Meet the King
“D-do you g-gentlemen need any ch-change?” The waitress’s voice was shaky and she reeked of fear.
Lucifer King flicked a bored glance at the human female. Humans were intimidated by his size and dominance, strong enough to penetrate even their weak, underused instincts. They were too out of touch with their animal sides to distinguish between simply being in the presence of someone superior to them, and actual danger.
“No.” King’s second in command nodded to the bills on the table and slid his wallet back into his pocket. King never carried money.
“Th-thank you,” the waitress stammered, backing up slowly. “H-have a g-good day.”
The men ignored her, barely noticing as she scurried away. There was only one human who interested King, and she had wolf blood running through her. He picked up his coffee and sipped it slowly, savouring the feeling of pleasure that curled inside him knowing he would see her soon. Not sexual pleasure: Not yet. It was a different kind of pleasure, one King had never experienced before. He strongly suspected it was affection. King didn’t fight it. Once she was of age, she’d be by his side forever. Liking her was a bonus he hadn’t expected.
Across the table, Boone saw the King’s harsh features soften and knew he was thinking about her. Serafina. King’s biggest and longest power play to date.
It was just over ten years ago that Boone and King sat in a bar just outside Umatilla Pack territory, listening to a local pack warrior boast about his mate’s rare bloodline. A ‘Spirit Sister’, he called her. Boone thought the warrior was full of shit but King had been very interested in the man’s drunken bragging about no one being able to take him in a fight since he marked her.
It seemed the warrior’s mate didn’t like being put in her place and left him some twenty years ago, moved back to her hometown with their two kids. Like any self-respecting wolf he’d gone to bring her back, but got attacked by birds on the outskirts of town, and they had followed him, swarming his car until he gave up and turned around. Sounded like a bad wolfsbane trip to Boone, but the warrior claimed it happened more than once. King seemed to believe it.
King’s eyes had glowed with excitement as they led the cocky warrior outside and into the alley. King’s power of command was great enough to compel him even though he wasn’t the warrior’s Alpha and it only took a few warning blows for the warrior to spill his guts. They got the name of the mate and her hometown before Boone ripped a hole in his gut and they left him in alley to bleed out. ‘Didn’t like being put in her place’ was code for ‘I was beating the shit out of her’ and in Boone’s view, no one who abused their own mate was entitled to live.
Over dinner that night King had explained that Spirit Sisters were direct female descendants of the Moon Goddess’s sister Astria. They were at least part human and possessed powers which no one seemed entirely clear on. This one could apparently control birds. If mating with a Spirit Sister gave this lowly pack warrior enhanced abilities, imagine what it could do for a fallen Alpha son and the strongest, most powerful rogue in the Empire. With enhanced strength and control of whatever powers this Spirit Sister possessed, King would be unstoppable.
The plan was for King to kidnap the warrior’s mate and overtake his mark with King’s own. But when they got to the small California town, they discovered the mate had died and her eldest daughter had married and moved to Canada.
King hadn’t been sure if it was all the daughters of Astria, or only the eldest who inherited Spirit Sister status, but having come this far they grabbed the younger girl on the chance that she had. Only to discover she was pregnant.
A pregnant woman couldn’t be marked so King brought her to his Garnet Range mansion to wait it out. Once she gave birth, the midwives would kill the human cub and tell her it died during delivery. Then King would mark her and park her while he went forth and conquered.
But when the message finally came that the younger daughter had given birth, King and Boone arrived to find the new mother cradling her baby with the midwives looking on as if they’d brought the humans’ Jesus into the world. The girl child had a shock of blonde hair and strange golden eyes. No one could bring themselves to kill it, not even Boone. Not even King himself. And so a new plan was formed.
Boone didn’t know much about babies, but even he could see this one was different. She seemed to glow and everyone, even the hardest-bitten rogue warriors in King’s personal guard, wanted to be near her. Touch her. Hold her. The baby was only a few days old when one of the guards bribed a maid to let him into the nursery. Boone didn’t know how King found out, but the next day the maid and the warrior were dead and King was sending the baby away to be raised by the Church of Rogue Nutjobs.
Every few months King went down to visit the Church. At first it was to make sure they were caring for the child properly and following his orders. But the visits became longer as the child grew and King began spending time with her. He began bringing her gifts, telling Boone that he was simply trying to smooth the path for the future by making her amenable. But Boone knew better. He’d seen King’s face when the human pup clambered into his lap. It wasn’t satisfaction in furthering his plans King was getting from the child. It was simple, unadulterated pleasure.
The sounds of screams and cracking bones echoed against the concrete walls. The Night Reapers’ storage rooms had excellent acoustics.
Shifting in his chair placed just outside the range of the blood splatter, King glanced at his watch. They had to leave soon if they were going to make it to Phoenix before the malls closed.
“Boone,” he said in a bored tone.
His second in command stepped away from the half-dead human hanging in the centre of the room by his ankles. Boone’s face and clothes were splattered with blood. He’d need to shower and change before they left.
“All right, dog-fucker, last chance,” Boone told the prisoner. “Tell us what we want to know, and I’ll kill you right now, fast and easy. Or you can keep holding out, and I’ll leave you hanging here for Taze to play with.”
Hovering at the side like a kid waiting for his turn on a ride, the Reapers’ Enforcer palmed his crotch and flashed the prisoner a sadistic grin. Perverted fuck. Boone rolled his eyes.
“So.” Boone walked a slow circle around the prisoner’s battered form. He barely resembled the burly private investigator the Reapers had picked up outside Atascadero. “Let’s try again. Who hired you to investigate Macklin Nash?”
“I don’t know,” the prisoner sobbed, nasal and muffled by his broken nose and torn lips. “I told you, it was all over email. I gave you my logins, you can see for your—ughh.” His voice became a gargle of blood as Boone’s fist shot out and smashed the entire left side of the prisoner’s face. One-punch kill. Human skulls were like porcelain.
“Waste of fucking time,” King said a few minutes later as they walked down the corridor to the exit. The guards stepped aside and bared their necks as they passed.
“Not necessarily.” Boone flicked something he didn’t bother trying to identify off his sleeve. “The Reapers’ hacker is working on tracing the emails. If that doesn’t work, they have someone on the payroll at the bank where they e-transfered his payment.”
“And if that doesn’t work?” King snapped.
Boone spread his bloody hands, conceding to his leader’s irritation. “Then I guess it was a waste of fucking time.”
The main floor of the Nevada ranch that served as the Night Reapers’ clubhouse was bustling with evening activity. About a third of the outlaw motorcycle club were rogue wolves, loyal to King, including the Reapers’ President. The human members were rogues in their own right and accepted the club’s alliance with King without question. It made the secluded ranch the perfect place to deal with less savoury business in the area.
The smell of frying onions and meat coming from the kitchen made Boone’s mouth water. He hadn’t eaten since lunch at the diner and stared longingly at the table of bikers shovelling food in their mouths.
“No time,” King said. “Go clean yourself up. I’ll be in the truck.”
Boone grumbled but didn’t object. He’d already pissed King off once today by fucking the maid in their hotel suite this morning. He hadn’t meant to kill her, but despite her girth she wasn’t as sturdy as Boone hoped. It was a risk you took with human females but they’d been on the road for weeks, for fuck’s sake. A wolf had needs.
King hadn’t cared about the maid. He cared they had to spend the 3-hour drive to the ranch with a dead human in the back of the SUV because Las Vegas was too well-policed and Lucifer King too well-known to risk dumping her body in town. The highways were aircraft-patrolled by human law enforcement. Again, not worth the potential fallout.
For the second time today, Boone stripped off his bloodied clothes and climbed into the shower. At least this time King wasn’t making him help the Reapers get rid of the body. Pissed at him as he was, there was a good chance he would have if King wasn’t in such a hurry to get to the mall. Boone grimaced under the punishing spray of water. He hated malls and he wouldn’t even be able to complain about the stench of recycled human-infested air without King laying into him again about this morning. Boone had a feeling he wouldn’t be hearing the end of that for a while.
Outside the evening sun blazed over the wood and stucco compound and the hum of cicadas filled the air. King was sitting in the front passenger seat of the SUV with the door open. He looked up at the sound of Boone’s heavy footsteps on the gravel.
“It fucking stinks in here,” King said as soon as Boone climbed into the driver’s seat.
Here we go. Boone managed not to roll his eyes. “The MC detailed the entire car. Even ripped out the carpet in the back.”
“Well they did a shit job, it still reeks.” King waited until Boone started the engine and opened his window all the way before closing his door. “I should have made you eat her,” he grumbled.
“Then it would smell like my puke and a dead human,” Boone pointed out as they started down the long unpaved driveway. The tiny rocks popped and crunched under the tires.
King shook his head in disgust. “Just keep your dick in your pants ’til we get home.”
“What about Boulder?” The closest neutral territory on their route home to Montana had a wolf-friendly bar Boone had been looking forward to, where they served Lupo beer, brewed for wolf shifters, and local unmated she-wolves came looking for adventure outside their packs.
King grunted. “We’ll see.” Not that he’d admit as much, but he’d been looking forward to it himself.
They had just reached the outskirts of Phoenix when Boone’s phone rang. It was Griff, the Reapers President. Boone put the phone on speaker and set it on the dashboard where King could hear as well.
“Those emails you asked us to look into? Our hacker traced the sender’s IP address to a private residence in Nelson, British Columbia. Canada,” Griff added unnecessarily into the silence that followed.
Boone looked at King. “Who the fuck is in British Columbia?”
“The Church has an outpost in Kamloops,” King said slowly.
“That’s nowhere near Nelson,” Griff said.
“And why would they be investigating Macklin?” Boone said.
Macklin Nash, founder of the Church of the White Goddess, arrived in Willow Beach in 1982 with a handful of other docile, self-loathing rogues. Since then the Church had grown to a membership of hundreds, all human. Macklin hated wolf shifters and believed they were a danger to Serafina, whom they worshipped as the living incarnation of their goddess.
It was an irony King and Boone found endlessly entertaining.
The old rogue was completely off his rocker, but Macklin, and by extension the Church’s fanatical obsession with protecting and insultating Serafina kept her safe from human and shifter threats alike. That, and their physical and social isolation from the local human community, was the reason King entrusted her to the Church’s care.
“Why would anybody?” countered King with a frown.
To the outside world, the Church and their Elders were just another bunch of nutjobs. Creepy but harmless. Macklin lived, ate, and breathed the Church, which paid for all his expenses. It was hard to imagine why the crazy old rogue would be of any outside interest to anyone.
“Want us to look into this Macklin dude and find out what he’s into?” Griff asked through the speaker.
“No.” King didn’t want anybody looking into the Church or Macklin except Boone and himself. “Find out everything you can about this private residence in Nelson. Who lives there, their names, what they do...everything.”
“On it,” said Griff. “Good news though, we found the PI’s report on Macklin but it doesn’t look like he sent it in before we grabbed him.”
King nodded. “Good. Delete his account and send the report to Boone. And keep him in the loop about your findings on that BC residence.”
“Will do, King.”
“Thank you, Griff.” King wasn’t above recognizing the value of his loyal supporters, or how powerful a simple word of thanks and acknowledgement could be.
“It’s an honour to serve you, King,” was Griff’s humble reply. “The Night Reapers are at your service, now and always.”
“And I know Boone appreciates your handling even the most unexpected and unpleasant situations smoothly and discreetly as well.” King gave his second-in-command a mocking, expectant look.
Boone huffed. “Thank you for helping me get rid of that body, Griff,” he said in the tone of a child being forced to apologize to their sibling.
“No sweat, bro,” Griff said in a completely different tone. “Anytime you kill somebody with your dick, just bring ’em on over here.” He tried and failed to keep the laughter from his voice. “We’ll take care of it. Maybe give you a few pointers.”
“Fuck you,” Boone said, and ended the call. King chuckled as he stuffed it back in his pocket. “Don’t pretend you’ve never fucked a human female to death.”
King smirked. “Sure, when I was twenty-one.” He was ninety-three years old now. Boone was almost forty. He tsked at the memory, shaking his head. “Broke her in half like a matchstick.”
“Pass on the trip down memory lane,” Boone grumbled. Darkness was starting to fall and the city lights sparkled as they headed down the off-ramp to the sprawling shopping and restaurant district.
King remained silent. Boone glanced over at his frowning profile. It wasn’t difficult to guess where his thoughts were. “You’re wondering if the interest in Macklin has anything to do with Serafina.”
King nodded slowly. “Yes. We’ll have to speak to him and find out who he’s been in communication with up there.”
Boone perked up. “Can I do that?”
King shot him a dry look. “I said speak to him. And no.” His lips twitched with humour. “But you have my permission to fuck Elder Vera to death, if you want to.”
“So do you know what you’re buying?” Boone made a face as they stepped into the air-conditioned shopping mall. It was crowded and stank of humans.
“Yes, I know what I’m buying,” King snapped, stalking towards a cheerfully decorated arts supply store. They were both hungry and irritable after the hour-long drive from the ranch and Boone hadn’t stopped bitching the entire twenty minutes they’d spent circling the parking lot.
The store fell silent under the tinny music as King and Boone walked in. “C-ca-can I h-help you?” stammered the human male behind the counter. Boone was amused to see his coworkers had all fled to the back of the store.
“Paint,” King said, looming above the terrified sales clerk. “The best you have in every colour.”
The clerk’s Adam’s apple bobbed up and down. “Oil, acrylic or water-based?” he croaked.
King looked at Boone. Boone spread his hands. What the fuck did he know about paint?
“If I show you a picture of a painting on my phone, would you be able to tell what kind of paint was used?” King asked the clerk.
“Uh...maybe?” the clerk said cautiously.
King pulled out his phone. He had an album on his camera roll dedicated to Serafina’s paintings. He tapped on the first thumbnail. “Try.”
The clerk took King’s phone from his hand like he was accepting a bomb. “M-may I?” He glanced nervously up at King for permission before daring to place his fingers on the screen to zoom in.
The clerk’s eyes immediately widened. “Oh my God,” he forgot himself enough to say. “This is amazing.”
King eyed the clerk approvingly. “Yes, it is. Can you tell what kind of paint she used?”
“Oils,” pronounced the clerk with visible relief. No one wanted to tell King they couldn’t give him what he was asking for. “Definitely oils.”
“I’ll take a set of your best oil paints with every colour. In a case or something,” King said.
“Which one’d you show him?” Boone asked idly as the clerk ran off to get the paint.
“Kids with the dog on the beach.” King handed Boone his phone to see.
“My favourite’s the fighting wolves.” Boone scrolled until he found it. “Look at the brown wolf’s paw, you can see the power in that blow. It’s going to take the grey wolf’s fucking head right off!” he marvelled. “How the fuck does she do that?”
King leaned in to peer at the image on the screen. “And look at his face. He’s tired and pissed off. He just wants to wrap up the battle and call it a day. How do you show expression on a wolf?”
“Beats the fuck out of me.” Serafina’s artistic gifts went way beyond talent—it was like she was channelling the divine. Boone shook his head. “How does she even know what a wolf fight looks like? Seriously, this shit’s realistic.”
King shrugged. “She says she dreamed about it.”
“Here you go, sir!” The clerk returned to the counter with a polished wooden case in what had to be record time. A fine sheen of sweat coated his brow as he fumbled with latches to open it for King’s perusal. “Langridge colours have full chomatic strength, very high pigment,” the clerk babbled nervously. “The colour mixing is clean and this paint is pretty much unmatchable when it comes to colour saturation—”
King cut him short. “What about brushes?”
“Uh, okay. What kind of...? Right.” The clerk wisely snapped his mouth shut. “Our best set. Be right back.”
The clerk nearly tripped over his own feet in his rush across the store. King turned back to Boone, still staring down at the painting on the screen with a strange expression. “What?”
“Holy shit...” Boone furrowed his brow, focusing on the brown wolf’s shoulders and front haunches. “I never noticed that before.”
Boone hesitated. “Are you sure Serafina doesn’t know about us?” Meaning wolf shifters.
King nodded. “She’s never asked or said anything, and she would have.” Of this he was sure. “The Church thinks we’re Satan. I doubt she’s so much as watched a movie about them.” Werewolves in movies were so highly fictionalized, King refused to say ‘us’. “Why?”
“Couldn’t Macklin have told her we exist?” Boone asked. “Or the kid? Her Guardian? You know, as a warning or something?”
King shook his head. “No chance. They think her connection to the Moon Goddess makes her suceptible to our influence. They’re worried she’ll romanticize us, basically.” He sent Boone a narrow look. “Why?” he repeated.
“Because, that—” Boone pointed to the zoomed-in image. “—Looks like a holster strap.”
“What?” King took his phone back and peered down at the screen. Warriors wore specially-designed holsters that remained in place when they turned, so they could carry their human weapons when in wolf form. It wasn’t something even someone who did know shifters existed would have any reason to know.
Boone dropped his voice. ”That’s a shifter.” He nodded at the phone in King’s hand. “She’s been having dreams about wolf shifters.”
Serafina’s connection to him was deepening. King’s face split in a rare smile. “That has got to be some kind of sign.”
🐺 Thank you for reading! 🐺
🙏If you’re enjoying this story, please click the ❤️