The Great War.
It was an age of heroes and villains, where the shifter world was torn apart, then rebuilt anew.
The fearsome Blackwood family and their army of vicious rogues attacked first, plundering Royal Pack villages and killing innocent families in their sleep.
They were led by a general so cruel and vindictive that we dare not put his name in print.
Yet it wasn’t long before the Royal Pack mustered a retaliatory army, helmed by the most fearsome general the shifter world has ever known.
Alpha Ekon Jedrek.
A secretive and lethal man, he wasn’t afraid to kill. In fact, some people think he enjoyed it.
He was a ruthless and cunning warrior, and he led the Royal Pack to a hard-fought victory.
But he sustained a great personal loss on the battlefield.
They say it was a fight with a rogue that took his eyesight, leaving him blind.
He was permanently scarred by the war.
In the years that followed the war, the loss drove him to become cruel and reclusive.
Today, everybody in the werewolf kingdom fears him, even the king.
For even though Alpha Jedrek is blind, he is no less threatening.
They say that he can sense everything. He smells a person’s fear, and he feeds off it, hungers for it.
Since the Great War, the packs have lived together in relative peace, and yet Alpha Jedrek remains alone in his territory, training his warriors.
Why? Nobody knows. According to the king, the rogue threat is gone forever.
But there are whispers of a new danger—one far greater than anything the world has yet seen.
And if it comes, Alpha Jedrek may be the only one who stands a chance…
As I watched the little bluebird flitting around on the branch outside my window, I yearned to switch places with it—to fly away someplace new and exciting.
I envy you, little bluebird.
Free to fly away and sing your songs.
To spread your wings and fly.
To go wherever your heart compels you.
It landed on my windowsill and looked up at me, chirping its cheery tune.
I cautiously extended my finger, careful not to scare it away, and it hopped onto its new perch with curiosity.
“Hello there,” I whispered. “You’re so beautiful, little one. Where are you off to next?”
As I stroked its soft wings, the bluebird grew restless and flew out the window.
I watched it soar into the air, until—
A massive eagle dove through the sky, snatching the tiny bird in its sharp talons.
Only blood and feathers remained.
Tears flooded my eyes.
Is this the price of freedom?
“Don’t cry, sister…it’s just the law of nature,” my brother suddenly said from behind me, placing his hand on my shoulder.
I swung around and buried my head in his chest.
“Why is nature so cruel?” I sobbed.
“Not cruel, Bambi. She’s harsh, yes, and unforgiving even more so, but above all, she’s fair. She favors the strong, not the weak. So, we must learn to be strong.”
My brother…Alpha Supreme Maximus, an Alpha on the Divine Werewolf Council, was known to be quite unforgiving himself.
He had to be after our parents died in the Great War. I was only five at the time, but Max had raised me for the past fifteen years, and though his exterior had hardened with others, with me, he was always genuinely caring and affectionate, albeit a bit overprotective.
“But you needn’t worry yourself about such things,” he said, clasping my hand. “You have me to protect you, for now and always.”
I swallowed hard. I knew that wasn’t true.
Sooner or later, I’d lock eyes with some male and feel the mating bond. Then there’d be nothing he could do to save me.
Unlike most unmated werewolf girls, I wasn’t desperate to settle down.
I needed space to figure out who I really was, to carve out my identity.
“What will you do when I find my mate? When he comes to take me away?” I asked, giving voice to my fears.
At the mention of a mate, Max went rigid. It was a sore subject for him, and I knew it.
He was thirty-three and unmated, despite being the Alpha of our pack.
When I left, he’d be alone. I had provided a sense of purpose for him over the past fifteen years. He’d have to forge a new path as well.
“I’m…I’m sorry, Max. I didn’t mean to bring that up,” I said, hugging him tightly.
“I know, little doe. I know. I just don’t want to see you go,” he said quietly.
I’d have to table this conversation for another time. There was a big royal gala at our estate tonight, and Max was no doubt tense about the king and his son coming, along with the entire council.
“Little doe, I have to tell you something,” Max said, and when I looked into his eyes, I could tell it was something serious.
“What is it?” I asked, trying to sound strong.
“We’ve just received word that Alpha Jedrek is coming to the gala tonight.”
I felt my mouth fall open. Alpha Jedrek never came to pack events. He stayed in his cold Alaskan tundra, training against threats he saw in his mind.
I’d read somewhere that the king himself feared Ekon Jedrek more than anyone else.
I felt a shiver run down my spine at the thought of him.
“Why?” I finally asked. I could tell from my brother’s expression that he was just as confused as I was by this news.
“No idea; it’s not like him. But we have to act normally and be on our best behavior,” he said.
I nodded slowly. I could tell my brother was nervous, and my heart broke a little for him. He shouldered so much weight, and I wanted to make him feel better.
“Oh, I almost forgot—the gift is ready,” I said looking up at him. “I finished it last night. Do you want to see it?”
“Of course.” He smiled.
I ran to the corner of my room and pulled a heavy tarp to the floor, unveiling a sizeable painting of our pack crest.
“It’s perfect,” he said. “King Dmitri will love it. You really do have a true talent, Bambi.”
Max kissed me on the head and left me to get ready for the party.
As a chilly breeze swept through my open window, I crossed my room and closed it.
A single blue feather fluttered off the sill and floated to my feet.
Looking down at it, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of foreboding.
Why would Alpha Jedrek be coming here?
I smoothed my tangerine satin dress as I descended the stairs toward the courtyard. My voluminous red hair bounced with each step that my gold heels took.
It felt as though all eyes were on me, and it made me blush. I wasn’t used to this much attention.
Black cars were arriving with all the Alphas of the council and the Royal Pack.
I took my place next to my brother and his Beta, Ryan.
“Are you nervous?” Ryan asked me. “This is your first time meeting most of the council and the king.”
“A little bit,” I admitted. “There’s so much powerful, dominant energy at one party. It’s a bit much.”
My brother laughed. It was good to see him smile, especially surrounded by his peers. But it saddened me that he was the only one of them without a mate, and I knew he was thinking about it too.
“These are some of the most feared men in the country,” Max said seriously. “Many of them are war heroes—the few that survived it.”
The same war that claimed our parents.
Max never told me what had happened to our parents in the war. He’d shielded me from that, just like he shielded me from everything else.
I wished that I had the time with them that he did. All I had were hazy memories, and they grew dimmer by the day.
I yearned to know more about them. Something about the vague stories Max had told me about their heroic deaths troubled me.
But they weren’t in our copy of the Werewolf Chronicles, and I wasn’t sure where else I could learn about them.
I snapped out of my thoughts as a black SUV with tinted windows and flags on either side pulled up. Ryan stepped forward and opened the door.
“Announcing his Royal Highness King Dmitri Alfred William Constantine. You are welcomed to the Supreme Divine pack on behalf of Alpha Supreme Maximus Bryan Woodard.”
What a mouthful.
I tried to stifle a laugh as Max shot me a look. Royal posturing was always so amusing to me.
The king exited his vehicle, puffing out his chest, which was covered in war commendations.
He approached my brother, who bowed then shook his hand firmly.
“Welcome, my king.”
The king’s eyes wandered to me, and I stiffened. He was an intimidating man, but there was still a smile behind his eyes.
He took my hand tenderly and looked at my brother.
“And who is this lovely young woman?”
“My sister, Bambi Rosebud Woodard,” he replied.
“Announcing his Royal Highness Prince Apollo Haydon Noah Constantine,” Ryan shouted again.
A handsome boy with cropped blond hair and an impressive suit, which accentuated his lean yet muscular body, exited the next vehicle. His eyes stopped on me, and I saw them widen.
Oh no. Could he be my…
Beside me, my brother tensed up slightly.
But as the prince looked into my eyes, there was no recognition, from either of us.
He politely kissed my hand and stood next to his father.
I caught the look of relief on my brother’s face.
I had to admit I was relieved too. I may have been ready to spread my wings, but I wasn’t ready to be whisked away by some prince.
I was still trying to figure out who I was. How could I do that if I was tied to someone else?
As the last car pulled up, I was glad that all this royal pretension would be over soon.
“Announcing Alpha Supreme Ekon Helmer Jedrek,” Ryan yelled nervously, beginning to lose his voice after announcing an entire royal council.
I was suddenly overcome by the scent of wet concrete and burnt wood, an odd combination but nevertheless somehow appealing to me.
My eyes drank in the tall and rugged figure, dressed in a fine black tuxedo, that stepped out of the vehicle.
He was by no means lean. It felt like each and every part of his body had well-earned muscles, with accompanying scars on his hands and cheeks.
His face was dark and handsome, but when I stared into his eyes, they were completely clouded over.
Our gaze connected, regardless of his lack of eyesight, and I felt a surge of heat flowing through my entire body.
Oh my God.
You’re my mate.
I held my breath and clenched my fists, staring at the commanding general, Alpha Ekon, as he remained pointed in my direction. All the stories about him were true. He was terrifying.
This can’t possibly be right, can it?
Is he really my mate?
As his lips parted, my heart started beating out of my chest.
“Mate,” he mouthed from across the courtyard.
So, he felt it too…
Alpha Ekon, the most terrifying man in the Royal Pack, was my mate.
King Dmitri turned to Ekon with a look of surprise.
“Did you just say something about a mate, Ekon?”
“Yes, she’s over there,” he said gruffly.
I turned to my brother with a feeling of dread, and as the realization dawned on him, he returned my look with one of horror.
“No… This can’t be right.”
“Max, I don’t want to do this,” I said, trying to hold back my tears. I wasn’t ready, and certainly not for Alpha Ekon.
Max pulled me behind him and threw his hands out.
“This is my sister. She’s not leaving the pack. She’s not ready yet,” he said firmly, though he couldn’t hide the fear in his voice.
“Stand aside,” Ekon growled. “I don’t care if she’s your sister. She’s my mate, and that trumps any familial bond.”
But Max held his ground. I saw his fingers close on the hilt of his sword. Oh no!
“I will not give her over to you,” he said through gritted teeth.
Ekon put his hand on the hilt of his sword and pulled it swiftly from its sheath.
“Then you shall die.”
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