The peace summit was quickly approaching. I only had a couple days left to figure out what I was going to do, and I was feeling the pressure. How would anyone listen to me? Do I just walk in there and say ’hey everybody, just so you know, the Alpha King is a murderous psychopath the slaughtered my entire family for no reason! Have a great night!’ Yeah, that would go over great.
I knocked on the door in front of me, nerves bundling up in my stomach. The door opened and out popped a little red head with surprised eyes.
“Asenna?” Samantha asked. Lia came out right behind her, peering around the red bush of hair to get a better look.
“Well, hi there, stranger!” Lia chirped.
“Um, hey guys.” I said awkwardly. They opened the door all the way to let me in and I stepped over the threshold.
“We weren’t expecting to see you around.” Samantha’s voice was cooler than usual. I was struck by the lack of ecstatic friendliness I usually experienced from her.
Lia rolled her eyes and jabbed Samantha in the side. “Don’t mind her. She’s just butt hurt about you ducking out on the mating bond with Ry.” Samantha rolled her eyes and sneered. Something told me there was more going on.
My face felt warm. I looked away from them and tried to change the subject. “I need some help for this peace summit. I uh… I don’t have anything to wear.”
“So, you came to us for help again. Typical.” Why was Samantha being like this? Her green eyes were looking at me with disdain, her mouth set in agitation.
“Sami, come on.” Lia chided. “You know Asenna isn’t like that.” She looked at me with an apologetic look. “Come on, we’ll help you.”
I followed them to Samantha’s room, afraid to say anything for fear of any backlash. I wish I knew why Sami was so mad at me. Did I say something to her the wrong way? Had I offended her? I sat on the edge of the bed as Samantha went digging through her extensive walk in closet. Lia came to sit next to me, her long brown hair falling around her shoulders.
“Don’t hold it against her. She was just really upset when she heard.” Lia whispered.
“Heard what?” I asked in confusion.
She looked at me with sincere sympathy. “About your plans for the summit. Things don’t stay a secret among out group for long. Ryker told Soren, then Soren told me, and, well…” she shrugged as if the rest was self-explanatory. “She’s just scared I guess.”
“Why would she be scared?” True, Soren and Samantha were the children of one of the bastards responsible for everything. Actually, most of the people I had become involved with were. But I didn’t let that dissuade me from my goal. I wished no harm to those who had genuinely helped me, but I couldn’t say the same for their parents.
“Maybe because you’re going to rip our pack in two.”
We both looked up to see Samantha staring at us with an armful of dresses. Lia sighed and ran a hand through her long locks. I could sense her anxiety for the whole situation.
“I’m not trying to do that.” I spoke with a tense voice.
“Right. You’re just going to tell all of the packs that our leadership- my father included- staged an entire operation to pin on the Spartans so they could kill them off.” Sami’s voice was borderline hysteric.
I took a deep breath, trying to keep my head clear. “Samantha, listen to me. I swear to you I haven’t lied about any of this.”
“Hear her out, Sami.” Lia advised. “She deserves at least that much.”
Samantha huffed and heaved the mountain of dresses onto the bed before she took a seat at her vanity. “Fine.”
And so, I told them my story. All of it. From my role by my father’s side, to the battle that tore our home apart. I told them about my people’s creeds, our devout loyalty and honor. I told them about my father and my mother- how kind and generous they both were. I told them about the nightmares I still had. I told them about our side of events- how there were no attacks, how we never sought the power of the Royal Pack, how we were happy to keep to ourselves. I told them of our innocence in the war that Marcus waged.
“We never asked for any of it.” My voice was weary. “I don’t want another war, Sami. I just want the record set straight. I don’t want my people’s legacy to be marred with words like savage and bloodthirsty. People need to know the truth about us, and those responsible need to be held accountable.”
They looked at me with conflicted expressions. Samantha’s green eyes avoided me, and her brows were drawn together as if she was weighing my words. Lia was fighting back tears and she reached her hand out to clutch mine reassuringly.
“Sami, you can’t argue with that. You know how Marcus is, and with the timing of it all… it all fits!” She said.
Samantha remained silent.
“What do you mean?” I asked Lia.
She looked at Samantha, waiting for her to interject. When she didn’t pipe in, Lia shook her head and looked at me. “Our Pack lost its Luna eight years ago, right around the time of the war. Nobody knew the real reason why. I don’t even think Ryker does. Marcus never talks about her, but everyone knows he’s always been a bit… controlling.”
“Controlling?” Sami interjected. “I think the word your looking for is abusive.”
I looked at her, surprised at her words and the fact that she had joined the conversation.
“The Queen was always seen from a distance by the people. Marcus never let her leave the manor grounds. But every now and then when Soren and I would go there to play with Ryker, we would see her up close. She usually kept everything hidden pretty well, but whenever she picked him up and her sleeves fell back, we could see the bruises on her arms. One time there was even a huge handprint across her throat.”
Lia gasped in horror. “Are you serious? That poor woman!” Her gentle voice was full of empathy for the absent Luna.
So, the Alpha of all Alphas was a closeted maniac with a taste for violence. How was this not surprising?
“So, what? She just left out of nowhere? One day she’s here, the next she’s gone?” I asked them.
“Maybe she finally got to the breaking point.” Samantha thought out loud. “I mean, if she had known what Marcus was planning for the Spartans, maybe she decided enough was enough.”
“If she knew, she should have done something.” My voice was cool and bitter. The idea that someone had known, someone who might have prevented the bloodbath, made me fester with hatred.
I felt a hand lay gently against my back. “You can’t fault the woman for not standing up to him, Asenna.” Lia’s voice was soft like a flower petal against my inner resentment. “Not all of us are as brave as a Spartan.”
“She did enough damage as it is when she left.” Samantha chimed in. “A pack without a Luna is incredibly vulnerable. Without a Queen, command would fall to a ten-year-old Ryker if Marcus had died.”
Like he should have. I added in my head.
“And that wouldn’t have been much better.” Lia continued.
“What’s wrong with Ryker being Alpha?” Seemed like the logical option to me.
“Well nothing if we’re talking about the present tense.” Samantha pointed out. “But Ryker as a kid was a different story, especially eight years ago.”
“Even I knew about it, and I was down in the lower rungs of the Pack.” Lia added. “Oh, it was so sad, Asenna. The boy was a complete mess.”
Sami nodded along with her words. “Ryker was really close with his mom. Him and his dad never really got along well. So, when she left us, it hit him the hardest. Think about it.” She said as she shifted forward in her seat. “Your dad is a heartless, abusive Alpha and your mom- your one source of love and affection- walks out and leaves you behind with him.” She shrugged and looked imploringly at me. “The kid was a wreck and you can’t really blame him.”
“Its amazing he’s as balanced as he is now.” Lia noted.
I listened to them back and forth, lost in my own thoughts. I pictured Ryker as a little boy, sad and alone with only a monster to raise him. The image weighed heavy on my heart.
The girls pulled me from the bed and started holding dresses up to my body.
“So, why exactly did you bail out on him?” Samantha asked as she held up a poufy pink gown.
I wrinkled my nose at the mass of flamingo colored fabric. “What?”
“Ryker!” Lia cleared up as she rummaged through the closet, coming out with more dress options. “Sure, yeah, his dad’s a psychopath, but he’s still Ryker.”
“We’re not our parents, Asenna.” Samantha said sincerely. “We all care about you, regardless of what happened back then. Ryker is no different.”
“I don’t think I can trust him.” He had lied to me about too much, too many times. “Besides, he’s got Skylar. She’s better for him than I am anyway.” The words were bitter on my tongue.
“Bullshit!” Samantha shouted, making Lia and I jump back. She stood hands on hips, one fist clutching a bundle of red fabric. “You honestly think that venomous little leach is what’s good for him? That heartless, power hungry bimbo doesn’t give a damn about Ryker and everybody knows it.”
“Amen to that!” Lia echoed in an exaggerated southern twang.
A little chuckle escaped my lips, but it wasn’t nearly as heartfelt as the laughter that came from Lia and Sami.
I tossed one of the dresses- a gaudy gold circus tent looking monstrosity- back into the heap and sighed. “Be realistic guys. Nobody will want a Spartan as a Luna. Besides, I have nothing to offer Ryker as a mate. I have no family to offer as an alliance. I have no fortune or power to bring to the Pack. Hell, I don’t even have clothes that are my own!” I said in exasperation, motioning to the mountain of apparel Samantha was graciously letting me rummage through.
They looked between each other before letting their eyes fall on me.
“You honestly think any of that matters to him?” Sami’s voice was gentle and warming.
“Asenna, Ryker really cares about you.” Lia stepped over to me and smiled. “When we’re lucky enough to find our destined mates, its not a matter of what they can give us.”
“Its about being tied to someone- mind, body, and soul.” Samantha looked like she was off in some dream world, probably fantasizing about her potential mate.
“Soren didn’t even think twice about where I came from or what I could bring to the table. My family is lower in the Pack’s rankings. We’re not rich, we have no influence, yet he accepted me without a second thought.” Lia’s eyes filled with love and a twinkle of excitement. “We belong to each other, we never questioned it.”
I thought of the old stories my father used to tell me about the Goddess and how she had created our kind with four arms and legs, and a head with two faces. When we are put on the Earth, we are split in two, destined to wander the land in search of our other half. Could that old fairytale be true? Were our mates truly meant to fulfil us in every possible way, making us whole? I had to admit, when I had been with Ryker before all this madness, it was the closest to peace I had ever felt.
“Plus, he’s supporting you with this little coup you’re planning for the peace summit.” Samantha declared with a devious look on his face. “The Alpha Prince is going against his own father for you. If that doesn’t scream ‘he loves you’ then I don’t know what will.”
He loves you. The words made me feel dizzy. Love? Was that something I was even capable of? I had closed myself off to the possibility for eight years. Me? The cool, calculated Spartan warrior thinking about love? To say it was taboo was an understatement.
Lia tossed another crazy looking dress on the bed. “Sami, none of these are going to work! If she’s calling out the Alpha, she needs to look badass! Not like some prissy little princess.”
“Hey, watch it, that’s my wardrobe you’re talking about.” Sami asserted.
They both broke into a fit of giggles, bending to clutch their stomachs. I watched awkwardly, wondering what it was like to not be held back by all that ravaged my thoughts.
“Okay, okay.” Sami gasped out, the laugher fading away. “I think I have just the thing.”