CHAPTER 1- BLOOM
Snow Grimlake was stuck in a carriage with her least favorite sister. Among the seven of them, it had to be Celeste whom she had to share the four-hour ride with. It was half past three and the venture was well off reaching the Hunton Woods. From the window, Snow could see the dimming sky as crickets started to break the eerie silence.
Tonight was the last full moon of winter. It marked her 18th wolf year and her first Selection.
The Burnwood House, one of the three founding packs, had chosen a new alpha. It has been years since their house has switched ranks and having an alpha without a mate would make his status unstable.
Among the seven of them, only four, her included, were eligible because the rest were already betrothed.
She could only force a smile, biting her lip as she was at it. Her chest pounded and all she could do was rest a cold palm on her chest. Her skin tingled under her frozen hand where only thin fabric kept the cold at bay.
She would have loved to be in her room with Symir, her handmaid, reading the books she’d bring her every night of her birthday. It was their night. Instead she was bathed, groomed every crevice and stripped leaving but a lace of fabric beneath her pale skin.
In selections as big as this, she was even surprised word was brought to their humble household.
The Grimlake house is known to be the smallest among the wolf packs composed of only 24 members. No one could stand her father, she thought. The beast could not be reckoned with. Although, that was not the only thing their house was known for.
It is a fact that the Grimlake blooded she wolves possess abilities peculiar for our kind. Most wolves have increased strength, speed, enhanced vision in the dark, hastened recovery from illnesses and wounds. But, she and her sisters possess something the others did not.
Clara, the eldest, can enflame anything she pleases without even the need to touch it. Margaux, the second born, could read minds. Willow, the third born, can talk to every creature and beast in the forest. Celeste, the fourth and her least favorite, had the ability to project emotions of sadness and hopelessness leaving anyone trembling. Rose, the fifth born who died in child birth, had the most beautiful ability of making flowers bloom. Lais, her sister before her, can read Terbitan their race’s ancient language which alone is a special ability in itself.
And there was her, she was unsure what was special about her. She only knew that none of her sisters’ abilities could affect her, not even Celeste’s. The devil would cast it on Symir instead leaving her only friend terrified and spent.
Her gaze landed on Celeste and she got a snarl in return.
Just as little as she knew about her abilities, the poor girl never knew her mother. Snow only knew the rumors. She overhead it from the handmaids who dusted the vases in the library.
Snow was born by her father’s third wife who died during during child birth. Her chest tightened as she recalled the rest.
Rumors spread in the Grimlake house that her mother’s death was her own doing.
They said that upon her first cry, the infant sucked the life out of her mother leaving her body frail until her skin dangled from her bones. The sight made the midwives scream. They ran before her cord was cut. Her father had to cut it and leave the weeping babe on the stained bedsheets to throw out her mother’s unsightly body.
They said Snow could suck the life out of anything. Symir would console her that these were only rumors.
Still, most of the handmaids in her household kept relations with her at the minimum.
However, she could vaguely recall a memory from her past that made the rumors make sense.
Night had come as soon as they passed the gates of Burnwood house. Snow flinched with the realization that she has fallen asleep. She sat up and untangled the wavy black locks from her face. Her cape was falling from her shoulders. She shivered as the lacey garment revealed her bare skin.
Celeste gave out a laugh as Snow’s chest peeled through the thin lace. Snow’s arms covered her front as her face turned warm. Just as she figured out where her clothes should hang, the carriage stopped. Celeste walked down as the door opened. The cold breeze startled her as she felt the peaks of her breast tighten.
The sensation made her knees weak as it was her turn to head out.
Just as her bare feet landed on pebbles in front of Burnwood house, she tracked a scent that sent bumps on her skin. Biting her lip, she felt the stiff peaks harden. She inhaled the scent even more and the let it cast waves of warmth in her lungs.
Burnwood house was an understatement. It was a fortress. The concrete palace sat between trees molding its walls to the trunks beside it. The front door lay open as warm light cast from the lamps within it. It beckoned the four near naked women. Margaux and Celeste started to tread towards the entrance as Lais and Snow followed.
The four walked in a single line as the wolves of the household in their maroon capes lined the hallways. Each pillar stood at each side of the massive hallways and was studded with torches burning warm. Despite the well lit corridor, Snow could not make up a face.
She looked down instead and followed her sisters. The scent grew stronger and with each step it made her insides melt. She liked it.
Just as they faced another closed door, her sisters started to unrobe. Her breathe quickened as she pulled the knot from her neck. She shivered as the cape now fell on her feet. With the remaining warmth she had left, she walked towards dim room seeking for a fire her shivering bones craved.
There her father stood beside Burnwood’s head elder. The four of them were standing side by side now, facing the biggest fireplace she have ever seen.
“Welcome, ladies.” The elder spoke, “Let the selection begin.”