A shiver went down my spine. I knew this expression well.
…He was furious at me.
I immediately tried to back away from him but I knew it was too late. He strode up and quickly grabbed my neck in his hand, pinning me against the wall behind me. And, instantly, the pain shot down from my shoulder where it hit the wall roughly.
"Aleric... Please...," I whimpered out against his choke, struggling to breathe.
His hand loosened slightly but only to ensure I listened to him properly.
It was crazy, but even in a moment like this, the mate bond was still making sparks erupt from where his hand touched my skin. It was sickening how a Goddess could do this to her child, make them feel these sensations even in a situation like this.
"Do you think you're so important that you can treat Thea that way?" he roared into my face.
"Aleric... she came to me first and𑁋."
"Enough!" he cut me off. "I don't want your excuses. Thea isn't like you. She is a gentle, sweet girl! What if you had caused her enough stress to induce a miscarriage? Are you really so petty as to kill a child out of spite? A future Alpha no less?"
Even in his distorted expression of rage, he still looked so handsome. A curl of his shaggy midnight hair had fallen out of place and was framing his forehead, his green eyes gleaming. He stood a foot taller than me, broad shoulders, and built like a God. In times like this, I could feel the height difference so clearly when he stood close to me in this way. He was an imposing, scary man, but I had no choice but to find him irresistible.
I cleared my thoughts, reminding myself it was only the mate bond making me feel these things for him. His touch and scent were intoxicating but it wasn't me who really felt this way about him anymore. It was just the curse.
"Aleric... no, I would never. She came to me even though she knew𑁋."
And suddenly, he slapped me across the face. Hard.
I blinked as my vision blurred and my cheek burned.
"You're nothing, Ariadne. You are only here because I let you be here, don't ever forget it. You may be chosen as Luna by the Goddess but I have the final say in this pack. If you dare to hurt Thea again, I will make sure you regret it."
And, with that, he let me go, my back sliding down the wall as my legs gave out.
I was sure that he had contemplated killing me in that moment. His anger wasn't anything new to me but this was the first time he had threatened to remove me from my position completely… or worse.
With one final look down at me in disgust, he then left just as abruptly as he’d arrived. But as soon as the door closed behind him, I erupted in a fit of hysterical laughter, tears flowing from my eyes once more.
If he had just removed me from my position at the start then this would have never happened. If he had just rejected me immediately as his mate, instead of submitting me to this torture over the last six years, then maybe one day I could have learned to live a decent life without him.
I was here only because of him. Because the pack and Aleric asked me to be their Luna. I could have tried to live a normal life and tried to forget about him if he'd just freed me earlier.
...Maybe I could have even found someone to love me one day.
"Aria?" Sophie asked hesitantly, watching me laugh with concern.
She must have thought I had finally gone crazy, and she was probably right. Sophie watched what I had just suffered through, only to see me laugh about it all.
Perhaps I really had finally snapped. Who knew it would happen today?
"It's just a joke, Sophie, don't you see?" I smiled widely, still giggling. "It's all one big joke. My whole life! I bet the Goddess is looking down at me as a form of entertainment. Do you think Gods get bored? I wonder why else someone would make me Luna only to endure the things I have had to endure."
"Oh, Aria," Sophie said, crouching down to engulf me in her arms once more. "My poor baby. It's okay. You're going to be okay."
She stroked my hair as my laughter then slowly turned into sobs against her chest.
"I'll come with you," Sophie finally said once I had calmed down. "We can leave together. I'm sure we'll have more success at escaping if we work together."
Sophie… would come with me?
I looked at the older lady in shock. She would be risking a lot to become a rogue with me and escape. If we were ever caught, she would probably be executed.
"Come on, I'll make you a cup of tea and we can talk about what we're going to do," she said, pulling me to my feet.
Hesitantly, I nodded my head and smiled at the old lady.
Sophie cared for me. It would be okay. We would be okay.
The next day I got ready for the meeting at eight o'clock with the higher members of the pack council. My long silver hair was still messy but I had done my best to tame it as much as possible.
Underneath my violet eyes, I could see the dark bags from the stress and lack of sleep I had experienced the night before. Unfortunately, using makeup had shown little results at covering it up.
My appearance was a clear representation of my family, Chrysalis. The silver hair and violet eyes were a dead giveaway to our ancient Beta lineage. It was an unusual sight for people who were not from our pack, but I was proud of my reflection. I was the first daughter born to our Beta family in over a century and the only child of my parents. I was also born two years after Aleric so it was almost guaranteed we would be mated, our families always having been so closely knit. The elders had even prophesied our union would bring great success to the pack; they had been correct.
Inside the meeting hall, I sat to Aleric's right. But unlike a normal day, today I could feel the gaze of the other ranked pack members and elders as they bore into me. There wasn’t anything I could do about it though. No, all I could do in response was keep my eyes cast down. Always down.
Everyone knew. They knew how humiliated I must feel, how scorned I am, and yet they looked at me as though I were a circus attraction. Like I wasn’t just a girl tired of being used.
The meeting was the usual items; border patrols, rogue sighting, territory alliances. But for once, no one dared to ask me any questions. They all acted as I wasn't even there. And to be honest, I wish I wasn't.
I had told Sophie we would leave at the end of the week. There were still things I needed to organise, and I wanted to ensure the pack had enough prepared to keep it running for at least a little while in my absence. My hope was that no one would notice me missing for a few days and, with any luck, we could cover enough ground to stop them from finding us even if they tried; our tracks and scent hopefully disappearing by then.
"—What do you think, Luna?" Elder Luke suddenly asked me.
I looked up sharply in surprise, breaking me from my deep thoughts. I hadn't expected anyone to address me during this meeting.
I coughed, clearing my throat, and tried to think back on whatever they had just been discussing. Carelessly, I’d let my mind wander too much.
"Well... that's umm...," I started.
But, thankfully, the door then burst open at that exact moment, sparing me from having to answer.
However, what I didn't expect was for my father to be the one storming in. I hadn't even noticed he was absent in the meeting, having kept my eyes down the entire time.
Well, he was here now, standing before us, and he looked… furious. Something that caused me to internally whimper.
Did he agree with Aleric? Was he angry at how I had treated Thea?
"What is the meaning of this?!" he demanded. And, instinctively, I flinched. Though it was a reaction that ended up being for nothing.
Because, to my surprise, his eyes then turned not to me… but to Aleric.
I looked over sharply and saw Aleric staring back stoically, his face completely unreadable. Or maybe he just genuinely didn't care.
"What seems to be the matter, Beta Jarred?" Aleric asked. "You've shown up not only late but now you've also caused a huge disruption to our meeting."
"Don't play dumb with me," my father growled. "You think you can humiliate my family like this and I'd just continue to loyally serve you? She's my daughter! Our Luna, your mate! And yet you let some tramp bear your child and name them heir?"
The breath instantly caught in my throat, almost making me choke. My father was... defending me? Against Aleric, our Alpha? He had always been more loyal to the Alpha family than anything else.
Though it was sad, we had never been particularly close because of that, his only show of emotion to me being disappointment over the years. Disappointment even though I continued to do my best despite this hellhole of a life I was given.
Aleric's jaw quickly tightened at his words. "I think you need to calm down," he said slowly. Everyone could hear the warning in his words but my father seemed to either not notice or care.
"Calm down? Calm down?!" he roared. "No, I have allowed you to disrespect her for too long, pup. She is a daughter of Chrysalis and deserves your respect, even if only purely for her Beta lineage. To think you would throw her aside as if she were trash and impregnate another woman. It’s unacceptable."
Aleric was clearly becoming angrier by the second. Something the entire room could feel.
"Beta Jar𑁋." He attempted to speak but my father continued to rant, cutting him off.
"Your father would be disgusted if he were alive. If Aria cannot have a child then that is the Goddess cursing you, and your disdainful manner during this mate bond. Aria doesn’t deserve this. You don’t deserve her."
That was it. Aleric finally lost it.
"You dare to insinuate that I am the cause of your daughter's infertility as a message from the Goddess?! Do you realise you are saying treasonous things right now? The Goddess chose me above all else to be Alpha, and to continue this pack's leadership and lineage. If Aria cannot accept that, then that is on her. Thea will be having my child, and they will be named heir. That is final. Now I suggest you remove yourself from this meeting immediately and go calm down, Beta."
A murmur of agreement echoed in the room from everyone present. But despite Aleric having used his Alpha tone, it seemed to have little effect on my father.
Instead, my father erupted in a cry of rage at the complacent attitudes of everyone around him and, immediately, everyone became silent, bowing their heads. His eyes darkened to warn that his wolf was on the surface about to take control and the room became tense. He looked as if he was about to lose control at any second.
Everyone could feel his power exuding off of him. He was the second strongest member in the whole pack, his authority and power enough to make anyone crumble; except, of course, Aleric and I. Moreover, given that we were the strongest pack in the country now, it could be argued that my father was stronger than even most pack Alphas.
Yet somehow, even in the face of such anger, Aleric merely scoffed at his attitude....
…And it was enough for all hell to break loose, almost as though you could see my father finally snap internally.
"I'll kill you," he yelled, eyes manic as he launched himself across the table towards Aleric.
"Father! No!" I screamed, but it was too late.
Because he shifted mid-air into his grey wolf and tackled Aleric to the ground.
An all-out fight broke loose causing mass panic to ensue inside the meeting room.Everyone quickly jumped to their feet to make as much distance as possible between themselves and the fight, but there wasn’t much space to work with. Before long, snarling and snapping were the only noises heard coming from my father's wolf as Aleric fought him off in his human form."Brayden!" Aleric yelled finally, huffing from the exertion of the fight.My father was strong, almost as strong as Aleric. It was true that Aleric would win in the end during a one-on-one fight, but my father would give him severe wounds on the way out. He would not be taken down easily.Brayden didn't hesitate even for a second before he grabbed at my father from behind and pushed him to the ground. Together with Aleric, they used their weight to pin the large wolf down."Get me silver cuffs and have him taken down to the cells immediately!" Aleric ordered furiously t
The cells were cold, damp and dingy, with little amenities. Only a bed, toilet and basin were given to me, a single blanket being the only thing to warm myself. There was minimal space, each cell having three stone walls and bars along the wall where the door was.Seven days had now passed and so today, finally, I was set to stand trial before the pack for my alleged murder. I knew the evidence was stacked against me. In fact, it would be almost impossible for me to win this. The only hope I had left was that Sophie was still alive. If she could testify saying she had witnessed firsthand how I’d been inside my chambers all week, therefore making it impossible to have poisoned Thea, then they would be forced to open the floor to the possibility I was not the culprit."Get up," a guard gruffly ordered from outside my cell.I recognised him. His name was James and I had visited his family on multiple occas
"Ariadne stands accused of murdering the named Alpha heir by use of poisonous herbs," Aleric continued. "In doing so, she also endangered the life of one of our fellow pack members, Thea Woods. The trial today will look at the evidence to determine whether she is guilty of these crimes." A cold sweat formed at the back of my neck as I discreetly scanned my eyes around, trying to see if I could spot Sophie. But I couldn't find her familiar face anywhere. It made me more nervous as every second ticked by. "Do you swear on the Goddess' name, Ariadne, that you will tell the whole truth during this trial?" Aleric asked, bringing my attention back to him. I met his piercing green eyes, a shiver going down my spine. How those eyes haunted me. "I do," I replied loudly and confidently. "And how do you plead?" I held my breath, my heart ra
The last piece of hope I had inside me died at her words. Sophie had betrayed me, thrown me out and lied blatantly to everyone. How could she do this to me after everything we'd been through? I had loved her so much, trusted her implicitly, and yet she was now acting as if I meant nothing to her. Sophie's eyes began to fill with tears as her voice wavered into the crowd. "Ariadne had been distraught by the news of Miss Woods' pregnancy and I saw how this began to erode at her sanity; something I'd seen was already dwindling prior. Whilst in her employment, I saw her experience several fits of hysteria, laughing at the most horrible of things. And her mood swings were even worse. Sometimes she was so sweet, other times she would change like a light switch, become irritable and angry without warning." I couldn't believe what I was hearing. She was taking one small incident and magnifying it, warping it with more lies to suit the agenda. Had she really d
It was cold. There was no light. Only darkness surrounded me.I wasn't sure what I had expected for when I died, werewolves didn't seem to have any real lore hypothesising about what came after death. I'm sure humans would think we should be cast into hell, our entire self being a creature opposed to the ways of their natural laws. But we didn't have any thoughts or values on that.Did I expect the Goddess to embrace me and lead me into some pearly gates? She had abandoned me in life, I could only
There was an alarm ringing in my head. It was so loud, aggressively thrashing against my already sore brain. However, it wasn't until I turned towards the source and opened my eyes that I realised it was an alarm clock. An alarm clock I hadn't seen in years. I instantly sat upright in bed and took in my surroundings. This was the bedroom of my family home, the bedroom I had lived in up until my coming of age. Everything looked exactly the same. Was it all a dream? Had I really died? I jumped out of bed, running towards my mirror, and instantly, I could feel the difference when I moved. I was shorter, lighter. My limbs didn't feel as muscled. ...And I felt strange. Like something was missing. As I looked at my reflection, I quickly realised that I was young. Very much so. My cheeks were plumper and my eyes rounder. The stress lines I'd accumulated over my years of mistreatment were completely gone. I looked almost... pretty. Had I ever thought that before? I'd been so focused on c
It was exactly as I remembered it. But I suppose that was to be expected since, in my memories, I last saw this place only three years from now. The school consisted of only werewolves since our pack had that luxury. In fact, our whole territory was unknown to the humans so we had complete secrecy and safety. I walked past the crowds of kids who were all chatting away in their groups, ignoring that I was even there, but it didn’t bother me. That was how school had always been. Everyone either hated me or was too scared to talk to me because of the assumption I would be the future Luna. This was fine though.
I fell to the ground, my backpack sliding across the polished hallway floor. I could feel a shooting wave of pain from my wrist, having roughly hit the ground, and I immediately cradled it to my chest. At least it wasn't the worst pain I'd ever felt."Ah shoot, I'm so sorry," a worried, husky voice said.I looked up and saw a boy, maybe sixteen, staring down at me with a hand outstretched. But it wasn’t the fall that now shocked me into silence, but rather his eyes.They were like molten golden orbs, catching