“Now that we’ve got that out of the way” Nicolai sneered as he adjusted his coat and nodded to an elegantly dressed vampire lackey. She left for a moment and returned almost instantly with a crystal glass filled with bourbon. Nicolai sipped, as though to give himself time to think through the words he would use to introduce us to the reason he called us here.
“As I mentioned, I need to venture to my South Side Compound to acquire something of great value. The enemies we will meet on our way will be easily identified by glowing white marks on their foreheads. They look like this.” Nicolai held up a piece of paper with a symbol drawn on it.
To me, it looked like three stars forming a triangle. Whether it was meant to be something else I couldn’t say, but the mark wasn’t at all familiar.
“Your orders are to kill them on sight.” He paused, making sure every wolf in front of him was paying close attention.
“Is that clear?” He asked, commandingly.
“Yes, my King.” We said in unison.
Briskly taking the lead we created a triangle of protection around Nicoli with me at its point, leading my men down the throne room walkway and onto the stone walled caverns that made up our underground home. Nothing but our footsteps echoed through the tunnels as we marched, even here our eyes peered through the darkness for enemies who might have been clever enough to get past the first three checkpoints. It was a difficult feat, sure, but being a creature of the night taught me that anything, absolutely anything is possible. It dawned on me at that moment that the very wall we had been walking beside is the only barrier that kept my people separate from the others, the vampires.
The hair rose on the back of my neck.
‘Stay in formation. Paul, anything behind us? I’m picking up some weird vibes’
‘All clear Chief.’ Paul responded obediently.
‘You’re not picking up anything weird. Nicoli’s totally checking you out, Queen Darksyde.’ I heard Dorian snicker in his head, the rest of the team tried not to laugh at this too.
‘Shut up, Dorian.’ I rolled my eyes ‘And how many times must I tell you not to call me that, I’m not your fucking Queen. Hate that word’
‘Better get used to it, if Nicolai gets any more ideas.’ Paul joined in.
I let a deep threatening growl escape from between my teeth as my inner wolf showed its displeasure at their taunts.
Like a whip, I felt their minds flinch.
‘Sorry, Chief.’ Dorian said. ‘We’re just having a little fun.’
‘I know guys. But you also know my inner wolf’s a bitch.’ I half-smiled. We had a hard enough life without my people having to obey a leader who couldn’t laugh at herself.
“Approaching checkpoint,” I said out loud, my eyes scanning the dim cavern for the elevator doors that would soon show themselves.
“Cole, Dorian, Michael, Lee,” I commanded. “You’re coming up with me first to do a sweep. The rest of you follow after I give the go-ahead.”
Upon reaching the elevator doors I turned to Nicolai, and indeed his eyes were already on me.
“My King.” I bowed my head while begging myself to keep my tone civil “Once I’ve cleared the checkpoint above us, we’ll head to the second team waiting in St Peters Square with the convoy. So far there aren’t any red flags.”
Nicolai stepped cautiously toward me, his body inches from mine while he spoke in hushed tones. “Our enemies are cunning, tell your men to be prepared for anything.”
“I will, my King.” I stepped away from him under the pretense of a bow, before turning on my heel and stomping toward the elevator quickly to hide the red flush in my cheeks.
Stop it, Diana.
Nicolai looked at me, a glint gleaming in his eyes.
St Peters Square was quiet, the darkness shooing away the tourist traffic that constantly plagued it. My eyes scanned every inch of it we walked toward the convoy waiting for us at the center of it.
‘Chief’ I was greeted by nods all around as the rest of my team waited with the cars for us.
‘You guys see anything?’ I asked.
‘All clear out here, Chief.’ Alexis responded, her eyes still scanning the area just in case.
For the first time in a while, I heard the King’s breath hitch in his chest as he walked.
‘Nicolai’s nervous.’ I said to my pack.
‘I would imagine so.’ Cole responded sarcastically, a response that confused me.
‘You wanna share whatever it is you’re keeping from me?’
‘Not yet.’ He replied simply.
I know full well I could have forced the information out of him, one of the perks of being Alpha, yet a perk I would never use on a friendship as old as ours.
As we reached the black SUVs, all our eyes scoped the area for any sign of movement.
“Chief Darksyd and I will drive together. The rest of you will take the other cars.” Nicolai spoke commandingly as Cole and Damian attempted to enter the car with us.
“My King?” I said curiously.
“Don’t be nervous, I won’t bite.” He grinned widely at me as he got into the passenger's seat. I noticed Cole and Damien sharing sly smiles with one another.
‘Good luck’ Cole said as he left to join the others.
Grinding against each other, my teeth fought to keep the sharp canines tucked away, knowing full well what a reaction like that would get you. Other wolves had been slaughtered for less.
We drove in silence.
Nicolai made no attempt to start a conversation, and neither did I. And so we were stuck, the King and I together in a moving vehicle with nothing but a dense air of tension to keep us company.
“You find me attractive, Chief,” Nicolai said suddenly, his lips in a smirk.
“I do not, my King,” I responded immediately, begging the flush that threatened to redden my cheeks to stay away.
“I wasn’t asking, Diana. That was a statement of fact. I can feel it when you’re near me.”
There was no way I wanted to be his Queen, not by any standard. Yet the thought lingered in the back of my mind. The idea teased me.
If I were Queen, my people would be treated much better than they are now.
“Well, I’m sorry if I make you uncomfortable, my King.” I said scathingly “Wolves are physical beings, we can’t really help it.” I shrugged, hoping to brush off any embarrassment he might sense coming off me.
“You don’t need to apologize to me, Diana. You’re beautiful. You’re powerful. And I of all people can appreciate that.” He said simply, his eyes straight ahead.
With one last right turn, I broke the silence that had grown more awkward. “We’re here”
Out before us stretched out a long, paved driveway lined with lamp posts, the lights from which cast odd shadows in the surrounding trees.
Swaying in the breeze they greeted us.
On high alert, we reached the end of the drive and parked in front of the three-story building smiling down on its horseshoe driveway.
Nicoli and I were the second to arrive, noticing two of the six cars already parked, and waiting a little ahead of us.
I stepped out of the car and searched the surrounding trees, my eyes scanning as quickly and as deeply into the surrounding forest as I could. The see of green served as a good backdrop, making anything that wasn’t, stand out. Owls fluttered across branches, squirrels scurried along the moss-ridden ground, and there in the distance, three bright white fireflies hung in the air above two glowing amber friends.
White neon firefly? I looked back to where I had seen them only to see nothing.
‘I saw it too.’ Cole said, his tone laced with something akin to excitement.
‘You remember what Nicolai said, we kill on sight.’ Damien reminded us.
‘Fuck that. I’m going after it. Take Nicolai in, I’ll watch our rear.’ Cole said determinately as he slunk away into the trees.
“Would you mind accompanying me?” Nicolai said at my right, pulling me out of my half-shocked state.
“I’ll be fine, Diana. Go’ Heard Cole reassured us.
Part of me wanted to yell at him, to scream in my fiercest Alpha voice at him, yet the more dominant part said to let him go, to trust him as he asked me to.
And so I did.
Despite the writhing pit in my stomach that told me not to.
The woods danced with sounds I felt were more than just the rustling of trees.I breathed deeply, filling my lungs once again, with clean, untainted air, knowing what I would have to eventually go back to.The hair rose on the back of my neck.Someone’s out there. I can feel it.As I walked down the driveway next to King Nicolai, my mind stayed glued to Cole’s. I wanted to know that he was okay, in the state he was in, there was no chance in hell he would survive an attack of any kind.“You look worried, Diana,” Nicolai commented, his hand brushing mine as we walked.I ignored the shivers it sent down my spine.
‘Get up, Diana!’ A familiar voice screamed in my head.There was no mistaking the tone, or the urgency that lay within it.‘Cole??’ Trembling still from the pain of loss, my mind raced.‘Get up! If he finds you here he will end you!! GO! NOW!’ He screamed at me.Unsure of what was happening, guided only by the sound of my friend, I sprinted back to the alcove, my brain was frozen by the sound of a voice I knew to be of someone dead.Breathing hard, I stopped at the velvet cushions, tears pouring down my face.