Release Day Review: CHALLENGE THE DARKNESS by Dirk Greyson

Title: Challenge the Darkness 
Author: Dirk Greyson
Genre: M/M, Shifter/Paranormal, Erotic, Romance
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: August 31st, 2015
Cover Artist: Reese Dante
Length: 234 pgs 
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When alpha shifter Mikael Volokov is called to witness a challenge, he learns the evil and power-hungry Anton Gregor will stop at nothing to attain victory. Knowing he will need alliances to keep his pack together, Mikael requests a congress with the nearby Evergreen pack and meets Denton Arguson, Evergreen alpha, to ask for his help. Fate has a strange twist for both of them, though, and Mikael and Denton soon realize they’re destined mates.

Denton resists the pull between them—he has his own pack and his own responsibilities. But Mikael isn’t willing to give up. The Mother has promised Mikael his mate, told him he must fight for him, and that only together can they defeat the coming darkness. When Anton casts his sights on Denton’s pack, attacks and sabotage follow, pulling Denton and Mikael together to defeat a common enemy. But Anton’s threats sow seeds of destruction enough to break any bond, and the mates’ determination to challenge the darkness may be their only saving grace.

When the story begins, only one of the alphas knows he has a true or fated mate out there somewhere. Only one has witnessed the evil and brutality of the monster that is Anton Gregor. But when an alliance is proposed between Mikael and Denton’s packs, this change for them both as men and as alphas. Yes, this is a fates mates / fated alphas story and it’s done so well! This is not one where one alpha is found to really be a pretender or some such (yes, I’ve read stories like that :/ )

But what do you do when your mate has his own pack and pack lands to deal with, you have an evil abomination trying to gobble up all the other packs (and sets his sights on yours next), and your Goddess has plans for you both? Yeah, life is never easy when Dirk is in the writers seat! But hey, that’s a good thing. I promise.

The writing is so vivid and clear you feel as if you are right there in the pages with the characters. The growth and development is wonderful to see, as is how each man deals with the other, their pack members, and their trials. And by the last page, all I wanted was more. There is so much potential in this story and world, I hope (HINT HINT NUDGE NUDGE) Dirk writes more and turns this into a series. I’m simply not ready to leave this world or these men behind!

If you love your romance with a heavy side of grit and need to overcome, then this is the perfect must-read for you. I can’t say enough good about this shifter story. If I could give it more than 5 drops, I would…… Oh, and don’t even get me started on the need for ice and fans during the sex… O. M. F’ing. G!

MIKAEL VOLOKOV stood at the edge of the ring, his gaze, like those of the dozens of spectators—both human and wolf—glued to the two people inside. They circled each other again and again, sizing each other up before an announcement was made for them to begin the fight to the death. Anton Romanov was the bigger wolf without a doubt, but Gregor was wily and smart, a brains versus brawn match if there ever was one. Normally Mikael would put his money on Gregor, but there was something about Anton—maybe his reputation for brutality or the way he exuded all the confidence in the world. This was going to get ugly, and fast.

“You both know the rules,” Mikael said in his loudest alpha-male voice. He would brook no argument. Gregor had requested his presence to help ensure the outcome was fair and to serve as his safety net. Packs rarely mingled freely, and alphas didn’t usually spend any time with each other. They had a tendency to want to rip out the throat of any perceived threat, and another alpha in their territory was most definitely a threat.

“There aren’t any rules,” Anton sneered.

“Then we’ll all go home, and you can walk away with your tail between your legs,” Mikael sn
arled back, prepared to step in if needed. He knew he had the backing of most of the wolves around them. It seemed none of them were in favor of this challenge from the neighboring pack alpha, but this would have to be settled the old-fashioned way. What startled Mikael most was that apparently Anton had insisted as part of his challenge that Gregor’s family be present to see the challenge and its outcome. Brutality was one thing; instilling terror was quite another. “A challenge between alphas is a fight to the death, and neither of you is to leave the circle until there is a victor. At stake is leadership of both packs.” God help them all if Anton was victorious.

“We know. Get on with it,” Anton snarled.

Gregor simply looked at him and nodded his agreement. Mikael had known Gregor since childhood. They hadn’t spent any time together since they both realized their abilities and alpha natures. But the old ties never went completely away. Mikael knew when Gregor got quiet there was going to be trouble. He hoped it was the kind that would kick Anton’s ass.

“On my mark,” Mikael said. “Fight!” The word echoed across the clearing. Mikael saw worry on Gregor’s wife Anna’s face and near terror on the faces of their two boy pups. They looked about five and seven, but they were old enough to understand the stakes—they could end up without a father.

The two men stared at each other, tension building between them. It wasn’t a surprise that Anton attacked first; it was his nature as a brute. He caught Gregor’s leg and twisted to avoid Gregor’s swipe with his shifted arm. Anton hit the ground and completely shifted to his wolf form, snarling and leaping right back at Gregor, who managed to shift as well, but just barely. Damn, Mikael had seen very few wolves who could shift that quickly and be instantly ready to go. The two wolves clashed in midair, with Anton barreling into Gregor, sending both of them crashing and rolling to the ground in a tangle of legs, teeth, and black fur mixed with gray. They were moving so quickly both wolves blurred together.

Mikael was supposed to remain neutral, but inside he wanted Anton out of the picture for all their sakes. Gregor got a good tear into Anton, who snarled his pain and dug into Gregor’s hind leg with his teeth, clamping his jaw closed. Gregor managed to shake him off, but he would need to shift to heal that wound, and there was no time for that. Anton rolled once and came up on all fours, baring his teeth, ready to strike. Gregor was hurt and in pain, Mikael could feel it deep in his bones. He knew his old friend was in trouble. Anton leaped, and Gregor dodged, but he was just a hair too slow. Anton caught him in the side and tumbled Gregor off his feet. He went for the throat, and instantly blood spattered all over Anton’s gray coat.

Mikael had seen enough of this that it didn’t bother him. Shifter society could be violent at times, but what caught his attention was Gregor’s two pups looking on as their father breathed his last. Mikael knew who the victor was and what Anton was doing, but the look on those pups’ faces was enough to make him hate Anton. Sure, a challenge was one thing, but making sure his opponent’s family, as well as his own, was there to witness the final brutality was beyond the pale as far as Mikael was concerned.

“That’s enough!” Mikael roared with all the power he could muster.

Anton stopped, and after one final snarl, he stepped back, turned his head skyward, and howled his victory. The members of his own pack who were present joined him, while the members of Gregor’s pack wondered what kind of hell would happen to them now. Anton continued his howl and then grew silent before shifting back to his human form. Wolves had no qualms around nudity, but one of Anton’s betas brought him a robe—trimmed with ermine as though he were Czar—and draped it over his shoulders.

“This pack is now mine, and it will be integrated with my own. There will be no separate pack structure. Those of you who wish to keep your position may fight for it, just like I fought for mine.” Anton turned to Anna. “You may join my household, along with your pups.”

“I’d rather die,” she spat and gathered her pups to her. Gregor and Anna had been true mates, ordained and joined by the Mother herself. Anton’s disregard of tradition and their beliefs would not go down well with anyone.

“That can be arranged.”

Mikael stepped forward. “Anna and her cubs have petitioned to join my Yellowstone pack, and I have accepted them as members. If you wish to challenge that, you can fight me here and now.” Mikael had had enough of this self-aggrandizement on Anton’s part.

Anton was breathing heavily, but he still seemed to consider it. “No. I will not. They are weak, and I don’t want that bloodline mixing with mine and those of my pack.” Anton turned, the robe fluttering behind him as he walked from the circle. “No others are free to leave, however,” he pronounced, turning back to face the group. “I will not have it, and my retribution will be swift and final.” He swirled back around and walked away like the king victorious.

The other members of Gregor’s pack silently turned and left the area. They had to be wondering what the future held for them, and Mikael wished he could help them, but he’d been lucky to save Anna and the two boys from having to live with and around Anton. That was the best he could do at the moment.

“I want to go home,” the smallest pup said softly to Anna. “Why isn’t Daddy getting up?” he asked, turning back to where Gregor lay on the ground.

“Daddy’s dead,” the older boy said, fighting tears.

“What do we do now?” Anna asked.

“I have my car, and we’ll get you back to your house as fast as we can. Hopefully Anton will celebrate his victory before he decides to lay claim to the house, and by then you can have your things and be gone.”

Mikael herded the small group to his Volvo station wagon. Yeah, the car wasn’t very alpha-ish, but it worked well for the pack. Mikael was all about doing what was best for his pack. They were his family, after all, and he treated each of them as such, the same way he’d now treat Anna and her pups.

Dirk is very much an outside kind of man. He loves travel and seeing new things. Dirk worked in corporate America for way too long and now spends his days writing, gardening, and taking care of the home he shares with his partner of more than two decades. He has a Master’s Degree and all the other accessories that go with a corporate job. But he is most proud of the stories he tells and the life he’s built. Dirk lives in Pennsylvania in a century old home and is blessed with an amazing circle of friends.

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