A voice wakes me. Wakes me from my dream of Tanner.

I open my eyes.

I am lying curled up on the cold, hard ground of the prison cell.

"Hello?" a voice says again.

I sit up. Look around.

I realize I am not alone.

There is another girl here.

A young girl.

She is sitting on the dirt next to me, resting against the back wall of the cell.

She holds a bowl in her hands.

She is offering me some food.

"Hello," I say.

She looks at me with her big eyes. There's an empty bowl beside her. And another, for me.

From the smell of it, it's made of vegetables.

"Are you hungry?" she asks.


She hands me the bowl.

I look in the bowl.

It's a stew of some kind.

I take a spoonful of stew and eat it.

It's gritty and bland.

But it's food.

"Where did you get this?" I ask her.

"The servants brought it this morning," she says, gazing at me with wide eyes.

"Where did you come from?" I ask.

She pauses.

"I'm... I'm not sure," she says.

I look at her more closely.

"What's your name?" I ask.

She looks at me.

Her eyes are sad.

"I don't remember," she says.

I notice that the girl is watching me as I eat the stew.

"Would you like some?" I ask.

She nods.

I hold out the bowl.

She carefully takes a spoonful and eats.

When she finishes, she hands me the bowl.

"What's your name?" I ask the girl.

She looks at me.

"I don't remember," she says.

"What do you remember?" I ask.

"I remember being in a cage," she says. "I remember being outside the Alpha's cabin. And I remember the Alpha came and put me in this cage."

"What do you remember from before that?" I ask.

"I remember..." She pauses.

"What?" I ask.

"I remember running away from home," she says.

"Why did you run away?" I ask.

"I don't know," she says.

I look at the girl. I realize the Lucius captured her.

Ha he captured many girls?

My stomach churns.

I feel my throat tightening.

I feel my heart pounding.

My soon to be husband, my Alpha, is a monster.

"Wait, I remember something," the girl says.


"Where I come from, there is a plant. It grows beside the river. The elders take when it is their time to die. It causes a painless death."

I look at her and frown. "Why are you telling me this?"

She smiles, sadly. "Because I remember I ate it. When I was captured."

I gasp. "You're dying."

She smiles again. "Yes. But it is okay. It does not hurt."

She curls into a ball.

She takes a final breath.

And then she is silent.

I jump to my feet.

Pound the door.

"Help!" I cry. "This girl needs help!"

The guards come.

But there is nothing they can do.

She is dead.

I slump to the floor, desolate.

I remember what she told me.

A plant that kills.

I remember Tanner in my dream.

"You must avenge my death. You must kill the alpha."

It is a sign.

If I can find the plant, I can use it to kill Lucius.

The guards turn to leave.

"Wait," I say.

I stand.

The food has given me strength.

"I am ready to see my alpha."

The guards look at me.

"I want to talk to him," I say. "Now."

I won't be able to find the plant that will kill Lucius if I am stuck inside the cell.

I must pretend to love him.

I will tell him I will marry him.

To gain his trust.

He will never let me out otherwise.

The plant will be difficult to find.

But I will find it.

And then I will kill Lucius.

It will be easy to do.

I will have to touch him.

To hug him.

It will hurt me, of course.

But I will do it to avenge Tanner, to avenge this poor dead girl.

To avenge myself.

The guards take me by the arms, tightly.

"Come with us."

They haul me out the cell.

We leave the dead girl behind.

I am marched along the corridor.

Back into the grand hall.

And up the staircase to the bed chamber.

The guards knock on a door.

"Alpha! We have brought you the girl!"

A voice comes from the bed chamber. "The girl?"

"Kayla," they say. "She is ready for you."

There is a short pause. Then I hear Lucius says in a sinister tone, "Excellent."

I gulp.

His footsteps approach the door.

A door opens.

Lucius appears. He is dressed in a simple green robe. He eyes me hungrily. Like he has won.

"Leave us," he says to the guards.

The guards bow and leave.

"I see you have come to your senses," he says to me. He smiles at me. "Come inside."

I swallow my fear and step into the bed chamber.

The room is empty.

There is a bed.

And a fire pit that is burning brightly.

Lucius closes the door behind us.

I turn to face him.

He steps closer.

He grabs me by the arms.

He smiles. "You are beautiful," he says. "And you are going to be mine."

I stare at him.

He would be an attractive man if his eyes weren't so cold.

He is a monster.

I go to say something.

But he touches my lips with his finger.

"I know what you are going to say, my dear. You are going to say that you are sorry and you were mistaken."

He takes my chin in his fingers.

"But let me tell you something. You are not mistaken about who I am."

"I will marry you," I say, boldly.

He stares at me.

"You will marry me?" he says.

"Yes. I will marry you," I say.

"Why?" he asks.

"Because of your love," I say. "I have realized that this is the best choice for me."

He laughs. "I don't love you," he says. "I own you."

His lips curl into a snarl.

He steps closer.

He grabs me by the arms.

He smiles. "You are beautiful," he says. "And you are going to be mine."

I stare at him.

He kisses me.

His lips are cold and cruel.

"You will make a good wife," he says.

"I will obey you," I say.

"Yes," he says. "You will obey me. You will obey me completely."

He kisses me again.

I feel his cold hands on my body.

His lips on mine.

He kisses me harder.

Crushes me between him and the wall.

"Stop," I say.

"What's wrong?" he asks.

"We are not married," I say.

He smirks. Moves back. "I see. You are pure."

"Yes," I say.

"I don't want to ruin you," he says. He smiles, devilishly. "I wait until after the wedding. Then I will have you."

I cringe.

I will have to pretend to like him.

Not resist.

"Once I have made you my wife," he says, "you must obey me."

"I will," I say.

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