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Dante’s Circle Reborn

Book 8 in the Dante’s Circle Series

NYT Bestselling Author Carrie Ann Ryan returns to her bestselling Dante’s Circle series with a collection of four never before published and highly anticipated romances.

FALLEN FOR ALPHAS

Liam and Alec watched their Pack fall from grace and fought with tooth and claw to make it rise from the ashes again for the Alpha. Once from rival families and now true packmates, they’ve fought their attraction for longer than they should have. Now, as they leave the den in search of a rogue wolf, they’ll finally have a chance to entice their wolves—if they can overcome their struggles and survive what lurks in the darkness.

AT LAST SIGHT

Jonah assumed he’d seen everything there was to see throughout his long life. He battled dragons, lions, and anything else that came across his path. Now, it’s his job to protect the cubs under his care—something far more dangerous than anyone ever counted on. But when he comes to face to face with Dante’s sexy new bartender, everything changes. From his first look into those silver eyes, he was lost. But they’re eyes that can kill if the world isn’t careful, and some want them for their own.

BLOOD’S FIRST KISS

Calypso’s position as a representative on the Conclave for all mermaids is in jeopardy if she can’t uncover the true lineage of a mysterious stranger. Especially since his mere presence seems to rock the already shaky foundation of their people.

Micha knows exactly what he is: the one supernatural being that everyone claims cannot exist. And he’s been searching eons for his mate. Now that he’s found her, all bets are off. But he must keep his past a secret, no matter the consequences.

REAPER’S SONG

He remembers his death. Even remembers parts of his life. But as a newly made reaper, he must do the one thing he knows he cannot: reap his soul mate. No matter that she can see death coming.

read an excerpt

Dante’s Circle Reborn is Book 8 in the Dante’s Circle series

Dante’s Circle Reborn

When the fist smashed into his jaw, Liam figured he probably deserved it. As this wasn’t the first time he’d been punched in the face, he didn’t move back at the impact, didn’t stumble, didn’t even budge from his spot. In fact, his body stayed exactly where it was. His wolf, on the other hand, wanted blood. It scraped along his skin, the ache a familiar burn; its claws ready to attack. He didn’t let the wolf have control. He never did.

That’s what made him as strong as he was. He wasn’t the Alpha of his Pack. However, he was damn well close in terms of dominance.

Of course, he had to prove it before he could flatly state it. It wasn’t as if any of his Packmates could just let things go and let everyone breathe without bloodshed.

Hence the fist to his jaw.

“You’re weak,” Michael spat as he shifted from foot to foot, his fists at the ready in front of his face as if they were in a boxing ring and not in the middle of the den. They weren’t even in the Pack circle, prepared to do an actual dominance fight that would lead to title recognition.  “You don’t deserve to be the Beta. Just because you’ve licked the boots of our Alpha since birth, doesn’t mean you can rule.”

Liam sighed. He might be best friends with the Alpha, Hunter, but he didn’t lick the other man’s boots. Not even that one time when he’d been so drunk that he’d actually fallen at Hunter’s feet. Of course, Hunter and their other friend, Alec, had fallen right next to him since they’d been just as intoxicated. They’d been young, celebrating a recent mating of one of their other friends, and not on duty for the following twelve hours.

“You don’t want to go there,” Liam said slowly. His wolf pushed at him. Still, he didn’t let his inner beast out, not when Liam could take Michael down in his human form alone. Of course, the other guy didn’t know that, or if he did, chose to ignore it. So many people underestimated Liam and would likely continue to do so.

If Liam were to become the Beta of the Pack, he wasn’t sure the preconceived notions would change. That was if he even wanted to become the Beta. His wolf was taking its time deciding if the position fit him. As for his human half, Liam wasn’t sure he wanted the responsibility.

He was a council member and helped rule his Pack’s governing body. However, his duties were mostly performed through his family. They had been one of the original five families that had representatives on the council. Being second in command to Hunter would be a giant leap in everything, though it wasn’t something he was ready for, let alone something he truly wanted.

Liam ducked under another punch and kicked out, forcing the other wolf to the ground. Michael didn’t stay down long, and Liam hadn’t put too much force into the kick anyway.

He needed to get his head in the game so he didn’t end up with too many bruises after this. He didn’t want to deal with Alec’s glares because he’d let the fight go on too long and was in his head the whole time.

Liam wasn’t sure he wanted to deal with Alec at all.

And because he thought of his friend and didn’t have his mind on the battle in front of him, Michael got in another lucky punch. The impact forced Liam back a step this time, and he tasted blood. He pressed his tongue to his teeth, grateful when none felt loose. The only two wolves who had ever almost knocked one out had been Hunter and Alec. He’d be damned if this little pup in front of him would be the third.

The gasp from the crowd surrounding them forced a growl from Liam’s throat, his wolf just that much closer to his skin. He let his claws slide from his fingertips, done with this pointless fight. Did the others around him think he’d lose to this wolf that was nowhere near his dominance level?

Well, he’d show them. He had to.

“Michael, boy, one day, you’ll be a wolf worthy of the strength you possess. For now?” Liam shrugged. “Grow up.” He slashed, his claws digging into Michael’s shoulder. The other wolf cried out, going to his knees. Liam punched the man in the face for the comments he’d made about their Alpha, his friend, and then Michael was down for the count.

Dominance battle won.

However, it wasn’t a true dominance battle as they hadn’t fought in the circle, nor had it been sanctioned. The others would know where Liam sat in the ranks if they didn’t already. The actual choosing of the Beta, fight or not, hadn’t happened here.

Given what had happened in the months since their former Alpha, Josiah, had stepped down due to his age and power level, Liam wasn’t sure the choice would ever be made. Hunter needed not only a Beta but also a Tracker. He’d been taking his time in choosing because it was his right as Alpha, and he couldn’t just pick his two best friends.

It didn’t matter that Liam and Alec were the next two on the dominance scale right under their Alpha. Things were never quite as easy as they should be. Hunter needed to make a decision, but he couldn’t even begin to start that process until the necessary dominance fights were complete within the circle itself.

Others had already done their fighting within the sacred stones that had once made their original Alpha’s home. Neither Liam nor Alec had stepped foot inside. He wasn’t sure why Alec was hesitating, and that only made Liam want to wait that much longer.

That was par for the course for them.

Alec hesitated while Liam waited, and neither of them ended up satisfied in the end.

Liam pushed those thoughts from his mind and rolled his shoulders, wincing as he did. Michael’s lucky punch hadn’t been Liam’s first in recent weeks, and now he could feel the aches and pains from not using his full strength in the match. He needed a hot shower and a beer, and then maybe he’d get over what had happened today. He still couldn’t bring himself to think about what a fight like this would mean, and what he would have done if the battle had been sanctioned.

As he turned towards his home, he froze at the sight of Alec standing at the edge of the crowd—close enough to watch, yet far enough away that no one could touch him.

That was Alec in all ways lately.

Alec’s jade green eyes darkened when they met Liam’s. The other man’s jaw tightened, tension evident in even his breathing. A breeze caressed them both, slipping through the dark brown strands of Alec’s hair. The other man’s biceps bunched as he moved his arm up to push the hair from his eyes. The action caused his scent to catch on the wind, and Liam inhaled.

Mistake.

The heady scent of man and wolf knocked Liam back so hard, he almost ended up right on his ass. He did his best to hold back from growling or letting his wolf come too close to the surface. He couldn’t let anyone else find out what exactly went on with him when he was in the presence of his best friend.

It wasn’t that he was ashamed of being attracted to another man. As most of the wolves in his Pack were bisexual, Liam wanting Alec bent over in front of him wouldn’t be frowned upon.

It was the fact that Alec hadn’t shown any signs of wanting to be with Liam that killed him a bit inside and kept him from reacting in the way everything inside him wanted him to. And that was something Liam had to learn to deal with, even if part of him broke every time he caught sight of his best friend.

Another scent carried on the breeze, and Liam turned to see his Alpha striding towards them. Hunter had always been a badass wolf, large and scarred from countless dominance fights on his way to becoming their leader. He’d changed in the time he’d spent in the hell realm.

And by hell, Liam meant literally.

Hunter had been betrayed by their Pack and had been sent to the hell realm to fight in the Demon Games. Despite being sent there to die, Hunter had thrived instead. However, he’d lost a part of himself along the way. In the end, he’d come out stronger, though more wary of those he had once trusted with his life.

It had been a stroke of luck that he’d met a demon, an angel, and a woman who had once been human during his captivity and had been able to find his freedom. That woman, Jamie, had introduced Hunter to her best friends—six other lightning-struck women, who all eventually became paranormal creatures in their own right. And that was how Hunter had met his mate.

Becca wasn’t a wolf. She was a leprechaun, who was not only the Pack’s savior, she was also their healer. She’d saved her mate, saved them all, and rescued the Pack in the process.

From the look in his Alpha’s eyes now, however, Liam didn’t think Hunter was coming towards him to stroll down memory lane. It had been a couple of years since Hunter had returned with Becca at his side, and while the other wolf had become more settled, he was no less deadly.

The fact that they were still trying to figure out their hierarchy thanks to politics and wolf dominance trials just reminded Liam of their immortality and the idea that sometimes it wasn’t as easy as saying yes.

“Another fight?” Hunter growled, his eyes glowing yellow. While most wolves had normal-colored eyes while in human form, Hunter’s had become permanently yellow and gold following his time in hell. Liam thought the man’s eyes would have turned that color anyway eventually, considering the strength of his wolf.

Liam shrugged, wincing again. “Michael started it. I ended it.”

Hunter’s nostril’s flared. “You’re not twelve years old, Liam. For hell’s sake, you let that pup play with you before you finally showed your wolf. Are you trying to start more fights? Do you not want to get in the circle and show the others what you are?”

What if I don’t know what I am?

The stray thought went away as quickly as it appeared, and he wanted to curse himself once again for allowing the weakness that had plagued him since he’d been a child to return with a vengeance.

“I beat him, didn’t I?”

“And you got hurt in the process,” Alec snapped as he stormed up. Liam had scented him approaching, of course. He could always tell when Alec was near, wind or no wind.

“I’m fine,” he lied. He wasn’t okay. However, it wasn’t the blood on his mouth or the twinges in his shoulder that mattered at the moment.

“The hell you are,” Alec whispered so low that only Hunter and Liam could hear.

Hunter looked between the two of them, his eyes seeing much more than Liam wanted him to see. “Come back to the house, both of you.” He held up his hands. “This isn’t up for discussion. Liam, let my mate heal you since you can’t seem to take care of yourself. Alec, you come too, as I have an assignment for the both of you.” He growled low. “Disobey my order, and you won’t be happy with the consequences.”

Liam tilted his head, studying his friend. Hunter rarely ordered people to do things. His dominance was so immense that others generally intuitively did what they needed to in order to keep the Pack safe and healthy. Yet for Hunter to order them just then—something he had never truly done with Liam and Alec…something was up.

He didn’t want to risk the wrath of his Alpha and friend, though it grated on his wolf to back down without a fight. Still, he nodded. The fact that his wolf even wanted to fight his Alpha, even a little bit, told Liam that he had more issues than he thought.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Alec nod as well, and the two of them followed Hunter back to his place. Liam had spent countless evenings at Hunter and Becca’s home, begging for dinners and playing with their daughter, Hazel. The domicile was like a second home to him. Yet, tonight, he somehow didn’t think it was going to be quite like it always was.

For some reason, he didn’t think anything was going to be like it had been before.

He hated when his wolf got into his head. Its instincts were far more tuned in to everything around him than his human half most days.

When they got to Hunter’s place, Liam couldn’t hold back a smile as Hazel ran to them, her wide eyes so like her mother’s. She was a tiny ball of Becca with the brown hair of her father. And because the dominant genes in her DNA were all wolf, that was what she shifted into.

There were no hybrids in their world, unlike what some of the books might say in popular fiction—not that the humans knew about the supernatural. The genes that were in greater abundance were the ones that won the war regarding which paranormal creature a child of two different species would be. And unless they lived in backwoods places like the hell realm, the child’s home accepted them, no matter what they turned into.

Hundreds of thousands of years ago, each of the realms enjoyed their own form of peace, mating with one another so frequently that, eventually, the paranormal strains within each child were diluted enough that they created a new type of being: humans.

Once, humans knew about their paranormal forbearers and had learned to live alongside them. Eventually, however, humans forgot about the magics and bonds that surrounded them, and the paranormals were forced to remain a secret.

In the past few years, some humans had found out about paranormals. The protection of the hundreds of realms in existence required that they keep their lives shrouded in secrecy.

Hazel, Hunter and Becca’s little girl, however, didn’t have to worry about the struggles of the realms right then. All she needed to do was grow up into the dominant and hilarious wolf she was turning out to be.

Liam reached down to pick her up, but Alec moved in front of him instead, intercepting the little bundle of joy. Alec didn’t normally smile or laugh like he was doing just then. Hazel, like her mother, seemed to be good at pulling any wolf out of their shell.

As soon as Liam straightened, he cursed, his body aching. That was why Alec had cut him off. Having the little bundle of strength slamming into him would have hurt like hell. For a moment, he’d forgotten how much pain he was in after the fight. It was one of the reasons they’d been summoned to the Alpha’s house to begin with.

Alec held Hazel in his strong arms, not bothering to look behind him.

Hazel, on the other hand, waved. “Hi, Uncle Liam!” She grinned at him, and he fell in love again. Hunter was seriously going to have a ball of trouble on his hands once she was old enough to find a mate. Liam was kind of looking forward to that, even if he would probably end up being one of her overprotective uncles.

“Hi, Hazel darling,” he said with a small smile. “I missed your face.”

She had a crush on him he knew, though she called herself Alec’s best friend. From the day she’d been born, she’d inserted herself into their lives, and he’d been content with it. Hunter and Becca had made a perfect kid, and he was damn jealous.

She blew him a raspberry. “I missed yours more.” She kissed Alec’s cheek. “Uncle Alec is still my favorite because you forgot Mom’s birthday.”

Liam held back a wince as Alec let out a rough chuckle. He wasn’t going to live that down anytime soon. As soon as he thought that, Becca walked out of the front door, her large belly appearing a little sooner than the rest of her. Hunter growled low and cupped his mate’s face before kissing her hard. He kept one hand on her belly and their unborn child, leaving Liam with a sense of longing.

If he was able to mate with the one wolf he wanted to, he’d never see his mate pregnant. Though, honestly, he’d be happy with that. He and Alec could adopt, and they’d raise their children alongside Hunter and Becca’s.

Only Alec refused to mate with him, and Liam wasn’t sure he’d ever be ready to give himself to someone else like that.

There were reasons things were the way they were, even if they ended up hating each other in the end.

When Hunter pulled away, Becca frowned at Liam. “What have you done to yourself now?” she asked, her hands on her hips.

Hunter let out a growl, but Alec answered. “He got into another unsanctioned fight and let that weasel Michael get in a few good shots. Meaning, Liam’s bleeding, and he’s still not the Beta.”

Liam growled low and deadly. “Alec.”

“Not now,” Becca said sternly. She might not be a wolf, but her powers as a healer and leprechaun and the Alpha’s mate with magic of her own was immense. He wasn’t about to mess with her. “Fawkes and Leslie are out back with the twins, Hazel. Why don’t you go play with Lavender and Raven and let me heal your uncle Liam? They’re in wolf form if you want to change and play as a pup.”

Hazel wiggled down from Alec’s arms and ran past her parents, stripping off her clothes as she went. Becca rolled her eyes at her daughter’s antics and smiled. He wasn’t surprised that Fawkes and Leslie were at the Alpha’s home. The demon, Fawkes, had lived with Hunter when he’d first left the hell realm. The two of them had a history, and when the demon mated Leslie, they’d helped watch Hazel, preparing for their own future children.

Thankfully, with a trick of fate, the twins had turned wolf and not demon. Though Leslie was a submissive wolf, and Fawkes was a very dominant demon, the kids had ended up shifters and not demons. Liam was grateful for that, considering the sacrifice demons had to make at a certain point during their lives.

Becca cleared her throat, and Liam shook his head, aware that he’d been letting his thoughts wander rather than dealing with what he needed to.

“Get inside and take off your shirt,” Becca said.

Liam opened his mouth to say something, and she cut him off.

“And don’t make a joke,” she snapped. “I’m pissed off at you, and I’ll use my magic to kick your ass if you don’t sit down and shut up.” With that, she stormed back into the house, and Liam followed her, aware that Hunter’s gaze rested on him.

Alec glared as well, and Liam had a feeling this talk might kill him.

Slowly.

Once he was in the living room and seated, Becca used her powers to heal him. It wasn’t perfect, and it hurt like hell. His shoulder stopped aching, and his mouth quit bleeding. Normally, Hunter would have let him lick his wounds and deal with it. However, the Alpha apparently had a plan for him.

“What is it?” Liam asked, gritting his teeth as Becca finished up. “You wanted me healthy for a reason.”

Hunter snorted. “If you would stop getting yourself hurt, it would make things easier. Or maybe if one of you would step up and actually help me lead this Pack, I wouldn’t have to pull rank right now.”

Liam straightened his shoulders. “Excuse me?”

Hunter flipped him off, and Becca shook her head at the three of them. “You’re not excused. I need a Beta and a Tracker in this Pack. We haven’t had a Tracker in over a decade, and it’s past time. We’re long-lived, I get that, and sometimes, Packs go for a century or more before positions are filled. But I’m tired of this. My mate is about to give birth again, and I don’t want my children unprotected. I could choose who I want and have that choice made in a ceremonial fight. We know this. And yet, the two people I know can stand by my side won’t.”

Alec glared, and Liam had the grace to feel ashamed. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to help…it was that he wasn’t ready…wasn’t sure what he wanted.

“I don’t know what is going on between the two of you. Whatever it is, it’s affecting the Pack,” Hunter growled.

“Hunter,” Becca admonished softly.

Liam and Alec were silent. Of course, they were silent. God forbid they actually speak to one another about the tension that had been riding them and undermining their friendship for years.

“It’s none of your business.”

Alec’s low growl surprised Liam, and he turned to his friend at his words. He hadn’t expected Alec to say anything, and yet…

And yet Liam had known walking into the house that things were about to change.

“I need a Beta and a Tracker,” Hunter repeated. “If I don’t choose soon, I’ll have to let the sanctioned fights begin, and we’ll end up with others at my side. Where will our Pack be then, guys?” He ran a hand over his face, his body weary. “I’m tired. I lived through hell. Literally. And yet you guys are sending me to the brink of hell again.”

Hunter met Alec’s gaze, then Liam’s.

“I know it’s technically none of my business as Alpha what goes on between you. However, you’re also my best friends, and if you can’t figure out how to deal with the…tension…then I don’t know what happens next.” Hunter paused. “And because I’m not only your friend, I’m also Alpha, I need to protect the Pack as well as both of you. So, I’m sending the two of you away on a mission.”

Liam stood quickly. “What the hell?”

Becca gave him a sad look before putting her hand on her mate’s knee. “Let him finish, Liam. Please.”

He didn’t sit. However, he did keep his mouth shut. His wolf pushed at him, needing to fight something because it couldn’t do anything else.

“There’s a rogue wolf in the human realm, and it killed a person.”

Liam blinked. His wolf clawed at him, wanting to protect, to search. “What?”

“You heard me,” Hunter snapped. “We aren’t the only Pack on the outskirts of the human realm. We are the closest, though. And while lone wolves are out there, they’re rare. No wolf is allowed to go rogue and kill humans. That’s our number one law.”

“What do you need us to do?” Alec asked. His best friend stood so he was shoulder-to-shoulder with him. Liam did his best not to shiver at the slight contact.

“Find the rogue,” Hunter ordered. “Take care of it if you have to. Bring him back here if it’s an option. Take care of it.” He paused. “And figure out how to work side by side like you used to do, or things will have to change when you get back. I don’t want to lose either of you. If whatever is going on between you makes it so neither of you can be my Beta or Tracker, then maybe we need another answer.”

Liam’s heart kicked at the thought of not being in his Pack…of not being with Alec even as Packmates.

“We’ll find your rogue,” Liam said after a moment. “We won’t let you down.”

Hunter met his gaze. “Good. Because you’re both my right hands, and I can’t imagine running this Pack without you.”

Liam nodded, aware that Alec wasn’t looking at him. However, he could sense his best friend at his side. Quiet. Unyielding. Like always.

No matter what happened on this hunt, he knew that when they came back, he and Alec would have to find a way to work together.

Apart.

Or as mates.

Either way, their time of cautious tension was over.

Finally.

end of excerpt

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