Harbored in Silence - Carrie Ann Ryan
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Carrie Ann Ryan Carrie Ann Ryan

Harbored in Silence

Book 4 in the Aspen Pack Series

A witch on the run who could save the world–or destroy it with one touch

I am who they fear.

The Harvester Death Witch.

The one who holds the power of their fate in my hands.

Or at least…that’s what they whisper.

The coven has fallen. The vampires are circling our den. And if we don’t find new allies, our Pack won’t be able to fight much longer.

On my Alpha’s orders, I must find others who hide beneath the shadows for not only our protection, but theirs as well.

Only I’m not alone on my mission.

I brought Cruz back from death once before, and though I know the goddess forbids it, I’d do it again.

Because he’s my mate.

And my ending.

read an excerpt

Harbored in Silence is Book 4 in the Aspen Pack series

Harbored in Silence Characters Profiles

Harbored in Silence

Black smoke billowed in my face, the explosion ringing through my ears as I tried to suck in a breath, only to cough as inky tendrils of possibly poisoned gas wove its way through my nostrils and down my throat.

I fanned the air in front of my face, choking, as I grasped the edge of my workbench, trying to turn on the exhaust fans. Witchcraft and technology didn’t always go hand in hand, but an overhead exhaust fan for your witches’ brews really was the only way to go.

Especially since I wasn’t an air witch that could do that on my own—I worked in something a little darker.

I shuddered, turning for my water bottle as I wiped the soot from my eyes. I knew I would need to shower again before I headed out.

This had been my last-ditch effort, one try until I went to my hands and knees once again and begged. Because I would beg. At least try—getting anything really hadn’t work out for me.

I pressed the button on the top of my water bottle and chugged it back, grateful for the coolness down my throat. I coughed and sputtered as I choked again and spit into the sink, annoyed with myself.

Well, that looks like tar.

What exactly had I just inhaled?

I washed my face in the sink, drank more water, grateful when the smoke began to dissipate. I looked at my cauldron.

It was more of a pot really, one that anyone could make soup in, but I called it my cauldron. That’s what a witch did.

At least some witches.

My friends from the other Packs who held power were earth witches and fire witches. Water witches and air witches. I even knew a spirit witch, one who could commune with the dead, and bring forth magic from a knowing and hidden place.

But I was not that.

No, I was a harvester. A death witch.

One who saw and spoke to death and, if the legends were true, could twist fate and scream into the winds of that goddess-less place.

I was their reckoning, their ending, their doom.

But currently I was covered in soot, had burned part of my hair, and my entire place smelled like rotten eggs.

Good job, Dara, you are the one they all fear. The witch of endless witches.

I rolled my eyes at myself as I cleaned up, knowing that desperation meant I didn’t have time to feel sorry for myself.

My people were dying, my Pack wasn’t safe.

And if I didn’t find a way to stop vampire magic from seeping into our wards, from hiding from us and from killing us in droves, it didn’t matter that I might end up killing myself.

All the strength that I held within my bones wouldn’t matter, the magic etched within the calcium deposits that had once been lively and full of hope, none of it would matter. Because I would die right alongside my people, and no one would even whisper my name in the end.

I pushed away those thoughts, including the memory of who had been at my house the night before, who had raged at me and spoken truths better left unsaid.

I wouldn’t think of him.

I hadn’t spoken to him, hadn’t answered the questions that needed to be answered.

I had done nothing. Instead, I had broken down when he left, and I knew this was the ending.

Cruz was right.

And I hated that I had to admit that.

There was a knock on the door and I stiffened, worried once again.

It wouldn’t be Cruz. He wouldn’t be returning. Not after he left, derision and confusion within his eyes.

He knew. He knew the answers to his own questions, but they weren’t ones that we wanted to speak of, weren’t ones that would make everything better and would save the Packs and make warmth and rainbows shoot out of his ass.

No, none of that would happen.

I was going to pretend. Because it was what I was good at.

The doorbell rang and I winced, the sound echoing within my ears. I hadn’t even realized I had a headache, probably because I always had one these days.

The magic of the wards was draining me, and I was exhausted.

Everybody knew it, but they didn’t say it. They just gave me pitying and hopeful looks. Because they were putting themselves into the wards too. The wards just happened to be fighting me a little bit more.

I opened the door to two of my best friends. The two people who were going to help me, at least that’s what they said. And I wanted to believe that they could. That they would.

But I didn’t know if they were going to be enough.

“You look horrible,” Wynter said as she shook her head. She reached forward and gripped my hand before leaning to kiss my cheek. “And you taste like soot.” She scrunched her cute little nose and wiped her lips.

I loved Wynter. She was a human living within the Pack, for her own reasons, and while she had a day job, and even had a place outside the den, she also had one within the wards. She fought with us, was part of us, and had a connection to the Pack just like I did.

We weren’t wolves or one of the other types of shifters, but we were Pack nonetheless. She had bright blue eyes that held knowledge that I didn’t quite understand. She was human, and yet I felt like her soul was far older than anyone else’s on this earth.

Or maybe that was just my headache speaking. Her honey-brown hair billowed around her face, and she looked gorgeous and fragile.

She could be hurt far easier than all of us, and only had a weapon in her hand to protect herself. No claws, no strength beyond her human mortality, and no magic.

Beside her stood a lynx and one of my other best friends.

Wren scowled at me and held out her hand. “Okay, give me your hand.”

“You know it doesn’t work well with me. I just end up taking your energy.”

“And you think I care? We have bonds. And you’re going to let me help. And then you’re going to shower because dear goddess, you need it.”

I snorted, a smile playing on my face, and it was exactly what the Healer of the Aspen Pack wanted. She latched onto my distraction, pouring her healing warmth into me.

Magic sizzled up my skin and I sighed, taking in the life that she sent.

I was death, the Healer was life, two opposing forces that shouldn’t be friends, but all of it was a circle. There was no ending or beginning when it came to life and death, they were one in the eyes of the goddess.

Wren smiled, squeezed my hand, and I sighed with a warmth that I rarely felt.

“Thank you. That helped the headache.”

“Not anything else, but we both know I’m trying.”

I shook my head and pulled them both into the house. “You should stop trying. It just weakens you, and we need all of your strength. Especially if I can’t get these wards fixed.”

We had patched the wards that protected the den from outside forces repeatedly. They had fallen in battle more than once, leaving the innocent unprotected and frightened. It didn’t matter that every time we found a new way to protect ourselves, vampires, humans, or other rival Packs took them down.

We changed the way things had been made, put new magics into them, but with a certain magical group holding back, they’d weakened once again.

Hence why my friends were there, and why the trepidation that lay within me wouldn’t stop.

“Go shower, and then we’ll go with you.”

“I can go alone. You don’t need to go and witness this.” I rolled my eyes as I stripped off my shirt right in front of them, and continued to strip on my way to the bathroom.

I wasn’t a shifter, didn’t need to get naked in order to shift into a different being. Shifters within the Aspen Pack were all fine with nudity. It was just something that was a part of them, and when you walked within the forest along the trails of shifters, you saw naked men and women often. You saw naked shifters often. You became immune to the nudity.

I was used to it, and these were my friends, we had danced naked under the moon when I called magic. Wynter might be human, but she had joined in, and we had laughed. As a shifter herself, Wren was even more blasé about nudity than me.

Wynter sighed and picked up my clothes behind me. I shook my head and jumped into the shower.

I was quick about it, knowing we didn’t have much time if we wanted to get this over with.

“I can clean up after myself.”

“You just left a trail of clothes, so no, you can’t. I’ll start laundry.” Wynter mumbled around my house, picking up the messes I had made.

I was normally a much tidier person, but recently I’d been devoting all of my strength toward finding magical ways to counteract the vampires’ poisons.

My workspace, save for the new sooted area that would be cleaned up soon, was pristine. I knew where every part of my spells were, every ounce of every ingredient, but the rest of my house needed a good scrubbing.

“I’m going to start on your dishes. Though you don’t have much here…” Wren began. “Which worries me because I don’t think you’ve been eating enough.”

“I’m eating,” I said, rinsing out the conditioner from my hair. It was a quick job, and I knew that I was losing more hair than normal. But every ounce of my magic was being put into the wards, to protect our people, and it still wasn’t enough.

It was never enough.

When the vampires had first shown themselves, everything changed. For my entire life, and for the centuries that shifters had been secret, we hadn’t realized vampires were real.

But a few decades ago, when a nearby Pack took down the demon threatening us all, things changed. Another demon, at least as far as we could tell, had created vampires in his own image. I still wasn’t sure how it had happened, or their overall goal, but they were trying to kill us. Trying to take out those magic users and shifters that didn’t agree with them, so they could rule the supernaturals. They wanted to pit humans against us so we were fighting amongst ourselves before the vampires took over everything. Or perhaps it was the demon who wanted to rule.

I knew that vampires were made from humans who either wanted power or were forced into it. It took training, and the control of the higher-powered vampires in order to bring the mindless vampire hordes into submission. Once a vampire learned to control his power, his thirst for blood and agony, he could rule other vampires.

They were just as strong as a shifter, sometimes stronger if they had their own vampire magic in their arsenal. They used to be able to damage our wards, and we had stopped them, and they pivoted to find another way.

I was truly afraid that they had found a witch. That was what was always unsaid. That the witches had turned to the vampires’ side.

Because the coven was no longer working with the shifters.

Years ago, before I was even born, the witches had come together as a coven locally, and they ruled the entire Pacific Northwest.

They came together and decided who was allowed to be a witch, who was allowed to have their power, and who had to be hidden.

It was no surprise that as a non-elemental witch, I wasn’t allowed to be part of the inner circle. And over time they had pushed out anyone connected to Packs through mating or family. They only wanted those of pure blood, only those with power that they thought they understood. But even while they had done that, they had always worked with the Packs to ensure that the wards of every magical creature were safe. They were safe from the prying eyes of the human governments that wanted to control us, safe from humans who wanted to hurt us. Safe from other Packs. And witches were safe from those who were stronger than them, or who wanted their magic for their own gain.

All of that with the council had occurred before I was born, and they had fought to protect all of us.

But now the coven no longer worked with the council, and those magic users either had to hide who they were, or work in factions that didn’t have the power to organize or control.

We were dying, and I needed to stop it.

“Are you ready to go?” I asked as I ran my hands through my wet hair. I muttered a spell under my breath, using the small power of air that I held. It wasn’t truly air magic, but it was the opposite of life. Death and life were one, so I was able to use the power of world and energy to do small things. My hair dried instantly, and Wynter just rolled her eyes.

“Seriously, you look amazing. I hate you.”

Wren scowled at me, and I knew she saw the fact that I couldn’t hide the dark circles underneath my eyes, even with a glamour, and my cheekbones were a little more pronounced than usual.

I knew Wynter saw it too, but we didn’t mention it. Not when there was nothing to stop it.

It didn’t help that it wasn’t only the wards that were draining the life from me.

There was something else.

Someone else.

I shook that thought away as the girls moved forward.

“Let’s go, especially before we get told we’re not allowed to,” Wren said with a sigh.

We were going to see the coven. One last-ditch effort. But because the coven no longer wanted to work with the Pack, and were adamant about it, my Alpha could warn us away from it. So as long as he didn’t know where we were going, as long as those in the Pack hierarchy didn’t know, we could still do this. We could try to protect our people.

I would beg for help if I had to.

We got in the car and were waved through past the sentries.

“Chase is going to know where we’re going. He always does,” Wren said with a sigh.

“True, but he hasn’t told us not to go, so I’m going to take that as permission,” Wynter added.

“I’m sure Cruz and Steele know as well. And they’ll yell at us.”

Chase was our Alpha, Cruz the Heir—second in command, one who helped hold the mantle of Pack bonds. Steele was our Enforcer, in charge of the outside security of the Pack. Any outside forces that came at us would alert his Pack bonds. The fact that we had been in constant battles and wars since the vampires came out had to be stressing his own powers. I didn’t know how he dealt with it, but he did. Because he was the Enforcer, and that was what he did.

We made our way out of the forest and into the city, where the coven was located. They used to be within the forest with us, hiding from the humans. But when magic had begun to come out into the public, when the shifters had, they’d had to hide in different ways.

“I still can’t believe that they live in a townhouse here,” Wynter said with a sigh.

My lips twisted in a sneer. “Because the new coven didn’t want to be hidden.”

“Do you still believe that the new coven hierarchy killed the others?” Wren asked softly, her Healer heart breaking.

“Yes. Those who created this coven originally wouldn’t have left us like this. They wouldn’t have disappeared into the night without a word.” Hope twisted inside me, and I swallowed hard, the grief of my friends’ deaths still wrapped around me. “They could have run, could have been forced into it by having their families threatened. But nobody has sent word. Nobody has heard from them. I fully believe that the new coven leaders killed the old ones. Because they wanted power.”

“And now we’re going there to beg for help. For them not to renege on their prior promises,” Wynter said with a sigh. “Sounds like fun.”

“It sounds like we should have brought more firepower,” Wren said with a wince.

“And if we did that, they would’ve taken it as an act of war. If I go as a witch with my two friends to beg, maybe it’ll be enough.”

“I don’t like the thought of you having to beg. They should just want to do this.”

“They should, but they don’t. They pushed out everybody with a connection to the past. Everybody who wasn’t as special as they are.”

We were silent after that because there was nothing else to say. We had gone over this countless times, and I wasn’t sure what else there was to do.

When we pulled into the small neighborhood and saw the house at the end of the drive, hidden amongst trees, something strummed along my magic, and I knew something was wrong.

I opened the door, not bothering to turn off the car, and ran toward the wrongness, my soul aching as death once again sung toward me, calling me.

Wren cursed under her breath, following me, running even faster. She wasn’t the strongest wolf, but the power of Healer ebbed within her. She was a shifter and naturally faster and stronger than me. “I smell blood.”

Wynter was right behind us, running quickly, just not as fast as Wren could. She had her blades in her hands, in open view of anyone who was watching, but it didn’t matter. I held out my hands, my power strumming along my palms.

It was a dark orb, power of death. I didn’t kill with it, not unless I had to, but I could stun, I could push back. My power was unlike anyone else’s, but I used it how I could.

“Something’s wrong. Wynter, call the others. Get the Pack here.”

“I’m not letting you go alone. There could be vampires in there.”

I turned to her for a moment before looking at Wren. “Do you scent them? Feel them? Because I don’t.”

The Healer looked torn before she shook her head. “No. I only scent blood…and magic. But no vampires.” A pause. “Dara.”

“We don’t have a choice,” I murmured.

Wynter cursed and pulled out her phone, Wren between us, then I moved.

The door was ajar, the magical wards that protected the coven from the outside world broken. But they hadn’t just been broken. No, they were tattered and jagged shards of magic that pierced my skin as I moved forward, unable to keep me out.

I tasted death on the air, not just blood, not just magic, but death.

I had brought someone back before, something the goddess had forbidden me to do, but I had done it. I wouldn’t do it again to others, I wouldn’t do it here.

I walked past the blood and the death of the coven who had forsaken us, and knew that whoever had killed them wasn’t our friend.

This was not the enemy of my enemy, no, this was death itself.

A rasping sound hit my ear while Wren and Wynter went to each fallen witch, trying to help. But I knew they were dead, I could feel their death.

I moved towards the rasping breath where Henrick lay like a broken doll over a torn armchair.

The coven leader—the one who hated us the most—looked at me, his eyes wide, blood seeping from the corner of his mouth, and I felt only pity.

Nobody deserved to die like this.

He held his hand over his stomach, trying to keep what was inside inside. Everything stank of death, of what was to come. But I didn’t say anything. And so he moved my hand over his heart, and pushed in magic. His eyes widened, and that was when he knew.

I was the death witch, but I was not death. I couldn’t control it.

“It was her,” he whispered.

I leaned forward, doing my best to save him. I hated him, hated what he had done and what he stood for. But I would not let him die in agony. I knew death called to him, and there was nothing I could do, not without sacrificing my own soul—and his. And that was the crux. I would control his soul if I wasn’t careful, and he was too close to death for me not to. But I could ease his pain. As I did so, he reached out with his free hand, his bloody fingerprints on my skin.

“It was her. She promised to help us. And she killed us.” Blood burbled from his mouth as I tried to understand what was going on.

“Who was it? Who did this?” I asked, holding his hand as tightly as I could. There was nothing more I could do. He could feel no more pain, but I couldn’t stave off death, not without risking his soul.

“It was her. The coven is dead. And it was her.”

And with that, the coven leader died, right along with the coven. Death kissed my cheek and left me kneeling in a pool of blood, with the promise of what was to come.

The coven was dead. The humans and their laws would be here soon. The Pack would be close by.

And death beckoned.

end of excerpt

Content Warning:

Blood, violence, explosions, death of side characters, near death of MCs. Possible pregnancy, emotional turmoil.