Strength Enduring | Carrie Ann Ryan
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Strength Enduring

Book 8 in the Talon Pack Series

In the penultimate novel of the Talon Pack series from NYT Bestselling Author Carrie Ann Ryan, an Enforcer must make the ultimate choice when it comes to a human woman with a secret she doesn’t know she holds.

Kameron Brentwood has only one thing on his mind: defeating the enemy. He doesn’t have time for a human woman who sets his teeth on edge and makes his wolf prowl. It shouldn’t matter that she’s his mate because he’s always thought that mating is a distraction. Yet as soon as he gets to know the woman, he figures out that there’s no hiding from the attraction he feels for her.

Dhanielle Coburn has always been on the outside looking in when it comes to the Talon Pack, but she’s not about to let fate and the moon goddess decide her path for her. If and when she takes Kameron as a mate, it will be her choice. Yet when she suddenly finds herself in the Pack’s inner sanctum, deeper than she ever thought possible, she has to fight not only her need for the man in front of her but also a hidden secret about her family she didn’t even know she had.

When the choice is pulled from both of their hands, the two will need to learn who they are apart, and who they can be together. Because there’s more to mating than a mark and a prophecy that has come back to haunt them. And even though they may be fated, the ultimate sacrifice just might take them both in the end.

read an excerpt

Strength Enduring is Book 8 in the Talon Pack series

Strength Enduring Characters Profiles

Strength Enduring

Kameron Brentwood’s fist smashed into the rogue’s face, the bones in the wolf’s cheek cracking beneath his clenched fingers as he gritted his teeth, his own bones aching at the contact. This wolf, this man, had once been part of another Pack on the other side of the world, had once been a functioning member of society. Then the world, the Pack’s bonds, and the rogue’s own wolf had all become too tangled in a web of strain and panic, and the man had lost control of the wolf entirely.

It was Kameron’s job to take care of the rogues near the Talon Pack wards. At least the ones that didn’t come to the Pack looking to take out the Alpha. Those, Gideon—his brother and Alpha—had to deal with himself. The leader couldn’t ignore a challenge according to Pack law.

Because this particular wolf had gone too far and had not only killed his family but also a human along the way, there was no hope for redemption. No way for a life to continue under the continued watch of the world and their own needs as wolves.

The rogue in human form stumbled to the ground, his eyes all wolf, no longer able to shift fully because he’d broken far beyond redemption.

And with one quick movement, Kameron reached out and snapped the rogue’s neck, the sound echoing through the trees.

Now, Kameron was alone in the forest, only the sound of his own heartbeat filling his ears as the animals around them had gone silent in the presence of two predators. He slowly let the man who had once been an honored and strong member of his Pack fall to the ground, with Kam’s hand under the other man’s head so he wouldn’t land too hard. There may not be pain anymore, but that didn’t mean Kameron would let the man end without dignity. The other Alpha had let Kameron and his people know that this rogue might be on the way as they’d been trying to track his movements for over a year now. Somehow, even without control, the broken wolf had been able to evade them all. Except Kameron.

Because Kameron was the Enforcer of the Talon Pack. One of the strongest wolves in the area, and one of the best Enforcers in the world.

And he’d just killed a man because of his duty.

He let out a breath, running a hand over his face before growling. He looked down at his bruised knuckles. Little blood covered his hands visibly, but he could still see the invisible, red trails on the tan of his skin.

He’d barely broken a sweat taking out the rogue, and as he called his people to help clean up the mess, he knew he’d have to run out the rest of his energy or he’d end up hurting someone in practice later on. That was the problem when his emotions ran high like this. The Pack and his family thought him the man of ice, the man of such control that he felt nothing. He never let others see his emotions, never let them feel them through the Pack bonds, but they were there.

And he hated every damn one.

Once his crew came in to take the body so they could send him back to his Pack for a proper burial, Kameron went around the perimeter again to ensure that the den was still safe. The war with the humans was over, and thanks to new treaties and laws, their land was safe from satellites and prying eyes—at least for the time being—but that wasn’t the only thing he was checking for. The Aspens had been quiet for too long, and Kameron hadn’t been able to get ahold of their contact, Audrey, who was also the Aspen Pack’s Beta.

He’d known as soon as she helped his brother and sister-in-law, betraying the secrets of her Pack in the process, that things wouldn’t end well, but he still felt responsible for what happened to her.

Even as he thought that, it wasn’t Audrey that drifted through his mind. No, it was another woman, a human with a sweet and delectable scent that refused to leave his thoughts. He didn’t want to think about Dhani and what that scent meant, so he wouldn’t. The more he did, the less focused he would be. And with yet another war on the horizon, he had to be sure he was strong enough to lead his team and follow his brother, his Alpha, onto the battlefield.

A human with a sharp tongue and a delectable scent would only complicate matters.

His wolf pawed at him, annoyed that he was ignoring what was right in his face, but it wasn’t as if he could stop what he was doing and follow the promise of a connection that could turn out to be nothing. He’d seen the way losing focus could hurt a Pack, and the Talons relied on him for their protection. He couldn’t let his attention wander to something sweeter—not with the Aspens and their insane Alpha, Blade, hiding so close somewhere in their woods.

He couldn’t scent them, and knew they weren’t there at the moment, but they’d be back. Watching. They always were. And when they came back again, Kameron would take them out. He wouldn’t allow anyone to hurt what was his. Not again.

And even if it took all he was, even if he had to push away anything that could have been another connection, he’d do it. Because saving his Pack and keeping Blade and his ilk away was all that mattered.

He let out a growl when his wolf huffed at him, annoyed by his train of thoughts. His wolf would just have to get over whatever it was currently feeling. Kameron had, after all. Or at least he was trying.

He knew he wasn’t being fair and was most likely being so pigheaded that he was going to get himself in trouble, but it wasn’t as if he could change the way he’d thought his whole life. Especially not because of one scent that wouldn’t leave his mind.

It would be safer for everyone if he focused on the threat at hand and then saw if fate were truly testing him when it came to a certain woman. That wasn’t how it worked for most wolves, but Kameron wasn’t most wolves. He knew his other half and could control it better than most of the Pack could with theirs, and that meant they’d come to an understanding. And when the time came, and if Dhani truly were his mate, he’d try to figure out the next step. Dhani was smart and would understand why he had to stay away in order to keep his focus on the enemy and not be distracted by something that could change the way he thought and fought.

And, once again, he knew he wasn’t as convincing as he needed to be. But he couldn’t change his plans now.

“I’m an idiot,” he growled, then went back to his patrol. He needed to go back inside the den wards soon to have dinner with his family, and that meant he only had an hour or so left of being on high-alert and trying to get that scent and what it meant out of his mind. At the moment, he was still on Pack land, meaning there shouldn’t be anyone who wasn’t Talon or a guest of the Talons anywhere near. The fact that there had been a rogue wolf earlier just set his own wolf on edge. He knew the night wasn’t over. The warded area of the den was what hid their people from view. The wards themselves didn’t stretch out across the entire Pack land, as that would be far too vast and taxing on the witches and magic that held the wards in place. So that meant there were layers of patrols on each section of the perimeter, ensuring that they were doing their best to keep their land safe.

He stalked around for a few more minutes until an unfamiliar and very human scent drifted to him. He held back a growl. He knew of only three humans—one of them not so human anymore—who were allowed on Pack land, and this scent didn’t belong to any of them.

Kameron didn’t let his claws slide through his fingertips like his wolf wanted him to do since this human could just be a lost hiker or some other crap like that. The last thing his Pack needed right then was the bad publicity of having a scared, lost human come up on a wolf in human form yet with claws out that could draw blood.

His people had to constantly toe the lie of standing up for themselves and showing their strength, and not scaring the humans that thought the shifters were monsters.

Kameron really didn’t care either way, but then again, that’s why he wasn’t part of the Pack’s public persona.

He was the one who hid in the shadows for their protection. They didn’t want him out in the real world, scaring unsuspecting tourists with his sharp fangs.

So he kept his fangs and claws in check but carefully followed the scent, coming up on the human in a short jean skirt, boots, and a top that didn’t cover enough skin to do any good. Considering that the weather up in the mountains and forest wasn’t the warmest, he had no idea what this woman was doing here.

“Lost?” he asked, his voice a growl. He didn’t try to change it, though. She was on Pack territory, and while he wouldn’t try to scare her too much, there were boundaries marked for a reason. They had pups close by, for the goddess’s sake. He wasn’t about to let them come to harm from what looked like a too-curious human.

The woman turned on her heel, almost fell, then righted herself in the next instant. When she got a look at him, her eyes widened for a moment, then narrowed into an almost sultry expression.

Well, fuck. He had a feeling he knew why she was here, and he was not in the mood to deal with her. She wasn’t the first, and with how his day was going, she wouldn’t be the last either.

“Oh, I’m so glad I found you. I was looking for someone just like you.”

Kameron didn’t let his guard down even though she sounded sweet as pie. They’d had problems with humans from a new faction where—man or woman—they came onto Pack land, trying to seduce answers out of wolves in order to figure out how to take them out. Misguidedly, they thought of shifters as messengers of evil.

“You’re trespassing on Talon land. You better have a good reason, or I’m either sending you to the human authorities or somewhere the Pack can deal with you.” He didn’t tell her that he’d take her to the newly built holding facility they now had where they could interrogate trespassers. It was a good way to keep those not Pack away from the den, and keep the Alpha safe in case Gideon had to come and deal with the humans themselves.

Lost hikers, or in this woman’s case, groupies, got sent home right away. Because while he hadn’t known her scent, now that he got a good look at her, he knew her face. One of his men had taken a photo of her the last time she came onto Pack land so the others would know to watch out for her.

Some humans wanted shifters dead simply for being what they called abominations. Others wanted to protect them as if they were an endangered species. Still others desired a world where they could live their lives as if they were normal.

And some, like this woman, wanted to fuck a shifter to say they could.

This was why he hated people. Human, shifter, witch, or whatever else was out there. He hated them all. Hence why people thought him a grouchy asshole. He lived up to that reputation well.

“You’ve been warned before,” he added before she could plead her case. “This is the second warning. We don’t give thirds.”

They had treaties with the human government. Their land was protected, and what happened in their territory in protection of their people was under the shifters’ jurisdiction. Yes, the human faction who wanted all shifters tagged or killed would always have a problem with anything done on Pack land, but as of right then, human laws were on the Pack’s side.

And that meant the human in front of him was on her last free pass.

He’d already had to kill one person today; he didn’t want to make it a second.

She licked her lips, but it did nothing for him. His wolf wanted their human, not this one. Not that he was going to allow his wolf to think of Dhani as theirs again.

“I just wanted to…well, I guess you know what I wanted to see. I’m not harming anyone. There’s no law saying I can’t…flirt with a wolf.”

He barely resisted the urge to roll his eyes. “No, there isn’t. But there are laws about trespassing on our land. You want to bag a wolf? Go to a shifter bar like all the other people who want to find someone to hook up with or be with or whatever your end game is. Coming here isn’t helping anyone.” Not that there were actually shifter bars. But there were bars in the human world that his people hung out at when they weren’t on duty, and when times were safer for them to be away from the den. It had taken too many years and struggles for them to have that freedom, and it was one of Kameron’s duties to ensure that they were able to keep it.

He also hated the fact that he was having this conversation at all. He didn’t care what this woman did. She was an adult, and the choices she made in life were hers alone. He just hated that she had to come onto Pack land to do it.

“Come on, I’ll walk you back to your car.”

She sighed but didn’t bother trying to flirt with him again. She knew there was no reason to. She wasn’t the first groupie—a term the men and women came up with themselves—and she wouldn’t be the last. Kameron just wanted no part in it.

By the time he silently got her to her car, which she’d parked in a makeshift lot on the edge of their territory, he was running late for the end of his shift and just wanted to go home and not think about stupid people making stupid decisions. Hence why he really wasn’t in the mood for the other car pulling into the dirt parking lot. And, because of that, he was probably going to be more of an asshole than usual.

“You’re going to want to drive back. You’re on the edge of Talon land, and there’s no going forward from here.”

The man with the recorder in his hand shook, but he didn’t back away. “I only want a story. To tell the world the truth about all of you. I know you’re good people. I just want to make sure the world sees that.”

Kameron held back a sigh. He knew this could be a trick and would log it in, but he was tired and over all of this shit. The humans didn’t get to hear the truth. They weren’t allowed to know everything. It was for their safety and that of the Pack.

“You know what, man? I’m tired. You know there are avenues if you want to talk to the Pack’s publicity team.” Yes, they had one now. Like they were some sideshow for the public. He hated it, but he had to play along like a good puppy.

“But—”

“No buts. You’re not encroaching on Pack land yet. But you’re close. Go home and get in contact the right way. You’re not going to get any answers stalking around the forest, hoping you come across a wolf.” The fact that the guy had was because Kameron was having a shitty night. But it wasn’t as if this human reporter or truther or whatever the fuck he called himself was going to get any real answers.

There was a script for a reason.

“I want to tell the world who you are.”

Kameron let his wolf into his eyes, the gold rim around his irises glowing. The human male didn’t back away, but he swallowed hard.

“The world saw who we are. We aren’t here for your amusement. You know the laws. Get away from Pack land before you find out what you should be scared of.”

Fuck. He hadn’t meant to say that, and if this human told anyone, Kameron would be fucked. But he watched as the man drove away, raising a cloud of dust behind him, and Kameron knew he had a problem on his hands.

But first, he needed to clean the leftover blood from earlier off them and get to his family dinner.

He was an asshole, but making his Alpha’s mate cry because he didn’t show up again wasn’t something he wanted to deal with. His brother was meaner than he was, after all.

 

By the time Kameron got to his house, showered, and headed to his brother’s place, he was over an hour late and knew he was going to get his ass kicked. Yeah, he’d been working and dealing with problem after problem, but at any time during the past two hours, he could have called in one of his reinforcements to deal with the two smaller issues. He hadn’t, and now he would be late.

Again.

Of course, as he made his way to the front door, he figured he wasn’t the only late one. His cousin Max was skulking right alongside him, his new perpetual scowl on his face.

“You’re late,” Max said low, not looking at Kameron. From the way his cousin was angled, Kameron couldn’t see any of the scars on his face, or the fact that Max had lost his arm in the last battle they’d fought with the humans before everything changed. His cousin had been the nicest one of the lot, the light to Kameron’s dark, and now it seemed as if the two of them were vying for position.

“Says the man who’s walking in late with me.”

“I told them I’d be late dealing with council things. You, on the other hand…”

Kameron rolled his eyes but didn’t comment. “What council things? Something I should be aware of?” Max, along with others in their family, was part of the council that connected the Redwoods and the Talons. With so many inter-Pack matings, the council’s role had shifted over the past few years. Now, they weren’t only working on ensuring that the treaty for the two Packs was solid but also making sure the subtle changes and having two dominant Alphas in a small area under what was almost one large Pack worked and almost seemed normal.

Kameron had no idea how they did it, but since he worked with Gina—the Redwood Enforcer—and Adam—the prior Redwood Enforcer—weekly, he didn’t mind the cooperation.

Max shook his head as they walked up the stairs of the porch to the front door. “Just normal business, but we had to start late thanks to one of the member’s kids having a birthday. It wasn’t a big deal, but yeah, I’m late.”

Before Kameron could say anything to that, they were inside and confronted with the sound of every Brentwood family member, including mates, children, and close friends of the family. To say it was loud was an understatement. Max immediately went to a corner, grabbing a beer along the way, and watched the room. Kameron knew that others would go to him soon to talk to him, trying to bring him out of his shell. And, one day, Kameron figured it just might work. At least with the right person—namely, Max’s mate. But at least his cousin was trying harder these days by actually showing up to family functions.

Kameron was an asshole, but he didn’t have the kind of pain Max did.

“You’re late, but I heard you had trouble, so I’ll forgive you.” His Alpha’s mate, his sister-in-law, Brie, cupped his cheek, and he went down to kiss her on the forehead. He wasn’t the most emotive, but it was hard not to be with Brie—at least a little bit. The woman had saved his brother, his Pack, and she also happened to be a submissive wolf.

“Long day, but I’m glad I’m here.” And as he said it, he knew it was true. Everyone was talking around him, and though he had acute senses, he did his best to block out most of the topics as it would be too much for his wolf to hear at once. But the crowd seemed happy. His niece and future Alpha, Fallon, was in wolf form, being way too cute for her own good and rolling around with Finn and Brynn’s daughter Mackenzie, and Ryder and Leah’s son Bryson. The adults were watching them while enjoying their evening, and Kameron finally relaxed just a bit.

It was going to be a good night, even if he would rather be at home, trying to forget what he had to deal with that evening.

As soon as he thought that, though, a scent filled his brain, and he held back a growl.

Brie gave him a knowing look, squeezed his forearm, and headed back to Gideon’s side.

Kameron hadn’t known that Dhani would be there. But, of course she was. She was his brother’s mate’s best friend and ended up at most functions lately, but that didn’t mean he had to like it.

Even if his wolf did.

And, of course, because this was Dhani, and his day had already been hell, she strolled right up to him. She was average height, but that was the last average thing about her. Her long, honey-blond hair looked a little darker tonight, but he wasn’t sure if she’d dyed it or if it was just because of the waves she’d put in it rather than it being up like usual. She had bright hazel eyes and sharp cheekbones. Her curves were just right, and it made his wolf claw at him.

Damn it.

She scratched her nose, flipping him off, and he held back a smirk. She was constantly finding ways to flip him off, and he had a feeling it was to try and get a rise out of him. It didn’t mean that he had to show her he actually liked it.

“Kameron.”

“Dhani.”

Yes, he was an asshole. But he knew anything having to do with her would be trouble. And he needed to protect his Pack. If he broke that faith by following the mating urge, he’d not only hurt his people, he’d end up hurting Dhani, too.

That’s what those of his blood did before him, and that’s what he’d end up doing, too.

Since he was now somehow in the corner with her, no one could hear them unless he and Dhani spoke a bit louder. Which was just fine by him since he didn’t want to deal with nosy family members.

“Got a minute?” she asked, one hand on her hip, her voice going even lower until it was almost breathy.

His wolf and his dick perked up.

Fuck.

“Yeah.”

“I know you’re my mate—don’t open your mouth and say I’m human. I have this knowing. Have since Walker and Aimee fixed the mating bonds. So, yes, I know you’re my mate, and that means I’m yours. Why do I know? Who knows, but there it is. When you’re ready to do something about it and face up to what you’re hiding from, I’ll be waiting. What I’ll say once you finally fess up…? Well, we’ll just have to see.”

Then she turned on her heel and sashayed away from him as if she hadn’t just rocked his world and fucked up his plans.

Well, shit.

end of excerpt
Strength Enduring