Laura - 1963
Darkness. Fear. My heart thuds, almost breaking free from my ribcage. I gasp for air, but there isn't enough for my thirsty lungs. Fear can be a dreadful thing, killing you before your time comes. Reaching out in the dark, I touch a wall in front of me. Same on my left and right. A hard floor beneath my back as I am lying flat. Where am I?
Mama always tells me to be home by the time the darkness engulfs the land. But I am young and headstrong. Life screams at me to live it wholeheartedly. Mama talks all the time about creatures lurking in the shadows, waiting to catch children and young virgins. Mostly, I nod, rolling my eyes internally.
A sliver of light shines through the hinge of the door above me. Sounds. People are talking, but I can't understand a word they're saying. The roaring in my ears must cease for me to hear what is going on outside. I take long, slow breaths to calm myself and lower my heart's rhythm.
"The Council has reached a decision. You have been found guilty of killing another member of our kind. Your punishment is simple. A life for a life."
Through my wooden cage, I hear a man's loud, proud voice. "I'm ready to die. I've lived enough."
"We said a life for a life, not a death for a death. You killed one of our own. Therefore, you will sire a new one instead."
This time the man's voice gets shaky, trembling. "I… I sired no one before."
"Our thoughts exactly. It's time for you to do it."
My eyes can't see anything when the wooden board is lifted from above me. When the darkness of my cell has been all I could see for god knows how long, the light blinds me. To help my sight, I use my hands to lay shadows upon my eyes.
My legs shake like leaves in the wind as I rise to my feet. I couldn't stretch them inside that thing they kept me in. Maybe that's why my legs don't want to move. What is this place? Who are these people? What do they want from me? My eyes haven't yet recovered. All I can see are blurring shapes.
The neutral voice from whom appears to be a Council member - god knows what that means - speaks. "This woman is yours to own. Bring her into our fold. This is your cross to bear."
A chill breeze creases my skin. I slowly lift my head from my hands, warm tears rolling down my cheeks. The night is starry. A full moon brightens the sky. Three men in black with hoods covering their faces loom tall in front of me on a higher pedestal.
I glance to the side, where I see a face. And what a face... Pale skin, a broken nose, and an opened, toothless mouth. An iron circle rusts around his neck's punctured skin and chains hold his arms and legs. Yet those shackles pale in contrast to the ones that haunt his face. In his eyes, there is no hope, no desire to live. This man wants to die. He's been waiting for that sweet escape for a long time.
Gulping, I see myself in his place. Iron spikes penetrate my flesh, streams of blood seeping through the wounds and down my chest. This can't be happening to me. I won't end up like this ghostly man. Shaking my head, I drive away that dreadful image from my mind.
Footsteps approach, and my legs still won't budge more than the expanse of my shivers. A gentle touch on my shoulder and a warm voice. "Tell me, child, how old are you?"
It's the same voice, the man that is being judged here. I can glimpse through my eyelashes his sky-blue eyes. "Seventeen," I mumble as my voice fades away.
The man turns his back on me. "She is barely a child!"
"There were others much younger than her who thrived, even in the Council. We are done talking!"
Another man steps forward with a glass, punctures the toothless prisoner's flesh, and fills his glass with blood. My chest heaves and I freeze. My knees buckle as violent tremors shoot through my body. Cold sweat drips down my back. In my ears beats the rhythm of my heart.
I swoon at the sight of so much blood. But the man with blue eyes and a warm voice holds me steady when I sway. What in heaven is happening here?
The man holding the glass turns and consumes the entire amount of crimson liquid in one go. My whole life, I was wrong. There is no such thing as heaven, and I am in hell. Or perhaps in a dream. I must be hallucinating! These types of things only happen in dreams. I need to get up! No more!
"Please, let me go," I manage to say with a trembling voice. It doesn't even sound like my own. I don't feel like myself. "I want to go home!"
One of the hoods moves as a council member signals something to someone on my right. I turn in time to see broad shoulders too close to have time to run. The light flickers upon a silver blade.
My mouth opens to scream in dismay, but nothing comes out. Why? As I touch my throat, my fingers are bathed in a warm, thick liquid. A fine line along my neck ignites a pang of pain. I raise my hands only to discover they are painted in red. My muscles aren't mine to control anymore. My body falls to one side, blood pumping out of my neck as I suffocate and choke.
"It's your choice. Turn her or let her die!"
The last words I hear before the darkness takes me. Thoughts continue to swarm inside my head while my muscles succumb to numbness. Why me? Is this a nightmare? You get to wake up when you die in a dream, right? I'll wake up... I'll wake up...
Paul - Present Day"Don't you dare talk with me about bonds!" I shout so loud that all my men stare at me.When my eyes dart toward them, they all lower their gazes to avoid mine. But I don't have time for this. Alin is the problem, and he doesn't look at the floor as the rest. The defiance in his eyes is a problem that I must solve before it spreads like a plague among the pack."I mated with Ana," he declares with a snarl. "She's already mine!"So be it if he believes he can take me on."Ana is a member of the Oltenia pack. We don't mix!" I want to slump into my cozy chair, but my wolf doesn't let me. He is harsher than I am. "Goddammit, Alin. I shouldn't have to explain this. You understand how things work better than anybody else.""But I love–"My fist plunges onto the table between us, cracking the surface in two. For the first time, Alin flinches and looks down. Finally, he shows me the respect I deserve.The wolf
Laura - 1963I struggle to breathe. My lungs seem empty as if they've been dormant for a long time. While I try to inhale as much air as possible, a muscular arm wraps itself around me, its touch frigid against my skin. Its earthy scent mingles with the smell of mildew.The air seems stale as if no one has thought to open a window in years. What am I doing here? How did I end up here? Who's standing next to me? A whirlwind of questions invades my head, and I can't tell them apart.As I remember the scene with the hooded men, the blade comes into focus, along with the pain and numbness. My fingers reach for my neck. No cut there, no pain. I struggle to move, but the man's grip holds me like in a vise. This is not how I pictured my first time laying with a man or sharing a bed and cuddling.My fingers go through the mattress, and I feel something crumbly and hard, granules beneath my nails. I raise my hand and it's filled with dirt, black, dry soil. Never m
Paul - Present DaySturdy strides carry me to the closed double doors while a hammering heart chisels away inside my chest. A soft scent of lilac persists in my nostrils, bathing me in bliss. The girl is asleep in my arms. I have to resist the urge to gaze at her rather than where I am going.Ana opens the main doors. "What happened? Who is she?"I finally look down and see her face. That's what makes my knees go weak. She's so beautiful that it hurts to think about anything else. The light from the chandelier above us illuminates her pale skin as her eyelashes lay gently over her upper cheeks."She's—" My voice trails off when I realize I don't know the answer to any of Ana's questions.Dan follows me inside the house. "From what I could tell from Paul's stuttering on the way here, someone tried to shoot him, and the girl leaped in front of him."Ana darts forward to examine the girl. She tugs the ruined blouse down over the girl's sh
Laura - Present DayThe door closes shut behind him. This man is quite a character. Ha! I guess this is how one acts when the entire world revolves around him. Sure as hell, I’ll not save his life again. I can find another alpha to kill me, but he’s the strongest, the surest bet. That is if the old hag didn’t lie to me when she said only the Dacian Draco could kill me.I’ve researched for years, trying to grasp the ancient legends and the true lore of Dacian culture. Draco, or Dracon, was the battle flag of the Dacians, Costobocs, and Tyrrhaites from the current territory of Moldova as well as the Dacians south of the Danube.It had the shape of a wolf's head with an open mouth, which continued with a dragon's body, made of textile or leather that swelled in the wind, making a noise that mimi
Paul - Wolves Inc Office BuildingI press a finger over the mouse. The screen wakes up, revealing a shit ton of emails and other official notifications. But not even the silence of my empty workplace can help me concentrate.My mind goes wherever it wants, without any consideration for my duties. Two days have passed since that girl saved my life, and for whatever reason, I can’t stop thinking about her. Every time I close my eyes, I see her sleeping in my arms. I have to keep reminding myself she’s a strigoi, not just a beautiful woman.Instead of reading those tedious emails, I watch the crowd rush from one location to another. Their noses buried in their phones and fingers typing away at tinted glass displays entertain me. Students carry bulkier backpacks that can hold books and binders, while others
Laura - Her apartmentThe doorbell rings. I place the leather bookmark and close the book.As I unlock the door, Alisa bursts out of her room, TV noises in the background. She’s always curious, and I’ve already stopped telling her that’s what killed the cat.A young man stares at me with a package in his arms. “Laura Nedelcu?”“Yes,” I reply as I realize he’s a wolf. His mind is closed shut to my power."This is for you." His veins bulge as my palm brushes over his fingers to take the package. It must be the dress for the party.The intensity of this wolf's stare hit me like a club. He would love to kill me and I would let him. Too b
Paul - RBO partyBoring people with heads filled with possibilities to make more money, as their pockets are already overflowing. The only interesting thing around here is the incredible champagne. The drinking practice from the parties I’ve been to is keeping the three glasses I already hurled down my throat from having any impact on me.Looking at the last drop of the sparkling liquid on the bottom of my crystal glass, I circle my hand and play with it. It's the most interesting thing here so far. People around me talk, but their words are muffled in a cacophony of tedious affairs.Lilac scent. My head swivels. I follow the enticing hourglass curves as she walks through the door. Her silhouette is stunning, accentuated by the light from the chandeliers. It's as though the room has suddenly sprung to life. It
Laura - Her apartmentI fumble to close the door, the keys jingling between my fingers. Why do two strigois bother locking their door? I would mourn the fool trying to steal from the undead.After letting my small purse drop on the counter, I settle my elbows on it too and let my head drop into my palms. What has gotten into me? It’s totally out of character for me to act that way with a man. The need to reply to him in the same style overwhelms me. It’s like I’m a different person when he’s around.Or maybe I’m more myself than ever before. Not hearing his thoughts relaxes me. The silence of his mind draws me toward him. He’s a mystery to me, while the others are an open book. I can take off all the safeguards I struggle to maintain, so I do not hear everyone all the