Fierce Enchantment - Carrie Ann Ryan
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Fierce Enchantment

Book 5 in the Dante’s Circle Series

Faith Sanders sacrificed her life to save her best friend—only to find herself trapped in an endless sleep. When she awakens, a year has past and everything has changed. Her friends have not only moved on with their lives, but now she’s forever bound to a man she’s never met.

When Levi Hughes created a mating bond with the raven-haired, fiery woman, he knew he’d have to face the consequences. Not only does the woman in question bring with her a new battle he might not be ready for, but his past has finally caught up with him. It will take more than the strength of their bond to not only survive their new worlds…but each other.

read an excerpt

Fierce Enchantment is Book 5 in the Dante’s Circle series

Fierce Enchantment Characters Profiles

Fierce Enchantment

Chapter 1

Death wasn’t supposed to be easy. It was supposed to drown the senses until there weren’t any senses left. Yet Faith Sanders could feel. She couldn’t feel everything, but she could feel…something. What it was, she didn’t know, but it was there.

And it wasn’t making this being dead thing work for her.

Death was but a memory. A memory of pain, fire, and loss. So odd that Faith would feel the loss of something she never knew she had, but that ache, that longing, was there. Why she’d have that particular feeling, she couldn’t figure out, but whatever pulled at her had to be close to her. It was the only thing that burned when the fragment of memory faded away below the murky waters of her mind.

Nothing made sense in this new world of hers. She wasn’t quite awake; no, she wasn’t sure she’d ever wake up again. That didn’t sit well with her, but it wasn’t as if she knew what she was doing. However, she also wasn’t asleep. She floated in a sort of in-between stage where she pulled at herself, trying not to drown in the myriad of dulled emotions and fading dreams.

Faith wasn’t a weak woman. In fact, most people thought she was a bitch.

Or at least she had been.

She honestly didn’t know what to think now that she was dead.

And because she was dead, she knew it was okay to be a little afraid. Fear would help her get through whatever the hell was going on because that was an emotion she could taste, bitter as it was. If she had enough of that, then she didn’t feel quite as dead.

She didn’t want to be dead.

Faith’s mind followed this loop over and over, her brain going fuzzy and then clearing up, only to see the bright pain that had been her life before she fell on the battlefield.

The cavernous labyrinth that was her mind tugged at her again, and she fell into another memory of a time she’d rather forget. Whenever she fell into a fragment of who she’d once been, it was as if she was truly there again in the flesh. Things were slightly blurred at the ends, frayed memories that would never truly be hers again. But whenever she was in the dream, it was always the same. She felt every cut, every blade of steel against her palm as she fought. It was as if she was alive again, only she couldn’t control the outcome.

Because death always won.


Instead of being a casual observer of the war and her subsequent death, whatever held control over her thrust her mind into her body, and she fought just as she had on that dark day. She could feel every brush of wind, every cut and scrape when she fell.

She could feel everything—just not the emotions other than the pain and fear that came with knowing she was dead.

Even if it all dulled a bit after awhile, she could at least feel the pain to know something was there. She opened her eyes, knowing what she’d find.

The battle raged on, and a dragon flew over her. From the dark blue and black of his scales, Faith knew he was her friend…Dante. Yes, his name was Dante, and he had mated her best friend Nadie. The two of them had another mate, a bear shifter named Jace. She wanted to feel happy at that, wanted to remember the joy, and even the envy, at her shyest friend finding her future. Yet Faith couldn’t feel that—only pain of knowing what would happen next.

A sharp pain lashed her temple, and her dream self clutched at her head. She pushed thoughts of what could have been and what she wanted to feel away. The harder she fought these dreams, the harder it would be when she fell.

Instead, she looked away from the dragon overhead and stood by Nadie. Only the Nadie she knew before wasn’t there anymore. This Nadie was in her new, true succubus form, her hair whipping around her head in the wind, her curves sexy and dangerous as hell. Since Nadie was now mated and had these new powers, she wasn’t as weak as Faith was.

And there was nothing Faith hated more than being weak.

Nadie lashed out at a demon that came toward them, fangs and knives bared. Her friend’s power shocked them like the lightning that had brought Faith and the others to this new world in the first place. The demon in front of them—so unlike her friend Balin who was also a demon—screamed, frozen in place from Nadie’s power. That was when it was Faith’s turn to do what she did best.

She was her father’s daughter after all.

At least she had been.

She shook her aching head, focusing on the scene at hand, not what was going on in her brain. She stepped forward, her blades spinning as she sank them into the demon’s flesh. The demon screamed yet again as she took its life, her skill with a blade unlike most on the battlefield—human or not.

It didn’t hurt her to take a life. It should have, but when that life was threatening those she loved, she made the only choice she could.

Another creature that Faith couldn’t recognize came at them, and she turned, only to be pulled back behind Nadie. It grated that she had to wait for Nadie to protect her because she was only a mere human. It wasn’t her fault she hadn’t found her true half, her mate in all ways that mattered, so she could unlock the paranormal within her.

Faith was just a human.

Just a friend who shouldn’t have been on the battlefield of heaven and hell.

Out of place and on the path to death.

The image shifted, and she found herself fighting alongside Balin, one of Jamie’s mates. Her friend Jamie had two mates, just like Nadie, yet Faith had none. An odd kernel of jealousy bloomed, and she pushed it away. It wasn’t as though she ever wanted a mate. In fact, she knew she was perfectly fine being on her own for the rest of her life. She couldn’t trust a man with her heart, her life, or her soul. While it would be nice to be able to fight alongside her friends and actually feel equal, it wouldn’t be worth tying her life to a man she could never trust. She sighed, knowing all that angst was for nothing. She was dead anyway.

Balin, unlike the others, seemed to think she could be of use. She gave him a feral smile over her shoulder as the two of them cut through the enemy. He was stronger by far and more skilled with a sword and small blade than she was. Of course, he’d had many more years of practice than she since he was a demon, but she held her own.

It felt…good.

She threw her head back and laughed, her brain going a little crazy as she fought. Balin rolled on the ground, cutting the ankles of the creature in front of her. She sliced through the enemy warrior and watched him fall, holding her hand out to Balin.

He smiled at her, a glint in his eye that spoke of war and battle.

Then she screamed.

Torrent, a bear shifter on their side, brother to Jace, one of Nadie’s mates, went up in flames as a battle dragon scorched the earth.

Balin wrapped his arm around her waist, pulling her back. She didn’t realize she’d been trying to run to the flames, as if she could save the bear shifter with the big smile and innocent face who had been a friend.

Tears spilled down her cheeks, mixing with the grime and whatever else she didn’t want to think about that covered her face. She quickly wiped them away and pushed at Balin.

“I need to get to Nadie!” she shouted. “She’s alone…and I…” Her voice broke. “I need to get to Nadie. Don’t fuck with me, Balin. I’m not your mate. Don’t baby me.”

“Balin!” Ambrose, his mate, called to him, and Balin looked over his shoulder then back at Faith.

“Go. Be safe,” the demon growled.

He released her then ran toward his mate who fought four soldiers at once. Ambrose might be a warrior angel, but everyone needed help once in awhile. Not that she’d ever admit that about herself.

She ran toward Nadie, who was sobbing but still fighting. Faith’s other friends were slowly coming closer, grieving over their lost brother, son, friend, but still fighting. Her throat grew tight, but she swallowed hard and ignored any pain. She didn’t even know Torrent. She shouldn’t be reacting like this.

She was stronger than this.

With a growl, she turned around and started fighting a creature that had been trying to sneak up on her. The others kept fighting, knowing they needed to pick it up if they wanted to win.

Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted a man fighting for their side. His chestnut hair was cut short in the back and on the sides but had length on top. His face was covered in soot—probably from a dragon who got too close—and his vivid blue eyes turned to flames of fire as he held his hands out in front of him, a ball of light or magic, or whatever it was flowing out of him as he fought. A blue aura surrounded him as he worked, intent on whoever was in front of him. She had no idea who he was, but for some reason, even in the heat of battle, she wanted to know him.

For fuck’s sake, had she hit her head and not realized it?

He met her gaze for a moment, and a shock went through her.

No. Just fuck no. She didn’t know what was going on with her, but this wasn’t the time to moon over a man. In fact, there was never a time to moon over a man.

She pulled her attention away and continued to fight by Nadie’s side. She pushed all thoughts of men and sexy blue eyes out of her mind.

They fought harder, her strength depleting, even as the others around her looked as though they could continue to do this for hours. They weren’t human, and she was the only one here who was. She knew she should have stayed away like Dante had told her to, but she couldn’t. These were her friends, and this was her battle. She was a part of this, even if she didn’t feel like it. Only right then, all she could feel was pain and exhaustion.

Everything went into slow motion after that.

She turned toward Nadie and screamed at the vision in front of her. Her friend’s eyes widened and Nadie’s mates yelled her name. Dante’s mother, a bitch of a dragon, came at them, her claw outstretched, ready to kill the symbol of Dante’s love and future.

Faith did the first thing that came to mind…the only thing she could have done in this situation.

She threw herself in front of Nadie, taking the blow herself.

The claw sliced into her chest, the fiery burn taking its sweet time to engulf her in agony. Something snapped inside her, and her heart beat loudly in her ear once.

Then one more time.

Then stopped.

A trickle of something warm slid down her chest and her chin, and she figured that had to be blood.

Her blood.

Oh. So this was how she was going to die.

Her body felt as though it was on fire, and she gasped for breath, only she wasn’t breathing, she wasn’t moving. Hands were on her body, doing something with her chest, but she couldn’t truly feel it.

After all, she was dying.

She tried to close her eyes but found them already closed.

Maybe if she just slipped away, it wouldn’t hurt anymore. It wasn’t like her to give up, but having her heart clawed out by a dragon pretty much gave her leeway not to have to fight anymore.

“You said her name is Faith?”

That voice. She liked that voice. Who was that, and why could she hear only him?

Yes, her name was Faith. Odd because she’d never had faith in anyone, let alone herself.

Something warm slid into her chest again, and she tried to frown. What was that?

It didn’t matter.

She was dead.

And she hadn’t even had a chance to say goodbye.

Or ask who that man with the blue eyes was.

Funny how he would be her last thought.

Whatever it was that controlled Faith pulled her out of reliving that nightmare, and she found herself once again floating in the abyss that was her mind. Or was it the afterlife? She didn’t know anymore. She didn’t know how much time had passed or even if time passed where she was. When she was alive, she hadn’t truly thought about the afterlife and what would happen when she died. It was always something that was far off in the distance that she’d told herself to worry about later. She had way too much to deal with in her own life to fret about what would happen when it all ended.

Then, of course, the world had gone to shit, and she found out the things that went bump in the night were real, and she truly had no idea what would happen when she died.

A few years before the battle that took her life, she and six of her best friends had been sitting at their favorite bar when lightning struck inside the building. Each of them had been struck but believed themselves relatively unharmed. Some big bad Conclave of supernaturals had done it, or at least some of them. And they’d wanted to use her and her friends as an experiment or something, but that was out of her control. Each of them would eventually turn into whatever paranormal had the most hold on their DNA. Only they had to have sex with their mate—or mates in some cases—to transform.

Yeah, Faith had decided that she’d have to find another way to unlock her DNA because there was no way she’d want to mate with a man who thought he would have control over her.

Men lied.

Men left.

Men hurt.

Maybe if she’d been something other than human, she wouldn’t have died, but as it was, she was dead and lost.

She really hoped this wasn’t the end because it hurt to be dead. It shouldn’t hurt, but at least she could feel that. At least that’s what she told herself.

Her thoughts went on a loop again, over and over, where she’d either be contemplating what was going on in her brain, or she’d relive how she’d gotten there in the first place.

Maybe this was her hell.

But Balin had lived in the demon realm for most of his life, and that was called hell too. Wherever she was, it didn’t look or feel like what Balin and his mates had described.

Maybe everything was wrong, and Faith had no idea where she was.

That, sadly, felt like the right answer.

Something tugged on her chest, or at least where she thought her chest was since she was this floating mass of…something.

What was that?

She strained, trying to figure out what was going on and why she felt something tugging on her. Why couldn’t everything just leave her alone so she could be dead in peace?

It tugged on her again, and she gasped at the pain.

Holy hell, she felt that. Oh, she might have thought she’d been feeling some things before, but now she truly felt it.

And it hurt.

It tugged at her again, and her mind felt as though someone had slammed her body into a wall. In fact, it was as if something was pulling at her chest and she was hitting the ceiling and unable to move any farther than that. Her mind twitched, the pain excruciating.

She clawed at the ceiling or whatever barrier held her in place. Maybe this was it. Maybe she was on her way to heaven or hell or whatever was next in her afterlife.

Liquid fire swept over her body, and she screamed, trying to dampen the pain, only she couldn’t.

She closed her eyes, scratching at her skin and the barrier that kept her encased.


She knew that voice. She’d heard it once before.

The moment she’d died.

“Faith, you need to wake up. Open your eyes, darling.”

Darling? Who the hell would be calling her darling?”

She pried her eyes open and winced at the light. “I’m not your darling,” she rasped out, her voice sounding like she’d swallowed rocks.

Someone was holding her against their chest and had a hand on her face. She blinked again, trying to focus on anything but the blinding light.

Vivid blue eyes stared down at her, and she sucked in a breath.

“You,” she gasped. “Why are you here? Why am I here?” She spoke quickly and ended up coughing.

The man frowned then lowered her. She sank onto the bed she could now see and glared.

“You need water.”

“No shit,” she tried to say, but her throat hurt too much to speak. She knew she shouldn’t be such a bitch, but she didn’t know this man, and for all she knew, she was his prisoner.

Perhaps he was her hell.

He held a glass to her mouth, and she tried to gulp the water down, but choked.

“Slowly, dar—Faith.” He winced and shook his head. “Sorry. You need to drink slowly, and then I’ll explain.”

She ignored him, her attention on the glorious water soothing her throat. It felt as if she’d been stranded in a desert for years, and this was her first chance to quench her thirst.

When she finished the last drop, her stomach ached a bit, but that pain told her she might be alive. At least that’s what she hoped.

“I don’t know if I should give you more water until you’re fully healed.”

“Who are you?” she asked, her voice a little smoother. “Where am I? What happened?”

The man with the gorgeous eyes sighed. “I’m Levi. You died on the battlefield, Faith, and I brought you back the only way I knew how.”

She blinked. Well, that was blunt, but still it didn’t tell her anything. “Why did you do that? And how did you do that?”

He reached for her hand and seemed to think better of it. Good, because she wasn’t the touchy-feely type.

“I’m a wizard and…well, I’m your mate.”

She tried to sit up but couldn’t. “Excuse me?” She couldn’t have heard right. And that still, didn’t answer her question. The image of the thread filled her mind, and an aching feeling slid through her. What was that thread? She’d felt it earlier when something had pulled her up through her haze, but she wasn’t sure what it was. One end connected deep inside her…but where was the other end? “How did you save my life, Levi?”

Levi met her gaze, a mixture of sadness and hope in his eyes. “I created a mating bond between us. That’s how I saved your life. You’re my mate, Faith. In truth and in bonds.”

Oh, hell no.

Hell. No.

There was no way what he was saying was right. This man, this wizard, was not her mate, and she did not have a mating bond.

Something inside her pulsed, and she pushed it away.

She’d refuse it. She’d do something. Because she was Faith Sanders. Human, photographer, independent, and not mated.

She would never rely on a man. Especially a man who had forced a mating bond on her.

She’d rather be dead.


end of excerpt
Fierce Enchantment

Fierce Enchantment

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