Synopsis (Contains spoilers for previous books in series)
Though several weeks have passed since her family’s murder, werewolf queen Alara Crescent can’t seem to let go of the pain. It’s festered inside of her like a disease, twisting her thoughts until the only thing she can seem to think about is revenge. It doesn’t help that her dead sister keeps visiting her in her dreams, warning her of an approaching threat that could tear her new pack apart…
Nik knows his mate has changed. Gone is the unsure-of-herself princess, replaced by a werewolf queen with an appetite for blood. Not that he, of all people, can’t appreciate that, but he wants his mate back.
When a doppelgänger stumbles into a pack celebration, Nik and Alara know it’s more than a coincidence. Doppelgängers are bad luck, rumored to make people insane with rage and bloodthirst, on top of being creepy as hell. But no sweat for Nik and Alara. They think they have the problem—aka, “one unwelcome body snatcher”—taken care of when they send the doppelgänger away with the DPI, but their problems are only just beginning. One by one, their pack members fall prey to something sinister, and Alara’s own demons become restless, turning her into a deadly vixen that could rival the vilest and most dangerous denizens of the Underworld. She wants answers to her family’s senseless murders—now.
And she’ll do anything to get them.
Will Nik be able to break the curse of the doppelgänger in time to save his mate before her soul is lost to the darkness forever?
Series: Blood Moon Rising
Genre: Erotic romance/paranormal romance/romantic suspense/BBW
Age: 18+ for language and sexy scenes
Number in series: 5 of 6
Length: full-length novel
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EXCERPT (SPOILER ALERT: Please do not continue if you haven’t read Fever, which is free, BTW! You also might not want to read this excerpt on a work computer. 😉
Alara arched her back and moaned as Nik’s tongue raked over her sex.
He squeezed her plush hips, making her open her legs wider as he went deeper. She whimpered, her nails digging into the fur rug that lay sprawled before the massive fireplace in their bedroom.
No one would dare disturb them, so she relished the moment. Every second, every breath, every heartbeat. Modesty be damned, especially when he was doing this with his mouth.
Her whole body came alive as Nik kissed her most sensitive spot then licked her body from her navel to the dip in her throat. “You are so beautiful,” he said as he kissed her neck, his voice husky with want.
He slowly rocked into her as he said it, pushing inside just enough to make her gasp—then growl as he slid back out. “Tease,” she said, nipping at his lower lip as she hid a smile.
He raised a brow, a mischievous sparkle to his eyes. “Never. I’m just enjoying myself. Shouldn’t a wolf want to enjoy his mate?”
“You’ve been enjoying me for the past twenty minutes,” she said with a wicked grin of her own.
He paused, still grinning as if he could read her mind. “You’re saying you didn’t enjoy it?”
“I’m saying,” she purred, grabbing hold of his cock and positioning it against her sex, “that I’m growing restless.” She grabbed hold of his tight ass and pressed downward.
He might be her Alpha, but in the bedroom she was the master. And judging by how hard he was, he was just as eager for her.
He plunged into her. A contented sigh escaped her as exquisite fire bloomed deep below her navel. She brought her hips up to meet his as he began picking up a familiar rhythm. Their bodies rocked together as they made love, their hips rising and falling as the flames within her grew.
She closed her eyes. Ah, there it was—emotion. She hadn’t tasted it in so long, she’d almost forgotten what it felt like to feel. It was intoxicating, her senses coming alive with her soul’s thirst to be whole, to feel normal, again. “Faster,” she breathed, digging her nails into his back.
He obeyed, but she could tell he was still holding back.
Something about that set her teeth to grinding. She growled low in her throat. “Harder,” she clipped, her breathlessness making the command harsher than she intended.
His rhythm stumbled before he at last stopped. He lay on top of her, panting hard. Sweat was starting to bead on his skin, making the valley of hard muscles on his body shine in the orange firelight that bathed their room. The indigo ink of their mate-bond tattoos shimmered, a thousand tiny blue crystals twinkling with the reflection of orange flame.
Her brows furrowed as she studied his face. She swallowed her frustration. “What’s wrong?” she asked, brushing the wisps of hair out of his face. He’d started to grow it out since they’d gotten back to Crescent Manor a few weeks ago. She had to admit, it made him look boyishly cute, though it had taken some getting used to.
Nik sighed and sat up on his elbows, so he straddled either side of her head. “Nothing’s wrong, love.”
She blinked, idly playing with damp pieces of his bangs. He was hiding something. It was in the way he ducked his head, not quite looking at her when he spoke. She’d have to be gentle so as to coax it out of him. “Then why did you stop?”
He caught her hand and gently kissed her knuckles. She tried to catch her wince but wasn’t fast enough.
“Exactly because of that,” he said quietly, examining the backs of her hands. They looked a hell of a lot different than when she was a princess. Thanks to the angry red scabs and bruises, she looked as if she punched concrete on a daily basis. It about felt like that now, but she was starting to form calluses. Once she would have balked at the idea of having “man’s hands,” but now she was rather proud of them. They made her feel strong, more in control. Beating the shit out of a punching bag was about the only time she felt any semblance of control.
More scars to match the rest.
Her mate studied her, gently playing with her hair. He liked to do that. While they spoke, tangled in each other’s arms in bed, he’d often run his fingers through her hair. She couldn’t say she objected.
Nik watched her warily, trying to be so careful. Which, in itself, was damn impressive, considering he usually spewed whatever thought came to mind without any filter. “I hear you slipping out of bed every morning before dawn,” he said quietly, “and your scent is all over the training room. You haven’t given yourself one break since we’ve been back.” Pause—cue a deep breath. “I wish you wouldn’t be so hard on yourself,” he added, more softly and with a hint of sadness.
Her heart wrenched with an unfamiliar twist of regret.
And rage. That emotion, that simmering, restless anger, had been her one constant. She was mad as hell, a ticking time bomb. She had been ever since her family’s deaths. Training and trying to relieve the anger with physical exertion was the only way she knew how to exorcise the pain.
She opened her mouth to tell Nik just that and then choked. God, why did she always choke? Why was it so hard to talk about this?
Feeling as if her throat were closing up, she blinked and looked away. Coward. “Who says I’m being hard on myself? Werewolf packs need strong queens. Everyone here is a way better warrior than I am. I want to get better. I want to get stronger.”
He grinned. “Way better, huh? Humph. That’s the first time I’ve heard you not speak in perfectly polite sentences.” He poked her on the tip of her nose. “Your ‘poshness’ is wearing off, Your Highness.”
“Well, look at the company I keep.”
He snorted and pulled her closer. “I’m ruining you.”
“It was bound to happen.”
She smiled. The motion still felt stiff. Fake. It was also usually accompanied by a wave of guilt and a little annoying voice that preached how she shouldn’t be happy. That she didn’t have the right to be happy when her family was dead.
When her little sister, so innocent and kind and everything she wasn’t, was now cold in her grave.
She shivered as her blood turned to ice.
Nik rubbed her arms as goose bumps broke out over her skin. Mmmmmm, he was so warm. Though her temperature ran naturally hot too, she still loved snuggling next to her mate’s gorgeous bared body.
Nik rested his head on hers. For a pensive moment, the only sounds in the room were their beating hearts and the gentle swish of their breathing. “Beating the pain out of yourself isn’t going to make it go away,” he said, his breath ruffling her hair. “It’ll only remind you of why you’re there and make you angrier.”
Her fists tightened. I couldn’t possibly be any angrier. She couldn’t say it out loud, couldn’t ever acknowledge that sleeping beast. For if she did, she didn’t know if she’d be able to control it.
“I should know,” he went on thoughtfully. “I got in a lot of fights growing up.”
“But you didn’t have a choice.” She didn’t need to look at the network of scars along his body to make her point; they spoke for themselves. “You said you had to protect your little brother. And your father,” she added bitterly. It was a good thing he was already dead—otherwise, she might have to assassinate the son of a bitch. Anyone who hurt her Nik, father-in-law or not, automatically went onto her shit list.
“Yeah, but I still felt pissed off all the time because of the pain inside.” He smiled sadly at her. “Sometimes you don’t realize how much you care about people until they’re gone.”
The tension and ice that had been draining out of her returned. She could feel her shoulders knotting up.
God, what did she think about losing her family? Hell if she knew. Even after weeks of diary therapy and “therapist” therapy, she was still no closer to figuring out the tangle of emotions inside of her. All she knew was she was sick of feeling hurt. And numb. Or crazy pissed off. It was always one of the three. Either she hurt like hell, or she didn’t hurt at all.
Except when she had sex with Nik. It felt so damn good to be with him, to give herself over to her more carnal nature.
Unfortunately, Nik had started catching on. He hadn’t said anything about it yet, but he’d started cutting their sexcapades short.
He rolled over onto his back and patted his chest. She curled up next to him, laying her head against his beating heart. “I’m sorry,” she said softly, staring at the crackling flames.
“Don’t be,” he said, kissing her forehead. “I know.”
She smiled her broken smile. Hey, it might have been broken, but at least it still worked. That had to mean something. Maybe she wasn’t completely unfixable.
Or she was a damn optimistic idiot.
She heaved a shaky sigh as the fear that she’d never feel like herself again returned. A moment later, as if out of some natural instinct of self-preservation, the numbness started to take over. Call her a coward, but she let it. Every. Single. Time. Because feeling nothing was easier than trying to face the real problem—why she gave a damn her father and mother were gone in the first place.
She cleared her throat, mostly so she could swallow again. Her throat had gotten so tight, it was even getting difficult to breathe. “What time are Gage and Danica coming over?” she asked, ready to change the subject.
Distractions were her other means of coping, whether it be in the form of a book, exploring the manor, or whatever else she could come up with. Long, empty periods of time to just think, think, think and worry, worry, worry were her enemies. “Just stay busy,” her therapist had said. “It’ll help with the depression.” Alara didn’t think she could get any more depressed than she already was, but hey, she wasn’t the licensed shrink.
“Noon,” Nik said, glancing at the clock over the mantel. “And I have some new real estate contracts to look over, as well as some bills to discuss with our treasurer before then.”
The Moonstruck Pack was run much like any other organization. Some pack masters made their mates their Betas, but not Nik. He’d surprised everyone by claiming dual leadership, making her his equal in every way. Dual Alphas were nearly unheard of in the Underworld. She was always included at every meeting, her opinion weighed in on every decision. It meant so much to her that Nik would stop at nothing to include her in his life, to make this pack mean more to her than she’d meant to her last one.
Which was nothing other than a pawn.
Being crown princess had felt a lot like wearing shackles, but not here. Here, she was a queen in her own right, and the pack treated her as such.
So why couldn’t she just be happy?
Alara sighed. “Do we have to get up?”
“Afraid so, love.” He kissed her head again, and together they rose. They went over pack business as they showered and got dressed for the day. It was a familiar routine, and familiar was comforting. She started to relax and not feel quite so on edge and lost. Nik seemed to sense her need for distraction, and she appreciated it.
He kissed her at the door. “Leave some of those punching bags for me later, killer.”
“I wouldn’t be much of a killer if I did,” she said coyly over her shoulder.
He laughed. “That’s my girl.”
She smiled at him as he went one way and she another, decked out in her favorite sweats, sneakers, and tank top. Such tight-fitting clothes would have made her uncomfortable before, considering her curves. Nik was slowly starting to help her overcome that. He worshiped her body, saying he preferred her soft curves to cutting himself on the skin-and-bone she-wolves he’d dated. And besides, considering everything that had happened, worrying about her appearance seemed… silly. Trivial, even. There were so many larger things at play here, things that demanded her attention.
Like kicking the shit out of a punching bag before she turned into a green rage monster.
Before she reached the stairs, a catcall sounded from across the hall.
She made a little show of shaking her hips for her mate and grinned when he chuckled a moment later.
God, she loved that man. Maybe a little too much.
He could be taken from you just as easily.
No. No, that was the one thought she could never, ever think. It was bad luck. Had to be, as if even thinking it would make it come true.
Curses be damned. This girl was getting her shit together.
She marveled at how much she had changed on her way to the gym. Gone was the perfect little princess. In her body was a proud, sassy woman ready to take charge of her life.
She just had some anger issues to sort out first. Okay, so maybe a lot of anger issues, but that was what the punching bags were for.
There was just enough time for a brief thirty-minute workout before she had to get ready for her morning meetings. There was a lot to do before the High King and Queen of Werewolves made a visit to them, most of which she was in charge of. It made her feel proud to be trusted with all these responsibilities, and she took her job seriously. She was determined to do her best. No one in the pack would respect her if she behaved like a spoiled lapdog. The days of being “seen not heard” were over. Now, she proudly earned her keep. It was so nice to be thought of as more than a puppet.
She arrived at the massive gymnasium and turned on the lights. It was underground, so it stayed nice and cool. Mirrors lined every wall, and large TVs and expensive stereo systems dotted the corners. Most of the time she didn’t even turn the TV or stereo on, but today she needed more distraction.
Nik scraping the topic that was the real source of her problems had set her on edge more than she cared to admit. Not to mention that remembering who was visiting them today reminded her of the titles her deceased family had previously held. She knew she’d go mad if she were forced to think of them for long.
Don’t be a time bomb. Work it out.
Settling in to her routine, she wrapped up the sensitive, broken skin along her knuckles and took up a defensive stance in front of her favorite punching bag. She pictured the face of Gerard, of all the snotty-nosed brats at the palace, and everyone else who’d ever shunned her or let her down. She hit as hard as she could, pouring all her negative energy into the bag as her therapist had instructed.
All of her anger came to a boil, rising up from the dungeon she kept it chained in and making her skin burn. She bared her teeth, and she snarled at the bag as her frustration built.
Damn you, Gerard.
Damn you, Mistress Black.
Damn you, Order.
Damn, damn, damn.
It started out as the prickling of hairs along her arms and neck and then turned into the heightened sense of being watched. A shadow swept past the door. She’d been so caught up in her anger that she’d almost missed it. Catching the movement in the mirror, she whirled, eyes searching the dark hallway.
She waited, wolf ears pricked and listening for footsteps over the chatter of the TV.
There. Someone was walking away.
As quietly as she could, she approached the door. Grabbing one of the knives she still had yet to learn to use properly from the weapons rack, she braced herself and stepped into the hall. She glanced first to the left, then to the right, then back again.
It was empty.
And yet the signature of something she’d never felt before lingered in the hall.
Her heart was beating faster when she went back inside the gym. It was keycard-entry only, with solid steel doors reinforced by spells and wards, so it wasn’t as though just anyone could bust in.
Yet she found she couldn’t shake her discomfort as she resumed her position at her bag. Cursing herself for being such a coward, she went to the opposite side of the bag, putting the door right in her line of vision.
As well as anyone who might be watching her.
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