Chapter 1: Iron Blood
People walked around the streets of New York completely unaware that the supernatural existed.
Over hundreds of centuries, werewolves have wandered these lands without being discovered. They hid in plain sight as regular business employees, students, lawyers, doctors, cops and even drug dealers. And in this secret society of werewolves there’s a hierarchy, and no matter where one went on this planet, a hierarchy always called for trouble. The shifter world is ruled by the strongest alphas, and their packs have been following them since beginning of their creation.
However, for this system to run smoothly, all the alphas must follow a code which was created by their ancestors. Although, the one that ruled them all, protected them all and created them, was their goddess, Maya. She was the deity that all werewolves’ evil or good worshipped. If someone ever wondered why a wolf howled towards a lonesome moon? It was because that beautiful creature knew that Maya would always listen to his prayers.
Prayers. No deity listened to the prayers that were screamed every night in the Petrov mansion when innocents faced demons greater than the ones in purgatory itself.
However, one man listened. In his cage, shackled to the floor like an animal ready for slaughter, he counted each prayer and sought retribution. Yet, he was no god, but a monster. A monster that killed the ones who made him ruthless. They sucked the blood and kindness out of his life leaving him scarred. His past was tortured enough to frighten anyone and get out of his way.
A reputation that was marred with the blood of his pack. Isaiah Iron had slaughtered his entire family to free his brothers. He never regretted his decision, although the past had its way of slithering in front of his eyes and reminding him that refuge was not found at the end of his life. He wasn’t going to find peace in this lifetime.
A goddess or not, no one could purify his tattered soul.
The bitter bite of the winter air didn’t waver Isaiah Iron’s steps. The night was young as Isaiah made his way through the streets of Manhattan. Although it was dark, the golden streetlights danced on the cold and dark pavement. Lazarus, the beta of the Iron Blood pack wouldn’t approve of his alpha taking a stroll through this part of the town at night- well even in the morning the beta wouldn’t approve.
Except, Isaiah couldn’t help but give in to the need to be on his own right now, and the blame went to his wolf who was giving him more trouble with that terrible temper of his. Isaiah burned off his wolf’s raging mood and tried his hardest to get himself under control. This was how it’s always been between Isaiah and his wolf. There was no bond between the two. But the one thing, that Isaiah could count on was that his wolf always had his back. Isaiah’s precarious past was a testament to that.
Isaiah’s thoughts were interrupted by a quiet sound that buzzed in his pocket. He pulled out his phone. “This better be important, Lazarus,” Isaiah said, his hot breath puffed in front of him because of the cold.
“It’s not important,” remarked Lazarus.
“Then why are you calling me?” asked Isaiah, when suddenly, a chill crept down his spine. He instantly suspected that there were eyes on him. Isaiah turned around and spotted a midnight-black Mercedes parked across the street.
“I was just wondering how long you’re going to be sulking,” Lazarus said. “I’m tired of waiting around for you.”
Isaiah rolled his eyes and cut the phone. He strode over to the car that he knew belonged to his brothers. The youngest of them two climbed out of the car and opened the door for Isaiah.
“I told him not to bother you,” Zeiden mentioned with a snicker.
Isaiah grumbled a curse before he got into the car that welcomed him with warmth. He didn’t retaliate against Lazarus because he knew that his brother was just doing his job as head of security for their pack. So, Isaiah didn’t have any room to argue nor did he wish to.
Lazarus reversed the car and set off down the road. Isaiah fell into the smooth rhythm of their car which glided down the empty street, when they came to a halt at a red-light and broke his focus. Through the tinted windows of the car, Isaiah spotted something unusual. An elegant woman stood next to a black Mustang. Isaiah wondered how her bare legs weren’t frozen off in this cold weather. She wore a satiny black dress with a pink Chanel jacket, that matched her strappy heels. Isaiah noticed her glossy lips were held in a pout and her eyes were wet; maybe it was tears or from the cold air, he didn’t know.
Isaiah quickly realized that he lost a whole second of his thoughts to this woman. Without even thinking it through, he unbuckled his seatbelt and got out of the car in the middle of the street.
“What the hell-” Isaiah heard Lazarus and Zeiden curse behind him in the car. But that didn’t stop Isaiah.
“Are you okay?” Isaiah jumped the introductions.
The girl’s bright blue eyes glistened. “Er- no,” she answered. “My car’s tire popped.” She pointed behind her.
Isaiah moved around her, which allowed him to get a whiff of her flowery perfume and see her long golden hair, which was stylishly curled to perfection. “Did you call any towing services?”
The woman’s mouth opened and then closed. “I don’t know their number,” she revealed, which didn’t surprise Isaiah because most people wouldn’t know that piece of information.
Lazarus and Zeiden came from the car and surrounded Isaiah, which was bad because the woman slightly stiffened by all of their presence. Isaiah glared at his two brothers to calm themselves down from their overwhelming and domineering attitude.
“Call the tow, Zeiden,” Isaiah instructed and his brother followed through without question. “Where are you headed?” he asked her.
“The Plaza hotel,” she answered and her voice glided down him like sugary honey.
“Where are you coming from?” asked Lazarus a bit too sternly like he wanted to interrogate her. Isaiah rolled his eyes at his brother for being so rigid.
At first, Isaiah thought that this woman was a bit gullible for talking to men like them. He wasn’t going to do anything to hurt her and he’d kill whoever tried… but one shouldn’t trust strangers so easily. Although, this woman clearly had no problem sharing information with them. Isaiah figured that she was just desperate to get help or she was as innocent as a dove.
“I was coming back from the Bacardi residence when my car’s tire popped on me,” she told them.
Isaiah’s brows furrowed. “Bacardi as in Czar Bacardi?” he asked. Czar Bacardi was a business tycoon and the alpha of the White Wolf Pack. Isaiah had a close relation with Czar and his family, which wasn’t easy to achieve even for him.
The woman’s blue eyes widened. “Do you know the Bacardi family as well?”
He gave a curt nod to her question.
“The tow truck will be here soon,” said Zeiden. “It should take just a few minutes since there’s no traffic.”
“Thank you,” the woman beamed a bright smile to Zeiden, which wavered all three of them like they had been hit by a hurricane. “It’s really sweet that you guys are helping me.” She moved her purse and keys to her left hand, and then, she stuck her empty hand to Isaiah. “I’m Ashley Hartling,” she introduced herself.
“The writer?” Zeiden asked suddenly.
Isaiah didn’t think it was possible but the woman’s disposition brightened even more.
“Yup,” she answered, “that’s the one.”
“Isaiah Iron,” he shook her hand that was frozen from standing out here. “This is Lazarus and that’s Zeiden-” She shook their hands too- “Would you like to wait in my car until the truck comes? My brothers can handle your car for you. You should get cover from this cold.”
“No, I couldn’t trouble you like that. Besides, my driver is bringing another car,” said Ashley.
“It’s no trouble,” he asserted. “You’re a friend of Czar, so I can’t leave you in this state.” She complied and Isaiah lead her into his car. He turned to his brothers then. “Make sure the car gets taken care of and returned to the Plaza hotel for her.”
“We’ll handle it, just get in the car,” Lazarus chastised with a scowl.
Isaiah got in the car following Ashley. He closed the door trapping the cold outside the vehicle. Isaiah’s keen nose typically smelt the deep scent of cologne and the leather in their car. But right now, it had warmed up with the sweet scent of roses and there was a delicate hint of cinnamon and sugar.
“How do you know the Bacardi family?” Ashley broke the silence first.
Isaiah barely heard her question because his steel grey eyes were too busy taking in the sight of her. Ashley’s gaze which was on him had been purely flamboyant and trusting. Sitting this close to her, he took notice of her ivory skin, that was smooth and appeared softer than the silk she adorned. He wondered what she’d feel like in his hands.
What had she asked him? Oh right, how did he know the Bacardi family? “Mostly through business,” he answered generally.
Czar Bacardi had reached out to Isaiah when he newly founded his pack. Although it was Gabriel Centauri- the alpha of the Centauri pack who helped Isaiah find safe property to build where his home was now. But Czar was the one Isaiah observed to learn how to keep his pack and business under control.
“Iron Blood,” Ashley stated with interest. “You’re the alpha, right?”
It wasn’t hard to tell that he was an alpha, since his aura definitely cautioned any wolf a mile away what he was. However, even though he sat so close to this woman, he could barely smell her wolf. That was only possible if the wolf spirit was fully in tune with its human counterpart, which was something Isaiah was never fully capable of harnessing.
“I am,” he revealed.
Ashley nodded. “And why would the alpha of such prestigious pack help a lone wolf like me?” she asked, clearly amused from her eyes.
Isaiah lost his words for a quick moment, but it was enough for her to notice. “You looked cold,” he said curtly.
She tilted her head to the side, and that small action led to a golden lock of her hair to fall over the slender slope of her pale shoulder. “And here I thought that all the gentleman had disappeared,” she bemused.
The last thing Isaiah ever thought he would be called in this lifetime was a gentleman. In his head, he wasn’t far from being a cold-blooded killer who’d do anything to get his way in this cruel world. A bitter sensation poisoned his mood entirely. “Are you visiting New York?” he changed the subject swiftly.
She looked confused. “No,” she said. “I lived here all my life.”
Isaiah then questioned; “but you’re staying at the Plaza hotel?”
“Yeah, I live there,” she told him, “when I’m not travelling, that is.”
Isaiah was interrupted from asking anything more when the tow-truck pulled up next to them. He observed Lazarus and Zeiden who handled the situation with promptness. A phone in the car pinged, it belonged to Ashley.
“Well, this is where we separate,” she said as she lifted her eyes off the phone’s screen and to him. “My ride has arrived.”
Isaiah opened the door for her. She climbed out and instantly trembled from the brisk icy breeze, that was brutal. He wished he could’ve given his coat to her, which led him to question this need to keep her warm.
“Thank you for taking care of me even though I’m a complete stranger,” said Ashley.
Isaiah nodded. “No problem,” he responded tersely and tried to look away but she held his gaze. It was visible that she found him either amusing or fascinating. He couldn’t tell with that enchanting smile that she held so purely.
Another car pulled up right behind his own. A short chauffeur quickly got out of the car and opened the door for her and waited until she came to him. But Ashley went to Lazarus and Zeiden first. She thanked them for helping her and gave them the same sweet smile, which kind of bothered Isaiah.
“Have a great night, boys,” Ashley wished them before she got into the other car. And it drove away from them.
“Isaiah-” Lazarus held the door open, so he could get in.
The tow-truck took the car and Isaiah set off for home with his brothers as well.
“She was different,” commented Zeiden.
“I can’t believe that I actually met a girl like her,” remarked Lazarus.
Isaiah knew that his brothers observed that Ashley behaved like a princess, who probably changed her outfit three or four times a day. Isaiah couldn’t argue with them- Ashley Hartling held herself with an elegance that definitely screamed prestige that was fragile enough to break at the touch of any brutality. Unlike them… every single part of their body was broken and trained to become a weapon, even the soul they had all forsaken a long time ago.
“That’s how normal people are, Lazarus,” Isaiah claimed. “We’re the strange ones, remember?”
Lazarus met Isaiah’s absent gaze through the rear-view mirror. “That’s true,” he sighed.
“I wonder how she knows Czar though?” inquired Zeiden. “No regular wolf has the connection to personally meet the Bacardi’s.”
Isaiah wondered the same thing too. There was definitely more to Ashley Hartling than she let on. But that was all bygone to him now. It wasn’t like that type of girl would be in the same circles as the Iron Blood pack.
Lazarus picked up the speed after they hit the freeway. Isaiah leaned into the leather seat, nonetheless, there was no rest for him. His eyes may have been closed, but he was as alert as the raging wolf inside him.
Ashley shrugged off her heels as she stood in the middle of the white-marble foyer. She navigated through the massive penthouse with quick steps, she scrambled up the stairs to the second floor, opening the double doors to her enormous bedroom. Ashley tossed her coat on the chair, which was fashionable but didn’t do a thing to keep her warm. Although, it was her foolish mistake, that she was so poorly dressed for the weather. Except, she would have never predicted that her car’s tire would pop and leave her stranded on the street. If that Alpha from the Iron Blood pack hadn’t offered to help her, she would’ve frozen her legs off before the driver came to get her.
Ashley flopped down on the fluffy mattress that smelt of fresh linen. Turning on her side, her head started to wonder about Isaiah Iron. He had a rugged look to him even though he was perfectly dressed in a black suit. The black shirt that he fashioned had a few buttons open, which allowed her a peek at the tattoos inked across his muscular chest and corded neck. Isaiah’s hair was longer than she liked for men, but on him it looked undeniably fitting. His black hair was shaved on the sides and then pulled back in a wolf-tail. He had a straight nose and symmetrical lips with a sharp cupid’s bow. But it was those eyes that unexpectedly made her heart skip a beat or two. His eyes were as grey as iron and just as firm, like they were unbreakable. She could sense the intensity from them because they resembled a thunderous storm to her.
This alpha was the exact opposite from Ashley’s ideal man. So then, why was she attracted to him? she wondered. Why did she feel strange leaving him?
Out of exasperation, Ashley rolled off the bed and took a hot shower to warm up and distract herself. She even ordered an extraordinary meal, but nothing took her mind off that man. Isaiah Iron had left an impression on her. It was definitely confirmed that there was a connection between them, when her wolf had grown excited, and her wolf was rarely impressed by people.
Before going to bed for the night, Ashley’s mind rolled into action and came up with a plan to go meet that Alpha again. She needed to know what she found so special in him that she could even lose sleep over it.