Serendipity couldn’t remember a time when she had slept past sunrise. Sleep wasn’t something she had been good at since the War. It was a necessity, not a luxury. Now, as she cracked open her eyes, she found the sun streaming through the window. The bed she was laying in was basked in warm light and the rays hit her face as the position of the star changed.
Her eyes closed again and she turned and stretched before snuggling deeper into the warmth of the comforter. Her thoughts drifted for a moment. She hadn’t had a nightmare. When was the last time she had slept completely dream free?
“Good morning,” a gruff voice grumbled from beneath her.
Serendipity jumped up as if someone had thrown a bucket of ice water on her. The Prince’s face came into view. Had she been cuddling with him? Her face turned a deep red as she backed away, the covers sliding with her and off of him. Her eyes trailed down over his chest. He was shirtless.
She turned suddenly to get off the bed before finding herself face to face with the floor with a hard thud. She winced as she untangled her body from the covers, looking up at the bed once more to make sure the Prince hadn’t tried to lunge for her.
“Are you okay?”
Serendipity gaped up at him before nodding. He was standing right next to her! How had he moved that quickly? He helped move the giant comforter off of her and she stood. Her hand found its way up to her aching head as she slowly backed away from the werewolf. Everything came swirling back to her from the day before and she sighed. She had promised Lindsey she’d try. She’d try to make whatever this was work for the sake of her people. Her head picked up its pounding.
The prince swallowed hard as he looked at her. “I can leave. I shouldn’t have gotten into the bed with you in it.”
The words sounded like they were the most difficult he had ever spoken. She could have groaned. How was she going to make this work when he looked at her with those eyes? She took a deep breath and tried to think objectively. Guilt instantly ate at her. She had taken his bed last night. Where had she expected him to sleep? Her hands flew out.
No. It’s your room. I’m so sorry your majesty. I just didn’t know where to sleep, she signed. She let out the puff of air she had been holding. The Prince’s eyes turned a slight yellow.
“My name is Dominic. Please don’t use titles with me Serendipity,” he asked.
She nodded stiffly, holding the blanket to her form as if it would somehow protect her. They both looked at each other for a moment until Prince Dominic cleared his throat.
“I have a meeting this morning. I wish I was able to blow it off, but I can’t, “he told her. Serendipity nodded uneasily.
Prince Dominic once again cleared his throat. “I will let you get dressed and then we will discuss your options for today.”
Serendipity watched his flustered form retreat to the hallway before she dropped the blanket onto the bed and moved towards the closet. What was she thinking? He was a monster! Yet every time she let him get close to her, it was if nothing else mattered. All rational thoughts went out of the window and the line between what should be done and what absolutely should not be done became blurred. Her fists clenched together in anger.
She hated him. She did. Serendipity sighed wearily. She didn’t hate him. She didn’t know what she felt towards him, but out of all the swirling erratic emotions, she felt, hate wasn’t one of them. It would be so much easier if it was.
A knock sounded at the door and she froze before Lindsey walked in carrying a couple of outfits. Serendipity’s relief was instant.
“Morning Sunshine,” Lindsey quipped. Serendipity gave her a small smile.
Did you not have to help clean today? Serendipity asked.
“I do, but since I’m staying here, for the time being, I don’t have to take the bus every morning. I told another girl this morning she would be taking attendance and giving assignments until I can get back. The prince has also given me the task of being here to help you whenever you need it,” Lindsey explained.
Serendipity’s questions grew in number. Do I still have the same job? Do I even have a job anymore? She couldn’t remember the last time she hadn’t been employed since being settled after the War.
Lindsey simply snorted. “I doubt it Serendipity. Things are going to be different for you now.”
A frown grew larger on Serendipity’s face. This was something she was going to have to talk to the Prince about. Lindsey noticed the concern growing on Serendipity’s face and tried to distract her from the topic.
“So, what do you want to wear?” Lindsey asked. Serendipity stood and looked down at the outfits. Her nose crinkled at the dress and she reached out for the jeans and grey sweater.
As she changed, Lindsey disappeared into the hallway again only to return with boots for her to put on. Serendipity thanked her before putting her hair up into a messy bun. Her finger trailed over the wool of her shirt. She hadn’t had clothes this nice since before the War.
Things were going to be different.
A knock at the door had Lindsey’s attention immediately. Serendipity noticed her stand a bit straighter and go completely still beside her. The door opened to reveal the Prince and two wolves who entered behind him. She looked over to her friend and saw Lindsey’s eyes and head down, looking towards her feet. Serendipity froze, not knowing whether or not to follow her lead.
The Prince didn’t even spare a glance for Lindsey. “You’re dismissed.”
Her friend left the room and she was alone with three wolves. Her heart stuttered in her chest when the two unfamiliar wolves advanced towards her. Right before she was about to move, they stopped and lowered their heads towards her. Serendipity’s mouth fell open in shock and she gave an unsure look to Dominic.
A light laugh was followed by his response. “These are the only two males I would ever entrust your care with should something happen to me. This is my Beta Benjamin,” the Prince pointed to the one with lighter hair, “and my Gamma Rylee. If anything were to happen here at the manor and you can’t find me, you find them. They will both keep you safe until I can get to you.”
All she could do was nod with wide eyes. Was that the appropriate response? She honestly didn’t know what to sign about a potential manor invasion. If one were to happen, she would most likely try to run. At least if she was caught, she could just say she got turned around and lost. The two wolves in front of her looked up before retreating to stand by the door.
“I have a meeting that technically started ten minutes ago so I will let Benjamin escort you to where you need to be this morning,” the Prince told her.
Her eyebrows creased. Where am I going?
Dominic’s mouth twitched up. “I will see you at lunch, Serendipity.”
With a yellow glint in his eyes, he turned around and walked out of the door with the wolf called Rylee. She looked at Benjamin and gave him a shaky smile, wringing her hands together. He gave her a big smile back and an image of Caleb flashed through her mind. She swallowed hard, walking towards the unfamiliar wolf with shaky legs.
Benjamin’s smile slowly morphed into a frown as she grew closer and his nose twitched. “You don’t have to be afraid of me, Luna.”
My name isn’t Luna, she signed. The wolf looked confused for a moment before grabbing a tiny pad out of his pocket.
“I don’t know any of the hand stuff, but you can write something down if you need to,” the wolf told her with a cheeky grin as he held out his hand with the little notebook. She hesitantly accepted it but didn’t write anything down. She didn’t trust the wolf enough to take her eyes away from his form.
The wolf broke the silence. “Follow me. Alpha Gabriele doesn’t appreciate tardiness.”
They exited the room and she followed behind him into the hallway. She was surprised to see that they weren’t alone. Two men stood outside, one of whom she recognized as Beckham. The only difference was the long, ugly red scar that graced the right side of his face. He refused to meet her eyes, his head peering down at his feet. She stood, wide-eyed, staring at him. Her heart dropped in her chest.
“Don’t be alarmed, Luna. This is your guard. Their purpose is to keep you safe,” Benjamin explained. She swallowed as they continued their way down the hallway, the two wolves in step just behind them. Her stomach turned sour at the thought of Beckham’s scar. Had the Prince done that? Was it because of her bruises? The Prince had left his room in such a rage last night.
Serendipity tugged on Benjamin’s sleeve and the wolf stopped to look back at her. She ran her hand over the side of her face and looked back at Beckham. The wolf seemed to realize what she was asking about.
“You are dismissed. I will call for you later,” Benjamin told the two unexpectantly. Beckham seemed as if he was going to argue but stopped himself. They both bowed and turned to walk back down the hallway. Once out of sight, Benjamin turned his focus back to her.
The Beta sighed loudly. “You need to understand that there is a very strict pecking order here, Serendipity. You are human and I don’t expect you to understand the necessary violence it takes to keep a pack running without chaos and revolting, but you live in our world now.”
She scribbled something down onto her pad before handing it to him.
Did the Prince mutilate his face because of me?
“Beckham had it coming. His treatment of you just sped it up. His face will heal and he will be a better wolf because of it,” the Beta explained. All Serendipity could do was nod, shocked that her prediction had been confirmed to be the truth. Benjamin picked up his footsteps and she tried to match his quick pace.
“Please don’t this color your opinion of Dominic. I grew up with him and he’s a good man and an even better Alpha. I’m sure it’s hard for you to see that with everything you’ve been through, but he has his reasons for doing what he did.”
Serendipity didn’t know what the man wanted to hear. The same man he claimed was ‘good’ had enslaved her people and was the very reason she had been through hell. The Prince was the reason her brother was dead. How could she just sweep that under the rug? How could she pretend that the Prince mauling another wolf, one of his people, hadn’t shaken her up?
Eventually, they stopped outside of a door. Benjamin knocked twice before opening it, waiting for Serendipity to enter first. The sound of laughter caught her completely off guard and the sight of children running around was as equally surprising. All of their heads shot up as they entered the room and suddenly a barrage of little humans were running towards her. She froze, before relaxing once she realized that they weren’t running to her, but instead to Benjamin. They crowded around him, some crying his name in excitement.
“Can we follow you around today, Beta Ben?”
“Are you teaching the class today?”
“Where’s Alpha Dominic?”
The Beta laughed loudly. “Hey, hey, hey! One at a time!”
All of the children grew quiet and waited patiently. Some of their gazes were now curiously focused on her and she tried to smile at the little monsters. Serendipity had never been very comfortable around children and it looked like that hadn’t changed in the years she had been isolated with women her age.
“Alpha Gabriele hasn’t arrived yet?” the Beta asked.
“I’m here,” a gruff voice called from across the room. The Prince’s father entered from another entrance. The children all rushed to the middle of the room, sitting in the seats that had been prepared for them as a chorus of ‘good morning Alpha King’ rang out in the room.
The Alpha acknowledged the children before sitting a briefcase onto a desk. “You can leave Benjamin. You are running late, aren’t you?”
“Yes, Alpha King.” Benjamin bowed before making his exit.
Was she being dropped off for a kindergarten class? Serendipity turned to look at the older wolf in confusion. He waved her towards the front of the room and she hesitantly moved towards him. He addressed the room once she stood beside him.
“Class, we have a very special visitor today. Her name is Serendipity, and she will be sitting in on classes from now on.”
A young boy who looked to not be over the age of ten stood up from his seat and pointed an accusing finger at Serendipity. “But she’s a human! I can smell her!”
A chorus of small talk went up in the air as the children conspired amongst themselves. She looked up at Alpha Gabriele uncertain if she should remain with such talks of controversy. The old man’s face grew darker as he looked down over the room. The kids quietened until there was nothing but silence.
“Her name is Serendipity. I won’t hear another word in this classroom about Serendipity being human. What is the first lesson I taught you when you walked through those doors, Noah?” The Alpha King didn’t let his eyes wander from the child who had first spoken up.
The blonde boy averted his gaze to the ground, “Good wolves don’t judge others. We all help each other and that’s what makes us a strong pack.”
The Alpha looked pleasantly shocked that the boy had remembered his lesson. “That’s right. From this moment on, we don’t judge wolves or humans without getting to know them first.”
A chorus of little voices replied. “Yes, Alpha King.”
The Alpha King gestured to the empty chair sitting at his desk. “Please, sit.”
Serendipity did as he asked. She watched as the man took off his over-jacket and laid it across the desk she was sitting at before he turned to finally address his audience.
“Since we have a new student with us, would anyone mind explaining what this class is all about?” A few hands flew up and the Alpha King pointed to a girl sitting in the front row.
Flustered, a girl in pigtails answered the question shyly. “This class meets once a week so that we can learn about being werewolves, right Alpha?”
“That’s right, Grace. I am here to help each one of you become the very best wolf that you can be. Last week we talked about the hierarchy that is currently in place now. Can anyone remind me of the social structure that we use?”
This time, a younger boy raised his hand high and the Alpha King called on him.
“There is the Alpha King and his family. They get the final call on things concerning their territory. Then, there is the supernatural council. The Alpha King has to answer to them about issues concerning anything that lies outside of our territory.”
Serendipity could vaguely remember hearing about other supernatural species, but she had never seen any others. It was merely a rumor that no one paid much mind too because it didn’t affect them. It seemed that was about to change for her.
Everything was changing.
“That’s very good, Timothy. I can tell you paid attention during our last lesson,” the Alpha King praised.
“The only force more powerful than our reign is the supernatural council. Inside of the pack, the Alpha King rules, followed by his Beta and his chosen Gamma.”
“Why don’t you rule anymore. Alpha King?”
The room grew quiet at one child’s question as if they all knew one big secret that no one talked about. Serendipity’s interest was piqued. Why didn’t the Alpha King rule? Dominic wasn’t too young, but he was young enough to make her question why he was taking up all of his father’s responsibilities. She watched as the older wolf’s face fell before he seemed to compose himself into the proud man he was.
The Alpha King clapped his hands together, holding them in their joined state. “That’s a very good question leading into today’s discussion. We will be talking about mates.”
A chorus of ‘ewe’s’ and ‘gross’ flowed through the room. Serendipity’s lips tipped up into amusement as she listened carefully. This must be the reason she was here. Maybe if she learned more about whatever ‘mates’ were she could prove to Dominic that he had abducted the wrong girl. She had already been called ‘Luna’ multiple times. They had her mixed up with someone else. She would have to go back to her terrible apartment and continue scrubbing toilets for the rest of eternity, but at least she would be safe.
“Settle down. I promise after a few years you will all feel very different about the topic. Your mate will have that effect on you. She, or he, will have the ability to come into your life and flip it upside down. Everything you think you know will become cloudy and you will realize that all of the things you used to care about are nothing without that other person,” the Alpha promised.
The kids all quietened and leaned forward in their chairs, listening closely. Serendipity had to admit, she was too. Knowledge was power and she needed to soak up as much information as she could.
“Most of you in this room have a mother and a father and all couples in this pack are mates. Mating is like the marriage of human culture, except it’s much stronger and there are no incorrect matches. It has always been this way and I do not doubt that it will continue to be this way forever.”
The Alpha King crossed the room, arms stretched across his chest as he spoke. “There are three steps in a wolf’s courtship. The first is the initial meeting. Usually, the male wolf dominates the female and she leaves wearing the wolf’s mark. Then there is a courtship which can be as short as a few weeks to as long as a few years. The final step is mating, which happens when you are all a lot older. After that, the female is bound to the wolf for the remainder of her life,” he explained. A couple of the kids noses crinkled at the thought.
“That’s not fair, Alpha Gabriele! Why do the boys get to decide who and when?” a young girl spoke up.
Alpha Gabriele gave a small smile. “Trust me, Abigail. I have no doubt you will have plenty of say-so with whatever wolf you end up with. The males may seem like they have all the power, but it’s the other way around.”
Serendipity was surprised. She thought back to the night before in the library. Was that why the Prince’s eyes had changed to a bright yellow? Would he have marked her if she would have stood still, too afraid to do anything or speak back? Would she have let him?
Alpha Gabriele’s voice cut through the daze she was in. “There are very rare cases where some wolves pass away before their mate. The other wolf contracts mating sickness.”
One of the children’s hands went up. “Is that what you have, Alpha Gabriele?”
The Alpha King cleared his throat before answering. “Yes. I have mating sickness. There is no cure and it slowly wears away at the wolf’s sanity and health until the wolf either dies or goes insane. It works away at different wolves with different speeds and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.”
The Alpha King turned to look at her, his attention shifting from the children. “It also affects wolves who are rejected by another species, such as a human. The wolf dies a slow and painful death and the human suffers no other consequence besides living a half-life, never bring able to be fulfilled and always empty until they accept the inevitable.”
The Alpha King was definitely talking to her. Serendipity swallowed hard and a looked down at her hands that were intertwined in nervousness on the top of the desk. The king finally looked back towards the children.
“I think it’s almost time for your parents, pups, so we will cut the class short. You are free to have recreational time outside, with supervision!” The children didn’t wait around and by the time he finished his sentence, all of the kids had made it to the door and were shoving to get outside.
“That was the shortest lesson I have ever given,” the Alpha commented, moving towards the desk. He brought the stool closer and sat down across from her. “I asked my son to bring you here this morning. I hope you don’t mind.”
Serendipity shrugged. She didn’t mind, but would it have mattered if she did? She couldn’t leave the manor and the Alpha King’s son was under the impression that she belonged to him. Honestly, the older wolf hadn’t told her nearly as much as she wanted to hear which was how exactly to get out of the mess, she was in. He told her the opposite.
Serendipity narrowed her eyes accusingly. You had that lesson because of me.
The Alpha King nodded. “Dominic’s too proud to tell you what will happen to him if you leave him, but I am not. I love my son and I can’t stand the thought of him ending up like...”
Serendipity didn’t have to hear him say it to know it was true. Now that she knew for a fact that the man was sick, she could understand him not wanting his son to go through the same thing. He was going to do what he could to help with that agenda and since she was basically Dominic’s cure, the Alpha King was making sure she knew it.
He will get sick if I leave. That’s what you are saying, right? Serendipity signed.
The Alpha King confirmed her thoughts. “He will die if you leave.”
Serendipity felt the weight of responsibility fall onto her shoulders as she slumped down in her seat. Leaving the manor as soon as she got a chance had been her plan. She most likely would have gotten caught and brought back but there was a slim chance she could have been successful. Now, knowing that doing that would kill someone had changed everything. This wasn’t something she could run from.
How can I stay after what has been done? My people are enslaved! He’s killed thousands. What if he hurts me? Serendipity signed frantically, forgetting for a moment who she was speaking to. Her cheeks flushed red once her mind came back to her. Serendipity was surprised when he didn’t seem to get angry. He just watched and waited for her to calm down.
The Alpha King blinked. “Do you know how my wife died?”
Serendipity’s eyes grew wide and her breath stopped before her hands moved. No
"She was killed by humans and I wasn’t there to protect her, or stop Dominic from seeing it. You aren’t the only one that has been through more than what they have had too. Please just try and give Dominic a chance. He isn’t a bad man. He’s just one that had to make difficult choices for our species to survive,” Alpha Gabriele told her, his voice flatter than usual.
Serendipity didn’t know how to respond. She could hear the grief in his tone and all she wanted to do was wrap her arms around the man in comfort and run from sight at the same moment. There had been so many wrongdoings committed. She had never really thought about the things that had happened to werewolves. In her mind, they were all unstoppable, unkillable machines without emotions or families of their own. She was wrong.
Serendipity sighed, admitting defeat. I don’t know where to start.
Alpha Gabriele’s face lit with hope. “Get to know him, Serendipity. See my son for who he is and not the monster that the world has made him out to be. That’s all I want. Consider it my dying wish.”
Serendipity gave the man a small shake of her head in agreement. How could she tell him no?
The older wolf patted her hand. “I hope that you decide to join me with the children every week, but I won’t force you to come if you don’t want to as I did this time. It’s a good place to start when you don’t know anything about our world. As a future diplomat, you have a lot to learn about before you will be ready to stand by Dominic’s side as his equal.”
I’ll come. I have a feeling that there is a lot I don’t know about, Serendipity responded.
She had enjoyed the class earlier. She hadn’t seen children since the War. A knock on the door got the pair’s attention and they looked towards the door to see Beckham step into the room.
Head bowed in respect; her bodyguard began to deliver his message. “Prince Dominic is requesting that the Luna be brought to him for lunch, your majesty.”
The Alpha king waved the wolf away. “We are about to finish up here, Beckham. She will be out in a moment.”
Serendipity’s bodyguard replied. “Yes, Alpha King.”
Alone again, Alpha Gabriele stood and offered his hand to Serendipity. She took it hesitantly and he helped her stand.
“I know we just met, Serendipity, but I am glad that my son found you.” The man squeezed her hand and she smiled weakly.
Serendipity wished she could say the same...