King Adonis and Queen Aarya are married at last. Their baby has been born, and the Council of Alphas is undergoing needed change, but some still oppose their rule.
Adonis’s brother Damien and his mate Elodie have had their own troubles, murder healing the rift between siblings but leaving a heavy shadow over their hearts.
After such a terrible year, a nice family Christmas is just what they need…
Someone was certainly looking for me. As the queen, I had many duties to attend to, people vying for my attention from alphas to CEOs. But nothing was as important as this.
In a small room, in the dark, I held my baby close to my chest, rocking her gently. She’d had her meal, and now she needed a nap. I breathed her sweet scent and sang to her, watching her watch me.
Her eyes stayed stubbornly open. “That’s the fifth lullaby I’ve sung to you. Are you going to sleep or not?”
She just giggled at me, waving her hands. I thought my chest would burst with love. “Alright, then. Let’s try a story…Once upon a time, there was a young girl. She was bright and confident and sure she knew just who her mate would be.
“She waited breathlessly for her nineteenth birthday when the Moon Goddess would bless their union. But when that day came, she found they were both fated to another.
“Her heart was broken, but the Goddess’s surprises weren’t finished yet. At a ball, the girl met the lycan king, a ferocious man said to be ruled by his wolf.” I paused for dramatic effect.
“When they touched, sparks flew, and he recognized the girl as his queen. At first, she was distraught, upset about leaving her family and everything she knew for someone strange and rough.
“But she soon found that she had the power to tame this beast, and that she had more bite in her than she’d realized. She grew into a lycan to match him, the two of them a perfect balance.
“Together, they slew their foes: a woman scheming to steal the king, a jilted former mate, and even members of the king's own council.” Again, I paused, this time in mock shock, but my baby only gurgled happily.
“All seemed well, but one thing still troubled the queen: her king’s brother and sister, the prince and princess were far away, having fled their oppressive father.
“The queen called them to the palace, hoping to heal the rift, but of course, it wasn’t that easy. The princess wasn’t ready, protective of her own new family, and she left quickly.
“The prince would have done the same, but a chance meeting with a woman changed everything. She was his, chosen by the Goddess, but she was in terrible danger.
“The prince whisked her off to the palace, but it wasn’t safe there. The former king had arrived, and he was truly the beast everyone had accused his son of being.
“The king had to fight his father, and though it was difficult, the brothers won the day and banished him forever. They could be their own men and do things their way.” I smiled with satisfaction at the gurgles that had become heavy breathing, before continuing.
“The man who’d been harming the prince’s mate attempted to steal her back, but she refused him and he was slain. At last, it was over.
“The prince had saved his mate, and the queen had gained a sister. Soon after, the queen was blessed with a daughter of her own.”
I looked down at Devi, still overwhelmed by the miracle of her existence. I wondered what her story would be. Hopefully less difficult than mine. “With any luck, they’ll all live happily ever after.”
She was asleep, finally. I stood carefully, watching her shift and fuss, tiny mouth pursed in a frown. I tiptoed to the crib and set her down, letting her go with a twinge of regret.
I missed her, even when she was sleeping. I wanted to be with her all the time. Motherhood had changed me. I would do anything for her.
The door opened and Adonis came up behind me, wrapping his arms around my waist. He pulled me close to his chest. “She’s as beautiful as her mother,” he whispered.
I leaned into his embrace, smiling. It was wonderful to see Adonis with her, my big wolf, so gentle and sweet. “And I’m sure she’ll be just as fierce, too.”
“No doubt. She’s already got quite a grip.” He kissed the top of my head. “She’s been hard to get down lately. How’d you do it?”
“I told her our story. And Damien and Elodie’s. She’ll be getting to meet them soon.”
I hoped this Christmas would finally end the distance between Adonis and his brother and sister. I was friendly with Damien and Elodie, at least, but I hadn’t had a chance to really get to know Riley.
“I look forward to it.” Adonis kept his smile up, but I saw his expression tighten. He was even more nervous than I was. “She should know all her aunts and uncles. And her cousins.”
I turned to face him, putting my arms around his neck. “She will. The whole family will be under one roof soon. Sid, Zoya, Carter, Diya, and my mom and dad are coming in a few days.”
“That soon? We’ll be even busier than usual. Speaking of…” He nuzzled into my neck, raking his teeth gently over my collarbone. “I’m on a break. Do you have a minute to spare? Or twenty?”
I sighed, pulling away reluctantly. “I have a meeting with Lexi. We need to discuss the Christmas Ball. Do you think we have enough balls around here? New Moon, Lycan, now this…”
His breath tickled my neck as he laughed. “The people like pageantry, my lady.”
I snorted. “Easy for you to say. You don’t have to plan it.”
“But I do have to attend.” He gave me one last, lingering kiss. “I won’t keep you. But I will be thinking of you.”
“Good.” I felt the heat of his gaze sitting deliciously between my legs, even after I left the room. Save it for later, Aarya, I chided myself. Thankfully, I was mostly cooled down by the time I made it to my office.
Lexi was already there. “Get the little one to sleep, okay? I don’t miss when Elijah was in that phase.” It was so nice to have a friend who had gone through the same thing I was.
“Yep, all set. She should be asleep for a few hours, so let’s get going. I want to have the menu and place settings decided today.” I sat in my chair and booted up my computer.
Lexi laughed. “That’s the spirit!” We dove in, Lexi giving me the updates on what had been booked, what was still pending, and what had been shipped or arrived.
Things went pretty smoothly as we discussed food, but arranging the tables was a colossal headache of hierarchy and rank and who could sit where without being offended or starting a fight.
Lexi flipped a page in her notebook. “Okay, guest list. The Silver Rain Pack can’t make it, which means we can invite the Star Forest Pack after all.”
I put my face in my hands. “Ugh, this whole thing is so political. This isn’t what Christmas is about. These people should be sitting in front of a fire with their families or volunteering somewhere.”
Lexi patted my arm. “But it is what balls are about, unfortunately.” She was right, and it was a large part of why I hated them.
There was a polite knock on my office door, which opened to reveal a red-haired man in a suit. He bowed at the waist. “Pardon me, Your Highness, Lady Davis. I hope I’m not interrupting.”
Lexi wrinkled her nose. “You don’t need to be so formal, Cedric.”
He gave her a wry grin. “During working hours I think I should be, ma’am.”
I laughed and gestured for him to stand up. “Come in, Councillor Wright. What can I do for you?”
Cedric was a new member of the Council of Alphas, younger than the rest, and the first appointed by Adonis. It was nice to have a friendly face there at last.
“Yes, Your Highness.” He stood in front of my desk, arms behind his back. “The council has decided to recommend Devi be blessed according to the Old Customs.”
Lexi and I gasped. “But that hasn’t happened in centuries!” she said, looking at me.
My brows drew together as I scrutinized Cedric’s face. “You think this is a good idea?”
He dropped his eyes, sheepish. “I think it’s the best way to appease the traditionalists. It’s a compromise for them that doesn’t go against your beliefs. You need all the points you can get.”
I nodded, shoulders slumping. “So when there’s a real fight, they can’t say we never listen to them. I get it, but I don’t like this.”
“I’ll tell them. Thank you, Your Highness.” He bowed again and left.
The blessing wouldn’t hurt Devi, but it did say that she needed the extra legitimacy to be accepted by the Goddess. She had the same right to rule as any first-born child.
It wasn’t much of a capitulation, but it left a foul taste in my mouth. Where would it lead?
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