Dark Moon by Connie Wood
sensual paranormal shapeshifter romance
Cover Art by Valerie Tibbs
Tynan is a Venator; a hunter of the shape shifters banished to exile in the coldest ice plain of Alaska--where the only things to hunt are the shape-shifting polar bears and warmth. But someone has brutally murdered his brother and he’s out for revenge.
Moon’s finally living her dreams, leaving a controlling past far behind her. Until the grisly murder of a friend lands her with a devastatingly sexy stranger and plunges her into the deep recesses of her darkest nightmares.
With the time of total darkness and carnage, the dark moon, looming it’s a race against time to search for the truth. Or die trying.
Tynan pounded through the ravine, his thick leather boots sinking deep into the snow forcing the hard white ice to disappear below his feet. Cursing, he trudged onward. Every well honed muscle in his body screamed with intensity as the combination of cold and exertion started to take its toll. He’d tracked the bear through sparse civilization and out into the wilds of the Arctic since before the sun rose. Now, the evening sun hung low over the fields of ice, lengthening the shadows across the valley, plunging sections of the gorge into freezing darkness. He stepped up into the searing white light that reflected with tinges of blue off the huge icebergs surrounding the crevice he walked through and tugged his sun visor down. A shiver of icy dread slipped down his spine as he moved farther out into the open. There was no place to hide as the bitter icy wind hit him with force and screamed through his ears. He strained for any sound that would let him know he was on the right track.
Nothing registered in his brain except the freezing cold, which raged through his body. He scanned the majestic scenery with an empty numbness that rivaled his cold numb body. He had crossed this way so many times before that the beautiful landscape lost most of its magical luster. He was almost blasé about the exquisite land. But he didn't think he would ever get used to the bitingly tedious cold, it had long since frozen his body and reached to the very core of his tainted soul.
When he had first arrived here, the endless ice fields seemed like a winter wonderland of solitude and peace. Until he had found out how quick the pure white, innocent snow could turn red with blood. He ground his teeth, sending an intense shooting pain through his hard-set jaw, determined to see this mission through. He moved toward a long deep crevasse, its tall walls of shimmering bluish ice engulfed him and plunged him into the rapidly descending darkness. He grinned and immediately wished he hadn’t as his frostbitten lips cracked and split opened. Squinting in the darkness, he flipped up his visor. Huge deep paw prints marred the fresh snow on the ground. One good thing about tracking a bear, they had no way of masking their tracks. Polar bears were a lot easier than some other types of shape shifters he hunted who were ruthless and deceptive. With a were-bear, you knew where you stood. It was a fair fight, no treachery or stabbing you in the back. No conniving and plotting when they were human, only to have them set you up and try to rip your throat out when they transformed back into an animal. No, a shape shifting polar bear could easily rip your throat out with a single swipe of its gigantic paw. But at least it would be a stand up fight and you’d be face to face with your attacker when you went to meet your maker.
The shape shifters had walked the earth hunting their pray since the dawn of time and over the millennia their strength and number increased to almost plague proportions. Their legend weaved its way into the nightmares of humans, becoming the shape shifters of man’s earliest myths. The most famous myths revolved around the were-wolves for good reason. Deadly and vicious, the wolves assimilated into human society and fed with unabated abandon. They were the stuff of nightmares.
As soon as men conquered the skill of writing, they recorded the horror of humans who transformed into deadly creatures. The shifters were recorded in the annals of time as Versipellis—those who shift their skin. It was easier for the modern world to believe them to be legend, since they were unable to comprehend the truth that nature doesn’t change, even when the physical world and technology do. The shape shifter still walked among them, tearing and ripping through their numbers as if culling the human population. The only thing that kept their population and their mayhem in check was the venators, the hunters of the Versipellis.
Tynan had battled the shifters for more years than he cared to remember. He’d been initiated as a venator when he was young and impressionable, now he was as hard as the ice fields surrounding him. The violence and bloodshed had taken its toll, but he continued to hunt the shifters with his unparalleled ability and the few powers the venators possessed. He’d developed and honed his skills over the years but his powers gave him the edge in fighting and staying alive against such powerful adversaries. He was human but different as well, his strength and agility were on par with the creatures he fought. As a venator his wounds healed quickly, his body perfection and his mind was sharper, clearer than when he was human. The blood running through his veins had a magic, a power he didn’t comprehend but it heightened his emotions and senses.
Then he heard it, the hard crunch of snow underfoot. He jolted, twisting toward the sound, straining to hear it clearly through the howling wind. Tynan slid the long sharp stiletto out from the seam of his silver fox skinned sheath and hoped that this time the cold hard steel wouldn’t freeze solid to the palm of his hand. He gripped the steel and winced as it burned into his skin. Damn the bear for leading him into a chase when he was ill equipped for it. He’d long since stopped cursing the fact he was forced to leave his snow suit at the town’s only restaurant. It’d been a long time since he’d seen the polar bear shifter, the look of blood lust in his eyes, in the crowded restaurant. The bear had acknowledged Tynan’s presence then quickly charmed a woman and led her outside. Tynan followed quickly behind to thankfully find the woman unharmed and the man having shifted, the white silhouette of the huge beast running toward the open ice fields.
He looked down in the snow at the human footprints that stopped abruptly and were replaced by those of the bear. The shifters left no sign of their human existence when they changed. They transformed in the blink of an eye. Theirs was a magic he never understood. Instantaneously a man changed into a beast and then back again, fully clothed, to walk unnoticed among society.
Tynan shivered and his thigh muscles contracted, the denim jeans barely keeping him warm. He wouldn’t suffer from frostbite. The power of his venator blood would see to that. But the pain of the cold was still there and he was thankful he had the presence of mind to grab his jacket off the back of his chair before leaving the restaurant. A single fleck of dry snow landed against the numbness of his bare cheek, only to be followed by a multitude of flakes as a blizzard began to set in.
“Damn bear, why did you have to pick now to play hide and seek? Why couldn’t you hibernate for the winter?”