Chapter 1 - Cora
When she arrived at the castle for the engagement social, she had arrived as her human self. Though, before she had a chance to walk into the ballroom doors, her lioness took hold of her and would not let go. She was a force to be reckoned with, strong and feral. And now, she was on the hunt. Whatever she caught wind of, she liked...she wanted. Her lioness smashed against her so hard that she rocketed through her soul to take form.
Now, with her pale gold and shimmering fur, she walked into the ballroom. A hush grew over the crowd there, and Cora felt herself shrink inside. It was not like her to call attention to herself, but her lioness did not care. She ignored them all as if she owned the entire lot of them, and could care less that they now gawked at her. Instead, she was focused. She was looking for something...from wherever that delicious smell came from.
Humans and shifters alike were present. All familiar with a shifter’s prowl, they eased away from her cautiously. Several of the men around the room could sense her heat, her desire, encouraging some to shift and move near her to catch the aromatic pheromones that she was sending off. If they got too close, her lioness would lash out at them. There was only one male in the bunch she wanted, and only one that she was willing to give access to. It was her mate, and her lioness soul had found hers. She intended to serve up Cora a mate for herself, whether she liked it or not.
The lioness marched straight for the hosts of the party, the ones that everyone greeted as they entered. Inside, her human cringed, tried to reign her beast back. The king and his fiance would be there, the evening intended to celebrate their mating with both their packs in attendance. What was her lioness thinking? She would never be able to show her face around here anymore. Talk about being a party crasher!
Cora tried with every fibre of her being to put her lioness back in the bottle. To put her back in the proverbial cage that she had been forced to keep her for most of her life. She urged, pleaded, and even tried to command her return so that she could once again be human. The embarrassment of it all would send her packing, would even send her into another pride’s home, but she would risk it not to further embarrass the king and his fiance.
It was too late. With all her efforts, her lioness refused to budge. And now, she had found him. The delicious smell wafted from him like ambrosia from the gods, and even Cora’s human form found it intoxicating. The shifter was already in his lion form, and before Cora knew what was happening, they started to circle one another. She had no idea who he was in his human form, but he was magnificent as his beast.
Though her lioness was allowing him near her, she expected him to prove himself worthy. He let off a roar that echoed in the room, and guests were in awe from the sheer force of it. Guests and beasts alike were dropping down to show their deference. However, not her lioness. There was an expectation that he would be commanding, and the vibrations it caused to course through her body was delicious, but she wanted him to dominate her.
When he closed in on where she stood, she swiped a huge paw with extended claws at him while standing on her haunches. The strength that was unleashed as her two paws whipped out in front of her to make contact with his muscular frame if he ventured within reach was incredible considering how long she had been restrained within her host.
He strode around her, waiting for his moment to spring while staying just beyond her reach. This lion was a hunter, smart and clever. Ready to take advantage of any weakness he saw, he would swipe out a paw to test her awareness. He taunted and teased her, and her lioness loved it. It made her nearly purr at his actions.
When she let her weight fall back to all fours, she almost missed his lightning speed as he rounded on her blind side. His mouth open, he reached in and closed his jaws over the excess skin around her neck. The gentleness that he exhibited warmed Cora’s heart, but it was also demanding enough to make her beast submit.
He bit down before she had a chance to move, he was so fast. The pinch of it was enough to warm her center, and it was erotic in its sliver of pain that it sent through her. He allowed his weight to pin her front half to the ground as he shifted himself around her. That is when Cora froze inside, her heart nearly stopped in its chest. The lion sidestepped until he was behind her, the weight of his front half still pressing heavy over Cora’s lioness and restraining her to remain lying on her stomach.
When he was directly behind her heated mound, he mounted her in front of the entire social gathering. Inside, she could feel the very air around her rumble as her beast purred with sensual delight and pleasure. Her lioness did not know who he was, never saw his human face, just knew that he was hers, and he felt good against her. If it was not for the fact that her lioness only wanted this stranger, Cora might have thought her a tramp.
She was mortified at the spectacle, but her lioness was eager and wanton, allowing him access where none had been. The massive paws of the male that rode her ground into her flesh as he restricted her movements, but she did not care. The waves of pleasure that spiraled through her from being joined to her mate was heaven, and her throat vibrated with her purrs. Thrusting behind her, he worked at satiating that beastly hunger. The closer he got to his beastly release, the more his claws dug into that beautiful pale fur of hers.
Small rivulets of blood flowed from the wounds his claws inflicted, only intensifying the pleasure of their mating. Though her lioness paid little heed, Cora was only slightly more aware when panel screens were brought in by servants and placed around the two joined lions as their intimacy came to a climax. The lion bit harder into the flesh behind her neck, causing her lioness to roar with her own gratification as her heat was sated. Moments later, he sounded off his own roar behind her as he met his own lustful needs.
There were murmurs, gasps, giggles, and mutterings that drifted to Cora as the beast behind her finally wriggled off her form. Their joining would not bear fruit, it was symbolic of their bonded souls. This was the extent of her knowledge of what just transpired.
Cora was nothing more than an orphan, and one that was reluctantly foisted upon others to care for her. Her life had been sheltered, and she stayed as far from the other pride members as her adopted mother could get her. She always felt like an embarrassment to her adopted parents, and unwanted.
There was a time when she tried to help them fill the void of not being able to have children of their own, but they seemed unappreciative of her efforts. Truth was, there seemed to be so much loyalty and love between her parents, but there was no romance. It was as if they were more like friends, and helped each other to accomplish a common goal. Nothing more.
Though, Cora was not privy to that information, she would never dream of stepping outside of her rights as an omega born to dare ask her parents any questions with regards to their relationship. Omega borns were not meant for much but servitude, and her parents tried desperately to drill that into her from the time that she was young.
On one such lesson, Cora had been young, but the lesson was well remembered. Her lioness had been pacing that morning, and seemed rather restless. After checking to make sure that no one was home, and that she was out of prying neighbors eyes, she allowed her lioness to push forward. The beast ran wild through the forest that had edged against their property, and Cora loved the feel of the freedom of it.
Time lapsed from minutes to hours before Cora finally pushed her lioness to head for home. Before she made it out of the clearing, she had shifted back to her human form and clothed herself. When she went inside, her adopted parents were back, and her father was near marching a path into their wooden floors.
“Where in the hell have you been?” Her father strode over to her and snatched her by the collar of her shirt.
“Anton, put her down!” Her mother had ran over to him and was pulling at the sleeve of the arm that had her suspended in the air.
“No, Darcy! She is a liability. We shouldn’t have risked ourselves for her.” The shake that he gave her nearly made her teeth smash together as he shook her to and fro.
“She is a child. There is a lot she still has to learn.” The imploring look she gave him was pitiful, pleading with his finer sensibilities that he may or may not have had. “Please, Anton. I will teach her better, I promise.”
“You’re damn right you will, or there won’t be a next time.” His voice was dark, and his words struck fear in Cora’s heart. He jerked his arm away from him, and sent her flying across the room. She glanced off the dining room table, and crashed into the wall knocking over the chairs on her journey.
The injuries on other parts of her body were not as severe, but when her body shifted in the air after she hit the dining room table, she landed in the wall head first. The concussion she suffered would take weeks for her to shake, but the memories lead to her caging her beast and refusing to allow her reign. Even when her lioness paced and became restless, Cora would meditate and find ways to force her into submission. Any way that would keep her beast locked away. And now this!
Tonight, her adopted parents wanted to introduce her to a man that they had selected on her behalf. It was time for her to be mated, they told her. They had met their obligation in raising her, and it was time for a man to pick up where they were happy enough to leave off. To take the burden off them and take her into his home.
This incident would surely cause them to disown her. She could almost hear the horror in their voices, and the shocked look in their eyes at her audacity. But, it was not hers to control.
Breathing heavy, she looked down to see her own pale hands in front of her. Her pale blonde hair hung in ringlets in front of her as they delicately danced along the floor with every breath she took. Now in human form once again, she lifted her head enough to see the thick, plush robes that had been left for them within the enclosure.
Snatching one from its small peg, she prayed that her companion, her lioness’ mate, was still too sapped and wearied to notice her. She had to get out. Her whole form wanted nothing more than to run as far away from here as she could.
With quick movements, she stuffed her arms into the too large robe, and closed it around her to shield her whole being within its folds. Lifting the collar up against her face, she raised it to cover everything up to her eyes. She only needed just enough to see her way out. Sliding past the small slit in between the panels, she heard gasps, and murmurs. All she could think of was to run, to get as far away from here as possible.
With as long of strides as she could muster, she attempted to sprint to the double doors from where her lioness had entered. The whole room was watching her, but looked too stunned to do anything about her departure. So, she tried to speed up, nearly tripping on the hem of the robe.
A voice from behind her boomed through the room, mixed with a ferocious growl. “Stop her!”
The order barked, two guards blocked her passage as she approached the doors that would have led to her freedom. She didn’t dare turn around, afraid to see who came for her. Her eyes looked up to the guards, pleading with them to let her through.
“Please,” she whispered frantically. “You have to let me through. I can’t...it wasn’t…”. Her sensitive ears could hear the padded footsteps getting closer behind her, feeling as if they were pounding inside her head. “Please, it was a mistake. I am so sorry. If you let me go, I will leave and never come back, I promise.”
The guards looked at her, perplexed. Before they could form a proper response, a hand wrapped around her arm just above her elbow. It took her by surprise, and she nearly shrieked as she flinched from its grasp. Her embarrassment still prevented her from looking in the eyes of her mate, but she could smell him...could smell them. The fear of seeing the judgement in his eyes kept her focused on the path in front of her, hoping drastically that she might see an opportunity to make a hasty departure.
With a strong hand guiding her from behind, she passed through the guards to the foyer beyond. Though she moved her body and feet towards the front door of the castle, the hand at her arm had other plans for her steps. The firm touch moved her to the staircase as she started to protest. “Please, you don’t understand. That was a mistake. I am so sorry. I don’t know what got into me.”
She twisted in his arms, hoping that she could show him the apology that she felt he deserved. When she saw him, she was panic stricken. He was absolutely the most gorgeous man she had ever seen, but he was also supposed to be in attendance at the engagement party...with his fiancé. His lips lifted into a taunting smile before he answered her. “I believe it was me that, how did you say...got into you?”
The blush crept on her so suddenly, and the heat flooded through. Never had she had a man speak so bold to her, and she had no response. Until she remembered who he was. “Oh God! I am so sorry, your highness! I promise, I will leave here and never show my face again!” Small trickles of tears started down her face as she struggled to find a way to make amends for her actions, attempting to feebly pull her arm away from him.
His eyes narrowed, and his mouth was close to a snarl. “Then you would doom us both.”
“I don’t know what you mean.” Her voice was weak next to his.
Shaking his head, he started to steer her back up the stairs. “Never mind, we will discuss it later. Right now, we need to get to my quarters.”
Her skin paled, and her stomach tightened. The quiver in her voice made it sound so different to her own ears. “Your quarters?” Breathing became ragged, and labored. “Why?”
The words stopped his ascent briefly as he turned lifted brows towards her, his mouth slightly gaped. Then, as quickly as she saw it, they were gone. His eyes narrowed, and one side of his lip lifted in consternation. “Are you familiar with what happens once our beasts have mated?” Her head shook slightly, and her lip quivered. He sighed, and then pulled her up the remaining set of stairs. “Well, you are about to find out. We just need to make sure we are behind close doors when you have need of me.”
“But, your engagement..”
“Is now ours. You will want to get a move on, my sweet, before your heat comes in.”