A/N: Book contains violence, abuse, language, trigger warnings, self-harm, strong sexual content and material that may be distressing to some audiences. Themes of male dominance, and characters who are half-beast and react to situations unlike a human would in certain circumstances (violence, sex, etc.).
Companion Book to Blood Moon.
“Mama!” Joana squealed in Romanian as she ran into the large kitchen ahead of her father. Every step on the wood squished the mud on her feet all over the floor. She was covered from head to toe. Adelina turned, and immediately scowled.
“Joana! What-” Adelina began, but immediately stopped. Her expression turned to shock as she stared behind Joana. Joana glanced back to see what she was looking at and grinned. Her father stood in the doorway now and was just as covered in mud.
“She got me good this time,” Castel said with a big grin. Joana raised her head proudly, and flashed her mother a smug grin, but stopped by the look on Adelina’s face. She looked furious.
“It’s just a little mud. No point in getting upset. Comere pumpkin.” Castel said. He obviously was trying to defuse his mate before she exploded. He scooped her up and Joana squealed gleefully as he sat her on the sink and grabbed a towel. He wiped her face off, and Joana shook her head as she tried to escape the towel assault.
“You got it everywhere! They will be here any minute!” Adelina growled. Joana glanced back to Mariana, their head caretaker, but she was avoiding eye contact with them. Castel used the towel to wipe off the mud from his face, before he washed his hands and arms off in the sink.
“Mariana... I’m so sorry. Can you please take care of that?” Castel asked as he glanced back to the trail of mud.
“Of course, Alpha,” Mariana said respectively and quickly left the kitchen to clean up the mess they made. Now it was just the three of them. Joana watched her go and looked back to her father, but he was looking at her mother now.
Adelina had gone back to the cooking prep, but her stance was tense and angry. Joana glanced to the table, it was already full of dinner dishes. Joana immediately realized they were expecting some important guests tonight.
Castel wiped most of the mud off his chest before tossing away the towel and moved over to her mother. He nuzzled into her neck from behind. Joana watched her mother tense. He was getting her clothes all dirty. She spun around, but before she could shout at him, he dropped to his knees and kissed her rounded belly. Joana watched the anger slowly melt from her mother’s face.
“How is my little peanut today?” Castel said with another charming grin. Joana couldn’t help but smile too. Her father’s grin was infectious. Joana giggled.
“Mama says he’s a lot bigger than a peanut now. We should call him something else.” Joana commented as she slid off the counter and moved over to put her small hand on her mother’s belly too.
“He? What makes you so sure it’s a male?” Castel asked curiously.
“Because grandpa said it was,” Joana said. Castel quirked a brow.
“Did he now?” Castel said.
“Yup... he said it ‘better be a male’,” Joana commented. Castel chuckled.
“That old male will get what he gets and be glad for it! What do you want it to be?” Castel asked as he tickled her side. Joana giggled. Adelina sighed as Joana thought for a moment.
“Umm... I dunno... I guess a sister would be nice.” Joana said and glanced up at her mother. Her mother had a slightly amused look on her face now.
“Well then, I hope our little peanut is a female. We have plenty of time for brothers later.” Castel said as he glanced up to give her mother with a grin. Adelina glanced away, her face slightly reddened. Joana had no idea what to make of that exchange.
“Go to your room. Nicoleta will be waiting to get you cleaned up for dinner.” Adelina said as she looked back at Joana with sudden seriousness. Joana looked to her father in protest.
“Go on munchkin.” Her father said. Joana pouted and headed out of the kitchen toward the stairs. She got up onto the first landing and stopped. Joana glanced around her. No one was within sight. She dropped to her knees and peeked through the stairway bars. Her favorite hiding spot to spy on them when she sensed an interesting conversation about to happen. From her vantage point, they couldn’t easily see her, but she could see them.
“She’s only four. Maybe this is a little too soon...” Adelina said. Her father had disappeared from view, but Joana knew exactly what he was doing, especially as she heard the low thrum of a radio turn on. There was a beaten up little square one he kept in the kitchen.
Joana knew her father was very peculiar in that sense, he hated silence. They always had some kind of noise in their large house. They also kept very few caretakers. Her father treasured their privacy.
“They’re just coming for a visit, and I told you, it’s nothing to make a fuss about, they are just dropping by on their way back from Ivan’s pack. I haven’t seen him in ages. I’m looking forward to it.” Castel said seriously. It went silent for a moment.
“How long have you known they were coming?” Adelina asked with an annoyed tone. Castel smirked a bit guiltily.
“I spoke to him two weeks ago. They were going up to Ivan’s to see how their daughter got along with his eldest... and so I invited him to stop by here on their way back, for the same reason.” Castel said. Adelina stopped what she was doing, and shot him a glare. He chuckled.
“Love, I know how you get. This way... you only fretted for a few hours, rather than a few weeks. I was doing you a favor.” Castel continued with a grin. Adelina furiously looked away from him.
“I’m serious, I don’t like it. She’s too young.” Adelina continued.
“You were younger than her when I met you,” Castel added a bit jokingly. He was back in view now, and he was eating something.
“Cas! Seriously... sometimes you are worse than a pup.” Adelina scolded as she snatched whatever it was away from him. He immediately pouted.
“And this is different... she’s mine, and I don’t want to think about this for a long time yet,” Adelina said with a strange nostalgia in her voice. Joana squished her face a bit more into the bars as she tried to see them better.
“Well... I wouldn’t say completely yours. I did help a little. She’s definitely got my nose.” Castel said half-jokingly. Adelina scowled at him.
“It’s just a meeting love. No need to get overly sensitive. I wouldn’t give her away to anyone she doesn’t like.” Castel stated more seriously. Adelina sighed.
“I just think she’s too young.” Adelina insisted. Castel chuckled.
“Then think of it as a reunion between old friends, who just happen to have their children along for playdate. Better?” Castel insisted. Adelina still didn’t look happy about it.
“I wish you wouldn’t make light of this...” Adelina’s voice trembled a bit, and she trailed off. She heard some movement, and Joana wished she could see them, but she couldn’t. She heard her father sigh.
“This is a good match, he’s a good male, especially if he’s anything like his father. If I had to give her away to anyone, it would be him. I would know she’d be safe... in a good pack and a good family, and she’d be Alpha, just as she was meant to be. I’d like them to get to know each other now... let them build a friendship as we did.” He said, and Joana knew that tone of voice.
It was his Alpha tone. Around them, he was goofy and silly, but when he was in front of the pack, he was a completely different person. Sometimes, it frightened her how powerful he came across when he meant business.
“They live three countries away... so how, exactly, do you plan to make that happen?” Adelina asked her tone still upset. Joana listened even more intently.
“It’s already been settled. Next year we will send her every other summer to stay with them. It would be good for her to see how another pack functions, and to see another part of the world. And we will take his male on the opposite summers.” Castel said. Adelina stiffened.
“Like hell we will! Don’t you think you should have discussed this with me first?” Adelina growled. Joana heard her father chuckle.
“You can live without her for a month.. and we’ll have a new little one to occupy your time,” Castel said. Adelina looked furious.
“We will talk about this later...” She said. Joana knew that tone of voice too. Her mama was mad.
“All right then, on to happier things, what shall we name our little female?” Castel said. He had gone back to his joking tone. Joana could see him back in front of her mother. His hands were rubbing her belly. Adelina scowled
“You shouldn’t get her hopes up like that. It could be a male... and for your father’s sake, I hope it is.” Adelina said resentfully. Castel chuckled.
“He’s old and bitter, don’t take anything he says personally. I wouldn’t have our little Joana any other way.” Castel said. Joana scowled. She knew what they meant.
Her grandfather had expected her to be a male. She overheard him sometimes, saying how disgraceful it was to have an Alpha’s eldest be a female. Joana knew most Alphas had mostly males. Her father told her all the time how special she was because of that, and to pay her grandfather no heed. Her grandfather, Costi was never very nice to her mother because of Joana.
Joana didn’t like him much.
“Well, there’s no harm in that. Actually... I’m kind of thinking it is a little female now. I hope it is if anything... just to see my father’s reaction.” Castel said jokingly. He chuckled at his own joke. Adelina sighed, just as ‘Layla’ started playing in the background on the radio.
“Don’t...” Adelina said suddenly, but Joana could no longer see them. They’d moved out of her view.
“I said don’t!” Adelina squeaked, but she was laughingly now. Her father started singing along with it, amidst her mother’s laughter. Joana couldn’t help but smile. Her father always had a way of making her mother laugh, even when she was mad.
“Hey... wait Layla, or with the ‘e’ spelling, Leila, I like that name,” Castel said suddenly, breaking off mid-song.
“Oh no... you are not naming another child after a song,” Adelina said firmly. Castel chuckled.
“I thought you liked-” Castel said.
“If it’s a female, she should be named after my mother, or yours,” Adelina said firmly.
“Hmm... I don’t know... I think it’s kind of too late. Leila is such a cute name.. and I bet our little Leila is going to be adorable and just as feisty. It suits her already. I’m thinking Leila it is.” Castel said firmly, nuzzling into her stomach again. Joana heard her mother sigh.
“And if it’s a male?” Adelina asked.
“He’ll make a cute Leila too,” Castel said jokingly. Adelina pushed him away, and Joana saw him fall onto his butt on the floor. He was grinning up at her.
“Go get cleaned up.” Adelina scolded, but she paused, her hand going to her belly. Joana could just barely see them at this angle.
“Is she kicking?” Castel asked as he put his hand back on her belly.
“Yes, and she’s strong. I hope she won’t give us as much trouble outside the womb as she has in it.” Adelina said, her tone a bit joking. Castel grinned.
“Hah! So you think it’s a female as well. And it sounds like she’ll be taking after me. A true little Daciana. You hear me little peanut, you’re going to be just like papa.” Castel cooed as he placed a light kiss on her belly.
“Oh hush.. I hope it’s a male simply for the fact that there are less ridiculous songs for you to choose from.” Adelina said as she ran her fingers back through his mussed up hair.
“I think she likes your voice,” Adelina said.
“Of course she does. She knows her daddy already... don’t you little peanut?” Castel cooed again.
“Either way, these next few months can’t go by fast enough. This one is killing me.” Adelina said, half-jokingly.
“Don’t you listen to her little peanut. You stay in there as long as you like, I know how you feel... daddy likes being inside mommy too.” Castel said. Adelina shoved him away again.
“You can be so inappropriate... you know that?” Adelina scolded, but her tone was far from serious.
“And yet somehow, you still love me,” Castel said with a lopsided grin. Adelina sighed.
“Cas I’m serious... go get cleaned up, or is this how you intend to meet your friend? Naked and covered in mud?” Adelina said.
“Honestly, it wouldn’t be the first time,” Castel said seriously. Adelina sighed.
“Just go... and thanks to you, I need to change-CAS!” Adelina squeaked as she was scooped up.
“Then we shall go together,” Castel said as he started to carry her out of the kitchen. Joana quickly darted up the rest of the stairs and ran for her room to avoid being seen, but just as she was crossing the banister over their large foyer, she stopped.
Foreign scents hit her nose, and she moved forward to peak over the banister. A tall dark haired male and female were being led in by some of their caretakers. Two children trailed behind them. Joana canted her head a bit as she observed them. The dark haired male looked to be around eight, and his sister was around her age. Just before they crossed beneath the stairs, the male glanced up and caught her eye. Joana quickly moved out of sight.
“Geoffrey!” Her father’s voice echoed in the foyer. She heard their voices exchanging greetings and her mother’s embarrassed apologies about their appearance. Joana frowned.. and glanced back toward the landing where she’d just been hiding.
Her mother’s words suddenly made sense.
Joana knew she was young, but she strangely understood the world in a way that even she knew was beyond her years. They intended for this boy to be her mate later in life. And what was more, her father’s words haunted her. A whole month away from her pack? From her parents? Joana scowled.
“Here you are... Come along sweetheart, let’s get you cleaned up.” Her caretaker’s voice broke through her thoughts, and Joana hurried off to join her in her room.
A room she fully intended to haul up in until they were gone.
“Joana... open the door,” Castel commanded. Joana immediately scowled. She hated when he used his Alpha command on her. She reluctantly moved over and unlocked the door, before she stomped back over to sulk by the window. She expected some kind of reprimand, but he said nothing for a time.
Just as Joana was about to glance back to see if he’d left, she heard his footsteps moving toward her. Joana kept her face averted. She fully intended not to talk to him right now. He sat down beside her, and a long silence followed.
“Did you overhear us in the kitchen?” Castel finally asked. Joana huffed her response.
“Is that why you’re mad?” Castel asked again. The calmness in his voice was weird. Joana firmly nodded.
“It’s very bad-mannered not to greet guests. Especially when it’s an old friend of your father’s.” Castel said. Joana scrunched her nose. She wouldn’t do it unless he commanded her to, and then she wouldn’t speak to him for a week like she always did when he used his Alpha command on her. Castel sighed.
“Sweetheart-” Castel began
“NO! You wanna send me away.” Joana growled. Castel watched her for a moment.
“I won’t go!” Joana continued. Her scowl deepened when her father chuckled.
“But it would be fun to visit another pack and country. I liked doing it when I was your age. I got to visit all kinds of places. It’s how I met Geoffrey. I thought you’d like the idea.. and he has a daughter, Lyndis, she’s the same age as you. You’d have a friend, another little Alpha.” Castel said. Joana’s mouth twitched a bit. She hadn’t ever been around another Alpha daughter before. She couldn’t deny that a small tinge of interest was piqued.
“And you would go with Egnel and Nicoleta. They’d keep watch over you, but it won’t even be until next year. I want you to come downstairs and meet them.” Castel said. Joana turned away.
“No.” She said. Castel sighed.
“You are going to come downstairs and say hello.” Castel continued more firmly.
“No,” Joana said firmly.
“Why not?” Castel asked.
“I don’t like him!” Joana growled. It went silent again for a moment before Castel chuckled.
“Is the him we are referring to Marius?” Castel asked. Joana paused a moment. She didn’t know his name.
“Is he the boy?” Joana asked.
“Yes,” Castel said.
“Then yes.” Joana spat. Castel chuckled again.
“How can you not like someone you don’t even know the name of?” Castel asked.
“Cuz I don’t! Leave me alone.” Joana growled and gave him a little push with her tiny hands. Castel didn’t budge.
“All right. I’ll leave you alone. Are you going to hide here until they’re gone?” Castel asked. Joana glared.
“I’m taking that as a yes. The only problem is they’re going to be here for a full week and be with us for every meal. So you’ll have to skip eating too if you want to avoid him so badly. I’d hate to think of you up here, for a full week, all alone... being hungry.” Castel said. Joana scowled at him.
“I can eat in here,” Joana demanded.
“You think your mother would let you? Oh no, you know how she gets. I’m afraid you’d just have to go hungry, but I’m sure that’s a sacrifice you’re willing to make to avoid being around him.” Castel said. Joana stared at him.
“Okay then,” Castel said and stood.
“I’m going back downstairs to eat all the yummy food your mother worked so hard to prepare. It’s a shame you won’t have any.” Castel said and headed for the door. Joana pursed her lips, thinking of all the yummy dishes she saw, it made her suddenly all the hungrier.
“I’m sure mama will be heartbroken, but she’ll understand you couldn’t even just say hello,” Castel said.
“Wait,” Joana said. Castel paused and glanced back.
“If I go downstairs... and say hello, and... be nice for just this week, can I not go next year?” Joana asked. Castel stared at her, his expression slightly surprised.
“Well... is it a deal?” Joana asked. Castel gave her a very strange look. Joana tilted her head up a bit smugly. Obviously, her father was taken aback.
“Sometimes I forget how old you are. It’s a deal.” Castel said with a grin. Joana grinned too and hopped down to follow him out, but he didn’t let her get past him. He scooped her up and tossed her over his shoulder upside-down, and carted her all the way downstairs squealing with laughter.
Two months later...
“Wake up.” Her father’s voice startled her awake. She was yanked out of bed and pulled into his arms. They were moving, quickly, through the house. As they went downstairs, Joana heard her mother’s voice. She heard noise all around them, and amidst the confusion, fear became the forefront of her emotions.
“Mama...” Joana was frightened. She could smell gunpowder, and it burned her nose. They were down beneath the house before Castel set her down. She was looking off toward the stairwell. In the distance, she could hear people shouting.
“Listen to me... LISTEN TO ME!” He growled at her when he couldn’t hold her attention. The sounds around them were frightening her too much.
“I love you,” Castel said and pulled her in tightly against him.
“You understand what’s happening?” Castel asked her. Joana slowly nodded with her face buried in his neck. Castel released her enough to look her levelly in the eye.
“Okay... you stay with your mother, Beryx and Egnel, you don’t leave their side, understand?” Castel growled, and Joana felt the weight of his command.
“You do what Egnel tells you, when he tells you,” Castel added. Joana nodded again.
“Here... take this,” Castel said and pressed something smooth into her palm. Joana glanced down, and upon seeing it...
“No papa! Grandpa says this can only go to-” Joana fiercely protested.
“I don’t care what grandfather said. I am Alpha. I decide. You are as good as any son I could ever have wished for. You are my firstborn, and as long as you are alive, it stays with you. This is yours...” Castel said firmly, but his voice was slightly shaken.
Joana stared at him, and she could tell by his face, that he was pained. Joana just knew...
He could feel their pack members dying.
“Protect your mother... and our little peanut. I’m leaving it to you now.” Castel said.
“But what about you?” Joana said through her tears, her chest tightened at what he was implying.
“I will do my best to get back to you... but there is a chance I might not make it. Know that I love you... both of you.” Castel said as he glanced up at her mother. Joana’s tears were coming down hard now, she couldn’t control them. Castel stood, Joana gripped his shirt with her little fingers. She wasn’t willing to let go.
“NO!” Joana screamed. Castel glanced up to Beryx and the rest of their personal enforcers.
“Take them now. Protect them with your lives... you die before they do, understand?” Castel said in his furious Alpha voice that usually frightened her, but right now, all she could think of was the panic.
“Cas...” Adelina’s voice sounded pained. Castel yanked her forward, and Joana watched through blurry tears as he kissed her hard, his fingers running up through her hair. Even as young as she was, she knew it was a goodbye.
“What are you doing?” Costi’s voice came from behind them. Joana glanced back. Her grandfather had finally caught up with them with his own personal enforcers. He looked livid.
“I am Alpha now, I make the decisions. Now go, all of you.” Castel said. No one moved. Joana felt like she couldn’t breathe.
“I SAID GO! GET MY FAMILY OUT OF HERE!” Castel shouted furiously. Joana felt strong arms hoist her up, and Joana struggled to see over Egnel’s shoulder as she was quickly taken down the dark corridor.
“NO!” Joana shrieked as she watched her father shift and turn. He darted back the way they’d come. Joana desperately clutched the pendant in her fingers as she watched him disappear into the distance, her screams of protest echoing off the walls.