The pain is almost unbearable; I don’t know where its source is or how to make it stop. The coppery smell of blood rises to my nostrils, and I think it’s mine. I can’t see anything. My wolf is numb, and I don’t know where I am. As I try to move, I feel a new wave of pain jolt through me, making me aware I am firmly secured upright against a wall.
Where am I? How did I even get here and why? No, this must be a dream—definitely a nightmare—and I need to wake up! Hot tears roll down my face, and it hurts so bad, my whole face hurts... Finally, I’m able to open my eyes, and the sight before me is even worse than I’d expected.
There’s a faint light coming in through the small window of this old cell, just enough for me to realize that my life is slowly but steadily coming to an untimely end. All over my body, there are small cuts and bruises, some fresh, others covered in dirt; the blood is still dripping; and I don’t seem to heal... I’m standing in a pool of blood, not all of it mine, and a sickening, unmistakable stench surrounds me. On the same wall, three other people, whom I don’t recognize, stand shackled. Pain and despair are written on their faces, but they’re undeniably dead.
What happened to me? How did I get here? Who took me?
“Why? Why? ” I began screaming without realizing it.
Why is this happening? This was supposed to be the happiest week of my life.
I lean my head back against the cold wall and fall into a deep, comforting sleep. The cold...I don’t feel it anymore, or the pain, and I’m sure I’m slowly dying. I know as much when the last happy memory flashes before my eyes:
“Honey, let’s go; everyone is waiting for us, we are going to be late!”
“I'm almost ready, just five more minutes, Mom!”
For some odd reason, my hair is acting all up today, and I can’t seem to get it tamed as I rush to get dressed. Oh, but the dress, my beautiful dream wedding dress...
To be honest, I was supposed to be getting ready for the rehearsal dinner, but I just couldn’t stop staring at my gorgeous dress and dreaming of tomorrow, of Julian, my handsome fiancé... being absolutely and utterly perfect, and how happy he’ll be to see me in it! We practically grew up together, he as the future Beta and me as the daughter of the Alpha of the Blueriver pack.
There has never been a time I can remember when I and Julian weren’t friends. My earliest memory of him is of us playing in the sandpit and him trying to roll me around in it. He couldn’t, because thanks to my Alpha blood, I was always stronger than any other pup, even though I was a girl. But it was so much fun to see him trying. He would get so upset and run away crying, saying he didn’t want to play with me anymore, so I would let him win from time to time.
Years went by, and he became my best friend. Sure, I had a lot of friends, but Julian preferred to keep mostly to himself, so we spent a lot of time together. We shared the same classes, trained together, and took the same extracurriculars. Still, we first bonded over our shared responsibilities as future rulers of the largest werewolf pack. There are rumors that there will soon be only one pack, as packs have merged with ours over the years, with the exception of a few small ones, primarily rogues or outcasts. So that sort of made us royalty, and the pressure we felt could be enormous at times.
But with him, everything seemed easy. Despite his cold demeanor, he has never been the same way with me. Yes, he would enjoy teasing me or riling me up from time to time, but he could also feel when I was about to freak out and knew exactly how to distract me. He was more than my best friend. He was my other half, supporting and pushing me to be my best version. That’s what made falling in love with him so easy!
Us being romantically involved was never the plan; he was supposed to be my beta, my right-hand man, while we kept searching for our mates. So we stayed focused on school, on becoming doctors, learning, and training day and night, but eventually, I knew I wanted more.
I suspect our mothers have been planning our wedding since the day we were born. And as soon as we told them we were together, they set things in motion, and an over-the-top ceremony was set to take place after our graduation. We’d discussed waiting until we were fully out of residency to do it, but they seemed so overjoyed that we just went for it.
“My God, you look breathtakingly beautiful! How did I get so lucky?”
Julian’s words made me blush profusely, mainly due to the fact he is a man of few words, and even fewer are compliments.
“Let’s go for a walk before dinner. I want to spend some time alone with you. With all the hustle and bustle, we hardly had any private moments just for the two of us, and I miss you.”
“I feel the same way, but there were so many things to take care of in such a short time, and I wanted everything to be perfect for our magical day. Come, I’ll race you to our secret spot in the woods!”
“You know me so well, my dear Amelya. I was thinking the same thing. The last one there gives the embarrassing speech at dinner tonight!”
“Deal, but you might as well start practicing it!” I said this while shifting in mid-air and running like there was no turning back, which there wasn’t. I never made it to the clearing and never saw Julian again.
I started to cry and scream, thinking how devastated Julian, my parents, and everyone else must be, not knowing what happened to me. But who took me? How? And why can’t I remember anything? If I could just fight to stay alive a little longer, maybe they’d find me, or maybe I’d start to heal and save myself before it was too late. But before I drift apart, familiar laughter bounces off the walls of this small holding cell.
“I thought I heard something. I have to say, I’m really impressed. You made it this far. I honestly didn’t think you would. It must be that special Alpha blood that I keep hearing about... Nonetheless, it’s a success—for me, at least; not so much for you. Come, take her down, and bring her to the west wing. When she’s ready, call me!”
I tried making some noise—screaming, fighting—but before long, everything went dark.