We entered Malice Creek’s territory at around 19h10 that evening. The sun had just set, and the earth was instantly pulled under a dark, yet starry tranquil blanket.
A few of their warriors had come out to meet us at the border and was currently driving in front of our black SUV to escort us back to their packhouse where we would be meeting both the Alpha and Beta of their extremely large pack.
I never knew how big their grounds were because I have never been there myself, but now, as we travelled towards its centre, it stretched out for miles over vast areas of grasslands and semi-dense forest terrain. It was beautiful, to say the least.
My strange feeling of foreboding had not completely disappeared yet, although being greeted in a friendly manner at the border definitely played a role in bringing me some sense of comfort.
As we neared the packhouse and the brake lights of the car in front of us lit up, I looked out of the window onto a brightly lit paved area and saw a few figures standing there anxious to meet us.
One of them stood out immediately as her bright red hair glowed under the porch lights and her almost crimson eyes sparkled with anticipation. Her body language screamed happiness and I instinctively knew it could only be Catalina, Marcus’s hybrid mate.
To be honest, she really did look like a goddess in some weird way, and she seemed to have that air of superiority about her that you might think a goddess should have. But despite her ladylike appearance and respectable attire, her whole demeanour, as we drove up, was of childlike excitement and she almost jumped into the car to greet her eager mate.
Before Marcus could even switch the SUV’s engine off, Catalina was on top of us. She pulled his door open and immediately started kissing him like the word was going to end any second and he seemed to be enjoying it very much.
It was actually kind of cute and I even thought that I had heard Marcus stutter as they spoke lovingly to one another before continuing their kissing spree.
Everything happened so fast and before I knew it, Catalina was on top op of Marcus’s lap in the car next to me and their kissing had turned into a hefty make out session. At the realization of that, I hastily scrambled out of the car and walked around to meet the Alpha and Beta with a fresh blush of embarrassment coating my cheeks.
“Evening, Alpha,” I greeted with a slight bow and showed my neck in submission, “thank you for welcoming us.”
As I said ‘us’ I glanced back and saw that Marcus and Catalina were still unaware of anything around them, “uh, my name is Melena, and that is Marcus,” I gestured towards him swiftly without turning around again, “as you can see he has already found what he was looking for.”
The Alpha and Beta chuckled at my comic remark and the Alpha quickly introduced himself.
“I am Alpha Jake, and this is my Beta, Maxwell.”
Maxwell instantly held his hand out for me to shake and smiled brightly.
“Pleasure to meet you Alpha, Beta,” I replied while shaking Maxwell’s hand, “please excuse my,” I started to say awkwardly but the Alpha held his hand up.
“Oh, please, we’ve seen it all. Don’t worry about that, dear.” He waved his hand dismissively in the air and gestured for me to step into the packhouse, “please come in and we’ll get you a drink while they unload your suitcases.”
I smiled at him as we walked inside, and he ordered some of his wolves to unload the car.
“Beta Maxwell will keep you company, for the time being, unfortunately, I cannot stay but we will catch up tomorrow morning at breakfast?” He asked and waited patiently for my answer.
What was I to do? Marcus was obviously preoccupied, and I had nowhere else to go.
“Sure, sounds great, thank you Alpha,” I answered with another curt bow and he nodded in satisfaction.
“Great. Please let Beta Maxwell know if you need anything, enjoy your evening, Melena,” he said in a friendly yet formal tone before nodding at his Beta and walking off.
“So, drinks?” Maxwell asked as soon as we were left alone in the hallway.
“Sure, lead the way,” I replied with a smile and a subtle shake of my head.
He returned my smile and gestured for me to follow him. We only walked a little while before reaching the entertainment room and found that it was completely empty. Maxwell stepped behind the well-stocked, beautifully hand sculptured wooden bar and took out two glasses from underneath the counter.
“So? What’s your poison?” He asked in a teasing tone while I sat down on the other side of the counter.
“Surprise me,” I answered with a shrug and leaned forward onto the counter with my elbows, intertwining my fingers.
“Hm, feisty, I like that,” Beta Maxwell commented and pulled a bottle of clear vodka from a nearby shelf.
I watched as he fixed us two short stubby glasses of vodka and fresh orange juice topped off with ice. It looked delicious and smelled even better.
“Cheers,” he said as he held his glass up and I clinked mine against his.
Maxwell and I started talking and found that we had many things in common. We shared the same taste in music, films and even liked the same types of food. One drink quickly turned into two, which in turn escalated to three, until we had finally lost count and Marcus still hadn’t shown up.
It was getting late, and I was starting to feel a bit lightheaded, so I asked Maxwell to show me to my room, which he did like a true gentleman. He even carried my suitcases for me, and we laughed and joked all the way there.
“So, you will check on Marcus for me, right?” I asked again after he had placed my suitcases onto a table in the corner of the room.
“Yeah, sure I will.”
“Thanks, you might want to knock first,” I teased and watched him chuckle in return.
“You know, you are really something, Melena,” Maxwell said as his laughter died down and he stepped closer to me.
“I can say the same thing to you too, mister,” I teased and pressed my index finger into his chest.
“Why aren’t you mated yet?” He asked right after and I didn’t take him seriously at all.
“I am,” I replied and saw him scrunch his brows together.
He gazed at my neck but obviously couldn’t see a mark, because Conner would never be able to mark me since he was human.
“Sure,” he replied sarcastically, and I giggled from a fit of laughter building up inside of me, probably because I had a little too much to drink.
He started laughing also and before I knew it, we were clinging onto each other in a fit of hysteria, as drunken amusement took away all our sanity. For a moment I felt so carefree and happy. I was making new friends, Marcus had found his mate, the journey so far had gone amazing, and I had the perfect man waiting for me back home, what more could a girl ever ask for?
After a while, our hysteria seemed to calm down a bit and I wiped the happy tears away with the back of my hand. Maxwell and I were still standing against each other and within seconds the atmosphere in the room shifted and he gazed down into my eyes with a strange expression on his face.
I was still smiling from our laughter and didn’t completely comprehend what was going on as I closed my eyes to take a deep calming breath. The next thing I felt was pain. An excruciating, burning pain shot through me and travelled down my spine and back up again until it concentrated in the crook of my neck. I flicked my eyes open to find Maxwell staring back at me with bewilderment and shock.
I didn’t know what was going on, but I felt like death and my heart ached like it was slowly rotting from the inside.
Maxwell’s face immediately contorted into one of guilt and I saw the slight remains of blood in the corners of his mouth.
No, no, no! Please, please no!
At once, I lifted my hand to my neck and felt the tender, fleshy opening of skin where he had just marked me.