The silence was palpable but I didn’t let that get to me and I didn’t take my eyes away from Tristan. His were trained on me and it almost looked like he was expecting it. Gasps of surprise travelled around the room, seeping into my pores as the weight of my words sunk into the minds of many.
A woman was challenging their right to be Alpha.
So far in history, as I was aware, that never happened. Pride swelled in my chest at the thought and I kept my head high, ignoring my nerves. Eyes around me dug holes into my skin but one in particular from behind set flames racing through my skin. Tristan tilted his head to the side, gazing at me quizzically but I made to mood to answer his unspoken question.
By blood, he had every right to the position of being Alpha but what about his own pack, The Broken Shadow? Uncle Theodore couldn’t do it forever; in a couple of years, he’d abdicate his position. If anything, it made more sense if Dante tried to take over the role but that wasn’t going to happen.
This was my birthright and I wasn’t going to go down without a fight.
Suddenly, low whispers filled my ears and I took the time to scour my surroundings, meeting each and every eye of those watching me. Mom gaped at me, as did Phoenix but Basil’s reaction was indescribable.
With his arms folded and legs spread hip-width apart, he stared at me, not offering me a while or a wink of encouragement. It shouldn’t be a surprise; that was a part of his nature but I’d given a million pennies just to get a glimpse into his thoughts. Did he approve? Was he mad? Did he think challenging Tristan would take away my role as Luna? In the end, my feelings on the matter overpowered his. I’d been quiet for too long to let this opportunity pass.
“Do you have a second?” Dad’s voice reached me and I turned to face him, tightening my lips. A second was someone willing to be your Beta and a trickle of doubt crept inside, believing no one would stand by my side. Although, I was surprised by who decided to step up.
“I’m her second,”
Another round of gasps surrounded us when Phoenix stood next to me, nodding at me with a little smirk. I must’ve resembled a gold-fish with the number of times my mouth opened and closed in shock. I looked her over from head to toe. She was still a little weak but overall, she was getting better. I couldn’t have been more grateful to call her my sister and my ally.
Tristan glanced from me to my sister and then to his father, Theodore, who was frowning deeply. He didn’t look pleased.
“Women as Alphas and Betas?” Alpha Nixon, shook his head in disagreement. “What about your position as Luna in The Bloodstone? What do you think of this, Basil?”
All eyes turned to my mate who simply shrugged. “She’s strong, she can handle both responsibilities. I’ll be there to help.”
A slow, genuine smile stretched across my face, my chest lifting a little as the doubt I felt before vanished. Even though I didn’t need it, his agreement was comfort nonetheless. The voices got louder and Cena came by Phoenix’s side, guiding her back to her seat.
“Why should you be Alpha?” Dante countered, pushing off the walls and stalked towards me. His scowl was vicious. I held my ground, my eyes travelling up to accommodate to his height. “You’ve proven to be reckless. You go off to search for hunters which led to the attack and placed your brother in a coma. You left your own people to live with the humans. You rejected the pack life. So far, I’d say you’ve given us no reason to vote you as our new leader,”
“I rejected your views on women not having any high positions other than being Luna, not the pack. The hunters knew where we were and would’ve attacked us whether or not I’d gone after them. And for my recklessness…?” I paused, stepping a little closer until we were chest to chest, our gazes blazing. “I bow to no one but the Moon,”
Something flickered in his eyes and he blinked slowly, stumbling away an inch as he unfolded his arms. I hardened my stare, letting him know I was serious. I made a mistake, yeah, but I never said I was perfect. All I had to do was learn from it.
“Tristan, do you accept the challenge?” Dad asked and we all turned our attention to my cousin. Without hesitation, he nodded, clenching and unclenching his fists and shifting around in predatory delight. He never turned down a challenge and I was willing to fight for this. I would fight tooth and nail before I allowed anyone of them take what was mine.
That was a promise.
“You’ve got three days,” Dad said, glancing between the both of us. “Be ready by noon,”
With that, he clapped his hands, letting us know that the meeting was over. Tristan and I didn’t move an inch. His flaw flexed repeatedly and his eyes softened a fraction.
“I don’t want to hurt you,”
“I don’t want to hurt you either,” I said. “But I will if I have to.”
Giving me one last look, he walked away, exiting the room while I turned around to face Basil. Mom stood next to him, taking my hand with a light reassuring squeeze. She didn’t need to speak her thoughts as I could see it all reflecting through the bright sheen of her eyes.
Basil wrapped his arm around my waist, leading me out the door to the opposite direction of everyone else. Entering a secluded part of the corridors, he pulled me to his chest, placing a kiss on my forehead.
“You’ve got to train, there’s no time left to waste,” He said, brushing my hair off my face and tucking it behind my name. “Come on, let’s go.”
He guided me towards the training centre ten minutes away from the pack-house. A newfound energy rushed through me and more than ever, mentally, I was ready for this.
I had been my entire life.
Three days later…
I was nervous. It was the good kind of nervous. My skin tingled with anticipation as I waited for dad to come and collect me. The clouds were greying, appearing heavy with a chance of rain. It was as if the earth knew of this day, signalling a warning to all of what was to come.
The people in the pack were excited for this day. I saw it in the gleam in their eyes, their demeanour and the amount of gossip floating around. Rarely did we ever have anyone fighting for the position of Alpha as it’s through Divine Rights that the Moon choose Her leaders.
But in my case, it was different. Tristan and I were Alpha born; I wasn’t facing against a regular wolf. We were born to lead by Her will yet I still had to prove myself worthy. Rubbing my clammy palms, I went over my teen years and with Basil. It was all or nothing.
I felt him before I saw him and his scent filled my surroundings, instantly calming my tense muscles. Glancing over my shoulder, I met his eyes as he took my chin in his fingers, swooping down for a kiss. My tongue darted out and he took this as an opportunity to slip his in my mouth and they danced so sensually, air escaped my lungs. Warmth filled my belly at his tender touch against my cheek and all too soon, he pulled away. I bit my bottom lip to hold my whimpers of disappointment.
Resting his forehead against mine, he breathed deeply and a low hum rumbled in his chest. He something I couldn’t comprehend as I was too wrapped up from the kiss to even try and listen.
“This is what you are meant for,” He said, bringing my knuckles to his lips. “I see it all now.”
Tilting my head to the side, I asked. “See what?”
“You’re destined for much more than to be Luna. The Moon came to the earth for a bigger purpose,”
I snorted, unable to hide the smile forming on my lips. “Still believe I’m Her?”
I wasn’t convinced by his declaration that I was the Moon in the flesh. It was a belief he and his birth-pack held but I didn’t feel like the Moon. The Nobles held some religious values to an extent but never something like this. His answer was delayed, his jaw ticking with each second that went by.
“I know what your mother is as well as Hailey. They’re servants of the Moon.”
I frowned. “And…?”
He knew they were oracles. I didn’t remember telling him about this. What did it have to do with them?
“They come from the purest bloodline, your bloodline. Out of every other she-wolf, you’re… you’re something else. Something I’ve never encounter.”
Before I could respond, there was a knock on the door and I turned to see dad standing by the threshold of the door, arms folded, regarding Basil with interest. Did he hear what he said?
“Is it time?” I asked and he turned to me. When he nodded, I stood up, forcing Basil to move back an inch so I could make my way to what awaited me.
“I want to have a word with Basil,” Dad said and I saw interest flashing in his dark blues. “Go on, Bell.”
I frowned, glancing between the both of them. Fighting the questions burning inside, I left them alone, walking down the quiet corridors. It was so quiet because everyone else was waiting outside to see the battle take place. That was what it was – a battle – one I’d always been fighting but for some reason, something told me this was the last. The never-ending tunnel I was in suddenly had a light.
The air was warm, thick and sweat clung to my skin after a couple minutes in the outdoors. My eyes darted to the darkening clouds and from the distance, I saw the crowd. As I approached, I recognised a few faces, most of them were family members.
One by one, all eyes turned to me, the chatter around silencing at my arrival. Deep down, some part of me liked their reaction and of course, my wolf. She loved the attention; always had since I could remember.
Mom stepped forward, holding my arm while leading me to one side of the circle the pack formed. Theodore and Tristan were on the opposite side. My uncle’s scowl was still present. He wasn’t very pleased with my challenge. I knew from how he avoided me for the past three days. I was sure he and my cousin were spending all their time training. They should’ve known I was doing the same.
“Hailey isn’t feeling well so I can’t stay,” She unzipped my hooding and I took it off fully, handing it over for her to keep. Brushing my hair back as she moved to stand behind me, she placed it into a high ponytail. “It’s been a long time since I did this,”
I didn’t miss the sentiment in her voice. I stared at the ground, playing with my fingers. “Dressing up is not my thing. You know that,”
“I do,” She mused, chuckling lightly. “Even though that’s ‘not your thing’, no matter what happens, I’m still proud of you. Always have been,”
“Thank you,” I whispered, my nose stinging as tears filled my eyes. I didn’t let them fall, not in front of them. Her words meant so much to me, especially after years of self-torment wondering what was wrong with me, why I wasn’t normal or why I couldn’t fit with my family. I finally learned there wasn’t anything wrong with me and the differences that set me apart from everyone were okay. I was okay with it. I just wished I would’ve known this a long time ago.
I straightened my posture, head tilted high. Spinning me around, she kissed both my cheeks just when dad and Basil entered the scene.
Immediately, Basil made a beeline for me, acknowledging my mother with a slight nod. “Sabrina,”
“I’ll leave you two alone.” She smiled, heading for the packhouse.
“Ready?” He whispered and I nodded.
“Tristan and Izabella step forward,” Dad announced and we met at the centre, my dad standing in the middle. Reluctantly, I let go of Basil’s hand and waited for my next instructions.
“You know the basics, the fight doesn’t end until one of you submits,” We both nodded. “And no weapons,”
Slowly, he stepped back, hands up for us to wait for his call. The crowd was quiet, tension pummelling the air as the beat of my heart pounded loudly in my ears, my breathing laboured as I lifted my fists in front of me. Tristan mirrored my actions, our eyes locked on each other.
Dad scanned the both of us one last time and dropped his arm just when the cloud growled dangerously with the promise of thunder.
Tristan moved so quickly, my vision doubled before I could make my move. He barrelled into me, knocking me to the ground. The pain was so intense, my lungs burned and I gasped for air, quickly moving to the side when he reached down to grab me.
I kicked his face and he fell to the earth, his back to the sky. I straddled his hips, grabbing his jaw in a lock hold and his fierce growl resonated through the air, and my limbs shook with its force. Tristan wasn’t going to submit that easily. His fingers curled around my wrist and with all his strength, he pried my hands away from his face. I tried to resist but physically, he was too strong and I cried out in pain as my bones weakened slightly. He rolled to his side, trapping me beneath him for a split second before jumping to his feet, creating some distance between us and he perfected his stance.
I bent my knees, raising my arms as we circled each other, our eyes blazing as our wolves rose to the surface, brimming at the corners of our humanity. His eyes, once brown, were shards of bright emerald, clashing with my golden ones. Neither of us dared to make the first move but watched each other intently, dancing around in circles, assessing our moves.
Suddenly, his fist flew to my face and with my quick reflexes, I ducked before sending him a swift uppercut. Stumbling back, Tristan blinked, slightly dazed as he worked his jaw, holding it for a second and glared at me. I grinned, shooting him a wink while bouncing on the balls of my feet.
“Little witch,” He murmured under his breath but I caught it which only made my grin widen.
“Can’t handle a little punch?”
I spoke too soon. My head snapped to the side at the impact of his punch and my face screamed as pain seared through my cheek. A metallic flavour filled my tastebuds and I spat, realising it was blood. He wasn’t gentle. Over the years, the men in my life training me would go easy with their hits so it was a feeling I wasn’t expecting.
Shit! I closed my eyes tightly, steadying myself but it was no use.
Stumbling, I lowered to one knee, massaging my cheek to ease the pain and my head spun as stars spotted my vision. From behind, I heard a growl and shouts but white noise filling my ears blocked me from understanding their words. What was going on?
“Can’t handle a little punch?” Tristan taunted, knocking my chin up so I’d meet his wicked sneer. Grabbing my throat, I was hoisted into the air and tossed me to the side like I weight nothing more than a feather. I felt pain and groaned inwardly, clutching my right side as I pounded my fist into the earth, frustrated.
Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck!
Blinking my eyes open, I watched him stride to me with a feral spring to his step and rage filled his face. He was unhinged, completely, but instead of cowering away in fear, a growl escaped my lips in warning but it didn’t reach him. He was too focused, too blinded by the emotions that always seemed to get the better of him. I winced, wiping my nose to see another trace of blood.
“Fucking submit!” He roared, spittle flying from his lips and kicking my side, forcing me on my back. My breathing hitched when his hands circled my throat again and squeezed what little air I had left. He thought he’d force me to give up but I would. I would die for this. My pride – my biggest downfall – wouldn’t give any of these men the satisfaction of me bending to him. My head felt heavy and tears blurred my vision as I clawed at his forearms, drawing blood but he was unaffected.
The sound of Basil’s voice, broken and worn out, left an ache in my chest more painful than Tristan’s lethal hold. The harder I fought, the more air I was losing. My punches got weaker, sluggish and my face heated as darkness dotted my vision. This time, I held onto his wrists, gritting my teeth, trying one last time to push him off. I screamed with everything I had in me, digging my fingers into his flesh as I resisted the urge to shift.
Something vanished in Tristan gaze and he blinked slowly, green eyes returning to brown as his brows knitted together. Instantly, his grip loosened. Not dwelling on his mistake, I kicked him away, panting heavily as I wobbled to my feet. He didn’t try to stop me and this time, I was the one to make the first move.
I brought my right knee to his stomach and he doubled over. I continued with my blows and he didn’t make any attempt to fight back. I screamed in frustration, baring my teeth threateningly but he wasn’t fazed.
“What the hell are you doing?” I heard Theodore shout. “Defend yourself, boy!”
I slashed his face, my claws coming through and his head snapped to the side at the offence. Three long fresh scratches glared at me, blood oozing through, tainted my sense of smell. Slowly, he turned to me, the rage I saw in his eyes dissipating into something else. My anger spiked a tenfold at his impassivity and a snarl ripped through my chest. I attacked him, losing all my inhibitions, giving over to my wolf.
Did he think I wasn’t good enough? Was he that arrogant to think he’d win this? Years of pent-up anger, disappointment and sadness spewed with my cries, my eyes watering and this time, I didn’t care when they trickled down my cheeks.
“FIGHT BACK!” I screamed, punching and scratching and shoving his chest. “FIGHT BAAACK!”
I pulled back my arm and punched him one last time. All of sudden, he crumpled to the ground on his knees, his mouth slightly parted and his eyes glazed over. I paused, stunned by his actions, my eyes never leaving his for fear of his attack.
He did something I would’ve never expected; at least, nothing too soon in our fight. Breathing heavily, Tristan tilted his head to the side, his neck bare and my heart dropped to the pit of my stomach, knowing too well that it meant.
Thunder boomed above us and one by one, droplets of water fell to the ground. It took a while to register the rain battering down on me as I was too focused on my cousin.
Then something from my peripheral caught my attention. Glancing around, I watched as everyone lowered to one knee, their heads bowed. It was like a domino effect embodied through these people. Basil was the last one standing, looking as shocked as I felt. I thought I was dreaming, believing it was some sick joke. This wasn’t real, was it?
He lowered to one knee but his gaze never swayed from mine. His next words shattered the walls I’d built for years, marking a new beginning, a new era.“We give our allegiance to you, my Moon.”