Everyone disregards Daisy as weak because of her kind nature and position as the head healer of the West Coast Pack. But when she finds her mate is the last person she would’ve expected, she has to gather all her strength, or else her shot at mating will be lost.
Age Rating: 18+
My eyes darted around anxiously as I made my way through the vendors, my hand resting on the gun I had tucked in the belt of my jeans.
I was itching to pull it out, for pure self-defense.
I might be a healer, and hurting people would break a certain part of me, but even I would have no trouble putting a bullet through a threat’s head.
Breathing heavily, I hoped I didn’t stink of fear. The last thing I needed was a group of rabid males sniffing me out and making trouble.
Nobody knew I was here today, and nobody knew that I’d been coming here once a week for the past few months.
Because if anyone ever got even a hint that I was doing this, I would be in some deep shit.
The head healer of West Coast Pack shouldn’t be going to an underground information market.
The market was called the Red Market, and it existed particularly for vampires and vampyres, both Born and Made, who wanted to purchase the blood-replacement pills called R21.
I’d known about this market even before Eve, the Alpha of the Millennium’s mate—and a vampire herself—had told the inner circle about it.
And by inner circle, I meant the Millennium Wolves.
Thankfully, Daphne, my little sister, had shared it secretly with me. But little did Daphne know what I did with the information.
You see, the Red Market was believed by all blood-suckers to sell only pills and many types of illegal blood, from werewolf blood to some superhero-human kind of blood.
Everyone had their own taste, it seemed.
But the market also sold information at a high price, and the brokers weren’t particular about who or what came to them to find information—as long as they brought something of value with them.
Either money or a certain antiquity worth millions.
I settled sometimes on money, since I got paid a lot in my occupation as the head healer. I was responsible for all healers across the West Coast Pack territory.
But mostly I’d dealt with an entirely different thing, much more valuable than plain old dollars.
Daphne had said that Eve thought the Red Market moved randomly from place to place, but I knew for a fact it didn’t.
After Daphne had disclosed the information to me, I did some research—something Eve probably hadn’t bothered with.
I’d used my limited hacking abilities to find a pirate forum on the net, where I’d found a newsfeed as to where the next market was going to be held.
Since I couldn’t move from my post in Lumen, Oregon, I’d hoped it would be somewhere close.
After two weeks of simply following the newsfeed, I managed to figure it out.
It wasn’t hard, really—the Market began its tour in Europe, moving through Paris, Amsterdam, London, Rome, and Istanbul.
Then it fled to Asia, then South America, then North America.
In North America, the Market was usually in places like Wyoming or Montana, which weren’t heavily populated.
But for the past few months, they’d begun putting it up in Eugene, Oregon, instead.
And Eugene was only a couple of hours' drive away from Lumen.
It had been there once a week since November, and I’d been going there every time it was in town, driving the bike I’d bought just for this little mission of mine.
Tonight, the Market was in an abandoned underground parking lot.
I hadn’t even known such a thing as an abandoned parking lot existed, but apparently you learned new things every day.
And now here I was, walking among the booths and stalls, trying to avoid eye contact with any of the bloodsuckers as I searched for Fred, the information broker I usually worked with.
When I’d researched the newsfeed before the first time I’d come here, his name had popped up as one of the best and fairest brokers out there.
The newsfeed hadn’t lied.
I found Fred sitting on a chair at his usual spot, sipping blood from a glass of wine.
He was a vampire, one of the Made, and unlike most vampires, Fred didn’t belong to a House—a sort of community for vampires, led by the one who had Imprinted them.
By Imprinted, I mean of course, turning them into immortal leeches.
Instead, Fred was a rogue, a vampire left to fend for himself. He would be left alone, as long as he didn’t break the general vampiric rules.
Fred eyed me with eyes gone neon-blue from his latest high of drinking blood. I gulped and walked forward, looking around to make sure no one was paying attention to me.
While their senses were as sharp as a wolf’s, most vampires weren’t skilled enough to distinguish a werewolf’s scent from all the other vampiric scents, especially in a crowded area.
Still, I’d rather be paranoid than be caught off guard.
“Daisy Luxford,” Fred murmured, blatantly checking me out as I grabbed a reluctant seat in front of him. “You’re as delectable as always, pretty lass.”
I tried not to scrunch my face in disgust and failed. “Stop leering at my legs, Fred,” I said, shifting jumpily in my seat.
“They’re pretty good legs,” he mumbled, letting his eyes travel north until they landed on mine.
His neon-blue put my own blue eyes to shame.
“My offer still stands, beautiful,” he smirked.
His “offer” was to be my lover for the upcoming mating season, which would hit the world in about a month.
The season’s exact timing wasn’t exactly accurate, but both Eve and Raphael felt it when the season was near, and I tended to believe them.
Immortals were rarely wrong about things like that.
“My answer is still a resounding no,” I said, then decided to get down to business.
Fred could go on and on about having sex with me, but I’d dealt with his kind of offers ever since I turned sixteen, and I’d had enough.
I was twenty-three now, for God’s sake.
“Fred,” I said, giving him a persistent look. “Have you found what I asked of you?”
Fred sighed and leaned back in his chair. “About that Webb Montgomery fella? Not a lot.”
He cocked his head, giving me a different look, one I regarded as his “broker look.”
“I’ve checked with all of my contacts, but despite the fact that they all told me he was dead, there wasn’t much to find out about him.”
I grimaced. “I only need to know if he was a werewolf or not. It’s not that hard to find out.”
“Unfortunately, something very weird is going on with that Webb bloke,” Fred said, shrugging. “Someone made sure no one could reach the truly juicy information about that man. I have a suspicion, but it’s more of an intuition, really.”
I’d been trying to find everything I could about Webb Montgomery.
Even before I found the name, I’d asked Fred to search for any man—werewolf or human or whatnot—who’d ventured into the West Coast Pack territory without permission.
It had taken him three months to narrow the list down to twenty men, all of whom fit the description I wanted—the times and dates and so on.
I’d then asked Fred to find everything he could on all twenty men.
After three more months, he found out everything—but about only nineteen of them.
The one left was Webb, and the only thing he’d found out about him was that he was dead and buried somewhere in the Mexico Pack territory.
Now it had been six months, almost seven, since I’d started the research about the man who’d appeared in the West Coast Pack territory twenty-three years ago.
And I was getting desperate. So I told Fred, “Your intuition is better than this stupid dead end. Tell me.”
Fred studied me for a few moments before nodding. “I have a feeling our little dead friend is not a werewolf,” he said, pausing to sip his blood before continuing.
“I also believe that he wasn’t human, either. And, if you really want my honest, humble opinion…”
His eyes flashed, “I think he might be one of that secret group—the one we vampyres aren’t really supposed to know about.”
My lips pursed. “Are you talking about the Hunters?”
He grinned. “Bingo.”
I was stunned. I hadn’t considered the Divine Hunters.
They were a mysterious group that believed werewolves to be unnatural and fought them guerrilla-style in order to kill as many as they could.
Could they be involved in this? My gut instinct told me that it wasn’t true.
The Hunters hadn’t been involved in what happened twenty-three years ago. At least not as a group.
But one of the Hunters, perhaps…
“Can you search into it?” I asked him, almost pleading. “I know the Hunters keep a low profile, but if Webb belonged to them and they buried him, there must be something there.”
I bit my lip, thinking. “Try to find out if Webb was religious, maybe even Jewish. The Jewish people are known for having their own rules regarding burials and memorials. So do other religions.”
Fred frowned. “I’ll try, but as I said, I can’t promise anything. Now, that’s all I found out.”
He grinned. “Payment, please.”
I grimaced again. This was the part of getting information in the Red Market that I didn’t understand and disliked immensely.
They usually didn’t want plain money. In Fred’s case, money was just paper he didn’t need.
Instead, he wanted blood. Powerful blood. Most specifically magical blood.
And I lived in the Pack House, with abnormalities like Eve, Raphael, and their daughter Snow.
Even Reyna Morgan, a would-be-queen of a Born vampiric bloodline who had started emitting a sense of unusual power.
Magical blood was easy to come by.
Of course, if Eve or Raphael figured out what I was doing, they would kill me.
But I was getting really desperate, enough that the wrath of two immortal, powerful beings was not my biggest issue anymore.
I slid my backpack off and unzipped it. From inside, I pulled out a nylon bag with crimson blood inside.
“This belonged to the same source,” I said flatly. He snatched the bag from me and pulled it open, sniffing the blood.
He shivered in blunt ecstasy. “Mana,” he murmured, sounding drunk. “All week I’ve been waiting for you to come to me and bring me this.”
This blood belonged to Snow Knox, an immortal sixteen-year-old who was the only living being in the world that was fueled by mana.
Mana, according to Claire—the only necromancer werewolf in the world, and the mate of Zachary Greyson, the Beta of the Millennium—was a form of magic usually found only in magical objects.
It was not a good kind of magic, and whenever Claire talked about it she seemed to cringe.
Mana ruffled her fur the wrong way. But for vampyres, mana-soaked blood was apparently like nectar.
Snow didn’t know that when she visited the healers every week for a checkup, I only needed a pint of her blood, and not a full bag, in order to check that everything was okay with her.
The rest of it I saved for Fred, who always emptied the bag when I gave it to him, so that not a drop was left.
It was a condition of mine; the last thing I wanted was for Snow’s secret to come out because Fred was foolish enough to leave behind even a hint of her blood.
Now, Fred swallowed the blood until nothing remained in the bag, then threw it away.
“Thanks for the meal,” he said, winking at me.
I gulped hard, trying not to think about what Eve would do to me if she discovered what I’d been doing for the past few months, and rose to my feet.
“Keep looking into what I asked of you,” I said, trying to sound firm.
But my nervousness returned and my eyes began to swivel to look around me, to make sure no one was spying on us.
“Hey, Luxford?” Fred suddenly stood and stepped forward so that he was close to me. “Why are you trying so hard to figure out a dead man’s past?”
That was a first for Fred. He’d never broached the subject about my intentions to find out who Webb Montgomery truly was.
I looked into his luminous eyes and simply said, “I suspect that he’s done something irrevocable, something that even death couldn’t pay for.”
Fred didn’t expect my dryness, and gave a short nod before stepping back and leaving me be.
Gathering my backpack, I pulled it on and made my escape from the Red Market.
As I rode my bike from Eugene to Lumen, in the Deschutes National Forest, my mind wandered back to Webb.
My obsession with finding out about him—not Webb in general but the man he was supposed to be—had started a few years ago, when I was sixteen.
Gabriel Fernandez had challenged the previous alpha—who’d been one cruel son of a bitch—and won, becoming the alpha of the West Coast Pack.
After Gabe became the alpha, he had taken Zavier Greyson to be his beta.
And since both Daphne and I had shown strong healing abilities, he decided to have one of us as his head healer.
Then the Alpha of the Millennium had come. Gabe had claimed they were brothers, but while there were some similarities, it was obviously not the case.
But Gabe was the descendant of one of Raphael’s brothers, so they were sort of related.
Anyway, Rafe already had Zachary—Zavier’s younger, stronger brother—as a Beta, and he had Shade as his Gamma.
He had been searching for a healer for his crew.
So Gabe had told him about Daphne and me, and both of us had been required to take a healing test, to determine which of us was stronger.
Daphne had been only fourteen back then, and while she said she didn’t care who was stronger among us, and went with the One True Alpha on his adventures, I could see she truly wanted it.
I was the older one, the responsible one, and I knew what had to be done.
Healing abilities usually reached their full potential in a werewolf when they turned ten, but mine had already been fully fledged when I was only five.
I knew I was stronger than Daphne, knew I was one of the strongest werewolf healers to ever exist, but I didn’t want to be part of the Millennium Wolves if it caused her jealousy.
Daphne was important to me, and losing her over this kind of thing was not acceptable.
So I’d blown the test. Daphne won the position as the Healer of the Millennium, and I became the head healer of the West Coast Pack. It was enough for me.
After Daphne got accepted into the Millennium Wolves and began traveling with them, I’d gone back to our parents’ house to visit.
When I’d arrived, my mother was in tears, and my father was kicking everything in his way.
I’d been dumbstruck to find them like that; it was so out of character. Lyra and Cyrus Luxford were usually a level-headed, laid-back, mated couple.
My mother, coming from a family of healers, was exceptionally chilled out.
But that day they were a mess. They’d been drinking, and they broke down.
When they saw me standing there, they took their anger out on me.
They’d told me it was my fault that Daphne left home when she was barely fourteen, that it was my fault I didn’t protect her.
It didn’t matter how much I tried to tell them she was safest with Raphael Fernandez, that she had wanted it, but they didn’t listen.
Then my mother had let it slip that I wasn’t who I thought I was. I’d been crying by then, and her words had barely been audible, but I’d heard them clearly.
I still did.
“You need to be grateful we even agreed to give birth to you, Daisy. You’re not who you think you are. You are inhuman, the embodiment of the monster who gave you to us,” she screamed.
“We thought you'd be better than that, but we were wrong. Look what you’ve done—you sent your little sister with a group of deadly killers!”
She pointed a finger at me. “You’re a menace! Get out of this house, and out of our life!”
When they were sober the next morning, my parents had called to apologize.
But while I’d numbly accepted their apology, my mother’s words wouldn’t stop echoing in my head.
They’d never treated me any differently from Daphne. We’d been raised equally. We’d been loved equally.
But something had happened the day I let Daphne win. So I began digging the dirt out.
Later, when Daphne had visited and we all had dinner at my parents’ house, I’d lied and said that I was going to the toilet. But instead, I went to my parents’ library.
Since they were both scholars, professors in the Lumen College, they had their own library.
They kept all the important files there, and I’d searched for my birth certificate. I wanted to be sure before I jumped to conclusions or dug farther.
That night, I’d found that while my mother was my mother, my father’s name was unknown.
Over the next few years, I’d tried to find who my true father was.
I’d tried to understand how my mother had gotten pregnant with another man’s child when she’d had a mate.
It had taken me some time to reach the obvious conclusion.
My mother had been raped.
And despite what had been done to her, she’d saved the child. She’d saved me.
And her mate had supported her, even though he must’ve been half-feral after finding out that his mate had been abused in such a brutal way.
The next thing I realized about the rapist, who was also my father, was that he must not have been a werewolf.
Werewolves could scent if another wolf had a mate from miles away.
And even if the mated one was attractive, they would never even look at them again. Werewolves respected mates, even the worst of our lot.
The probability of the rapist being a werewolf was low, and my gut told me he wasn’t one, either.
A human was the next obvious option.
But humans lived among werewolves, and also knew how to recognize if someone was mated.
So I wasn’t convinced that the rapist had been human, either.
Webb Montgomery, I believed, had been something else.
Which made me something else, too.
I just wished I knew what that something was.