"Because alcohol tastes better than tears."
Pain. Searing, burning pain that is so immense, so profound that every nerve in my body frays at the ends and I feel like my muscles have been stretched to their breaking point. His teeth clamp down around my neck securely and his teeth continue to grow, burying themselves into my flesh as I let out an agonising scream, throwing my dignity out the door and wailing from the pain. I push against his chest but his teeth only clamp down harder and my body stills, not willing to risk this getting any worse than it is.
It is like my blood turned into gasoline and the bite ignited a spark that set me alight, flames licking and burning me. I could feel parts of myself slipping away as he clutched onto me and I wished that he would just bite down a little harder and end my suffering but he was particular. Barely any blood seeped down my neck, only small, smooth gushes would appear every so often. My newfound need to follow him like a servant would their master began to disappear with my faded parts and the urge to retaliate against him grew firmer with more power than before. The only thing stopping me from beating my closed fist against him was the position in which I was being held.
Then, all at once, pleasure overcame my body like my veins had been engulfed in cool water and it rushed through my system as rapidly as an avalanche. The spot on my neck which was the source of my pain now tingled with sparks and made my muscles loosen with the relief it sent gushing out. Roman slowly pulled out his teeth and a thick piece of cotton that had been smeared with salve was placed onto my neck, absorbing the blood and preventing its flow. The second he pulls away from me enough I jerk my body backwards, holding the cloth in place myself and letting my tears of anger and pain fall from my face as I stare into his eyes, letting him know through my gaze how much I abhor him. The crowd has erupted in cheers and upbeat classical music instruments have began streaming as the wolves celebrate the conformation of their new ruler.
A flicker of remorse crosses over his face and so it should after what he put me through but he covers it up quickly and grabs my hand, spinning us so we face the crowd and are standing as a united front. I don't even bother trying to yank my hand back from him and just move my feet to align with his quick paces that step down the stairs. I asses the faces of the Alpha Superiors and note that many of them don't smile, their expressions stoic and straight, not giving away an ounce of their thoughts but in turn illuminating their intentions. They squint their eyes and asses our movements with diligence, trying to scope out as many weaknesses as they can. Roman may be the most powerful among them but if I've learnt anything, its that when you are at the top, there will always be someone below you who wants your place.
We walk back down the same aisle we came from, this time however, the wolves celebrate and cheer us down, hollering and throwing down blood red petals. Roman doesn't smile or wave at his pack members, his gaze firmly set on the double doors as we walk back down the aisle like the least in love couple ever.
The second we get back into the large halls and the doors slam shut behind us, only muffling the celebrations somewhat, I snatch my hand away from Roman who doesn't object; the only response he gives comes in the shape of a clenched jaw. Without thinking, my body running on pure adrenaline, I use the hand I just received and connect it with Roman's cheek, a sharp sting soon exploding onto my palm. His head jerks to the side, not from the force but from the surprise and it quickly snaps back into place, his men around us stilling with fear and I too shudder from the murderous glint in his eyes.
With a flick of his head they all flank from the room, their ordered march looking more like a scurry than anything else. Supposedly, those men were the replacement squad for my Umbra and if protecting me is their job then leaving whilst Roman looks like he does defeats their purpose entirely. The second the hall is vacant he grabs my bicep and turns me to face him, my hands pushing against his chest during the process.
"Don't you ever raise your hand to me in front of my men again. If you can't control that pathetic little rage of yours then at least try to bottle it up until we are in private. Cause a scene like that again and you will regret it mate," he spits out and a dark cloud crosses over his irises.
"What more can you do to me? What more are you willing to do to me?" I push my hands against his chest firmly and his grip loosens, allowing me to break free, "what'll it be next? Are you going to cut me and make me do everything you say like a mindless robot or how about bite my fucking neck? Oh wait," I yell at him and he doesn't flinch, his look only gaining more venom.
"That had to happen, I knew that the effects would wear off once you became my equal through the mark. You can't tell me you wouldn't have resisted if I didn't and you know it," he bites back.
"I'll never forgive you for this," I whisper out and on instinct, his gaze flicks to the gauze on my neck.
"You are thinking irrationally now, the mark must be coming into effect," he states but my mind feels clearer than it ever has. All I want is to hate him, to pull him apart limb by limb and curse him to the foulest parts of the earth for eternity.
"The guards are going to come back and take you to our wing. There is no need for them to patrol you as usual which means you will be given the freedom to roam as you please. They will be stationed outside the exits to our wings in case you are stupid enough to try and make a run for it. Sleep where it pleases you, I am not bothered at this point and if you need anything then you can contact the guards." He waits for my response but I just turn my head away from him defiantly, shoving my nose in the air.
"I mean it Maeve, for your sake. If you want to play another game of cat and mouse then fine, but there's no telling what I'll do once I catch you,"
My lack of answer was filled with the visible shudder I gave, my body exuding my fear even though I tried fervently to supress any inkling of emotion it was clear he saw it. The ice behind his eyes didn't help to settle my nerves either, he saw my fear and he didn't care-in fact maybe he enjoyed it for the exact reason I despised it. A fearful prisoner is less likely to flee in the case of whatever retribution they may face.
The guards all flocked back into the room and unease sprouted within me when I couldn't recognise a single one of their faces save Sam who glared at me with the more vehemence than Roman. He knew of not only my infidelity to his ruler but where my true intentions lay. I could see it in the smug lines of his face, what he expected all along had been true and that-it seems-has made his standing as a warrior wolf that much more permanent.
Roman didn't say goodbye or try to kiss me and just turned away and stalked from the room, his broad, muscled back, the only sight I saw as he retreated. I began the walk back to the Alpha's wing in a brisk pace, yearning for a night alone without an army of wolves following me room to room. It feels like I am gaining an inch after loosing a mile but I am willing to take a millimetre at this point. There will come a time where I test out just how far this mark of his goes but that can't be tonight, not with the guards surrounding the exits and definitely not while he is fuelled by whatever desires heightened post marking. My knowledge, or lack thereof, about the extent to which his mark works on me isn't ideal and I am going to make it my mission to find its limits and see what I can and can't do.
The familiar sensation of my mind clicking and turning as I plan feels relieving yet tiresome all the same. I could scheme for years only to be brought back to square one with less than I stared with but the exhaustion is a side effect that I am willing to embrace.
We make it back to the confines of my quarters soon enough and true to his words, Roman's guards don't follow me past the threshold that leads to the grand staircase. The unfamiliarity that came with being left to my own devices felt strange. I had grown so used to there always being spectators to my activities whilst I roamed these halls that their vacancy left me stumped. I don't know what drove me there but I found myself standing in front of Roman's room, the large double doors looming over me, taunting me, sending an itch to my bones that were screaming for me to reach out and twist the handle.
Truth was I wanted to be back in there, despite all my pleas and cries to be separated from him, there was a calming element to Roman's scent, his presence that put me at ease. Everything about him was like pure heroin, pulling me closer for another hit to stop the pain that it caused me in the first place. I don't want him, I know in my heart that I don't and its not like I want him for affection. I want the calm that he can give me but I despise it all the same.
I turn around swiftly, still clad in my dress and prepare to storm down the hallway but come to a screeching halt when I notice the newly hung painting to the right of the door. My hand clasps over my gaping mouth to suppress the gasp of air my lungs long to take.
Roman and I are painted in the same manner as the other portraits that line the walls, Roman stood behind me with a hand resting on my shoulder as I sit down. We never prepared for this photo, the artist, whomever they are, must've painted our bodies first. Every single stroke, every flick of the paintbrush captures the details of the dress I am still wearing and unlike some of the other paintings, both Roman and I stare out of the frame with no emotion. I remove my hand from my mouth and run it over the golden plaque beneath, 'Alpha Superior Roman and Luna Superior Maeve of the New Moon packs' is scrawled in cursive writing underneath.
I don't stop the scream of rage that flows from my mouth, or the tears of anger as they fall down my face. Roman and I aren't married, this portrait and its fairness only prove that tenfold and it leaves me simmering. I don't want to be up on this wall with his family, etched irreversibly into history so the next person can walk down here and see me sitting docile next to the worst person to have ever walked the earth. I want to be holding the collection of polaroid pictures taken by a complete stranger that shows Ollie and I standing with Elvis in a run down chapel. Not this.
Without thinking I let the anger I feel blind me and use its rage as a
harness to heave the frame off the wall and crash it down against the floor, watching as the picture hits the carpet face down with a thud. I crouch down and lift it from the top before kicking my foot through the strong material and creating a small hole which I then proceed to rip at with my fingers, tearing the painting apart and taking off my the shoulder that Roman's hand sits on. I bring the picture over my head once again and slam it down, watching as the frame splinters and cracks, falling to pieces over the floor. I let out a huff of air, blowing the pieces that have fallen from my braid and looking at the mess I've made.
I contemplate ripping down the others too, just to further spite Roman but the thought gets snagged in my mind, pulled from my respect of history if nothing else. The past leaders are a history of this pack, I don't want to be.
I think about what Roman will think when he eventually comes back up here. He said himself that I can sleep wherever I wish and that my choice ultimately wouldn't bother him but I saw through that lie like I was wearing high vision goggles. I know that he will come back here and a part of him will want me to be laying down in his bed, sleeping soundly so that the weight in his chest can be lifted but I won't give him that satisfaction. As much as it tears at my heartstrings to think so, I want him to come back and receive my message loud and clear.
The thought of him walking down this hall and looking at the mess I've made, the symbolism behind it, and then proceeding to have his hopes squished mercilessly brings me pain. I'm not a cruel person, I don't pride myself on making others feel pain more than they should but the reasoning behind my guilt is deeper than that.
I eventually turn around and push myself to leave the comfort that his cell will provide me and I find my way back into my handle-less room. I make sure to keep the door wedged open with the small chair, not wanting to be trapped any more than necessary and move into the room. There is a folded set of clothes on the bed, grey sweats and a shirt. They were clearly put here as a precaution if I chose to return here, a curtesy maybe. I hold the fabric and scoff, it seems as though he is willing to cater to my comfort but confine me to my human colours so long as I make the choice not to reside back with him. Colours are a privilege, one that is to be learnt through rank and he is making it known that the luxury is mine if I want it, all I have to do is go back into his room and get it.
I consider returning back for a minute and raiding my old closet, pillaging through the fabrics and carting every last item into here so that there isn't a trace of me left there. So that he won't be able to get changed without being reminded that I am absent in his life. I don't however, mainly because I don't have the energy, even with the rage running through my veins, but also because I don't want to find out what Roman will do because of it. The destroyed painting is already a slap in the face and although he did tell me to reserve those for our quarters, something tells me his reaction to it will be just as angered. I've poked the beast, I am not going to punch it.
I unclasp the bottom layer to my dress and detach the top, throwing both items out into the hall-not caring what becomes of them. When I clean myself, I take a bath, thankful that there have been some self care supplies left at my disposal so I can scrub away the evidence of tonight as best I can. Making sure the only thing still tainting me is that retched mark on my neck. I change into the clothes left for me and stare at the plush bed, my muscles still aching from the strain of the ceremony and a slight throb pounding underneath the bandage.
There isn't a chance in hell that I will be able to sleep tonight, not without help that I refuse to take. Besides, I have the entire wing to myself until Roman decides to return and lurk around so I may as well use it to my advantage. I step out of my room and leave the chair where it is, wandering past the hallway to Roman's room and moving diligently towards his office.
Everything is so still and quiet, the air feels tight and my movements come out as rigid in the void. I wonder if this is what it will be like forever now, without the guards keeping me company and any maid refusing to talk with me. Will Roman and I both just mope around? I can imagine that with just the two of us here I would be avidly avoiding any advance he makes which would anger him enough to stick strictly to his room and office. Our relationship-if I can even call it that-is so unhealthy its not even funny.
I halt in front of the office door and wrap my healed palm over the handle, twisting to find it locked. I try a few times more, jiggling the brass object with a little more force than necessary but to no avail. It seems as though my freedom is still restricted which isn't surprising at all. I wonder if Sam informed him about all of the meetings I had which he presumed were suspicious or if Teo and other members of the rebellion have been tortured just so Roman could know that I am prone to snooping.
"Boo!" I let out a shriek and turn around to see Keira stood next to the timid young girl who bites her lips anxiously, eyes darting around.
Keira clamps her hand over my mouth in a split second with wide eyes and the brunette next to her begins to shake. She lets go of my mouth and grabs her friends hand, motioning for me to keep quiet before retreating and ducking behind a plant. Footsteps each in the foyer below and I rush to the balcony to see the wolf warriors begin to file in.
"Luna? Is everything okay?" One of them asks, eyes flicking around until they land on me. The relief in his face is evident and I nod my head vigorously.
"Yes! Sorry I saw a spider and freaked out, don't mind me," I yell back with a brash laugh and they nod their heads, looking around for a minute before leaving back to their posts. I hear snickering from behind me as I let out the shaky breath I was holding.
"Phew! That was a close one," Keira laughs and the girl next to her fidgets with her hands.
"What are you doing here? How did you even get in?" I ask, my eyes flicking back to the foyer constantly. She flicks her black any tail behind her head and smiles smugly.
"I have my ways. I used to pick pocket for a living and this one here," the mousy haired girl tenses up at mention of her, "was perfect for the job. Those little limbs and all," she gives her partner in crime a smile and a soft nudge.
"I really don't think we should be here, w-what if he finds out were gone? He'll track us a-and then he'll be so mad Keira we should really go back before they notice," she rushes out, shaking slightly and it's the first time I've heard her frail voice string a sentence together.
"Its a full moon, they'll be gone all night. Loosen up, Harper, let's have a bit of fun ey?" She says to the small girl-Harper-and turns back to me, her eyes zeroing in on my mark, a pout forming on her face.
"Remember the good ol' days when bad doggies that bit people got sent to the pound? Shame, really. I heard about the attempted flee-or should I say kidnapping attempt?" She corrects with a wink before moving past me, "So, where does your monster stash the goods?"
"The goods?" I respond, naturally following her down the stairs with Harper hot on our tails.
"Yeah, the goods. You know, booze, chocolate-hey even drugs if were lucky," she replies and my eyes widen.
"Kitchens, no drugs but why do you want them anyway? Are you collecting for something?" I ask and she turns around, scrunching her face before letting out a snort.
"Collecting? No," she laughs, navigating her way into the kitchen, "Harper and I are here for a party and finding out where my beast stored his goods was the very first thing I did. It may be hard to escape literally, but there are plenty of other ways to free your mind."
I don't argue that point, getting drunk may not be the wisest of decisions right now but anything that'll get Roman out of my mind for the next few hours sounds like a good idea. We enter the kitchen and I point to the walk-in cupboard which she hurries into, scanning the contents before her and then climbing up onto the shelves and taking down two large bottles of moonshine. She lets out a triumphant laugh and holds the bottles up to us, smiling profusely.
"My mutt has-had-some top notch stuff but this. I forgot that you are mated to mr rich," she hollers and I shrug, moving to grab some glasses.
"What is your mates name anyway? I mean he must of had pretty cruel parents if they decided to name him mutt. I don't gather he'd like you calling him as such anyway," I comment and she chuckles.
"I call him by his name when I want something from him, which is never. That in itself drives him wild, his instincts tell him to provide for me which is why when I ever desperately want something I just ask your bozo cousin to get it for me. But to answer your question his name is Blake," Blake. He looked so worn down at dinner all those nights ago and I can only imagine it is because of his mate here.
"Huh," I say and Harper interjects before I can say anything.
"We really shouldn't do this. They are going to find out and then, and then," she stutters, shaking profusely.
"And then what Harper? What more can they really do? You need to stop sulking all the time and just have a bit of fun, they can't take that from us so just bloody enjoy it. You heard them all on the way here, cheering and dancing under their stupid moon- celebrating," she snaps back and I expect the girl to break down into tears but she just grabs the bottle from Keira and a glass from the counter, pouring the deep brown liquid into her glass.
"Huzzah! That's it flakey, you've got this," she encourages and to my shock, the small girl downs the liquid in one go, clutching at her throat after and making wheezing noises. Keira laughs candidly and I join in, watching the young girl try to hold her liquor is quite entertaining.
"Fuck it, pour me a glass too," I add and she happily follows my instructions, handing me the glass with a wicked smirk on her face, raising her own in the air as a toast. Harper and I mimic her and she smiles even more broadly.
"Power to the people, stick it to the hound," I chuckle and we all toss the beverage back, the burning sensation that flows down my throat insanely crazy, causing me to double over much like Harper had.
"Shit that's strong," I wheeze out and look at Keira who is doing the same thing.
"I know right damn," I look over to see Harper giggling wildly, the second glass kicking in already.
"There we go! No more tears thank god," Keira mock praises and I turn to her, still sober enough to gather my thoughts.
"You shouldn't be so hard on her," I reprimand but she just shoots me a look. Harper grabs one of the bottles and brings it to her lips, raising it and chugging down the booze contently and neither of us stop her. She'll feel it tomorrow but right now, right now she can drown out whatever pain she carries and I'm not going to take that from her.
"Please. She is eighteen. It is pure hell to be locked up with my monster on a good day let alone having dumb and dumber as my only other options of human interaction," she responds and fills up both of our glasses.
"What's her story anyway?" I muse, picking up my glass and taking another large sip.
"Her parents were black market runners so basically she didn't have to lift a finger and had people looking out for her. They got caught out in the rebel purges and were sent to a labour camp, I tried bargaining with them to let her say goodbye but her mate was too protective, didn't want her to be influenced by gangsters," she lets out a scoff and takes another sip, "her mate is pretty overbearing; mine kind of just avoids me and when we do interact it's never pleasant but hers is still adamant that they can start a happy little family and be happy. So yeah, if you mix that up with a emotionally traumatised kid then voila, you get Harper,"
I finish off my glass and begin to feel groggy already, Keira taking her moonshine better than I after having seated a tolerance I suppose.
"Can you tell me about Noah, if you don't mind," I query although I can tell that she doesn't mind to babble, ceaselessly talking seems to be her forte' and quite possibly her coping mechanism.
"There isn't a whole lot to say if I'm being honest. During the early days we all plotted to escape and made a few valiant efforts, he was so into it in the beginning and I was of course fully on board. But every day he came to plan he would look less and less enthusiastic and continue pulling out faults in my drafts or cancelling on different operations,
"I put it down to him just being afraid of getting caught but I was wrong. Apparently whatever the two did in their alone time made a big impact and he hadn't told me that they'd been together until about a week before coming here. At first I was completely blindsided-and mad. He threw me under the bus for her and tattled about our plans to her one night and she swiftly informed both of our mates. I'm still reeling about it all, I just never understood his infatuation with her.
"I mean sure, she's beautiful and a hell of a lot more woke than the rest of them but I couldn't imagine willingly touching Blake with a ten foot pole much less anything else. But yeah, that's how I ended up with this big hunk of ugly on my neck and a sealed fate so yeah. I think he only spoke of our plans in the hopes that maybe she'd assist us considering the two were pregnant then, but it didn't work and so here I am."
I gulp at the end of her tirade and instead of answering I just pick up the bottle between us and start to chug it down. I thought that I'd want to know but I truly don't. Hearing of Noahs story somehow brings me back to Roman and that makes me mad yet again. He said that my feelings of hatred towards him would increase during the night and I don't want to think about him at all, much less ponder over my dislike for all the crappy things he has done to the world.
Keira doesn't object and merely takes the bottle from me once I'm done and copy my actions. Immediately I feel my head begin to whir and I spin around, my vision doubling to see Harper eating straight out of a jar of cookies contently giggling.
"Music!" Keira says quietly, her words coming out with a slight slur, "They can't hear us party if we've got music on," she says, tapping the side of her head and following me to the living area to set up the record player. I don't even register what song she puts on, I just pick up the bottle left on the piano and drink some more before moving my body to the rhythm of the music and letting loose completely.
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