Elyssa tucked her knees against her chest, allowing Aliana to pour fragrant water over her dirt matted hair. According to Aliana, she was to be presented to the Council for examination. A group consisting of three women and three men, her fate would be decided. They would make certain inquiries. If she sought to deceive them, they would know. Aliana did not explain how exactly they would know. The Alpha would not be present through these proceedings. If chosen as a Breeder, Elyssa would be forced to service the men of the tribe. Being of pure flesh, The Alpha would be granted the privilege of taking her innocence. Only once she was with child would she be allowed to refuse a potential mate.
The position of wife was little better. She would be brought before the eligible men of the tribe, paraded before each of them until she caught the eye of her future husband. She would have no say in whom chose her. In this scenario, her husband would be the one to take her innocence.
“I am frightened.” Elyssa confessed, allowing Aliana to wipe the water from her flesh.
“It truly isn’t that awful, Elyssa. Aye, there are some brutes among the pack. The Alpha does not allow any woman to be brutalized. Those that do face immediate and rather harsh fates.”
“Have-have you met The Alpha?’
Aliana laughed, “No, dearest sister. I have seen him, of course. But I have yet to meet him face to face.”
A dress of the finest silk slid over her flesh. Elyssa shivered. The dress did little to hide her body from those that may choose to look upon it. She moved her hands to cover herself. Aliana gripped her wrists, forcing her arms back to her side. A pained expression crossed her face.
“I wish I could have chosen a different fate for you, little sister. But, alas, we must play the cards we are dealt.”
As if in a fog, Elyssa allowed Aliana to finish dressing her. Flowers were woven into her locks, a liquid dabbed at the base of her neck. Her feet were forced into slippers. Once Aliana had finished, the eldest sister drew Elyssa into a tight embrace. She planted a kiss upon her cheek and allowed the supposed Beta woman to draw her away. She was placed with the others, forced into a straight line. They were led into the streets. This time, no crowd gathered. They walked in silence.
They entered yet another stone structure. Six people sat behind an expansive table. Food splayed before them, Elyssa could not help the rumbling in her stomach. They had yet to eat. She noticed some of the others licking their lips, haunting eyes darting from face to face. The six people, at first, did not acknowledge their arrival.
When a seventh appeared, the six immediately rose to their feet. A murmur went through the room. Friia stood from the group, “Alpha. To what do we owe the pleasure?”
“I thought I would personally welcome the newest additions. Do you take issue with that, Friia dear?’ Though his words were calm, sweet even, there was doubt the man standing before them was anything but. Taller than any man she had yet to meet, his dark eyes bore into each of the girls. Each one wilted beneath his gaze.
His eyes halted on Elyssa, narrowing slightly when she refused to wilt. She returned his gaze with a fire of her own. It seemed to amuse him. His full attention now on her, he made his approach. “What is your name, little one?”
He cocked an eyebrow, “I am called Alpha Ronan.” His hand lifted, fingers reaching for her. Elyssa recoiled. A collective gasp trickled through the room.
“You dare reject the Alpha?” One of the men roared in outrage.
Alpha Ronan merely rolled his eyes, “Calm yourself Eon. I cannot blame the girl for such a reasonable reaction. I am but a stranger to her. Of course she does not wish to have my hands upon her.” His arm did not lower, “Now, it is not my intent to harm you. But I have a curiosity that will not be sated until I but feel an inch of your skin.”
This time, Elyssa did not recoil when he attempted to touch her. His knuckle caressed her jawline. A warmth unlike any she had felt before struck the back of her legs. If not for Alpha Ronan’s quick hands, she would have collapsed. His fingers dug into the flesh of her arms. His eyebrows pinched together in a look mingled with confusion and excitement.
Friia stepped forward. Her once vibrant face now pale, she lay a restraining hand on his arm, “No.” She said nothing more than that single word. He ignored her, turning from her.
“Have the girl dressed properly and brought to my chamber.” He instructed Friia.
“I will not.” Friia scoffed.
Alpha Ronan turned to her, his hand now firmly planted around her throat, “You are no longer interim Beta, Friia. I have found her, the one I’ve search for all these years. Do not force my hand on this or you will find yourself caste from this pack. Am I understood?’
Elyssa did not understand what was happening. The spot where his touch had landed burned. But not in an unpleasant manner. Friia turned her now rage fueled eyes upon Elyssa. Where as she had been kind before, her true nature was revealed. Loud enough for Elyssa’s ears only, Friia whispered a warning, “You will never please him, little flower. You are but a mere human. He will soon regret choosing you as his Beta.”
Elyssa’s heart sank. As she was led from the room, she could not wrap her mind around the fact that the Alpha had chosen HER. She did not quite understand the concept of the Beta position. She had no one to ask. Friia deposited her in a rather lavish room and stomped away before Elyssa could even utter a word. A few moments later, three girls of about the same age entered. Like Friia, they did not speak. The expressions on their faces appeared to be those of envy, not hatred.
She was stripped from the thin silk gone. A dress of blue satin was put in its place. The material crinkled with each move she made. The flowers were left in her hair. This was all happening too fast for Elyssa to comprehend. It did not take long for the girls to depart. Friia reappeared, a scowl still etched across her face.
Elyssa was led from the room. Guards patrolled the hallways as Friia led Elyssa up a long winding staircase. They paused three steps from the stop. Friia turned to Elyssa, “Good luck.” She sneered. She jabbed a finger towards the massive wooden door at the top of the stairs, “Your precious Alpha awaits.”
Elyssa did not move. She remained frozen. Friia under a curse, fingers wrapping in Elyssa’s long hair. She cried out in pain, tears streaking down her face at the overwhelming pain. Friia did not seem to care the pain she caused. She drug her the rest of the way, slamming her quite roughly against the stone wall.
“Go. Now.” Friia growled, lips parting to reveal a pair of delicately polished fangs.
Choosing to face the unknown fate that lay behind that door instead of Friia’s wrath, Elyssa’s fingers wrapped around the brass knob. She wrenched the door open, sliding within the vast room. Eyes boring into the wood, she slowly backed further into the room.
“That was quite an entrance.” A amused chuckle sounded behind her. Elyssa whirled, coming face to face once more with Alpha Ronan. He took quick note of her tear stained face. A frown touched his lips, “Why the tears, little one?’
For the briefest of moments, Elyssa thought to tell the Alpha of what Friia had done. But the nearer Alpha Ronan drew, the more confused she became. Her heart fluttered for a reason she did not understand, her pulse racing with each footstep. When his fingers caressed the delicate outline of her collarbone, She recoiled once more.
“Please. I wish to return home.” Her voice broke.
Alpha Ronan dropped his hand, “Alas, that is one thing I cannot allow. The Harvest has been Pack tradition since before I was chosen as Alpha. There would be mutiny should I decide to free all the brought here.”
Elyssa’s heart sank. She did not know what an Alpha was but from what she had bore witness to, the man before her was of immense power. He wielded great authority over the men that had brought her and the others here. Even not even he bore the power to set them free, their fates truly were sealed. If Alpha Ronan saw the dismay so clearly etched across her face, he did not say.
“It has been brought to my attention that your eldest sister, the first of your family line to be taken, still resides in our fair city. If it pleases you, I shall have her brought here. She shall serve as your hand maid.”
“Thank you…” She muttered, unsure of what else there was to say. She clearly held no choice in how her life was to play out.
Alpha Ronan’s fingertips caressed her cheek, “You need not fear me, little one. You are Beta of the pack now. You answer to only one; me. You are free to do and say as you please within the pack. No one will dare harm you.”
“I do not want this.” Elyssa argued, “I do not wish for anyone of it. I never asked to be stripped from my mother’s arms, to be brought to this godforsaken place.”
Alpha Ronan said nothing for a moment, “Do you know why I chose you?” She did not answer so he continued, “When I first laid eyes upon you, I knew that you were different than the others. Do not ask me how I knew this, I simply did. When I touched you, my hopes were confirmed. We share a bond, dearest one.” His hand cupped her face, tilting her face up, “You feel it as well, do you not?”
Elyssa desperately wished to deny the connection he spoke of. But she could not. Her skin burned, invisible flames licking at her flesh. Each soft stroke of his fingers cause an ache so deep she could not name it. Something deep in her soul called out to the strange man before her. She shuddered, doing her best to push those feelings aside. How could she feel such things for a man she knew nothing about?
A low growl emerged from Alpha Ronan, “Do not deny this, Elyssa.” It was the first time he had spoken her name.
“I feel nothing for you but disdain.” Elyssa returned.
Anger flashed in his eyes. For a moment, Elyssa feared she had misspoken. Her body steeled itself for whatever he had planned for her now. Instead of revealing himself to be the monster she thought him to be, Alpha Ronan put distance between them. She watched him take a calming breath. Running a hand through his thick ebony black hair, a chuckle left his lips.
“You will warm to me over time, Elyssa. Of this, I am sure. For the time being, please, allow me to escort you to your permanent quarters.”
She wanted nothing more to do with Alpha Ronan but decided against further rebellion. It would gain her nothing. For better or worse, Elyssa was trapped. Alpha Ronan would never allow her to leave. Her mother would not come for her. She was on her own. Her only comfort was that of her sister. As Alpha Ronan slowly led her towards her room, she caught a peek of Aliana’s vibrant red hair disappearing around a corner. When they rounded said corner, her eldest sister took there. Hands clasped, head bowed in respect to the Alpha, she stepped aside.
“Alpha. Beta.” She greeted them.
“Good night, Elyssa. I hope to speak with you further once you’ve had a good night’s rest.”
Elyssa ignored him, stomping within the offered room. Aliana followed. The door shutting behind them, Aliana immediately wrapped her arms about Elyssa’s shoulders, “Oh dearest sister, how ever did you manage to ensnare the Alpha?”
“I did nothing. I said nothing. He took one look upon me and decided I must be his.”
“Why do you not rejoice? You are the pack’s new Beta. You wield more power than all but the Alpha himself.”
Elyssa fell silent once more. Did Aliana not sense her apprehension? How could she not understand that Elyssa wanted nothing to do with Alpha Ronan? She wanted no part in being Beta. She would have been happier if you have been chosen as Slave, like her sister had been. At least then, she would have been given freedom to find love.
She did not even know what her duties as Beta would be. She did not care. Whatever they may be, she would refuse them.
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