Bound by Duty

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What Wanders Gets Lost

She hesitated. “Let me talk to the king about this.” She had enough self-knowledge and knew not to pointlessly meddle in things she had no experience with. Since Alex had been in her situation many times before, and he would certainly help her out is she asked him, she decided to approach him first.

She hurried to his study and walked to the door, raising her hand to knock, but she suddenly froze. She stood outside the door blankly. She didn’t know whether she should disturb him. What if he was doing something important? What if he was with someone? What if he disliked being interrupted while he worked?

She hovered in that spot indecisively for about ten minutes, when suddenly the door opened. Alex came out of the room looking amused. “Darling, what are you doing? It’s been ten minutes that I have sensed you out here!”

For the first time in a long time, Danielle’s face flushed red. She was so embarrassed that she wished the ground would swallow her as a whole. Alex stifled a laugh. He extended his hand and she took it. He pulled her into his study.

There were many files, papers and documents strewn across the table. Dani looked around curiously. She had never been to his study. There was a huge cabinet for keeping his books. It was a mini-library. There was a cabinet for alcohol too. After having such a daunting day, she wanted to have some to loosen her up a bit. “Can you pour some for us?” she asked him.

He raised his brows and shook his head. “I won’t take any. I still have to work for a while. I’ll pour a glass of whisky for you.”

She sighed, relaxing back on the couch. Watching as he went about taking out a decanter, pouring out the drink and swirling it in the glass, a smile appeared on her face unknowingly. She looked around the room absently. Behind his chair was a glaringly obvious, huge painting of a man who looked so much like her mate. Except he had a French beard and was wearing the king’s crown.

“Your father?” She murmured. He looked at the painting and nodded, handing her the glass. “How did he...?”

Without a warning, his face sank and his eyes began to turn gold. It seemed like Lycan, his wolf, was very close to the surface. Danielle was taken aback. Why did that question provoke such an extreme reaction? As Alex began growling, slowly edging towards a half-shift, she let Lupa come to the fore. Lupa took over her body completely. She kept the glass aside and walked towards her mate.

“Mate,” Lupa hissed, meeting her other half for the first time. She ran her hand up and down his chest, calming the other wolf down. But Lycan didn’t retreat. Lupa cupped his face in her hands and pulled him close to meet her lips with his. The moment their lips met, Lupa attacked ferociously, fighting for dominance in their kiss. An excited Lycan reciprocated. When Lupa held his tongue between her teeth lightly, she slowly drew back.

"Tell your human to go on a run, soon,” she ordered. Lycan kissed her one last time before both gave up control.

Although Danielle was flushed and embarrassed by Lupa’s open, forward nature, she didn’t forget what just happened. She raised a brow at Alex. “Well? What was that all about?”

Alex turned his head away to look at his father’s portrait. He didn’t reply to her. She could gauge that his mood was quite off at that moment. She walked closer to him and waved in front of his face. When he looked at her finally, she raised her brows questioningly. “What’s up? Shall I leave the room, then?”

Alex sighed, looking contrite and apologetic. “I’m sorry. I was already in a bad mood,” he paused. “I was looking through some reports about Wanderer attacks near the smaller packs. So many wolves have died, there have been so many casualties. This happens every single year. They’re a menace.” As he continued to speak about them, his voice grew sharper and bitter.

She tilted her head quizzically. “What does this have to do with your father?”

“My father,” he hesitated, looking at her, “was killed by a large group of wanderers. It was a planned assassination. So it comes as no surprise that they are no better than filth to me.”

Danielle flinched at the venom in his voice. Her heart skipped a beat. “Are you sure?” she asked, her fist clenching at the side. “Was it truly a planned one? Or a freak acc—”

“Wouldn’t I know well enough about how my father died, Danielle?” Alex asked irritably. He didn’t turn away from looking at the painting of his father. Danielle remained silent for a while.

“But they’re not all like that, Alex,” she said quietly. “They don’t all kill. Some of th-”

“Are you really defending them?” he asked with disbelief. “After what I just told you?” He gestured towards Archer. She frowned at his accusatory tone.

“Of course, I am. Someone has to! Otherwise, they’ll be all misunderstood by higher-ups like you and suffer even more for sins they didn’t commit!“′

“Are you saying that murdering the king in cold blood, which is the crime of regicide, is not a sin?” Alex growled, now coming closer to her.

She threw her hands to the side in exasperation. “That is obviously a sin. I’m just saying that you shouldn’t paint them all with the same brush!”

“But I haven’t seen any different, Danielle! For me to believe them, I’ll have to see something in them worth saving! I don’t see a single one with redeemable qualities! Every single one of them does the same much and gets away with it just because they don’t belong to packs and they aren’t accountable. Goddess knows how much I’m failing the kingdom by not ridding it of all of these Wanderers!” he spat out the last word.

Her hands trembled. She looked at her mate wide-eyed who was glaring back at her. “But Alex,” she said slowly, ”I am a Wanderer.”

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