CHAPTER 1 - BLOOM
Blood was all over her sheets, the morning they came for her.
If it wasn’t for the scent of her coming of age, Snow knew she would have been spared. His men came before dawn. They banged on the front door as hooves of horses startled her.
Their arrival woke the entire clan. People rushed from their chambers, water was boiled hot, dresses were hung and torches were lit.
The elders knew she’d bloom.
They knocked at her door before she felt warm blood ooze between her legs. Snow’s handmaids gasped at the unsightly pool of blood. Snow looked at them puzzled. Their grim faces contrasted against the proud nods of the elders. The women exchanged smug looks, knowing she’d be taken.
This was her clan’s chance. And, finally, they would get rid of her.
Her mother would have prepared her. If only she was alive.
They pulled her from her bed as dripping blood trailed down her pale limbs. Snow’s body ached. She cushioned her throbbing abdomen as they dragged her into steaming water.
Look at all that blood. The last time those sheets were stained red, the blood was not her own but her mother’s.
Their hands grabbed Snow’s locks as they dunked her head into the water. She was out of breath as she emerged from the warm liquid. Her lungs felt heavy. Tears welled in her eyes as she witnessed the number of elders tending to her. Her chest pierced in shame with her nakedness before them. Their eyes were unyielding, they pulled her and tossed her almost peeling her bare skin as they scrubbed her clean. Now, that she has come of age. It was Grimlake’s chance to sell her off.
Look at her eyes, they resembled the witch herself.
Snow looked down as they dragged her out from the water. Dry linen grazed against her skin as she felt it sting. She looked down and saw how red her arms were. She was about to tuck a strand of hair beside her cheeks when a shot of pain bolted from her ear. She bit as a pleading gasp escaped her lips.
“They’re for earrings, Milady,” one of them spoke, “For sure, you can bare a wee ole pain after all the years you put us through.”
The women giggled as they grabbed on to the other earlobe. The needle glimmered red against the flame as it sliced against the skin of her earlobe. Snow winced. Holding in her plea for she knew no one would heed it.
Don’t touch her. You know what she does to people. One touch and she’ll suck the soul out o’ you.
Snow felt her head grate as they pulled a brush to tame her curls. From her periphery, she saw a handful of hair stuck against the bristles. Snow almost cursed as her fingers touched traces of blood on her scalp.
Weird ones. All seven of them.
They pulled the warm linens from her body as Snow stood in front of the elders of her clan. The she-wolves growled as they bent down to pull traces of linen stained with blood. They cupped her nakedness and stuffed more linen in between her legs as she winced.
The eldest. Yes, the eldest, can make flames with her hands. The bloody girl burned my hair once.
Snow thought. They were talking about Clara.
She eyed the gray-haired woman.
Bones dangled on her neck as webs of skin clung to her jaw. She smelled of coal and soil. Her teeth stained black of tar.
Snow bowed her head in acknowledgement of the Grimlake elder. The woman simply ignored her. She continued to burn incense around Snow’s naked body. She shivered as the smoke lightly kissed her skin.
The last time Snow saw her clan elder was when she had her young wolf fang pulled out. They rarely went out of their caves. Their lives sworn in solitary worship made the shadows under their eyes black.
The second one. Was it the third one? No, heavens. The second one could read minds.
They tied the linen against her womanhood as they wiped on the dripping blood with damp cloth. Snow thought they smelled of burn tobacco and old stale bread.
The third one speaks to animals. Even birds. The cows would follow her. No wonder she hunts so well. The girl’s but an ole cheat.
The elders were displeased with her and her sisters. Growing up to be peculiar than the rest of her kind, the Grimlake sisters were different. They were known to be a special breed for many. They possessed abilities the others did not.
But in their own home, the seven of them were like plague, a disease that made them the smallest pack of their nation. The elders noted the sudden drop of births as their women became less and less productive - as what they called it.
Their blood has circulated too long and it was no longer enough to bring forth live cubs. They needed to breed with other packs.
They were the answer.
Her eldest sister, Clara, is already with child. Snow hitched as she felt a cold palm touch her arms. They were rubbing warm salve on her skin. She saw the pale skin glisten. Her shoulders arched, her back stiffened as the women continued with their whispers.
Snow could hear them, though.
The fourth one is worse. I cannot even bear to speak of it.
The sound of her name made the hair on Snow’s nape stand. She witnessed how Celeste reduces her enemies just by invoking a sorrowful emotion to her prey. Not that she has ever felt it. She’d only hear them weep. The handmaids said it was just the wind. But right from a young age, Snow already knew it was Celeste’s victims. The only one Celeste could not affect was her.
The fifth was the nicest one. She can blossom flowers with her breath. But the good ones always die young.
The elders chose between the lace robes as she shuddered in the cold without nothing but skin covering her bones. She was already freezing. It was not until they spoke about her deceased sister, did Snow feel like solid ice. The emptiness in her chest crept to her knees as they wobbled.
The women finally chose a robe for her to wear. They yanked her arm up as the soft fabric landed on her skin. Snow hoped that it would provide her with even the smallest warmth, but she was wrong. As the thin lace covered her body, there was only hope, no warmth.
The sixth speak in Terbitan. That one’s probably possessed by the old Druids if you ask me. The girl can speak and read the ancient language. A spawn of the witch.
The bitter women had to speak of her sisters while she was there. If she wasn’t chosen, Snow thought. She’d come for them all. They weren’t witches nor Druids. They were her father’s children. They were she-wolves of Grimlake house. Snow clenched her fist as they brushed rose tint on her lips. She would have bitten their fingers one by one. She clenched her jaw shutting her mouth tight.
This one. The most rotten of them all.
They call her that. Look at ’er. The girl looks so innocent and pure doesn’t she? One touch from her and you’re good as dead.
Don’t be fooled, all o’ you. The monster killed ’er own mother. By the Gods, she’s a bloody monster.
Snow’s temples throbbed. Void. She shut her eyes as they spoke of her. She was a void. She was so close to tears when, she felt them lightly tap on her neck.
Their callused hands brushed fragrant oil on her skin as they escorted her out her chambers. Just as the door opened, the wind froze her every being. Snow embraced the cold.
If it was to numb her soul, she’d gladly freeze.
The women surrounded her as they walked down the stone stairs of the tower towards the main hall. Three of her sisters were already there. Celeste. Lais. Margaux.
Finally, this one can join in the Selection. We’re lucky the other two were already betrothed.
Her sisters saw her as she arrived. They nodded their heads towards her. Snow bowed back almost stumbling on her robe. Giggles broke the silence as Snow’s cheeks heated red.
She looked straight down to avoid gray eyes she feared the most. They were Celeste’s.
She rarely spoke to her. And whenever she did, she would have said something bad about her. Whether it was her posture, how she pursed her lips. Every bloody thing she does, Celeste was sure to hate it.
Snow is terrified of her. She couldn’t breathe being around her.
“Four women,” the wolves of Burnwood, “to the carriages, his alpha is waiting.”
Snow’s father bowed before the men, his hand against his chest. He strode out with his men as the she-wolves followed thereafter. They loaded them in carriages that’s twice the size of their own.
Burnwood is an empire, one of the finding packs of their kind. They were numerous. Their wolves breed strong and plentiful. If it weren’t for their unmarried alpha, Snow would not have seen carriages as big as this. If it weren’t for him, Snow would still be in bed moping above the blood oozing between her legs.
His men were to take them and God knows what they will do to her. Snow knew nothing of the Selection. If she were to be seated with Margaux, Snow would be sure to ask.
She stepped into the white ice lining the stone pathways towards the horses. Clouds of mist blew from her lips every time she breathed. Snow did not know what she felt. She wanted to leave all this behind, but it meant this was the last time she’ll ever see her sisters.
Snow looked back one final time. She saw the elders wave with full smiles on their faces. These women were out of this world. She could not help but stuck her tongue out at them.
The women’s eyes shot open, mouths gapped with what she did. Snow turned her back from them and giggled.
The smile on her face did not vanish as she sat in her carriage. The darkness made her blind. Just as soon as her eyes adjusted to the light. Gray eyes appeared in front of her.
“What are you smiling at?” Celeste said.
Snow became rock solid, “N-nothing.”
She looked out the window where she saw only the frost forming against the glass. She touched it watching the blurry figures of Grimlake manor disappear in the white of winter. Snow bit her lip and swallowed hard. She swore this would be the longest carriage ride of her life.
If only she were to choose where she would have wanted to be, in a heartbeat, she would have chosen the blood stained sheets.
CONGRATULATIONS! You’ve finished chapter 1. Welcome to the world of His Imprint. I cannot wait to begin this journey with you.
* Lais (LA-YEES)