Bloodbound (an ALPHA-series Novella)

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Chapter 1

Eight months later

What are the odds of a plane crash? Would it be a quick death? Would it be painful? Would my parents get a body to bury, or would the ocean become my grave?

Asking yourself these morbid questions while flying was probably something a lot of people did – especially when it was their first time on a plane. But while others most likely prayed for their dark thoughts to stay in the realm of fantasy I, on the other hand, found solace in the prospect of such a gruesome scenario.

Promise me you’ll live.

And I had made that promise. Now I was stuck, unable to end this empty existence of mine that I despised more than anything else. Breathing. Eating. Talking. Everything had become a duty now, a burden that was harder to carry each passing day. I was so tired, so sick of it all.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we will prepare for landing soon. It is twenty-one degrees right now in Paris and …”, the announcement of a stewardess echoed through the cabin.

Every year the Alphas of the ten biggest packs would gather to talk politics. This year it was Alpha Jacque’s turn to host the meeting. His pack lived in the Forest of Orléans, not far from the countries capital Paris. I was neither a warrior nor a Luna, just a lowly mate of a farmer. So how come I was sitting on this plane in the first place, you might wonder. This whole madness started a week ago.

“Aren’t you tired of this ridiculous farce by now?”, I asked.

Caleb innocently took a sip of his tea.

“I don’t know what you are talking about.”

“Oh, please. Do you think I am stupid?”

My friend sighed.

“So, you knew all along?”

A snort escaped me.

“Every day someone would pass by the farm with a snack and some time on their hands, reminding me we haven’t had a nice chat in a while. Every. Freaking. Day. And it would happen only once each day, always at a different time. Can it get any more obvious than that?”

He cleared his throat.

“You are concerned, I get that”, I added. “Making such an effort for me and organizing a baby-sitting-schedule even though as Alpha you already have more than enough on your plate … I am thankful, I truly am. But this can’t go on forever.”

Caleb locked eyes with me, his features turning from soft to stern.

“Exactly. This can’t go on forever”, he repeated. “Do you think that’s what John would have wanted? For you to seclude yourself like this? To not take part in any festivities, not meet any friends, … Even with the people working on the farm you only talk the bare minimum. That’s existing, not living.”

I clenched my hands to fists.

“John wanted me to raise our pup, he wanted a part of him to stay with me even if he himself couldn’t. If not for our son, John would have never … He would have never been so coldhearted to force this promise upon me.”

Out of habit, I lay a hand on my painfully flat tummy. At least our pup didn’t suffer like his father. Instead, he had entered this world in a deep sleep he never woke up from, bathed in my blood. Goddess, there had been so much blood …

“You are wrong”, Caleb brought me back to the present, no doubt in his tone. He let his gaze wander over the flower beds and fields in front of the farmhouse.

“When I visited you, John could never get his eyes away from you. When I teased him about it, he said: Even imagining a world without Maya, without her gentle smile and her love for flowers and animals that make this farm such a warm place My heart breaks just thinking about it. He loved you more than anything in the world, more than his own life. I think he would have convinced you to stay, one way or the other.”

“Now we will never find out, will we?”, I shrugged. “I am stuck here, and I will be until the goddess will take pity on me and put me out of my misery.”

I flinched back at the sudden boom that sounded when Caleb forcefully slapped his hand on the table, sending my cutlery flying to the ground.

Enough!”, he growled, the air around us sizzling with violent energy. Gone was my old childhood friend. I was facing my Alpha now. I quickly avoided my gaze and bowed my head, a show of respect. “I tolerated this pathetic, stubborn behavior of yours far too long, Maya.”

I knew Caleb made no empty threats, so I wondered what he would do. Even in my wildest dreams, I couldn’t have imagined what he ordered then.

“You will accompany me to the meeting of the Alphas. We will depart next Friday, so I expect you to have your bags packed by then.”

My head snapped up in shock. He couldn’t be serious! Regrettably, his expression told me he was very much so.

“You are not stuck, Maya. The only chains binding you are the ones you put on yourself. If you refuse to remove them yourself, you leave me no choice but to do it for you.”

No wolf could defy the order of one’s Alpha, so here I am. Caleb planned to stay two days in Paris for sightseeing and then move on to our original destination, the pack of Alpha Jacques. We took a taxi from the airport to our hotel which was located in the city center. While Martin and Grayson, the two warriors that Caleb had chosen to accompany him on this trip, cautiously looked out of the window as if an invisible enemy could pop out of thin air any minute, I did the same without really seeing anything. All the images blurred together into a grey indistinguishable mass.

“Are you okay?”, Caleb asked.

I rolled my eyes. Since it was my friend talking to me, there was no need for formalities, and I was free to speak my mind.

“I am”, I replied icily. “Just as I was fifteen minutes ago when you asked the same question. And the three times you asked me at the airport. And the dozens of times you asked me on the plane.”

“That’s … that’s good.” He ran his hand through his dark, tousled hair, a gesture of despair. “It’s just … For someone who has never traveled farther than Amber Grove you are holding up much better than I expected.”

Holding up. What a funny way to phrase it. That made it sound like I actively did something when in truth the opposite was the case. No, I wasn’t holding up anything – I was being indifferent.

After we had checked-in and put our luggage in our rooms the guys dragged me out to explore the city. We visited all the hot tourist spots and by the end of the afternoon, my feet hurt and I only wanted this dreadful day to end. Little did I know I still had a long evening ahead of me. We were taking a stroll along the river Seine back to the hotel when my misfortune took its course. From one moment to the other the boys stopped in their tracks.

Vampire.

I had never met one before, but the young man approaching us smelled unlike anything I had ever smelled before. Not wolf. Not Mermaid. Not Shaman. Most certainly not human. He smelled … like a flower bouquet combined with a hint of exotic spices. The scent was so overwhelming it brought tears to my eyes. I automatically took a few steps back and covered my nose. Humans however with their poor senses would probably find this combination enticing, would find themselves drawn to it.

The vampire was dressed in fashionable human clothing. I had seen some teenagers in Amber Grove wear something similar once and had to stifle a laugh back then. Skintight black jeans that looked like a cat had played with them before, leather boots of the same color that went up to the knees, and an elegant black vest casually thrown over a wide grey shirt. To me, it looked simply ridiculous. We wolves took no interest in fashion the way some other species did. The men wore simple trousers and shirts, the woman blouses and long skirts or dresses. No prints. No fancy designs. The same applied to our shoes. I didn’t understand why someone would make a fuss over something so insignificant. What mattered was the heart underneath all that fabric, wasn’t it?

Meeting a vampire in a city like Paris wasn’t surprising, it was rather something to be expected. That he was walking in the afternoon sun without a care wasn’t unusual either. Contrary to those silly human superstitions a vampire couldn’t be killed merely by being exposed to sunlight. Yes, they were weaker during the day, but even then, they were still a force to be reckoned with. There was nothing to fear from this strange pale creature for us though. Vampires worshipped the same entity as us and they also honored the great peace treaty that had been signed centuries ago, ensuring a peaceful coexistence between all species – except humans, and we obviously weren’t human. What was unusual though was that the vampire intentionally walked towards us. Usually, all species kept to themselves and only communicated with others when there was a problem.

Alpha Caleb”, he greeted, slightly inclining his head. “The Council ordered me to deliver this to you.”

The Council was the equivalent to our Alpha king, the ruler of all vampires if you will. What could someone like this want from our Alpha?

The vampire held out an elegant looking envelope. Not waiting for Caleb to open it, he disappeared into the crowd again.

“Well, that was … weird”, Grayson commented.

“What does it say?”, Martin wondered.

Alpha Caleb, I would be honored if you and your three companions would join me for dinner tonight. I believe it will be a most inspiring conversation for both sides. Sincerely, Henry Albert William Edmund Beauchamp”, Caleb read the message out loud to us.

“That’s all?”, Martin said.

Caleb nodded.

“He added an address. Seems to be privately owned, not a hotel.”

“What do you think, Alpha?”, Grayson asked, eyebrows grimly drawn together.

Stuffing the card leisurely into one of his jeans pockets, he replied: “That we are about to have a fancy dinner with the head of the bloodsuckers tonight.”


Two hours later, we found ourselves in the entrance hall of a lavish apartment. It must have cost a fortune to furnish this place. Never before in my life had I seen so much gold, we walked on a marble floor and the curtains framing the windows were of the finest fabric. It was an impressive sight to behold, which I assumed was the goal. Yet to me what stood out the most was the utter lack of warmth, of personality that this place radiated. The sooner we could leave the better. An old servant – a human, I surprisingly noted – with sparse white hair dressed in an elegant suit welcomed us, his posture and face rigid and formal.

Alpha Caleb.” He took a deep bow. “The Master has ordered me to send you to the dining room. He is still caught up in work, but he will follow shortly.”

As soon as we were seated, we were brought something to drink. We were offered a variety of undoubtedly painfully expensive wines but collectively settled on water instead.

“The first course will be served shortly”, the old man announced.

After we were left alone in the room, I felt three worried gazes on me. Granted, if I had found myself in the same position a year ago, I would have been an emotional wreck by now. Even Caleb, one of the mightiest Alphas out there, was on edge being in the same apartment as the infamous Council of the vampires who was said to be a ruthless, bloodthirsty, arrogant bastard and feared even by his own people. But I doubted I would be lucky enough to end up on the Councils death list tonight since I was part of an envoy of a renowned Alpha. In conclusion, if I felt anything, it was disappointment.

I am sorry you got dragged into this because of me.

I flinched when I heard Caleb’s voice in my head. Alphas could communicate mind to mind with each of their pack members just as mates could with one another. Just as John had in the final moments of his life.

“If you have something to say then please say it to my face”, I got out between gritted teeth, trying to hold back the tears. “It feels uncomfortable when you speak to me like this.”

My emotions were about to get the best of me so I took a deep breath to calm myself. Caleb was my Alpha, he deserved respect, and he had done nothing wrong.

“Rejecting the invitation of the Council would have been a grave insult, so you had no other choice. I underst...”

I quickly interrupted myself when I heard footsteps approaching the dining room. Seconds later the door swung open to reveal a tall slender man dressed in a tight navy suit. He must have been in his mid-thirties when he had been turned. The vampire was blindingly beautiful like a fairy prince: pale unblemished skin, a chiseled jawline, short brown hair that was a little longer on the top and neatly styled, eyes the color of onyx and a shy charming smile. At first glance, one might mistake him for a fragile flower, but I could feel sheer power emanating from his body and surrounding him like a second skin. The scariest part was he wasn’t even deliberately showing off, on the contrary. He was restraining himself.

As the Council walked to his designated seat at the end of the table, we got up to exchange greetings.

Alpha Caleb, it’s a pleasure to finally meet you”, the vampire said, shaking hands with our Alpha.

“I am honored the Council sparse a mere Alpha like me some of his precious time. Thank you for the invitation.”

Caleb sounded pleasant and polite, but the underlying meaning of his words was obvious: Why in the name of the goddess did you summon us here?

Luckily the Council didn’t seem offended by Caleb’s sugarcoated bluntness. His smile widened and he sat down, gesturing us to follow suit.

“No need to be so modest. You did become Alpha at an astonishingly young age, which is quite remarkable. Yet the reason for this invitation is of a private nature, I have to confess.”

My heart sank as his black soulless gaze landed on me. I felt like a fly being caught in a spiderweb without really being able to tell why.

“An Alpha playing tourist in Paris with a female wolf that’s neither a relative nor his mate … I simply couldn’t help my curiosity.”

Did he really just say he invited us out of pure curiosity? His charming smile never faltered, never betrayed his thoughts and it was impossible to guess what was going on in the head of this strange mighty being. Because there was no doubt this invitation was a pretense, that this calculating bastard must have some kind of hidden agenda. The incredulous expressions of Caleb, Martin, and Grayson showed they were thinking the same, yet as long as there was no concrete evidence proving the Council wrong, they had to play along with whatever game the head of the vampires was playing with us.

Despite our worries however the dinner proceeded uneventfully until the end. The Council and Caleb hopped from one boring small talk topic to another, starting with the reason I joined my Alpha on this trip. Other topics were the weather, the sights of Paris, and human politics. Didn’t he write something about a most inspiring conversation?

By the time the fourth course of our dinner was served it was getting hard not to yawn. But when the last course was being served – something that looked like a chocolate-caramel-cake with some berries at the side – the raw power that was bottled up in the Council suddenly burst to the surface without warning. The air crackled with a dark energy that let a cold shudder run down my spine. While the Council simply closed his eyes, stopped smiling, and stayed still, the four of us had jumped – or more precisely in my case got dragged – to our feet.

“Stay back”, Caleb roared, shoving me behind his muscular body.

Just as fast as it had exploded the energy subsided again only a minute later. The Council put his hands in the air to appease us, flashing us his charming smile once more.

“I apologize. This … gift of mine makes an appearance whenever it feels like it.”

Could it be … Did he just have a vision? Like our kind vampires had abilities humans could only dream of, like outstanding hearing, telepathy, and inhumane speed – to name just a few. Adding to all that the Council had the exceptional ability to catch glimpses of the future and thus mold it to his liking. It was an ability only he alone had, or at least I never heard of anyone else being able to do the same.

“Sebastian.”

The old human servant from before appeared at the site of his master and took a slight bow.

“Sir.”

“There is something I need to discuss with the Alpha in private”, the vampire declared. “In the meantime, please give our other guests a tour of the apartment.”

His black eyes locked with Caleb’s, daring him to oppose.

Alpha?”, Grayson asked.

“Go with the human”, Caleb ordered through gritted teeth. As Alpha, usually, he was the one giving the commands. He wasn’t the biggest predator in this room right now though. The two warriors didn’t look very happy about the decision of our Alpha, but they weren’t left with much of a choice.

Martin, Grayson, and I followed Sebastian to the grand foyer, wondering what he would show us.

“The house was built in …”, the old man proudly started, and that was all I needed to hear to know there was no need to pay attention any further. After twenty minutes of “The ceiling fresco is astonishingly well preserved, as you may have noticed. It’s a work of the famous artist XY …” and “This remarkably detailed china vase is a present of the human King XY at dates back to …” Martin couldn’t take it anymore.

“Alright, look Mister Sebastian”, he interrupted the servant’s enthusiastic talk about an ugly painting of a fruit bowl. “You obviously did your homework and all this historical stuff might impress a human or a vampire, but to us wolves it’s boring nonsense. Can you just show us to a room where we can wait until our Alpha has finished his business with your master?”

The human blinked once, obviously taken aback by Martin’s directness, then gracefully put a hand to his mouth and cleared his throat.

“Well … If this is what the esteemed guests wish for, I shall happily oblige.”

That’s how we ended up on a rooftop balcony seated on a cozy sofa with a nice view of the famous Eiffel Tower and three bottles of cool beer. Even I had to admit this was kind of nice. Just relaxing and hearing the two warriors talk about this and that. This was the best part of this dreadful day so far.

Unfortunately, the carefree atmosphere crumbled as soon as Caleb joined us on the balcony shortly after. Whatever he had been talking about with the Council couldn’t have been something pleasant according to his cold, murderous expression.

“That motherfucker of a king wants to set us up”, he growled, his eyes almost black. Caleb wasn’t the type to get angry easily, so the situation must be serious – damn serious.

“You … you mean the Alpha King?”, Grayson asked shocked.

Caleb grimly nodded.

“The Council saw it?”

Another nod.

Shit!”, the warrior cursed. “I mean it’s not a secret that the king isn’t the biggest fan of our pack, but that he would go this far …”

“Let me guess: That damn bloodsucker told you how we can get our asses out of this mess, but that came with a prize”, Martin speculated.

“It did”, he icily replied before he unexpectedly turned towards me. “He wants Maya to keep him company while we attend the meeting of the Alphas.”


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