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

“What’s wrong? Is it the baby? What can I do? Do you need water? What about sheets? Is the baby coming?”

His hands were actually shaking on her, and she had to hold back a smile. “I’m fine. Really. I just got a little lightheaded over everything. The baby isn’t coming.” To emphasize the fact, little squirt kicked again, and Malik’s eyes widened.

“That was a foot,” he coughed. “I just saw a foot.”

She put her hands on her belly and nodded. “Kicking seems to be his or her pastime. It’s like I’m incubating a little alien baby or something.”

Malik blinked, his face pale. “Not an alien, a lion cub.”

She froze. That made sense. As with the others in her group, the dominant strain of DNA would be the one to lay claim to the baby’s abilities. Thousands of years ago, as the supernaturals mated with one another over and over, the bloodlines became so diluted a new race was born—humans. It was because of that, that certain members of the Conclave—the governing body of the paranormals—had tried to see what would happen if something sparked the dormant paranormal DNA in some humans.

Hence, Eliana and her friends.

Since lion shifter outweighed whatever fraction of paranormal DNA Eliana had left within her body, the baby would be a cub. A lion cub.

Dear goddess.

In all her planning for the baby, she hadn’t thought about birthing a baby shifter. What would she do? Would it come out in shifter form? No, the others’ hadn’t, but what if she were different? Could a human birth a lion? What if the baby clawed its way through all the new furniture Eliana had bought?

Her mind went dizzy again, and Malik held her to him.

This was all too much. And yet, the man hadn’t asked for forgiveness.

He’d assumed she’d be there at his side, and yet she couldn’t breathe, couldn’t figure out what she would do next. Eliana was more than that.

“I can mate with you now, Eliana. We can go on like we should have in the first place, like none of this ever happened.”

That was the wrong thing to say. Holy hell, this man would never learn.

She let out a breath and cupped his face before raising her lips to his. He let out a shocked gasp before kissing her back. His lips were smooth yet firm. She loved his lips, loved the way they felt on all parts of her.

And yet, there was a chance she wouldn’t have those lips on her again.

Because she was worth more than what he was giving her, and if he didn’t understand that, then there wasn’t a future for them.

“I can’t do this, Malik,” she whispered.

He pulled back, confusion in his gaze. “What do you mean? You’re not human. We can mate and raise this baby and everything will be okay.”

She shook her head. “It’s not that easy, and if you would stop thinking like a prince of the lions or whatever, you’d see that. You can’t come back into my life after being gone for months and tell me that I’m yours and everything is okay.”

“What do you mean? I’m not pushing it under the rug, but I’m here now. We can move on.”

She let out a growl and pushed him away, this time not stopping the tears from falling down her cheeks in force. “You left me. You made me feel like I’d done something wrong or that I wasn’t good enough. You made it so I couldn’t get ahold of you when I found out I was pregnant. Even your so-called friend Tristan couldn’t reach you because you’d hidden within your realm.”

“I had reasons, I had to leave.”

“And you haven’t told me them. You just told me that you couldn’t have me so you left and broke me in the process. So unless you have something else to say, I can’t be with you. I can’t put myself out there without finding a way to trust you again.” She paused and rested her hands on her belly. The baby gave a soft kick, as if knowing she needed the touch. “I can’t let you be with me, and I can’t be with you only because the baby is now part of the equation.”

“That’s not what I’m saying,” he growled. “I’m here because of you. I came back to the human realm because of you. The baby just made it that much more imperative.”

She shook her head. “You still don’t get it. You can’t dictate.”

“I’m not dictating. I’m saying you’ll come with me to the lion realm and we’ll raise this baby together and be mates. There isn’t another option because it’s what we both want. I don’t understand why you’re not more excited about this.”

She blinked. He truly didn’t get it. She didn’t think he was being callous or even cruel. He just simply didn’t understand that she needed more than words about a fate she’d never fully trusted. She needed him to know that he’d hurt her and to find a way to make that better because there would be no healing until he understood that. She couldn’t raise her baby with him without the assurance that he wouldn’t leave again.

Or worse, take the baby with him.