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Friday, August 6, 2021

Book Review & Excerpt! Wolf Marked: Moon Cursed by Alexis Calder

Wolf Marked (Moon Cursed #1) by Alexis Calder
Genre:  New Adult Fiction (Fantasy Romance)
Date Published: July 29, 2021
Publisher: Self

They tried to break me. Now I’m going to break them.

Cursed to never shift, the only thing I was looking forward to about the First Moon Ceremony was that the magic sealing me into Wolf Creek would break, and I could finally leave.

Instead, the ceremony reveals my true mate: Tyler Grant, future leader of my pack and the man responsible for my most recent concussion and black eye. He’s as brutal as he is handsome and fate is a bitch to put us together.

There’s a rumor that a mating bond could break my curse and just as I’m getting my hopes up, Tyler destroys them all.

Instead of bonding with my mate, I’m beaten and left for dead.

A hot-as-sin feral shifter finds me and helps me back on my feet. But his help comes with a cost and I’m not sure I’m willing to pay the price.

With my former pack hunting me down, even an enemy might be a better ally than trying to stay alive on my own.

This is book one in steamy rejected mate series. This is not a reverse harem series. 17+ for steam, language, and darker themes. 

Wolf Marked is the first book in the Moon Cursed series by Alexis Calder. Holy cow! Lola has it rough in her pack! She is such a strong character with a will to live and survive above all. Unfortunately, being unable to shift makes her physically weaker than everyone around her and she's been emotionally and physically abused her whole life. She learned a lot about herself and shifters through this story. She'd been kept in the dark about so much. And, I feel like there is so much we still don't know. There is so much to this story and its characters. I have a lot to say, but I can't, because it'd be way to easy to accidentally let a spoiler slip, and that would completely ruin the reading experience. This is an excellent first book in what seems like it will be an amazing series that can go in so many directions from here. This was one of those books that is fast paced and begging to be read in one sitting, so clear your schedule.

Chapter One

The wind rustled the paper calendar hanging on my wall and I glanced at the crossed off days. Six days left. I was so close to freedom. Pulling my jacket tighter around me, I walked over to the window and peered outside. The sky was steely gray and the clouds looked like they might bring a tornado. It was late spring and the weather this time of year was unpredictable.

Maybe I’d get lucky and it would hit my mom’s trailer and I could get out of here permanently. I had a feeling I wasn’t going to get out of here that easily. Whatever witch magic they’d used to seal us in pack lands seemed to also keep the worst weather away. It also prevented us from self-harm. Not that it kept anyone else from beating the s**t out of me.

I supposed if I really wanted out, I could have pushed Tyler and his entourage a little more. The penalty for killing another member of the pack was death, but I had a feeling nobody would mourn me. And it wasn’t like they’d lock up the next alpha for getting rid of the broken wolf.

I closed the window. While we were unlikely to get a tornado here, we did get rain and I didn’t need the water coming in and ruining my few meager possessions.

The duffel bag sitting next to the folding table that served as my desk was already packed. It had been for three months. Waiting until the night the magic would free me from this prison. On the first full moon after my nineteenth birthday, I was supposed to shift, and with that magic, I’d gain the ability to leave the magical border around our town. I already knew I wouldn’t shift, but the magic should break, letting me finally escape from the hell that was my life.

For the rest of the pack, that barrier was our savior. It kept us hidden and protected. Away from feral wolves who hunted other shifters for sport. Away from humans who would kill us on sight. Most importantly, it kept us away from witches. At least that was what they taught us. For me, it kept me away from freedom. I’d take my chances with humans and feral shifters any day over the s**t I dealt with here. Witches and magic freaked me out more, but I’d cross that bridge when I got to it.

F***ing magic. F***ing witches. They were the cause of all my pain. The reason I was trapped in a town where I was abused daily. The reason my mom spent her days on her back with whatever pills she could find to dull her pain. I didn’t even know who my dad was but I was sure he was an a**hole. Just like my mom’s dad. He was the one who pissed off a witch, resulting in the curse that follows my family. No shifting for us. Practically human with a dormant wolf shifter gene. If only my mom had fled while she was pregnant with me and let us live as humans. Instead, she’d stayed here, pining over the f***er who knocked her up. He never came back and I got stuck here.

“Lola, did you grab cigarettes at the store?” Mom yelled.

“Yeah, mom. They’re on the table.” I shouldn’t indulge her habits. It was gross and it cost me a small fortune but it kept her off my case. She didn’t ask where I went or what I did as long as there were cigarettes on the table and food in the fridge. All paid for by my after school job at the pack grocery store.

It wasn’t a glamorous job, but it was helping me save something for when I finally got free of this hellhole.

I took a peek in the mirror and gingerly touched the bruises from my latest black eye. Another gift from the male who would one day be the pack alpha. If Tyler Grant had treated me with indifference, maybe I’d have stayed here. Instead, I got daily reminders that I was unwelcome. One of these days he was going to go too far and I intended to be long gone before then. Huh, how about that? I guess I didn’t have a death wish after all. My desire to survive was barely hanging on by a thread. It would be easier to roll over and give up. Thankfully, I had the reminder of my mom and what her life was like. I refused to become like her.

I considered applying some concealer to cover my injury, but it wouldn’t hide it much. The rest of my classmates would be healed by now, but since I didn’t have the wolf inside me to aid in that, I healed like a human. The purple and blue made my eyes look even more green than they were. Apparently, I had my father’s eyes. Most of the pack had brown or amber eyes. The green in mine was another thing that made me stand out. Add in the red hair and it was impossible for me to hide.

Quickly, I pulled my hair into a low ponytail to get it out of the way. I grabbed my backpack and slung it over my shoulder. Six more days. That was all I had to do. Just a few more days of school, a few more days of work, a few more days of ignoring the over-acting of my mom’s moaning through the paper-thin walls of her bedroom. I shuddered. No kid should have to hear their mom engaging in that. I didn’t judge how she earned her money but I sure as hell didn’t want to listen to it.

With one last glance at my packed bag, I left my room. The thought of leaving was the only thing getting me through the motions. Chin high, I reminded myself that I was almost there. I’d made it this far. I could make it six more days.

Students mingled in the grass in front of Wolf Creek Community College when I arrived. I glared at the building, which was right next door to Wolf Creek High School. Sometime when I was a small kid, they’d expanded the school requirement to make all of us take at least one semester of college while waiting for our first full moon. Most kids who grew up here dropped out as soon as they had their first shift and settled into some mundane job in town. Few left because we all knew being a wolf without a pack was challenging. I wouldn’t ever turn into a wolf so I wasn’t worried. Being alone would be better than being here.

It was the twenty-fourth of May and there were only a couple weeks of school left before summer break. But I wouldn’t be here to finish the year. My birthday was last week, which meant the full moon in six days was my ticket out. I was so close, I could taste it.

As I neared the entry, I realized that a small group of guys was waiting by the front doors. My heart pounded and I froze. Tyler and his crew were gathered there despite the fact that most of them had already had their first full moon. Tyler was one of the few wolves who stayed enrolled in school after his first shift last month. I figured for sure he’d be out of here since his future was set. As the next alpha, it didn’t matter if he had any actual skills aside from being able to throw people around. He could do whatever he wanted and nobody would bat an eye.

Quickly, I changed direction and started walking toward the side of the building. There were other doors I could use and I wasn’t in the mood to get the s**t beat out of me today. It wasn’t like I was a pushover but there was nothing fair about three dudes against one non-shifted chick.

I slipped into the side door and walked down the tile hallway. Kids I’d known my whole life glanced at me and quickly looked away. That was how it was for me. When I was younger, it hurt that I was so alone. Now, I was grateful for their indifference. Ignoring me was better than the alternative.

When I finally took my seat in my Calculus class, I breathed a sigh of relief. I’d made it in without sporting a new black eye. Six more days.

Professor Ortiz started writing on the white board and the four other people in the class were already taking notes. I had no deep love of math, but I was good at it and Tyler wasn’t. Another not as proud moment. My schedule was based on things Tyler hated. I reminded myself that it wasn’t like I’d even get the credit for the class since I’d be out before the term was over. It was pure survival at this point.

Soon enough, I was sucked into class, too focused on the numbers to worry about anything else. Okay, so maybe I liked that about math. It forced me to shut out my other worries.

I went through the motions for the next two classes, doing enough to keep the professors from noticing me and not engaging enough to draw attention to myself. It was a balancing act I’d perfected over the years. Keeping to myself and making myself nearly invisible were the only ways I’d made it this far.

The hallways were packed. There were only a hundred of us in this school, but since we all had the same lunch, it got busy when it was time for a break. I walked into the crowd, keeping my gaze down to avoid confrontation. It was especially important this close to a full moon.

Someone ran right into me, their shoulder slammed into mine, shoving me aside. I looked up, ready to find a way out, but when my eyes met Tyler’s I knew I was f***ed.

“Where have you been hiding little wolf?” He stared at me with his amber eyes, a vicious smile on his lips. His fingers dug into my bicep as he held me tight. “I waited for you at the front door but you didn’t come. I thought maybe you were playing hooky.”

“What and give someone else the chance to beat the s**t out of me? You know we’re exclusive.” Missing school was worse than attending. Tyler and his friends might use me as a punching bag, but the torture that came with being truant was far worse. I’d tried a few times in high school, but it wasn’t worth the pain.

He pushed me forward into the women’s bathroom. The door swung open and two girls standing by the sinks screamed.

“Out. Now.” Tyler growled.

“I don’t know why you waste your time with her,” Tenny, a tall blonde who was a few months older than me said.

Every female at school wanted Tyler. He was going to be the next alpha, after all. Even without the promise of power, his looks would buy him a lot of attention. He was over six feet of solid muscle. With wavy black hair, piercing amber eyes, and a strong masculine jaw, he was like a walking wet dream. Thankfully, his good looks were wasted on me. He’d been an awkward kid and by the time he resembled a f***ing Greek God, I knew what kind of person he was.

“Ditch the loser, Ty,” Tenny said in what was probably supposed to be a seductive tone. “We haven’t had a tumble in my back seat in a while.”

“I said, out,” Tyler repeated.

“She probably doesn’t even know what you like,” Tenny whined.

“What exactly do you think he’s doing with me?” I asked. “Because I promise you if he put his dick anywhere near me, I’d bite it off.”

Tyler’s hand made contact with my face, slapping me so hard it nearly knocked me on my ass. The sting made my eyes water and I forced myself to clench my jaw and hold my breath rather than cry out. I’d learned long ago that when I reacted, it made things worse.

Tenny giggled. “Well, since she’s not meeting your needs, you know where to find me if you want a real wolf.”

“Out,” Tyler repeated.

The girls left the bathroom and I pulled free of Tyler’s grip. “What do you want, Tyler?”

“You shouldn’t be here,” he said. “My father should have kicked you and your whore of a mother out the day your grandfather crossed that witch. Better yet, he should have let you starve in the caves.”

I swallowed hard. The worst punishment in our pack was being locked in the caves on the south end of town, right near the border. Locked in without food or water with other criminals meant that wolves often went feral and fed on each other. It was gruesome and had only been used once in my lifetime, but the threat was always there. Only, this was the first time Tyler mentioned it. He’d told me I shouldn’t be here in previous encounters, but he’d never talked about the caves. Ever since his first shift, he’d been more emotional and less stable. I was grateful he wasn’t the alpha yet.

“Don’t worry, I’ll be out of here soon and you’ll never have to look at me again.” I glared at him.

Before I saw it coming, his hand was around my throat and he pushed me back, slamming me against the wall. I heard the cracking of my head as it made contact and hoped it didn’t mean I had another concussion. Pain blurred my vision and I winced despite myself.

He was faster and stronger than he was before his first shift. When we were younger, I had a chance against him. As we got older, he got stronger, feeding off the energy of his wolf. I didn’t have that advantage. It was hard to tell if the beatings had gotten worse or if he’d gotten stronger.

When we were in elementary school, he teased me but by middle school, things turned physical. In the last year, I had learned I didn’t stand a chance fighting back anymore. What I wouldn’t give for some of the strength and power that came along with a shift.

Tyler scowled at me. His expression reflecting pure hatred. I never knew what I did to make him so mad, but it had gotten worse recently. Beating me up had always seemed to be a sport, something he did with a laugh to show off to his friends.

That’s when it hit me that we were totally alone. My heart pounded faster. In all the years of dealing with Tyler, he’d always had others with him. There were always witnesses. He liked the audience and there was always someone to pull him back if he took things too far. We’d never actually been alone before. For the first time during one of our little torture sessions, I was worried. This wasn’t just a game anymore.

“Let me go,” I demanded.

“Like I said, you shouldn’t even be here, little wolf.” He squeezed harder, making me gasp for air. My vision blurred, growing darker around the edges. For a moment, I wondered if this was it. If he took me out, I would be free of this place, done with the pain. I considered it for a heartbeat. A flicker of anger urged me forward, I wasn’t ready yet.

Risking retaliation, I kicked Tyler right in the nuts. He let go, groaning, as he grabbed his manhood. I sidestepped him then bolted for the door, sucking in air as I fled. The hallway was empty. His friends nowhere in sight. Whatever Tyler had been after, he didn’t want any witnesses. If he hadn’t already had his mind set on murdering me, he probably did now. I might have just signed my own death warrant. F***. Surviving for the next six days was going to be harder than I thought.

Check out my review of the next book!

Alexis Calder writes sassy heroines and sexy heroes with a sprinkle of sarcasm. She lives in the Rockies and drinks far too much coffee and just the right amount of wine. 

To learn more about Alexis Calder and her books, visit her website. You can also find her on GoodreadsFacebookFacebook Reader GroupTwitter, and BookBub.

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