Truth: A Valkyrie Saga Book 3

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Chapter 14 - Right to Rule

Goro freaking Tanaka was chasing Ray. I mean he was the one male royal that was pursued more than most females were, and probably would be the world’s biggest Val eligible bachelor until King Eito Tanaka’s son came of age. And it had been that way for years because Goro wasn’t interested in getting married. He was completely in love with Prince Yong and believed his connection with China would be more beneficial to Japan than any marriage treaty with a distant kingdom. But I guess the opportunity that Ray is all unknowingly dangling right in front of our noses is even too tempting for someone like Goro to turn down.

But it just isn’t fair, because I will never stack up if compared to Goro Tanaka or even Ekon Mostafa. This was the big leagues and I was a bench warmer for the minor league team.

I knew all of this and tried really hard not to get my hopes up, but Ray had a way of making the impossible possible. She didn’t look at the world in the same jaded way as the rest of us did. So maybe, just maybe in her eyes, I could be enough.

-Ethan Deveroe

I found myself in the center of the large group that had come to my rescue during the tribunal and had no idea what was going on right now or what we were expected to do next. The moment that I stepped out of the room used for the tribunal the compulsion wore off and I was able to cloak my mind again. I let out a relieved breath, squeezed Elijah’s hand tighter, and asked where the rest of the guys were. Elijah shook his head at me, and I realized that we were in the same boat of not knowing what was going on right now. I was done blindly following and assuming that everything was going to turn out okay.

Clearly, everything was not okay.

I stopped walking and it didn’t take long for the loose group of powerful foreign royals to pause and turn to give me their full attention. “Where is the rest of my clan?” I asked in a heated voice because I was still reeling from all of the emotions I had allowed myself to feel earlier.

“We do not know where your honorary clan is,” Queen Anne said, still sounding like she really had the most authority out of all of these powerful rulers. “We didn’t even know where you were until I felt your emotions. But I am sure they are fine. Why don’t I send someone to go find them and then we can all go to the house we are renting. You can have some time to decompress from the emotions you must still be reeling from and then we can have some tea.”

“Our house is even closer, and we have a zen garden that I am sure would be of benefit to Ray in a time like this,” Goro was quick to say in response, making me feel like I was a new toy that was being pulled in too many directions. If these people weren’t careful, they were going to break me before they got the chance to really have any fun with their new toy.

“That’s okay,” I said, barely restraining my growing frustration. “I will have no trouble tracking down my clan members, and then I do have something I need to do here before I leave. Thank you for your assistance and your concern about my mental well-being.”

I then gave a deep head nod that could be considered a small bow to Queen Anne, King Eito, and Prince Goro. I gave Ethan a small smile because he was the only one I felt guilty about completely ditching. Then I pushed both me and Elijah into the void and activated my Tracking Gift to find the guys. They weren’t far away, but when I found them locked in some random office I felt my ever-present anger start to rise again. Why in the world were they being locked away, and who thought that this was okay?

I clenched my jaw and held onto my temper with the very last of my common sense because today was turning out to be a downright awful day and I couldn’t afford to lose control of my transitioning Gifts again. I brought the Three Musketeers and Derik into the void and then walked directly into Max’s arms. He didn’t hesitate to wrap me up into a hug and I took shelter within his arms. This was all starting to be way too much for me and I was yearning for some alone time with my clan. I needed that time. This had been one of the longest weeks of my life, and considering all that my father had put me through, that was really saying something.

“What the fuck happened?” Connor growled and Elijah spent the next few minutes explaining everything that had happened in the tribunal room. I started actually shaking in Max’s embrace and figured that I had a ton of adrenaline flowing through my veins right now. Either that or my body was shaking uncontrollably in remembered fear. Probably a combination of both.

I focused on timing my inhales and exhales to match every fourth beat of Max’s heart as I kept my head plastered to his chest. When I finally was able to calm down and focus back on the room, the guys were quiet and Max was gently stroking my back in a reassuring gesture. When I pulled my head away from Max’s chest I saw that the twins were standing on either side of us and Derik looked like he was just as close to losing his temper as I was.

“Fuck this, and fuck the royals. Let’s just go back to the clan house,” Derik declared and I wished that was something we could do right now. But I hadn’t been lying earlier when I said I had something to do. We still had to find that prince from Mexico and free Renata. The Shifters were depending on us. We couldn’t simply walk away because I knew that it would rip Tony apart if he wasn’t able to stay with his new mate.

I let out a deep breath and looked Derik in the eye before explaining that we couldn’t leave until I talked to Prince Mateo Romero. Instead of getting even more frustrated with the situation, the corner of Derik’s mouth tipped up in a half-smile and I could swear I saw pride in his eyes. The look did a lot to push away my feeling of overwhelming pressure and inadequacy and boosted my resolve to see this through. Apparently, I cared deeply about what Derik thought about me and would do almost anything to keep from disappointing him.

When I looked around, I saw that each of the rest of the guys was also okay with us dealing with this matter before going home. However, none of us knew how to find the prince of Mexico. I didn’t know what he looked like so I couldn’t picture him mentally thus initiating my Tracking Gift. And no one else seemed to know what he looked like or where he would be at this time because the Oakland Clan didn’t really know all of the royal players.

After a few moments of consideration, I decided that we were going to need to stop and ask for directions. And considering I was the only girl, I was also the only one that was okay with and willing to take this course of action. I used my Tracking Gift to find that Ethan was now sitting at one of the tables on the roof terrace with his mother and brother. We were still in the void so the powerful trio from the Northeast had no idea that we were there and I shamelessly took the opportunity to listen in on their conversation, reminding me that we were going to do a lot more eavesdropping than we actually had during Regina’s Matching.

“... offering to relocate the entire Oakland Clan. Why don’t we just do the same. Sean Olsen assures me they are the only thing holding her to this territory,” Darron said in a hushed undertone as if he was worried about others overhearing his master plan.

“Do you think the Oakland Clan would agree to be absorbed into the Olsen Clan under Sean’s leadership or are you talking about giving them their own territory? And even if we do move them, we still need to distance Ray from them. They got close to her when she was still vulnerable and didn’t have any walls up against them. Now they have too much influence over her. I am not going to let some small powerless clan from the middle of a different kingdom have that much influence in my kingdom,” Queen Anne said with steely resolve.

Never-ending freaking power games. I moved to take the seat between Queen Anne and Ethan and then pushed myself from the void while leaving the guys invisible. Ethan nearly jumped out of his skin and ended up literally falling out of his chair while Anne and Darron only startled slightly. I gave Anne my best fake smile and said, “The solution to this problem is really quite simple. Don’t put me in a position of power. Then it doesn’t matter how influenced I may or may not be by those around me.”

Queen Anne pursed her lips and I started to regret my flippant words. This woman was not like Florence and I was willing to admit that I was way more intimidated by her than I was by the Queen of the Americas West. “Ray, it is good to see you again,” Anne said with an even tone, illustrating that she was way more practiced at being political than I am.

“And while I can see the merit to your suggestion, Valkyries will always turn to us females for leadership. It is just part of our culture. We, my dear child, do not have the luxury of blending into mundane and normal lives. We were born with a bone-deep responsibility to our people that is nearly impossible to ignore. I know you feel it just as much as I do. It is the reason why you felt such a visceral response when Tobias Eldgride was killed on the battlefield and your instincts demanded that you take charge. Your right to rule is not something you can just turn your back on, it is a part of who you are,” Queen Anne explained in a patient but sturdy voice, and I couldn’t help but get captured by her words.

In a very short amount of time, I went from being completely unknown by the supernatural world to murdering foreign kings and gathering marriage proposals at an alarming rate. Was it possible that everything that had happened in the last month was not because I was a girl, but because destiny had a plan for me? That the fates themselves kept pushing me into situations where I had to demonstrate my power thus stepping me closer and closer to some leadership role.

When I remained quiet after her little speech, Anne reached out and placed her hand on top of mine and a potent clan bond bloomed between us. “I am guessing you were looking for us for a reason. Are you here to take me up on my offer of tea? I would love to talk to you in more depth about this.”

I looked down at her hand on top of my own and briefly considered what it would be like to be a fully-fledged member of her clan. What would that look like? What would they expect me to do on a day-to-day basis? What even went into running a kingdom? What did royals even do when they weren’t throwing lavish Matching events? I really did have a huge hole in my education when it came to this, and that left me vulnerable. Just asking these types of questions would give her power over me, and I no longer trusted the Collins’ Royal line enough to teach me even though I had agreed to come here to get tutored. They had just crossed too many lines. Could I trust the Deveroe Royal line? The Tanaka Royal line? How was I supposed to know what to do next? What about the Hidden and the fact that I was the fourth Gatekeeper? Queen Anne was talking about my birthright of power, but if that was true then maybe my destiny was in the Doba plane of existence instead of this one.

I blinked out of my thoughts and swallowed down my questions. I needed time to process and think things through before making any moves. I trusted the guys. For now, that was going to have to be enough and together we would decide how to move forward. “Umm,” I said and then cleared my throat. “I actually came to ask Ethan for help. I am looking for someone, but I only have a name. I was hoping he could point him out for me,” I said, sounding a lot less confident than I had before.

“Of course,” Ethan was quick to say and I turned to see that he looked just as understanding and approachable as he always did. “Who are you looking for?”

“Prince Mateo Romero.”

Darron narrowed his eyes at me and leaned forward in his seat before asking, “Why are you looking for the Crown Prince of Mexico?”

I studied the older Deveroe prince and saw that he must have been just as handsome as Ethan was when he was younger, but time had made him significantly less affable. I decided that this would be a good test to gauge the type and quality of advice I could get from the Northeast Royals. I told him about how I had been approached by the local Shifter Pack because one of their wolves had found his mate, but that his mate was contracted to work for Mateo. Ethan seemed pleased by this news, Darron looked surprised, and Anne looked thoughtful. After a pause, Darron was the first to talk.

“As far as we have been able to tell, you have not asked any royals, including the Collins, for anything directly. This fact alone makes anything you ask for seeming bigger and more important than it might actually be. Every single kingdom wants a chance to get to know you better, understand what drives you, and to more fully comprehend the extent of your power. Prince Romero is no different. If you approach him directly with this request, you are giving him the power to set the terms. I would suggest allowing a proxy to mediate this agreement and would be more than willing to do so on your behalf.”

Before I could formulate a response to his offer Queen Anne said one simple word, “No.”

Darron’s head snapped up to look at his mother, clearly surprised by the turn of this conversation and I looked over to see that Ethan was equally as baffled. I understood that Darron was once again trying to spin the situation to his advantage, but I was also surprised that Anne was putting a stop to it. When I finally looked back over at Anne I saw that she was scrutinizing me with cold, analytical eyes.

“You do not need to hide behind anyone and the fact that this is the first time you are asking for something demonstrates your strength and independence. Even now, you are not asking for protection, or advice, or something that would work to your advantage. You are acting on behalf of the supernatural community because you are every bit the leader I hoped you would be. Even in a territory where the Shifters are particularly afraid to interact with their Valkyries, you have the local pack coming to you in their time of aid. And even after that awfully botched tribunal, you are keeping your word to see this done. You do not need Darron to help you with this. I have every faith that you will be successful without anyone’s help,” Queen Anne stated in a voice that was significantly warmer than her eyes.

I tore my eyes away from Anne’s and looked over to Darron to see that he looked more frustrated than upset or offended. When he saw me looking he huffed out a breath and then said, “Normally, personnel contracts can be bought at the price of the original labor plus twenty percent to compensate for training and upkeep. You said that healers were dispatched to cure the pack of an illness that was plaguing them. Most likely they only sent one healer and he was able to cure the pack in one or two days. This means that you need to offer Prince Romero something that is equivalent to about eight hours of Valkyrie time while actively using their Gift. Considering who you are and how hard it is to get you alone for any length of time, I would estimate that agreeing to something that will take one to two hours of your time without using your Gifts would be fair compensation. About fifteen minutes if you do need to use your Gifts.”

I was completely flabbergasted. I did nothing more than look at the elder prince of the Northeast with a dumbfounded look on my face as I internalized what he had just said. Slowly, as if I were trying to decipher some really complex and ancient philosophy of ethics text written by Socrates in the original Greek I said, “Are you telling me that two young Shifters were sentenced to a lifetime of servitude as ‘fair trade’ agreement over a single day of work?”

I even used my fingers to put air quotes around the fair trade and when my understanding wasn’t instantly refuted, I felt that ever-present wave of power starting to grow inside of me. Deep down I was starting to really believe what Nahuel told me about my real birthday being any day now because I could practically feel how badly this power wanted to explode out of me. I really should have gotten more answers about what would happen when I finally fully transition. Maybe I should return to Awenasa and just sit around with Wiyot and let him drain away the never-ending hurricane of emotion that has taken up residence in my soul. Maybe then I could avoid any more collateral damage as I suffer through my rioting and misbehaving Gifts.

The longer that no one answered my rhetorical sounding question, the more disbelieving and disgusted I became at the audacity of almost every single royal that I had met. Even Queen Anne and Darron were looking at me like I was just a little too innocent and naive and needed to learn my place at the top of the metaphorical food chain. The idea that Valkyries were taking people or rather children as payment for tasks they should just do because it is the right thing to do was really starting to piss me off. The more I thought about it, the larger that power surge within me grew and all of sudden the entire Oakland Clan was visible and three of my perfectly crafted and deadly kukri blades materialized on top of the table. When I realized that I could see the guys, I mentally prayed that I had pulled them into the physical plane and not everyone else into the void.

I was losing control and it was not okay.

Darron was saying something, but I completely tuned him out as I reached out to take a hold of Connor’s hand and then closed my eyes. Then I concentrated on my breathing and gave myself some really stern lectures about keeping my shit together for just a little while longer. Some amount of time later, when I felt like I had two feet securely on the ledge of emotional stability once again, I opened my eyes to see a lot of people watching me with very concentrated focus. It was more than just the Northeast Royals, and I decided that I really didn’t ever want to be around this many people who were so interested in me ever again.

When I made eye contact with Queen Anne, she said in a low calculated voice, “Is your power level growing?”

I clenched my jaw and refused to tumble off that mental cliff by sheer stubbornness. I was most definitely not talking about my apparent transition into a Gatekeeper here and now. Instead, I deliberately turned my face away from Queen Anne and focused back on Darron. “You are advising that I agree to spend a couple of hours with the Mexican Prince and that will be enough to secure the freedom of Tony’s mate?” I questioned with a forced calm to ensure I understood before leaving.

“I can see that you are condemning us for engaging in such a practice but tell me, Valkyrie Olsen, how is it any different than a highly specialized surgeon charging a human hundred of thousands of dollars for a single surgery? The Val Healer saved dozens of Shifters when he healed that illness. And no other supernatural power can do such a thing. It is precious and thus by definition is expensive and elusive. Our healers cannot save the world. Our warriors cannot protect everyone. Our Trackers cannot find every lost person. Our Telepaths cannot solve every mystery. The Shifters wanted something that was nearly impossible and it cost them dearly to bring that wish into reality,” Darron said, sounding like he was a tenured professor lecturing in some dusty college classroom.

He may have a point, but I was not in a place right now where I was even the slightest bit open to hearing it. I just gave him one single nod of my head to acknowledge his words and then stood and started walking away. I felt heat at my back and knew that the twins were standing shoulder to shoulder at my back, supporting me in my every move. I heard someone calling my name and turned my head to see that Ethan was hurrying to catch up to our group as we walked away from his family. I also scanned our surroundings and saw dozens of eyes on us. I let out an audible sigh and then pushed the guys, Ethan, and myself back into the void and an audible gasp echoed through the beach air.

“I will take you to Prince Romero. I am pretty sure they are in the training ring,” Ethan said sounding exactly like himself. I don’t know if I was being stupid, but I really did believe that Ethan was different than his brother. Maybe it was because he was the youngest and so far removed from the throne, maybe it was because he was in study pre-med and reminded me of Max, but he didn’t seem all that interested in politics. He really just seemed interested in me, not about the power he would gain through me. In my opinion, it was a huge difference.

“Thank you,” I said and meant it, and then as a group, we all went down to the training rings. The training rings were exactly what they sounded like. They were within a huge underground space that looked like some sort of expensive gym with a big open space in the middle that was covered in wrestling mats. Two men I didn’t recognize were sparing with wooden staffs in the middle of the room while several different groups of people looked on. Ethan led us to a relatively small group of three guys that all looked to be in their mid to late teens. All three of them had deeply tanned brown skin and lean almost wiry muscles that were on full display because they were wearing workout shirts with huge holes on the sides instead of actual sleeves.

Ethan pointed to the guy on the left who was mostly focusing on the fight while his buddies leaned in close to each other to discuss something that I couldn’t hear. I wasn’t really interested in hearing it either, because I was riding on information overload at this point and couldn’t take on much more before I had a chance to start processing. If I had to guess, I would say that Mateo Romero was about sixteen or seventeen and he had this scraggly scruff under his jawline that was doing a poor job of hiding a bout of teenage acne. He did not look like a powerful royal and after the morning I had, I just couldn’t muster up any feelings of intimidation to motivate me to deal with this with a more political touch.

I blew out a breath, walked straight into his line of sight, and then pushed me and the twins out of the void and into the physical plane. All three teenage boys jumped and their eyes widened as their brains processed the seemingly impossible fact that I had just appeared out of thin air with two hunks of muscle that no matter how many hours they worked out, they would never be able to match. My twins were especially fortunate in the genetics department.

The distinct lack of clicking that wooden staffs make when they hit each other told me that the sparring match had been paused and I had no doubt that once again I had everyone’s attention within the room. How in the world did this become my life? I silently seethed and then brought up a mental picture of Amy’s small body lying in a hospital bed to remind myself just how much I owed Lawerance and the wolves.

I would do this. I had to do this.

“Prince Mateo Romero?” I questioned looking directly at the boy that Ethan had pointed out.

Mateo blinked out of his shock, glanced nervously around for a second, and then stuttered, “Y-y-es. I- I- am Mateo. What can I d-do for you Valkyrie O-olsen?”

Yeah, I really didn’t have enough patience for this song and dance right now. I needed to get Renata and find a way to convince him to release her brother too and then I needed to get out of this God-forsaken palace and not come back for a long-long time. “You have a Shifter named Renata in your employ. I want you to release her from any contacts and I want her to live here in California,” I told the stuttering prince with an authority that I didn’t particularly have, but he seemed like the type to fold easy. Maybe if I just demanded it, he would give it to me.

“You want my Shifter?” Mateo said without stuttering and sounding bewildered.

“Yes,” I replied and then stared at him with unblinking eyes. Mateo paled and swallowed hard.

“Umm, okay?” he said in an unsure voice making it sound like a question instead of an answer.

“You will release Renata from all of her contracts and allow her to leave with me now?” I questioned to make sure that we were talking about the same thing.

Someone cleared their throat loudly and Mateo looked over his shoulder at someone else I didn’t know before squaring his shoulders and turning back to me with more determination shining through his color contact-covered eyes. “What I meant, is that I am willing to negotiate for Renata’s contract,” Mateo said, sounding like a completely different person.

I pursed my lips and clenched my jaw before asking what he wanted in exchange. “I want to dance with you at your Matching Ball,” Mateo said with far more confidence and conviction. His request was so unexpected that I was jolted out of my annoyance and frustration.

I considered his request for a moment and then said, “To be completely honest with you, there aren’t actually any real plans in place for me to even have a Matching. I am not positive that it will even occur, but we can go dancing somewhere else. Like maybe a club in the city or maybe at Solace.”

For some reason, that suggestion made Mateo pale and I got the distinct feeling that this boy was downright terrified of me. Not that I was complaining, but if he was so afraid of me then why was he trying to dance with me? I don’t even know how to dance. “Well, I- I-. Umm, well I would rather the dance be at a formal Valkyrie event,” Mateo said, losing most of his bolstered confidence.

I reached up to rub my forehead to try to ease my growing headache. Mateo was not interested in me, he was interested in being seen dancing with me at a politically froth event. I didn’t like it because I didn’t really understand why this was such a big deal, but I owed the Shifters and I told them that I would do this for them. Even if I didn’t understand all of the ramifications, it was just one dance, like five minutes of my life and even though I didn’t know her personally, I knew that Renata was worth it. She was worth so much more than this.

“If you release both Renata and her brother from their contracts and allow them to move here, I will dance with you if and/or when I have my Matching Ball,” I declared hoping that he would be okay with me upping the ante.

Mateo’s eyes light with excitement and he decided to push back, “I will give you both Renata’s and her brother’s work contracts if you dance your first dance with me and you have it formally announced.”

Okay, he lost me with that one. It was starting to become increasingly clear that I had no idea what he was talking about or what I was agreeing to. The way he said ‘first dance’ and ‘announce’ made it very clear that there was some sort of unspoken meaning behind those things, and I wasn’t quite careless enough to agree to something without reading the fine print. For all I knew, this was some sort of medieval symbol of agreeing to a marriage proposal or something.

I held up my pointer finger between us and told Mateo, “Give me just one moment please,” and then I pushed back into the void where the rest of the guys and Ethan were waiting. I looked over at Elijah and asked if he knew why Mateo was so interested in this dance.

However, when Elijah didn’t answer right away it was Ethan that answered my question. “Dancing publicly at a Matching Ball is like giving a subtle head nod to that royal line and supporting country, saying that the two royal families are friendly with each other. Royals that have significant disagreements at play will not dance together because it is a public declaration of peace. In that same line of thought, the first dance is reserved for a royal in which you have a close and significant bond of friendship. Having it announced illustrates forethought and gives more weight to the metaphorical gesture. Usually, the first announced dances are with princes that the princess is seriously considering for her hand in marriage.”

“I really doubt Mateo wants to marry me. He seems rather terrified of me and didn’t take me up on my offer of spending time alone together,” I argued even though I knew it was pointless. Valkyrie power games and politics did not make rational or logical sense. Thus trying to rationalize and talk logically about them would do me no good.

“Prince Mateo Romero would marry you in a heartbeat,” Ethan insisted. “And he is a crown prince who will inherit his throne because his parents never were blessed with a female child. Thus if you were to accept his marriage proposal, you would one day be a fully empowered Queen. Conversely, my eldest sister and her chosen king will inherit the throne to the Americas Northeast. I cannot offer you a throne, and if you were to accept my marriage proposal you would be integrated into the leadership hierarchy in some fashion, but you would not be Queen.”

I looked into Ethan’s eyes and wondered why he was being so upfront and honest with me. It was really refreshing and I was grateful that he was, but it was so different from how every other powerful royal was treating me. He was giving me a truthful and complete answer even though it didn’t necessarily paint him in the best light and I think he was doing it solely because he understood that I needed this answer right now. After a moment, I reached out and touched his forearm in gratitude.

Then I returned to the physical plane and to a very nervous and fidgeting Mexican Prince. “If and/or when I have my Matching Ball, I will dance with you and ensure all proper announcements are made if you not only release Renata and her brother from their contracts but also fairly compensate them for the work they have done for you throughout these many years,” I declared, totally faking the confidence lacing my voice.

“C-compensate?” Mateo asked, reverting back to his obvious fear of me.

“Yes. Renata has worked for you since she was a child. You will give her a decent working wage for every year that she was in your service. And, yes, I will totally be judging you on how generous you are with these compensation amounts. Do you agree to my terms?” I asked with a hard and impatient edge to my voice that put Mateo even more off balance. I almost felt sorry for him, but then I remembered that he had taken two children away from their family’s as payment for curing an illness, and any empathy I had for him evaporated.

“Y-yes?” Mateo responded and once again it sounded more like a question than an answer.

I narrowed my eyes on him and then said, “Then where is Renata? I would like her to leave with me right now.”

Mateo visibly swallowed again and then took out his phone and started rapidly texting someone. “Umm, who should my people coordinate with? I am going to need the contact information of your advisor so that I can send over the official contracts and transfer the money,” Mateo said and I realized that he thought that I wanted Renata and her brother as servants. Like if I had seen her around the palace and decided that she would make a perfect hand-maiden or something else just as ridiculous. I let him continue to think this because it was easier than explaining and then brought the rest of the Oakland Clan and Ethan into the physical plane.

Mateo took several steps back and balked at the newly visible people surrounding him, but I ignored his reaction and pointed towards Elijah, and introduced him as my advisor and clan leader. He and Mateo traded contact information and I scanned the many people watching our interaction, noting that once again the number of people here had increased from when we had first shown up to now. Also, it looked like a couple of people were even recording this with their smartphones. I clenched my teeth together and started Cloaking more heavily, wishing that I had Energy so that I could fry everyone’s phones at this moment.

I was still stewing over the fact that I was feeling more and more like a circus freak when a fairly short and skinny woman who looked to be in her mid-twenties came running into the room and made a beeline for Mateo. I made myself more visible and her attention switched to me and I saw this heartbreaking hope within her eyes. Mateo was still talking to Elijah and Derik so I stepped into the woman’s path and asked in a gentle voice, “Are you, Renata?”

She nodded her head, still staring up at me like I could single-handedly grant all of her dreams and I felt another huge responsibility settle onto my shoulders. Damn my Valkyrie protective instincts. Maybe Queen Anne had been telling the truth when she said that it would be impossible for me to live a normal life because right now I felt like I would tear down the world to live up to the way this Shifter was looking at me.

“It’s going to be okay. The Oakland Pack are going to take care of you and your brother,” I promised Renata and silently prayed that I wasn’t lying to her.

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