“If I cannot bend Heaven, I will raise Hell.” —Virgil
“That son of a bitch!”
If her skin was as fiery as her insides, the world would be drowning in flames.
She began pacing back and forth, muttering curses that could make demons in Hell blush. As she contemplated murder, her sister sighed.
“Calm down. It’s fine.”
Her pacing came to a halt, but her fury took flight. “Fine?” she seethed. “The lying bastard told the entire college that he slept with you!”
Her chest heaved, either because she was breathless or because her heart was attempting to dig itself out.
“This is your problem, Hope,” Quinn continued to rant.
Quinn didn’t have to say it. Hope knew what her family and the pack thought of her; She was the weak link.
Her grandmother, mother, and older sister were all outspoken, sassy, and equipped with a backbone of steel. They were dragonesses that could scorch the world if the urge struck them. Their talons were determination, their wings were perseverance and their voice flames. Hope, however, was born without a spark. She was the silence of ashes, while the other women in her family were the growling of fire.
Her submissiveness and forgiving nature brought an end to her family’s legacy of strong women, and she hated herself for it.
Quinn’s frustration continued its wake. She stomped back and forth, feeling the anger that Hope was supposed to be feeling. The older sister was extremely protective, so she became the human embodiment of wrath whenever someone disrespected Hope.
“Just let it go, Quinn. I forgive him.”
Quinn frowned at her. Hope hated the expression. It reminded her that she was a disappointment.
“I’m going to go help dad with work,” Quinn muttered, knowing that nothing she said would change Hope’s mind. She couldn’t tell their parents about the incident either, because Hope was a 22-year-old adult whose decisions she respected.
Once she walked out, Hope faced the canvas that she had been painting. She raised her brush to continue giving life to the landscape, but her hand was stiffened by a lack of inspiration.
With a sigh, she tossed the brush in a bucket and ripped off her apron.
She needed air.
Avoiding the main entrance of the pack house, she slipped out through the back. As she walked over to her car, she picked at the spots of paint that called her hoodie home. She freed her hair from its tall ponytail and shifted it to hide a particularly ugly stain.
She found it funny how although she was often covered by bright colors, her personality was grey— dull and boring.
She drove into town. Her parents, Alpha Artemis and Alpha Raiden, owned massive chunks of Connecticut and Massachusetts. Some humans resided in towns that surrounded the main territory, but most towns— like the one she was driving to, were populated by werewolves.
She parked her car by the boutique that she bought her art supplies from. Just as she closed the door, her eyes skimmed over the shop across the road.
She crossed the street.
Getting a tattoo was probably an idea that she’ll regret in approximately three hours, but she didn’t care. She was tired of being boring, vanilla, cliché. She was done being Hope RC Wrath; the predictable daughter.
Her low spirits needed a spontaneous adventure. It’s about time that she acted on a rebellious whim.
With a shaky breath, she entered the shop. Instantly, the vibrant colors on the walls attacked her senses. There were dozens of tattoo pictures and designs, all as breathtaking as the last one.
“Hope! What’s up?” Mick greeted from the reception desk.
She smiled at the chirpy pack member.
“Hey, I want to get a tattoo.”
As soon as she finished the sentence, Mick’s eyebrows reached for his hairline. The reaction satisfied her. Her predictable personality didn’t usually shock anyone. It was Quinn who was the wild one.
“Okay... well, take a seat next door and fill this out while you’re there.” With an unsure smile, he extended the form out to her.
Hope accepted the paper, swallowed the ball of tension in her throat, and began to walk away.
When she turned the corner, she was instantly denied entry by a barrier that certainly didn’t belong there. Her balance abandoned her, and she was sent scrambling to the ground.
The two sounds joined hands to clasp chaos.
Her butt met the floor painfully, and a sharp object bounced off her lap. She opened her eyes to find the culprit, only to close them again when the shine of an arrogantly golden crown blinded her.
As a wealthy woman, Hope knew expensive when she saw it. She knew that the frozen state of beauty that was digging into the meat of her thigh wasn’t fake. Rubies adorned it; red with the blood of the rebels that its owner had crushed.
Mesmerized by its mute dominance, she pulled the magnificent piece of art into her hands.
She then looked up in search of its owner. Instead of a face, she found four pair of long legs. She kept looking up, wondering what the end of her journey would award her with.
What she found was a wide chest blanketed by a dark suit and a long neck that was tattooed with art. The contradiction of clear and inked skin was followed by a clear face that redefined handsomeness.
She blinked away from the masterpiece of a man to take note of his company. Two young men and an elder stood behind him. None of them had ink on their skin, but their expression was painted with alarm. It took her a second to register why.
“Oh, Goddess. I’m so sorry, King Blaze. I should’ve been more careful.”
Sloppily, she scrambled to her feet and gave the king a brief bow.
Her father had mentioned that King Blaze would visit their territory for the first time, but she wasn’t expecting to run into the man at a tattoo shop.
What was he doing here anyway? Did he get lost?
“Here you go.” She extended the crown to its owner.
The old man only acknowledged her with a clueless blink. His face paled, and Hope genuinely expected him to faint.
“Uh, King Blaze?” she called out to him.
The elder didn’t seem interested in leaving his shocked state.
“Don’t worry, miss,” a voice dripping with depth assured.
Hope glanced at the tattooed man who she assumed was one of the king’s bodyguards.
“Our king is fine. Aren’t you, King Blaze?” the suited young man asked the older one.
The attendant cringed, knowing that King Blaze wanted him to play along.
“Ye— yes. I’m alright,” he nodded eagerly.
With eyes that swam with mischief, the tattooed titan took a step closer and slowly reached for the crown in Hope’s hands. Her eyes followed his fingers, too busy trying to make out the designs to focus on his face.
Without touching her, Blaze took the crown and turned to the old man, who Hope still thought was the king.
“May I, your majesty?” Blaze asked the poor attendant as he fought himself to keep a straight face. For the life of him, he couldn’t remember the last time he tried to hold back his laughter like he was now. This was the first time he had gotten misidentified, and he found it hilarious.
Attendant Leonard’s bottom lip trembled. He didn’t want to wear the crown, but he couldn’t reject the king either.
After Leonard nodded, Blaze dropped the crown on his head. “There. All good,” he chuckled.
The rich sound rang Hope back into her senses. She pried her eyes from his mysterious skin and forced her mouth to work. “Sorry for the inconvenience. My name is Hope. I’m the daughter of Alpha Artemis and Alpha Raiden. Welcome to Red Mountain.”
Blaze gave her a smile so bright that it could melt the hell that he once called home.
“Hello, miss Hope. I am Leonard, the king’s lead bodyguard,” King Blaze, also known as Despair lied.