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_I pull the edge of the curtain slowly back from the window and peer out onto the street. It’s getting dark out, the moon illuminating the deserted sidewalk. To any other eye, the scene might appear innocuous – peaceful even._

_Everyone’s doors are closed, their curtains drawn. Their gates are locked and their kids are safely inside. But everyone is on high alert, like they are every night…_

 

Alpha Kaden by Midika Crane is now available to read on the Galatea app! Read the first two chapters below, or download Galatea for the full experience.

 


 

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1

MARA

I pull the edge of the curtain slowly back from the window and peer out onto the street.

It’s getting dark, the moon illuminating the deserted sidewalk.

To any other eye, the scene might appear innocuous—peaceful even. Everyone’s doors are closed, their curtains drawn. Their gates are locked and their kids are safely inside.

But everyone is on high alert, like they are every night.

I sigh deeply, my breath fogging up the glass in front of me.

I rub it with my sleeve so that I can see again. Except there is nothing to see.

There never is, because, unlike in other packs, all life on the streets ceases at night here.

Why? Because my werewolf pack, the Purity Pack, is afraid of the Vengeance Pack.

Not precisely the Vengeance Pack, perhaps, but their leader, Alpha Kaden.

For the past twenty years he has been destroying the balance we had established between equality and riotousness within our pack.

He stole everything. Especially our freedom.

Our pack isn’t loved by other wolves.

It is situated centrally in the Pack Quarter, on the cooler side of the equator.

Surrounded by a thick wall meant to keep us safe, we are protected in our small world of religion and peace.

Kaden disrupts our world when he invades our territory.

He has kidnapped many innocent girls from our pack.

No one knows what has happened to them, but many think he kills them or sells them to his pack members, who have earned equal disgrace in the eyes of the Purity Pack.

Perhaps he makes a business out of it. We don’t know for sure. He also kills our criminals.

Anyone who breaks the law is the Discipline Pack’s business.

But anyone who kills is Alpha Kaden’s business. He has made that obvious.

“Mara, get away from there!”

My mother pulls me back from the window by my shoulder.

I stumble backward as my mother angrily closes the curtain again.

She turns to me, hands on her hips.

I love my mother, but sometimes she can be way too protective.

She has lived her life believing in only one thing: the Moon is our savior, and always will be.

She believes the Goddess controls everything that we do and decides our futures through some type of unknowable magic.

Despite growing up in this pack, I don’t believe in it. I respect it though.

In school, they taught us a little chant to keep the fear of Alpha Kaden alive in us:

Lock your doors, seal them tight.

Close your curtains, every night.

Don’t look out, in case he’s there.

Always live in total fear.

Even if it means sacrificing your mate,

Don’t let Alpha Kaden seal your fate.

Even my mother condones it.

“Mother, it’s fine,” I assure her. “No one saw me.”

She sighs and runs a hand across her face. Stress is etched into her aging features.

She doesn’t know how to deal with me sometimes—especially when I decide to go against her strict rules.

I don’t mean to do it, but my incessant curiosity keeps tempting me.

“Our neighbors might have seen you,” she persists. “You know what they say in church about you, Mara. They act like I’m a terrible mother.”

I roll my eyes.

“And what if Kaden saw you?” she asks sternly.

“Well, I wouldn’t know if Kaden saw me because I don’t know what he looks like,” I retort, my voice rising.

Mother narrows her eyes at me.

She hates the thought of me knowing anything about Kaden.

His appearance is still unknown to me. He could walk by me in the street, and I would be completely oblivious.

Mother won’t tell me anything, but I gather fragments from girls at school.

On a good day, I might find out whether he has killed or not.

Sometimes, when it is just Mother and Father awake, I sneak down to listen in on their conversations. That is how I found out about girls going missing around the town.

“Mara, please. Don’t be difficult,” Mother begs, exasperated.

I fold my arms over my chest.

To say I am sick of being holed up every night is an understatement.

I have given up on seeing friends on Friday nights.

I’m a hop, skip, and a jump away from graduating, but that doesn’t mean my mother’s rules will be relaxed.

She’ll probably just double down on finding me a mate.

Finding our mate when we are young is essential within our culture.

The amount of young males I’ve shaken hands with in the past month is ridiculous.

“Everything okay in here?” I turn as I hear the font door open and my father walks in from outside.

It has been raining outside, yet I don’t remember noticing that when I was looking out the window.

He takes off his soaking wet coat and lays it on the kitchen table.

Our house isn’t very big, which makes spending most of my time in it even worse.

My parents abide by the simple life the Moon Goddess would want.

I’m not one for materialistic luxuries, but sometimes I do feel a little deprived.

“Nothing—”

“I caught our daughter peeking out the window again,” my mother tells him, cutting me off.

I glare at her. She always seems to be getting me into trouble with Father.

My father frowns at me.

“Kaden isn’t going to be out there,” I protest. “You’re overreacting when you say he might be.”

I see my father’s gaze switch to my mother.

He motions with his head for her to leave because he knows how easily she and I argue.

When she’s gone, he leads me over to the couch so that we can sit down.

“You know the neighbor’s daughter? Mandy, is it?”

“Milly,” I correct him.

Father nods. “Kaden took her last week. He stole her right out of her bed, and she hasn’t been seen since.”

I feel my eyes widen.

Milly? She is a year older than me, and many times more attractive.

The fact that she has been selected to be a part of whatever business Kaden is doing doesn’t surprise me in the slightest.

“Why are you telling me this?” I ask him.

I like to be in the know, but I didn’t expect my father to want that too.

“I’m worried he might take you. Every morning I’m scared to walk into your room in case I find that he has stolen you during the night.”

I shake my head at him. The likelihood of me being taken is slim.

If he’s taken another girl from my neighborhood, that should mean he won’t be back here for another one for at least a month.

It’s the kind of game he likes to play with people.

He lulls us into a false sense of security, until he changes his pattern and shocks us all into confusion.

Father takes my hand in his and looks me in the eye.

Is he going to make me pray? “We all wonder why he does it, Mara. I promise you, we will figure it out, and stop him as soon as possible.”

He squeezes my hand slightly.

Father runs our local church, which leads me to believe his ability to stop Kaden isn’t that great.

The man we are so scared of is an alpha of a pack that is notorious for its lack of mercy.

After the Great War that scattered the packs across the land, new forms of society and codes of morality were adopted.

Named after our core beliefs, each pack was supposed to keep the peace with its neighbors, and the system proved successful for many centuries.

However, with all packs being founded on fairness and equality, it only took one pack to step out of line to destroy the tranquility of all.

That was the Vengeance Pack.

“Everything will be fine,” I assure him. “Alpha Rylan will sort things out eventually.”

That makes my father smile. Rylan is our only hope to end this suffering. If he can’t do it, we have no chance.

I retreat and decide to go straight to bed.

When I enter the room, I am hit by the cold. It isn’t usually this chilly.

I switch on my light and look to see where the cold is coming from.

The space is small, with a simple closet, desk, and bed. Nothing too flashy or extravagant.

The source of the chill is pretty obvious: my window is wide open. It’s never open like that. Ever.

My mother would kill me if she saw that my curtain was pulled back at night.

I would surely be grounded if she found out.

When I was younger, she even started escorting me back from school after I stayed out to play with my friends till the sun was setting one time.

Warily, I go to the window.

I can hear the patter of heavy rain on the road outside.

There’s a storm picking up, accompanied by the distant rumble of thunder. The sooner I close the window, the better.

I quickly shut the window and turn back to my room.

A sudden burst of rain hits the glass, making me jump in alarm. I have always hated thunder and lightning…

I just need to calm down and go to sleep, I tell myself as I pull the curtains closed. I am letting this Milly situation get to me.

I pull my hair tie off and enter my ensuite bathroom. Maybe if I shower, I can wash all this anxiety away.

I turn the water to extra hot and strip off all my clothes.

As I step under the showerhead, I am transported to another world—a world where I don’t have to listen to other people’s rules all the time.

Where my parents don’t dictate every decision I make.

I rest my head against the tiles.

“Maybe I am destined for the Freedom Pack,” I murmur to myself. “A pack where I can do whatever I want.”

I’m just thinking how stupid I probably sound when a shadow flits across my vision.

I jerk my head up, surprised. I peer out of the shower and look around cautiously.

Nothing.

I am feeling even more ridiculous now.

I get out of the shower, turning the water off after me.

As I wrap my towel around my body, I try to dismiss all paranoid thoughts.

The shadow was probably just a figment of my imagination. I am known to have a strong one.

Kaden really isn’t someone who usually influences my imagination.

I’m fully aware of the threat he poses to me and my family, but I can’t bring myself to fear him in normal circumstances.

Yet tonight, for some reason, the chill dancing down my spine confounds my assumptions.

Wearing just my towel, I stand in front of the mirror and inspect myself.

I look pretty much like every other Purity Pack member.

My hair looks brown when it is wet, but it is actually a muted blonde.

My blue eyes are duller than most people’s maybe.

My skin is paler, and my cheeks have hardly any color at all.

These must be the reasons why no boy has wanted to date me. There are always better options.

I still love myself, though. I have no other choice.

A loud crash of thunder from outside makes me squeal with fright.

I thank the Moon Goddess that the curtains block out the full brightness of the lightning.

I dry myself and go back into my room, where I change quickly into my night things.

Then I turn the lights out and hop straight into bed, with the covers pulled right up to my chin.

I just want to sleep this storm away and carry on tomorrow without any Kaden plaguing my thoughts.

But the more I try to get comfortable in bed, the harder it seems to banish him from my mind.

My inner vision is clouded by strange shadows.

I am about to doze off to the sound of the rain splattering against my window when I feel a hand slap over my mouth.

I have never been taught self-defense, and any idea of what to do deserts me.

I swing my arms wildly, but find myself in someone’s firm and unfamiliar grasp.

I struggle as hard as I can while screaming into the hand, even though the sound is muffled.

I kick as I am pulled up and out of my bed. I feel someone applying pressure to my neck, and for a second I think I am about to die of strangulation.

Well, I won’t go without a fight!

My legs are the only weapons that I have.

I lash out, trying to connect with my captor’s ankles. But each time I miss and meet only air with my bare feet.

“Settle down. Everything will be over soon.”

That soft, male voice is the last thing I hear before I black out completely.

 

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2

MARA

I feel myself coming to, and my eyes blink open.

However, I am immersed in darkness, which throws me off-balance for a moment.

Pain lances through the back of my head, slicing across my vision in an array of bright colors.

Where am I?

I can tell that I am tied to something, and the bonds I’m secured with are digging into my wrists. I take a deep breath, trying to gather my wits.

The pain is immense, but there is little point dwelling on it.

I have been kidnapped. I know that much.

By whom, and why, I can’t quite grasp yet.

I have an idea of who has done this, but I don’t want to think about it.

If I have been captured by…him…it is too horrific to contemplate.

All my biggest fears are being realized, and it seems there is nothing I can possibly do about it.

Despite the dark, I know I am sitting on a chair, in a cold room.

I try to concentrate on my surroundings, but my inner wolf is twitching.

I sense there is someone watching me.

I pull at the restraints a little harder, but it is hopeless.

I am stuck fast, with even my feet tied to the legs of the chair. There is no getting myself free, so I must wait.

Perhaps if I remain calm, I’ll think of a way to get out of here.

Then I detect footsteps. I freeze, cringing. There is someone in this room with me. Right now. The footsteps confirm it.

I don’t struggle, I just remain still.

I listen closely to the footsteps, trying to gauge where the sound is coming from and where this person is in the room.

Whoever it is, they are close to me. I can feel it, and hear it.

I breathe in deeply and close my eyes.

I consider saying something, but just saying something won’t get me out of here.

Whoever has kidnapped me has a reason… I just need to find out what that reason is.

I like to think that I am quite smart. I have always been the one in the pack to consider things before I do them.

Now, however, all I can do is worry frantically about what will get me out of the clutches of my kidnapper.

A thick silence fills the room.

The footsteps have ceased, and I feel my heart start to pick up the pace again.

Having my senses toyed with like this is making me feel more than a little ill.

Being kidnapped right out of my bed was terrifying, but the knowledge that someone is there, watching me, and I can’t see them…I want to throw up.

I feel terribly isolated; the unbearable quiet weighs down on my shoulders.

“Lock your doors,” a soft voice whispers in my left ear.

I jump, twisting my head around to see who is behind me, but only see a black void.

The voice is shockingly unfamiliar.

“Shut them tight,” the voice whispers again, this time in my right ear.

The voice belongs to a man. It’s soft and raspy, like nothing I have heard before.

Whoever this kidnapper might be, I don’t know him. At least, not personally.

“Close your windows,” the voice resumes, this time right in front of my face. “Every night.”

I struggle in my bonds, squeezing my eyes shut.

Fear has exploded and consumed my entire body, chasing away all former reason, until I am left with nothing but the desire to escape.

A finger is dragged down my cheek.

It’s a soft feeling, but there’s pressure behind it. It feels like the touch of a slick leather glove.

“Don’t go out, in case he’s there,” the voice continues, sounding farther away now.

I want to scream in terror. I want to lash out. I want to run.

But I am petrified. I can’t move. I doubt I could even if I was standing up with no restraints.

The footsteps draw closer until they stop right in front of me.

My stomach plummets into the soles of my feet.

This man, whoever he is, could kill me in a heartbeat. He could kill me and I couldn’t do anything to stop him.

“Always live in total fear.”

I gasp as I feel his warm breath against my face. He is undeniably close to me.

Suddenly, through all my fright, it dawns on me what he is chanting.

This soft, terrifying, melodic voice is reciting the exact poem that has been drilled into my head by my parents and teachers over the years.

“Even if it means sacrificing your mate,” the voice drawls, though now coming from behind me.

I can feel his breath on my neck, fanning across my shivering skin.

Then I become aware that the bonds on my arms are being cut loose.

I am stunned and can’t think of how to react.

“Don’t let Alpha Kaden seal your fate…”

I bend down, my clammy fingers struggling to untie the thick knots around my ankles.

My only wish is to get out of here as soon as I can, from whoever is in this room messing with me.

No doubt he’s enjoying seeing me struggle for survival, but I am not about to give him any more satisfaction.

Once both knots are untied, I jump up and try to move away, my hands outstretched in case I hit a wall.

I still can’t see a thing, but fear that if I don’t move quickly I will surely meet an unfortunate end.

I find a wall soon enough.

The wallpaper feels velvety under my fingertips compared to the cold, hard concrete underneath my feet.

I rest my forehead against it, trying to get my bearings.

“You can’t escape something you can’t see,” the man’s voice says from right behind me.

This time I do scream. A loud, shrill scream as I lash my hands out. But there’s nothing there.

Am I going crazy?

I stumble to the right, keeping my hand on the wall.

I must find a way out of here. The laughter coming from the other end of the room is giving me a headache.

“Is this a game?” I shriek.

I’m not sure if my kidnapper can even see me.

He must be able to, I reason, if he knows where I am all the time.

Of course, this is a game—a sick, twisted game run by an equally sick and twisted man.

I keep going till I feel the glassy surface of a windowpane underneath my hand.

A burst of hope floods through me, but I have to think.

My kidnapper would never let me take an easy exit like this. There’s probably a catch.

But that’s a risk I must take. I have no other choice.

I bang my hands against the glass, but it doesn’t smash. It just bends and flexes under my repeated blows.

I fall to my knees. “Why am I here?” I ask to the air.

Just as the words leave my mouth, a light flickers on, blinding me.

I cover my eyes till they can adjust. I’ve been so long in the dark.

After blinking a few times I begin to see what’s around me.

The room I’m in is larger than I expected. The chair I just escaped from is right in the middle.

And on that chair sits a man.

I can’t see much of him. He’s wearing some sort of hood that shadows his face.

The rest of his clothes are all black leather, but I can still see that he’s a big man, with a powerful frame.

Seeing my kidnapper for the first time in front of me like this is unnerving. I am hideously afraid, but I also have the urge to run at him and attack him.

He lounges comfortably, twirling a piece of rope in his gloved hands.

The same rope, I presume, that was used to keep me bound to the chair.

“You want to know why I only ever take girls from the Purity Pack?” he asks.

His voice is soft and smooth, yet I hear every word. I ignore his question and ask my own.

“Are you Alpha Kaden?”

“My reputation precedes me,” he cackles. “But you’re a smart girl. Answer my question. Why do I target Purity Pack girls?”

I don’t have time to think up a clever response, so I blurt out the first thing that comes to mind.

“Because you’re a coward.”

He gives an amused chuckle, then tosses the rope casually over his shoulder and stands.

I watch nervously as he approaches, his gait suggesting he’s almost floating across the floor, his steps are so soft. I back myself as far into the wall as possible.

“This has nothing to do with being a coward. And before you ask, this is not a vendetta against your alpha. He is a rather pleasant man,” he tells me.

He’s standing over me now, his head tilted down toward me. But I still can’t see past the shadow that masks his face.

He folds his hands across his front.

“I hate pleasant.” He kneels in front of me, to get on the same level, and my breath catches in my throat.

I hate it that he’s anywhere near me.

And I hate not having the guts to lash out and hurt him.

“I kidnap girls from the Purity Pack because they are weak, pathetic, and believe in some bullshit being that lives in the sky,” he tells me.

So there it is. Somehow, I expected no less from him. I give him my hardest glare, despite my fear.

“Well, I find it amusing,” he responds, laughing.

I want to slap him for saying such things, but I’m not even sure if he has a face. And that scares me the most.

“So, what… Am I your pet now? Or are you going to sell me off to one of your other desperate pack members?” I demand angrily.

I have never wanted to hurt someone as much as I want to hurt this man.

How could he do this to me? Or anyone else for that matter?

He’s stolen my life before I’ve even had the chance to live it.

“You’re not going to share the same fate as those other girls. Rest assured, you will not even see my pack, like they have. No, I have a different proposition to make.”

He says this slowly, as if I have a choice in the matter.

“I have been watching you for some time now,” he says. “I know you aren’t normally afraid of me.” He brings his hands together. “Though maybe you are right now…”

I decide to go for it. I launch myself at him, trying to hurt him in some way.

But he just grabs me before I can do anything.

My skin makes contact with his leather for several long seconds as he holds me by the wrists, then he tosses me effortlessly from him like I am a piece of trash.

I land hard on the ground and curl up in pain.

“You’re feisty,” he remarks dryly. “Are you sure you’re from the Purity Pack?”

I remain hunched on the ground, nursing my injuries.

“What you need to understand,” he tells me patiently, “is that I am an alpha, and you are my game. I am not yours.”

Is he setting ground rules? Am I being warned not to try anything like that again?

If I wasn’t at his complete and utter mercy, I would attempt another attack on him right now to show him what I think of that.

I still have a voice though.

“I will not be your slave,” I growl.

He laughs.

Kaden laughs… I am in the presence of the deadliest alpha in the world.

He hasn’t shown mercy to anyone, so why would he show mercy toward me?

“Your fate shall be a little more interesting than that of a slave,” he murmurs.

He comes back over to me and holds his hand out.

I don’t want to take it, but I know that if I don’t he might do something bad to me.

I let him pull me to a standing position.

He’s over a head taller than me, yet I still can’t see under his hood.

All I see is shadow, a darkness I already yearn to light a flame under.

“I would like you to meet someone special,” he says.

He claps his hands together, and I back away as a set of doors on the far side of the room opens.

If I’d gone the other way in the dark I might have found them and been able to escape. Whatever is on the other side of them, it can only be better than this.

A younger-looking man walks in with quite a swagger.

He has dozens of scars and scratches on his bare arms, and some on his face.

The pattern and number of claws had to have come from another wolf, no doubt about it.

Everything about him clearly indicates he’s another member of the Vengeance Pack.

I can tell by the wicked look in his dark eyes that I will get no help or sympathy there.

He looks as though he’s been beaten, or fallen from a great height. He even hobbles a little.

“Mara, I would like you to meet my brother. Kace.”

 

Read the full uncensored books on the Galatea iOS app!

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