“Keep them out of my fucking sight!” I roared to my Beta as I kicked away one of the disfigured children that had come running to greet me. I was in no mood for it.
My panther was screaming at me to go and finish the job we had started on our mate. She had been defiled. Pupped by another. What good was she to us now? It was my weak human side that was heartbroken. She had chosen someone else over me. I had felt the same pull to her a year ago that she had felt towards me, and she had still chosen to live her life with that wolf rather than live as my queen and rule over the army I was creating.
I had been working on these for years. Decades of researching medical books, looking up myths and folklore as I dedicated my entire youth to finding out what would be the best way to achieve my goals.
I had finally found something that I thought would work - I was taking two shifter species and splicing them together. A bear’s heart inside a wolf’s body. A panther’s brain inside a cougar. It hadn’t worked the way I had wanted, and so I had made some recent changes.
We had begun over the last couple of decades to kidnap human babies. Sometimes we would murder the parents to make sure they never went searching for us, other times we would leave them - my warriors got a perverse pleasure out of hearing the parents cry for their children’s return every night or manipulating the mothers into bed in exchange for their offspring back. Idiotic people. They wouldn’t want them back if they realised what we had done to them.
We would pump them full of enough drugs to make sure they didn’t feel a thing, although it was not like me to show such mercy, but their pathetic wailing grated on my nerves and I had killed more than one due to this. Once they were knocked out, we would begin to inject any form of DNA from a shifter into them. Owen had provided us with more than enough blood to keep this going for a while.
The babies would of course then go through the change to becoming a wolf and this was never a problem. We had found that so long as they were over the age of eighteen months and pumped full of enough pain killers, the process usually went smoothly. The issues came when we tried to add another animal into the mix.
I was left with the abominations currently roaming my halls. Some were stuck mid-shift. A grotesque mix of both panther and wolf, unable to complete the shift or reverse it back. Some had completed the shift and were a complete hybrid but those usually died soon after. Those that survived were absolutely useless to me as their animals raged against each other until they were either driven mad or killed.
I had even begun to take other known hybrids, buying them from parents before they had the chance to be killed as most hybrids were. It never ceased to amaze me that shifters would kill off their hybrids in infancy rather than appreciating the gift that they had been given - what did they think was going to happen when two different species mates together? The chances of getting just one animal were so low it hardly seemed worth it just to murder them.
That’s where I came in. So many shifters were weak when it came to doing what needed to be done, and many found that they could not kill their own children after all. I would buy these children and continue my experiments.
None of it had worked. All of them were either one animal or the other and whenever I tried to make them both they were turned into an abomination like the rest.
I was dumbfounded. I had the math right. I knew the science. There was no reason why it shouldn’t be successful. The last woman I had experimented on had told me this was the will of the Gods and I stood no chance against their powers.
Which was why Sophia had appealed to me so much. I knew what she was from the very beginning. She was the only person in the world who was not only able to be both forms; she was also capable of being a unique mix of both of her animals that remained beautiful and perfect. Her animals lived harmoniously together.
I had always wanted to reproduce with her. Had always planned on forcing her to bear my offspring and ensure that I had at least one successful hybrid in my army. I hadn’t wanted to be mated with her. I couldn’t think of anything worse than being mated to one woman for the rest of my life, of having to explain my actions to someone, or have them whisper words of love and adoration to me.
Yet now, that’s all I wanted. Mainly because I found myself mated to someone that already had a mate. It was a power show. I wanted her simply because he had her.
I shook thoughts of Sophia from my mind - already my panther had sprung back to life and was yapping his anger in my mind, and instead I thought of the unexpected surprise I had brought home with me
She may be my new ticket to creating the army that I want.
She was born after Khaos had already been killed and brought back to life. She was unique in her own way, just as much as Sophia. She should never have been born had fate been allowed to play out the way it should have, but other beings had messed with the fate’s domain and they brought Khaos back. Add this to the fact that Antheia was the child of two of the strongest wolves that the shifter world had known, it was highly likely that she would be more powerful than she ever dreamed.
I smirked to myself as I thought of all the tests I could perform on her. My recruiters had been busy in my absence and there was currently a huge carcass strung up in the basement, its blood draining into vials to collect for just such an occasion.
There was only one way to find out, I thought to myself, standing up to head towards the cell where I had instructed my warriors to leave the young girl.
As I entered the dungeons, the smell of death and rotting flesh hit me hard enough to have my nose wrinkling. This was not a pleasant place to be, and everyone here knew that if you were forced down here, you would not be returning.
I had long ago lost count of the number of people that had been killed down here - or the different ways that we had come up with to kill them. I was easily bored. Simply killing someone no longer held any appeal. I had to make them suffer in the most degrading, humiliating, and painful ways before I would show them mercy and deliver that final blow.
“Hey Jeremy,” a young voice called out from the side of me.
“It’s Alpha to you, little Antheia,” I replied, turning towards her with a bored expression.
“As I said, Jeremy,” I gritted my teeth and let it slide as she stressed my name, “You know my father is going to kill you for this, don’t you?”
“Oh, really? What makes you think that? He had his opportunity, he failed, I fail to believe that he will be successful on his next attempt either. I wouldn’t bet on that thought if I were you.”
“You clearly have no idea of who my father is, or you have chosen to ignore the stories that are whispered about him. Either way, I wouldn’t bet on that thought if I were you,” she mimicked, having the audacity to blow me a kiss when she was finished and turned her back on me.
I didn’t know whether to be impressed at her lack of respect or to blow the roof in anger. All I knew was that a twelve-year-old had all but dismissed me and put me in my place and for that, she would have to be punished.
“Anastasia?” I called pleasantly, knowing she was watching the entire exchange. She hadn’t moved from her place in the shadows since we had brought Antheia here in the middle of the night. “Have you had the pleasure of meeting Antheia?” I asked once she had reached my side.
“I don’t believe I have, Alpha. Although I do recognise her scent as belonging to Violet, am I right?”
I didn’t answer. Instead, I watched as Antheia turned in curiosity and met her gaze with a smirk. “Indeed, you are,” I drawled, keeping my eyes connected with the young child. “Antheia, this is Anastasia. Your parents and Anastasia go way back, she—”
“I know who Anastasia is, thank you. My uncle told me all about her, she is his Beta after all. Where is your mate?” She asked, scowling at the older woman in front of her.
Pain flashed in Anastasia’s eyes for a moment before she attempted to disguise it by baring her teeth at Antheia. “My mate,” she spat. “Decided to remain at the Atlantis pack, spitting all over his son’s memory by staying loyal to the family that protected his murderer.”
“Yeah, well, from what I’ve heard, Logan really should have known better. He was asking to be killed. How many times was my mother supposed to reject his pathetic ass? If you ask me, my dad went easy on him. How much of a moron do you have to be to mess with someone else’s mate?”
I barely had time to grab Anastasia as she flew at the cage, her arms pushing through the gaps between the bars to try to grab Antheia. Not that she was bothered. She calmly stepped out of Anastasia’s reach and stood with her arms folded and a shit-eating grin across her face.
“Get the fuck off me!” Anastasia roared, barely containing her wolf as the anger coursed through her.
Antheia laughed. “I wonder if that’s what Logan said before my dad ripped his head clean from his shoulders? Shame you didn’t care enough about your son to hold him back like Jeremy is doing for you - maybe he would still be here today. Think about that.” She swung around and jumped on the small, dirty bed in the corner of the cage, crossing her legs and staring at us with a proud look, her lips twisted into a sarcastic grin.
I shoved Anastasia towards the doors and instructed the guards to secure her in her room for the night. “You’re going to get yourself killed with that smart mouth,” I said to Antheia as I approached her cell once more. “I wouldn’t tolerate such disrespect. Remember that. There’s no one to hold me back and I know where the keys are to this door,” I shook the doors of her cell as I spoke, giving her an evil glare.
My mouth almost fell open as she simply shrugged her shoulders and leaned back on her arms to stare at the ceiling. “I doubt it,” she murmured.
“Excuse me?!” I spluttered, feeling my rage growing.
She tipped her head forward and met my eyes with a level gaze. “I said, ‘I doubt it’. If you wanted to kill me, you would have done it already. Besides, are you forgetting that my parents are the two remaining wolves in the world with not only the knowledge, but the experience, of bringing someone back from the dead? My dad saw the entire thing as Hades released his body. Kill me and watch the Moon Goddess come for you when she realises what you’ve done when my parents demand me back.”
“It doesn’t work that way—” I started.
“Doesn’t it? Try it. The Moon Goddess visited me many times over the years. Do you know any other pup that gets that treatment? She swore her protection the day I was born. I’m not your average wolf, Jeremy. This time, you really have bitten off more than you can chew, and dear Goddess, I hope you choke on it.” She paused for a moment, scenting the air. “Do you know, one of my abilities is a heightened sense of smell that trumps all the other wolves in my pack, and I’ve never been more thankful to have been blessed in such a way. Is that nervous sweating that’s suddenly sprouted over your body? It’s not warm in here,” she blinked as she spread her arms wide, looking the picture of innocence. “So I fail to see any other reason why you would be sweating so profusely. As I said, Jeremy, try it. I dare you.” She demanded, throwing me a nasty scowl of her own.
I’m going to kill this little bitch. If it’s the last thing I ever do, I will taste her blood in my mouth as she takes her last breath, I raged to myself, fumbling for the keys to her door. She didn’t move a muscle. There was no tensing in fear, no growing nerves, nothing. She remained exactly where she was and watched me with that same infuriating, bored expression that had me boiling in anger.
“Alpha,” a voice boomed from the door, causing me to jump and drop the keys. I heard Antheia laugh and cursed out loud. It didn’t escape my notice that she didn’t jump.
“Alpha, I’m sorry to interrupt. There’s someone here who is demanding to see you - she’s saying that she’s your mate.”
Sweet Sophia. She was here. I inhaled deeply and caught her amazing scent as it wafted through the now open door.
“Saved in the nick of time,” I said to Antheia, pocketing the key once more.
“Indeed, you were,” she shot back, mimicking my earlier words.
Of course the little bitch had to have the last word. God’s, I hated that child.
I slammed the door shut and followed my nose as I hunted down my mate.
I exhaled a deep breath as I flopped down on the bed, my body beginning to shake with the adrenaline that had been racing through me.
It had taken every ounce of concentration that I owned to disguise my scent and make sure that Jeremy had never picked up on my fear. My dad had taught me long ago that once an enemy sensed a weakness, they will use it against you any way that they can. I refused to let Jeremy have the upper hand.
I had no idea if what I was saying was correct. My parents had given me information about how my dad had been brought back to life - they never hid anything from either Eros or myself, but I had no idea if they knew how to do this or if the Moon Goddess would even grant them my soul back. It had worked, though. Jeremy was growing nervous at the thought of going up against the Gods, and I had gained some extra time now that he was distracted by his guest.
Now all I had to do was figure out how to get the Hell out of here or find a way to let my dad know where I was.