It was quiet as the boat silently continued along the river.
“We are out of the rogue’s territory now, ETA... four hours.” The man who had helped my mum out of the river announced. My gaze drifted over to my mum who had been pacing the length of the boat. She finally sighed in relief and grabbed a jacket before coming over to me.
“Here, you must be freezing.” She whispered, placing the jacket around me, pulling the edges together so that I was cocooned inside. I could only stare at her, I had so many questions but my brain was mentally exhausted from the day and the new revelation that my mother was alive.
She looked at me, before reaching to wipe tears I didn’t even know had fallen.
“I know things may seem hopeless right now but I assure you everything is going to be okay.” She whispered cupping my face. I nodded, pushing my hair away from my face to get a better look at her.
She headed back to the front of the boat, talking to the man who was steering the boat. I had no idea how long we were on the river but it felt like a lot of time had passed. I felt the boat veer to the left towards a pier. The man jumped onto the dock and secured the boat.
“Come on.” My mum said, helping me up and off the boat. We walked for a bit, the dry grass and twigs crunching under our shoes, I looked around, scared that Dimitri and his warriors would come rushing out of the trees.
Aura whined, the thought of Dimitri attacking us stressing her. We got to a valley where a small dilapidated house stood and from where we were, it looked abandoned but as we got nearer, the house began to take another form. I gasped watching it morph into a large house.
The man opened the door and stood aside for us to walk in. The inside was sleek and modern, I barely had time to take it in when my mother pulled me into another room. This one was furnished with furniture in differing shades of black.
“Here.” She said handing me a bottle of water.
“Thank you.” I whispered looking around the room.
“I should look for something for you to wear.” She uttered, getting to her feet when the door opened. My mum spun around, looking up at him.
“What is it?”
“Ezekiel... he’s coming here, we have ten minutes before he gets here.”
My heart slammed in my chest at the mention of Ezekiel. I had never met him but I was terrified of him already.
“Shit! Shit! Fuck!” My mum cursed running her fingers through her hair. “I need more time, Alistair.”
“Time is what we don’t have Malia, you need to act fast.” He uttered, glancing at me.
“Fine... alright.” He closed the door, leaving us alone. She came over, sitting on the table and holding my hands in hers.
“There’s so much I have to tell you alright? But I need you to trust me.” She began bringing out a syringe, my eyes widened and I moved away from her.
“I’m not going to hurt you, but Ezekiel... he will, if he finds out you are a werewolf but we can prevent that.” She continued. “This will block your wolf.”
Wait what?! No!!! I don’t want to be blocked. Please Anaya, let’s go back to Dimitri!!! I don’t like it here! Aura cried out.
We can’t go back, you saw the look in his eyes! He hates us
Then let’s go somewhere else! Anywhere but here!!!
My mum squeezed my hands and I turned my attention to her.
“I promise you this won’t do any harm to your wolf, it will just keep her at bay.” She explained.
“It won’t hurt her?” I asked, wanting to be sure.
Anaya!! No!!! I don’t want to be alone.
“It won’t.” She promised and I nodded.
Closing my eyes, I felt her roll the sleeve of my sports wear up before feeling the sting of the needle piercing my skin.
“There... all done... it should work immediately...”
My world blurred and it sounded as if I was underwater, her voice becoming inaudible before I tipped forward, everything went black.
The trickling of water roused me from my sleep, opening my eyes, I frowned, looking around the lakeside.
Where am I?
A twig snapped somewhere and my head turned to the trees in front of me, I could see something was in there and swallowing down a ball of fear, I took a step forward just as a large dark blue wolf emerged. Shocked, I took a step back wondering who the wolf was.
There was something familiar about the wolf, almost as if she was a part of me.
The wolf ran towards me, crashing into my body sending us careening to the floor.
“Aura!!!” I cried out, burying my face into her fur, letting out a laugh.
“Oh Goddess” I whispered as she licked my face, moving away and sitting on her haunches.
“Are we dreaming? Is this real?” I asked, reaching out to run my fingers through her fur.
“I have no idea.” She replied nuzzling me.
“This is as real as you and I.” A voice uttered, I immediately scrambled to my feet, gaping at the woman in front of me. Paling at the sight of her. She was surrounded by thousands of glowing Moonflowers.
“Oh Goddess... y...you’re... you’re the Moon Goddess.” I stuttered taking a step back, my heart beating fast. Dimitri must have told her about me and she was here to finish me off.
“L..Luna...I am so sorry, he wouldn’t listen to me, I tried to explain but he imprisoned me away, I... I couldn’t stay there.” I cried out, trying to explain myself.
“I’m not here to hurt you, it’s okay Anaya, I will talk to him, but you must first listen. You were right to take the injection, if they find your wolf they will kill you. I will take Aura with me.” She explained. Aura whimpered hiding behind me.
“But I can’t leave Anaya”
“It is the only way to keep you both safe my dearest ones.” Luna continued. I hesitated, my mum had said the injection was temporary but Luna’s offer was a much safer one. It was basically foolproof but a part of me wasn’t ready to part with my wolf. She meant everything to me.
“Don’t worry, I will keep her safe with me, you have my word.” Luna assured me before turning to Aura. ” Come with me little one.”
I turned to Aura, raising a hand and running it through Aura’s fur.
“You have to go with her.” I whispered. She whined, nuzzling me.
“I don’t want to, please don’t make me go. You’re all I have left.”
Tears welled in my eyes and I buried my face in her fur, stroking the silky hairs.
“I’m sorry Aura, this is the only way to keep you safe, you are too important to me to put at risk, I love you so much Aura, please you have to go with her” I whispered, my tears dripping into her fur. She nuzzled into me, whimpers escaping her lips. I pulled away, wiping the tears, pressing my lips together to stop the sobs from escaping.
She whimpered, taking a step towards me, I shook my head, turning to Luna.
“You can take her now.”
Aura let out a mournful cry taking a step back, Luna raised a hand towards her and I watched as Aura disappeared in a twinkle of lights. My heart wrenching, I bit my lip as the pain washed over me.
“Be careful Anaya and just know that I love you dearest one and I know Dimitri is angry, but it will fade in time, he will come around and listen, until then, remain with your family, accept your place, I will visit you again in time.” Luna whispered, placing a hand on my cheek. With that images played through my mind, the many times I dreamed that my mother had come back for me, to care for me when my father had beaten me half to death. I gasped, several emotions wrecking me.
“T... those dreams!” I exclaimed, “That wasn’t my mother was it, it was...” I trailed off unable to comprehend. Luna gave a me soft smile, wiping the tears away from my cheeks.
“My dearest Anaya, I have always been there for you and I have always cared for you, and I will continue to do so, be careful child, I will be watching over you, I know you will be ok” She whispered before disappearing. Cold air rushed into the small clearing making me gasp, I felt a tugging sensation at the bottom of my heart, followed by more forceful tugging and then I was yanked into the darkness.
I jolted awake, sitting up. Everything felt different. My eyes moved around the room, landing on a glass cup. I was immediately assaulted with images of how to use it as a weapon. Looking away, my gaze landed on a jacket and I saw myself using it as a noose.
Stumbling to my feet, I looked away, afraid of the thoughts I was having. The door opened and my mum walked in. My eyes zeroed in on her, my mind going a mile a minute, observing her, my brain storing every weakness I could find, not that I could find much. It was all making my head hurt.
Pressing my hands to my ears, I closed my eyes, trying to block out the thoughts.
“Anaya! Hey.... hey...” My mother’s voice pierced through my haze. I looked up at her.
“Please make it stop.” I whimpered, grabbing onto her.
“Sh... it’s alright, just sit back, your Venatore side has been suppressed for so long, it’ll take a while for it to settle down.” She explained. I nodded as she wiped my tears away.
The door opened and a tall dark skinned man of average structure walked in, there was an intimidating air about him. He was bald but had a grey beard, the only thing signifying his age. He straightened his grey coloured suit, the cane in his hand clicking on the floor as he did. Something told me the cane was not an aid and was more of a weapon than a fashion statement. His dark eyes landed on me before glancing at my mum.
“Aw... Malia it’s not nice to keep secrets... especially one as big as this.” He uttered, looking back at me. My heart was beating a mile a minute, this was a dangerous man who had killed an entire pack and probably countless others. He walked closer to me, an amused look on his face.
“You won’t introduce me to my own granddaughter?... never mind, I’ll do it myself.”
He stopped in front of me and I held my breath, praying that what the Moon Goddess had done had actually worked and he would not figure out that I was a wolf.
“What’s your name dear?” He asked, sitting on the table next to my chair.
“A...Anaya.” I whispered.
“Hmm...” The amused look was back on his face “Do you know what that means?”
I shook my head.
“It means to be free... though freedom is an illusion, no one can be truly free.” He trailed off turning his attention to my mother. “Your mother knows more about that than anyone else, right Malia?”
I turned to her, she was staring at him, a defeated look in her eyes before she nodded.
“That aside, my name is Ezekiel and I am your grandfather, you can call me grandpa, that’s what your cousins call me... to my face that is.” He muttered, rolling his eyes. My mind was still stuck on his other statement.
“C...cousins? I.. I have cousins?” I asked.
“Of course you do, your uncle Alistair’s kids. Ezra and Dionne, wonderful children. They will be very excited to see you.” He explained getting to his feet.
“Come along, we can continue this reunion back at the Citadel.” He said, helping me up and placing my hand in the crook of his arm. I turned to my mum, eyes wide, terrified.
“Why don’t you ride with dear old grandpa, we have lots of catching up to do, don’t worry about your mother, she and Alistair will be following us.”
He didn’t wait for a reply from either me or my mother before he pulled me out of the room. I swallowed down a ball of fear, willing myself not to throw up in fear as he led me out of the safe house to a waiting large blacked out car. A man dressed in all black was standing by the door and opened it.
“After you.” Ezekiel gestured, I stared at him before carefully and cautiously getting into the car and sliding to the other side as he followed behind. The interior of the car was large and as I looked around, I could easily identify what could be used as weapons and how best to use them, it was jarring that my brain had unlocked such a dangerous ability.
He placed his cane against the door and I watched from the window as my mother and Alistair walked out of the house to another car. Ezekiel thumped his cane twice and the driver pressed on the accelerator, driving us away from the safe house.
“So Anaya... how old are you?” He inquired.
“22” I whispered, one of his brows raised an inch, the edge of his lips quirking up as if he knew something I didn’t.
“And where were you staying before... I hope you don’t mind me asking all these questions?”
Yes... I would really appreciate it if you stopped.
“No... I... uh. I stayed with my dad... then he passed away.” I explained, Ezekiel reached over and patted my hand.
“I’m sorry to hear that... just know that now you have a family that will forever be with you. You’ll be loved and you will never want for anything.” He assured me, a warm smile on his lips. I forced a smile back. He leaned back in his seat, humming a tune under his breath as the car sped through the night.
The car slowed as we approached a pair of large heavy gates which swung open allowing the cars through. The tarred road was surrounded by trees reminding me of Rome, I blinked back tears at the memory, my heart hurting.
The drive wasn’t long and eventually the car came to a stop. Ezekiel got out and offered me his hand to help me out. I gasped at the behemoth building in front of me.
“Welcome to the Citadel.” He whispered as I stared at the sprawling stone castle with large windows and high towers and turrets. The stones used in the building, though weathered, looked like they could withstand even the mightiest of storms. I couldn’t imagine anything bringing down such an intimidating and well built fortress.
“This has been in our family for centuries.” He continued, a proud smile on his lips. “Home to the Venatore.”
His words crashed into me and I was thrown back into reality once more. As beautiful as the building was, it belonged to the Venatore. I wrapped an arm around my body glancing around for the other car before sighing in relief when I saw it heading up the driveway.
“Come... let us get inside, it looks like it’s going to rain any moment now.” He said, placing a hand on my shoulder, leading me up the short flight of steps, pushing the heavy door open. The interior of the Citadel was even more awe inspiring.
Large stone stairs, high ceilings, massive pillars, art works, statues and chandeliers decorated the inside. It was a stark contrast to what I was expecting. It gave off a dark Victorian air. Ezekiel removed his scarf, folding and handing it over to a passer by.
“Toasty” He said smiling at me, the door opened once more and my mum and Alistair walked in, my mum giving me a once over making sure I was okay.
“Where should we start from?”
“I think I should take her to get some rest, today has been taxing to say the least.” My mum interrupted, coming to stand next to me and taking my hand.
“Oh come on... I just want some quality time with my new granddaughter.” Ezekiel said, sighing and a door slammed somewhere followed by what sounded like talking.
“I am sure you and Anaya will have plenty of time to spend together but for now, I think it’s best she gets some rest.” My mum insisted. Ezekiel parted his lips as the talking got closer.
“Ah! Looks like Dionne and Ezra are around.” He said turning towards a doorway, I watched as a white haired young man waltzed in, dressed in black jeans, a black shirt and black leather jacket, a scabbard over his shoulder. He was laughing at something the other person was saying, moving away from the door to reveal a young woman, approximately my age, she was dressed in the same black ensemble as the man, a gun holstered at her hip. They stopped their conversation, looking over at us.
“What’s going on?” The girl asked, walking over to us, eyes on me. She furrowed her brows, glancing at my mum before moving back to me, her lips parted in surprise.
“Damn... Aunt Malia! I didn’t know you had it in you.” She teased, grinning at her.
“Didn’t know she had what in... oh hello.” The white haired man said, staring at me.
“Dionne, Ezra, this is Anaya, your cousin. Anaya, these are Alistair’s children.” Ezekiel introduced.
“Aunt Malia has a kid?! And here I thought she was married to the cause.” The one named Ezra uttered, sending my mum a sheepish look. “Sorry Aunt Mal.”
“It doesn’t matter, like I said, Anaya needs to get some ...”
“Rest... you have said it times without number.” Ezekiel interrupted, “Dionne, Ezra, why don’t you take Anaya with you.”
My mum stepped forward.
“As for you Malia, we do have a lot to talk about regarding this... not so ‘new’ development. Come along.” He uttered, my mum looked like she wanted to argue but Ezekiel pinned her with a look that had her sighing.
“I’ll see you later okay?” She whispered. A part of me wanted to scream for her to stay and not leave me but I forced a smile, watching her walk away with Ezekiel.
“I’ll have a room ready for you, in the meantime you can stay in Dionne’s room.” Alistair informed me.
“Most definitely... I am still kind of in shock that Aunt Malia actually has a daughter. Come on!! We have lots of catching up to do.” Dionne said pulling me towards the stairs.
“She’s not your cousin alone Di.” The white haired man... Ezra, called out, following us up the stairs. Dionne rolled her eyes at him.
“Don’t you have something else to do? Like I don’t know... sharpening your katanas.” She retorted, he smirked at her, reaching over his shoulder to unsheath the long sword.
“My katana is always sharp Di. Never to be caught off guard.”
The glint of the silver blade had me stepping back slightly.
“Put that away you bonehead!” She ordered scowling at him before turning to face me “I’m sorry about my brother, his obsession with his blades is…alarming. Don’t worry you’ll get used to it...oh who am I kidding I’m still not used to him and I have known him my entire life.”
We climbed another set of stairs and as I looked around the building and glanced back at my... cousins... I found it odd, strange even, everything still felt like a dream. Dionne led us down a passageway that had three different paths.
“So this side belongs to us. The first path leads to our dad’s side, which previously included Ezra and I’s room. The third path leads to your mum’s side and the one in the middle belonged to Uncle Ezra, but we took it over and made it ours.” She explained opening the door and walking in, I followed her, gaping at the size of the room, if it could even be called that. A stone archway led from the small waiting area into a larger open room with vaulted ceilings, a chandelier, and paintings on the wall. There was another set of stone stairs by the side that led to the second floor.
Ezra laid his sword on a table, pulling off his jacket. My eyes went wide at the number of weapons on his body. He unbuckled a holster that held two guns, tossed what looked like a taser on the table, leaning down to get small blades from shoes.
“Come on, let’s get you changed, I’m sure sticky work out clothes can’t be comfortable.” Dionne said poking at my shirt, a smile on her face. She led me up the stairs, I slowed down, staring at the large cathedral style window, there were two chairs and a table. Shaking my head, I followed her down a hall, to the last door on the left.
“This is my room, my little slice of heaven away from the craziness that is my life.” She explained. I looked around the room, it was grand yet she had managed to make it cozy. The centerpiece of her room was the large Queen size canopy bed.
“Sit... or would you like to take a shower? Let me get you a towel, I think I have a new one somewhere in here.” She muttered walking into her closet. I swallowed hard, trying to come to terms with everything. I instinctively reached for my wolf but was met with nothing.
“I knew I had one!” She said, emerging from the closet, holding up the towel.
“The bathroom’s through that door, I’ll have some clothes laid out for you.”
“Okay.” I whispered, taking the towel from her and making my way into the bathroom. Just like the bedroom, the grand theme continued in the bathroom. I stripped out of my clothes and got into the shower, letting the hot water rain down on me.
Tears pooled in my eyes and I pressed my forehead to the tiled walls, cupping my face to stop the sobs from escaping even as my shoulders shook. My head hurt, my whole life was in disarray and I didn’t even have my wolf to comfort me. I have never felt so alone.
I finally emerged from the bathroom wearing a robe I found on the back of the door, my eyes red from all the tears and steam. Ezra was lying on a couch, Dionne seated on her bed.
“Thought we had to break down the door and come rescue you.” He joked and I forced a smile at him. Dionne walked over to me, a frown on her face.
“Are you okay? You look like you’ve been crying?” She inquired, I looked away, not having the strength to lie. Ezra sat up, his worried eyes on me.
“We might have just met you but you know you can talk to us right?” He said, I blinked back the tears, his words reminding me of Dimitri.
“It’s alright...it has just been a really long day.” I whispered and Dionne gave me an understanding smile and nodded.
“I can imagine... here... sorry all I wear is black... kind of comes with the territory.” She explained, a sheepish smile on her face. I smiled, taking the clothes from her.
“Thank you, I really appreciate this.”
I walked back to the bathroom and changed into the comfortable lounge trousers and black shirt. I was about to open the door when I heard voices, it sounded like my mother was there.
“Come on Aunt Malia, can’t she stay the night here?” Dionne asked.
“No Di, she needs her rest, I know you are curious about her but she’s been through a lot.”
“Why haven’t you ever mentioned her?” Ezra asked quietly. “Knowing she is a Venatore, something bad could have happened to her, what if one of those filthy animals had found her, she could have been killed.”
I heard my mother sigh.
“Look, your grandfather grilled me enough, I don’t need any more questions from you two. Now where is she?”
I took that as my cue to step out of the bathroom, my eyes meeting my mother’s. It still felt odd... after all these years, here she was, standing in front of me, alive and well.
“You can catch up with your cousins tomorrow, we should get you to bed. Your uncle Alistair has prepared a room for you, I’m sure you’re going to love it.” She whispered. I nodded, glancing at Dionne and Ezra.
“Thank you for the clothes... Goodnight.”
They smiled in return and I followed my mother out of the room and out of their chamber. She opened the main door to her chambers, standing aside for me to walk in. It was designed in the same way as theirs with only a few changes here and there.
She led me up the stairs to a room.
“This is your room. I hope you like it, it might be a bit cold due to it being empty.” She explained. I glanced at the door, opening it and walking in. It was large with floor to ceiling windows as I had noticed was the same in all the rooms. The bed was pushed to the far side of the room, a mural on the wall acting as a backdrop. There was a small desk near the window which was covered with thick curtains. The walls were painted with an intricate blue design.
“Would you... uh... like some tea? I can have some brought up here from the kitchen or maybe some food?” She inquired.
“No, I’m okay.” I whispered, taking a seat on the bed.
“Alright...well I guess I will let you settle in, sleep well, we’ll talk tomorrow when you are fully rested... and Anaya?”
I looked up at her, she had a small smile on her face.
“Everything is going to be okay.”
With that she closed the door and I was left totally alone with nothing but my thoughts to haunt me all night.