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Lies of the Blood Moon (New World Shifters Book 2)

Lies of the Blood Moon (New World Shifters Book 2)

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I was saved at the festival, but at what cost?

With Nora dead and more attacks against the claimed, I may be next.

I’m determined to find the killer and join the resistance, but my feelings for Ryne keep growing. When a new girl arrives on the scene, the stakes are higher than ever.

As the next festival approaches, everything I thought I knew changes. I have a choice to make: keep things the same and risk our lives, or fight against oppression and risk it all.

Synopsis

I was saved at the festival, but at what cost?

With Nora dead and more attacks against the claimed, I may be next.

I’m determined to find the killer and join the resistance, but my feelings for Ryne keep growing. When a new girl arrives on the scene, the stakes are higher than ever.

As the next festival approaches, everything I thought I knew changes. I have a choice to make: keep things the same and risk our lives, or fight against oppression and risk it all.

First Chapter

Prologue

Joanna

 

I’ve always been a risk-taker. As a kid, I swam where I
shouldn’t swim, climbed where I shouldn’t climb, and asked too many
questions––until the day my parents sat me down and explained the importance of
weighing my risks before taking them. They said I was old enough to understand
that I needed to stop being reckless. I didn’t like the lecture, but when my
mother left the room to get supper started, my father said something that I’ve
never forgotten. He kneeled down, looked me square in the eye, and said that
one day risks would outweigh staying safe, and when that happened, I needed to
be brave.

Today is that day.

And so was yesterday, and the day
before, and every day since I was claimed by the Carolina Pack. I will not go down without a fight.

“There is no way in hell that Nova’s
death was an accident. None,” I whisper angrily, my voice carrying over the
water more than I’d like.

“But it’s not possible they found
out,” Lexi whispers back as she scrambles into the boat behind me.

We go quiet as we untie it from the
dock and let it drift out into the black water for a few minutes. Once I’m sure
it’s safe, I start the engine. I keep thinking about her response but don’t
bother to answer because it’s totally possible the wolves found out about Nova.
Not only possible, it’s probable.
Nova fell in love with one of them––not that I can really talk. I fell in love
with Grady, but he has no idea the danger I put myself in every day. And I’ll
never tell him.

Maybe Nova told Nico.

Then again, maybe it really was an
accident, or she killed herself like they want everyone to believe. I shake my
head at the thought, and the night breeze bites at my cheeks.

The boat hums along softly as we
head into town. I always worry about getting caught, but since we’re going
toward the city and not away from it, we’re less likely to look suspicious.
Lexi and I can both say we are sneaking out to visit the betas, but then we’ll
have to explain how we know how to operate a boat. We could say we learned it
in our villages, but that argument is flimsy considering I’m from the textile
village, and she was a farmer. And of course Madame Delphine would have to
punish us, but we wouldn’t be killed. That’s the main thing.

And anyway, her punishment would
only be for show since she’s one of us.

I guide the boat to a dock near a
nice house on the outskirts of town. We tug our hoods up and hurry for the
house. We usually do this close to the new moon, when there’s hardly any light,
and it’s unlikely we’ll be seen. Tonight, however, the moon is a few days from
when it was full. I resent that it lights up the landscape. Maybe it doesn’t
matter either way. Light or no light, it won’t help us if one of the wolves
roaming the outskirts sees us. Monsters can see in the dark.

The floral scent hits me as we
approach the house. Shauna loves her flowers. My mother would be so jealous of
her long-lost sister. Mom never could get anything to bloom so early in the
season.

We skirt around the house and head
for the greenhouse in the back. Each member’s arrival time is staggered so no
one will become suspicious. We don’t want any neighbors to take notice. Lexi
and I are always the last to arrive, which is nice because that means we don’t
have to wait for the meetings to start, but I wish I had more time to spend
with Shauna. She reminds me of home.

A large man looms next to the
greenhouse. He’s so still that he could almost be mistaken for a tree in the
darkness. He’s a wolf. And he’s the only one who knows about us. At least, I
think he’s the only one who knows. Sure, plenty of wolves know of us, and many are trying to hunt us
down, but Shauna’s husband is the only one we can trust. I’m still pretty low
in the ranks of the Resistance, but I’ve been assured there aren’t other wolves
involved. That’s good, because how can we really trust them?

I even wonder about Grady sometimes…

And then I feel guilty because he’s
proven himself more devoted to me than I ever thought possible. I have no doubt
that he’s madly in love with me. But what would he do if he knew the truth?
Would he still feel the same? Still protect me? Or would his loyalties lie with
the pack?

Our resistance group has about
twenty women, and there are other groups that meet all over the city, in other
wolf cities, and even out in the wilds. That’s all I know about our numbers––we
have to be careful. It wouldn’t be safe for the other groups to know too much
about us or vice versa. All it takes is one weak link, and the whole chain
breaks to pieces.

But Nova was one of us, so we can’t
delay this. We need to come up with a plan.

“Hey, kids,” Amos whispers as we
approach. He ruffles Lexi’s hair but knows better than to do that to me, even
though I’m his niece. We shake hands. “You doing okay?”

Lexi and I nod.

And all things considered, we are.
I’ve got Grady, and Lexi is consistently on top of the scoreboard. She’s the
smartest of the claimed girls, so she aces every class.

“Any word from the other cities?” I
ask. I always ask even though the answer stays the same. I think we should band
together and revolt.

“Go on inside and find out for
yourself.” He chuckles, avoiding my question yet again. “You know how she is
about things. I keep my mouth shut and stand guard, and that’s it.”

I roll my eyes. He’s talking about
Shauna. Apparently there’s some secret way she communicates with the other
leaders so that we all have the same information, but she doesn’t share how
many women are involved or all the little details. My parents are a part of the
Resistance. When I was claimed, they wanted me to go willingly and stay safe
until they could think of something. Yeah, right. I’d fought those bastards on
day one, but I ended up with Grady, so I guess Mom and Dad got their wish.

Or not… because I found the
Resistance as soon as I got here.

We enter the greenhouse and find the
trapdoor in the back. It’s been propped open, and a ladder sticks out the top.
I eye it wearily. It’s not far down, but I still get a little claustrophobic
descending the rungs. I sigh and climb down quickly, and my feet hit hard
earth.

I duck into the cramped stone tunnel
and then out into a large room lit with lanterns. This hiding place is quite
brilliant, but Amos and Shauna can’t claim it as their idea. It belongs to the
brave humans from hundreds of years ago, those good people who smuggled slaves
to safety.

The room is nearly full. Several
women are crying while others are consoling them. I should be among the women
crying––Nova was my friend––but anger forced the tears away.

Someone murdered her. I know it.

Shauna’s head snaps up when she
hears us. “Oh good, you’re here.” She hurries over and hugs me, kissing me once
on the cheek. It’s weird having her in my life suddenly, but also comforting.
She was taken by the claiming before I was born, so to find her here was a
small miracle in all of this. She steps away and gives me one of her winning
smiles. She’s a pretty middle-aged woman and looks so much like my mom
sometimes it hurts.

“Ladies, we need to get started.”
She walks to the head of the crowd, her head low for a moment, but then raises
it. A few tears glisten on her cheeks. “Two nights ago, we lost one of our own.
It’s not the first time a woman in the Resistance has been murdered, and it
will likely not be the last.”

“We should find and kill the bastard
who did this to her,” I call out.

Shauna glowers at me. “That’s not
our way, and you know it.”

I cross my arms and frown. The
Resistance has always moved slower than I would like. They focus on rescuing
women and getting them away from the wolves, but it’s not like they can do very
much of that. I think we should be attacking. In fact, we should burn the whole
city to the ground.

But no one listens to me.

I keep my mouth shut as Shauna
continues. “Delphine, you knew her best. Do you think we’ve been compromised?”

Madame Delphine steps from the
shadows. She knows Lexi and I come here, but she always travels on her own by
town car. I wish she wouldn’t. I’d feel safer if we all came together, but she
says this is better. And she’ll never
talk about anything back at the manor, so it’s not like I have much time to
convince her otherwise. “No. I knew Nova, and there is no way she told anyone,
including Nico.”

And I would agree if it weren’t for
all the times I’ve wanted to tell Grady. I understand how hard it is to keep
something like this from a fated mate. But then again, I saw Nico’s reaction
when Nova’s body was pulled from the river. He was completely shocked.

And he was heartbroken. Can’t fake
that.

Shauna purses her lips and nods.
“Okay, then onto business. Who needs rescuing this week?”

“Everyone,” I snort quietly to
myself. Then I tune out as they talk. They never let Lexi or me assist with any
of the rescue missions. Madame Delphine always puts a stop to it when I
volunteer. I’m so sick of doing nothing. Even back in the textile village, I
had more of a role than this nonsense.

After a while, the conversation
dies, and I see my opening.

“I have a new recruit.”

Madame Delphine raises her eyebrows
but doesn’t say anything.

“Who?” Shauna asks.

“My friend Poppy.”

A few of the women look at me from
the sides of their eyes. Everyone knows who Poppy is because of the stunt Ryne
pulled on the Wolf Moon. Gossip travels fast even in the mating houses.

“Haven’t you tried to get her out of
the city a couple of times?”

I clench my fists. Those failures
were not my fault. “Yes. She’s decided she wants to join us instead.”

“Absolutely not,” Madame Delphine
cuts in.

“Why not?” I protest. Poppy is ready
for this. She has motive and is an incredible fighter. If you ask me, we should
be recruiting more heavily than we are. The more we have, the better chance
we’ll have to fight them.

“Because she’s too young. You and
Lexi shouldn’t be a part of this either. I will not allow another one of my
girls to join. If, after the Harvest Moon Festival, she still feels the same
way, then she can join.”

“After the harvest, she might be in
the mating house, if not earlier. If she’s part of the Resistance, then she’ll
have an easier time escaping if she needs to––before she’s been raped by a hundred
wolves.”

A few women flinch, but no one says
anything. We should use that word more freely, if you ask me. Why not call it
what it is?

“I will see to it that she doesn’t
end up in a mating house, but she cannot join us.” Madame Delphine presses her
lips tight.

“She’s ready. We need—”

“Joanna,” Shauna snaps. “We saw what
happened at the wolf moon. The alpha either has a special interest in her, or
he’s saving her for his number two, but either way, Poppy isn’t someone we can
bring into our fold. What would happen if she were caught by one of them? She
could lead them right to us, even unwittingly.”

“But––”

“That’s enough.” Her voice is
understanding but stern.

I don’t argue because it’s
pointless, but this isn’t over.

Poppy will become one of us.

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