This had officially been the most boring day of my life.
For the first time since I could remember, I had absolutely nothing to do. No chores, no cooking, no preparations of any kind.
Usually, I was kept busy. Extremely busy. And, contrary to the opinions of the other slaves, I enjoyed the constant work. It was why I made a good slave; I didn’t mind having a lot to do or being given order after order. When the other slaves’ shoulders dropped after being commanded to do something else, I felt giddy.
But today was different. Today was one of the most important days in my pack’s history. Today was the day that the king came to visit. This didn’t happen often; in fact, it probably wouldn’t happen again during my lifetime. And if this visit didn’t go well, it could mean the end of my pack.
I didn’t know much about the king, but I did know that he was the most powerful man alive. In addition to that, he was the only hybrid in existence. From what I had heard, he was half werewolf, half vampire, giving him the powers of both creatures. It is said that he was bitten by a vampire at a young age and transitioned soon after. And to top it all off, he comes from a very long line of fire elementalists, meaning he and his family can conjure up flames and manipulate fire with the snap of their fingers.
It was safe to say that I was absolutely terrified of the king. Even just knowing I was in the same house as him made my body fill with adrenaline and fear. It was almost as if I could sense that he was near, feeling his presence in the air.
The king announced earlier this year that he would be visiting each pack in the United States to ensure that they were all well taken care of. As a slave, the other girls and I had been working our butts off for the last month in preparation for this day. However, unlike the other girls, I had enjoyed it. Doing chores kept me busy and my mind occupied. Doing work was the only thing I was good at since I had been a slave my whole life.
But I didn’t have any chores to do today. We were all ordered to stay in our quarters for the day so as not to be seen by the alpha king during his pack tour. It was the first time I had ever spent my day doing anything other than cleaning and cooking.
The slaves’ quarter was not large, only big enough to fit fifteen creaky, old beds. How unfortunate it was that there were sixteen girls sleeping here every night. Being the youngest of the slaves at the age of twenty, I was the one ill-fated enough to have to sleep on the floor every night. I didn’t mind though. I was happy to take the bullet for the rest of the girls. Everyone besides me lived normal lives before they were forced to become a slave for this pack. All of them were humans who had committed a crime grave enough to be condemned to slavery. I, however, had been here for as long as I could remember. I wasn’t even sure how I got here. All I knew was that my first memory was of getting down on my knees and watching my small hands scrub the bathroom tiles. This is why I didn’t mind sleeping on the floor. I’d never slept anywhere else and, therefore, I didn’t know what I was missing. I had no desire to find out, especially since all the other girls were always so sad when they got here. If it made them feel better to sleep on a bed, then I was happy to give them one.
But, at this moment in time, I found myself wishing I had a bed to sit on. We had been stuck in here all day. I had woken up, gotten dressed in my uniform, and then stood in the corner where I usually slept. I stood there for hours, leaning my head against the wall behind me out of pure boredom. I wished I could sit down, but the floor was dirty and wet and I would be in huge trouble if I got my uniform dirty. And I couldn’t put back on my nightgown in case Madame Melinda suddenly called for us to get to work.
The other slaves seemed to be just as bored as I was. They were all laying on their beds, some sleeping, some staring at the ceiling. One was even sticking out her tongue and trying to touch it to her nose.
I sighed as I watched them all. My feet were starting to hurt from standing so long. We weren’t allowed to talk to anyone without permission, including each other, so I couldn’t ask them if it would be alright if I sat on their bed with them.
It didn’t matter anyway; I didn’t want to offend them by asking to share a bed. Even though we were all working the same job, I was still beneath them for two reasons: one, because I was the youngest, the rest of them being at least over the age of forty, and two, because I had been here my whole life and probably would be here my whole life (if Madame Melinda didn’t decide to send me away), while they would spend a few years here and then move on.
Therefore, I was beneath them in every way.
My hands fidgeted anxiously, as I looked around. I ready to get out of the slaves’ quarters and get to work on my daily chores. It made me nervous not to get my chores done. Unfinished chores meant punishment. Even though we had specifically been told not to leave our room in the cellar of the packhouse so that the king wouldn’t see us during his tour, I still felt anxious that I was going to get punished for not doing my work. I would feel much better after I had gotten it all done.
More hours passed until, suddenly, Madame Melinda marched into the room. “Get to work!” she yelled. We all jumped. The sun had already set and some of the girls were already ready for bed. “The king’s ball is tomorrow,” Madame Melinda continued, a sly smile forming on her lips. “I want everything perfect.”
I yawned as I finished cleaning the last bathroom on the bottom floor of the packhouse. That was the sixth and final one of the night. Taking only a second as a break, I straightened and made my way to the kitchen to start cleaning there, this being only the third kitchen I had cleaned tonight. It was the last thing I needed to get done before I finally got to go to bed.
As much as I usually loved cleaning, tonight was different. Even though I had done nothing but stand around all day, I was absolutely exhausted. All I wanted to do was go to bed. My body had felt charged and restless all day, pushing me to go do something. What that thing was, I wasn’t sure. All I knew was that the jitters I had during the day were now making me tired beyond belief.
Entering the kitchen, I saw that dirty dishes were spread out over each counter. It hadn’t occurred to me that there would be more than usual tonight due to the celebration of the king’s arrival. The entire packhouse was a complete mess and this kitchen was no exception.
I glanced at the clock on the wall. It was four in the morning. My shoulders immediately sagged. There was no way I was going to be able to sleep tonight. This would take me two or three hours to clean. I had to be up at six to make breakfast for the pack. I guess tonight would be another sleepless night spent doing chores. Not unusual but still unpleasant.
Feeling defeated, I quietly started gathering up the dishes and putting them in the sink to wash, being as quiet as I could. Lord knows that if I woke anybody up, even if I was on only the bottom floor of the packhouse where the lower-ranking pack members lived, I would be punished until I couldn’t see properly.
Halfway through washing all the dishes, I felt the presence of another person entering the kitchen. My body froze and my heart immediately dropped to the bottom of my stomach. Oh no, oh no, oh no. I must’ve woken somebody up! I knew I was being too loud. Why wasn’t I more careful?
I immediately turned off the faucet with my suddenly shaky hands. Then I dropped to my knees and bowed my head, showing my respect and submission to whoever the person was.
My breathing escalated as I saw the person’s feet approach me to stand in front of my shaking form. They were barefoot and their legs covered in pajama bottoms. So I had woken them up while I was cleaning.
Stupid, stupid, girl, the voice in my head said. I hated that voice. I heard it for the first time when I was little and it had been in the back of my mind since then, always telling me such horrible things and calling me mean names. As much as I hated the things that it said, I also knew it all was true. Which made it that much worse.
I knew then that I was going to be punished. Wolves, especially males, needed ample amounts of sleep or they became violent and unbearable. There was no doubt in my mind that this person was a male and a very large one at that. I could tell just from his feet that he was probably the biggest wolf I had ever been in the presence of. I swallowed hard. I wouldn’t be surprised if I came out of this with my body covered in bruises.
The man in front of me said nothing as he looked down at me. He simply stood there, breathing so heavily that I could hear each ragged breath that left his mouth. Why wasn’t he moving? Was he waiting for me to do something? I sniffed the air as subtly as I could. I didn’t recognize his scent which meant he was from the royal pack who were visiting, an insanely strong pack of wolves. He could kill me with one hit.
I held back a shuddering gasp of fear when he took another small step forward.
“Please stand,” he said. I was surprised to hear that his voice was deep, smooth, and assertive, causing tremors to run through my form. Most wolves spoke with a certain gruffness in their tone that this man didn’t obtain. I didn’t recognize it which only confirmed my theory that he was a royal. But why would a royal wolf be down here? They were all given rooms on the top floor of the packhouse. I wasn’t allowed anywhere near there. And they definitely wouldn’t consider coming down here.
Without hesitation, I obeyed and sprung to my feet, still keeping my head bowed in respect.
Please don’t kill me. Please don’t kill me. Please don’t kill me.
I could feel his eyes rake over me, inspecting every inch of my body. It made me feel extremely self-conscious. I hadn’t been careful while doing my chores earlier, assuming that I wouldn’t be seeing anyone so late into the night. I was sure that my uniform was wrinkled and dirty. I could feel tendrils of my hair falling out of my bun and I hadn’t taken a shower yet today. I could only imagine what he thought of me.
The man breathed in through his nose, taking in my scent. He was most likely committing it to memory so he could report me to Madame Melinda. She would surely punish me for waking him. That is, if he didn’t choose to punish me himself right now. I hoped he would go with the first option. Both punishments would be bad, but Madame Melinda couldn’t be nearly as strong as the man in front of me. She wouldn’t be able to do as much damage.
The man growled softly and I had to stop myself from flinching. Here we go. “Look at me,” he snapped.
My heart fluttered in my chest at hearing his voice again. He was trying to test me. This was something that Madame Melinda had done with me and the other slaves multiple times, asking us to look at her and then punishing us when we did. She would then remind us that we were not worthy of looking at those above us. Or anyone for that matter. For any reason. We were mere humans, weak and disgusting. Perhaps the wolf in front of me was trying to test my loyalty to my pack and how well they trained their pets.
Realizing this must be what was happening, I kept my gaze lowered, staying silent as well. I would not be the one to shame the pack and get beaten for it.
The man growled once again, sounding even more displeased than before. “You will look at me. Now,” he said.
I nearly flinched but held it back. I was absolutely terrified. I had no idea what the right thing to do was. I cleared my throat a bit. “M-may I have p-permission to speak, sir?” I asked in a timid voice. God, when was the last time I had spoken to someone? My voice sounded so small and weak.
There was a moment of silence before the stranger responded. “Yes.”
I internally sighed in relief. I hadn’t been hit for my stupidity yet so I had to be doing something right. Trying not to stumble over my words this time, I said, “Slaves of my rank are not worthy enough to look at anyone no matter the circumstance. I have been taught this rule well, sir. I promise.”
I thought this would be the right thing to say. I thought he would be pleased with my answer. But I was wrong.
Without warning, a deafening growl left the mouth of the man in front of me. It was so loud, I wouldn’t be surprised if it had woken up the entire packhouse. Out of fright, I stumbled backward, almost falling to the floor, but was able to catch myself on the counter behind me. However, in the process, I slammed my side into the stove, making painful contact with the ribs that had been broken from my punishment yesterday. I whimpered softly.
The man didn’t seem to notice that I was in pain, or maybe simply didn’t care, and approached me again. He didn’t waste a second before yelling, “Look at me!”
My body shook even more, now paralyzed with fear. My mind was racing with terrifying scenarios of all the ways that I would be punished for this, for my stupidity. I brought my shaking hand up to my cheek and wiped away a tear that had fallen. I didn’t want him to see me cry. Wolves hated when humans cry.
“I-I-″ I stuttered out. Did he really want me to look at him? I hadn’t looked anyone in the eye since I was seven and was slapped so hard that I saw black spots. I couldn’t see out of my left eye for over a month. That slap came from Madame Melinda. I didn’t even want to think about what this enormous man in front of me was capable of doing.
“Shit,” the man suddenly cursed.
I sucked in a breath at the crude word. It didn’t sound right coming from his mouth.
He sighed loudly and took a step away from me. “I apologize. That was far too harsh. My anger was not meant to be directed at you or frighten you. I just-” He paused for a moment. “Will you please look at me? I promise that no harm will come to you if you look up.”
I hesitated. Was getting out of this terrifying situation worth the possible punishment that I would receive if I looked at him?
“Please do not cry,” the man spoke again. “Goddess, I truly had not meant to frighten you. I only wish to see your eyes. Nothing bad is going to happen to you, I promise.”
I lifted my hand again and quickly wiped away the big sloppy tears that were rolling down my face, even more frightened now that I knew he had noticed me crying. I was making a complete fool out of myself and my pack, the pack that had provided me with a place to sleep and food ever since I was young. They only asked that, in return, I completed my chores and followed the rules without hesitation. I hadn’t accomplished either of those things today. I was truly a failure.
Knowing I had no other choice, I went against what I had been told all my life and slowly lifted my head to meet the first pair of eyes that I had seen in years.
I was not disappointed. Looking back at me were two striking turquoise eyes that pulled me into a different world, a world free of worries and misery. I stared at them and felt my breath catch in my throat and warmth travel through my entire body. It felt like all of my fatigue and pain from the day was lifted and replaced with a feeling of hope and belonging.
“Mine,” the man growled.
I wasn’t sure how to respond to what he said, not knowing what he meant. All I knew was that I desperately hoped he didn’t look away from me. I wanted to keep looking at him for as long as I could.
I wasn’t sure how long we stood there in silence, staring at each other. We were snapped out of our trances as two new presences came sprinting into the kitchen, huffing and growling. The man with the beautiful eyes turned away from me and, faster than I could comprehend, grabbed the sleeve of my dress and tugged me behind him. My head spun from the sudden movement. I didn’t have time to react, too stunned to think.
My view of the new individuals was blocked by the large man in front of me, but I didn’t need to see them to know who they were. I knew those growls all too well. They were the growls of my alpha and Madame Melinda.
I gasped in horror and dropped to my knees so quickly that my skin scraped and burned against the tile floor, assuring me that my knees would be bruised and scabbed tomorrow. It didn’t matter though. I was sure that the punishment I would receive for the events that occurred tonight would be far more severe than a few scrapes on my knees.
The man with the eyes growled again so loudly that the floors and walls vibrated. He stepped in front of me, bringing his legs together so I couldn’t see anything from my spot on the floor. He was probably reminding me not to look at higher-ranked individuals. I whimpered and brought my hand over my eyes to cover the tears rolling down my cheeks. I lowered myself until my forehead was touching the tiles in the position of utmost submission. I was shaking so violently that I could no longer control the tremors as they passed through my body. I was so in for it now. God, I had really messed up this time, hadn’t I?
I heard the gasp of my alpha before he said, “Your majesty!” The sound of other knees dropping to the floor was heard.
My heart nearly stopped beating. Your majesty? Your majesty?! I had been talking to the king of all creatures?! No, that couldn’t be right. I would have known, right? I may be human, but I still considered myself to be intelligent enough to recognize the authority of the most powerful man on the planet. Although I didn’t know what the king looked like, I should’ve been able to feel his power rolling off of him and forcing me to submit to his every wish, even his wish to meet his eyes. Then why hadn’t I felt any of that? Why did I feel like I was standing in front of a normal werewolf?
“What is the meaning of this?” the alpha king asked in a voice that emitted terrifying authority and power. His anger was obvious.
“Your majesty,” my alpha began. I had never heard him sound so frightened and weak in my life, “I apologize. We were awoken by your growl and the presence of your wolf. I, along with Madame Melinda, have come to ensure that all is well.”
This made me pause. They felt the presence of his wolf? I knew that, as the king of werewolves, we should be able to feel his most powerful emotions in order to have a better bond with his people and for him to demand respect if he needed to. But I felt nothing at all. In fact, I felt something completely different coming from the king.
I felt warmth. Delicious, comforting warmth.
I frowned, still keeping my head on the floor. Why had I felt that way when I looked at him? I hadn’t held eye contact with many individuals over the course of my life due to my raking but whenever I did, it hadn’t felt like that. Could it be due to his powers to manipulate fire?
I tried focusing and opening my mind up in order to feel what they did. And, suddenly, I did. Like a wave of power and energy, I felt the king’s authority wash over me, nearly knocking out all of the breath from my chest and stopping my heart.
And, boy, was he angry. Livid, in fact. I had no idea how I had missed it before as it felt so overwhelming and terrifying now.
He was enraged with me. He had to be, it was the only explanation. Who else had he come in contact with? A small, quiet sob escaped my throat before I could stop it. I might as well just kill myself now. I had upset the king of werewolves and would surely not live past morning.
I felt the king quickly look down at me. His gaze was hot on my back as it ran up and down my form, reminding me again of his fire powers. The presence of his anger grew as he watched me and he took another step back so that he was almost on top of me, the back of his ankles and feet touching the top of my head. He growled, looking back at the people in front of him. I flinched at the loud noise.
“Your majesty,” my Alpha spoke again, sounding less confident than before, “may I ask what has upset you?”
The king said nothing, but I could hear his harsh, ragged breathing. He was trying to calm his wolf so he would not shift. And by the sound of it, he was not succeeding.
“I apologize if the slave had done something to offend you, your majesty. It will be dealt with,” Madame Melinda said. My heart dropped. “Twenty!” Madame Melinda spoke my number harshly. “Come here!”
Without hesitation, I sprang to my feet with the intention of running to Madame Melinda. But before I could take even one step in her direction, the strong arm of the king reached behind him and wrapped around my waist, tugging me so that my front was pressed firmly against his back. I gasped and placed my hands on his back in order to steady myself. It was then that I realized that he had no shirt on. He was only wearing pajama bottoms. His bare, muscular back was beneath my fingertips.
At first, I thought that he was covered in flames. Hot sparks danced over my skin everywhere I was touching him, making me gasp slightly in shock. Perhaps he wanted me to burn wherever I touched him, punishing me with his powers. That would explain why he had me pressed up against him now. But, no. The sparks did not feel bad at all. They didn’t burn me. Instead, they felt good. Really good, like little pops of pleasure.
I didn’t let myself bask in the warmth of the sparks for long, knowing that it was just a side effect of the king’s power over fire. Perhaps he was not punishing me now but he would be soon. Recomposing myself, I quickly dropped my hands and tried to step away from the king, knowing that a human like myself should not be touching a powerful man like him. However, before I could fully disconnect myself from him, the hand that was still resting against my spine pushed me back into his form so that even my face was pressed firmly in between his shoulder blades.
Well, okay then. I didn’t move. I didn’t breathe. He obviously wanted me right where I was.
“She will stay right where she is,” the king snapped at Madame Melinda, confirming my exact thoughts. “You will not touch her.”
“Of course, your majesty,” Madame Melinda said quickly. “I apologize.”
No one spoke for a long while. Everyone seemed to hold their breaths, waiting to see what the king would do next. The room was silent, save for the rapid breathing of the king as he continued to attempt to reign in his wolf. He seemed to be having an easier time now than before. The shaking that I felt from his body when he had first pressed me against him was finally calming.
His hand pressed me firmly into his back once more, telling me to stay where I was before it drifted to my side and took hold of my hand. He squeezed it gently, keeping it out of the view of the others. I looked down at our joined hands in confusion but didn’t try to escape his grasp. He could do whatever he wanted to me if it meant he was calmed down and didn’t kill me.
“Your majesty, if I may ask again,” my alpha spoke again, “what has happened to upset you? I assure you that anyone that has done anything to offend or dishonor you will be severely punished.”
He was talking about me. I swallowed a sob and tried to keep my tears at bay although they were already rolling down the back of the king. Crap, that’s not good. I wondered if he could feel them.
Stop crying, you pathetic human, the voice in my head said.
“Something awoke me from my sleep, but I will be returning to bed now,” the king said. “I will be spending the next day in my room and do not wish to be disturbed until the meeting on the fourth. Am I understood?”
Staying in his room for the next day meant he was going to miss the ball my pack was throwing in his honor tomorrow night. It was incredibly disrespectful to do such a thing.
“Of course, your majesty,” my alpha said.
The king said nothing else as he turned to me. Once I was no longer being held against him by his large hands on me, I dropped to my knees and placed my head back on the tile of the kitchen floor, trying to show my respect.
This was the moment. The king would deliver his own punishment onto me and then leave me to my alpha and Madame Melinda to finish the job. I had received many punishments during my life, but I was sure that this was the one that was going to kill me. And, for some reason, the thought that my death would be due to the fact I upset the man with the gorgeous turquoise eyes, made me feel more like a failure than I ever had before.
I prepared myself for the first blow, shutting my eyes and willing my pathetic tears to stop falling. I would be strong during my last moments. I would not embarrass myself any more than I already had.
But the hit never came. He didn’t kick me or grab me by my hair so that he could lift me and spit in my face. He did something much more surprising.
He bent down and gently placed his hands on my waist. Then, as if I was a child, he lifted me into the air so that I was laying in his arms. I didn’t move. I didn’t breathe. I kept my head down and sat stiff as a board in his arms, trying to stop my body from violently shaking.
“I will be taking her with me,” the king said to the others in the room.
“Yes, your majesty,” my alpha said without hesitation. “Do with her as you wish.”
I understood then. The king wanted to kill me himself, in his own way. He couldn’t let anyone think that they could disrespect him and get away with it, allowing their punishment to be decided by somebody else. No, I was about to be used as an example, most likely tortured and killed so that everyone knew what happened to somebody who upsets the king.
You deserve worse than that, the voice in my head said. You’re a disgrace.
Then the king walked out of the kitchen without another word...taking me with him.