Thorn (Werewolf)

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Chapter One

I suck in a deep breath as the servant pulls the straps tightly against my spine. I can’t let the breath back out. I hold a hand to my throat as I start to suffocate.

“Sorry,” the servant says, loosening the straps. “I always do that.”

“It’s okay, dear,” my mother says from the armchair beneath the window. “Just try not to kill my daughter before she bears the potential’s child.”

I narrow my eyes at her in the mirror. She clocks it and scowls back at me, bringing the cup of wine back to her lips. She’s been drinking for the past hour. I’m surprised she’s not blind drunk. The servant ties the final loop and declares herself finished. The dress is beautiful. Light blue with thin straps and sparkling gems that reflect from every dime of light. It’s pulled across my chest so tightly that my breasts look much bigger than they are. I’ve never seen my bare chest look so womanly.

“We don’t know that he will choose me yet,” I say, patting down the tight, blue dress.

“Of course he will choose you. Look at you.” My mother stands, dangling the cup from her fingertips as she walks and scoots the servant away. She cups her hands underneath my breasts and smiles. “Your chest is full. Your skin has that post-summertime glow. You will be the most beautiful woman to have ever looked him in the eye.”

“Hardly.”

“And your hair,” she says while enthusiastically trailing her fingers through my wavy, mousy blonde locks that is pulled back with butterfly pins. “So soft and vibrant. You are magnificent.”

“If you say so.”

I meet the servant’s eyes in the mirror as she looks at me sadly. I’ve never met her before today, she is the potential’s servant. We are in his palace. All of the candidates arrived last night and we spent the night here preparing for this important and life-changing morning.

The potential King, Lyle, will choose one of us to take as his bride. The King’s only son died from a disease a few years ago and without a blood heir the King decided to pick out four high-born males for the role instead. It’s absolutely ludicrous and hardly anyone in the kingdom agrees with his decision but he is the King and we are his subjects. Whatever he decides, we accept, even if we do not accept it.

The new world order happened over a century ago after a devastating global war wiped out most of the population. The survivors made an agreement to banish all travel including: planes, boats, ships and anything that can cross borderlines or oceans. For a century, our people have been confined to strict areas. Some areas have Kings while others have small governments. Our King, Harrison, took over from his father ten years ago. His kingdom is huge, one of the biggest in the country. His rule has been fair but Lyle is another thing entirely.

I am high-born. In this world, that means something big. It means that I have never had to work a day in my life, that I have servants that do everything for me and a family that remind me every single day that I should be grateful.

It has been their dream for me to marry Lyle ever since King Harrison announced that he’d be a potential. Along with three other high-borns, Lyle will have to prove himself. It is no secret that Lyle is his favourite and is far ahead of the other three. They will all have to go through a series of tests that the King sets but Lyle is the only one choosing a bride today. Marriage will only make his chances greater.

“Remember your manners,” my mother says. “Smile, do not stop smiling. Your father and I will be very disappointed if you mess this up.”

“How can I possibly mess this up?” I say. “All I have to do is stand there.”

“He has to like your attitude too,” she says. “Make eye contact and keep it until he looks away. He likes confident girls.” She grips her fingers into my shoulders and stirs me towards the doorway. “We have been working hard for this. Do not ruin this chance for us.”

I clench on my teeth as she gently pushes me out of the door and into the wide hallway. I keep my head high as we walk throughout the palace. Most of the girls are forced to wear dresses here, if it was up to me then I wouldn’t. I hate my chest being so tight that I cannot breathe, who would put themselves through that torture by choice?

My mother’s dress is different to mine. Hers is looser and frilly, she can actually walk without looking like something is keeping her upright from her spine. I resent her for that. I inherited her dark blonde hair and muddy brown eyes but that’s where the gene traits stop.

We stop outside a set of big double doors and my mother starts patting down my body in hysteria. She runs her fingers beneath my eyes and rubs off a little bit of foundation before squinting at every inch of my face.

“Am I presentable yet?” I mumble.

“You’ll do.”

She knocks on the door and it opens seconds later. Two guards stand on the other side, giving us a wide berth to pass through. The throne room has been cleared out. It is empty apart from the line of girls at the front waiting with their mothers.

My mother parades me down the aisle like she is presenting me to them. She keeps her arm tied around mine, almost pulling me down to the front. The girls do not look but the mothers are glaring at us, some of them with snarling lips.

We stand to the far left and my mother’s head is so high that I wonder if she’ll even notice if I casually slipped away. If I ran away. The girls to my right look nervous, some of them are even trembling.

“Look at the nose on that one,” my mother whispers. “And her mother thinks she stands a chance?” She snorts and leans back, casting a thorough stare over to them.

My mother is so delightful. It’s a mystery as to why most of the high-born women despise her.

“That one at the far end must weigh at least three hundred pounds,” she says amusingly. “I thought we’d actually have some competition.”

“Mother,” I hiss. “Please stop it.”

“What? Can I not be glad that my daughter looks like an angel compared to them?”

My mother straightens as a door opens at the back of the raised platform. King Harrison walks out first, flanked by the potential. Lyle is not exactly a prize. He’s big-boned and muscly but his eyes are small and hollow, his teeth are a tad crooked and yellow and his red hair is thin and messy. He looks like he has just woken up. There are deep bags under his eyes, his skin is dry and pale and he wears clothing that has rips in them.

He has taken no pride in his appearance today which is actually quite insulting considering the gruelling process all of us girls have had to go through to try and win his attention.

“Apologies for keeping you all waiting,” King Harrison says as he takes his seat on his throne. “Thank you for attending today. My potential, Lyle, will now choose one of your daughters to wed. Please do not be disheartened if your daughter is not chosen, there are three other potentials that may decide to take brides.”

Lyle comes closer to the edge of the platform and starts with the girl at the far right. He only looks at her for a second before his eyes keep scrolling. His eyes are narrowed and focused, like he is trying to work something out from their appearances. He points to a brunette girl in the middle.

“You,” he says. “What is your name?”

“Georgina Tamsworth,” the girl says quietly.

“How old are you?”

“Sixteen.”

He twists his face with a dissatisfied scowl. “Too young.”

I hold my breath as his eyes find me. He blinks for a moment and then turns his whole body, slowly walking across the platform. My mother’s fingers squeeze into my arm out of excitement.

“You,” he says, pointing directly at me. “What is your name?”

My entire mind goes blank. I give him eye contact but his eyes are almost aggressive, they are scaring me. My mother bashes her side into mine.

“Devon Davenport,” I say.

“Davenport,” Lyle says. “Respected family. Powerful. How old are you?”

“Nineteen,” I whisper.

“Speak up.”

“Nineteen,” I repeat loudly.

Lyle smiles. “Have you started your menstrual cycle?”

I blink at him in astoundment. Does he not know anything about females? I don’t think I’ve ever met a girl older than sixteen that hasn’t. “Yes.”

“Are you a virgin?” he asks.

“Yes.”

“Do you have any medical conditions?”

“None that I know of.”

“Are there any hereditary medical conditions in your family that may be passed down?”

I clench on my teeth. All his questions centre around me being pregnant and producing an heir. That wouldn’t just make his chances better, it’d practically secure his title as the future King.

“No.”

“Have any females in your ancestry line had complications during pregnancy?”

“I don’t know,” I say, turning to my mother. She shakes her head at me. “No.”

“Pregnancy is your sole responsibility as my wife,” Lyle says. “How will you ensure that my child remains healthy?”

Jesus fucking Christ. If it wasn’t for my mother standing right beside me then I’d be tempted to scream something at him. She doesn’t care about the things he’s saying or the way he’s delivering them to me, she just carries on nudging me to answer.

“I would follow the advice of the doctors and do everything I can do ensure the baby is safe.”

“Good.” He looks over me with a sly expression. I shiver as I feel violated. “I’ll take her.”

“Excellent,” King Harrison says, clasping his hands. “The Davenports are a wise choice.” He turns to the disappointed line of mothers. “You are dismissed. Better luck next time.”

Somehow, it doesn’t quite become real until I see those girls walking away. The moment that I realize that I am the only one left, my pulse races and my palms become sweaty. I look back to Lyle to find that he is still staring at me, his eyes locked to my chest.

“Let us leave the newly engaged couple to get acquainted,” King Harrison says to my mother. “Please, join me in my office. We have preparations to discuss.”

“Absolutely,” my mother says, distancing herself from my side.

I freeze as I watch my mother walk up the steps, she follows the King out of the door. She is acting calm but I can tell that she is itching to squeal with excitement. I, on the other hand, am becoming more and more afraid the longer Lyle stares at me.

I swallow as he jumps down from the platform.

“Come with me,” he says. He takes my hand and starts dragging me towards the doors at the end of the aisle.

“Where are we going?”

“To my bedroom.”

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