered. “Let’s look at those cuts of yours at my place. It will rain soon anyway. I’d prefer not to get my hair wet.” He grinned at his last remark, but Hunter didn’t respond. Unspoken was their need to talk about the undercurrents within the circle.

Hunter had been back in the human realm for a full month, yet change took time. After Ambrose, Jamie, and Balin—and of course the young demon, Fawkes—had rescued him from the depths of hell, he’d returned to the realm he’d grown up in.

Unlike most supernaturals, wolf shifters and some other types of shifters lived within the human realm but were hidden deep within the forests. Their own magic kept the humans away and their secrets buried. Other supernaturals lived in other realms that were accessible through only the human realm. It was as if the humans themselves were the glue that held everyone together.

Fitting considering the humans weren’t really humans at all but merely diluted down versions of supernaturals themselves. They didn’t know the things that went bump in the night were real and had no idea that, within themselves, they held the ability to change into another being…if something were to alter their course, that is.

Hunter had grown up with the humans around him and his Pack at his side. They might be dark and depraved in the best of times, but he’d loved them like his own.

He’d thought he’d return to the Pack he’d known, but that had not been the case.

Four years was a long time to be gone.

Everything had changed and not for the better. Though one thing might offer the light on his horizon.

He’d left her alone so he could find his place and be better for her. Now it was time.

He’d find her soon. His Becca.

“You must be thinking about a woman,” Alec teased as they made their way back to Liam’s home. “You’re smiling.”

Hunter grunted then walked inside the place with Liam and Alec following. He turned on the lights and stretched his arms over his head. He was damned tired after that run even though he still felt a bit on edge since he hadn’t hunted big game.

“I don’t smile,” Hunter growled.

Alec just shook his head and stole a beer from Liam’s fridge. Liam scowled and slapped the back of Alec’s head.

“You never ask to take my shit,” Liam snapped.

Alec frowned. “I didn’t think I had to, Murray,” he drawled.

Hunter blinked at the two of them, their tension different than it had been before he’d been gone. While before the two had always bickered and annoyed each other, this felt different. Before they’d always smile and get over it, the tension dissipating after a few moments. Now, though, there seemed to be an underlying current between the two that Hunter couldn’t quite put his finger on.

“Guys? It’s beer. Get over it.”

The two men swiveled their heads at him and glared. They might have looked nothing alike, Liam with his dark looks and blue eyes, Alec with his brown hair and green eyes, but right then, they had the same expression.

Hunger, anger, and confusion all rolled into one.

What the hell?

Looking at Liam, Alec twisted off the beer cap then took a long swig. Liam’s jaw clenched as he ground his teeth together, and then he handed Hunter a bottle.

Hunter looked between the two men but put his questions aside. He had enough to deal with without delving into whatever drama they had.

“Tell me about what I missed,” he said after a minute of awkward silence.

“Everything, Hunter,” Liam said.

“No shit,” Hunter snapped. “Give me specifics.”

“When you left—” Alec began then cut himself off. The other man clenched his jaw then took a deep breath. “No, when you were taken, things went to shit. We still don’t know how you were taken to the demons, Hunter. You have to believe that.”

Hunter nodded and meant that. He knew the two men in this room wouldn’t have sold him to the demons. That was all he knew though. He had his ideas of what had happened, but no proof.

Finding out how he’d been sold as a slave to the highest demon bidder was high on his list of priorities.

Liam cleared his throat then put his hand on Alec’s shoulder before sitting down on the couch. Alec shot him a look, and Liam pulled his arm away.

“When you left, Masterson, Lloyd, and Jacobs thought they found an opening for their plan,” Liam continued. “They’ve never hidden from those who’ve looked as though they want to take over the Pack. They want to bring the wolves into the twenty-first century, as they put it, and force a democracy.”

Hunter cursed. “We’re wolves. That cannot happen. None of the other Packs who have tried that have survived. We’re not humans. We have wolves wrapped around us, deep within the very aspects of our souls and beings. Denying an Alpha should hurt.”

Liam nodded. “You’re not telling us anything Alec and I haven’t said before. The amount of pain, though, depends on the Alpha.”

Hunter held back a grimace. “Josiah is getting older, but we don’t age like humans. His power should only increase with age.”

Alec shook his head. “Not without a Beta who can support him or without the magics that got him the position anyway. An Alpha can’t survive without a Beta. Josiah holds all the magic and strength of the entire Pack on his shoulders, but he can’t rule and be himself without another to lean on.”

Hunter nodded. “He would have been fine if he hadn’t lost Clara.”

Liam ran a hand through his hair. “She’s been gone for a decade, Hunter. Josiah is stronger than he gives himself credit for, but he can’t do it alone. He shouldn’t have to do it alone.”

“And Samuel, may he rest in peace, wasn’t strong enough to protect him,” Alec whispered.

Hunter didn’t wince or move at the mention of his late brother’s failures. No, that wasn’t quite right. He couldn’t call his brother’s decision a failure since the boy had done all in his power to protect the Pack. It just hadn’t been good enough. There had never been any question that Samuel hadn’t been strong enough for the position, but the kid should never have been put in harm’s way to begin with. If Hunter had been there, Samuel would be alive.

That above all else would be something that would haunt Hunter until the day he died.

“Have you found his killer?” Hunter asked, his voice low, deadly.

Alec shook his head. “No, but we can make guesses.”

“The three bastards who think they can take over the Pack.” Hunter clenched his fists, his fury riding him hard.

“You’re here now and named Beta in truth,” Liam said. “We couldn’t do it alone, not and keep our families alive and the Pack fluid, but we’ll be by your side, Hunter.”

Hunter nodded but stayed silent.

“The struggle has only just started, Hunter,” Alec put in. “We don’t know what the others have in store, and we don’t know exactly what they’ve done in the past. All we know is that we’ll protect Josiah and you with our lives.”

Hunter inclined his head at the two men who had been his best friends since they were pups. The three of them had always been thick as thieves, and when they’d grown into adult wolves, they’d taken their positions as council members and Beta in stride.

Alone they were strong.

Together they were stronger.

“This will cause a war if we’re not careful,” Liam murmured.

“We’re already in a war,” Hunter said flatly. “We just need to make sure it’s contained.”

The last thing he wanted was to bring their conflict into the other realms and hurt the humans.

Especially one particular human. She’d already been hurt once from a supernatural battle, and he’d be damned if he’d let another touch her.

He’d walked away from her once to ensure her safety.

He wouldn’t do it again.

end of excerpt
An Unlucky Moon