Book 2: His Lost Queen
My head was spinning.
Everything was a blur, my ears were ringing, and my stomach felt as if I were about to heave up my intestines. What the hell had just happened?
I opened my eyes. Still disoriented, I looked around the room, trying to gain my bearings, although it proved very difficult.
One second I had been standing in my room with Kyle and three red-eyed vampires, and the next, I was in a forest in front of hundreds of newborn vampires and Azazel, all of them determined to kill me and my pack members.
I was relieved when I realized I was back in my room once again, lying on the hardwood floor.
Although my body felt sore and weak—an effect of some sort of magic, I’m sure—the pain coursing through me wasn’t my initial worry. War was coming. And soon.
Azazel’s threatening words were fresh in my mind.
“Tell my brother to prepare himself, Alpha Grayson. His time as king is over,” he had said. ~“We’re coming.”~
I became aware of other people in the room, and once the ringing in my ears stopped, I was able to register what they were saying.
They were arguing. One person, in particular, sounded very upset. I recognized his voice.
“Do something!” Kyle’s angry tone rang out. “Why are we standing around when my alpha just fainted? Minnie—”
“I assure you, he is fine, young beta,” someone else interrupted. Zagan. The king of vampires. Azazel’s brother. “I implore you to remove your hands from my body before I decide to rip them off.”
“Oh, yeah? I’d like to see you try,” Kyle challenged. “You’re not the only one in this room with vampire abilities.”
I groaned and rolled to my side, not wanting to listen to any more of their incessant arguing.
All heads snapped to me. Kyle was at my side in under a second, using his newfound vampire speed to move in a single, blurry motion.
He crouched down next to me. “Alpha,” he breathed out, “are you okay?”
I nodded and forced myself to sit up even though my body felt weak. “I’m fine. Disoriented.” I looked at Zagan, who had moved to stand next to Kyle. “What the fuck just happened?”
“You tell me,” he replied in a gravelly voice. “What did you see?”
I stood slowly, grunting with effort. My wolf growled. He didn’t like feeling weak, especially now when so much was at stake. “Azazel,” I said. “He’s coming.”
I heard Kyle suck in a breath. “You saw Azazel?”
“When?” Zagan snapped, stepping forward with interest. “When is he coming?”
I shook my head. “There’s no way to be sure. I don’t know how fast his army of newborn vampires can run.” My teeth grit together. “Soon, though. Tonight.”
Zagan’s eyes narrowed. Minnie and Casimir, royal vampires and two of Zagan’s children, looked at their father in shock. Their tension and anxiety were tangible in the air.
“The Clan of Azazel is back?” Minnie whispered. Her already squeaky and high-pitched voice seemed to rise an octave with fear. “Father, did you know about this?”
Zagan nodded. “The beta informed me in his letter. It is why we wasted no time in aiding this pack.”
“We have to move quickly,” I said to Kyle. “Prepare the pack for battle. Fill them in on what has happened.”
Kyle was already halfway out the door. “On it!” he yelled as he sprinted down the hall.
I turned back to the three vampires, watching them through narrowed eyes. It was a bit disturbing how alike they all looked with their straight black hair, lean bodies, and striking red eyes.
They were smaller than werewolves and, therefore, not as strong. It didn’t matter, though. Vampire training focused less on strength and power and more on strategy and stealth.
It was as if their motto was, “Work smarter, not harder.” And it worked for them.
As I studied their startling yet stunning red eyes, I couldn’t stop myself from glancing in the mirror next to me, noticing that my own usually green eyes were also red at the moment.
However, unlike the three Mortars, mine were darker, clouded in blackness with the presence of my wolf. I could feel both my vampire and wolf pressing up against my conscience.
It wasn’t invasive as neither of them was trying to take control; they were just revved up and ready for battle, anxious for any reason to break free.
I looked away from my reflection quickly, tensing in anger. The last time I had seen my eyes in this color had been when Azazel had taken over my body, showing his true eyes as he looked at our reflection.
I flinched, suddenly being pulled back into the memories of being in my own personal hell. My mind involuntarily replayed a scene from the past few months.
I was watching my hand hit Belle, my mate, the love of my life, on her beautiful face, having no control, watching in horror as she flew to the side from the force of the blow.
But the worst part came after the strike had taken place. Belle had looked up at me, her teary blue eyes round with shame… and apologized.
She apologized to ~me~. Even though it was my hand that had just marked her skin, she thought she had been the one who had done something wrong.
Twice. Azazel had hit her two times, taking complete joy in the fact that she thought it was me who was doing it. And each time, Belle apologized to him.
They were genuine apologies, too, ones that made evident her regret. I didn’t know what she was ashamed of, but God, I could feel it. I could feel her indignity growing with every passing day.
She was so hard on herself, beating herself up and racking her mind over what she had done wrong. She wanted to fix whatever it was, unaware that it had absolutely nothing to do with her.
I had been screaming inside my head the entire time, pounding against the bonds that kept me trapped. It felt like I was drowning.
I struggled so much trying to get past the control that Azazel had over me so I could go to my mate.
I knew she wasn’t eating or sleeping. I knew she was basically being spat upon by all the pack members. I could feel how weak she was getting. But I couldn’t do a damn thing.
Every day, I hoped she would leave and run far away. But every day that I still felt her in this house made me completely fucking enraged with Azazel for doing this to her.
I wanted to tell her to leave, to talk to Kyle or Elijah or someone, anybody, and get the hell out of here. I couldn’t understand why she would stay. Why the fuck didn’t she run away?
Sure, Azazel had told her he wanted her for the power she could give him, demanding that she stay because of that. But, in reality, he wouldn’t have noticed if she had left.
And that was what killed me. If she was staying out of fear of being punished if she were caught, her fear wasn’t necessary. Azazel’s mind was occupied with other problems.
I knew this because I had spent over two months hearing his thoughts; I basically knew every single detail about the former vampire king.
He had been unimpressed with the fact that she was human, and although he found her attractive—and loved to remind me of it— he wasn’t actually interested in having her around.
He only tried to sleep with her because he wanted to taunt me and make me weak. But, surprise, surprise, trying to mate with an alpha male’s female doesn’t make them weak.
No, it had the opposite effect—it made me furious. I became so blind with rage each time he laid a hand on her that, finally, my wolf was able to slip through the possession and take control to tend to our mate.
Azazel had learned from that experience. Seeing my mate get hurt made me furious enough to break free of the control he had over me.
He knew then that the best way to truly weaken me was to stay away from Belle. And he did just that. He starved the mate bond. And as I felt my mate slowly dwindle, I faded along with her.
It wasn’t until two nights ago that Azazel tried mating with Belle again. Only, this time, it wasn’t to taunt or anger me—although it definitely did both of those things.
Azazel realized that someone had gone through his desk, which meant that one of my pack members knew about the letters he had been sending to the Clan of Azazel.
It was the first time I felt him experience true fear.
Knowing that his war could be happening sooner than he was anticipating, he decided he wanted to complete the mating bond with Belle in order to be as strong as possible during battle.
When Belle refused—to my absolute fucking relief—he didn’t hesitate to kick her to the side and choose another.
Azazel didn’t know that that was the decision that had finally set Belle free. She was heartbroken, but in thinking I didn’t want her, she was finally able to force herself to leave.
And while it had made me proud at the time, it caused me physical pain to think about how long it had taken her.
Why hadn’t she left before then? The door was wide open. God, why did she stay in this damn pack house where she was being abused and treated like nothing more than the dirt on the bottom of someone’s shoe?
Did she think she deserved that? Did she expect this to be her new life?
She was worth so much more than all that, and I thought she would know that—because, hell, she is so much stronger than anyone could ever imagine.
She had been through so much. And yet, every time her life burned down, she was still able to pull herself from the ashes.
I understood now, though.
With each passing day that Belle continued to endure my abuse without fighting back, it became more clear that perhaps she had come to face too many fires, that her life had burned down too many times.
She became convinced that, after a certain point, fires stop being coincidences or accidents. When fires follow the same person everywhere they go, it is evident that that person has an affinity for starting them.
And so, Belle let herself get burned. My strong mate watched in defeat as the fire began to consume her once again.
Because, according to her, no matter what she did, the fires followed her everywhere she went. She escaped only when the pain became too great, when the burns were too much to handle.
When she thought I had rejected her to be with another.
I had no doubt that the burns she endured would leave scars. It would not be easy to gain her trust again, but fuck if I wasn’t up for the challenge.
I wouldn’t give up until I had her back in my arms. I would never let her go again. Together, we would build her back up until she remembered just how strong she really was.
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