Adjusting to life at the manor was easier than she thought it would be. For one, she had barely seen Alpha Dominic. It wasn’t that it was a bad thing. Serendipity needed time to adjust to her new surroundings without his presence making her uneasy at every turn.
Dominic had made good on his promise to get her a separate bedroom for the time being, even if it was the guest wing that connected to his room. Thankfully there was a door between them and the lock was on her side. She had wanted to ask for a different one, but after seeing the look on the wolf’s face, she couldn’t bring herself to do it. Besides, the room was something straight out of a fairy tale. It even had two huge balcony doors that opened up so that she could see the waves and hear the crashing as the water flowed onto the shore.
The only time she had seen Dominic was over awkward meals where she mostly pushed food around on her plate and tried her best not to make him upset. It was weird being so close to a wolf, the very same thing she had been terrified of days before, and not want to cry and bolt away. Serendipity could sense that Dominic probably knew that and he wasn’t pushing for anything she wasn’t willing to offer up in a casual conversation.
Otherwise, she had been pretty much confined to her room. She read, talked with Lindsey when her friend got a chance to visit the tower, and all her meals were brought to her. She asked Lindsey once if she could venture outside for fresh air, but apparently, the Prince was wanting the honor of showing her around himself. Hopefully, she wouldn’t suffocate until then.
Her third morning there, with the door connecting their rooms wide open, she tried her best to help the three triplets much to their dismay. She couldn’t sit and watch someone else clean her mess up. Serendipity knew what it was like to have to do it day in and day out. After much arguing, the sisters agreed that Serendipity could dust, so long as she didn’t let the Prince know she had helped.
They raced about like mad women, talking among themselves as they picked up stray clothes and straightened knickknacks on shelves. Serendipity put all the books that she had borrowed back where they belonged before dragging a cloth over the old, wooden bookcase. She tried to pay attention to what the three sisters were squawking about. Emily was excited about something.
“I ate the biggest breakfast of my life this morning. There were eggs, toast, and even bacon! I could have died from the smell alone!” Emily moaned, her hands covering her tummy dramatically.
Serendipity hid a smile. The humans were eating. No wonder they were so energetic and pumped up this morning. She felt her thoughts drift to Dominic and reminded herself to thank him when she saw him.
“The best part is that we get lunch and dinner too. I don’t have to spend all the credits I earn buying food anymore,” her sister replied, sweeping up the hardwood floors.
Serendipity hadn’t even thought about that, but now that the humans working at the manor didn’t have to buy as much food, they would be able to buy more clothes and things that made them happy. If she was still at her little apartment, being provided food would have done so much for her quality of life. She bit her lip at the thought and froze her swiping motions. How had everything changed so dramatically in such a short amount of time?
“So how did you do it?”
The question came from the usually silent triplet, Heather. At first, Serendipity thought she was speaking to one of her sisters. When the silence wasn’t filled with chatter, she lifted her head to be met with them all looking at her expectantly. Serendipity’s hand came up hesitantly and she pushed a loose strand of hair behind her ear. How had she done it? She pulled the little notepad out of the back of her jeans pocket before scribbling down a note and handing it to them.
I told Alpha Dominic that if he didn’t provide food for humans that worked here that I wouldn’t eat.
Heather read it first before passing on the notepad to her two sisters. They looked at her with shock in their eyes. She took the pad back and continued her work, wiping down the last of the wood furniture before putting the rag in the bucket beside her. The sisters still hadn’t moved.
“Did he hurt you?”
Serendipity was taken back by the question, but the concern in Paisley’s eyes for her kept the slight irritation from blossoming into anger. It made no sense to want to defend the Prince to the sisters. She shook her head no.
“Sorry, it just would have made sense if he had to suck up or something,” Emily apologized for her sister.
Serendipity honestly couldn’t blame them. She would have thought the same thing days ago before spending time around the wolf. If she was honest with herself, she still didn’t know what to expect, but she didn’t think he would hurt her. Not on purpose, at least.
“I have to admit that was brave of you to do,” Heather relented, sending Serendipity the first real smile she had seen from the girl. Serendipity could almost see a part of the emotional wall in her mind break and crumble down. She could tell that she would have to earn Heather’s trust, but hopefully, this was a step in the right direction.
The sound of the door opening had the triplets rushing to grab all of the cleaning supplies. Serendipity looked up from where she was sitting to see Dominic walk through the door, a wide smile on his face when he caught sight of her sitting in his room. She gave tiny grin back, fumbling with her shirt as her nerves got the best of her.
How could a man be so magnificent? Every time she saw him, her breath left her body. He was so intimating, a dark, imperial shadow, and yet something about that excited her and terrified her all at the same time. He was wearing a suit, an outfit that looked so strange on him. It wasn’t that it looked bad. That wasn’t the case at all. He was well defined in it and looked sophisticated. She was instantly reminded of his status. Seeing him in it was like packaging up a tiger though. You could put a leash on it and call it a cat all day, but no one would be fooled.
She stood clumsily as he grew closer so that she wouldn’t be at such a disadvantage. His powerful frame towered over her, his beautiful chocolate brown eyes glinting with yellow specks as he finally reached her. She was surprised when he grabbed her by her hand with no warning and pulled her forward. He hadn’t attempted to touch her too much since the incident in the library. She melted into the embrace with no struggle her body resting against him as he gripped her hard, just holding her. She closed her eyes in content.
“Good morning, Serendipity.”
She just pushed her face deeper into his chest in response. She should be freaked out. She should push him away or at least not have a satisfied grin on her face, but how could she not. He felt right. They felt right, together.
It wasn’t until she heard a giggle from Paisley that she came to her senses. Her hands rose slowly between them and she took a step back, her face a flaming red. Dominic looked irritated at the interruption and cast his gaze towards the sisters, who all seemed to try and conceal their amusement now that his attention was focused on them.
“Thank you for cleaning. You’re dismissed,” the wolf told them gruffly, a twinkle of affection in his eyes. She smiled at his manners before crinkling her eyebrows together in confusion. She waited for the sisters to leave and the door to shut before turning back to Dominic to appease her curiosity.
Serendipity raised her hand to sign. How were they able to stay together? I thought most families were split apart.
The Prince’s smile dropped a bit, but not completely. He held out his hand and she took it nervously. The single touch sent shock waves through her and all she wanted to do was press herself closer to him, but she didn’t. Thankfully, she still had a shred of dignity left.
“I’ll tell you about it as I show you your new home,” he told her. She nodded excitedly. All Serendipity had wanted to do for days was stretch her legs. They walked hand in hand out of the room and down the hallway, neither of them saying anything. Instead, they just basked in the presence of each other, at peace with the current moment. That was one of Serendipity’s favorite things about the Prince. He was okay with silence. Most people couldn’t handle that about her.
Traveling down the stairs, Dominic began his story concerning the triplets. “Before New Nation was established, we hired human help at the packhouse. The triplet’s parents came when I was just a boy, the girls no older than two or three. In exchange for living under our roof and becoming a part of the pack, they were told our secret.”
At the bottom, they exited the entrance to the tower and she clutched onto his hand tighter as they entered into the common area which just so happened to be crawling with wolves. Dominic looked down at her, startled when she closed most of the distance between them. If she had to choose between the wolves she didn’t know and the wolf she did, it would be the lesser of the two evils.
“You don’t have to be scared, Serendipity,” he murmured, looking down at her with concerned eyes. She hesitantly let go of his hand as they continued forward so that she could sign.
I have never seen this many wolves before, she admitted.
“It won’t usually be like this, but this week celebrates the creation of New Nation. The leaders and family of all the packs in my territory come together here for political meetings, and at the end of their two weeks stay there is a formal celebration. Be brave, my little human. You have nothing to fear from my people as long as I still have breath in my body,” he murmured before kissing the top of her head.
She looked up at him dazzled, her fears were completely forgotten. Did real people talk like that? She felt him tug on her hand and she looked up startled. He had taken a couple of steps forward, ready to continue while she stared up at him like an idiot. She took a deep breath and caught up with him as they traveled down the corridor.
She wasn’t as terrified as before, though she continued to avert her gaze away from the wolves anytime they got particularly close as they passed. She wanted to be able to hold her head up high and be just as brave as Dominic thought she was, but an inch of progress was still progress.
As they made their way through the second floor of the manor, he showed her each room. Most were for meetings and some were offices. At the end of the hallway, there were guest rooms, but he told her that most wolves that weren’t family choose to stay in New Nation pack lodging that was on the property a few miles away. They made it to the staircase that led to the lower floor and descended.
Serendipity could tell that Dominic was proud of what he had built for his people. It was in the way his eyes lit up as he told her stories of the construction of the manor. It was in his tone of voice, laced with hope for a better world for all wolves. It was even in the way he carried himself. She felt the happiness radiate off of him. Looking around though, she couldn’t help but be saddened that her people would probably never have this. The world she had come from had been broken, but there must have been a better way to mend the gap than enslavement.
On the lower floor, Dominic once again began to show her most of the rooms. It was much bigger than she first thought. There was a movie theater, a bowling alley, and even a skating rink. The further back they went through the seemingly endless hallways, the more relaxed she became in his presence. After a quick tour of the servants’ area, they headed towards the garden. It was the last place he hadn’t reintroduced her too.
Did you keep all of your human employees with you? Serendipity asked when they exited the manor.
Dominic’s face twisted up and he sighed loudly. “Only the ones that were loyal when we went to war. The triplet’s parents were and they lost their life because of it. I gave their children a place here, where I knew they would be safe and taken care of.”
She couldn’t stop herself from asking the next question. What happened to the humans that weren’t loyal?
He looked conflicted as if he couldn’t decide whether or not to answer her question. She reached out and grasped his hand, squeezing it lightly. If anything was going to work between the two of them, she needed him to be honest. He stopped walking once they reached the edge of the garden to look at her.
There was no emotion in his voice when he answered her. “They were publicly executed to serve as an example to the others.”
Serendipity tried not to flinch, she did, but she couldn’t hide her spike in fear. She wasn’t stupid. Of all the things Dominic was, a werewolf, an Alpha, and a Prince, she had to remember that he was a soldier too. He was a warrior and warriors fought wars. The war was over now though and they weren’t on opposite sides anymore.
She leaned into him and clutched his hand a little tighter. Nothing was said as his free arm wrapped around her. She couldn’t condone his actions and tell them they were okay, and she knew he didn’t expect her too. Instead, they stood in silence, his tense body slowly relaxing against hers. He probably expected her to lash out. Hell, if she had been sane that’s most likely what would have happened. The sound of a low howl echoed out around them, and she looked towards the tree line, seeing a wolf step out. The wolves were patrolling.
She separated her body from his but kept hold of his hand. He led her inside of the beautiful garden and this time she was able to fully appreciate the beauty of it. The sun fought it’s way past the clouds that hung low in the sky, and the ray’s hit the flowers in front of her as they trailed their way through the maze of vegetation.
“I know I spoke of the pack summit briefly a bit earlier, but there is something that I haven’t mentioned yet. Beckham won’t be your only guard when you leave our quarters anymore. I have assigned two more wolves that I trust to guard you while everyone is here,” he told his mate.
Serendipity’s nose turned up at the thought of two more wolves just as hateful as Beckham, trailing her around and before she could dispute it, he stopped her mid-sign.
“Your safety isn’t optional, Serendipity. It is only temporary and my father has relinquished me of most of my duties so that we can spend time together which means that you won’t need them most of the time. Please, do this for me so that I can rest easy knowing you are safe when I am not there to ensure it,” he pleaded.
She bit her lip before giving him a nod. How could she tell him no when he looked down at her with those eyes? He gave her a satisfied smile before tugging her deeper into the growth. She stopped more than once to admire a few exotically beautiful plants. Dominic seemed to know the name of each one and she found the odd botanical quirk almost cute in a geeky sort of way.
She eventually picked a beautiful pink one and turned around, giving Dominic an almost malevolent smirk before hugging him, catching him off guard as he stuttered over what he had been saying. When she leaned back, she tucked the flower behind his ear. If she could have laughed, she would have. The giant of a man looked almost delicate with the tiny adornment. The Prince’s hand reached up to grab it. She gave him the best pout she could muster.
I liked you in pink, she signed with an amused smile on her face. He laughed loudly before placing the flower behind her ear instead, his finger lingering.
“Little mate, I think you are lying to me,” he murmured amused and not fooled. “Besides, this shade looks much better on you.”
She felt the heat rise in her face as she grew flustered and her gaze fell to the ground, trying to hide her embarrassment. She felt his fingers trail down from behind her ear and lift her chin so that their eyes met. She swallowed the lump in her throat, the intensity in his eyes scaring her. She backed away and turned towards the flowers again, picking another small one before placing it in the jacket pocket of his suit.
Now it’s fair, she signed. Hand in hand, they began walking again, taking a path that diverted them away from the man-made lake and to the manor. She was almost disappointed that their trek was over.
“I have a surprise for you, Serendipity. I know that this has been a hard adjustment and I am no easy man to get comfortable around, but I hope this will help.”
Serendipity was confused at first. They walked towards large open doors, white curtains blowing about in the wind. Pushing past the obstacle, Dominic led her inside and her heart stuttered before it stopped. The room was large and open. Sunlight filled every corner, casting soft light in the area. Bookshelves lined the walls and a staircase similar to the one in the library traced it’s way up to a balcony, where she could see a swinging chair overlooking the garden. She guessed from that height she would be able to see the ragged ocean line as well.
Plants filled the room, almost becoming one with the flora outside. She noticed an easel and many different sized canvases sitting everywhere and tears pricked her eyes. She had casually mentioned how much she used to love to paint during a previous lunch. At the time, she hadn’t even thought he heard her. She let go of his hand and walked forward, running her shaky fingers over everything she saw
A huge dream catcher made of glass caught her eye, sitting in the window to her left, reflecting light and casting luminescent rainbows throughout the room. She had told him about how her brother had made her one before he left for the war. Looking closer at the shelves she saw titles that she recognized and had babbled endlessly about around the Prince when she got too nervous to do anything else. Knickknacks from her apartment were dispersed throughout the room.
She turned at the base of the staircase, her eyes meeting his as he watched her. There was such tenderness in his gaze. Before she knew what was happening, she felt the salty trail of tears before she could stop them. Her wolf was on her before she could explain, taking her in his arms as she cried.
What had she done to deserve this? She was the least worthy person she could think of to be paired with someone who could give so selflessly. He lowered them to the first step and held her for a minute. She let him, not even pretending to be defensive of the act. His hand stroked her hair back as she composed herself before looking up at him.
This can’t be for me. It’s too much, she signed.
He laughed then, clutching her tightly. “It’s for you, Serendipity. Anytime you need privacy or just need to get away, you can come here.” When she began to silently cry again and his hands cradled her face, his thumbs wiping the tears away. “It’s nothing compared to what you have given me, my mate. Consider it a consolation prize for having to be stuck with me.”
She smiled then and would have laughed if she could have. He thought she was stuck with him? She didn’t deserve this man. No matter what he had done in the past, she could feel that he was good. He had proved it to her over and over again with his patience and care. She could make him see what he was doing to the humans was wrong. The wolf was filled to the brim with compassion, just ignorant of how bad things had truly gotten within the districts. She would make him see.
You remember everything I babble about, don’t you? she asked, amazed.
With an offended look in his eyes, he responded. “I remember everything you tell me, Serendipity. How could I not pay attention to what you say?”
She just clutched onto him harder after that. At some point, they stood and walked towards the top. The doors were open upstairs too, letting the chilly air waft in. She shivered and he went to close them before she stopped him. The view was unlike anything she had ever seen and Dominic was like a human heater anyways. She sat in the swing for a moment, looking out over the garden to the sea. She could hear it and smell the salt in the air.
“Are you ready to head back, Serendipity?”
She realized in the moment of peace she was completely lax around the man for the first time since they had met. Not even a week in, and already she felt like she could trust a wolf she didn’t know to hurt her. It was more than trust she felt. She didn’t know how far the feelings went, but she cared for him. Deeply.
She averted her focus onto him. He had asked her if she wanted to leave. She didn’t particularly want to go anywhere, but she was sure he had things to do. His father had relinquished him from most duties, not all of them. She stood hesitantly and she could tell that he saw it.
“You are welcome to come here anytime. This space is yours. There are a couple of other places I haven’t shown you and I have an unavoidable meeting with one of the visiting Alpha’s. You can wander back here with your guards while I am busy if you want.”
She relented and they left her room. He showed her a few more rooms on the bottom floor and then they made it back to where everything had started. The entryway was crowded with werewolves and humans alike. Some came in carried in suitcases, others rushed about looking busy, and some of them were laughing and hitting each other on the back. Thankfully, Dominic slid them both pass using a hallway they hadn’t gone down yet and no one noticed them. She didn’t think she was ready for socialization.
The hallway was dark and they descended a couple of stairs before Dominic stopped and turned to open another door which she could see led to the servants’ area which would lead them almost straight back up to Alpha Dominic’s room. She almost didn’t notice that the staircase kept descending past the point of the door and she broke out of Dominic’s grip to try and look down.
I didn’t know there was a basement, she signed genuinely shocked.
She thought he was going to show her everywhere. She took one step down, assuming that Dominic would follow her, but her mouth dropped open when she felt his wrist enclose hers and jerk her back. It didn’t hurt her, but she was still startled by the action. She looked at him confused but allowed him to pull her out of the dark corridor and into the busier hallway. He slammed the door shut and his eyes flashed their beautiful yellow for a split second. He looked angry, and just like that she felt the familiar sliver of fear snake it’s way up her spine.
The next words were more of a growl than actual speech. “You are never to go into that hallway without me. Do you understand, Serendipity.” She was too stunned to react. He lowered his head closer to hers. “Do. You. Understand.”
She swallowed before nodding quickly, crossing her arms across her chest to feel more protected. Looking at the man now, no, the beast, she couldn’t believe that she had allowed him so close to her before. Why had he gotten so upset at her for wanting to explore? Hadn’t that been the point of today? She felt her palms go sweaty and stomach sink with a newfound sense of anxiousness.
Dominic didn’t look satisfied with her nod, but he didn’t push further and she was grateful. As he calmed down, his shoulders relaxed and the glow from his eyes faded. She saw his hand shoot out and she flinched automatically, her foot stepping back and her eyes meeting the floor. She caught herself after the fact and looked back up at him but stayed where she was. The look on his face tore her apart inside. Rejection and guilt were present and there was a part of her that thought he regretted his actions. His body language said he did.
“Come,” was all he said before turning around. She followed behind him up to his floor of the manor. They stopped outside of her bedroom and one of her guards, Beckham, opened the door to her suite. She walked inside, expecting Dominic to leave, but was instead surprised when he followed her in and the door was shut behind them. She took a deep breath before turning to face him.
“I didn’t mean to scare you. I’m am used to giving commands without regard to how someone feels when I do. I don’t want to leave like this,” he apologized. She could see the sincerity in his eyes.
She didn’t know what he wanted her to say. He had apologized and no real harm was done. Honestly, he had done her a favor. She had forgotten just how dangerous he was. He had reminded her. Whatever was between them, it could never work out.
Dominic’s face grew dark and he cursed under his breath before closing the gap between them in a long stride. “Don’t look at me like that, Serendipity. You know I could never hurt you,” he murmured. She closed her eyes when he grabbed her and pulled her close, his head bending to rest in the crook of her neck. She didn’t have the strength to fight him. “We haven’t known each other for long, but I know you feel this too.”
Damn it, she could! She would have had to be dead not to feel the scorching attraction that blazed between them. Even now, in an innocent embrace with the wolf, she could feel the sparks. How did he disable all of her defenses with one touch? Already she could feel the hurt and terror slipping from her and in response, her arms raised to clutch him to her too.
She separated herself from him far enough so that she could sign. What is down there?
The Prince’s face dropped. “It’s nothing for you to worry about.”
Spoiled brat, she signed before rolling her eyes. A smile broke out of her face when he looked taken back by her name-calling. She was sure he didn’t get teased often.
“My little human,” he laughed, pulling her closer to him once more.
Serendipity tried to bask in the moment they shared, but her mind kept going back to the hallway. There was something down there that he didn’t want her to see. That was the only logical explanation for his rash actions. Serendipity knew from experience that secrets only served to tear down relationships. It came down to trust, and obviously, the wolf didn’t trust her enough to reveal his secret. She sighed in his arms.
If he wasn’t going to tell her then she was just going to have to find out herself.