Running late for the family meal, I rush through the halls of the palace, almost crashing into the walls as I skid around corners and dodge past the staff with their laundry carts, apologising as I go.
As I pass one of the windows, something or rather, someone catches my attention; I notice that Idris is out on the palace grounds, talking on his phone. Slowing down to a complete halt, I look out to him and watch. He looks angry. Angrier than I have ever seen the sweet, gentle giant before. He is shouting down his phone and throwing his arms in the air like a wild man.
He is too far away for me to hear what is being shouted about, but whatever it is cannot be good! I have never seen Idris lose his temper like this before; he is usually so docile, calm and just lovely all around!
Could this be the same person he was speaking to in the greenhouse? And if it is, who could have gotten him so riled up and why? I wonder.
That reminds me… I need to try and do some more digging. Though, it’s hard for a she-wolf with the same capabilities as a clumsy human to be able to snoop around a Lycan.
I was lucky at the greenhouse. I would be surprised if he’s not already aware it was me lurking and watching him from the shadows. Lycans senses are greater than your typical werewolves, making them all the more dangerous.
After saying my apologies for being late - yet again to the family meal; I sit down to tuck into the roast dinner laid out in front of me.
Eddie is sat next to Ozzy – for once. Usually, Eddie is keen to stay away as far as humanly possible. Not because he doesn’t like Ozzy, but because of the stinky hellhounds that follow Ozzy. He has never told us why he dislikes them so much; it’s almost as if the mighty warrior is… afraid.
“Hey, Uncle Eddie?” I start curiously.
“Yes, Mae?” He looks at me warmly.
“Out of curiosity, why do you dislike the hounds?” I question, glancing between him and the hounds that lay lazily at my brother’s feet. From the sight of them at this moment, you wouldn’t think they are killing machines; as they lay with their tummies sunny-side-up, ready for any scritches and scratches offered, they behave more like domesticated pets.
Eddie makes some kind of startled coughing, almost choking sound – I think I may have taken him off guard.
“Wh-what gives you that impression?” he rasps out. Bashing his fist against his chest.
Amber rolls her eyes – this is a, for heaven’s sake, sort of eye roll.
“Come on, darling. We all know you don’t like the ugly beasts; just tell Mae why”, she says, patting his back as he still tries to recover.
When Eddie finally recovers, he turns his attention to my mum. “Olive, would you like to tell the story, or shall I?”
My head whips to my mother.
“Mum? What do you have to do with it?” I ask, baffled.
She waves her hands, waving us off as if it’s nothing. This just makes me even more intrigued; when my mum tries to say something isn’t a big deal… it probably is, especially if it’s something to do with her!
“Because…”, Eddie starts, “…before your mother was the Queen… she saved my life”.
My mum blushes, uncomfortable with praise “it was nothing, really!” She tries to wave it off even more vigorously.
Ok, now I’m even more interested!
“Nothing, ha! Your mother really is too modest”, Eddie laughs.
“Those beasts took on eleven guards in total; Dinah and I were a part of Olive’s guards. They were tearing through us like nothing; not even Dinah’s magic was going to hold them off of their target – your mother, for too long. I was bitten by one of the hellhounds... here”, he says, pulling his collar down to reveal a medium-sized scar on his shoulder.
“I was dying. Their venom was eating away at me”. He winces as he recalls the details and the pain.
I see Ozzy sitting forward in his chair, clearly intrigued by the conversation.
“I thought I was going to die. I could see it in the eyes of my comrades that that was what was going to happen”.
“Why didn’t you die? How did you stop the venom?” Ozzy asks, invested.
“Your mum. She saved me. She sucked the venom right out of my shoulder; everyone tried to tell her she was mad and that she would likely die from the venom too. But she didn’t listen. Without her, I would be dead”, Eddie says, looking at my mum, smiling at her thankfully.
“So, what happened after you ingested it?” Hunter asks, shock evident in his tone.
“I just, I don’t know, I guess I had this weird feeling that it wouldn’t hurt me, like an urge, knowing it would be ok. After I had sucked the venom out, I felt a surge of power rather than pain… it was strange”. Mum says shyly, relaying her memory.
Ozzy is sat staring at the hellhounds, his gaze unwavering, his emotions are sealed away behind his onyx eyes.
Everyone comes off of topic and onto other conversations, yet I can’t help but watch Ozzy; he’s even more quiet than usual, pushing some of his food around his plate and looking to his hounds thoughtfully.
Is he mad at them for causing someone he knows and loves harm?
I honestly can’t tell.
Before I can ponder more about what is going through my brother’s mind, my dad speaks.
“Can I have everyone’s attention, please? I do have something I need to raise and make you all aware of, hence the emergency family meal”.
Everyone’s attention is immediately turned to my father; you can tell everyone at this table has a high level of respect for him, just by how quickly everyone quiets and gives him their full attention.
It’s unusual for us to have a last-minute meal; it’s even rarer for my dad to feel the need to raise something during our family meal.
“Unfortunately, it isn’t the best news”, he starts looking at my mum as she grabs his hand in her own; he gives her hand a quick, comforting squeeze before continuing.
“We’ve had reports that someone, either in our pack, or potentially a neighbouring pack, is planning to overthrow us and take the throne for their own. We don’t know who it is or why, but strange happenings have been occurring, such as rogues meeting with hunters and rogues getting cockier in their attempts to trespass our pack borders. We all need to be vigilant and aware of anything strange happenings inside and outside the pack”.
My eyes flash to Idris, gauging his reaction. He’s not giving anything away if he has anything to hide; his face is a blank canvas, looking as if he is digesting everything and taking it all on board.
Idris wouldn’t be involved in this, would he?
I hope for both Dinah and Idris’s sake that Idris isn’t involved in this. I don’t believe he would be… because this is Idris we are talking about. But I know that he is hiding something, something he is keen to keep quiet from others. However, there is something else this might relate to…
What if this is what Jasper was threatening me with?
Everyone agrees to keep vigilant, allowing the meal to continue quietly.
I, on the other hand, decide to take a chance.
“Hey Pops, I saw you talking to someone on the phone before dinner. Is everything ok?” I ask nonchalantly.
“Oh. Yeah. It was um, just Lola”, he replies casually.
I’m not buying it.
Lola is Idris’s adoptive sister - she’s thirty-three years old now, though, as a Lycan, she looks to be around twenty-four years old.
“How is Lola? You looked really upset”, I push.
“She’s ok, um, some er, jerk gave her some trouble in the bar the other night”, he blatantly lies, but no one else seems to be paying our conversation any attention.
“Oh no! I hope she’s ok!” I say sweetly, batting my eyelashes sadly.
Dinner ends as my mum and dad take their leave. One by one, everyone else filters out of the dining hall.
After deciding to speak with my dad tomorrow about Jasper, I make my way back to my room.
They’re more than likely empty threats anyway!
As I round the hallway to where my bedroom, is I come to a complete halt. Idris is waiting outside my door, causing my stomach to drop just a little, knotting with some nerves... did I push him too far?
He is frowning at me as if I’m in trouble; he’s looking at me like he would when I was little and he had caught me getting up to no good.
Like the time he caught me trying to sleep over in Rex’s room, I was only seven years old... I couldn’t bear to be apart from Rex.
We begged and pleaded to be allowed a sleepover, but they weren’t having any of it.
I reach my door and push it open, holding it open for Idris to follow me through.
“What can I do for you, Pops?” I say as though I don’t realise something is up.
“Cut the act, Mae. I know what you’re up to... you need to stop. I can’t have you involved in this”, he says, frustrated.
“Involved in what”, I respond narrowing my eyes suspiciously.
“This is dangerous, Mae, just promise me you’ll stop digging; for your own safety”, he looks at me pleadingly.
I cross my arms defiantly and tip my nose up, “if this is something that could affect my family, I have a right to know”.
“You will, Mae. Trust me, you will, but when the time is right, all will be revealed”, when I remain quiet, he walks to me and gives me a kiss on top of my head before leaving my room.
What the hell was that all about? I’m even more confused now than I was. I think exasperated.
* * *
Waking up early – for me. I stretch my legs and roll out of bed. It’s around 8am. I throw on some comfortable clothes and head straight to my dad’s office; I know for a fact that he will already have been up for a couple of hours.
I pop my head around the office door, he looks up at me, smiling brightly.
“Mae! I didn’t think I would ever see you up this early!” He jokes.
“Har-Har, very funny”, I say, sticking my tongue out at him.
“I actually came to see you about something regarding Jasper Cook”, I start.
“Ah, I see”, he says calmly, but I know my dad... he knows something, I can tell by the way he’s averting his gaze.
“Yeah, he was incredibly touchy-feely with me at the ball”, I start. Dad’s hands curl into fists, his knuckles turning white… I wouldn’t be surprised if the solid gold fountain pen he’s holding snapped in half at this rate. But this is great for me, this is just the reaction I am trying to goad; my dad is always easier to get information from when angry.
“He basically said I was going to be his. He also said there was nothing I or anyone else could do about it”.
“Like fuck you will be!” He explodes, “I’d sooner die than watch you mated off to that punk!”
Got you. I think victoriously.
“What do you know? I know you know something”, I push.
As he looks at me, his eyes soften a touch. He sighs and leans back in his leather chair.
“His parents approached me”, he says, conceding.
“Ok… and?” I press.
“They want your hand in marriage to their son, in exchange for some information”, he states.
“Well, what kind of information? What kind of information could be that important that they think it’ll get me to marry their awful son?” I ramble flabbergasted.
“They say...” he stops, taking a deep breath, “they say they know where Rex is”.
My heart rate speeds up.
Does that mean…
“He-he’s alive?” I say, shocked.
“We aren’t sure Mae, these people can’t be trusted. They’ve always been slimy, sneaky wolves. It doesn’t make sense for them to want you to marry their son, only for their sons head to be ripped off by a pissed off Lycan; if they truly know where Rex is, it would be in their best interest to keep that secret hidden, not take us to him. I’m sorry, things just aren’t adding up”.
My heart breaks a little, the tiny shred of hope I had suddenly shatters into a thousand pieces.
It doesn’t make sense, so why do they think they can get away with it?
“Do you think they have something else up their sleeve?” I question.
“I don’t doubt it, Mae. They’re up to something. We need to be ready for whatever that may be. Try your best to stay away from him in the meantime, ok?”
You don’t have to tell me twice!
“Believe me, I’ll try and avoid him like the plague!”