Demons are hunting me.
You know the old adage: wrong place, wrong time? That’s my problem. When a freeloader dines and dashes at the bar where I wait tables, I run after him, demanding he pay his bill. Trouble is, I’m not the only one chasing him. By the time I catch up — in a dark, secluded alley — the freeloader is dead. Murdered by creatures that exist only in the grimmest fairy tales.
Bad news: monsters are real and now they want me dead. Good news: Sexy-as-sin alpha werewolf, Aidan McSmith, takes me under his protection while he investigates the fellow werewolf’s death. As we learn more about the murder, dodging demons, enemy werewolves, and a dark sorcerer, we unravel a bigger conspiracy that threatens to tear apart Aidan’s pack. And take my life. Time to master my magic and fight back the monsters!
A kickass urban fantasy with slow burn romance. Perfect for fans of Linsey Hall, Veronica Douglas and K.F. Breene.
Keep reading to see an excerpt!
Blessed By the Moon Book One
2021 © Antara Mann
“My love life is cursed. It’s official,” I announced, a flair of drama coating my voice. I’d just checked my WhatsApp messaging status for the umpteenth time in the last couple of hours. My heart pined for a new notification from Henry: the guy I’d gone on a date with yesterday. Surprise, surprise—no message from him. Nada. Actually, worse than nothing: a complete and total void. The pit at my stomach growled in displeasure, and faint nausea climbed up my throat.
“Huh? You said something?” Sarah, my colleague at the bar, asked in surprise, lifting her head from the trail of drinks she was about to carry toward the customers at one of the tables she served.
“Nothing,” I said dryly, plopping my left elbow on the bar counter. No more online dating, ever! I’d met this guy through a stupid dating app. Come to think about it, we’d been texting for over a month, and it’d taken him a single date to figure out that he didn’t like me. Speak of proper time management! Not only had I wasted valuable time with him, but now that jerk was ghosting me. God, I hated feeling so depressed and dejected. Unbelievable: every single time I went out there, trying the whole “dating thing,” it always ended up in utter disaster. A failure. Maybe I had to accept I was destined to be single?
“You’ll be fine, honey,” Sarah said, her voice caressing me like silk. She waltzed on by me, slapping my butt, and then zoomed toward table six. The logo of our bar, Don Jose, was embroidered proudly on the back of her apron. We had the same logo in the front, too, but bigger. Someone’s burning stare took me from my moody state.
“What?” I asked, partly annoyed, partly still feeling down as the bartender gave me “the look”—a long, scrutinizing stare as if she was assessing my combat skills. In all likelihood, she was evaluating my dating and flirting skills.
Her lips stretched into a smile, benign and cheerful, and she said in a soothing voice, “It’s okay, love. You haven’t met the right guy yet.”
Oh, hell, yeah: were we going to play that card? For several years I hadn’t somehow managed to meet any decent guys, while my bestie had been changing men more often than her shirts. Even though neither one of us had found the right one, at least she was having some fun. Life wasn’t fair. At the very least, the universe owed me an explanation as to why I was either attracting all the wrong guys or weirdos while simultaneously pushing back all the hot and decent guys. I didn’t entirely buy the whole “men are idiots” mantra. Well, some were, but not all.
“It’ll get better,” the bartender said quietly as if sharing something conspiratorially. Her name was Cass and I liked her: she called out shit when she saw it, didn’t mince her words, but at the same time was an empath and wouldn’t offend you. I nodded absentmindedly, then glanced at my wristwatch: I had less than ten minutes ‘til the end of my shift. Luckily for me, I’d collected all my customers’ bills except one, and I was going to collect his now.
I strode to table number two, where a tall, muscular guy sat perched on his chair, sipping the last of his Martini cocktail. He had already consumed his meal, which he’d ordered nearly an hour ago.
“Excuse me, sir, could you please pay me now since my shift is about to end?” I asked as I drew closer to him. I shoved the bill on the table before him when his dark brown eyes flickered to me, and I thought I saw sparks of gold flash in them. Ha, this was absurd! Sparks of gold? Honey gold, to be more precise. The gold color in his eyes intensified, turning amber.
His voice sounding low and calm, the sensation of honey dripping in every word, he said, “What about you give me some more time? I need to finish my drink.” He pointed at the Martini glass in his right hand. “Come by in a few minutes, ‘kay?”
His honey eyes had arrested me, captivating my soul and mesmerizing whatever little reasoning I was left with. It was as if all my willpower was stripped away from me. A tiny voice in my mind protested, arguing I shouldn’t wait extra for him when I could finish work on time. But the dominance and power emanating from his aura clouded my better judgment. The silent desire to obey him spread down my limbs, curling in my chest. The vague scent of pine trees tingled my nostrils, and instinctively, I inhaled deeper, enjoying the smell.
“Okay, as you wish, sir,” I agreed despite my gut feeling that screamed I should demand he pay me. “I’ll drop by to take your bill in a few minutes.”
His lips curled into a smile that didn’t reach his eyes. His rugged jaw further highlighted the mischievousness in his honey-gold eyes. He was handsome, oh man! and young—probably in his late twenties or early thirties at the most, but he radiated that troublemaker vibe. Even though a teeny part of my brain shouted to collect the money from him ASAP, my legs propelled me to the bar, where Cass was gawking at me, wide-eyed.
“What the hell, girl?” She pointed with her stare at the customer I just spoke to. “What was that? Why didn’t you take his money?”
Taking the cash I’d collected for the whole day out of the front pocket of my apron, I shrugged. “He needs a little more time. He has his Martini to finish. He’ll tip me well, though.” I winked at her. My mind shouted at me, Do you even believe yourself? That was a good question. No, I had no fucking clue why I was behaving like that.
Cass shook her head and continued wiping a few rocks glasses on the counter. I was nearly done counting my turnover when Cass’ anxious voice shook me.
“Oh, Destiny, look! Your prince charming just bolted out the back door.”
I turned my head to table two, and the blood in my veins froze when I saw it vacant. I spun on my heels toward the back of the bar and caught a glimpse of the guy’s jeans sliding through the door.
“Go get him!” Cass raised her voice and threw her hands suggestively. She’d followed me, probably wishing to see a good fight.
I knew well that if I didn’t get his bill, it’d be on me. My wages for the day would go, covering for his Martini and steak. I wasn’t earning much to begin with, but working the whole freaking day for this asshole to have a meal on me? Nah, he hadn’t picked the right gullible waitress.
Clenching my fists, I slammed through the back door. Screw freeloaders! This guy, hot or not, was going to pay for his dinner. The recent ghosting from Henry still tasted bitter in my mouth, but I was going to show the world I was no pushover. Starting with this guy.
I arrived in the back alley adjacent to the back door of our kitchen. The whole street was shrouded in darkness. Weird, I thought. Usually, the streetlamps here worked just fine; if not all, at least several of them shone. It was late October, and the sun went down earlier with each passing day. The guy’s hollow steps sounded on the pavement and indicated he was retreating in the distance. His pace sounded hurried, the strides long, but he wasn’t running.
“Hey, you! Stop!” I shouted and ran after him. I could barely see his outline, but my eyes adjusted to the darkness all around. “You owe me money, asshole!” I wasn’t going to mince my words. Right now, they were my best weapon.
The guy didn’t seem to hear or even care as he continued down the street until he crossed the intersection that separated the town’s center from the park grounds. We lived in Brookside: a small town in the foothills of the Montana Rockies, and we had plenty of pine trees encircling us, mixed with firs and shrubs.
Panting, I ran after him. How the hell did he manage to walk so fast without even running? It was inhuman! As I jogged to a stop to see where the hell the freeloader had disappeared, a sudden burst of bright light caught my eye. I turned to face the source of it, and my breath caught in my throat: a glowing circle of red lava mixed with a bright orange hue almost blinded my eyes. It stood a little over ten feet from me, the flame’s heat surging through my skin, calling on some forgotten but ancient song within my core. My skin buzzed with excitement, yet my mind frantically shouted at me, Get the hell outta here!
The money or my safety: this was the question. As I stood frozen on my spot, weighing my options, the freeloader, oblivious of my presence, went straight into the circle, vanishing in its glowing and swirling fiery midst. Holy shit! This wasn’t happening.
I rubbed my eyes, yet the fiery whirlwind stood intact among the greenery, the guy nowhere in sight as if the circle had swallowed him whole. The air rippled across the circle, then all of a sudden snapped shut with a sizzling sound. The pine trees stood empty as if nothing weird had just happened.
“Oh, shit,” I muttered, horrified of what I witnessed. What was I going to do now?
I had to pay for the shitass’s dinner, but this wasn’t my biggest concern right now. How could I forget what I’d just seen? Uneasiness surged within me, flooding my veins and pumping up my blood with dozens of emotions: uncertainty, doubt, fear, disbelief, and whatnot. I had some side work to finish up and it passed in a blur. I managed to dodge the concerned looks and questions from my coworkers. They thought I was flustered because the guy took off from our bar without paying me, but this wasn’t entirely true. I had a similar case many months ago when I started working at Don Jose’s bar. It was a shitty experience that made me feel like crap for a short time, but I’d gotten over it. There would always be shitty customers. This—whatever I’d just witnessed—was another level. It was inhuman.
The word supernatural pulsed on my lips, but I couldn’t bring myself to call what I’d just seen “supernatural.” Did magic exist? Did monsters lurk in the darkness? Did they attack innocent people like me? Horror flooded my senses, rushing through my body, making me hyperventilate. What if he had tried to attack me? Holy hell, I’d gotten lucky. Suddenly him dine-and-dashing on me seemed like a bad joke, nothing more.
These thoughts swirled in my mind as I arrived home. I’d quickly closed the distance from the bar to home with my bike. On foot, it would take me half an hour at a normal pace, whereas by bike, I’d pass the distance in a few minutes.
My godmother’s house loomed in the night air, standing imposing and sovereign, much like the woman herself. The clock approached ten pm. Normally, I’d arrive home at nine-thirty, but with the chase of the freeloader, then coping with what I’d seen, I’d lost nearly half an hour. I unlocked the fence’s gate and took the stone tiles of our pathway two at a time. Our garden was my godmother’s pride, and I loved it with all my heart: a vast variety of plants, trees, and shrubs grew in here, carefully trimmed and supervised by Orianna—my godmother. She was a certified herbalist and had opened an herbal apothecary, which she ran almost singlehandedly. Her two best friends occasionally helped her. Orianna also had a pendulum and used it whenever she needed to read energy. My godmother dabbled in tarot cards, too, though she was not as adept at tarot readings as her best friend, Susan.
The porcelain and wooden figurines in the garden greeted me as I advanced on the pathway up to the porch. I’d left the bike in the garden, tying it to the fence with a chain lock. Climbing up the stairs, I unlocked the front door and rushed into the hallway, closing the door behind me. I directly climbed the stairs and went to my room, avoiding contact with my godmother. It was as easy as cake for her to read my energetic aura and see I was feeling down. She’d ask me what had happened, and I’d have no alternative but to tell her what I had just seen. The trouble was, I wasn’t sure what I’d seen. I tiptoed to my room and drank last night’s leftovers inside my teacup. Orianna had prepared one of her soothing herbal concoctions that included chamomile, licorice root, ginger, and echinacea. I eagerly gulped what little remained of the tea, hoping it’d banish the memory of the freeloader passing through a fiery circle. A portal? I shook my head: this was bullshit, fairytales. Real-life had no portals and no magic whatsoever.
The tea’s sweet taste poured down my throat, warming my insides, washing away my anxiety. I shook my head: this was insane. Either I’d misread what I’d seen or somehow hallucinated what I thought was magic. There had to be a logical explanation. My whole being rebelled against the idea of magic existing. Would this mean witches, werewolves, and the likes existed too? What about vampires? The image of glistening fangs flashed before my eyes, saliva dripping from them, and blood smeared between the huge fangs. I covered my mouth with a trembling hand to stifle the sound as I screamed in frustration.
Look, Destiny, you’re freaking out! This can’t be true; magic’s only real in fairytales and fantasy books, I thought to myself but still wasn’t convinced: the scene was so real. I had a hard time finding a non-paranormal explanation.
As I rubbed my temples, trying to pour some strength into my throbbing-from-overthinking head, an idea blossomed in my mind. What if that asshole had pulled off that stunt to freak me out? What if this had been a huge hocus-pocus kinda thing? The more I thought about it, the more I convinced myself this had been the douchebag’s elaborate plan to avoid paying for his meal.
I fell asleep on my bed, calm and serene. Only the firm resolve pulsed in my veins: I was going to find this asshole and make him pay for his free meal!
I’m going to kick you in the ass, asshole, I thought in my sleep and squeezed the pillow in my hands tighter.
ANTARA MANN started writing at the age of seven. Nowadays, when she’s not reading and writing, you can find her practicing yoga, as she has developed a keen interest in self-improvement, spirituality, and becoming a better human being. She enjoys writing fantasy and paranormal suspense stories and believes in unity in diversity. In her opinion, the best books and stories are crossovers between genres.