Aiden could promise all day long that he was going to take me away from this cruel life. There was still that part of me that didn’t believe him. Perhaps it was after years of being torn down and disappointed with life, but I didn’t have much hope.
Everything I knew about Lycans before meeting him made me think that he would use me and leave with the other Alphas. Yet the instincts of my wolf were screaming that this was the one. He was going to be our mate and we were going to belong to him.
It was all too good to be true.
While the sex was phenomenal, and I never expected to feel anything like this in my entire life, I didn’t want to get my hopes up.
This life was a prison, and my brain couldn’t wrap around the thought of leaving. To get away, explore a new world, and have someone in my life who cherished me. It seemed like a fairytale.
I couldn’t put all my hope in this moment with Aiden. Without a doubt, it would break my heart if I got too excited and at the end of the weekend, he went back to the north without me.
“He knows who you are now, Elle.” I talked to myself, sitting at my vanity and idly brushing through my hair. “Does that make a difference?”
Aiden knew I was Rhett’s stepdaughter, and I had no idea when he found out, or if he knew the entire time. I didn’t think he did. He had been too persistent in getting me to tell him my name.
Thinking of the things he did to me that caused my lips to loosen and spill the truth made me blush.
What I couldn’t get past now was that he made a point of saying he would see me at the dinner tonight. Rhett told me to stay hidden and unless told otherwise I would remain in my room. No way would I just show up and risk my stepfather’s wrath like that.
As if thinking about a person could summon them, there was a soft knocking on my door that made my blood turn into ice in my veins. I swallowed hard, recognizing that knock.
The mechanism to lock my door was broken after Aiden hunted me down earlier. So, when that knob began to turn without my permission to enter, the door opened.
“Elle?” Rhett’s voice made my gut sink as he welcomed himself into my room. “Ah, there you are.”
Slowly, for fear of moving too quickly around him, I rose to my feet and turned away from my vanity.
“Look at this. It’s nice to see you where I told you to remain for the weekend.” His brows were pinched together, and he stepped forward with his hands behind his back.
Something was screaming in my mind. The way he approached, his posture, and the cruelty in his eyes. It all made me start to shut down.
All the lightness in my chest sunk down into my gut and locked itself away. I was left with a pit of nothing behind my ribs as I lowered my head for the Alpha.
“This is where I told you to stay all weekend, right?” He wasn’t much taller than me, but Rhett liked to use his power as an Alpha to intimate any chance he got.
That feral power felt like claws on my skin as he got into my personal space. Even the room felt darker despite the open curtains as Rhett stood in front of me. His chest heaving with barely contained rage.
My mind was racing with untold possibilities of why I was in trouble now. Images of Aiden flashed behind my eyes, and I felt my throat constrict.
“Yes, Alpha.” My voice wavered, and my tongue felt dry.
I was looking at the floor when it happened. Yet somehow, I knew it was coming. The back of Rhett’s hand slapped across my face, and the force of it sent me to my knees.
A cry slipped from my lips and the side of my face was stinging and throbbing. I could taste blood in my mouth from the cut on my lips caused by one of Rhett’s rings.
“This is exactly why I didn’t want you seen. Because you don’t fucking listen and you don’t do as your told.” He dropped something on the ground, and I looked to see my sundress that I’d hidden in the garden. “You went running the night of the full moon. Did anyone see you?”
“No!” Tears streamed down my face. “I’m sorry.”
“I don’t want to hear it!” He bellowed. “If we didn’t have guests, I’d make you shift and live in the woods for a week since you want to be out there so bad.”
Looking up, I saw Rhett rub his hands over his head and take a shaky breath as he stared at the wall behind me. Silence fell and the throbbing on the side of my face was getting worse.
“One of the Alphas apparently did his research before coming this weekend and knows about you. If I’m going to look good in front of him, I have to bite the bullet and demand your appearance at dinner tonight.” Alpha Prescott crouched down and got on my level. He gripped my chin and pulled my face closer, squeezing my aching jaw. “If only you were more obedient like your mother was.”
Rhett threw me down as he let go of my face and I cowered into myself. His shadow covered me, and I wished I could sink into the floor.
“Put some makeup on and cover that bruise. It’s unseemly.” He cleared his throat and I watched him take a step towards the door from the corner of my eye. “We’re a happy, united family tonight, Elle. Show up and stay out of the way.”
“Yes, Sir.” I didn’t move again until the door clicked shut. My limbs unfroze and I sank into the carpet. That’s when my tears fell freely from my eyes, and I drowned in them.
No one was going to save me. I was stuck here for the rest of my life and that’s all I could think about as I followed Rhett and Octavia into the dinning room. I felt like a lamb being led to the slaughter.
After putting on enough foundation to cover the bruise on my right cheek I had found a high collar, long sleeve dress to hide the marks from Aiden on my body. Even as I got ready for dinner my mind wasn’t allowing itself to think of him, not entirely.
As if I was an empty shell on autopilot.
The room was already brimming full of Alpha energy, and it made me sick to my stomach. Rhett began to greet the guests and tell everyone to sit down but the world was fuzzy, and my ears felt like they were filled with cotton.
Rhett Prescott sat at the head of the table with Octavia to his left and me one down. She had a good snicker when she saw the swelling on my face, but now that we were around the guests her eyes were on everyone but me.
Alpha Prescott’s second in command was on his right and after we were seated the visiting Alphas followed suit. The tension was almost unbearable.
And I knew why.
Those forest green eyes were burning into the side of my face, but I couldn’t look at the other end of the table. Aiden was dominating the room with his power, and I would hate myself if I felt comforted by him right now.
Don’t look at him, Elle. Don’t you dare look at him.
The Lycan would only bring pain, the negative voices whispered in the back of my mind. Your life is pain and nothing more. A creature in a cage.
My heart was beating erratically in my chest as the conversation began to flow and servants began bringing out trays of food. The smell of it was unsettling and I had no appetite for the succulent feast laid before us.
“And I want to toast to Alpha Calderon and the other Lycans he brought for our delegations.” Rhett rose his glass and I followed the eyes of everyone leading down to the opposite head of the table to my left.
Aiden. He was Alpha Calderon.
My heart flipped in my chest and sank to the floor at the realization.
This was the Lycan I had been with. And he was the Alpha that Rhett wanted for Octavia.
From the corner of my eyes our gazes locked, and he lifted one brow at me. He began to smirk, and my eyes snapped forward to stare at my empty plate.
“Plans are going good with the Alphas, and I think by the end of the night we’ll have plenty to celebrate.” Rhett continued going on about the other Alphas in attendance.
Wolf and Lycan dug into dinner and the entire time I sat unmoving. I could feel Aiden watching me and I just couldn’t bring myself to look at him. Something told me to hide the side of my face from his view and that’s exactly what I did.
Soon enough I knew that dessert was going to be brought out and the longer I sat there like a statue the more I couldn’t breathe, and my vision blurred at the edges.
“Excuse me,” I mumbled as I rose from the table. Rhett glared at me but nodded and I nearly fell over when I took my first step to get away. Octavia’s shrill voice followed me as she laughed at something an Alpha across the table told her.
There was an ache in my head and as soon as I was far enough from the dining room I collapsed against a wall. I curled into myself in a dark corner and held my head in my hands.
Rhett was going to offer Octavia to Aiden and the Prescott’s always got what they wanted. I was going to be left here, and I should have known all along.
The back of my eyes stung with unshed tears, and I felt like a total idiot for letting myself believe, even for a second, that a Lycan Alpha would take me away.
Aiden Calderon was powerful, and he wouldn’t want me. Despite how he made me feel and the ways he touched me. It could never be real.
“Elle?” His voice made my gut clench. It was deep and warming and I could listen to him talk all night.
I was still hidden in the dark corner of an alcove, and I willed myself to sink into the wall as his footsteps got closer.
“You know that I’m going to find you, nymph, don’t play games with me.” He growled, but when he rounded the corner and saw me cowering in the dark he stopped. “What are you doing here?”
Before I knew it, Aiden was crouching low and reaching out for me. His large palm pet my head and his fingers in my hair caused me to whimper as tears finally spilled from my eyes.
“Shit, Elle!” He sat on the ground at my side and pulled me into his lap. “It’s alright, I’ve got you. I’m here.”
He kissed the top of my head and that made it worse. My traitorous body melted against the impressive heat of his and I sobbed freely.
“What happened? What’s wrong?” Aiden pressed and I took several deep breaths as the presence of his beast skimmed my senses. It was calming and I couldn’t stop myself from falling.
But I couldn’t tell him. I had to get out of this situation before I wound up in more trouble than I already was.
“No-nothing,” I sniffled and began to push myself off his lap. “I’m fine.”
“No, you’re not,” Aiden argued. I felt his hand under my chin and flinched when he pulled my face to his. “Why won’t you look…”
A chill flooded the air when Aiden’s eyes landed on the side of my face. I finally looked into his eyes and saw the silver glow of the primal creature under his skin.
“Who did this to you?” He snarled. His face was so close my body was reacting to the heat and smell of him, and despite how upset I was there was a need in my core.
I shook my head vigorously. Silently refusing to tell him anything. Another growl rumbled through his chest, and I felt it vibrating through me where he held me.
“Gods, Elle, I don’t want to command you to tell me, but I fucking will if you don’t start talking.” His hands were gentle as he cupped my face and examined the poorly hidden bruise.
I closed my eyes and shook my head again as more tears leaked out.
“Is this why you wouldn’t look at me during dinner?” I still didn’t say a word. “Elle, please, you’re mine and someone dared put their filthy fucking hands on you. You’re too precious to me. I can’t just stand by and let someone get away with this.”
My lips thinned into a line. My mind warring with my heart. To tell him or not tell him.
“Elle,” I heard the start of a command in his voice. I knew the instincts of the Lycan were taking over him. Aiden’s beast clawing to the surface to demand vengeance for the one he wanted to claim. “Tell me who did this!”
“Rhett!” My mouth opened of its own accord to answer the Alpha’s command. “He found out I left my room when he told me to stay inside. And he punished me for it. I should have just listened to him.”
Something in the energy around us crackled like lightening and I felt it jolt through my heart. I jerked back to look at him and Aiden’s face was contorting with a silent snarl as his breathing picked up. There were large fangs in his mouth and the rage in his silver eyes sent a chill down my spine.
“Does he do this often?” It barely sounded like Aiden’s voice as the Lycan’s primal anger rose higher in the surrounding air.
“Only when I upset him.” I answered on my own this time. Now that the truth was out there, I had nothing left to hold back. “I’m frequently upsetting him.”
Aiden didn’t say a word as he rose to his feet and pulled me with him. He wrapped his arms around me and embraced me with so much tenderness despite the fury I could sense emanating from him.
“Elle, my sweet nymph, I promised that I was going to take you away from here. I am going to make you my mate and you’ll never have to see this place again.” His voice was deceptively calm as he spoke.
“I want to believe you,” I whimpered into his chest.
“I’ll prove it to you, but right now, we have to go back into the dining room and finish this night. After the night is over, I’m taking you back with me. Alright?”
“Okay. Yes.” He kissed the top of my head and squeezed me gently before letting go of me. Aiden’s palm cupped my swollen cheek, so gentle I barely felt his touch.
“Go on ahead back into the dining room, I’ll be there shortly.” He told me, using his thumb to swipe away the last of my tears. Then he pressed a soft kiss to my lips, lingering for just a moment and pouring so much emotion into it that the light in my chest reawakened.
“Alright.” I stepped out of the dark alcove and into the light of the hallway.
I didn’t know what he was going to do, but there was a new energy around him and a tension in his shoulders.
All I could see was the silver glow of an enraged beast's eyes in the shadows as I stepped further away. Alarm bells went off in the back of my mind and I spun to race back to the dining room.
But each step was light as if I ran on air. There was a beast coming, and he was going to save me.