Wolfish: Fateborne by G.K. DeRosa
Sierra’s anxietybled through the bond, her restlessness making it difficult for me to sit still. As I sat across the table from the vampire queen, Carmen Rosa, I had to clench my jaw to keep from twitching. I internally cursed my father for forcing me to come to this tedious meeting. When Sierra had found Zade’s family, I’d had to beg her not to leave immediately. I could practically picture her pacing across the small den awaiting my return. Not to mention this trip had blasted my hopes of seeing the high warlock, Garrix, about the curse.
I kept my expression complacent as the queen droned on about the troubles along the borders. The Etrian Assembly liked to pretend the vampire realm, Nocturnis, was as civilized as the others, but the truth remained that immortals were a completely different species than Fae, witches, or mermen. Trouble always seemed to abound in the vampire and demon territories, despite their rulers’ best efforts.
The darkness that ruled vampires and demons was a difficult one to constrain. All supernaturals were inherently dangerous, given our vast powers and now with the doors between human and supernatural realms open, issues were bound to occur.
“What about your hunters?” Deacon, one of the tiger alphas growled. “Aren’t they supposed to prevent these rogue vampires from crossing into our lands?”
“They are, and they do,” the queen replied, her porcelain skin a mask of calm. “Believe me, if they weren’t around, you’d be collecting more than a handful of bodies in feline lands.”
The huge tiger’s neck snapped back, his emerald eyes widening. “If these new vampires are so uncontrollable, why don’t you ban their making?”
A wave of muttered agreements rolled across the long table.
“I can’t hinder my race from creating more of us. As you all know, we do not procreate in the normal sense. Per Azarian law, vampires are forbidden from turning another creature against their will, but if they consent, I refuse to deny them.”
“And what of the academies?” Lucien asked. “Isn’t that where all new vampires are to learn how to control their bloodlust?”
“They are, and they do.” A sharp sigh expelled through her deep ruby lips. “Unfortunately, some slip past.”
“And make their way directly into Marlwoods,” another alpha I didn’t recognize growled. “To kill and turn our kind.”
This meeting wasn’t going anywhere. They’d been arguing over the same point for hours. I was certain Tyrien had sent me here as punishment. The only upside was that I’d finally had the chance to meet Carmen Rosa in person, well, as an adult anyway. The vampire queen had been the head of the immortals for nearly a century, but you’d never know by her perfectly preserved features. She was a striking Spanish beauty with jet black hair, sharp, high cheekbones, and cunning and intelligence only gleaned with age.
There was a reason she sat the throne of Nocturnis for as long as she had. She glanced up at me as if reading my thoughts, her dark chocolate eyes piercing. She regarded me with less disdain than I’d seen her throw at my father. Lucien, on the other hand, she seemed to like. She was one of the few outsiders that knew about the special Lunar packs. In fact according to rumors, it was Carmen Rosa’s bloodline from which the Royal wolves drew their vampiric abilities.
“I’ll tighten security along the borders as discussed, and I’ll double the presence of the hunters. We have a new batch joining us soon. I’ve heard there are quite a few new recruits with excellent potential. We’ll meet again next month to discuss the continuing situation.” She rose, and her two vampire guards mirrored her movements. With a subtle head nod, she dismissed us all.
Most of the alphas grumbled their goodbyes before filing out of the great hall. Lucien turned toward the exit, but I halted him, ticking my head toward the queen. “I need a minute. I’ll meet you outside.” I eyed the doorway that led into the castle’s atrium, but Lucien stayed put. “I need to speak to the queen in private,” I hissed.
With a nonchalant shrug, he headed toward the door. I didn’t have high hopes he wouldn’t listen into our conversation. His supernatural senses would likely extend into the chamber even if he did wait in the corridor.
Steeling my nerves, I marched toward the ageless queen. Her two guards stepped in front of her as I approached, fangs sliding from beneath their upper lips. “Your highness, I was hoping to have a word.”
Her keen eyes sharpened as they narrowed. Some said the queen could read minds, a very unique trait amongst only the oldest and most powerful of vampires. In case it was more than just rumor, I cleared my head of all thoughts.
“Aristaeus, son of the supreme alpha, Tyrien Silverstalker, correct?”
I nodded and bent slightly at the waist before meeting her gaze once more. “I only wanted to say hello and introduce myself. As supreme alpha heir, I hope to take over my father’s position in the near future.”
“How soon?” Her dark eyes glittered in delight. “I understand the Alpha Trials have nearly reached their culmination.”
A chuckle slid through my clenched teeth. “That is correct. I hope that with the end of the competition, new leaders will emerge.”
“That is welcome news, Aristaeus.” She studied me, her predatory gaze moving over every inch of me. Perhaps, she could read minds. “If there is anything I can do to help the process along, please don’t hesitate to ask.”
“Thank you and you as well. Once the trials are over, I’d be happy to send some of my wolves to the border to help. We all need to work together, after all.”
“Rightly so, young alpha. And congratulations to you, I understand you’re newly mated. I’ve heard very interesting tales of your female counterpart.”
Heat surged up my neck, and I fought back the urge to growl. How much did she know about Sierra? And more importantly who’d told her?
Her cold hand closed around my forearm, and her lips curled into a knowing smile. “Don’t worry, Aristaeus, you have nothing to fear from me. I pose no threat to your mate. I only pride myself on being aware of all that occurs within the leading houses of the realm.”
I forced my mouth into a tight smile. “Of course. I look forward to seeing you again soon.” With a quick dip of my head, I turned on my heel. Well, that hadn’t gone as I’d planned. I was supposed to be the one manipulating her and instead, she’d had the upper hand from the start.
At least I’d determined one thing, she wasn’t a fan of my father and that was crucial. If I hoped to steal the supreme alpha throne right from under his nose, I’d need all the support I could get from the other heads of the Etrian Assembly. I’d be joining their ranks soon.
As I stalked toward the door, Lucien poked his head through the entryway. “How’d it go with Carmen Rosa, Aristaeus?”
“Just great, thanks for your concern, Lucien.”
He moved in step with me as we traversed the old stone corridors. Royal Castle had served as the seat for the ruler of Nocturnis for centuries. You could feel its age within the cold stone walls, the secrets they kept, the hundreds of vampires that had come and gone. A chill tiptoed up my spine.
“Carmen Rosa is a valuable ally,” the Royal whispered. “Especially if you’re planning on making a play for your father’s throne.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about, Lucien. I’m trying to focus on the Alpha Trials.”
He scoffed. “We all know Sierra will come out the winner. You’ll see to it, I’m sure. From the looks of it, you have your eyes set on a bigger prize.”
“I’m in no hurry to fill the less than desirable shoes of the supreme alpha, Lucien.”
“That’s a shame. I feel the desire for change is near. With the resurgence of the Mystics, it’s time for Tyrien to back down, either willingly or by force.” He regarded me from the corner of his eye, but I kept my expression neutral. “Where there is one Mystic wolf, there are surely more.”
I halted in the middle of the corridor and spun at him, throwing my shoulders back and allowing my beta power to trickle into the space between us. “You keep saying that, and now I’m wondering if you know more than what you’ve led us to believe.” I probed into his mind, but the old vampire hybrid held a firm wall around his thoughts.
He shrugged nonchalantly. “I’m only saying if it were true, perhaps it was time to let the wolf out of the closet.”
My pulse accelerated, and I drew in a deep breath to slow its erratic pace. With Lucien’s vampire hearing, he’d know I was hiding something. “Thank you for your unsolicited advice. I’ll be sure to keep it in mind should the issue arise. For now, Sierra is the only Mystic in Moon Valley.”
“Perhaps you need to search beyond Moon Valley then.” He smirked and nodded at the portal just outside the walls of Royal Castle. “Shall we?”
“You go ahead. I’m meeting a friend before my return home.”
He dipped his head into a mock bow and turned heel. “It’ll do you well to remember to keep your friends close and your enemies closer, Aristaeus,” he called out over his shoulder before he vamp-sped away.
Lucien knew there were more wolves, but the question was, did he know about Braxton or something more?