I’m so anxious as we walk through the dark streets. With each step we get closer to the abandoned buildings. My wolf is excited to be outside the city walls. It’s been so long.
I’m a bundle of nerves, meanwhile, peace is rolling off of Phoenix in waves.
“How are you so calm? Why aren’t you nervous about this? I mean...what if they try to kill us on sight?!” I whisper yell.
He chuckles before stopping in the street and turning me to face him.
“I may have a secret weapon that you don’t know about. I think everything is going to be just fine.”
I know I have no room to talk so I pull my mouth closed and continue walking. He squeezes my hand, noticing my scowl, “Just for a little while longer, love. Trust me, it will be worth it. It’s been really difficult to keep from you but I know you’ll like the surprise.”
I sulk a little bit. I knew there were pieces of the whole picture I don’t know yet. Not knowing the whole plan makes me feel useless, like the little girl my uncle didn’t trust with any information.
Phoenix climbs through the broken window, looking around for a moment before helping me to the ground. We can hear yelling in the distance.
Great, sounds like things are off to an amicable start. Phoenix squeezes my hand comfortingly as we walk briskly through the open field into the tree line.
“Where is Sloane?”
“She’ll be at the meeting,” he tells me with a smirk on his face.
“I can feel the Alphas. I’ve never met any of them. I’ve only known collared Alphas, their pull is much weaker. My wolf is freaking out.”
“It will be ok. You’re a Queen in your own right.”
We continue walking until we come to an old, rundown cabin. The old porch creaks as we step up. Upon entering my eyes land on Mercer first. I haven’t seen him in a few days. He looks tense. It’s obvious that things aren’t going well and the meeting hasn’t even started.
I hear a few growls from some of the angry men in the room. The cabin is much too small for all of these large men to be packed into it. There are people standing, sitting on old, broken furniture or on the floor. I have never even seen any of these men before, let alone met them. They appear to range in age from late teens to mid twenties.
“Welcome your Highness,” one of the wolves sneers angrily.
Phoenix ignores his hostility.
“Thank you for coming, Alphas. I’ll try to make this brief. We need your help, your...allegiance. We need to remove my father from the throne, then take out any resistance to moving forward as equal citizens.”
I watch the room. A few of them nod, they are listening respectfully. Some of them are listening but look agitated and some look downright aggressive.
“In order to stop my father and topple this oppressive regime we... I... need your help. There will be vampires that resist making everything equal again but please know that there are many who will not. There are many of us who not only disagree with the current system, but have been actively working to stop it.”
“How can we trust that?” A large, burly looking Alpha spits angrily. “Who’s to say that as soon as we help you take down your father, you don’t get real comfortable on the throne? How can we be sure that once we help you, you won’t just forget all about all this “equality” talk and continue on with this system that has benefited you for years.”
“I understand why you would feel that way and I’m sorry that I can’t give you anything concrete but we can offer some assurances by way of Mercer, our scientist,” he points to Mercer who steps forward, ready to offer up an explanation. “He has developed over the course of many years a way to...”
“I don’t trust you,” another Alpha interrupts him. “There is nothing that any of you can say that will make me believe that you are on my side, that you will stick to your word and help us after we help you,” he screams as he takes menacing steps toward Phoenix .
“I know that what we’re asking is...” Phoenix starts again calmly.
“You don’t know shit! You’re a vampire Prince!” Another angry Alpha yells.
This is not going well.
“Don’t think because you have a little she-wolf wife that we will trust you,” someone yells.
“How can you expect us to trust you...”
The angry yell is cut off by the door slamming open. Before I can even register what’s happening my instincts pull me to my knees.
A voice booms through the cabin, “you will trust him because I trust him! You will trust him because I’m telling you to!”
I look to the side and notice every other wolf is bowing, too.
My chest heaves.
The Alpha King.
“No way!” I whisper as I feel myself being pulled to my feet. Alex pulls me into a tight hug.
“Hey, Elle. ”
“You’re the Alpha King?” My mouth is hanging open, “what....how? Your collar. You’re the volunteer! He took out your collar, that’s why we can feel it now!”
He smiles down at me. I turn to Phoenix , “you knew about this?”
“Actually, no. I knew he was your Alpha, I’m as surprised as you are that he’s the Alpha King. The surprise was that his collar was removed and that your Alpha is free. This is better though,” he laughs.
"Sorry about all the secrecy, I asked everyone to keep it quiet until we knew it would all work out."
I see movement by the door. Sloane walks in and stands beside Alex.
“Luna?!” I practically scream, I can feel the bond to her, her connection to the Alpha King.
“Sloane, i-is that...” I point to the partially healed bite on her neck.
She blushes and looks down.
Alex tilts her head up, “my mate, my Queen, my mark.” He kisses her gently.
Mercer clears his throat, we all look at him and he gestures around the room to the Alphas who are all still kneeling.
“Oh, shit” Alex whispers quietly, Phoenix rolls his lips into his mouth to keep from laughing. “Rise, all of you.”
The Alphas stand with bewildered expressions.
“How?” One of them asks.
“Mercer?” Phoenix gestures for him to take the floor.
“Gentlemen,” he greets “For the last twenty years I have been studying the collar device and trying to figure out how to remove it. Finally, I have found a way to remove it safely without the silver-pak exploding. A few days ago I performed the procedure on Alex.”
There is stunned silence in the room.
“Are you going to do it for everyone?”
“I trust these vampires with my life,” Alex says, authority laced in his tone, “if Phoenix says that he will free us, he will. I understand your fear and hatred for vampires but it is not all. Your Luna is a vampire. She has risked and sacrificed at great personal cost to ensure that we will be free one day.”
“Luna,” they all bow their heads to her.
“When they call upon us, we will answer. We will help them and we will fight alongside them for our freedom.”
There is a resounding “Yes, Alpha King,” from everyone.
“The plan is to quietly start removing collars. We will do as many as we can before we take back the crown. Then, when we’ve ousted my father, we will remove them all. Obviously, it goes without saying that we have to be very cautious about this.” Phoenix speaks to the much calmer crowd.
Alex nods and dismisses everyone.
A few of the men grab Mercer to ask him questions. Several more surround Alex. I make a beeline for Sloane. She sees me coming and laughs.
“I have so many questions!”
She looks at Alex and smiles. “He’s my beloved. I’ve known since I met him last year.”
“You’ve known him that long?”
“Yes, I knew Orin. Before I got promoted to Prince Phoenix ′ guard, I worked in a security outpost next to their house. I worked closely with the Queen, she introduced me to the Prince.”
“Phoenix told me that you guys don’t usually find your beloved until you’re much older. Wolves don’t find their mates this young either. I wonder why we’re finding each other.”
“I think fate is trying to give us balance. An Alpha King with a vampire mate and a vampire Prince with a wolf beloved.” Alex interrupts with a shrug as he pulls Sloane into his arms.
“When did you find out she was your mate?”
“As soon as I saw her after my collar was removed. I always had a crush on her and I knew what I was to her. Once my wolf was free, I knew.”
“You’re not worried about the mark?” I ask her.
“Not really,” she pulls the zipper up to the collar of her uniform, “I might be a bit warm for awhile but I’ve known he was mine for so long and I had to wait for him to recognize me. I was ready.” She laughs.
“So, you told him?” Alex nods his head toward Phoenix with amusement in his voice.
I bite my lip, “about that, I’m sorry Alpha. I couldn’t keep it from him any longer.”
“It’s alright, Noelle. Now that I can feel the pull of a mate, I’m shocked you lasted as long as you did.”
I feel Phoenix ′ arms snake around my waist. “Let’s go home, my little she-wolf wife.”
I snort “I’m ready.”
As we make our way back to the trolley I can’t help but stare at the moon.
“I want to take you somewhere. When everything is over.”
“I’ll go anywhere with you.”
“It’s out there, outside of the city. It’s a pretty good trek, but it’s worth it. It’s my pack lands.”
“As soon as this is over, we’ll go.”
“Is it reckless to feel so hopeful? It feels like things are falling into place.”
“It’s not reckless, Ellie. Things are falling into place. There is a lot left to do but we’re making progress.”