I was helping to find a lost bunny in the darkest corners of the Grey Wood, with no intent on finding trouble, although that’s exactly what I was about to stumble upon.
A witch in her own head was bound to get caught up in detailed imaginings, losing touch with her surroundings.
If you were a royal witch, a princess, like I was – that was even worse, because royal witches were bound to become a target of ransom.
And usually, it was the shifting sly werewolves of the Wolf House of the Grey Wood who caused us the most trouble. It did not help that the Grey Wood itself was the territory no one owned, a huge chunk of the forest which was neutral. Not ours. Not theirs. Although they certainly bloody well acted like it was theirs.
The Grey Wood was meant to separate us from their dens, our House from their House.
Witches and wolves weren’t enemies but we weren’t allies either. We just stayed out of each other’s hair. Royal wolves and royal witches did not communicate. At all.
It wasn’t forbidden either, so that gives you an idea of how much we distasted one another. It was a willing hatred.
We did everything to avoid one another. We just preferred our own kind.
However, I wasn’t worried about Royal Wolves. Nope. It was the young pups that were pissing all over our territory and eating our dearest animals. As far as I could tell, the Grey Wood Royals had other business to attend to, rather than loping through the woods like their young did. As for me, I did not eat meat, salad and soup was enough. We had every vegetable and fruit you could think of in our dip of the Grey Valley.
We also had a lot of mouths to feed.
A Witch’s Brood was a collective, we really were a village when we raised our own. All across the country, children born to be witches and wizards were sent to us. We knew who they were because if you had magical blood, your parents were cursed to die. So, every kid with us was an orphan.
Except for our royal line of the Pisces House and any close family, we were High Witches, and our families blood went on without consequence. Our Pisces Decree was about purity in all actions. It sounded sweet but it was brutal on us emotionally.
We could only mate with someone who was truly in love with us, or they’d be cursed or straight up die after sex. That meant being a royal witch was pretty lonely. You had high expectations but you had to be very careful with who you fell in love with, it had to be reciprocated or they’d be consequences.
And if you tried to have casual sex, that meant death too. Not for us, but the unfortunate partner in that moment. But, you know what wasn’t effected by our royal decree… reading romance. As smutty as you could get. There was no curse on that!
So us witches loved to read.
I had been reading in the garden under my favourite witchwood tree, when Desi ran up to me out of the trees, balling her eyes out. After hearing out her situation, I was now currently searching for a small pet rabbit called Bonbon that the little orphan lost in the forest.
She told me her and the new kids, all under eight, went to the abandoned barn in the Grey Woods, where witchwood grew extensively over everything. It was a very thick tree where the branches brought unnatural darkness.
I loved the dark because I could heal in the shadows, but most witches avoided witchwood trees.
They weren’t necessarily a good omen, they attracted secrets, bad secrets.
The safest place for our Pisces House was in our massive home set between two mountains, in a deep valley, with pine trees around our House. We called it our House but it was really an estate with many services, it was a central location where witches congregated for international meetings once every three years, and mostly, we were just the HQ for all witches, new and old.
I grew up here with my little brother Aiden and my older sister, Sierra. Sierra was in line to be Witch Queen when she had her first kid, and even though she was already mated to her dearest High Wizard lover, Fen, she was still more interested in cursing anyone that dared gossip about her, than dare to bare children just yet. Aiden was much younger, 12 years old and just happy to be running around with his friends throughout the House, going to class and playing after dinner, until they were all asleep in the attic. Every night was a sleep over for the orphans, and although Aiden didn’t have to linger with them because he had his own room, he was best friends with everyone.
I was a very awkward middle child at 24. I did not feel like I was needed, per say, Sierra was in line, Aiden was doted on, and I just did my own thing.
I was glad Desi approached me, she had distracted me about my spiralling thoughts today after I heard my childhood sweetheart had just arrived with his girlfriend this morning. We were no longer friends. Argh, I don’t want to think about Sean. I think about cute little Desie asking for my help instead.
“Rebecca, Howey chased Bonbon away,” Desi had been breathless, “In the Grey Wood.”
Her balled up fists and red cheeks made me jump right into action.
“I promise I’ll find Bonbon, go inside and wash your hands before dinner,” I gave Desi a hug and she squeezed me back so tight my heart broke a little for the small witch.
Desi loved small animals and I helped her heal them in the shadows of the very witchwood she found me resting under.
Today had been rather awful, being stuck in my own head, as my social anxiety mounted before the huge dinner we were going to share with the other visiting Witch House representatives, so this adventure to retrieve Bonbon was a welcome distraction.
Well, it’s welcome until it’s not.
I finally reach the abandoned barn in the neutral zone.
I can see a wolf up ahead.
It’s not any wolf either.
This is royalty, having a meeting in the Grey Wood, on the closest side to our territory.
I watch from the witchwood tree line near the barn as Alpha Orpheus meets a group of business men, who parked their four wheel drive over the weedy path.
I overhear the conversation, understanding the nose of werewolves is extremely potent and it means hiding will not ensure I am actually hidden at all.
The Alpha would have his pack everywhere around here, as security and extra eyes on absolutely everything.
I look around me, and even though I can’t see them, all my senses tell me that I’m being watched.
In the meantime, I listen into the conversation.
“You wanted to mine for the Awstone, I gave you permission and said this was the Well you needed, why did you wander off?” Orpheus speaks through his wolf mouth and I see saliva drip off his enormous fangs as he demands answers to his question. He sounds like a demon as his voice is distorted through his wolf’s throat.
“Our scanners suggested it was closer to the witchwood,” one man in a grey suit comes forward, wanting to show the Alpha his tablet.
Orpheus snarls and the human doesn’t adhere to the warning.
I had been about to approach the barn anyway, to search for Bonbon and to ignore their stupid meeting, but it’s hard to ignore when I see the flash of fangs and the spray of blood seconds later.
With one bite from the Alpha, an arm is dislocated, promptly dismembered and tossed into the trees, where I hear more wolves snarl and pounce for the flesh to eat. I hear their savagery as they fight over the meat.
I quickly stumble back into the trees.
I watch the man fall over screaming as he bleeds to death. Orpheus’ relaxed growl is a low frequency that reverberates through the entire area. It hits me in the chest and my whole body stills completely. Danger. Don’t move.
I freeze and don’t breathe.
I knew some things about wolves, although not much.
But a growl like that was an order to kill the prey.
Whatever was alive and trapped within the immediate area.
I watch as the pack appear from all corners of the forest.
These werewolves were ten times bigger than a normal wolf, especially the Alpha. I hear leaves crunch to my left and I suck in a sharp breath when I feel the air snap by my head. I look sideways at the distinct Wolf Prince, Sub-Alpha Erebon, he had grinned viciously at me and his teeth had slashed the air by my cheek, but he casually saunters forward, his fur like that of a hyena, patchy from fighting, a gold chain around his neck, his version of a crown I guess. He looks like a gangsta wolf.
I gulp down my fear and my anger at the Princes’ mocking bite, including his casual saunter by, as he if couldn’t care less about me when there was a bloody fresh meal right up ahead. Humans tasted better than witches, for a wolves’ taste anyway.
I watch as the pack devours the men before they can run off. I can’t see the bodies as much as I see the fur of the giant wolves, ripping their meal apart in all directions. Scraps of clothes fly out over the grass, and I hear bones snapping and being cracked open for the marrow. All their teeth are fucking massive, and it’s not hard for them to separate off parts of the bodies for themselves.
Alpha Orpheus doesn’t descend into the brawl, he watches while his jaw and teeth drip with crimson blood that he doesn’t lick clean. He is too focused as he carefully watches every action of every member in his royal house.
Argh. Alphas. They were obsessed with order and any slight show of dominance at the wrong time was going to guarantee a beatdown. It’s almost like he wanted to fight his own, waiting for any member to challenge him. Even for a second.
I try not to roll my eyes at the vicious beasts, even though my heart is racing. And of course he’s ignoring me, even though he’ll know a witch is in the tree line.
Fucking arrogant pricks. Argh, I could not stand werewolves, they were obnoxious and violent. Witches were graceful and held our poise. They liked to scare us, and we liked to curse them. Usually, trip wires were enough to keep them out. Unfortunately, we couldn’t set up traps like that in the Grey Wood.
Still, they shouldn’t be this close to our territory, it was disrespectful.
I can hear the wolves snarling as they eat, in the correct order.
I force myself to look away from the pack and focus on the abandoned barn, the red wood was splintering and rotting in places, but it mostly held up in tact. I look at the open door and I see two red eyes on a white fluffy pet rabbit, looking out at me, it’s nose is twitching, the floppy ears flap on it’s head as it bounces toward me, recognising me.
Wolves loved to kill little animals. I had been planning to wait, but now that Bonbon is choosing this ludicrous time to bound toward me, I run toward Desi’s pet with my arms out, my hands reaching for the sweet thing.
“Oh, sweet Bonbon,” I soothe the rabbit as it jumps into my arms and I kiss it on the head, holding the bunny close. I kiss him on the nose and then I cuddle the soft white creature to my chest as I turn, avoiding the pack, to quickly walk back into the Grey Wood.
I take three steps back into the woods before I freeze.
A feeling of pure lethality and coming consequences, chills through my spine, beginning and ending at the nape of my neck. My skin on my neck feels like it’s crawling, begging for me to hide it. I just hunch my shoulders up and wait.
There is silence from the pack, as I feel the ground vibrate with loud thick, heavy paws murdering the grass, claws so sharp I hear them slice into the soil with every foot fall forward. Coming closer.
I wonder why Alpha Orpheus gives a shit, but then I realise I didn’t take into account what I was wearing.
Although I had a white blouse over a floral top with simple black trousers, I had my tiara on. I never wore this tiara, but today I had, just because I felt like it since Sean was visiting today. The tiara designated me as a Royal Pisces Witch, it signified me as target out here with the amethyst stones embedded in the gold spindly band around my brown wavy hair. Aside from the tiara, nothing else said I was a Royal.
I don’t turn right around or Bonbon will freak out, so I only look over my shoulder to see Alpha Orpheus’ naked human body.
He shifted and I didn’t expect it, so my eyes nearly pop out of my head at the man behind me.
I had never seen images of the royal members of their family but I had heard of their coat colours. Shifting to this form was only for their pack to see, no one else. I knew that custom.
Orpheus has a smile on his face, which is insanely handsome. Like every character from every smutty romance I ever read, every day. He is much taller than I would have thought possible for shifters.
I thought they’d be human sized, but he’s seven foot and the bulging muscles of his biceps alone are bigger than my head. He is huge absolutely everywhere. Built like pure power. That’s an Alpha for you. His eyes are a piercing black, while his hair is as black and as thick as his wolf coat, although it’s cut to a few inches. Every part of him is rugged and fucking massive.
“Alpha of Grey Wood,” I say for him, using my prim princess tone, “I hope you have a lovely day, sir!” my voice drips with sarcasm as I turn and move onward, kicking myself internally when I did not wait for him to speak. It’s like I provoked him on purpose.
He doesn’t care about my attitude.
He wants something.
“Give me the rabbit.”
I only take one more step before I freeze again.
My heart races.
“Why?” I ask forward, without looking back at him again.
“You’re in my territory, princess… you won’t leave with what’s mine.”
“Bonbon is mine,” I spin right around now, my eyes fuming – only to be taken aback that he moved so silently toward me, closing the distance. Orpheus is now inches from me, his hand tries to reach for the scruff of the bunny and I twist from him, “STOP,” I yell at him, and my voice echoes, “Back off!” I get angry, I bare my teeth as I see the dark look in his eyes, lit by the smallest amount of amusement. I keep walking backward away from him, “…and this isn’t your territory, it’s ours! I mean, it’s both of ours!”
“Says who, Sierra?” he drawls, guessing my name – wrong.
“I’m not Sierra, I’m Becca,” I snarl at him as he keeps moving toward me, stalking me down as I keep moving backwards. With my statement, he pauses now, interest flaming in his smouldering jet-black eyes.
“Rebecca The Unclaimed?” Alpha Orpheus says this very seriously and I go so red in the face, I don’t know how to respond. Why was I known as ‘Rebecca the Unclaimed’? That was such a Royal Wolf House thing to say. But it’s humiliating to be known for my relationship-status or lack of one.
At least he’s stopped approaching.
I keep shuffling backwards, until my back hits a tree, and then I stop just to breathe and see that his pack has come closer, although they keep enough distance, just watching with bloody jaws and focused eyes.
I have to change tactic.
I close my eyes and breathe in, calming myself, I look back at the Alpha while he’s still in deep thought, at least he was distracted from Bonbon, “Alpha, please,” I change my tone, choosing something more submissive, “Can you let me go?”
I ask as sweetly as I can possibly manage. I had to show some form of submission to appease his natural need for order.
Orpheus’ eyes focus, brought out of his deep thoughts, he looks at my hips.
At my middle?
At my waist.
No, my hips. Yes, my hips.
He half blinks and his nostrils flare, “Those are fucking great childbearing hips… for a witch,” the insult, at the end. Orpheus eyes don’t look at my face, unconcerned about my reaction, now he’s looking at my legs, slowly scanning me over, “You’d breed many –”
“I remind you. Our Royal line is cursed, sir,” I remind him, “Even if you wanted to steal me away from my House… you can’t have me. Or you’ll die.”
“Die?” Alpha Orpheus looks me in the eyes, finally, snapping out of his daze about my body.
“Die,” I repeat, “Stay away from me.”
“You can trespass today for a payment,” Orpheus suggests, quickly, his voice drawling to a lower octave, “Leave the bunny,” there’s something in his eyes, it’s like he wants to rip it to shreds in front of me, just to see me squirm. Or scream.
“Not Bonbon,” I whisper, “Anything else. My crown?” I know it’s pathetic to give away a sacred item, but I won’t have Orpehus kill Desi’s pet rabbit.
Bonbon has already suffered enough stress, I can feel his heartbeat is too fast, and I think he’s in pain, and must have injured his foot already. I look down at Bonbon in concern and I notice a bite mark on his hide leg. A scrape and dried blood. When I hold out his little leg, I see two tiny hairs from a… a black wolf.
Orpheus already tried to eat him! He barely escaped into the barn earlier! I gasp, tears pricking my eyes. This poor bunny could have had a heart attack!
While I’m staring down at Bonbon, realising the injury was from this vile wolf, I’ve been too consumed in my internal worrying to hear or react to the Alpha closing the rest of the distance.
He snarls above my head, agreeing to spare the bunny. But then he reaches up, and instead of taking my tiara, Orpheus places two hands over my cheeks, his hands so large they reach into my hair. He pulls up my face and he leans down and kisses me instead.
I didn’t see it coming, I didn’t see it coming at all! I squeeze Bonbon to me, as his lips mould to mine and I taste smoking witchwood. My lips part against his as I almost kiss him back. The Alpha releases my mouth but not my cheeks as his eyes run over my nose and he focuses on the freckles, suddenly smiling to himself.
As I suck in a breath, I sound like it rattled out of my chest. Like I just died and went to witch heaven. Why did he taste so good?
I blink a few times and see Orpheus’s piercing wolf stare, glaring into my soul with need.
“Come back here tomorrow. I want you… Becca,” he tries to keep a mocking smile from spreading across his face. Instead, he kisses my forehead, “Think on it,” he kisses down my temple, his large teeth scraping across my hair, “I can break curses, little one,” I thought I was comparatively tall at 5ft 9in, but he makes me feel tiny. Tiny enough that being called little one actually made sense here.
“You want me to come back?” I ask, breathless, “What if I don’t?”
Orpheus freezes and he looks furious. The rage at my dare to question him, pours out of him, and I smell rain in the air, almost like he’s attracting a storm.
Orpheus mouth finds mine again, for one last kiss.
He doesn’t really kiss me though. He just wants to breathe into me.
“You’ll die, witch, if you don’t.”
He growls against my lips and then he lets me go, turning and disappearing under a giant shadow, a low cloud appearing from above.
Did the Alpha just threaten my life?
I watch his pack disappear and I turn, only realising as my thighs move together, that I feel wet… very fucking wet. What’s wrong with me? He just said I’d die.
It felt like he meant so much by it.
Die because he reviles witches? Die because I refused him? Die because I had already warned him, that he can’t mate with me, or dare to try, because he will die. So he was just trying to say, no, I would? My head spins.
Or maybe he meant… who knows what an Alpha means.
Alphas were dominant. They had to dominate everything. I was on his ‘territory’, so he was just ‘showing me’ my place. It was an instinct he couldn’t help.
And you know what I could help?
Not coming back here tomorrow.
I turn with Bonbon, still shivering against me.
I powerwalk back and my skin burns with a warning of a premonition.
Although I was mostly a healing witch, I could sense major shifts in my destiny. I had sensed when my childhood crush would reject my advances. It had broken my heart when I was sixteen.
Eight years on, I’ll never forget that heart break when Sean said he didn’t feel about me that way.
Right now, I was getting a familiar feeling, crawling through my skin.
Change was coming.
It was coming tomorrow.
This story was brought to life for a very special reason! Rebecca, one of my dear readers, won the giveaway I was doing on IG @ authorcswallow. The prize was a story where she is the main character. This is a brand-new series and I am already obsessed with writing it. I will probably do more giveaways in future where I write your dream story.
Please rate/review, comment, vote! Let me know what you think! Can't wait to write more! Thanks for reading, everyone!! xoxoxo
Psst, Chapter 2 and Chapter 3 are up now ;) so read on!