For as long as I could remember, everyone called me Plain Jane. It wasn’t my name, but I had long since forgotten my real name.
This was supposed to be my third, and last, reaping. If no one picked me this time around, I’d either be sent away to live the life of a rogue, or I’d be killed. The final decision lay with Alpha George.
In rare cases, if Alpha George thought the rejected girls would be of any use, he’d employ them in the kitchens or as a trainer for the younger girls. Sometimes, he took the prettier girls as his breeders, but most of the time he killed them. And in not such a nice way.
He wasn’t a good guy, our Alpha, and he enjoyed a bit of torture. Or so I’ve been told. I didn’t actually know if there was any truth to the rumours, because we weren’t allowed to leave the red palace until we were picked or kicked out, and we had no contact with any men until the day of the reaping.
“Good morning ladies,” our dorm mistress chirped and banged the door to our room open. “Big day. Get up. Get up.”
The room exploded with chatter and laughter. Most of these girls wouldn’t be alive this time next year, but it was almost as if they pretended the danger didn’t exist. They couldn’t wait for the buyers’ arrival, and couldn’t wait to see who bought them. All of them thought they’d be the exception. They’d be some Alpha’s rare, one true mate, or the breeder that finally broke the cycle of death and survived childbirth.
I had long since given up on such fanciful notions. I knew my fate. It was death or death. If we were picked, we’d live a life of misery as some male wolf’s breeder. We’d die in the process of giving birth, there was just no way around that, and the next year the wolf would be back here to pick another girl for death. I’ve seen the same wolves come and go for many years now.
The only ones that had any chance of survival were the most beautiful girls. The richest wolves, usually Alphas and Betas, used them as their trophies, showing them off to other high-ranking wolves. They cost a lot of money and they were nothing more than a status symbol…but at least they got to live.
I wasn’t one of the pretty girls. I was Plain Jane. I was so unremarkable that even the Gammas and handful of Omegas that managed to scrape enough money together to buy a cheaper girl, passed me by.
For me, there was no upside to being a Lunar virgin. My odds of surviving this day were low. There was no way Alpha George would use me as a bed slave or a breeder. I wasn’t strong or beautiful enough, and I was a hopeless housekeeper. Mistress Katrina told me so repeatedly.
Sighing, I waited until the last of the tittering girls left before I rolled out of my bunk and wiped my mousy hair out of my face. “Plain Jane,” Mistress Katrina said. “Last chance today.”
“Yes, mistress,” I mumbled.
The only good thing about being a Lunar virgin was that we weren’t abused. At least not physically. The buyers wanted an unmarked virgin in pristine condition.
It was better than what the orphan boys had to endure, and miles better than the abuse the unwanted girls in the adjoining orphanage had to endure. Those wretched creatures had no chance at all. Unwanted and forgotten, they were used as slaves until they died. Usually before they saw their eighteenth birthdays.
The girls that were eligible for this year’s reaping jostled around in the bathroom, trying to get to the warm water first. I didn’t even try. I did the first time, when I had a little bit of hope, but on that particular occasion, one of the most beautiful girls pushed me out of the way and into a wall. Two weeks later, my back still hurt where she slammed me against the tiles. “Do you think you stand a chance?” she snarled in my face. “You’ll die in the Alpha’s torture chamber, Plain Jane.”
Her name was Katja, and her purchase price was astronomical. I was happy to see her go. She was often cruel just for the sake of it, and everyone except for her clique of stars hated her guts. As far as I knew, she was still alive, living a life of luxury as her Alpha’s trophy.
She-wolves born into packs were luckier than we were. Their mates loved them and took such good care of them that it was difficult to believe those same wolves could be so cruel and callous with the she-wolves that bore their children. Maybe it was easier for them to treat us with such cruelty. Easier to deal with the fact that they caused an innocent girl’s death.
They never bred their mates. Breeding was our job. Well, for some of us. It clearly wasn’t in the cards for me.
No one knew exactly when or why it started, but at some point in our history, childbirth started killing she-wolves. Pregnancy was a one-hundred-percent fatal condition. No matter what they tried, the she-wolves died. That’s when our Lycan overlords came up with their brilliant solution of Lunar virgins. Orphaned girls, children of rogues and outcasts, would be used to bear children for them, instead of their treasured mates.
I was born of a breeder, I’m sure of it because I can vaguely remember a woman I called Mommy. I can’t remember what happened to her though. My memories of my life before coming to the red palace were vague.
I sat on the bench in the steamy washroom, trying my best to ignore the excitement, and inhaling the cacophony of scents. Apricot and lavender and rose and Goddess knew what else. Each girl had her own soaps and perfumes. It was the only time Mistress Katrina would spend any extra money on us; after all, we were worth our weight in gold, and anything to make that sale. The expense of a nice smelling soap or bit of perfume was worth it.
I had none this year. I was no longer worth the investment. It was just as well. Last year, the shampoo made my head itch and gave me a terrible rash. “Jane?” Gloria, my only friend, asked. “Are you okay?”
“Yes, I suppose so.”
“Why aren’t you washing?”
“I’ll wait until everyone else is done.”
This was Gloria’s first year. She turned seventeen a few days ago, just in time for this year’s reaping. Today was my twentieth birthday. It’s hard to believe I made it this far. For all intents and purposes, I should have been dead already. “Don’t you have soap or anything special?”
“Not this year.”
“Here,” Gloria whispered and leaned in closer. She pushed a little green bottle into my hand. “You can use the last of my shampoo. Happy birthday.”
I gave her a sad smile. Gloria was excited. She had no idea what was waiting for her. Or maybe, like the rest, she did and just decided to ignore reality. She was pretty, and I was sure someone would pick her, but that only meant she’d be dead a few months from now.
I stared at the bottle in my hand. What was the point? Who was I trying to impress? I had no redeeming qualities that I was aware of, and this year, like the two years prior, the buyers wouldn’t even look at me twice. Mistress Katrina knew it as well as I did, which is why she didn’t ask me if I wanted anything special for this year’s reaping.
After everyone else had left, I peeled the plain, white nightgown over my head and dumped it in the clothesbasket with the rest of the girls’ clothes. The nightgowns were made from cheap material. The were way too thin and itched all the time, no matter how much softener we used. Most girls lay in bed at night, scratching their skins to ribbons because of the nightgowns. At least I’d never have to wear the damned thing ever again.
Taking my little bottle of shampoo into the cubicle with me, I stood under the lukewarm spray. It would have been nice if there were some warm water left. I’d have liked one last, hot shower.
I wrapped a threadbare towel around myself and rushed back to the room I shared with five other girls. They were already partially dressed in their pretty, new outfits. The dress waiting for me was a simple, white slip with thin straps that fell to just above my knees.
Gloria was already dressed in a purple, skin-tight dress that reached just below her knees. The outfit showed off her spectacular body, and full, womanly curves. Her auburn hair tumbled in perfect, shiny curls down to her waist, and her emerald eyes sparkled with excitement. There was a good chance that she’d be a trophy. Not ideal, but better than the alternative.
For such a beautiful girl, Gloria was humble and sweet, unlike some of the others that treated me with the utmost contempt. “Here,” she said and gave me her roll-on. “It’s all I have. Sorry.”
Well, at least I wouldn’t smell like onion soup. “Thank you, Gloria,” I said and hugged her. “I suppose we’ll never see each other again after today.”
“Don’t say that. You never know. I might not get picked.”
“You will, but even if you’re not…I won’t get picked, and I’ll be taken to the Alpha tonight.”
“He might decide to keep you here.”
“No, he won’t,” one of the girls said. “I overheard Mistress Katrina earlier. You’re headed for the torture chamber. Well, whatever, we’re all good for something right?” The girl cackles. “Some more than others.”
“I don’t know why you’re so smug about it,” I said in a moment of uncharacteristic boldness. “In a few months, you’ll be dead too. I heard it hurts…giving birth. It lasts for days and days while the baby claws its way out of your body.” I had no idea if that were true or not, but I wanted to get that little sting in, just once, before I died.
“Don’t pay attention to her,” Gloria said. “They’re all a bunch of bitches. Like we’re not in the same boat rowing up the same river of shit. Come, I’ll help you to get dressed and do your hair up a little.”
Everything the maids laid out for me today was simple. The bra and panty were as simple and white as the dress and the matching sandals. I wondered if Mistress Katrina was going for a virginal look in a last-ditch effort to appeal to a wolf who liked that kind of thing, or if she had just given up hope completely.
Gloria did up the straps of my dress and sat me in front of the unoccupied dresser. She combed my pin-straight, mousy hair until it sparkled and tied it up in a prim bum with a white ribbon. It completed the innocent look, but all the white made me look washed out and even paler than usual.
Well, we can’t have everything. I did look a little more presentable at least. “Girls,” Mistress Katrina snapped from the doorway. “Today is not the day to be late. The buyers are gathering. It’s time for the viewing.”
We rushed down the corridor to the reception halls at the back of the red palace where the buyers were no doubt already waiting. They called this place the red palace because of the red bricks used to build it. From the outside, when the sun caught the building just right, it glowed crimson. It was a beautiful sight. It was probably the only thing I’d miss when I was gone. That, and Gloria. We were never allowed to leave our dorms. We lived, ate, and worked with the same group of girls every day. Each dorm had its own little garden where we grew our own food and spent our summer afternoons. There wasn’t much to do at the palace. We weren’t allowed an education, apart from being trained in the arts of pleasure, and later, childbirth. Nor were we allowed to watch television or movies, since the overseers thought it would corrupt us. All we had was each other, and that never lasted long. The girls quickly figured out what was what, that some girls were preferred over the others, tha
Roman's POV I sighed heavily as I got out of my limousine and looked up at the red palace. I hadn’t been here for more than a hundred years. I despised this place, despised what we’d had to do to prevent our species from going extinct. I hated being reminded of the decision the Lycans had made three centuries ago. I was against it, but at the time, I saw no other way out. In the beginning, werewolves, were the offspring of the immortal Lycans and their human mates. A werewolf pregnancy was always fatal for the human woman, and we outlawed such unions because of it, but then our women started dying too. The pups almost always survived, but their mothers never did, and fairly soon we started to run out of she-wolves. We had to do something. And that something was the red palace. A place where we kept our Lunar virgins, which was just a more palatable description for breeders, until they were old enough to produce heirs. We kept them here for their own safety, away from brutes and rap
I stared at the wolves surrounding me, all of them kneeling before the three Lycans, baring their throats in submission. I’ve only ever heard about Lycans, but never actually saw one. From what Mistress Katrina told us, they kept to themselves and lived in their ancient castle, from where they ruled the rest of us. The three massive men were as different as they were alike. All three of them were taller than even Alpha George, with broad shoulders and powerful auras. I figured the tallest of the Lycans, a man with raven black hair that was slightly too long and piercing blue eyes, was our king. Every feature was perfect, from the angular cut of his jaw to the straight nose, full lips, and high cheekbones. And for some reason or the other, I found myself wondering what it would feel like to have his massive, perfect hands on my body, caressing my skin. I shuddered at the thought and violently shook my head as if that would help to clear out the unwelcome images that suddenly invaded
Roman's POVGabriel tossed Jane over his shoulder, and Connell disappeared back into the grand hall to retrieve Gloria. I stared death at Alpha George. “When I come back here, and I will be back, I expect to see an improvement, or there will be consequences.”“Yes, King,” the Alpha muttered.Most werewolves hated us, but they feared and respected us at the same time. It was an unpleasant dichotomy we all had to live with. They couldn’t kill us, but Lycans could kill them with a mere thought, and very few wolves had the courage to test our patience.I nodded at Gabriel, who spun around and marched out of the reception room with Jane who hung over his shoulder like a dead deer. Connell joined us a moment later, his hand on Gloria’s elbow, guiding her to the car. “By all means, send me a bill for the cost of the girls,” I say. “I will compensate you.”“Yes, King.”I turned on my heel and followed my two advisors out of the red palace and into our waiting limousine. Gabriel waited until I
It was night by the time we pulled up to the massive, ornate wrought iron gates. I couldn’t see much, apart from the beautiful gates with their swirly patterns at the top, and the thick iron bars below, but from what I could tell, the stone wall surrounding the castle was at least three metres high. We stopped twice on our way here, mostly so Gloria and I could use the restroom. Every time, Connell escorted us inside while the king waited in the car. All I could think was that the man must have had a bladder of steel. The drive from the gates to the castle took ten minutes over a cobbled driveway that vibrated the seats, which made my numb butt cheeks tingle and buzz. I squirmed in my seat, trying to ease my discomfort. The king suddenly looked up at straight at me. He shook his head as if he couldn't believe I existed, then looked out the window again. At long last, the limousine pulled up to the castle. I fell out of the car, shaking my legs, trying to get the circulation going, w
I stared at the stunning brunette in sheer disbelief. Why was she going off on me as if I had any say in the matter? “I didn’t…I didn’t choose this,” I tried to explain, but my feeble excuse fell on deaf ears. “What did you do? Did you use some kind of magic? A potion? Tell me, bitch.” “I didn’t do anything.” But it was weird, I had to give her that. I wasn’t king material, anyone with eyes could see that. The brunette’s nose turned up like she was smelling something bad. “What does he see in you anyway?” Since I didn’t know the answer to that question, I didn’t answer her. “Hm.” She sniffed loudly. “You’ve come to a dangerous place. I’d be careful if I were you.” “Harriet,” Kenneth said from the hallway. “You were told to leave this wing.” I expected Harriet to argue, but she turned around and ran down the corridor, leaving me alone with Kenneth. I took a step away from the wolf. Always that reminder that I was vulnerable, that males only use us for one thing. “The king sent fo
I wanted to tell him to stop. I saw his claws earlier, saw how easily he punched into the old Omega’s chest – no human can do anything like that -- but the words wouldn’t come. A steel hand gripped my throat and tightened around my vocal cords, making it impossible to speak. King Roman hooked his thumbs around the top of joggers and bent over, pulling his trousers down as he did. He lifted his head and looked at me through the fringe of hair that flopped over his eyes. He was absolutely breathtaking. Until he came along a few hours ago, I never gave men much thought. In my head, they were nothing more than brutish rapists, not handsome, arrogant, yet somehow also charming, kings with a slight anger management problem. My overtaxed heart started beating in my throat, and blood rushed through my veins so fast that I was dizzy from it. Blinking at him, I took in large gulps of air in an effort to slow down my galloping heart. The king straightened and threw his trousers on the couch n
Roman’s POV I couldn’t sleep. Jane’s image haunted me. When I touched the rune on her neck, I almost lost my damn mind. I sent her away soon after. I was too afraid of myself and my reactions to her, afraid that I’d get swept up by the bond, that I’d forget myself and do things to her. She was too pure, too innocent, for a wolf like me. I wish I knew what the Goddess was thinking, sending me such a mate. But Jane was the one she gave me, and there would be no denying her. There wasn’t another one out there waiting for me, and I had no plans on waiting another six hundred years for my second chance. When the grandfather clock in the hallway outside my bedroom chimed five times, I gave up on my battle with sleep and got up. After a long shower, I returned to the living area that also served as my private office where I did my work by the window that overlooked the garden Lilly loved so much. I couldn’t actually bring myself to look at it, let alone go down there, but it was enough