’You can’t stop me having my mate.’
‘The moon goddess was incorrect. Behave.’
‘The goddess is never wrong. Your human mind is stubborn.’
‘You want pups?’
‘Then shut up.’
Chris finished straightening his bow tie. What if his mate sought him out at the ball? What if he was made a fool out of? No, the guard wouldn’t dare. Chris could merely claim slander. And to slander him, would be to disrespect the crown.
No. No wolf under their rule would dare.
That word was going to get old, and fast. His wolf was being relentless. A war on his own mind that he despised. But it was necessary. His wolf may care less about his reputation, but he did. His reputation was everything. He was already the little prince that was captured and came back strange. He was already the family oddball.
He was damaged enough.
His stomach twisted, he felt sick, he didn’t want to go down there. Why were they throwing a ball? He was much better alone. He’d prefer to spend the evening with his family. Not every wolf and his human.
He took a deep breath, forcing himself from the family wing that wouldn’t be for him to use for much longer. Technically it would be his home until he found his mate… but Marc would soon need it for his pups.
He may love those little hurricanes… but he wouldn’t want to live with them. Certainly not.
The ball had already started, he could hear the music so knew he needed to get moving. He just didn’t really want to.
What if he didn’t turn up?
No. Not an option.
He huffed to himself and made his way through the palace. “Ah, there you are!” his mother said as soon as he rounded the corner. “I thought I would have to come and get you.”
“Sorry, bow tie,” he bluffed.
“Did you-?” she stopped herself asking whatever it was. Her hands went to his hair, smoothing it so he assumed it was to do with that. “You look so handsome, my grown-up pup.”
“Don’t cry,” he grumbled.
She swiped her eye, “I wasn’t even thinking about it. Are you ready?”
“Do I have to?”
“Yes,” she shot instantly.
“Then, yes… I’m ready,” he fibbed.
“Good boy.” She reached up to kiss his cheek before grasping his arm, linking them with the effect he was leading her.
They opened the side door, only for the smell he had been smelling all day to coarse straight up his nose. The pungency stung, making his heart pound harder.
“Please! Welcome the wolf of the hour!” Marc’s voice ricocheted through the hall as Chris stepped into view. “Prince Christopher Alexander Edmund Hunterson!” Chris stilled for a moment, his heart rate increasing with the number of bodies at the ball. But with a small nudge from his mother, he ‘confidently’ strode to Marc, releasing his mother’s grip to shake his hand formally. He tried to stop himself sniffing the air, it was almost impossible to not shove his nose in the air and take a lungful of the most deliciously toxic scent.
He remained composed, not letting on although Marc was giving him a look… did he know?
Shit, shit, shit.
“Dance with a few unmated females, you never know, maybe your mate isn’t as prominent to you,” Marc advised through a breath, ensuring no one could hear.
“Because I’m broken?” Chris spat back.
“Course not. All pairings are different. Go.” Marc gave him a subtle shove, directing him from the royal platform.
Chris wanted to growl at his brother, but he did as was expected, strolling to the circumference of the dance floor where there were plenty of females waiting for attention. The overwhelming distinctive smell of molasses and bonfire caused his mind to fog. The wish to get closer to the smell humming through his limbs.
He stretched a hand out to a picture-perfect female. “May I?” he asked the chestnut-haired female in an almost revealing turquoise dress.
“Of course, Your Highness,” she replied in an annoyingly high pitched tone. He grasped her hand, spotting the source of the otherworldly smell across the hall. He yanked the female to the middle of the dance floor, taking up her hands and waist… ignoring his wolf’s grumblings.
He danced with her, pretending he was interested in her musings. His wolf kept pushing him to face his mate, the pull growing stronger until he felt ill. He was glad when the song finished. He kissed the female’s hand before looking around the room as if looking for another dance partner.
He didn’t want to dance.
He avoided the far end, avoiding the source of the scent desperate to drag him closer. An invisible hand pulling while he ignored the feeling. The more he ignored, the more his stomach was tied in knots.
Twelve hours. As soon as he was out of the packlands the feelings would grow fainter… he was sure of it.
He just had to ignore his every fibre’s desire.
He forced himself to dance with a few more female’s hoping he’d be able to leave soon. He made his way back to the royal platform, plonking down on the stool next to Klara. “How are you feeling?”
“You’re starting to sound like your brother.” She gave him a stern glare.
He chuckled, “Sorry, My Queen,” he replied with just a touch of sarcasm.
“I think a better question would be how you’re doing?”
“You know I hate these things.”
“Yeah. They’re not my most favourite. Don’t let Marc bully you, you don’t need to leave tomorrow.”
“I want to. It’s a good idea, besides… can get up to mischief.” He winked.
“Hope not too much mischief.” Her baby blue eyes twinkled at him.
“Just as much as is allowed.”
The scent he was trying to ignore grew stronger until two people approached the thrones. “My Queen,” one of the auburn-haired guards addressed Klara.
“Sarah, how are you?”
“Well, your Majesty. Prince Christopher.” She bowed to him next.
“I wanted to wish you a happy coming of age. Would you dance with me?” His stomach tightened. He didn’t want to dance with her. His mistake was looking at her brother. His deep cognac eyes bored into him. A clear warning despite who Chris was.
“Of course,” his voice came out tighter than he wanted. He tore his gaze from her brother, forcing a smile before he grasped her hand.
The delicious smell followed them as he led her into the crowd, taking up her arms, “Thank you for dancing with me.”
“I would be a fool for rejecting. I will be going away tomorrow,” he announced formally.
“You will?” Her eyes a shade darker than her brother’s peered up to him. A sorrow clearly shined.
“It is for the best.” He released her into a spin before bringing her back. He could feel a gaze on him, angry… protective.
He ignored it, bringing Sarah closer to his body. “You don’t feel your mate here?”
He tightened his grip on her waist, his jaw hardening, his gold eyes flashing in irritation. “Bold of you to be asking such personal questions,” he growled.
“Forgive me,” she whispered, lowering her head and baring her jugular in submission.
“You are forgiven.” He dropped his hold and stepped away. “Remember your place.”
He strode away looking straight ahead. “I’m going to retire,” he announced, not even stepping onto the Royal platform. “So soon?” his mother asked.
“I’m tired, I have a long journey tomorrow.”
“I will see you at breakfast.”
Chris nodded, bidding goodnight before heading for the door.
His golden eyes locked with cognac for a moment.
Update schedule Tuesday and Friday evening GMT time. I'll try and upload before 8pm but I start a new job next week so it could be a little later.
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