I walk down the hall, my heels clicking on the tiled floor; echoing down the hall. Every sole that I walk past lowers their head, refusing to make eye contact with me. I can’t blame them for that. After a well-earned reputation, I tend to make them sweat. Every pore of my body exudes confidence, making even the strongest alpha think twice in my presence. Most of the people who are here are surprised by my presence. I’m rarely here, and barely seen as of late.
When I open the double wooden doors, they make a large banging noise; much to my annoyance. I prefer my appearance to be unannounced. This way I can leave without being noticed, after finding out the reason I’ve been requested. It’s always been the same, ever since the day I turned eighteen. The day I will never recover from.
The three men of the five sitting at the table flinch. My father, and a guest, seem unbothered. My father looks up, appraising me with his probing ocher eyes. He shakes his head as his pink lips twitch in a small smile; his silver ringlets bouncing in his amusement.
“You’ve got to get that door fixed,” I tell him, enjoying his reaction while my brother glares at me. My brother fixes me with a hard look in his sapphire eyes, while he keeps his sharp face neutral. Xander appears to be upset by my entrance. I guess he doesn’t like that I unnerved him around our guest.
My father motions for me to take the empty seat next to my brother. This puts me between him, and my father’s beta. My brother grabs the arm of my chair and pulls me closer to him, surprising me. I give him a curious look behind a curtain of my midnight hair. My father’s beta is my age. He has golden locks and vivacious hazel eyes. His pink lips are full and settle in on his hardened face perfectly. Zeke is also my brother’s best friend.
I feel hard eyes on me, making me look right across from Xander. The man has his white hair sleeked back. His onyx eyes look me over appraisingly. His aura is deafening, and I almost want to submit. Almost. I can tell he’s pushing it out, trying to assert dominance. I know this since every male in this room has their neck bared in submission. Xander flicks my wrist, making me mentally roll my eyes before I bare my neck in respect. There are very few people in this world who can make my father bare his neck, and it’s best not to piss them off.
Once the man relaxes and his eyes have turned a warm gold, my father straightens; signaling that we can as well. My father motions to me. “I apologize for my daughter’s late arrival. Her flight was delayed, and then came straight here from the airport.”
The man looks me over with critical eyes. “This is what you wear on an airplane?”
Without missing a beat, I answer. “I actually wore sweats. I dressed in the back of the limo. My father made it clear that I am to dress up for today’s meeting.” I stick my hand out. “My name is Celina, first daughter of the Alpha King.”
At the mention of my title, the final man across from me acknowledges me. His golden eyes widen as they rake over me. Absentmindedly, he runs a hand through his copper curls and straightens.
Unexpectedly, the man takes my hand, but instead of shaking it, he kisses it. I keep my face neutral as he lets go. This isn’t an uncommon action to me. Being the lead raking Alpha’s daughter has some perks. One is emitting a pheromone that makes all men desire me. This increases my chances of being bred. It’s also a huge pain in the ass for that very reason.
The man that had taken my hand speaks. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Celina. I am the Lycan King Exzecial. This is my second son, Prince Ruben.”
I nod, slightly showing my neck, as is customary. “The pleasure is mine, King Exzecial.”
My father clears his throat, always uncomfortable by the types of attention I draw. “Celina, what have you discovered?”
I pull out my phone and hand it over to my father. “Forgive the lack of professionalism. I did this while on the plane. There are significant attacks on the isolated packs on the southern borders of the US, mostly concentrated on those near shorelines. I’ve, personally, found evidence of Lycan involvement in those attacks as well. The more inner city packs only seem to be attacked during full moons; mostly when they’re out during runs. These wolves are almost never in groups of three or more when they’re attacked. The rural towns are taken down seconds after their calls for help.
“The attacks in the northern parts are less but more brutal. Even the inner city one’s are wiped out before help can get there. I suspect those are more Lycan base than the southern attacks.”
I reach over and flip the screen to a picture, handing it to the Lycan King before he can speak. “Each attack is ruthless, destructive, and has zero survivors. That is something I cannot say for our southern packmates.”
King Exzecial looks over the pictures, flipping through them quickly. “I don’t like this,” he tells me, handing the phone to his son to look through. “Looking at the damages, I’d say your assessment is correct.” He looks me over once again; measuring my worth. “Isn’t this job a better fit for the King’s Gamma?”
“Gamma Lucious is in recovery at the moment, so I’m temporarily covering his duties,” I explain, taking my phone back from Ruben. He gives me a wink; which I ignore. “I also sent these pictures to your phone, Father.”
The Lycan King cocks his head. “I was unaware of any attacks on his Majesty.”
My father smirks and looks away; leaving me to answer. Giving my father a slightly dirty look, I answer, “I was the reason for his unexpected stay in the infirmary, so it’s only natural that I would assume his role until he’s recovered.”
Ruben laughs. “You? Put the strongest Gamma in the recovery ward?”
I shrugged, acting as if it was not a big deal, before addressing my father. “I have already sent two armies towards southeast Texas. It’s where I believe one of the hideouts are.”
“There are no attacks in southeast Texas,” Exzecial says, challenging me.
I lock eyes with him. “Exactly. Everywhere else has been attacked, so why not there? They’re trying not to draw attention to themselves.”
My father nods approvingly, while my eyes remain deadlocked with the Lycan King. He looks away first, looking towards my father. “Is your daughter always this…challenging?”
“She wouldn’t be the daughter of an Alpha if she wasn’t,” my father answers proudly. “I’ll let you know what I hear when I have the update, Celina.”
Xander takes over. “I’ll see to it that the men are properly ready for any survivors.”
On cue, my father’s phone beeps. He gChristopers at it and then smirks. “Get them ready.” He stands, “Gentlemen if you excuse me, it seems we have a lead that we need to investigate.” He looks to the Lycan King, “King Exzecial, you’re welcome to give as much support as you deem fit.”
The king stands, his eyes landing on me. “I’ll go see what help we can give. I believe our wives are still discussing the Moonlit Ball still, so I’ll wait to disrupt them.”
It’s seven in the morning. Of course, they’re working on the ball. I nearly groan, while waiting for us to be dismissed. I hate that thing. It signals the start of the Claiming. Unmated females are presented for introduction before we’re hunted. Archaic right? You’d be right. I’m in my last year of this stupid tradition, but I will always be subjected to that damn ball; thanks to my family.
My father smirks. “Yes, I heard that your family will be present this year. Is Prince Ruben going to be a contestant this year?”
Proudly, Exzecial smirks. “Ruben and Christoper will be attending the ball this year, but neither has the desire to participate in the Claiming.”
I take a silent breath of relief. Werewolves I can handle. Lycans, on the other hand, are an entirely different ball game. It’s rare for Lycans to find their gifted mates, but they will likely choose a lycan mate. However, it’s not unheard of for them to participate in the Claiming. I don’t care if they want to participate next year, just don’t choose this year.
My father nods, accepting his answer. “I’m sure there will be a few disappointed she-wolves if that is the case. However, I believe you’re making all the males sleep easier tonight.”
Exzecial looks at my brother. “And what of your family?”
My father shakes his head. “My two youngest have found their mates. Xander is the only one that hasn’t, and he will be participating this year, along with his sister Celina.”
That catches the Lycan King’s attention. “I thought Xander was the only one not to have found his mate. Why is she participating?”
I speak before the others can; controlling this conversation. “My exclusion requires my mate to be alive.” Every single male stiffens while I stand, taking this opportunity to leave. I stand and look at them. “With the current subject, I’m afraid I must depart.”
My father frowns. “Please let your mother know you’re home, Celina.”
I nod, bend slightly to show my neck, and then leave the suddenly silent and serious room.
Exiting, I hear my father apologizing for my early departure. I am not in the mood to discuss my heartache. It’s common knowledge in the werewolf world. It’s one of the reasons I’m considered cursed. Every single person I have fallen in love with is met with a horrible fate. It’s one of the main reasons I chose to be alone. However, when you’re a she-wolf, that’s easier said than done.
“Celina!” I hear a voice shrill shoutout.
Grimacing, I turn to my left; just realizing I have passed the grand hall. My mother has decorated it with illuminating stars, trees, and rustic wooden tables. She’s trying to give the appearance of being outside. Why can’t we actually be outside?
My mother is standing next to a woman with luscious chocolate-colored locks. Judging by her golden eyes and incredibly warm smile, I can guess who the woman is. The woman is impressive, and stands at five foot ten; she’s almost as tall as I am.
My mother and are both six feet tall, and I share her long onyx-colored locks, but that is where the similarities end. Her violet eyes are caring while she looks at me with a happy smirk on her pale pink lips.
“Celina, get over here,” my mother orders, already extending her arm out to me. I walk over to her and she quickly has me wrapped in a loving embrace.
She rubs my back as she sniffs me over. “What happened?” She demands, pulling on my arm. Quickly, she pushes up the long sleeve I wear, making me grimace. I got it past dad, but I was a fool to think I could get it by her. She lifts the sleeve to reveal a long slash mark. It’s the approximate length of my forearm, and two to three inches in width.
My mother gasps in her horror. “What happened?”
I look at the amused Lycan Queen, “I apologize for my mother. My name is Celina, her eldest daughter.”
My mother ignores her, still examining my arm. The Lycan Queen gives me a soft smile. “My name is Amelia. We were just discussing security measures to take place during the ball.”
“Cel,” my mother begins, sniffing it, then winces. “Wolfsbane?”
I touch her hand, giving her a soft smile. “It’s only a few hours old Mother. We were investigating an attacked town when I discovered a rogue. He attacked me, but I killed him before he could do much damage. It wasn’t until after his death that we discovered the Wolfsbane.”
“Why would a werewolf even be touching Wolfsbane?” My mother demands while the queen eyes my wound.
Amelia’s eyes widen in realization as I speak, “I didn’t say the rogue was a werewolf.”