One - Here to Serve
I slip the sheer ceremonial robes over my shoulders, and I can’t believe I’m doing this. I fasten the hidden ties so the fabric hangs just so, accentuating my curves, and I can’t believe I’m doing this. I stare at myself in the mirror, not recognizing my own face beneath the makeup and perfectly smooth hair.
I can’t believe I’m doing this.
Movement catches my eye behind me, and I whip around. It can’t be time yet, there’s no way it’s time!
“Aera,” Ellis breathes as he enters the room, arms outstretched.
I know I shouldn’t, but I let him embrace me. I can’t cry—if I fuck up my makeup Marla will skin me alive.
“How did you get here? They’ll kill you.” But I’m happy to see him. My best friend. The only wolf to ever see me as more than an omega, as a wolf worth living, worth loving.
He doesn’t answer me, just holds me. My rock. The rock I’m being ripped away from.
“We could make it,” he whispers into my hair.
“No we couldn’t.” I know we couldn’t. They probably already know he’s here and are watching the door. Why they would allow me this small kindness, to say goodbye, I don’t know. But there’s no way that we’d get out of here alive if we tried to escape.
This deal is too valuable.
I am too valuable.
The thought sickens me. My entire life, as Cedric Delacroix’s omega, I’ve been treated like nothing. The alpha made sure that the pack was strong, regal, proper. And that if they had to let out their baser improper instincts, they would let it out on me.
I was there to serve. And be instantly forgotten as soon as I was finished.
And now they’ve dressed me up to serve in a new way.
Hundreds of years ago, the Delacroix wolf pack was invaded by the Quinn wolf pack. They battled for generations, and even after they settled a bit and the skirmishes stopped, the families hated each other.
One year, a young impulsive alpha of the Quinn pack took a witch as a lover. The legends say that she put some kind of spell on him, but I like to think that he was just sick of the fighting. They met with the alpha of the Delacroix pack, got him drunk, and made a deal.
The deal was that when each alpha had a child, a Quinn male and a Delacroix female, they would marry, thus binding the two packs together by blood to end the feud. The witch solidified this agreement with blood magic, creating an unbreakable promise.
The Delacroix alpha was apparently pissed the next morning, but the damage had already been done. So he took it upon himself to sabotage the deal as much as he could.
For generations, the Delacroix pack killed its alpha’s daughters.
Until this one. This time around, the Quinn alpha is unmarried and has no children. It’s rare for an alpha to remain unmated into middle age, but not unheard of.
Cedric Delacroix’s mate, Marla, begged him not to murder their baby daughter when she was born. They thought they would be safe, since at the time Aldous Quinn had no children and didn’t seem like he would. They thought that the curse wouldn’t trigger because the next generation of the Quinn pack didn’t exist.
But it did. Wolves in both packs grew sick, some died, and all of them as a whole were weaker, growing weaker by the day.
It seemed that Aldous Quinn was supposed to marry Lydia Delacroix.
But Cedric and Marla don’t want to give up their precious daughter to the old alpha of their rival pack.
Why not dress up the omega that they don’t care about? The two packs haven’t interacted in forever, they have no idea what the alpha’s daughter looks like, smells like. Why not free the pack omega from her shackles of servitude, just to lash her to the brutal alpha of the rival pack?
They say the original Quinn pack were pirates. That they invaded from the sea. That they pillaged and murdered.
And now I am going to marry Aldous Quinn.
“I don’t want to lose you,” Ellis murmurs, and his voice is agonized.
“You’re not losing me.” But that’s a lie, isn’t it? I’m not dying, or I hope I won’t be. But a life in the Quinn pack doesn’t exactly mean I can tra-la-la over for picnics with Ellis anytime I want.
This ‘offering’ is just a formality, but it’s not going to actually bond the packs together. Especially because I’m not actually Lydia Delacroix, so if Aldous and I have a baby, it won’t have the alpha lineage from both packs.
I’m not even sure if this ruse will fulfil the witch’s curse or not. Marla seems to think so, that we can just trick everyone. I don’t know if she actually believes that or if she just can’t bear to part with her daughter.
I guess we’ll find out if wolves keep getting sick. I don’t know what will happen to me, then. Will he figure out I’m a fraud? It’s already risky being an omega. Aldous will be able to smell it on me, and I’ll have to convince him that I’m an anomaly, that I was born that way.
An omega pup born to an alpha. Another thing that’s rare, but not impossible.
“There’s so much I never told you.” Ellis’ words threaten to destroy me.
“You never had to.” And it’s true. I’ve known for a long time that Ellis loves me…but it’s never mattered. My role as an omega has never been to marry or bear pups or have a chance at love.
Which makes it horrifically ironic that this is what I’m being served up to do.
If I had been given the choice, Ellis might have been my match. I say might not because I don’t love him, because I do. I love what we have and how he’s treated me our whole lives. He doesn’t believe omega wolves should even exist anymore, and yes, there are packs that don’t even have any. More progressive packs that believe in equality amongst the wolves beneath alpha and beta.
But not Cedric Delacroix. Everyone has their place.
But had they not, or had I not been born an omega, I don’t know what my life would be like now. Would I have fallen for one of the other wolves in the pack? With the freedom to travel and meet other packs, would I have met a wolf from somewhere else?
I love Ellis, but do I love him because we’re fated to it, or because he’s the only person on the planet who has ever treated me like I mean something? Because he was so gentle when he comforted me, because he never raised a hand to me, or worse?
I don’t know. And I’ll never know.
Because I’m still not being treated like anything other than a transaction.
“You have to go, they’ll be back soon and they’ll kill you if they find you here.” I can’t bear to hear what he has to say, not now, not when I’m never going to see him again. I want him to live on, be happy, find a mate of his stature, someone he can be with openly and proudly.
Hopefully in a better pack than Cedric Delacroix’s.
Ellis stares at me, as if he’s memorizing my face. For a moment I’m terrified he’ll kiss me, that my lips will taste like him when I meet my future husband. That his kiss will shatter my heart into a million pieces because it will feel so good and so right and then be ripped away from me.
He seems to understand, or maybe he thinks the same, that it would be too painful. But he doesn’t kiss me.
He gives my shoulders one last squeeze and backs out of the room.
The door clicking shut behind him is too loud. Like a nail being hammered into my coffin.