Moon Struck

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March

Outside of New Orleans

 

 

There were monsters in the dark. Minka had known of them since she was old enough to understand that there really might be something beneath her bed.

Of course, growing up in New Orleans, those monsters lived beside her. That didn’t make them any less scary. In fact, it made them more so. To see them interacting with others as if they were normal human beings when they were anything but…

The same could be said of the witches. Only within the last year had she come into her power, but that hadn’t made life easier. In fact, it had made it worse.

Minka had been lied to by her coven and then given to the most heinous monster of them all: Delphine. The Voodoo priestess was on a quest to gain as much power as she could, in whatever way possible.

It was only by the skills of the LaRues that Minka was alive. The werewolf pack policed New Orleans, keeping the supernatural world in balance.

After her escape from Delphine’s clutches, Minka had taken refuge and found solace at her great-aunt’s home in the bayou. It had been willed to her after her aunt died, and Minka had never thought to actually use it.

Had her aunt foreseen such events? Had she known it would be the only place for Minka?

She stood in the open doorway and looked out over the bayou. The moon was hidden by clouds, giving the land an ominous feel.

A soft splash to her left alerted her to an alligator. And in the distance was the soft howl of a wolf. The Moonstone pack had returned to the area, and their numbers were growing steadily.

The darkness was where evil liked to hide. It was why most people feared it. It was partly because they couldn’t see, but there was another part that knew there were unspeakable horrors awaiting them in the shadows.

Whether that was from their ancestors’ fears or encounters, she didn’t know. It wasn’t a learned trait. Instead, it was something people were born with.

One prime example was Delphine. On the streets of New Orleans, everyone shied away from the Voodoo priestess—locals and tourists alike. It was as if everyone could sense the malevolence within her.

Minka took a deep breath, enjoying the quiet of the evening. She wasn’t sure how much more she’d get before Delphine came for her. But unlike the other monsters, Delphine wouldn’t wait for the night to strike.

Once before, the priestess had attempted to kill Minka in an effort to take Minka’s power. There had been a short period after her escape when no one but the LaRues knew where Minka was hiding out. All that had changed when she helped Court LaRue and Skye Parrish fight against the djinn and vampires.

Minka had shown herself to her enemies, but there hadn’t been any other choice. Her friends would have died without her, and she couldn’t allow that.

That had been six months ago. Every day that passed without Delphine coming for her only made Minka more nervous. Some might take that to mean Delphine wasn’t interested.

But Minka had looked into the priestess’s eyes. She knew that Delphine had marked her. That kind of stain didn’t ever go away. Delphine could come for her in the next ten minutes, ten months, or ten years—but she would come.

Movement out of the corner of her eye drew Minka’s attention. She walked to the screen covering the porch and looked down from the stilted height of the house to see an animal moving among the bushes.

She caught a glimpse of white fur, her heart kicking up a notch as she wondered if it was Solomon. Then the werewolf moved into the clearing, and she saw that it wasn’t solid, silvery white as Solomon was. She waved when the werewolf looked up at her. The Moonstone pack had been good about watching over her, and they’d become her friends.

Minka didn’t want to think about her disappointment at the wolf not being Solomon. It wasn’t as if he checked in on her at all. As the eldest LaRue, his domain was New Orleans. He didn’t have the time to think about her—nor would he. He didn’t like her.

Which both rankled and hurt her because she liked him. A lot. She didn’t want to. In fact, she’d tried to hate him, but that hadn’t turned out well. All it had done was make her crave him more.

It was awful to be attracted to someone who couldn’t stand your very presence. She didn’t know why Solomon detested her, and it didn’t matter.

So what if she’d warned Myles of his death.

So what if her magic had removed the silver from Myles’s system and saved his life.

So what if her home had been used in the vampire/djinn war.

So what if in an effort to save the LaRues, their women, and the Moonstone pack, she had shown herself.

The LaRues had rescued her from Delphine’s clutches.

In her book, she’d never be able to repay them for that. And she didn’t worry about the fact that they’d probably done it because Delphine had Addison, as well, and since Myles had fallen in love with Addison…nothing would come between a wolf and his mate.

It didn’t matter why Minka had been saved, only that she had. She had come into her magic then, and she was a force to be reckoned with. Every day she pushed herself to her limits to train because every little bit would help when Delphine came for her.

Minka rubbed her tired eyes. She was only dozing a few minutes every hour. The last thing she wanted was to be caught sleeping when the priestess arrived.

The sound of her cell phone vibrating on the table had Minka turning and entering the house. She picked up the phone to see it was a text from Addison asking if she was all right.

Addison and Skye sent her texts daily to check in on her. Minka had made them promise to stay away until Delphine was taken care of.

Minka sent a quick response and replaced the phone on the table before crawling into bed. There were wards up all around the house. They wouldn’t stop Delphine, but they would slow her. And that could be the difference between life and death.

She shut her eyes for a moment, intending only to rest. Almost instantly, she was drifting in that space between sleep and wakefulness.

Suddenly, her mind screamed for her to wake, alerted that someone was in the room with her. Her eyes snapped open as she jerked upright to see a figure standing in the wide doorway leading out to the porch.

“Easy,” said a male as he lifted his hands.

Minka blinked, recognizing the voice. She relaxed as Griffin, leader of the Moonstone pack, lowered his arms to his sides. “What are you doing here?”

“I’ve been knocking at your back door for ten minutes.”

She glanced at the clock to see that she’d been asleep for two hours. “Is something wrong?” she asked as she rose from the bed.

“Not at all. I thought you might like some company.”

It was then that she realized he was naked. Thank God the lights were out. Or perhaps, she should wish they were on to get a better look at his fine body.

Minka knew Griffin was interested in her. If only she returned his feelings. It would be so much easier than this thing she had with Solomon. Truthfully, it wasn’t a thing. It was nothing.

“You’ve not left this house in six months,” Griffin said.

She shoved back her wealth of curls from her face. “Not true. I walk along the bayou sometimes.”

“You know what I mean.”

“I do. I also know there are five witch covens out there, some of which helped my coven turn me over to Delphine. I’ve no desire to fight those witches when I need to save myself for Delphine.”

“Who says you’ll have to fight the covens?”

She shot him a look. “Seriously? Do you know anything about witches?”

“Very little, actually.”

“Well, let me fill you in. They all hate me. That’s insanely idiotic since they’re the ones who turned on me, but they’ll be gunning for me because Delphine has told them I have more power than they do.”

He crossed his arms over his chest as he leaned a shoulder against the doorway. “Then why haven’t they come for you?”

“Because they fear Delphine. They know she’s marked me, so until I beat her, they’ll keep their distance.”

“Do you think you can best Delphine?”

She looked at Griffin’s face, hidden by the shadows of the room and shrugged. “I’m certainly going to try.”

“What a woman you are.”

As compliments went, that was a nice one. “Thanks.”

“Come walk with me.”

“You’re naked.”

A laugh rumbled from his chest. “I didn’t take you for a prude.”

“Oh, I’m not.”

“You just don’t want to see me naked.”

“I didn’t say that.”

“You pretty much did.”

She threw up her hands in defeat. “It’s just…weird.”

There was a beat of silence. Then Griffin said, “That’s the first time I’ve ever had a woman say my nudity was weird. Most throw themselves at me.”

“I’m not most women.”

“And that’s why I want you.”

He’d let his interest show many times, but he’d never come out and been so blatant about it. And she was very flattered. There was something sexy about a man who wasn’t afraid to go after what he wanted.

Griffin dropped his arms to his sides. “Say something.”

“What does one say after something like that?”

“Anything.”

She walked to stand beside him at the double doorway as she looked outside. “You say you want me, but I have to wonder how smart that is.”

His head turned to her. “Why?”

“Delphine has your sister. She’ll use Elin to get to me through you.” Minka didn’t add that she might already be doing exactly that. She wanted to think of Griffin as her friend, an ally—not an enemy.

He pushed away from the door and faced her. “My feelings have nothing to do with my sister or Delphine.”

“It wouldn’t be wise to test things. You’re gathering your wolves again. The Moonstone pack was once one of the greatest in the area. Your wolves will expect you to find someone within your pack, not a witch.”

“I don’t give a shit what they want.”

She smiled at the Alpha coming out in him. “You’re my friend, Griffin. One of the few I can count on. You and your pack have kept an eye on me, and for that, I’ll be eternally grateful. And yes, I’ll walk with you.”

“But you won’t be mine.”

“I’m thinking of you with my decision. Your pack might accept me as your casual lover, but never more than that. And you know I’m right about Delphine. She’ll find out. She always does. You returned to New Orleans for your sister. You’ll do anything for her.”

“Minka—”

“We never know what we’ll do for family, and we both know what Delphine is capable of,” she said over him.

He blew out a breath as he looked at the sky and the hidden moon. “That bitch needs to die.”

“I agree.”

His head swiveled back to her. He gently tugged on a curl and released it, watching it spring back into place. “I’m going to come for you every night for a walk. And every night, I’m going to ask you to be mine. I care about you, Minka. I have feelings for you.”

She took his hand in hers and smiled. She didn’t need the light to know that his green eyes were alight with determination. It was in his words, his touch.

“Let’s walk,” she said.

It would distract her from her worries for a little while. And perhaps that’s exactly what her mind needed.