Previously released in 2011 under the title “Moon Spell (A Tale of Lunarmorte Novel)”
No one said returning to her pack would be easy, especially after ten years without them. But eighteen-year-old Caia Ribeiro is unprepared for the realities of the transition. Born into an underworld that has been at war for centuries, Caia is used to feeling different from the humans she was raised among. However, she never expected to feel like an outcast among wolves. Many of the pack treat her with wary suspicion, the Elders keep secrets from her, and her young Alpha, Lucien, is distracting her with a dangerous attraction from her determination to uncover the truth. Why was she removed from the pack all of those years ago? And why has she been returned to them now?
The truth will eventually come out and when it does, Caia will only have so long to prepare herself before the war pounds on their door, threatening to destroy the safe, hidden lives of the wolves… and the young woman they protect.
Release date: April 27, 2021
Publisher: Samantha Young
Print pages: 342
Content advisory: fantasy violence
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Hunted (War of the Covens #1)
The war had been raging for centuries, a war that breathed beneath human reality, lost in the labyrinth of their legends and folklore. It was a silent war of soundless screaming and invisible bloodshed.
And like many wars, it had been built upon a mindless prejudice.
The ancient Greeks had it right. They were not naive enough to believe they had any control over their fate. They knew the gods controlled all. They didn’t believe a good crop that year had anything to do with luck in a poorly cultivated land—no, it was Demeter who’d blessed their farm. They didn’t believe that one man was far superior in battle than another, thus tipping the scales of a battle in their favor—no, Athena had taken a liking to him, and so aided the warrior.
Yes, the gods were capricious, unmerciful, loving, and selfish; there was nothing that contented them more than making the human world their chessboard and humans their own personal chess pieces.
They gloried in their supremacy.
But one day the gods of ancient felt a pierce in each of their hearts. It was the day humans, who had once been under their thrall, who had loved them, and feared them, and prayed to them, turned their backs upon the gods and their hearts to a new one.
As the centuries passed, the gods were no longer worshipped by any human, no longer feared, or loved, or prayed to. The barrier of space that had allowed them to come down from their mountain and interfere in the lives of humans strengthened as time forgot them. Indeed, their very existence would have been expunged from Earth if not for their legacy: their children, the supernaturals of their own creation who still looked to the heavens and believed in them. They are the children of Gaia, mother of all the gods.
Her children perpetrated the silent war waging beneath the humans’ very noses.
On one side of the war were the true instigators, those who called themselves the Midnight Coven: a community of magiks who believed above all in their own superiority. Gaia, perhaps in her infinite wisdom, had long ago blessed a number of humans by allowing them a taste of her blood, so that as the years passed, a generation of magiks arose—witches and warlocks with elemental power, a race of children who would forever pray to her, and through them time would never forget her.
They believed, however, that those lesser supernatural beings were abominations not fit to live side by side with humans, much less themselves. Their distaste for lykans (like me) and vampyres not only enraged those they sought to exterminate but also their own kind: magiks who believed in the equality of the races. We call ourselves the Daylight Coven.
You see, to our mind, Midnights hunted not abominations but their own people, humans transformed and blessed by the gods, creatures descended from Gaia herself. This gaping split in beliefs between the dark and light covens was shared by their contemporaries, the faeries of Hemera. As a primordial deity, the Goddess of Daylight and Sun, her children were almost equal to Gaia’s. They were descendants of a young queen who had sold her soul to her favorite goddess for the opportunity to take on the form of any living thing she wished, so that she would always know her enemies, and they would never know her.
From her, to Hemera’s delight, sprang a race of shapeshifters who held the power to take on the appearance of anything born of nature. They’re mischievous and tiring but useful, serving as spies on either side of the war.
Hades, God of the Underworld (and grandson to Gaia), created a race of children familiar to humans within their folklore: vampyres. His children were the souls who passed through the River Styx without toll and whom Hades returned to Earth to extort, in blood, payment from those who dared to leave them to travel into the Underworld without coin.
And the youngest of the children of the gods are the lykans: we are fierce, strong wolves consecrated with the power of regeneration. In the dying years of the ancient gods, Artemis, Goddess of the Moon, the Hunt, and of Beasts, was called down to Earth by the last human who prayed to her. His son was dying from his battle wounds, and Artemis, in gratitude for his loyalty, replaced his son’s wasted heart with that of a wolf’s. To her supreme pleasure—for she had always been a competitive goddess—her own race of children was born, and she, too, was remembered by us.
In the early years of our existence, we children of the gods, cousins, wandered the world of humans at peace with one another. But the ages passed, and our forms changed—lykans produced lykans by humans, diluting the werewolf blood, and eventually becoming a nonviolent breed of our original selves.
In other words, this rational (most of the time), articulate lykanthrope narrator before you is an evolved version of my ancestors.
Because of the vengeance taken upon Hades for his kidnapping of her daughter Persephone, the goddess Demeter changed the course of the vampyres, blessing them with fertility and diluting their undead souls with the light of humanity, until eventually adhering to the laws of the Daylight Coven, they withheld from killing humans.
The last century saw the calm before the storm. The Midnight Coven had dissipated into a mist, a near invisible layer of destruction that touched those who did not seek it. We Daylights waited with bated breath, aware that our enemy had retired a fearsome, aggressive strategy. The Midnight Coven had become wary of the war spilling over into the human world and instead embraced a far more threatening silence.
But then the attacks started.
The subtle desolation of individual supernaturals: communities of vampyres and packs of lykans, packs like mine, who wanted nothing to do with the war and had lived in relative peace until that point.
Other than the faeries who shared their beliefs, only the daemons—the beasts created from Midnights’ own magik—are allied with the Midnight Coven. The Daylight Coven, with her allies of faeries, lykans, and vampyres, could only hope to act fast enough to discover the target of the next Midnight attack in order to prepare the target for war.
Some supernaturals escaped disaster.
Others slipped through the cracks, targeted without warning, without preparation.
That’s how the war stood.
Unbeknownst to me at the time, Gaia, already weary of being called down upon both sides, had set in motion her plan for the war’s end many generations before.
My pack, Pack Errante—untouched by the war, unpolluted by the world—was pulled into this chaos. My name is Lucien Líder. I am Alpha of Pack Errante, and our story begins in 2010.
We were going about our business, living in the world of humans, keeping our secret. Little did we know that from the heart of us would spring the culmination of all Gaia’s designs.
Caia recognized his ruddy face and chocolate eyes from long-ago memories, memories that poked and prodded her heart and set it racing, her ears burning hot with the sudden onslaught of blood rushing to them.
Life was going to be very different from now on.
His dark eyes settled on her only companion these last eleven years, Irini, and shifted from soft concern to steely determination.
“It’s finally safe for you to return her, Irini.” His gaze flickered to Caia, as if trying to gauge a reaction. He would get none.
Irini sagged down into the sofa beside her. “Dimitri, please promise this is for real.”
He smiled. “I know you have lived alone for a long time but it’s finally time to come home.”
“What happened?” Irini asked in disbelief.
Dimitri managed to fold his huge, muscular body into the small armchair before them. He looked to be in his forties, but Caia knew he must be much older than that. He was an Elder, after all.
“Five years ago Lucien returned to reclaim the pack.”
Caia’s attention bounced between the two lykans. She’d been seven when she was removed from the pack, but she still remembered Lucien, a young, headstrong male. Irini had told her he’d fallen out with his family and then ran from the pack at seventeen. A year later, Lucien’s father, Albus, Pack Leader, had been killed by the Hunter.
Irini looked shocked at this news. “And the pack welcomed him with open arms?”
“After Albus’s death, no one else tried to track the Hunter. Everyone was far too caught up in who was going to be Pack Leader, what with Lucien being AWOL. While you were stuck in this goddess-forsaken place under Marion’s protection, we were trying to reassemble our lives. Then Lucien returned. He didn’t give us much explanation … but he told us what he had been up to.” Dimitri seemed to pause for dramatic effect. “He killed the Hunter, Irini.”
They both looked at Caia. She was puzzled by their guarded expressions. Shouldn’t they be happy? The Hunter had killed her father and mother and had wanted to murder her as well. If it hadn’t been for Irini taking her into isolation, the Hunter would have killed her. As it was, Albus, a beloved leader, was gone because of his determination to see her and Irini returned to the pack. Caia’s father had been Albus’s greatest friend.
“I suppose that gained him his rightful place?” Irini sneered.
Dimitri shook his head. “No. Magnus and I were willing to see him take up the mantle of Pack Leader—”
“How could you after—”
His hand came up, shushing her accusation. “Irini, he is extraordinary. Everything his father was and more. He just needed time.”
“Time. Of course, there were others, some younger males who felt the need to challenge him. We felt it only right that those who challenged him were truly willing to risk everything for the mantle …”
“A Lunarmorte?” Irini asked, surprised.
Irini was somewhat closemouthed about the pack and their way of life, but this she had mentioned to Caia. Lunarmorte was an ancient ritual among their specific lykan pack, dating back to their Portuguese origins. If there was a break in the hereditary line of the pack, or a rebel rising within, it fell to a Lunarmorte to determine the Pack Leader. It was fought during a full moon and only happened once in a blue one.
“As you can imagine, in the end only one challenged Lucien. Lucien killed him within seconds.”
Irini look unsurprised by this. “You sound admiring of Lucien. Am I to assume he has done well as Pack Leader these last five years?”
Dimitri stood, towering over them. “It was Lucien’s idea to keep you here protected. There are still some Midnight followers of the Hunter on the loose, and we had no way of knowing if they still held plans for Caia.” He nodded toward her, using her name for the first time, and drawing her back into the reality of what he was saying. “Instead, he wanted to wait until we had built a safe new life.”
“And I’m guessing you have if you’re here.”
“Yes. Lucien has managed to integrate us into a good town. All the families have jobs. Lucien’s got this furniture business going …” He drifted off at the sour look that passed over Irini’s face.
“We’ve been left here for eleven years, Dimitri.”
Irini shook her head in anger. “No! You don’t know. I have been left here with Caia while my brother gallivanted around goddess knows where—not allowed to come home for my father’s funeral, not allowed to even speak one word to my mother!”
“And now my brother just expects me to come home, like nothing happened? Like he didn’t abandon us? Goddess—”
“Irini!” he growled.
Caia slid back in her seat. She had lived with Irini’s tantrums for eleven years. Not entirely sure how to deal with the behavior, she had merely listened as Irini hissed and snarled about her predicament. Apparently, Dimitri didn’t have the patience for it.
Irini slammed her mouth shut and shrunk closer to Caia.
“You would not even be able to return if it wasn’t for Lucien. As soon as he learned of Albus’s death, he hunted the Hunter and he won. He did not send for you immediately because he wanted to make sure you had somewhere safe to come home to. And now you do.”
“And if we don’t want to?” she whispered, although Caia was sure she didn’t really mean it.
“You must,” he said, throwing Irini a meaningful look that Caia didn’t quite understand.
Irini reached for her hand and nodded.
“Do we leave now?” Caia asked.
Dimitri looked at her, seeming startled. It was the first time she’d spoken. “Yes,” he eventually acknowledged. “While you pack, I’ll summon Marion so she can finally drop the protection spell.”
They traveled by plane. Caia sat by Dimitri, leaving Irini alone with her thoughts.
“You’re apprehensive.” Dimitri smiled kindly down at her. She brushed her hair behind her ears so she could look up at him. Being so close to him, she could smell his own individual brand of beautiful damp earth that identified him as a lykan. It brought unprepared-for memories. She had been so long without the pack that if it hadn’t been for her weekly runs in her true form with Irini, she would have felt almost entirely human—a socially deficient human, but one nonetheless.
Looking into Dimitri’s eyes, she saw blurry images of a life long gone, a life where she had felt a part of something. But it no longer existed, and now they just expected her to what … be one of them again? The pack didn’t know her anymore, and she didn’t know them.
“Of course,” she muttered in reply to his question. “I’m the returning orphan who stole away a member of their pack.”
He laughed. “Irini? She’ll get over it.”
“Really? Because that’s what lykans do? They get over it?”
“Well.” His eyes twinkled with humor. “True, we’re a temperamental bunch, but Irini has never blamed you for what happened. No one does.”
“Good to know.” She stared straight ahead with her jaw set. Out of the corner of her eye, she felt him nod in understanding. It was irritating—she wanted to hide where he couldn’t see through her false bravado.
“As for having no immediate family, that will change. It’s only right you go back to staying with Irini and her mother Ella … and Lucien, of course.”
“What about Uncle Magnus?” She tried to sound indifferent. Magnus was an Elder like Dimitri and Ella, and the lykan she remembered the most.
“He’s there … waiting for you too.”
They’re all waiting for me. She tried to tamp down the butterflies in her stomach and failed.
“You’ve been living a civilized life with Irini in a big town for much longer than the pack has. I’m sure you fit in at school much better than any of the pack kids.”
She gave him with a wry smile and shook her head. “Uh, well … I wouldn’t say I exactly fit in.”
“What would you say, then?”
“I ate lunch every day in my car.”
The door was thrown open, his tall, gangly assistant almost falling into the room in his hurry to get to him.
“The spell!” he heaved as he lunged at him, out of breath.
“You’ve been running?” he asked incredulously, following the trail of sweat that trickled down his assistant’s forehead.
He nodded, bending over, his hands braced on his knees as he tried to regain composure. “I … I … I still … haaaa … haven’t … mastered the communication spell you taught me.” He gulped for air again, wheezing as he flopped down beside him.
“Well, obviously, you rushed with a purpose. Spit it out, Lars.”
Lars’s eyes were bright with excitement. “The protection spell is down. She’s unprotected.”
His eyes blazed with the news. “You’re certain?”
“Positive. I’ve been on Marion duty for two years. Her protection spell on the girl has been dropped.”
His smile of triumph was slow and predatory. “Do you know what this means?”
“Activate our agent.”
“They’re on their way, Magnus.” Lucien sauntered into his sitting room. Magnus was sprawled across an armchair while Lucien’s mother Ella poured them all coffee.
The Elder looked up at him and smiled brightly. “I get to see my Cy again.”
“I forgot how fond you were of the little brat.”
“You were too busy chasing skirts at the time to notice the little blond kid who was constantly perched on his shoulder,” Ella pointed out wryly.
“I remember her.” His voice was low, his tone a warning. Instantly a chill fell over the room.
Ella stood, her eyes narrowed on her son. “No one would dispute that you were very aware of Caia’s existence, Lucien. I meant only that you avoided her, so you knew nothing about her.”
“She was a cute kid.” Magnus chuckled, standing beside Ella, his warm teasing bending the steel of tension emanating from Lucien. His huge hand came down on Ella’s shoulder. “Why don’t you brew more coffee?”
Nodding stiffly, she left the room, muttering under her breath about sensitive dogs.
“You need to ease up, Lucien. Everyone is well aware you’ve fulfilled your responsibilities to this pack and that you intend to fulfil the one that’s on that plane. Defenses down, please.”
“Thought I was the Pack Leader?”
Magnus laughed and cuffed him across the head before pushing him into a seat. “You’re still a pup.”
After Ella returned with more coffee, and it was clear the tension had eased between son and mother, talk switched to pack business.
“When do they get here?” Magnus asked, his excitement evident. Lucien had been so wrapped up in dealing with what was to come from Caia’s return that he had forgotten about the one person who was looking forward to it. The girl had never known anything but Albus and Ella, and in particular, Magnus.
He didn’t want to burst Magnus’s bubble, but they needed to get serious about the situation. “Magnus—”
“Don’t start with that tone. This is a happy occasion. This is what your father fought for: the safe return of Rafe’s daughter.”
Lucien took a deep breath. “I know. And I am happy to see that realized. Goddess knows, for this reason only, I will have made the old man proud. But Magnus”—his hard silver eyes searched Magnus’s happy ones—“we have to deal with the pack.”
Reluctantly, the Elder nodded in agreement. “Stupid, scared, judgmental lykans.”
“That may be, but they’re our lykans, and we’ve got to make sure the pack is happy.”
Ella, from the corner of the room, cleared her throat. “I’ve already made sure most of the mated females are clear that they have to welcome Cy home. It’s the young I’m worried about. Most of them will see her as an outsider. They still fear what they don’t know, and they fear possible war … and the fact that she’s more competition when it comes to finding a mate.”
“Yeah, I see where you’re going. Fine.” Lucien heaved, slapping his knees in determination and standing. “We’ll gather the whole pack here. It must be made perfectly clear to them that Caia is part of this pack’s future. Any mention of the war is to be kept to a minimum, absolutely nothing about her parents … and I want a full pack welcome.”
“Oh, I dunno.” Magnus’s forehead wrinkled with anxiety. “Full pack welcome? That could be a little overwhelming. Lucien, this girl has lived without a pack for eleven years. Irini would only have been able to teach her so much.”
“Irini will have taught her well,” Ella replied tersely.
The Elder looked between son and mother, their postures relaxed but their countenance determined. He knew when he was outvoted. “Pack welcome it is, then.”
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