ETERNAL MOURNING is available today - you don't want to miss getting your hands on Walker and Aimee's story! Read the first chapter below and pick up your copy today!
About ETERNAL MOURNING
Releases February 13, 2018
In the seventh book of the Talon Pack series from NYT Bestselling Author Carrie Ann Ryan, a Healer is forced to come to grips with the idea that he can’t save everyone…including the woman he loves.
Walker Brentwood vowed to the moon goddess that he’d protect his Pack and Heal with every last ounce of his power. He’s watched his siblings and cousin battle the worst circumstances to find love and is now afraid that the one woman who could be his might not have much time left. The rules of mating have changed, and Walker will do what he has to in order to protect the bonds that have eluded him for so long.
Aimee Reagan knows there’s something wrong with her. She’s known since the first time she found out shifters were real and magic existed. When the Talon Pack’s enemy sets his sights on her, her battle to survive becomes even harder.
Walker and Aimee must turn to each other when the powers around them change and the paths that had been laid before them are no longer clear. But when their passion threatens a curse far older than anyone dreamed, they’ll only have one chance to save something worth more than a mating bond. Their future.
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Read the First Chapter of ETERNAL MOURNINGWalker Brentwood let out a slow breath, figuring as long as he didn’t growl or brood like any of his other family members he’d do okay. The rain began to pick up around them, the drops hitting the leaves of the tall trees with little splats and sputters. The sound was almost soothing, as if it could rock the pups to sleep. The scents of ozone and forest filled the air, soothing his wolf. His family would probably find that idea weird since he was generally the calmest of them all, but he was still a wolf.
Because their wolves had scented rain in the distance, the mating ceremony had been moved to the wooden archway of one of the large den buildings. Given how deep the deck was, and the fact that, thankfully, there wasn’t any wind, no one would get wet, and the mated couple could be blessed by their Alpha in peace.
Mitchell and Dawn truly deserved that after everything they had gone through to mate. Though most mating ceremonies happened soon after the couple completed their bond, his cousin and Dawn had decided to wait a bit since the world had almost crashed down around them right when they finally cemented their union.
Walker frowned as he remembered everything that had happened around the time the two had marked each other. He didn’t know the specifics of their relationship or why they had decided to wait, but he’d been there when they were forced to save each other in the end.
The Pack had almost lost Dawn when the fire witch took her, but the outcome of that had brought Mitchell’s new mate into the Talon Pack as one of their own. She was a Central Pack wolf no more, and no longer alone. She had the Talons.
And from the shy smile on her face when she looked up at her growly mate, Walker had a feeling she was just beginning to understand that.
Gideon, Walker’s brother and Alpha, stepped up onto the bottom step that led into the house, so he stood just slightly above everyone else. Despite the fact that Gideon wasn’t one of Walker’s triplet brothers, his Alpha still looked a lot like him. They all had thick, dark hair that curled at the ends if it got too long— though their sister Brynn’s was only slightly wavy. And the whole lot of them had the Brentwood blue eyes. A color he figured came from their Irish ancestors, who had traveled over to the western side of the continent a century before the rest of the world had figured out how to make the trek without dying. Wolves were strong for a reason, and keeping themselves secluded and spread over the land was only one of them.
Even Mitchell and Max— brothers themselves yet cousins to Walker— looked like the rest of them. Their paternal line was dominant in their genes, and sometimes, Walker wondered what their maternal line contributed.
He knew the answer, of course, but that only made him frown harder. Each of them had a gentler side that had been beaten out of them over the years under his father’s rule as Alpha. Only his cousin Max had been able to keep his sense of innocence throughout the years. Technically, Max was older than Walker and his fellow triplets, Kameron and Brandon, but to them, Max had almost seemed younger with his exuberance and thirst for life. But the wolf had lost any sense of who he was before when he lost his arm and so much more during the final battle of the Unveiling over a year ago.
“If you keep frowning like that, you’re going to scare Dawn and her little friends away,” Kameron whispered low enough that not even the wolves close to them would hear. As shifters, they had sharper senses than humans and used that to their advantage to not only survive but also thrive. They could see longer distances, even in the barest of moonlight in the dark, and they could detect prey from miles away if the wind caught the scent just right. They could also hear sounds across the spectrum from a great distance. It took willpower and training to learn to live peacefully with so many sights, sounds, and scents bombarding them on any given day.
Walker forced his thoughts away from what had almost cost his family and Pack everything and schooled his features. He was truly happy for Mitchell and Dawn, and it was only the direction of his thoughts that had made him look like a brooding bastard. He’d do well to think of what angered him later when in private, rather than worry Dawn or any of the humans who accompanied her.
He gave Kameron a tight nod as Gideon began speaking about the newly mated couple and forced his gaze from them and the three small humans who stood at Dawn’s side. This wasn’t a human marriage ceremony, so there was no need for pomp and circumstance. The ceremony itself was what cemented the bond within the Pack, though even that wasn’t truly necessary. Some couples didn’t need the entire Pack around them when they vowed their love, devotion, and pledges to one another. This time, however, with Dawn’s past— or rather, the past of her Pack— the Talons had wanted to make sure everyone knew she was accepted within the den.
Walker’s attention snagged on one of the three standing by Dawn, and he did his best to keep his wolf in check. Curious by nature, his other half needed to know the whys of existence and truth, yet Walker had a feeling this urgency within him when it came to the pale blonde at Dawn’s side wasn’t just curiosity.
Dawn had kept her wolf’s existence a secret within the human world, even after the Unveiling where the idea of shifters— at least wolves— was revealed to the public. She had three human friends who she had become truly close to over the years, but she had only recently been forced to reveal who she was to them.
The three women, Dhani, Cheyenne, and Aimee, had surprised them all when they turned out to be stronger-willed than many of the wolves he knew within the Pack. They’d done their best to prove to Dawn that they would stand by her no matter what, and Walker was pleased that Dawn wouldn’t truly be alone in a new den. Not that these three were Packmates, but they were welcome guests within the wards when they chose to visit.
And the fact that his attention kept snagging on one of them in particular? Well, that was just something he would have to unravel later when others weren’t watching.
The world had been shown the magic of wolves and witches, yet they were still in the dark when it came to some magics, such as demons and now… cat shifters. Walker wasn’t sure what else was out there, and as a man who thought he knew the depths of what existed outside of humans, the idea that he truly had no clue worried him.
Then again, this wasn’t the place to worry about that. Not when the couple in front of him was vowing their love to one another. He still wasn’t quite sure how Mitchell had fallen so hard and fast for the quiet wolf standing by his side, but then again, fate and the moon goddess had their own plans when it came to the goddess’s children.
“I promise to honor who we are together and who we can be,” Dawn said softly. Walker wasn’t watching her, however, as he still had his eyes on the pale blonde. The dark circles under Aimee’s eyes were more pronounced, and she seemed to be listing to the side every so often until one of the other women brushed against her gently, causing her to stand straight again.
He held back a frown as she blinked hard a few times as if trying to keep herself focused and awake. There was something wrong with Aimee, and his wolf needed to know what it was. She might not be of his Pack, but she was close to one of his own.
But if he were honest with himself, he knew it was because of something more than that. She called to his wolf in a way he didn’t quite understand. And it was something he knew he wanted to figure out.
He wasn’t like his brothers or cousins. When they found their mates, it seemed to him that, other than his sister Brynn, each of them had fought the pairing. None of them had been in the right mindset to find mates, yet the moon goddess had blessed each of them.
Gideon had found his mate in Brie, a submissive wolf from another Pack. The two of them had carefully taken their steps down the path to mating to not only tighten their connections but also those between the Talons and the Redwoods. Brynn had been the one searching for her mate, and when she found it in Finn, she’d almost broken along the way. Ryder hadn’t been looking for his fate when he found Leah, a water witch who had saved their den more than once. And Walker’s fellow triplet, Brandon, had thought he’d not be long for his world but had ended up mating not one but two wolves— Parker and Avery.
As for Mitchell? Well, he too had fought the mating bond for reasons of his own. But he had given in when he fell in love with Dawn. The moon goddess gave each of her wolves potential mates that they could find during their long lives. Sometimes, there was more than one, but the wolf and the human would decide if that person was their true fate. Walking away would hurt, a pain beyond agony, but sometimes, it was the only choice. Once the mating bond was made— a bite mark for the wolf, and sex for the human— none of the people involved would ever feel another potential mate as long as the mating bond stayed in place.
Walker had only heard of one mating bond being broken by anything but death, and he was pretty sure the terror that had come with that dark magic hadn’t been truly worth it in the end.
Yet Walker, the one who was ready for a mate and wanted that connection, couldn’t seem to find his. He’d been searching ever since Gideon became Alpha and their father’s tyranny ended. He held back a shudder at that thought as he always did. His father had been a horrible man, a worse Alpha, and had truly scarred each and every one of his children to the point that it had shaped not only their lives and futures but also the way they found their mates.
But, no matter how many humans, witches, and wolves he met, Walker hadn’t felt that tug, the pull that would tell him whether the other person was his mate.
Then Shane, a former human soldier who had been partially turned into a wolf thanks to a human torture experiment gone wrong, had been brought into the Pack, and mating bonds had changed yet again. Shane had been on the verge of dying and Gideon had been forced to make the decision to save his life. No one had known the ramifications of that act, but now Shane had two mates who would forever be thankful for what had happened, and the Pack had survived because they had a new member whose secrets had led them through the darkness.
Now, it was beyond difficult to tell who was your mate or not, and it took getting to know the person or persons as a human before the wolves were able to reveal who they could be. And even then, sometimes it didn’t work. Each couple or triad was different, and finding the true path to mating didn’t seem like it would get any easier anytime soon. Walker was afraid that some would lose out at finding their mate because there were so many obstacles.
He’d been happier when mating bonds were set in stone. Now, everything seemed so up in the air. Shifters had spent centuries finding their other halves one way and now having to find them another way meant that their world might forever be altered. It was shocking that anyone could find their mate.
Hence why this mating ceremony between Mitchell and Dawn was so important. This proved that mating bonds could still happen, even if it took a little more work. Dawn’s eyes were bright, and Mitchell looked like a new man, a small smile playing on his lips as if he had a secret that only the woman standing in front of him knew. And as Mitchell bowed his head and took his mate’s lips in a passionate kiss, Walker hoped that there was a way to find a potential mate that didn’t end in pain and suffering.
Walker was a Healer, the Healer of the Talon Pack. It was his duty and honor to Heal those under his care from physical wounds, just as it was his triplet, Brandon’s, responsibility as Omega to heal their emotional ones. Through his connection to the Pack, he was able to Heal injuries that were life-threatening, as well as simple cuts and scrapes. It physically hurt him not to use his energy and powers to help people.
And the idea that there were wolves— and now cats— out there who might be missing out on finding their mates because of a change to the Pack structure that wasn’t their fault hurt him, as well.
“As Alpha, I bless this union as the moon goddess instructs me. I wish you both long, healthy lives as you find your true calling as mates.” Gideon’s deep growl ended on a howl, and Walker threw back his head, joining in on the song of his people.
The other wolves around him howled as well, and even the few witches who had been mated into the Pack and helped strengthen the wards joined in. The only three who didn’t were the human women who had come with Dawn’s brother and parents. Walker lowered his head and opened his eyes to watch them as they glanced around, laughter in their eyes. He had a feeling Dawn hadn’t mentioned this part of the ceremony, but thankfully, none of them looked put off. If anything, they appeared as if they might have wanted to take part, but weren’t sure how.
Given how much time they were spending with the Talons, they just might have their chance to find their places within the den wards at some point— even if they weren’t Pack. There were a few humans in the Pack, but it was through special circumstance. In order to live as long as the wolves, they had to be changed. Only witches were able to truly tie their life forces to the Pack’s without the change, though some of them did anyway. So, having these three humans within the den wards was… interesting.
And from the way they looked at Walker and his family, he had a feeling they thought it was interesting, as well. He wasn’t like some of his family who heard the moon goddess’s whispered words and spoke prophecy, but he had a feeling the lives of these women and his Pack would be forever entwined.
How that would happen, and what it would mean, he wasn’t sure.
Kameron tugged on his arm, pulling him out of his thoughts, and he followed his triplet inside where the maternal females and submissives had set up a feast for everyone to celebrate Mitchell and Dawn’s joining. He’d been tasked with setting up a few of the long tables, but he hadn’t helped as much as the rest of his family since he’d been called away to help with a pup who had accidentally found a bush with thorns while chasing after a ball.
His family and Pack had welcomed Dawn in much smoother than some of the previous mates. Change was always hard, especially after their Pack had spent so long fighting for the right to exist, so he was glad the elders and the rest of the Pack had seemed to lighten up when it came to Dawn and her former Pack’s past.
“I need to head out to do another run along the perimeter,” Kameron said softly. “I’ll swap shifts with one of the soldiers who couldn’t come to the ceremony. That way, they can at least be part of the reception.”
Walker nodded and picked up a cup of punch, handing it over to his brother before taking another for himself. Though their metabolisms as wolves worked much faster than humans’, they could still get drunk after a while. And since Kameron was about to go on duty, and Walker was always on call as Healer, they’d stick to punch. He nodded to Leah, his brother Ryder’s mate, and held up his cup. The water witch was his assistant in Healing, though her powers were much different than his. But, hopefully, she would understand that she could drink if she wanted to. However, since she had a young pup in her arms, he wasn’t sure she’d want to indulge.
Their family had grown so much over the past few years, it was almost hard to keep up. But Walker would. Each and every member of his Pack and family were a part of him, soul deep, and he’d do anything to protect them.
Walker turned to his brother. “Anything I can do to help?”
Kameron shook his head. “We’re on routine shifts right now since we’re not sure who the fire witch was working for.” He gave Kameron a look. Oh, they knew all right, but there wasn’t anything they could do about it yet. Their new enemy was too good at keeping the blame off him and held far too much power.
Even working with the Redwoods, the Talons weren’t strong enough to take on Blade and the Aspens yet. And even if they were, Walker wasn’t sure it was the Aspens who were their new enemy, or just an Alpha gone rogue. And for an Alpha to go rogue… well, that was something that could change everything.
Walker inhaled the sweet scent of a woman who made his wolf curious and turned as she stumbled into him. He caught her, pulling her soft body to his to keep her steady.
“You okay?” he grumbled, his voice lower than he’d intended.
“I’m fine. Just clumsy.” Aimee pulled away, and he released her, aware that she was much weaker than he was, and he’d been taught not to let the humans realize that they weren’t as strong as the wolves with everyday things.
“If you’re sure.” Kameron let out a sigh behind him, and Walker ignored his brother. He’d have to deal with the questions about his intense… whatever this was at some point.
“I’m fine,” she repeated. “Thank you for catching me.” She turned away then, going back to Dhani’s side, and Walker did his best not to stare.
It wasn’t only the Healer and wolf inside him that was drawn to this woman, but he wasn’t sure if it was something more. His wolf wouldn’t tell him if she was his mate or not, and with the new rules of mating that weren’t actually rules at all, Walker wasn’t sure he’d ever know.
But no matter where his mind went with potentials and fates, Walker knew one thing.
There was something wrong with Aimee.
And he was afraid there wouldn’t be enough time with her on this Earth for him to find out what their connection was… or could be.