Bound by Duty

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Second Thoughts?

Seeing the look, Danielle stiffened. She knew what he was doing, and what he was making obvious to everyone there.

She didn’t bear Alex’s mark.

“My honour, ma’am,” he said in clipped, albeit mocking tones. How could Alex not have noticed that look? He understood what his beta was thinking and it wasn’t something he wanted anyone thinking about him or his mate. He was about to open his mouth to show the lower-ranked wolf his place, but he remembered that doing so would only lower Danielle’s status in their eyes.

An alpha werewolf had to be capable. More so the queen of werewolves.

Lupa had already narrowed her eyes at the disrespect. It wasn’t something she would tolerate. “What crawled up this guy’s ass?” she snapped inside Danielle’s head.

Danielle was amused by this guy. Who was he to pass judgement on when and where she could get marked by her mate? It was ludicrous. She murmured, smiling a little, “Beta Richard,” before looking right past him as if she didn’t notice his hostility at all. It was clearly a slap in the face.

Alex’s lips curved slowly. The best medicine for arrogance was indifference. By ignoring him, she had declared that she didn’t even have him in his sights. He decided he would leave this for her to handle if it cropped up later. Richard was a good beta, but a rather conservative-minded man.

They moved on along the line. “Darling, I’m not sure if you know this, but the royal pack her two betas, four gammas and eight deltas, mainly because of the large responsibilities they generally have to undertake,” Alex explained. Danielle’s eyes popped out at the endearment with which her mate had called her. She glared at him accusingly but he merely gave her a bland smile. He gestured towards the next man. “This is the other beta of the royal pack, Ian.”

She turned to look at Beta Ian who looked like he was in his late twenties. But she knew and understood that everyone in this pack was an immortal monster, so she didn’t even try to guess his actual age.

Ian gave her a deep, respectful bow, his eyes holding a lot of regard for her. Unlike Richard who refused to see the reality, Ian could sense the aura leaking out from his queen despite her efforts to restrain it. He knew she deserved their respect — his, the pack’s and the kingdom’s. “My queen, it’s our good fortune to have you here.”

Richard snorted lightly. To him, Danielle was only an unmarked little girl who had no real power or importance. He wasn’t going to be paying attention to her anytime soon; there was going to be no need.

But no one paid attention to Richard’s derision.

Next in the line was someone she would need to interact quite a bit with — Spears, the head butler of the royal palace. Effusive man that he was, he rambled on saying, “My queen, I can’t tell you for how long this palace has been waiting for you. So cheerless, so empty. Regrettable, that’s what it was. Now that you’re here, I hope things will start changing!”

Danielle smiled wryly. Happy? Cheerful? She didn’t embody any of that. The poor man was holding unreasonable expectations, pinning his hopes on the wrong person. She patted him on the shoulder. “Good man,” she said, “I - and His Majesty too, I’m sure - appreciate your loyalty to the crown.”

Spears beamed with joy as his eyes began to water. Wiping them furiously, he said, “Thank you, Your Majesty.”

After Spears stood the four gammas of the pack. Then there were other lower-ranked wolves that Alex didn’t bother to introduce. He slipped an arm around her waist, gesturing to Spears to get their luggage. Their driver handed over the couple’s luggage to Spears who hurried to deliver them to the royal chambers.

As they went passed many twists and turns, Alex introduced her to the many rooms, halls and ballrooms. He didn’t really expect her to remember which was for until much later. But he wanted her to feel at home and not be intimidated by this whole experience.

He turned to look at her expression occasionally. Sometimes she seemed interested, sometimes she looked curiously bored. But she was never surprised. She was never fascinated. She was never awed. It was a calm that was beyond her years. This kind of calm and stability was scary for even a hundred-year-old wolf.

Alex grew increasingly curious about this extraordinary mate of his. She was a bundle of surprises. He was sure that she would introduce many shocks and changes in his life. He could only wait in anticipation of the same.

They finally reached the rooms. There were two rooms side by side. One had the king’s crown while the other had the queen’s crown embossed on them. These symbols conveyed that no other wolf had the right to step into these rooms unless she or he had permission. These rooms were royal territory.

Alex led her to her room. He unlocked the door with the keys Spears had given him earlier and opened it wide for her to enter. Once she went in, what she saw made her breath hitch, and not in a pleasant way.

The room was so goddamned majestic.

It was so opulent and grand, making it so oppressive for her that for a moment, she couldn’t breathe. The room and its interior decoration represented everything in the mantle that she would be taking on. She had other hopes, other dreams, other goals. She couldn’t, couldn’t stay here. All these responsibilities... she could accept them unquestioningly if she were willing.

But this wasn’t her choice.

"Is it so bad?" Lupa asked her softly. ”Is it so unbearable that you can’t even stand him?"

Alex frowned, sensing the change in her and in the air. He realised that the flight risk that she was was showing her risky side. She breathed out shakily. Her hand trembled once. Her upset mood struck him sharply.

"This is not good,” Lycan growled in his head. ”Do something. Comfort her. Calm her down."

Alex snapped out of his confusion and put his arms around her lightly. He rubbed her arm in soothing circles with his thumb. He whispered nonsense in her ear until she seemed to calm down. He glared at the room in accusation. What had this offending room done to her for her to react that way?

“I...” Danielle began in a whisper. She cleared her throat and began again slightly louder. “I need a different room.”

“That can be arranged,” Alex replied quickly. “You can pick whichever room you want in this palace.”

She nodded, rubbing her forehead. “Any other will do.”

Rubbing the amulet under her shirt to calm herself down, Danielle looked away from the room like it was the plague and stepped out of it. For her to break down like this for such an inconsequential trigger, she only remotely understood why.

She thought, ‘Looks like I have to call him again.’

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