Main False Blood
False BloodTamara White
Have you ever felt like you don't belong, even among your own kind? Been scared to show the world who you really are? Well, join the club. I'm a werewolf, but one who’s been forbidden to shift by my father, the Alpha. My beast is locked away in a cage, one that weakens with each passing day. A fight that breaks out during training forces my beast to the surface, after so many years of keeping her hidden and my father has no choice but to reveal the truth about what I really am. I’m sent away from the pack for my own safety, running from the people I’ve known my entire life because of a secret I didn’t even know about. I’m not only a werewolf, but part vampire too. My mortal enemy. Does this mean my whole life has been a lie? How do I move forward and uncover the truth about who I am, when even my own blood is false?
False Blood New Breed Series Book 1 Tamara White © 2017 Tamara White All rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. This book if for all my readers out there, who encourage me every day to keep putting my mind onto the page. Without your constant support, my stories would just be words locked in a crazy swag addicted mind. I would also like to give a very big shout out to the amazing Anita Maxwell. She helped give this book life and without her, it would be nothing. Thank you for your time, effort and words of encouragement to keep going and put my best work out into the world. There is one other person who deserves a special mention and that is the lovely Leanne, my cover designer. How amazing is she?! Each of my covers comes from her and there is no one else in the world I trust more to create such marvellous work. Thank you for letting me annoy you with my visions and delivering nothing but the best. Table of Contents One - Everything Changes Two - New Species Three - Good Things Come in Threes Four - ‘My Baby’ Five - Soul-ties Six - Meet the Parents Seven - The Beast Eight - Ultimatum Nine - Brittany Ten - Magic Eleven - Royalty Twelve - The Ball Thirteen - Truth Fourteen - Training Fifteen - Death, then Life Sixteen - Answers One - Everything Changes Gasping, I jolt up from the bed, shocked at how real the dream felt. I’ve been having the same dream for three years, since I turned eighteen, and I don’t know why. Sometimes it feels so real that it’s hard to focus on anything else for the rest of the day. Other times I wake up, barely remembering what happened. It’s the same every time. I’m surrounded by three dark figures. They each state I belong to them. Then they tell me it’s time to come home before biting me, sucking my blood just as vampires do. The worst part about it, I like it! The pain, the feeling of belonging to them along with the arousal that shoots through my body every time I’m in that dream. If I told anyone from my pack, they’d kill me for such blasphemy. Glancing over at my clock, I still have an hour before training starts. Sighing, I decide to get dressed, and get an early start to the day. Every day before school, we participate in mandatory training. But it’s more like a ‘beat the hell out of Emerald,’ session. The whole pack thinks I’m weak. Well, that’s to be expected when you project yourself as being meek. What they don’t know is that I’m so much stronger than any of them. I’ve been slowly increasing my strength these past few years to better protect myself. Being half human in a pack of wolves has increased the need to defend myself. That hasn’t eased the cruelty of training, though. Our trainer, Jeremy, is one of the senior wolves in the pack. He used to be an enforcer before my father downgraded him to trainer. He was abusing his enforcer role by taking wolves on unsanctioned hunting trips, which led to many of our own being killed. Ever since then, he’s been a grumpy, old pain in the ass. He’s made it his mission to make my life hell, and anytime I try to fight back, he hits harder. It’s reached the point where I let him beat me in front of the rest of my class. I thought that by letting him, his ego would be appeased, but unfortunately, I’m not that lucky. I haven’t gotten my father involved yet, only because it hasn’t reached a level I can’t handle, though it’s getting close. Dad must suspect something, because he’s been giving me extra training sessions at night after he gets home from patrolling and in the mornings, before he leaves. Those training sessions have helped me greatly these past few months even if it’s decreased my interest for mates. Once a female wolf turns twenty-one, she’s given the choice to mate for the pack or contribute a job that’s just as worthy. We’re given a year to make the decision and once it’s made, it can’t be taken back. Today I turn twenty-one. Dad asked me yesterday if there was someone in the pack I was interested in but none have caught my interest. Well, actually, there is one, he just doesn’t want to acknowledge I exist. We had one night of amazing fun, then it was as if I had some kind of contagious disease that he needed to steer clear from. Safe to say, my beast and I were in total agreement about never forming an attachment again, so we only ever hooked up with members of the pack for a night of release. Besides, not many can handle how ferocious my beast makes me in the bedroom. I say beast, because my wolf has never felt like a normal wolf to me. My step-mother explained her wolf as being a part of her that helps guide her, whereas my beast just feels like a rabid animal waiting to get out. She’s the reason I get in trouble for my temper. My beast can get very aggressive, very quickly. If she feels someone is pushing their dominance on us, she loses it. Most days, it takes all my willpower not to let her out. I’ve only ever shifted once and that was in front of my father. I remember the look of horror on his face, he told me to shift back and to never shift again. I felt like the worst daughter in the world, that I had failed him in some way. I never asked why I couldn’t shift, I just didn’t. I couldn’t let him down. I climb into the shower and turn it on cold to wash away the remnants of my dreams. I’ve had sex with humans and wolves from our pack before but the passion and need in my dreams is way more intense than any sexual encounter I’ve ever had. Rushing to dry myself, I throw on a simple black sports bra and yoga pants, then run down the stairs as quietly as I can, to avoid waking my brother. My brother and I couldn’t be more different. His black hair and blue eyes are the typical trait passed around in the pack, whereas my strawberry-blonde hair and green eyes stand out like a sore thumb. It’s uncommon for any wolf to have blond hair. The only other blonde werewolf I met got her’s from a bottle. It’s what started me out as such a pariah in the pack. My hair was black as a child, but by the time I turned five, it had started to change. Once I hit puberty, my eyes were a bright green, similar to my namesake, my hair was strawberry-blonde, and my body was becoming all curves, which made all the other females jealous. I get it. I know I’m okay to look at although when I’m faced with the others who are thin with dark hair and blue or brown eyes, it makes them seem normal. The females have made it extremely clear that I’m the unattractive one, not them. What wolf would want a female that stands out? It opens them up to being challenged as mates. Out in the back yard, my father has already started his morning stretches. He trains four times a day, according to Brendan, so I doubled my training to match his level. Morning training by myself, then with the others my age in the pack, another round of fitness training in the afternoon and then my night training with my father. Today it looks like I’ll get a dose of training with him in the morning as well. His eyes lift at the sound of my footsteps, “Emerald, I see you’re up early. Would you like to train with me this morning?” he asks, watching me for any sign of refusal. One of the biggest rules you’re taught as a wolf is to show no weakness. Refusal is weakness. Once a wolf knows you’re submissive, you’ll never move up the ranks. I let myself ooze the dominance I feel before responding, “Of course I would, but only if you can take it? You’re getting a bit old these days,” I tease. I love my father dearly and while he may be getting older, no way is he weak. The only one that even comes close in power to him is my only sibling, my younger brother Brendan, and the day he takes over the pack, is the day I’ll leave. I could challenge Brendan to rule but the eldest son of the current alpha is usually considered for the role of alpha, not the eldest child. Female pack leaders are out there, but our pack isn’t quite that progressive. Yay for female empowerment! While being an amazing father and pack leader, Dad is considered too soft to rule the pack, especially when it comes to me. I’ve been in trouble multiple times, sometimes it was my fault, other times, I was being framed by the more spoilt wolves in the pack. Any other wolf would have lost their life for the things that I have done, but somehow, I always seem to get away with a warning. I believe Dad knows just what I am capable of, which is why he only punished me for the things I had actually done. “Okay, my little gem, you think I’m getting old and can’t take it, let’s see you put your money where your mouth is,” he smirks, throwing off his jacket, circling me with his teeth bared. I match his movements, studying where his attack will come from, so as not to give him an opening. Once he sees one, daughter or not, he’ll take it. Training with my father is fun because I always learn something new. Whether it be a new defensive technique or a new stall tactic, it helps me in the long run. The first time we trained together he knocked me on my ass too many times to count, but in doing so I also figured out the quickest way to drop someone on their own ass. Afterwards, he had explained that he wouldn’t always be around, and that I needed to be prepared for when that day came. He couldn’t afford for me to be weak, when the time came for me to be in charge. I was fifteen and at that time, he’d left me more confused than anything. Brendan is supposed to lead the pack, not me. Technically I’m the older one and it would usually fall to me but with my half breed status, no one is going to want me as Alpha. Besides, if I did accept the title, I would have to deal with constant challenges by those who thought I was unworthy. Dad didn’t want to be Alpha, but his brother was banished from the pack for being a traitor by my grandparents. Since he was the only living child in the family line, he automatically got the job. I have no idea where my grandparents live now. I assume they’ve passed on because they’re never mentioned. It’s a taboo subject. We’re still circling each other, both being careful. Luck is on my side when I see him stumble over an unseen branch. I lunge, delivering a roundhouse kick aimed for his face. He recovers at the last second, dodging me, using my momentum to push me back. Landing on my back, I immediately use my hands to flip myself back up. We deliver punches, kicks and dodges over the next thirty minutes, neither of us landing more than a blow here or there. My father backs up, holding both hands up in a stop gesture, signalling the end of our session. Once he’s a reasonable distance away, I double over with my hands on my knees, trying to catch my breath. Dad however looks unfazed, “You’ve gotten faster,” he says, impressed. Inside, I preen at the compliment as he rarely ever gives them. I mumble ‘Thanks,’ in between pants. My lungs hate me right now. “I’m serious, Emmy. No wolf has faced me like that without having to shift to beat me. You held your own the whole time without even being tempted to. You’re becoming a lot stronger as well. Maybe even strong enough to take over from me.” Wow! I don’t even know what to say to that. I never thought anyone would think that way about me. I’ve always thought I’d be here until Brendan took over, then I would be banished. Dad had mentioned me taking over the very first time we ever trained together, I thought he was just messing with me. Knowing he thinks I might be strong enough to lead gives me hope that I will be able to live out my life with my pack. “Thanks, Dad,” I smile, leaning in for a quick hug. Training with Jeremy and the other student wolves starts in five minutes and I can’t be late, or Jeremy will punish me more than normal. Running through the woods, relief spreads across my chest as I realize I have made it to training in time. It doesn’t look like it will matter though, Jeremy still notices I’m the last one to arrive. Great… Training starts off the same as any other day. We go through drill after drill until the sparring begins. Usually, we would pair up for a one on one fight. Today’s different. Jeremy has other plans. “Okay mutts, since it’s Friday and I won’t have you for the next two days, I think we might move up a step. Today you’ll be sparing against group attacks. I’m going to need volunteers to be the victim and the attackers for the first round,” he rumbles, his voice ringing with command as he looks around the field. Inside I’m chanting ‘not me’ though I know it will be no use. He always picks me as the victim for an attack. As if he hears me chanting, he turns to face me, a predatory smile lighting up his face, “Emerald? Why don’t you come up here? You’ll make a perfect volunteer today. Sophie, Brian, Joel, and Xander, how about you be the attackers?” He asks the question, but you can still hear the underlying threat if you don’t submit to his request. The last time I refused, he made me run the length of the pack lands three times. That’s at least forty miles for one lap. Sophie, Brian, and Joel are all fierce fighters that hate me. Xander is an amazing fighter that pretends I don’t exist. He’s in most of my classes at school, though I feel as if he’ll never notice me again. One night of fun was more than enough for him. Ugh, why can’t I get him out of my head?! I sigh and walk up to the front, when something along the tree line catches me eye. My father is standing in the shadow of the trees in the back field. Why is he here? Does he want to watch me fail? Has Jeremy been saying I lose my fights? What should I do? I usually pretend to be weaker than normal to avoid more punishments, but if Dad’s watching me, and after what he said about being Alpha one day, I can’t hold back. He nods, giving me the boost of courage I need to stand taller. I let determination flow through my veins, knowing I won’t let him down. I’ll show him I can handle anything they throw at me. Once we’re all in position with me in the centre of the other four, Jeremy speaks going over the usual rules. “Today, you will watch what happens when Emerald is attacked. She will be playing the role of a vampire, while the others will be trying to kill her. The only rule today is no shifting. Anything else goes, just like if you were facing a real vampire,” he says before stepping back, ringing the bell to signal the start. I wish he hadn’t likened me to a vampire. We, as wolves, are natural enemies with vampires, so having them even pretend I’m one is going to make things even more vicious than normal. Sophie attacks first using her speed against me, trying to tackle me to the ground in a headlock. I elbow her in the ribs, sliding out from her grip. She grunts, losing her traction, and I’m able to get free. I don’t get a chance to think about my next move before Xander, Brian, and Joel swoop in, delivering punches and kicks. I’m taken down, curling in on myself to protect my body. They’re hitting me a lot harder than our usual class, which is probably due to the vampire comment. Stupid, fucking Jeremy! I glance to the side, looking for a way out, but they’re ruthless. Xander delivers a kick that snaps my rib, and I can’t control it any more. My beast breaks free of her cage, rising to the surface, attacking all those who hurt us. Sophie goes down first. She tries to punch me in the face, and I pull her arm, dislocating it, making her scream in agony. The others hesitate slightly, which is all I need. Before they know it, I’m up and Joel is unconscious on the ground. I don’t even know how that happened. Brian runs at me, getting thrown back, when my punch hits him directly in the solar plexus. He crumples to the ground, gasping in pain. Xander’s the only one left. I look around and meet his gaze, staring at him with loathing, and I swear he pisses his pants. “Your eyes…,” he gasps in horror. “That’s enough. Everyone leave,” Dad calls abruptly, pulling me to his chest. I don’t stop him, my beast recognises his scent, as he clearly tries to shield my eyes from the others. What could be so wrong that he intervened in training? Jeremy’s going to be pissed. Once everyone clears the training grounds, Dad starts pulling me along after him. “Emmy, I need you to keep your eyes closed, okay? Don’t open them till we’re in the house,” he begs me. “Okay, Dad,” I promise. We traipse though the forest, the scent of strawberries alerting me that we are taking the long way around, past my dying garden. The only fruit left to grow are strawberries which are letting off a half rotten smell. I try not to over think things, but how can I not? He just pulled me out of training over some freak thing happening with my eyes. I don’t even know what happened. All I do know is, my beast wanted to kill Xander. I know she doesn’t like him but to feel such rage towards him, shocked me. Finally, I smell the familiar scents of home and sigh in relief when I hear the door open, Dad pulls me through quickly. “Can I open my eyes?” I ask, hearing him shuffling around the room. “Not yet, I need to get rid of your mother and brother. Give me five minutes. Here, hold this,” he says putting something in my arms. It feels like my gym bag, but until I open my eyes, I can’t be sure. Dad hurries off, and I hear voices as he asks Mom and Brendan to leave us for a bit. He doesn’t elaborate much from what I can hear, only mentioning something about punishing me for the training session this morning. Why would he need to punish me, though? I didn’t do anything wrong. Two - New Species Ten minutes later, my eyes are starting to hurt from being closed for so long. I’m about to call out to ask if I can open them, when I hear footsteps. “Emerald, you can open your eyes, sweetheart,” Dad coaxes me, the sound of a chair scraping across the floor as he takes a seat opposite me. He pulls the item from my lap as I open my eyes. I blink rapidly before I’m able to see clearly, but my eyes are still watering when I look at Dad. In his lap, is my purple gym bag stuffed with ten protein bars, four bottles of water and what looks like close to ten thousand dollars. “Dad? What’s all this stuff for?” I ask, as I raise my eyebrows confused. He sighs, rubbing his head, looking down at the contents in his lap. It’s as if he’s sending me away but why would he do that? “I’m sorry, Emmy, please don’t hate me for this. I’ve been holding onto this secret for a long, long time. “You aren’t my daughter, you’re my niece,” he admits. He lifts his head to look into my eyes. I try to understand what he is saying, I hear the words but my mind isn’t listening. “How?” I ask robotically. This shouldn’t be possible. A ringing fills my ears and I almost miss his next words. “You know the story of my older brother being killed by the pack for treason? Well, that was a lie.” He takes a deep breath, looking me in the eyes before continuing his story. “Axel was always a soft-hearted wolf, and when he met your mother, it was love at first sight. Our parents were furious as a mating had already been arranged with another pack’s princess.” “He was clearly in love, so our parents gave him the benefit of the doubt, telling him to bring his girlfriend around for us to meet. Things would have gone a lot better if his girlfriend wasn’t a vampire,” he pauses to take a breath as I try to hold back my shock. As a werewolf, vampires are our natural enemies, so to date one? This Axel dude was crazy! “Anyway, I’m sure you can imagine how well that went down. My parents tried to kill her, I admit I may have helped. Axel defended her, and when it was clear we couldn’t reason with him, they took off together. “Years passed without hearing from Axel. My parents never gave up their quest to find them. They hunted any and all vampire covens they came across until eventually the vampires got smart. They started hiding any evidence that they existed. My parents weren’t happy, almost starting a full-blown war with their hatred for them. Then one day, they found one of their hidden covens, that hid Axel’s mate and soul-tie. Our parents kidnapped his mate, intending to use her as a way to get Axel to come back home and renounce the vampires but they discovered something unexpected. Sierra was pregnant with Axel’s child. “They were so horrified, that they took her to a hidden lab, me tagging along to protect them. Only a few of our pack knew what was going on with Axel so it was up to me to keep our Alpha safe. Once we were hidden away at the old healer’s lab, they ripped the baby from her womb, stabbing it in the heart as Sierra watched. She passed out from the murder of her daughter and blood loss. She was thrown on the coven’s doorstep barely alive as a warning of what happened when we mixed species. The only reason they left her alive was so they could suffer, knowing their baby was dead.” Oh… My… God… How could someone be capable of that?! It’s one thing to kill some dangerous beast but to kill an innocent baby? That’s just wrong! “My parents tasked me with burning down the lab they had used and destroying all evidence of the monster their own child had created. Out of curiosity, I had wanted to see this thing my brother and his mate had made. Expecting to see a mutated hybrid, instead I saw a beautiful baby girl, lying dead on a gurney with a knife through her tiny heart. “I reached out to pull the knife from her chest and when I did, she cried out, her wounds healing instantly. That baby was you, Emmy. I can only assume that the reason you healed was because of your mother's blood entering your bloodstream through your wounds,” he offers me a nervous smile on his face. “You opened your eyes, and stared up at me with the innocence that only a baby has, but your eyes were blood red. My parents’ voices in my head told me to kill you, take care of the threat to our future. My heart, however, told me you were innocent. Just guilty because of who your parents were. Besides, I don’t think I could have killed you if I had tried,” he grins, awe in his eyes. “I took you from that lab, and we went into hiding for two years. When I met my mate, I told her you were my daughter from a union with a human. It was a reasonable lie, because you looked so much like me at the time, so she agreed to help raise you. “We stayed hidden for another year before we went back to my parents’ pack. Josephine introduced you as her daughter, and no one suspected otherwise until your fifth birthday when your features started changing.” I’m stuck in a state of shock. This is impossible. If what he’s saying is true, I’m not a werewolf or half breed, but actually some kind of cross breed. What does that mean for me now? Did my eyes turn red in the fight? Is that why Dad brought me back here? That’s the only thing I can think of. Vampires’ eyes turn red when angry so, maybe during the fight, my beast somehow made them change? Otherwise, why would he bring me back here and keep my eyes closed? “Did you bring me back because of my eyes? Did they turn red in the fight? Is that what this is about?” I ask, gesturing to the bag and all this confession time. Why else would he tell me this story? He nods sadly, “Yeah, sweetheart, I’m sorry but you have to leave. Xander will have told the council by now and they’ll be coming for you. The only safe place for you now, is with your real parents. Their coven is in the city, hiding under a church, of all things. I’m pretty sure it’s the same one your mother was taken from,” he utters, horrified. I don’t blame him. How could someone live in the same place they were kidnapped from? “Won’t they just kill a werewolf coming into their territory?” I ask, starting to get terrified. I’ve never been away from my pack or our land, what if I can’t hack it? What if I get lost? What if I never see him again? This is too much. “Oh, Emmy, I’m so sorry I’m doing this to you. I had hoped our packs prejudices would have settled down by now, but my parents did a number on us. They made it so much worse than it should’ve been. As for your parents, I have something that will let them know who you are. This picture was in Sierra’s pocket when she was taken,” he says as he pulls out a picture from the front pocket of my bag, showing me. It’s a picture of who I can only assume are my biological parents. The man looks so much like my own father that it has me wondering if they’re twins. Midnight dark hair, bright green eyes, a full jaw and a lean build. The woman looks like a princess. Beautiful, blonde hair curled around her face, soft, pink lips, and eyes like jewels. Not just any jewels, emeralds. She’s cradling her obviously pregnant stomach and smiling so brightly. It makes her face shine with love. I tear up, thinking about the parents I’ve never met. They look so happy in this photo, I can just imagine how much they would have hurt when they lost me. “Look on the back.” Dad prompts me to turn the photo over. I cover my mouth with a sob as I read the back. Someone had written ‘Our daughter’ in beautiful cursive script. Below it, is a list of names. Michelle, Farra, Josie, Emerald. Emerald is circled multiple times as if it was the main choice. It must have been the name my real parents were thinking about giving me. Dad clears his throat, obviously choked up. I can’t imagine what he’s gone through, keeping my identity secret from me and the others in the pack to protect me. I’m so hurt that he would keep it hidden but grateful he’s given me the life I’ve had. He reaches out giving my hand a gentle squeeze, “When I saw they had decided on your name, I named you in the hopes that the day they met you, they would appreciate it. I never meant for so much time to pass before you met them,” he says with remorse. “Now, we don’t have much time left. I’m going to write down exactly where they live, so you can get there. I can’t go with you. I have to stay here and do some damage control. It should take you a couple of days at least to get there if you stop along the way. Hopefully, this is enough money to get you a hotel room each night.” He looks through the bag as if second guessing the amount of cash he put in there. “We’re going to the shed on the edge of pack property where you’ll take your car. You should ditch it after the first hotel, but knowing you as I do, I know you won’t get rid of it. You can be unbelievably stubborn, when you want to be.” He leans back into his chair, rubbing his eyes, exhaustion taking over. This conversation has aged him, I can see the worry eating away at him. I imagine he never thought he would have to tell me and get rid of me all at the same time. He stands up, handing me the bag, “Alright, you have ten minutes to pack. Make it less if you can, I don’t know how long Xander will take to inform the council.” Adrenaline surging through my body, I leap out of my chair, hurrying to get to my room and fill it with as many things as I could possibly need. Shoes, I only grab two pair of joggers and a pair of flip flops. If I need more, I’ll buy some cheap-ass ones. Clothes, however, I grab my favourites and leave the rest. Though my favourites are a lot more than I expected. They fill the duffel bag and a backpack that I had in my room. “Emmy, hurry up!” Dad calls up the stairs. I tip my shit out on the bed, placing the food, and cash in the backpack. I shove my clothes and shoes in the duffel bag, adding a few photos of me and Dad, which were on my dresser, along with the picture of my biological parents. Throwing the back pack on and lifting the duffel bag on my shoulder, I take one last look at my room. The place where I hid from the pack, where Dad and I would read, and the one place that made me feel safe. Now, I’m off into the unknown world, with humans and vampires. I only hope I’m strong enough to handle this. What happens if they try to kill me before they even know who I am? That would majorly suck balls! Making my way sadly down the stairs, I think about all the fun times I’ve had here. It’s like a movie of my life is playing, showing me all the moments I’ve spent in the house. Times when Dad and I would sit at the kitchen table doing my homework. Days when Brendan and I had no training so we would stay in playing video games. Watching my step-mom and Brendan baking. It’s all fresh as I say goodbye to my home. Dad grabs my duffel bag from me, taking my hand and leading me through the forest at a quick jog. We make it to the car on the edge of our lands and I can’t help but smile at seeing my ‘baby’. The car Dad bought for me to learn to drive. When I first saw the beat-up rust bucket, I was outraged he wanted me to learn in something that was obviously fifty years old. He pointed out that if I wanted to make it better, then it was my job to give it the love and care it needed. Now she’s a beautiful navy blue, fully restored 1969 Boss Mustang. She’s my baby, not the rust bucket that refused to run. Dad was super lucky he found me an engine because the old one was beyond useable. Now, she purrs. “I see by the smile on your face, you’re happy I brought ‘your baby’, out here? Figured you wouldn’t leave without her,” he winks, shoving my duffel onto the backseat, whilst I put my backpack on the passenger side. Straightening, I stare at him, sad to leave. He may not be my biological father but he’s the only one I know. How am I supposed to leave him behind to deal with the fallout from the pack? “Don’t you dare cry, Emmy. If you do, then I will. It’s so much worse seeing a man cry,” he playfully scolds me. I laugh, hugging him fiercely. He can always make me laugh. Anytime the world felt like it was drowning me, he was there bringing me back up for air. “I’m going to miss you so much. What are you going to do? How are you going to explain why I left?” I ask, terrified for him. He shrugs, looking off into the trees, “I don’t know. The truth seems like the only option, which is why I’m sending you to your parents. If the pack knows you’re a hybrid, then you’re going to need all the protection you can get. “The covens have become extremely powerful since the attacks my parents led ceased. I just hope the vampires are more understanding of wolves being in their coven, than we are of vampires. Though, since they haven’t killed your father yet, I’m hoping they will give you a chance. Just please promise me you’ll stay safe?” he begs, squeezing me tightly. “Are you sure I shouldn’t stay?” I ask hopefully. “Sorry, honey, but you can’t. They’ll kill you. As it is, Jeremy already questions why you’re still living with me rather than mated off to one of the Alpha’s sons. He’ll be first in line to extinguish any threat to the pack. You have to go. If you don’t think you’re safe with your parents, then you leave. Do you understand me? You get out of there and run for the rest of your life. I know it’s not the most ideal situation, but I can’t stand the thought of you trapped and experimented on. Don’t let them keep you against your will,” he begs me. So much pain flashes through his eyes that I know I will do what it takes to honor his wishes. Though I don’t see how I can stop from being experimented on regardless. I’m some weird cross between species, of course people are going to want to know more. “I promise, I’ll do what I can to be safe. I love you, Dad,” I tell him, tears pricking my eyes. “How can I contact you? Will you be safe after telling them everything? I don’t want anything to happen to you,” I cry, tears falling down my face. “Nothing will happen to me. My dominance is by far the strongest in the pack, you know that. Only yours could rival mine. As for how you can contact me, here, take this,” he says, handing me a letter marked for Axel and Sierra Ryder. There’s a number written on the back. “Give this to your parents. I have a burner phone hidden away in case of emergencies which I’ll turn on after you leave. Don’t open the letter, it’s for your parents, though knowing Axel, he’ll let you read it once he has anyway. That’s my burner number,” he points to the number in the corner. “I’m sorry I never told you before now, Emmy. Life was just going so smoothly that I didn’t want to tell you and ruin things. One more thing, don’t shift until you get to Axel and Sierra. If the humans see you, they will kill you,” he says, referring to my wolf’s form. “I understand,” I nod. My beast has always terrified me, so I doubt I’ll be shifting regardless of where I am. “Oh, and Emmy?” I look up into his eyes, waiting. “Stay away from any injured humans. It may be nothing, but you’ve never revealed your eyes like that before now, which makes me believe your vampire side is getting stronger. Soon you’re going to need to feed, and you don’t want to be in a populated area when that need rises,” he says solemnly. I nod, disgusted at the thought of drinking blood. It hadn’t even entered my mind that I would need to feed the vampire side of me. Climbing into the driver’s side, I start the car, dreading the moment I will actually drive away from the only home I’ve ever known. I have a rough idea about where to go, but I will have to figure it all out when I rest for the night. Dad leans into my window, “Wait. Here take this,” he says thrusting a business card into my hand. “It’s someone I met a couple of years back, his name’s Talon. He owes me a favour, and if you get into trouble, call him, tell him he owes me, then where you are. He’ll come as quick as he can.” “Who is he?” I ask, studying the elegant name scrawled on the card. “Someone I trust to return the favour he owes me,” is all he says. It must be some secret. After all, he’s dropped a huge bomb on me today, so why can’t he tell me who this guy is? Dad looks over his shoulder, sensing the pack getting closer, “Go, Emmy, go now before it’s too late,” he urges me, as he backs away from the car. I rev the engine and speed off down the dirt road towards the highway, without a second glance. A howl echoes around the forest. My dad is mourning my loss, just as I mourn his. A tear falls and I leave it, knowing it won’t be the last tear that falls on my journey. I have a long drive to get to Missouri from Nevada. I just hope he stays safe. If something were to happen to my Dad because of me, I wouldn’t be able to live with myself. Three - Good Things Come in Threes Finally, after three long days of driving I see the “Missouri Welcomes You” sign. I sigh with relief, happy that I have finally made it. The first day I drove, only stopping to relieve myself and get gas. I arrived in Albuquerque and pulled into the first cheap motel with a vacancy sign. The kid at the desk didn’t even look at me when I handed over the cash for the room. Well, I guess that’s what you get when you turn up at midnight. I slept on and off all night, my mind kept wondering back to Dad and the pack. I couldn’t help but worry about what would happen to him once he told them about me. The next night, I stopped in Oklahoma so I could go for a run to burn off the excess energy. I know Dad said not to shift, but it was exhilarating being in the forest, running without fear of another wolf seeing me. After that, I wandered through town and picked up a burner cell like Dad’s. I didn’t want the pack tracking me if I had to call. I programmed both Dad and Talon’s numbers into the phone and then set Talon’s to speed dial, just in case I did actually need to use it. Then it was onto the last part of my journey, which seemed to go much quicker than the rest of the trip. I didn’t take my father’s advice about ditching the car, though. I couldn’t. It’s a keepsake that belongs to me. Screw anyone else if they try to take her away from me. Driving through town, the midday sun highlights the massive buildings surrounding me as I drive. Missouri is amazing! So full of life! The hustle and bustle as humans go about their daily routine. No one would know the city is home to a coven of vampires. I glance down at the map in my lap at the circle around Night Street Church. According to the internet, it was abandoned twenty-one years ago after a massacre had taken place and a woman’s body was found ripped to shreds. When the police attended the scene, the bodies were gone and blood remained marking the steps to the church. Multiple witnesses say they heard growls and fighting, though it was never proven. People thought a pack of dogs had attacked, but I now know the truth. That was the night my grandparents and their followers raided the vampire coven, kidnapped my mother and tried to kill me. I decided to not go straight to the church, hesitant about how I’d be received. What if my bio-parents think it’s all lies and try to kill me because of who my grandparents were? I don’t really want to die today. Pulling into the Sallen Inn, I take in the bright yellow paint and cringe internally. It’s not the best-looking motel out there but it will do. It offers privacy between each room with a wraparound balcony and iron gating. A large glass window decorates the front of each room, leaving enough view to see the city. I pay for my room, grab my shit from the car and collapse on the bed. I just want to go to sleep, but I reek, so I move my tired ass to the shower, hoping I’ll feel better once I’m clean. As I shower, I think about my next move. Do I just randomly show up on my parent’s doorstep with a ‘Hey, you know how you thought your daughter was dead? Well surprise, I’m not!’ There’s no real way to approach a situation like this. I have no idea what to do next. *** After my shower last night, I collapsed in a fog filled haze, not even eating before bed, which is how I came to be pigging out at the ‘all you can eat’ buffet at the diner across the street from the motel. The last few days of fast food have not exactly helped my metabolism. I’m just glad I didn’t lose too much weight. I’d look too much like the rest of the skinny ass wolves in my pack. I like not being generic, especially now that I know there’s a reason for it. Having cleaned out the buffet, I decide to go for a walk and burn off my excess energy. I leave my bags in the hotel room, just grabbing my phone and some cash. It’s more out of habit than anything. No one’s going to call me because they don’t know my number, but, hey, it comforts me. I walk for hours around Kansas City, marvelling at the history of the city, visiting every museum I come across. I should have already gone to the church but my nerves get the better of me every time I get within a few feet of the door. My heart starts to pick up speed regardless of the fact that it seems empty. All I can think is my parents will tell me to leave and never come back. Then I’ll be on my own, nowhere to go for fear of being killed. The sun’s setting, so I decide to head back to the hotel, taking another quick walk past the church to gather the courage to knock. I bang on the heavy door three times, waiting with bated breath. No one answers and I hear no noise from inside leading me to believe maybe it’s abandoned. Why would Dad give me the address to a vacant church, though? There must be something I’m missing. Disappointed, I head back to the hotel to call him hoping he’ll be able to give me more of a clue. I can’t stay in a hotel every day and just hope my parents find me by sheer luck. A strong wind picks up, blowing my hair into my face when a new scent makes me halt in my tracks. I’m being followed. Four wolves at least, judging by their scents though I can’t be sure. I circle around the hotel to buy myself time and think about what to do next before finally going in, doing my best not to panic. I lock the door to my room and pull my phone out. I hope to God Dad was right about this guy because if not, I’m dead, or worse. The phone rings in my ear as I hear the wolves rushing to my room. “Talon,” a deep voice answers. “Sorry to be abrupt but my father Brent gave me this number to call if I’m in trouble. Well, I’m in trouble. I’m at the Sallen Inn and I have at least four wolves coming to my room. Room 206. If you don’t make it in time, please tell my father, I’m sorry and that I love him,” I rush out, then hang up quickly hoping that he shows up. If not, hopefully he’ll pass on the message to my father. The door bursts open, they barge in trying to trap me. I was right, there’s four of them. The first one is a menacing looking wolf who clearly hasn’t bathed for days judging by the smell. In fact, all of them have that dirty look about them. Unshaven hair and faces makes them look like people from the streets, yet their eyes are clearly wolf. It’s like they’re rabid. The leader steps forward, his amber eyes filled with malice, “Where are you from little wolf?” he growls, trying to intimidate me. He stands tall at almost 6’4, his body obviously being deprived the essential nutrients but that doesn’t take away from the menace in his stance. “Here and there. I travel,” I respond, hoping to buy myself some time. I don’t show any submission wanting him to see I’m not an easy mark. The guy to the left of the one in charge takes a step forward, “Who are you?!” he demands, assessing me slowly. He’s just as unkempt as the others with a large bushy beard to round out the homeless look. I take a step back, gagging on the stench off his breath. “Whoa, dude, did you eat raw onion?!” I ask, waving my hand in front of my face to ward off the smell. “Oh, this bitch has some balls. Maybe we should have some fun and teach her what happens when little wolves disrespect their elders?” The guy to the leader’s left says, leering at me. I watch him disgusted. His teeth are rotten, his hair is grown well past his shoulders and is tied in a hastily put up ponytail. His eyes are a murky brown that scream evil. “Touch me, and I’ll kill you,” I growl, waiting for their attack. I’m not just going to roll over and let them do vile things to me. “Why you little bitch!” The one on my right lunges at me suddenly. I let my beast rise to the surface, she is thirsty for blood, and swing an uppercut straight at him, sending him flying through the window of the room. Shit, I’m going to have to pay for that. The leader shifts and his wolf grips onto my arm, ripping into the skin, making my beast go wild. I throw him out the door hearing grunts from his wolf, followed by a yelp. Someone lands on my back, ripping at my throat with a clawed hand. I feel the blood run down my throat and know I don’t want to die like this, weak and afraid. I pull him off my back, crying out when he tears at the skin. I punch him in the face and he finally let’s go. I don’t hesitate, snapping his neck quickly and throwing him to the side. Dropping to the ground, I hold my hand over my neck, trying to stem the flow of blood long enough that my beast can heal me but it’s no use. My heartbeat is slowing, my hearts dying, without enough blood to keep my body alive. My vision starts to go black at the edges and all feeling in my body starts to fade. I hear movement and can barely muster the hope that they leave me be, just let me die in peace, don’t play with my failing body. Growls sound and I hear the distinctive sound of a neck snapping close by. I assume it’s the fourth wolf shifting but then I see his body drop to the floor in front of me. His eyes are misted over in the early stages of death. Who killed him? “Fuck man, look at her, she’s almost dead,” a voice exclaims, muffled as though it’s far away. “Fuck, no! She called me to repay my debt, if she fucking dies, I’ll owe more than protection. Quick, help me get her up,” another voice chimes in. Hands grab me and I whimper, the pain is unbearable. “Shhh, just trust me ok. You need strength, I can give that to you,” he murmurs, stroking my hair. I’m in an awkward position, while someone is holding something against my mouth. I hear a ripping sound fill the room before a divine scent reaches my nose. Unconsciously, I rise up seeking the source. “Drink,” his voice caresses me, forcing me to obey his commands. I suck at what I realize is his wrist, loving the taste of such an amazing liquid. Who knew blood could taste like chocolate? I moan, sucking harder. I want to fight my response, but I can’t help it. The beast inside me is growing in power. The more we drink, the stronger we get. “My turn,” another deep voice says from the side, as another wrist is thrust in front of me. I don’t hesitate, ripping myself from my current source, to the new one. The smell coming from him is just as enticing. My fangs rip into his wrist with ease making me moan in ecstasy the moment his blood hits my tongue. My mind is having trouble comprehending I have fangs, yet I don’t care. I need more blood. My beast is growing frenzied by the taste of the second person. It’s slightly metallic with an essence of coffee mixed in. The taste is so much more than I expected, my beast and I both become aroused. The current donor removes his wrist and I growl, trying to search for more when another wrist is offered to me. “Shhh, sweetness, take as much as you need,” he says, leading me from the second person’s arms. I growl in appreciation when I smell him. Liquorice. Not that gross black liquorice, but that sweet-as-ever, raspberry liquorice. Stopping, I jerk up looking for the source of the smell, but my vision is still a haze. I only see vague shapes. Following my instincts, I crawl along the floor, climbing into the liquorice man’s lap, straddling his waist. Running my hands over him looking for his wrist, he leads my head to his neck, offering and the beast latches on. She would never hurt what’s hers, but they make it so hard to stop drinking. They taste like heaven. One taste isn’t enough. “That’s my girl,” he says, and groans as he grips my hair, holding me against his neck. He’s stroking the skin at the top of my ass and I can’t help but grind myself against him. “That’s it. Take whatever you want, baby. I’ll give you anything.” Shock takes over and I launch myself away from him, backing into the wall, growling. My beast and I are both stronger than ever now. The man I left on the floor is looking at me slightly shocked, though I still see his arousal very clearly through his pants. My beast responds, purring while I try to shut her up. I don’t want them knowing I’m attracted to them. Though in all honesty, who wouldn’t be? The guy on the floor slowly gets up, so as to not scare me, I think, and stands beside his friends. He’s studying me, equal parts confused and surprised. His hazel eyes watch me with a mix of lust and confusion. “Who the fuck bit her?” the one on the left demands. I sniff the air catching his scent and know he’s the one who tastes like chocolate. It radiates off him in waves, drawing me in. He’s tall, with russet brown hair and tattoos covering his arms making him look like one scary mother fucker. Piercing green eyes similar to my own, are watching me but what has me mesmerized, is their depth. His eyes are so old. Don’t ask me how I know, I just have a feeling he’s faced so much more in his life than his perceived age of twenty-nine. His body says one thing while his soul, says another. “None of us bit her. Look,” the second one points in my direction. I straighten from my crouch, the hostility in the room only coming from me, and I wonder what the hell is going on? How did these guys know to feed me blood? “Excuse me for interrupting your little chat, but who the hell are you?” The green-eyed god turns his gaze on me, “I’m Talon, you called me for help, remember?” I know I called for help. I’m just a little hazy on the details after. “We got here and you were dying. I offered you my blood to hasten your healing. Now your turn, what the fuck are you?” he spits out. What a rude asshole! “What do you mean?” I ask innocently. “Well, sweet thing, when you woke up your eyes were red. I thought you were Brent’s daughter. Though the last time I checked, he’s a werewolf. So, unless something’s changed in the supernatural world and a shifter can be turned, then you have some explaining to do,” Talon replies, staring me down trying to intimidate me with his size. The intensity in his eyes frightens me but I’m not one to back down easily. “I wish I could, really I do, but I can’t. Not until I talk to my parents.” “Well, hurry up and call Brent. Better yet, why don’t I?” he pulls out his phone. The other two are watching our exchange, clearly amused. I can’t let him call Dad. He’ll freak if he knows I almost died after being attacked by wolves within days of leaving the pack. He’d up and leave the pack to come and save me from whatever threat I’m facing. I can’t let that happen. Not when I’m so close to meeting my parents. I make a snap decision and dive for the phone. Talon isn’t expecting it and I manage to grab it from him before he presses send. “You can’t call him, you’ll be putting him in danger. Besides, he wasn’t who I was referring to. I’ve recently discovered I’m kind of adopted and my real parents are hiding with the vampires. Do you know where the local vampire coven is? I went by the church earlier but it looks like it’s been abandoned,” I tell them, not quite revealing the full truth. I can’t keep too much from them though or they may not help me. “No. I only owed a life debt, and, as far as I’m concerned, I paid in full.” What a stubborn prick. “Sure, fine. Go then,” I tell him, walking around the room, picking up my shit, throwing it into my bags. I can’t stay here now. If he won’t help me, then I’ll find them myself. “That’s it? You’re not going to argue with him? Well, that’s no fun,” the second guy says, pouting. I study him, wondering why he wants an argument so much when I see the sparkle in his eyes. He’s a troublemaker, maybe that’s why I find him so attractive. He’s easily six foot four, with an athletic physique. His strong, defined jaw, high cheek bones, and sparkly blue eyes, make him attractive, but the mischief in his eyes spells all kinds of trouble. “Nik, don’t encourage her. Let her run back home to Daddy, where she’s safe,” the third guy says with a laugh. “Well, I’d hate to disappoint you all, but that’s not happening. If I go back there, my death will be much worse than what happened here. If you guys can’t help me, then I’ll find my parents by myself.” I turn back around to face them, lowering my voice and allowing my beast to rumble in my chest, “And if you ever mock my father again, I’ll snap your fucking neck.” I let an evil grin spread across my face whilst keeping my eyes dead to let them know how serious I am. The third guy, with beautiful, hazel eyes and an addictive liquorice taste, is watching me as if I grew a second head. We stare at each other for a minute before he gives in. “Fuck! Fine, we’ll take you to our coven. You will have to be questioned by our King and Queen before they will let you go looking for your parents.” I don’t know who these guys are or why my beast is reacting so strongly to them, but I need their help to find my parents. If the church is abandoned, then I need someone who knows the area, to show me where the coven is. “Ok, thank you. Once you bring me to them, consider your debt paid. If you ever need me or my father, he will be happy to help after what you’ve done for me. You never know, I may even owe you one,” I wink their way. They all watch me, confused with my change of mood, obviously not understanding what’s going on. Deciding to have a little fun, I rip my shirt off, changing into a new one before throwing the bloodstained one in the trash. “Don’t worry boys, I’m this fun all the time.” Four - ‘My Baby’ Nik is gawking at my car like a child who has been given the best new toy in the world. “Whoa! Is this beauty yours?!” “Yes, it is, so if you scratch her, I’ll kill you,” I tell him with a smirk, so he knows I’m only half serious. “Nik, Dev, just get in the fucking car!” Talon growls in frustration. Talon watches me place my bags in the trunk, waiting for me on the driver side. It makes me wonder what on earth he wants until he reaches for my keys. “Oh, hell no! You aren’t driving my baby. Get in the passenger side,” I order, gripping my keys tighter. “You have no idea where we’re going. It makes sense for me to drive,” he says irritated. “Why don’t you just direct me? Or do you have no navigation skills?” I challenge back. “Yo, guys, if you two could stop flirting, we might get there a bit quicker,” Dev calls out watching us both blush. Talon storms over to the passenger side, climbing in and slamming the door. “I wasn’t flirting,” he mumbles under his breath. We all pretend not to hear it. He can deny it if he wants, but he was definitely flirting. “Hey! What’s she ever done to you?” I demand, appalled someone could treat my baby like that. “It’s not her, it’s you. Are you always this stubborn?!” he grinds out through gritted teeth. I grin, enjoying the fact I’m irritating him. “Unfortunately, I can be. Dad says my greatest weakness is how irrefutably stubborn I am. That or my smart mouth. Now, where are we going?” “The church on Night Street,” Nik says from the back seat, grinning so widely that I want to punch him. Why does that grin have to be sexy? “Seriously?! I said I went by and it was abandoned. You couldn’t have said something?” I ask annoyed as hell. How the hell did I not hear anything at the church then? My hearing is exceptional, so is my smell. I should have sensed something. Dev leans forward from the back seat, folding his arms on the back of my chair. “We can’t just up and tell you where our queen lives. Especially not when we’re her personal guards,” he says, his breath brushing against my ear. I glance back and he throws a wink my way, causing me to blush slightly. There’s something in his eyes that makes me want to be near him. A kind of vulnerability that makes me feel protective. Odd considering how easy they got rid of the wolves attacking me. What would they need protecting from? What the hell are these guys? They don’t smell like vampires at all. Not that I’ve been around many in my life. These guys have no distinguishing aroma, though I can smell the underlying scent of their blood. It’s quite addictive. “If you guys guard the queen, then how come you’re not vampires? Surely only vampires would guard the queen of a coven?” I ask, genuinely curious to figure out what they are. “We are vamps. We just have special talents. For instance, I can block our scent from others, making us seem supernatural but not giving off a particular signature.” Talon gives me a moment before explaining the other two’s special talents, “Devin’s unnaturally fast. He was the one who got us to you so quickly. “Nikoli is very unique. He has the ability to make himself practically invisible and no, not in the way you think. He seems to blend into his surroundings, much like a chameleon does. We can share our powers with each other because we’re blood bound, which is how we got to you. Nik used his ability to camouflage us, while Dev ran us here, all the while I kept our scent blocked so they wouldn’t scent us coming,” he explains with a shrug. “What about you? Anything we should know?” “Nope. Just an average girl,” I lie. He scrutinises me before letting it go. “Do you mind me asking what your name is? It would be nice not to refer to you as ‘you’ all the time,” he says dryly. “Oh, shit, sorry, where are my manners? I’m Emerald, but most people call me ‘Em.’ Just please don’t call me ‘Emmy’. That was what my father called me,” I tell them, choking up a little. I miss him so much. There’s a moment of awkward silence before Dev breaks it. “Well, what about hot stuff? Is that a suitable nickname?” I laugh at his attempt to lighten the mood and focus back on the road. “Turn here,” Nik instructs me. I turn right onto a down ramp to an underground garage that has barricades running across it. I hesitate a little, but just as I go to stop, the barricades shimmer and I realise it is a magical illusion. “Just park anywhere down here. We have to walk the rest of the way. Bring your bags, you can stay in our room for the night. That will give us time to talk to the queen and schedule you in for a meeting. She won’t just allow you to waltz in and meet her,” Nik explains, as I park my baby. “What about my car? Will she be ok down here? I don’t want her to be vandalized during the night,” I admit softly, not moving from my seat. I can’t leave her until I know she’ll be safe. She’s the last real connection to Dad. Nik looks me in the eyes, his eyes showing sympathy. “I promise that no one will touch your car as long as it’s down here. This is our coven’s private garage, so if anything happens, we have security everywhere that will stop anyone that isn’t meant to be here,” he says reassuringly. Letting out a relieved sigh, I offer him a smile, “Thank you.” It may seem pathetic but my car means a lot more to me than it would to others. “Come on, let’s get going. Heather’s probably going out of her mind with jealousy since Tal left,” Devin says, hitting the back of my seat, making me climb out. I pull the lever on my seat so he can climb out after me, and I get irritated when he nudges me with his shoulder hard enough to hurt. “Dude, watch yourself!” I exclaim, rubbing at my shoulder. What is he made of? Rocks?! “Shit, sorry. Are you alright?” he asks, trying to pull my singlet to the side. “I’m fine. Just be careful next time,” I tell him, shaking out of his grasp. It’s weird to have him mothering me like a child. I throw my duffel bag over my shoulder and reach for my backpack, Talon beating me to it. “Stay close to us. Don’t let anyone grab you or taste you. If they do, you’ll belong to them,” Talon warns me. His warning though, has my mind going back to my rescue. Does that mean I own them? We walk quickly through the church, multiple eyes spotting me between the guys, but they circle closer, avoiding any unwarranted touching. Making it to a hall filled with doors, I take the time to study my surroundings. We took a set of stairs up from the main level, a left turn, two right turns and another left before getting to this hall, so at least I know the way out if it comes to escaping. “We’re right up here. You’ll have to stay in our room until you’ve met the Queen and been assigned quarters. You’re our responsibility until she determines what to do with you. Dev and Nik will bring you some dinner, while I go consult with the king and queen,” Talon says, stopping as we reach the last door on the right. There was quite a significant amount of space between this door and the last one, making me wonder just how big their room is. All the boys enter, and I stumble in after them. My jaw drops at the sheer size and the lavish setup. It’s a lounge/living area with a huge home theatre system set up. The boys walk straight in and head to the door on the other side of the room. Dev glances back, gesturing for me to follow him. I make my way across not sure what to expect. It’s a bedroom. An enormous bedroom. There are three massive king size beds each placed evenly around the circular room. This lacks a whole lot of privacy. How can they stand to share a room together like this? Isn’t it weird when they have girlfriends over? Or maybe they’re into the whole group sharing thing like some of the pack used to talk about. Talon throws my bag on one of the beds before facing me and pointing over my left shoulder, “There’s a bathroom through there if you want to take a shower. You’re still covered in blood so we need to get you out of that before meeting the Queen. Do you have spare clothes in your stuff or is it all shoes and shit?” Talon asks haughtily, looking at the bag that I’m holding. “Of course I’ve got my own clothes. I don’t just walk around fucking naked!” I respond indignantly. What does he think I am? Some prissy princess who has a hundred pairs of shoes?! He turns his back on me, leaving the room in a huff. I guess he doesn’t like it when a woman talks back. I smirk pleased that I was able to irritate him further. He stops as he reaches the bedroom door to give one last parting comment. “Oh, just so you’re aware, you’ll be sleeping in my bed tonight. Either that or you’re on the couch,” he says smugly, leaving me in shock. Does he mean he will be sleeping in the bed with me if I don’t sleep on the couch? That is so not fair! I can’t share a bed with someone as hot as him! That’s just unnecessary torture. Nikoli clears his throat, “Ok, wolf, we’ll give you thirty minutes of privacy. Have a shower, get dressed, and when you’re finished, we’ll be out here with food.” Nikoli says, sauntering from the bedroom, Dev on his heels. I grab my clothes to sleep in, glad I have proper pyjamas with me. Usually it would be just a long t-shirt and panties, but with sharing a room with three men, three extremely yummy men, I opt for my full-length flannel pyjamas. When I close the bathroom door, I go to lock it, but notice that there isn’t one. What should I do? If I leave it, they may walk in, and after what happened earlier, my hormones couldn’t handle it. I decide to go out, lock the bedroom door then close the bathroom door and just hope they don’t pick the lock. Showering quickly, I rush to get changed then realize I forgot my panties. I debate on going commando but know I shouldn’t. Opening the bathroom door, I peek out to check they haven’t managed to break in. Seeing the coast is clear, I make a mad dash for my bag, clutching my pajama pants. I dig through my bag and locate a clean pair of panties quickly pulling them on, when the bedroom door opens. In my hurry, I topple over with my panties halfway on. Dev and Nik stare at me from the door, jaws open in shock. Rushing to pull my panties on, I yell at them to get out. Instead of leaving, they just stand there staring at my chest while I struggle to put my pants on. What kind of pervs stand there and watch while a girl is getting dressed? Sure, I stripped off my shirt earlier, but that was different. I was wearing a bra then, so they couldn’t see anything if they wanted to. Plus, that was one hundred percent consensual, this is straight up voyeurism. Sighing I stand, pulling my panties up over my ass, wondering if things could possibly get any worse. Of course, as I have that thought, Talon barges in, watching me yank on my panties. “What the fuck? Were you stripping for them? And are those what I think they are?!” he booms a mix of anger and confusion. His face is turning red as he waits for someone to explain what he just walked in on. “No, I wasn’t fucking stripping! Your perv friends here burst in while I was in the middle of getting changed! I thought the door was locked!” I shout back, pulling a sweater out of my bag and throwing it on, hoping to offer me some protection from their inquisitive eyes. “What about the marks on your neck? You can’t say they aren’t there or you didn’t see them after your shower,” Talon says, derision thick in his voice. I tilt my head in confusion. What marks? I have no idea what on earth he’s talking about. “Ah, fuck, she has no idea what you’re talking about,” Nik curses, before punching the wall, startling me. Surprisingly, Dev is the one to walk closer, offering peace as he approaches me. It’s as if he thinks I’m a wild beast about to attack. “Sorry, Emerald, we’re just a little shocked, we won’t hurt you. If you give me a moment, I will show you what the marks are. You should go look in the mirror though. Don’t overreact, just come back out here and we’ll explain.” He coaxes me back to the bathroom to look in the mirror. I’m freaking out the whole way to the bathroom because I have no idea what’s going on or why they’re so upset. What marks? I didn’t see any when I was in the bathroom. Not that I was looking too hard when I got out of the shower. I was so focused on the fact I forgot my panties. Stepping in front of the mirror above the bathroom sink, I go to lift my sweater to see whatever it was that they did, when I see something on my neck. I rip off my sweater, shocked at what I’m seeing. This isn’t possible! No, fucking, way! I’ll kill those bastards! Around my neck is Talon’s name scrawled in gray cursive. On the left underside of my collarbone, Devin’s name and on the right underside of my collarbone is Nikoli’s. How on earth is this possible? It looks like a tattoo but slightly different. Each name is written in a different style, as if they are unique to each name. I stand there gawking at myself for what feels like an eternity, when the voices from the other room start to filter in through my panic. “How can she be a wolf? No wolf I know has bound their soul to one of our kind before, not even the King. His is an actual tattoo. No way could she have gotten that done in the time we left her.” “What do you think she is then? Some kind of witch, playing a joke on us?” Nikoli asks, anger in his voice. Dev butts in, “Then why would she pretend not to have noticed the marks?” he asks, clearly confused. Talon groans and I can just imagine him rubbing his temples in frustration. “Whoever, whatever, she is, we have to find out. You know Heather and Felicia aren’t going to be happy about this right?” Talon points out as Nikoli curses. Who are Felicia and Heather? I’ve heard them mention Heather already but never who she is. “Fuck as it is, Heather is going to be pissed I’m sharing a bed with her. You know how fucking jealous she gets!” Talon grumbles as Nik and Dev murmur in agreement. Gaining my courage, I pull my sweater back on and walk back out to face them head on. “I don’t know what the fuck is going on or why your names have appeared tattooed around my neck, but I’m not fucking deaf! Now, I’m tired and need to deal with all of this. I will tell you that I am a wolf, but anything else will wait until After I meet with your King and Queen and then my parents. Do you understand?” I ask them, using my ‘mess with me and I’ll kick your ass’ tone. Talon watches me, debating his answer. “Fair enough. The Queen has agreed to meet you first thing, so we will wake you an hour before the meeting. Then you will tell us everything. If you don’t, we will find other ways to get the information from you.” With that he stomps off into the bathroom, slamming the door shut behind him. I turn my back on the others, climbing into Talon’s bed. He can sleep on the floor for all I care. There’s no way he’s climbing into bed with me if he has a girlfriend. Well, that’s what I tell myself. In reality if he climbed into the bed with me, I definitely wouldn’t turn him away. Five - Soul-ties Why am I so warm? And why on earth is the bed shaking? “Wake up,” a voice whispers in my ear sending shivers down my spine. “Dude, go away,” I murmur, rolling over and bumping into a hard chest. That’s not right, I went to bed alone. Cracking one eye open, I’m faced with a hard, tanned chest and abs so drool worthy that I have to remind myself I have no idea who it is. Slowly, I drag my eyes up his chest, stopping when I notice my name scrawled just over his heart in the same kind of elegant script as the tattoo around my neck of Talon’s name. What the actual fuck?! Meeting Talon’s green eyes, I see a world of pain and confusion. He’s hidden it so far in his soul, only another lost soul, could recognize it. He looks down at me, a devilish grin on his face as if he knows exactly what was going through my mind as I ran my eyes over his toned body. I open my mouth to ask what he’s looking at, only to blurt out, “Why is my name on your chest?” His eyes harden at my question and he rolls out of the bed without a second glance. “Get dressed and meet us in the lounge,” he demands, walking into the closet and pulling a shirt on. “We need to talk.” He walks out of the room, not bothering to look back at me or elaborate what he meant. He didn’t even answer my question! Sighing, I roll back onto my back, hating that I miss his warmth. Each of the other beds are empty, so I grab my clothes and rush into the bathroom, changing quickly. I don’t need a repeat of last night. I stare at the tattoos still surprised that they’re there. If possible, they’ve grown darker, become more pronounced since last night. Once I’m in the living area, I smell the coffee but don’t know if it’s too impolite to request a cup, so I collapse in a chair that gives me full view of the coffee pot. Maybe if I stare at it long enough, they’ll offer some? Devin, Nikoli, and Talon are all sitting in the chairs opposite me, a dead-panned trio. They have no idea how to start this morning’s meeting. “Well, who’s going to start, me or you guys?” I blurt out, tired of waiting for one of them to speak. Nik grins at me, a note of teasing in his smile, “Maybe if you explain what you are, we would be able to explain our names on you a bit easier,” he says cheekily. What a killer smile. No! Don’t stare at the pretty vampire’s face, that’s how they lure you in. “Ha! Nice try! You start. All you need to know about me, is I’m not just wolf. I can’t tell you anymore until I talk to your King and Queen, and then my own parents. I don’t want to put you guys in jeopardy for knowing too much, so you will just have to wait until I have the all clear to say something,” I admit. Each of them share looks of disbelief, not quite expecting me to give them a run-around answer but I just can’t risk it. I leave them for a few minutes to go grab myself a coffee. I need it. If I have to wait for them to offer, I’ll never get one. I glance back to see them all still sitting in the same state they were in when I got up. I sit back in my chair opposite them, enjoying the sweet heaven from my mug. After my first sip of liquid gold, they seem to snap out of it. Dev sits up straighter, taking charge of the situation, “Ok, so we don’t really know how to deal with the fact you won’t tell us but if you honestly think you would put us at risk, then we understand. We’d also be able to feel if you were lying to us, which so far, we aren’t. So, whatever you are, it must be something dangerous. Now, you wanted to know why our names are on your neck and collarbone?” He pauses and waits for me to nod before continuing, “I fully intend to explain it as best I can but, it might be hard for you to accept so just bear with us,” Devin pleads softly. Nik and Talon exchange glances seeming to come to some unspoken agreement. I guess that’s why Nik picks up where Dev left off. He rubs the back of his neck, obviously flustered, “This is confusing. You grew up with wolves, right?” he asks, continuing when I nod and take a sip of my coffee. “Well, you know how a shifter has a mate? One wolf they mate with for the rest of their lives and all that jazz? Vampires don’t have that. We have what we call a soul-tie. “There are two ways a soul tie can be formed, by two vampires falling in love or by destiny, two halves of the same soul coming together. “For a wolf, their mate is destined for them by some divine entity chosen for them and only them. They cannot choose who to be with.” He pauses, taking in a deep breath before ploughing on, “The only difference for us is that we can back out of a soul-tie. It takes a lot of energy for us to do it, but it can be done. For a vampire to back out of it though, it’s considered a great insult to the person who’s tied with them. If one appears chosen by fate, it’s said we will forever be tied to that person, even if we choose to back out.” He stops, watching me and waiting for a reaction but I give none. This is still confusing the hell out of me. What does this have to do with their names being branded on me? As if in answer to my unspoken thought, he continues, “The names on your collarbone and neck, are the start of our soul-ties with you. It should be impossible for more than one to form but yet here you are with all three, plain as day. I’m not exactly sure if that means we’re all tied to you or if your body is just suffering a chemical confusion being surrounded by vampires for the first time. We’ll have to ask the King and Queen what it means. Whether we have to be tied to you or if we should undo it, who knows? Our King knows more about wolves, so he may be able to offer some insight as to why it’s happened and what our next step should be.” Wow, this week just keeps getting better and better. From leaving my father to having soul-ties. Just what every woman wants, to be tied to hot guys she doesn’t know. “What about my name on you guys? Talon had my name on his chest this morning. What does that mean?” I ask, trying to hide my rising panic. Nik and Dev chuckle softly. “Your turn, man,” Dev says aiming a grin Talon’s way. Talon lifts his head to look at me, the emotion in his eyes making me uneasy. Why’s he looking at me like this is my fault? “Your name was on my chest, because I’m attracted to you. As the soul-tie develops, the names will darken until the soul tie is complete, letting other vampires know that you are mated. If another female were to have sex with me, with your name scrawled clearly across my chest, it’s effectively a challenge against you for your property. The same happens with you. If a male finds you attractive and tries to act on his attraction when they can see our names clearly scrawled on you, then it’s up to us to show them they can’t take what’s ours.” He looks away and if I had to guess, I would say he’s uncomfortable about explaining this to me. “It helps with fights among the coven if the males and females know who belongs to whom. I’m not sure when it began, but it’s been going on for as long I’ve been alive. Now your name on me marks me as yours. However, no one in the coven has more than one name on them.” Well aren’t I fucking special?! “What makes matters worse, is that Nikoli and I are both seeing someone in the coven, so when they see our names on you, they’re going to lose it. Which also means neither of us will be able to be intimate with our partners for fear you will challenge them for trying to take what’s yours. That means for now, you stay near one of us at all times. If Heather approaches you, I hope to God you can defend yourself better than you did in that hotel, because she will kill you.” “And who is she seeing?” I ask, dreading the answer. Talon looks directly at me before answering emotionlessly. “Me. Nikoli is dating Felicia and was hoping to have a soul-tie with her. You’ve come in and thrown everything out the window,” he says, his eyes flashing with anger. I’ve felt like crap since I left my dad and I can feel the pieces of me splintering apart, scattering like each individual petal on a dandelion caught in a breeze. Slowly, I get to my feet and grab my coffee, tipping it into the sink. I walk calmly past them, holding my internal mess together for as long as I can. I will not cry in front of them. I make it to the bedroom and then the bathroom. Once I’m safely locked away, I let go of all my sorrow, in huge wracking sobs. Tears trail down my cheeks, and I huddle in on myself, protecting my heart from any more pain. I have no idea why I’m bothered this much about Nik and Talon being in a relationship, but I am. It feels like my heart’s being ripped apart. All over two guys I barely know. What the hell is wrong with me?! Why do I care so much about three guys I only just met?! Oh right, they’re my soul-ties. I scoff, shaking my head at how stupid that sounds. Soul-ties. At least ‘mates’ is simple and natural. I ignore the knock on the door, only looking up when I hear a voice filtering in. “Emerald, can I come in?” Dev asks through the door, over my sobs. I tidy myself up and try to stop myself from hyperventilating enough to answer, but it’s just too much. I reach over, opening the door, and slamming it shut once he’s in. Burying my face in my shirt, I try to get control of myself. Stupid hormones! That’s all this is. Dev sits down, pulling me into his lap, offering me comfort, which just makes me cry more. Why am I so emotional over this shit?! I’m so much stronger than this! “Oh man, can you stop crying? I’m getting extremely uncomfortable,” Dev says awkwardly, making me laugh, and I almost choke on air, when it goes down the wrong pipe. He pats me on the back while I try to learn how to breathe again. I wasn’t expecting Devin to be funny. Nik sure, but not Devin. Sighing, I rest my head against his chest, taking in a few deep breaths now that I’m calmer. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to get so out of hand. Everything just hit me at once. It doesn’t help having two extremely hot guys pretty much threaten that their girlfriends are going to kill me,” I say bluntly. Dev laughs abruptly, “Are you kidding me? The only reason Talon mentioned it is because of how beautiful you are. Felicia and Heather are both so into their looks and think everyone is below them on the beautiful scale so meeting you is going to be a big eye opener for them. Our soul-ties may be chosen by fate but what Nik and Talon don’t want to tell you is that they will get their asses kicked by Heather and Felicia. It will be seen as a big slight that you, a stranger, has come into their lives and managed to form a soul tie with them especially when they should have already formed them by now. It also doesn’t help that if they weren’t attracted to you in the slightest, your name wouldn’t be scrawled on them. Look,” he says pulling up the sleeve of his shirt showing my name scrawled on his right forearm. “Wow, I thought it was only on Talon. So you think I’m attractive huh?” I smirk, tucking my hair behind my ear. He pushes me away to look down at me, his grey eyes drawing me in. “Seriously?! Have you not seen yourself in a mirror?! You are fucking beautiful. It’s why they don’t like you as much. You radiate a strength that very few of our women do and that just makes the attraction stronger. It also helps you look like you are a goddess, though I admit seeing you cry has lessened the attraction,” he winks at me. I laugh at his sarcasm, glad that they don’t see me as some hideous monster. “What do I do about their girlfriends? If they try to attack me, can I defend myself? Or do I have to rely on you guys to end it? Because I’m not sure if I can do that? My beast won’t allow it.” “Oh, hell no! If those wannabe bitches try to start something, you end it. Show them bitches who’s boss. They’ll respect you more if they know you’re willing to defend what’s yours,” he encourages, squeezing my shoulders. “But, they’re not mine. Can’t I just tell them I’m not looking for a mate, or soul-tie?” He rolls his eyes at me as if I’m talking complete nonsense. He knows just how much I want them. “You can, though they’re more likely to hurt you if you don’t accept the soul-tie. It will make you look weak in our coven. Besides, why don’t you want to be tied to such hot studs like us? Sure, I’m a total ass, Nik’s a shit stirrer, and Talon? Well, he’s a douche. Don’t get me wrong, he’s like my brother, but he’s a hard-assed son of a bitch. Won’t take no for an answer. On second thought, maybe you should just stick with me and Nik and avoid Talon like the plague. Guaranteed no heartbreak that way,” he smirks, going back on everything he just said. “Oi! You know I can hear you!” Talon calls from the other side of the door, making me laugh. “Fuck! I’m in deep shit now,” Dev says winking. I laugh at his banter, happy that I’m no longer crying. All that emotion was too much for me this early in the morning. Now all I want to do is crawl back in bed and sleep but we still have other things to do. “Are you guys ok to go? We need to meet with the queen or we’ll be late, then we’ll all be in deep shit,” Nik calls out. Dev gets to his feet, pulling me with him and cradling my face. “I will be with you the whole time. The others may not be interested in our soul-tie, but I want to see how it turns out between us. If you want it to go further, I’ll try. If you want me to back off, then I’m gone like the wind. For now though, our queen is waiting and she can be very annoyed if we don’t show up on time. Being late is one of the easiest ways to make her angry, so let’s go,” he says, breaking eye contact steering me out of the bathroom before I can hesitate. Nik and Talon are both standing by the bedroom door, waiting for us. I look down at my clothes, doubting a button up shirt and shorts is okay to meet a queen, and possibly my mother. Maybe I should put on a dress? “You look fine. The queen won’t be expecting a formal affair,” Nik says, picking up on my thoughts. I grimace unsure if he’s right but there’s not exactly anything fancy in my bag to wear. “Ok, if you’re sure. Any words of advice? Things to do or not do?” Dev grabs my hand as we walk, “Yeah, don’t piss her off. She’s like a rabid wolf when agitated. If you say the wrong thing, she may rip your head off.” Great, no pressure. Introducing myself as a wolf and vampire hybrid and announce that my mother is a member of their coven, is going to go down well then. Fuck, this sucks! I wish Dad was here with me. At least then someone could explain it better than I could. Thankfully, I have his letter, ready to hand over at the first moment of doubt. Six - Meet the Parents As we travel through the corridors, I take in the true beauty of the church. Stained glass windows decorate the roof, making a multi-colored light shine throughout the room. The marble walls have three windows that break up one wall, each depicting a beautiful scene. I take a closer look at one window and don’t recognise it as any religious scene that I know. As we walk down the aisle, me following behind the three of them, I can’t help but marvel at the window behind the altar. Most churches have their belief system in the windows, but this window is a pale vampire, with beautiful blond flowing hair, my mother. At her feet is a wolf, black as night, matching her pale image. As we get closer to the people standing at the end, my stomach flutters with the feeling of a thousand butterflies. Thankfully, no one else is in the pews that are set out around us or I’d be sick. As Talon, Devin, and Nik reach the end of the altar and I see my parents up close and realise just who they are. They’re the King and Queen I’m supposed to be meeting to discuss my parents. The King and Queen are my parents. Shock takes over and I stop moving, just staring at them until a nudge from Dev has me moving again. How could my Dad not tell me my real parents were the King and Queen of the coven?! My mother looks the exact same as in the stained-glass window and the picture Dad showed me. Long blonde hair, beautiful sparkling emerald eyes, and a soft, round face. The thing is, her eyes in my picture were soft and full of love. However, the woman in front of me looks like she’s holding onto so much anger, that it frightens me. My biological father looks similar to his picture, though his hair has started to gray and there’s a hardness in his face much the same as his mate’s. Talon steps forward dropping to one knee, “Your Majesties. This is the girl I spoke of yesterday who wished to speak with you privately. She has requested we stay for moral support as she also owes us an explanation for why we have a soul-tie with her,” Talon explains, bowing his head in respect. Dev and Nik follow his lead, bowing their heads too. Unsure if I should bow too, I settle for a curtsy, hoping it will do. The King and Queen both stare at me. My mom has a quizzical look on her face, while my father seems angry. “Who are you and what do you want?!” my father booms. I watch him apprehensively, frightened that he’s nothing like my Dad. The only thing I can do is tell them about me and hope they don’t kill me on the spot. “My father sent me. Well actually, he told me he was my uncle. His name’s Brent,” I rush out, watching as a flash of recognition sparks in his eyes. My father leaps from his place in front of the altar, gripping me by the throat, squeezing just enough that it hurts. Weirdly, it’s not tight enough to keep me restrained. I could easily get out if I wanted to. I wonder if he knows that and this is some kind of test. Dev, Talon, and Nik step forward to help me, but I wave them away, scared of what he would do if they interfere. “Why are you here? Come to finish the job?! If you touch my wife, I will rip you apart!” he screams into my face, making me flinch. “I’m not going to hurt her. If you let me explain, this will all make sense, I promise. He asked me to give you each a letter from him,” I gasp, finding it hard to breathe and talk with a hand wrapped around my throat. “Ax, let her give us the letters,” my mother interrupts, coming forward, placing a hand on his shoulder and pulling him away from me. They both step back, giving me space. I reach into my pocket, pull the envelopes out and hand them over, trying hard not to hyperventilate at how nervous I am. Dev pulls me to his side once I’ve handed them over, gripping my hand tightly. His lips are pursed with annoyance, and I can tell he’s going to give me an earful for not letting him help. Talon and Nik both brush themselves against me, the tension in their bodies obvious. It leaves me even more confused about their intentions. After a few minutes of silent agony, watching my parents read the letters Dad asked me to give them, they finally look at each other, my father with a look of heartbreak, my mother with tears streaming down her face. Hugging each other, my father laughs with tears streaming down his face while my mother sobs into his chest. Okay, so not the reaction I was expecting. I was expecting more anger but they look more relieved. It leaves me wondering just what my dad put in the letters. They finally break apart, facing me with wary smiles. “I’m so sorry if I hurt you, Emerald,” my father says, his eyes showing his pain. I guess anyone would feel horrible if they thought they hurt their child. I offer a smile, “It’s ok. You had no idea who I was. From what Dad told me about your history, I’d be pissed if a random wolf showed up from our pack after what my grandparents did,” I tell them truthfully. They both nod, studying me as if I’m some kind of puzzle they need to figure out. I can feel the restlessness from Talon, Nik, and Dev, as they have no idea what is going on. My mother breaks away from my father, stepping closer, not bothered that the guys are still surrounding me like guards. “I can’t believe it’s you,” she murmurs, cradling my cheeks in her soft, cold hands. I smile, relieved she isn’t instantly shunning me. There wasn’t a day that went by that I didn’t always wonder about my mother and who she was. Whether she loved me, or if I was just a by-product of some forbidden, human union. Josephine made it clear when I was old enough to understand, that she would never be my mother. It was one of the hardest things I had to deal with knowing Brendan got her unconditional love but all I got was the crumbs of her affection. “I never dreamed I’d actually get to meet you,” I tell her, tears making my sight blurry. She beams at me, joy lighting up her face, “Come, it looks like you have a lot to tell us. Why don’t we go to our chambers, so you can tell us everything?” she asks, her heart in her eyes. “Yeah, that would be good. Oh, can Talon, Dev, and Nik come with me? I promised them I would explain everything after I told you who I was. They still don’t know,” I tell her, pleading for her not to argue. “That’s fine, honey. They should probably be there anyway since I’m making them your official guard,” she informs them, grinning wickedly. Dev grins, excitement lighting his eyes, while Nik and Talon stare on in shock. Talon takes a step toward them, his eyes sparking with anger, “Your Majesty, I strongly suggest you rethink this. We are entrusted with your personal safety. Can’t we get someone else?” he asks looking between me, his King and his Queen. “We are more than capable of taking care of each other. Besides Tal, that’s our daughter,” my father answers, making all three of the guys’ mouths drop open in shock. Talon’s the only one to close his mouth and deal with it. I think he realized that makes me much more important than they thought I was. More important than even I knew. Devin and Nikoli stand there, frozen to the spot, looking like fish out of water. Their eyes dart between me and my parents, taking in the similarities. My mother takes me by the hand, leaving the guys and my father to follow us as we walk down a set of steps hidden behind the altar. It’s pretty cool. We enter a room that has to be five times the size of the guys’ room, and I wonder how the hell they fit rooms like this in a church this size. Don’t get me wrong it’s huge, but nowhere near big enough to accommodate this size room. Especially if a whole coven lives here. “Sorry, but can I ask how the rooms here are so big? And where does everyone else stay? I doubt the whole coven could live here.” My father chuckles, as do the guys. My mother is the one to fill me in on the missing details. “Well, we have a few powerful witches, who help us out in return for not feeding in their area. They’ve cloaked this place into looking like a church and the abandoned buildings surrounding us into empty warehouses. Our coven goes five levels underground, whilst the church is our meeting place and chambers. The rest of the coven lives underneath us except for our guards, who stay closer in case we come under attack. It used to be the guards stayed with us at all times but it became very annoying having someone shadow our every move. Besides, if one of our own attacked us, then it is expected that we are strong enough to defend ourselves, which is why I’m happy to assign our guards to you,” my mother explains, watching me take it all in. She moves from me, taking a seat in a beige loveseat obviously meant for two. I move over to the plain three-seater sofa across from her. She waits for me to get comfortable before speaking, “So, Emerald, why don’t you sit down and tell the boys here, your story. Then we’ll tell you what your father explained to us in the letter,” my mother offers, as I take a seat. The guys position themselves around the room, in a defensive formation. I wonder if they even realize they moved like that? Talon is over by the window, leaning against the wall, Nikoli positions himself by the door we just came through and Dev takes a seat beside me, angling towards the bathroom door. All three of them have each exit and entry covered. It sends a thrill to my beast seeing how effective they are as guards. I explained what had happened over the past few days. I started with my training session, Dad’s confession, my hurried trip across the states, staking out the church, getting attacked, calling Talon, being brought here, and finally, meeting them. My father grins, taking a seat next to my mother, “I knew Brent would come around. He was a headstrong kid, but he always followed Mom and Dad, never really thought much for himself. I’m pissed he kept your existence from us for so long but, I’ll be forever grateful that he raised you the way I would have. “Twenty-one years, we thought you were dead. It’s surreal to see you, standing here perfectly healthy and so beautiful. You have Sierra’s eyes, her hair, my nose, and a mix of our height. You’re slightly taller than your mother but shorter than me. It’s fascinating,” he murmurs, awe shining in his eyes. I dip my head, embarrassed and pleased at the same time. This is going so much better than I thought it would. My father clears his throat, drawing my attention, “Brent said in his letter that you had it rough with the pack. I want you to know, that won’t be the case here. We will always look after you,” he promises, coming over and pulling me up and into a warm hug. It feels so much like my dad’s hug, that I sink into it, finally feeling at ease. My mother joins us, wrapping her arms around the both of us. It feels like home even though I still miss Dad. He may not be my biological father but he is still Dad to me. I can only hope I get to see him again. After a few minutes, we break apart before it starts to get uncomfortable, and I glance at the guys to see them smiling softly. My father looks down at me, sadness lining his vibrant green eyes, “So, Brent tells us you’ve only shifted once. Would you care to explain why? And why you refer to your wolf as a ‘beast?’ Your wolf isn’t a beast, she should be a part of you,” my father explains as if me calling her a beast is the problem. My heart speeds up, panic clawing in my chest. Crap, I don’t really want to explain my beast. As it is, I don’t quite understand it myself. It’s just always how I’ve referred to her. She’s never been a wolf inside of me, always an animal with raw power. After my first shift, I knew she was no mere wolf, but a beast of untameable power. I take a step away, ignoring when my parents exchange concerned glances, “I’m sorry if I offended you by calling my wolf a beast, that’s just how it’s always been. When I first shifted, Dad was the only person with me. Back then, I thought he was ashamed of me because he didn’t want me to shift with the pack like all other wolves do when they come of age. Now I know it was fear of what I could shift into. He still ran with me, even though his fear radiated from him in waves. He was terrified of me, my own father. “My beast and I enjoyed our freedom, but when we got back to the house, Dad took me straight to my room and ordered me never to shift again, especially in front of the pack. His fear for me was so profound that I knew I couldn’t shift again. I had to keep my beast locked away not only for myself but for his peace of mind.” I take a deep breath before ploughing on, “Since then, I’ve kept her locked away in my mind. She only breaks free every now and then when I suffer from some extreme emotion. Usually my eyes go amber like any other wolf, but this last time my eyes went blood red. Dad knew the time had come for me to leave the pack and find you. He did mention something about my wolf having red eyes in my first shift, but I didn’t even know it was possible, let alone that it had happened so I just pushed it to the back of my mind.” There’s silence after I finish my story, as they all run through everything I reveal. “How do you feel about shifting for me? We could go down to the training facility, where you can shift, so we can see your ‘beast’ or we could go to the outskirts of town, where there’s a small patch of land I like to use for runs?” my father says, offering me an alternative. I hesitate, not sure about showing my parents my beast. They only just met me, I don’t want to scare them away in the same day. “We can go to the training facility, but can it just be us? And you guys can come too. You deserve to see me as I am before we talk about any soul-ties,” I add, looking over at Devin. Talon and Nik want nothing to do with the soul-tie, so I’m not too fussed with how they feel, but it’s only fair Devin sees what my beast is. Who knows, it may send him running and I’ll end up with no soul-ties. My mother rises from her seat, an elegance in her movements. “Good, it’s settled then. We just have to let our advisor know, in case we’re needed,” she smiles, reaching for the phone on the table beside the couch. Talon pales, reaching up to rub his chest, roughly where my name is branded. “Oh fuck,” he murmurs, his eyes darting over at me anxiously. Nik groans and Devin chuckles making Talon throw a cushion at him with a glare. It doesn’t stop Dev from grinning over at him like a madman, “You’re going to be in trouble,” he sings in a too-cheery voice. I don’t get it. Why would he be in trouble with the advisor? “Why, what’s the problem?” I ask confused. Talon faces me, slightly afraid. What could cause such a reaction? “Heather is the queen’s advisor. She’ll come in and see us, you with my name scrawled around your neck. It’s going to be a big argument,” he sighs in defeat. Oh. Of course I have to see his girlfriend. Why wouldn’t I see their girlfriends straight after finding out I have some kind of mystical connection that ties us together by fate? If I didn’t, I’d think my life was too easy! Stupid freaking fate! My father pats me on the shoulder, “Hold on, I’ll go get a scarf from Sierra’s wardrobe. You can wear that until we’re alone again,” he says, before running into a back room, then coming back with a pale purple scarf. He wraps it around my neck before turning to glare at Talon, “I don’t want Heather starting an unnecessary fight. That doesn’t mean we won’t talk about your soul-tie later. You boys and I are going to have a long, long chat.” That’s just great. Another protective Dad is all I need. Especially when I’m dealing with three hot attractive guys. I’m never going to get laid. Seven - The Beast Later and a knock on the door has Talon rushing to answer it. He greets a tall brunette woman, offering a kiss on the lips, driving my beast insane. Devin steps in front of me, blocking my view of Talon and the woman I assume is Heather. “Calm down Em, your eyes are turning red,” he whispers, running his thumbs over my cheek, wiping away a tear that has fallen. I have no idea why I’m crying. I barely know him! It shouldn’t feel like this in a matter of hours. What’s wrong with me?! I bury my face in his chest, trying not to look back. “I can’t help it. My beast is going wild, she wants to rip her to pieces for touching what’s hers” I murmur, clinging to his shirt and breathing in his scent all the while keeping my eyes shut. If I can’t see them, maybe it will help. Doubt it, but it’s all I’ve got right now. Dev lets out a pained groan, stroking my back as I bury myself in his scent. “Ax, please don’t kill me for this,” he whispers, lifting my chin and pressing his lips to my own. Every thought leaves my mind, my whole self focusing on Devin’s kiss. His soft lips, the gentle stroke of his tongue, and the taste of liquorice. I wrap my arms around his neck pulling him closer, kissing him with the passion that burns inside of me. A throat clears, interrupting us. “Um, guys, you know we can all see you right?” Nik’s strained voice pops the bubble Dev and I created around each other. I start to pull away from Dev only to have him grip me tighter, holding me in place. He stops the kiss but keeps me close to him, so I won’t have to see Talon and Heather. It’s probably for the best because I couldn’t pretend our kiss didn’t happen if my life depended on it. It was full of fireworks that I definitely wouldn’t forget any time soon. “Sorry, guys. Our princess here just needed a little love. Hope you don’t mind,” Dev says looking over at Sierra and Axel. Both of them have wide grins on their face, eyes sparkling with mischief. “Oh no, we don’t mind. Who better to have a soul-tie with our long-lost daughter, than one of our