Today is the day I leave for Australia.
I zip my suitcase shut, mentally going through everything I need for the trip.
Looking around my room, I feel a pang in my heart.
If I were to find a mate at this thing, I wouldn’t be coming home.
When a she-wolf finds a mate at these ceremonies, she immediately moves to his pack.
We can call home and let our families and alpha know so the transfer can be put in, but that’s about it.
Once you hear their howl you’re screwed. Apparently you are basically stuck together and can’t be very far apart without one or both going nuts.
The first year you cannot be apart more than a few days or you will lose control of your wolf. I have never seen it happen, but I have heard horror stories about the massacres that follow.
I lug my two suitcases down the stairs. They’re heavy. One of them is for my clothes and the other is pretty much full to the brim with books. I wasn’t sure how long I would be gone for. I couldn’t risk being stranded anywhere without a good book to escape into.
I see my father and stepmother, Elena, in the pack kitchen sitting across from each other, looking stressed out. My stepmother looks at my father, and his brows furrow. This is going to suck. I hate goodbyes.
“Well,” I say. “I guess this is goodbye then.”
My stepmother stands up and gives me a hug.
“Good luck sweetheart,” she squeezes me tightly.
Then my stepmother starts to cry. I know she isn’t crying because she thinks I’ll be gone with my mate. She cries because she thinks I’ll be back again, mateless and alone. I hate this.
My father stands up.
“Before you leave,” he says, “there is something I have to speak to you about.”
I follow my father outside, dragging my two bags behind me.
He turns to me, somehow more serious than he was yesterday.
“We need you to be at your best when you go. Though I am an Ancient, this family does not hold the best name when it comes to the king.”
“What do you mean?”
“There is something I never told you about what happened when your mother–”
He stops for a moment. We never speak about my mother.
Before I was born, my mother, Lillian, went into a coma. She died during childbirth. Sometimes I can’t help but think that I killed my mom, and that my family would have been better off if I’d never been born. I grit my teeth and try to push aside the guilt in my heart. I always wondered if my father blamed me. They say he was never the same after she died.
“When your mother—” he pauses before continuing, “died, my wolf took over, and I couldn’t control him. He did some unthinkable things that warranted the king’s attention, in a bad way.”
My mouth drops open. My father has never lost control. Ever. What could he have done to piss the Alpha King off so badly, and how is my father not dead?
“I got lucky, Asa. By the grace of the Goddess, I am here.
“I am immortal, but another Ancient can kill me, and the king was well within his place to do just that.
“A friend saw my struggle and pain and sought out a true witch to help me, and you. So King Leviathan let me be.”
Wait, did he just say a witch helped me? I wasn’t even born yet.
“Keep your eyes down while near him. Show etiquette and make this family proud. Do. Not. Draw. Attention. To. Yourself. Do you understand me?”
“I am pretty invisible,” I say to my father. “I doubt he’ll even notice I’m there.”
“Asa.” He pauses. “You are beautiful beyond your imagination. You just do not see it. I see every male in this pack stare at you and whisper.
“If I weren’t alpha, we would have a lot of dead men. You are a true beauty and need to stop putting yourself down.”
An Ancient with a daughter my age. Never mated. He usually isn’t a very emotional man.
He is well known as cold and heartless. But every now and then, he will show a softer side.
“Thanks, Dad. I will try my best to make you proud, and who knows, maybe I’ll be back in a few days.” I laugh, trying to hide my worry.
I hear Cypris growling at my words but shrug her off.
Instantly my father’s eyes turn black. His wolf isn’t happy about me saying I might be back. If I come back, I will be forever alone.
He doesn’t say a word at first, but it is all written in his eyes. “Stay away from him,” he says.
“I’ll be sure not to shake his hand or give him any high fives as he passes,” I say lightly.
“This isn’t a joke, AsaLynn!” my dad roars.
“Let me tell you a little about Leviathan,” he says, his voice now soft. “Then you’ll understand why we must be so careful.”
I nod, trying to calm my wild heartbeat. I can sense Cypris’s ears perk up, as if she’s particularly interested in hearing more about Leviathan.
“The Alpha King was a man, once. A simple farmer. The stories say he was happy with his life, although he was unwed and had no children.”
My father’s words take me to another time, a simpler one. I could imagine the simple joy of tending to crops, feeling the warmth of the sun on my skin, listening to the song of rain on the trees.
“That was until his entire village was slaughtered in a raid.” My father’s voice drops, and a chill runs down my spine. “Leviathan was furious. He single handedly killed the bandits, but not before his village was burned to ashes, the ground soaked with the blood of his mother, father, and younger siblings. That’s when the Moon Goddess came to him.”
“She changed him,” I say. “Created him as the first of our kind. Immortal. That was thousands of years ago.” I know most of this. We were all taught this when we were pups.
“Immortal, only to be killed either by the Moon Goddess or another Immortal.” My father nods. “Just like me. But Leviathan is the first, and he’s the most powerful.”
I feel Cypris hum happily at the thought, and a warm feeling spreads through me. I frown. What the heck is up with her lately?
“And being the first,” my dad continues, “he’s tasked with overseeing the werewolf race. He is judge, jury, and executioner. And he very rarely shows mercy.”
He blinks, realizing how terrified I am. The black in his eyes fades, and he takes a breath to calm down.
I hear the bus pull up from behind me.
“It’s time for you to go,” he says somberly.
My dad gets up and grabs my bags, “Just know that Leviathan has kept a close eye on us ever since. One paw out of line and we’re done for.”
He hands me my bags, and I can see his worry. “Be careful, AsaLynn.”
I nod, understanding how serious the situation is. I try to feel scared. I imagine the terrifying Alpha King and wait for fear to squeeze my heart.
But it never comes.
Instead I feel excited, Cypris pacing excitedly back and forth in my mind.
Does my wolf know something I don’t?
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