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Prowled Darkness (Dante's Circle, #7)
Author:Carrie Ann Ryan

“I know,” Faith said softly. “They do every week it seems like these days.” Her friend let out a breath. “I never really thought about what it would be like for the last of us.”

Eliana blanked her face. She didn’t want to hear what Faith had to say, but telling Faith what to do never ended well. Her mate, Levi, was about the only one who could really do it.

“We all knew our lives changed the day the lightning struck,” Eliana said coolly. If she let her emotions show, she’d break, and she wasn’t ready for that.

“Yeah, and six of us have found our true halves. Six of us went through the agony of our first change and found our way into our new realms. I never thought about what it would mean for the seventh.” Faith’s eyes filled with tears and she quickly blinked them away. Eliana didn’t want to see her friend cry. The woman rarely let emotions that could prove a weakness show.

“All it means is that I don’t turn furry or have pink wings like you.” She tried to smile as she said it, but Faith didn’t even blink at the pixie joke.

“I’m not going to let you fade away, damn it. None of us are. I don’t know what we’re going to do, but you are not going to stay human.” Faith crossed her arms over her chest and set her jaw.

“You really have no control over that.” No one had control of anything.

Faith raised her chin. “Watch me.”

And with that, her friend stormed out of the bathroom, and Eliana followed. Her ankles hurt and she wanted to sit down. Though her heart ached to think about what would happen when the others couldn’t find a way to keep her with them in the long run, she pushed it aside. Little squirt deserved more than that.

She made it back to the table, and the others gave her solemn nods as if vowing something she wouldn’t be able to control. But if that’s what they needed to keep sane, then they could do it. It wasn’t as if it would upset her more than she already was.

Seth handed her a glass of water and she grinned at him. “Thank you,” she said. There. That was nice. Not the crazy pregnant chick.

“You’re welcome. Do you need anything to eat? I can get you something.” He was out of his chair before she could answer, hovering as if waiting for an order.

She couldn’t help but laugh. “I’m fine, Seth. Take care of your mate. I won’t break.” She looked over at the others. “I won’t break,” she repeated. A vow of her own.

They nodded back at her and Tristan scowled before muttering something about fate under his breath.

Eliana sighed. “Fate had nothing to do with this, Tristan,” she said calmly. “Malik was human. He wasn’t my mate, wasn’t my true half. He’s gone now, and I’m going to be a mom. That’s not fate. That’s life.”

Tristan froze, his jaw setting. “What did you just say?”

She blinked. “That’s not fate. That’s life?”

He shook his head, his hands shaking. “No, about Malik being human.”

She didn’t understand why he was acting this way. “Malik was human. Right? I mean, he’s your friend and all.”

Tristan cursed and stood up quickly, practically knocking his chair to the ground. “No. Malik is a lion shifter. He’s in line for the throne. I thought you knew he wasn’t human and that’s why…fuck. Oh, fuck.”

Eliana set the glass down on the table, afraid it would slip from her fingers. The others talked around her, asking her questions, speaking to Tristan as if he held all the answers.

“He…he never met any of you.” She took a deep breath. “And I never mentioned…it’s not like I have lightning-struck on my forehead or anything.” Her eyes stung and she tried to focus. “He’s a…he’s a lion?”

“Why didn’t you tell us?” Amara asked Tristan, worry on her face.

“Because I thought you knew!” Tristan scowled. “I swear to the goddess, I thought you all knew.”

Dante shook his head and tapped his tongue ring to his lip. “None of us met him. I thought at one point I scented a lion on Eliana, but that could have been anyone.” The dragon met Eliana’s face. “While you were dating him, we didn’t see much of you. None of us knew.”

She tried to catch her breath. “So he’s a lion. Okay. But that doesn’t mean he’s my true half. I didn’t change into my paranormal self when he had sex like what happened with the rest of you. He didn’t claim me as his. So he was just some random lion that left me. We aren’t mates.”

Tristan looked pained. “It’s not that simple, Eliana.”

She set her jaw. “Why? Why is the fact that Malik left me not simple?”

“Because lions don’t mate the way other supernaturals do.”

The hairs on the back of her neck rose at the sound of the deep voice behind her. She knew that voice. It haunted her dreams, and at one point, had made her shiver just from being softly spoken.

She slowly turned her head so she could see the man that had shattered her heart. His dark hair looked like it hadn’t been cut since she’d last seen him, so long now it brushed his shoulders. His light brown skin stretched over thick muscles and she couldn’t breathe at the sight of him.

“Malik,” she whispered.

He glowered at her then let his gaze trail to her belly. “It seems we need to talk.”

It seemed they did.

Chapter Two