Bloodbound (an ALPHA-series Novella)

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Chapter 6

The Council sat in a chair beside the bed, the iPad he always carried with him in his lap. I didn’t like talking to him while lying down, so I rose and leaned my back against the mountain of pillows that were stacked against the head of the bed. Being at eye level with him gave my confidence – that was basically nonexistent at this point – a little boost.
From this day, you are not a member of my pack anymore. I hereby ban you from my territory.
The memories of what had happened at our pack’s border came flooding back. Had Caleb really banned me? And then this strange, sudden appearance of the Council … Not to forget this weird dream. Trying to make sense of it all gave me a headache. I rubbed my aching forehead, but when I lowered my hand again, I spotted a small, dark dot on my right wrist. When wiping it away with my thumb didn’t work, I examined it closer. To my shock, the “dot” turned out to be a red drop. My heart stopped a beat. No! This couldn’t be what I thought it was, it just couldn’t!
“Your eyes do not deceive you”, the Council disagreed, as if he had read my mind. “You have indeed the mark of a blood mate on your wrist.”
Just like wolves, vampires could have a mate as well. But while our partner was predestined from birth, vampires were free too chose a mate to their liking. It could be a fellow vampire or a human. Most chose the latter. Once they had chosen, however, the bond couldn’t be undone.
“H-How …?”, I stuttered, my gaze still fixed on the small red drop.
“Your veins got flooded with wolfsbane until you were fully human”, the vampire replied, his tone infuriatingly calm and collected. It held not the slightest note of remorse, of a guilty conscience. What he described was usually an incredibly painful process with a high mortality rate. It was one of the cruelest punishments an Alpha could inflict upon one of his pack members and thus scarcely executed. I only knew of one case in our pack, and that had been at the time Caleb’s father had still been Alpha. “Afterwards, a blood exchange was conducted between us, and I spoke the ritual binding words to claim you as my consort.”
Even though somewhere deep down I knew he spoke the truth, I tried calling upon my wolf, but nothing happened. My senses didn’t heighten, my skin didn’t tingle, my pulse didn’t race.
No!”, I screamed, unable to accept this horrible abuse of my body and soul. It was a sound of pure despair. I ferociously clawed at the mark, tried to rip it out, but then my wrists were shackled by two strong, cold hands.
“Let me go!”, I yelled, desperately fighting against his iron grip. “Let me go!”
The cold hands didn’t budge.
My vision became blurred as a wave of tears welled up in my eyes. Still, I raised my head and locked gaze with the monster in front of me.
“You are upset and confused, that is understandable. I won’t expect you to take up your duties as my consort right away”, the Council let me know. He made it sound like he was doing me a grand favor, like he was being magnanimous, which stoked my rage even more.
“Let me go!”, I demanded again, trying my best to sound composed. The icy fury that shot through my veins cleared my mind and helped me focus.
Finally, my wrists were freed.
“You might have forced this mark on me”, I barked, holding up my right hand, “but I will never be your mate! Whatever you expect me to do, you better prepare to be sourly disappointed!”
I got out of bed and stormed towards the door, glad my feet had enough strength to carry me – and I didn’t stumble over the hem of the long, white nightgown that had been forced on me.
“They won’t take you back”, the vampire coolly stated, no doubt in his tone.
“We will see about that!”, I snapped.
Whatever shady trick the Council had used to force my Alpha’s hand, together we would find a way out of this mess. We couldn’t allow that arrogant vampire to toy with us as he pleased!
Without warning, the Council appeared right before me.
“Caleb banned you from the pack in exchange for my knowledge of the Alpha king’s newest scheme. I delivered, and we both know Caleb is a man of his word.”
I didn’t reply, didn’t want to hear any of it. Instead, I continued walking, but with a quick step to the side, the vampire blocked my way once more.
“You are mine now, Maya”, he declared, stalking towards me.
I swallowed, shook my head, and with every slow, predatory step he took forward, I took a step back. I belonged to John and no one else! His death didn’t change that fact. I would always belong to my beloved mate and him alone.
“The bond that binds us is as holy to us vampires as the mate bond is to wolves. Once tied, it lasts forever. There is no going back – for neither of us.”
When I took another step, I felt the bed behind me. Clever bastard. Reluctantly, I slumped down on the mattress.
“Rest. We will continue our talk when you have calmed yourself.”
He stepped aside just as the door to the room opened.
“This is June, your Maidservant”, the Council introduced the young woman who entered. She looked no older than sixteen or seventeen and wore a formal, old-fashioned maid uniform consisting of a black flared ankle-length dress and a white apron. Her blonde hair was neatly pinned up, adorned with a white frilly headdress. June curtseyed, a reserved smile on her face.
“My lady, I am at your service.” Her voice was as sweet as her appearance.
Vampire. Even though I couldn’t use my wolf senses anymore, I knew she was one of them. Her almost ethereal movements and her unblemished pale skin, not to forget those fairy-like features of hers… Vampire, definitely!
“June will tend to all your needs. Then, I’ll excuse myself.”
With that, he turned around and left, leaving me alone with the young maid.
“The kitchen is preparing a light soup for you, my lady. It should be ready soon.”
“Thanks, but I … I am not hungry.”
How was I supposed to eat in this situation?
“Could you … could you get me a phone?”
“Of course. I will get one right away”, June replied to my surprise and was gone in the next moment. I expected the Council wouldn’t allow any contact with the outside world, but apparently, I was wrong.
Seconds later, the young maid returned and handed me a smartphone. It took me a little to figure out how to make a call, but I got there eventually. I punched in Caleb’s number. Good thing he had me learn it by heart when we stayed in Paris. After five beeps, someone picked up.
“Identify yourself”, Caleb brusquely demanded.
Relief washed over me. I remembered the number correctly.
“I-It’s me, Maya.”
There was so much I wanted to say, so much I wanted to ask, but for some reason, the words wouldn’t leave my mouth.
“Don’t call this number again”, he growled.
It was weird, hearing the anger in my Alpha’s voice but not … not feeling it. Nothing inside of me flinched in the face of his anger, nothing urged me to make it up to him, to show absolute obedience. It was as if I heard some tape recording rather than an actual reply. Our bond … was it truly gone for good?
“You are no longer a wolf, you belong to the vampires now. You are dead to us.”
With that curt, brutal statement, the call was ended.
You are dead to us.
The sentence echoed through my head over and over again.
You are dead to us.
You are dead to us.
You are dead to us.

In the end, only one word stuck with me.
Without really knowing how I got there, I suddenly found myself on top of one of the castle’s many towers, the smartphone still tightly clutched in my hand. As if being trapped in a trance, I stepped on a merlon and looked down. The tower was high, but I wasn’t scared. Just one more step. One tiny step and everything would finally be over.
Promise me you’ll live.
I tried. I tried so hard, I did! But there was only so much a person could take.
I lost my mate. I lost my pup. I lost my wolf and my pack. For all intents and purposes, the Maya that had made that promise was already dead. There was nothing keeping me here except for this body of mine.
I closed my eyes – and jumped.

I was surrounded by lavish, heavy-looking fabric. A lot of lavish, heavy-looking fabric. Under the palm of my hands, I could feel an intricately embroidered blanket. The Council sat in a chair beside the bed, the iPad he always carried with him in his lap. A sense of déjà vu overcame me. With a heavy pounding heart, I raised my right wrist – and spotted a small, ruby red teardrop, just as I remembered. Then the phone call and me jumping from that tower …
“You did indeed jump to your death”, the Council confirmed. “And no, I am not reading your memory – not that I couldn’t. Your thoughts are written on your face as clear as day.”
“I … I am dead?”, I stammered.
“You were dead”, the vampire corrected. “Your body, at least. Your spine was shattered into pieces, and don’t get me started on your organs … It took your body three weeks to work on its own again, and three more until everything had completely healed up. I ordered the doctors to keep you in a coma so you wouldn’t feel anything.”
My mind struggled to comprehend what it had just learned. I looked at my hands, opened and closed them, raised the bedsheet, and wiggled my toes. Everything was still there. Everything was working. I didn’t feel any physical pain. Had I really jumped to my death? How, in the name of the goddess, was that possible? What if this was just some cheap vampiric mind trick?
“You might find it hard to believe me. I expected as much. That’s why I prepared some visual evidence.”
A huge picture appeared on a white screen that had been set up at the end of the bed. It showed me, sitting on the very bed I was lying in, wearing the same white nightgown I had on me right now. A smartphone was in my hand and a young maid was standing a few feet away from me.
The picture started to move, showing how I got up from the bed and strode towards the door. The maid didn’t stop me. Out in the hallway that was as luxuriously furnished as my room, I met a handful of servants. All curtseyed but didn’t stop me either. I determinedly climbed the dark, narrow staircase that led to the top of a tower and headed straight for the closest merlon. I climbed up and, features hard and unmoving, willfully walked into my death.
Unfortunately, the film didn’t end there. It showed in all its gruesome details how my body forcefully hit the ground. There was blood. So much blood! My arms and legs were spread in unnatural angles, the side of my head brutally ripped open. As my body stopped moving, so did the pictures, showing my corpse in all its gruesome glory. The sight made my bile rise and I clutched my hand over my mouth in an attempt not to throw up. In the end, the disgust won and I bend over the side of the bed to empty my stomach. My whole body was shaking while my head desperately tried to get rid of the horrible scene it had just witnessed.
A glass of water was put under my nose.
“Drink”, the Council ordered. “It’ll help you get rid of the dreadful taste.”
My hand was trembling so violently that the vampire had to support it with his so I wouldn’t drop the glass.
“I … I don’t understand …”, I started, trying to bring some order into my spiraling thoughts.
“Being my blood mate means as long as I live, you cannot die – at least not permanently. Henceforth, your body will recover from any injury that will be inflicted on it. Poison, mortal wounds, and even fire – given enough time to recuperate, you will survive it eventually. I didn’t exaggerate when I told you the bond that ties us lasts forever.”
“So … so you let me jump to prove your point?”, I incredulously asked.
“Would you have believed me if I had simply told you?”
No, I wouldn’t. Nobody would have. But still, letting me kill myself ... That was just messed up!
The Council’s dark gaze was fixed on me, two orbs of purest black. He never blinked, just kept looking at me with those creepy, stonelike features of his that didn’t give the slightest indication of what was going on inside his head. Not able to take it any longer, I decided to have a closer look at the room. Thankfully, the picture of my corpse was gone and the screen covered in nothing but innocent white. An old-looking sword that was mounted to the wall opposite of the bed caught my eye. It seemed somewhat amiss amongst the otherwise rather girly interior.
"Planning for round two?", the vampire asked.
I needed a second to grasp what he was getting at.
"No, I learned my lesson.” I fisted my hands into the bedsheet. “Your little demonstration was quite … convincing."
My stomach turned just at the thought of it.
"Good." He leaned closer until his mouth almost brushed my ear. "Because if you attempt to kill yourself again, I will personally see to it that you won’t miss one agonizing second of the recovering process."
That his voice remained soft made the statement sound even more frightening.
"Thanks for the friendly warning."
I was proud of how confident that sentence came out because that lunatic of a vampire scared me to the bone. I still couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that he deliberately allowed me to commit suicide, just to present me with the gory details afterwards.
He flashed me a charming smile that held no warmth.
"My pleasure."
Goddess, I never wished to slap another person so bad before! I hated how he made it seem like this was all just some amusing game to him and I merely a token of his.
"I … I need some time to think. Alone", I said, hoping to make him leave before I could do something I would later come to regret.
"Fair enough", he readily complied with my demand and got up. "You may freely roam the castle grounds if you feel like it. You are safe here."
That he felt the need to emphasize the word " safe" should have raised a red flag, but one could only process so many bad news at a time. I daresay I received a fair share of them lately, so my storage for personal disasters was filled to the brim.
"As for further explorations, well get to that later. If you need anything, just call for help. There is always a servant somewhere close by."
When he was finally gone and the door shut behind him, a sigh of relief escaped me. I slumped back into the pillows, curled myself into a tight ball, and gave into all the sadness and the anger that was bottled up inside of me. I cried and cried until not a single tear was left. Strangely enough, what hurt the most was this terrible emptiness I felt in my chest. Everything that determined who I was, that made up the very essence of my personality, everything I held dear and that brought me joy, had been taken from me. Now, there was … nothing.
Wuff. Wuff.
The high-pitched barking of a dog echoed through the room. It was such an unexpected sound that it managed to avert me from my dark pondering for a moment. Eyebrows drawn together in confusion, I sat up and scanned the room for the source of the noise.
Wuff. Wuff.
I leaned over the edge of the bed and found a tiny, white puppy curiously looking up at me. The puppy raised its front paws, almost like a child that wanted to be held. Without much thought, I picked the cute fluffball up and patted him gently. The dog all but melted into my arms, obviously enjoying the treatment. I had never seen such a small dog before. On our farm, John and I had raised chickens and rabbits that were bigger.
“Hello there, little friend”, I murmured. “What a good girl!”
Her soft, white fur made me think of Queen, the grumpy-looking cat that had kept me company in the rooftop garden in Paris. Did the Council have some weird preference for white, fluffy animals? I discarded the speculation the second it came to my mind. No, that would just be too bizarre, even for that weirdo of a vampire! The dog was probably owned by a servant.
After a couple more minutes of extensive cuddling, I set the puppy down where I had picked it up, which earned me a disappointed look that was heart-wrenching.
“I am sure your master is already looking all over the place for you.”
The dog stayed rooted to the spot and kept staring at me with those large brown eyes of his.
“I am sorry, but I am not in the mood to play with you right now.”
The animal didn’t move.
“You are a stubborn little thing, aren’t you?”
“I guess that was a ,yes‛”, I laughed.
The puppy looked at the door and then at me again.
Wuff. Wuff.
I crossed my arms over my chest.
“Stop trying to charm me with your big eyes and your ridiculously adorable fluffy, wagging tail – it’s not going to work!”
That was a lie, and we both knew it. The staring contest didn’t even last a minute before I caved in.
“Fine, you win! I’ll go play with you!”
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