Chapter 1 – Werewolf Among Sea of Humans
The lecture drones on. I stifle an urge to yawn. Why am I here again? Oh yea, to have a full college experience. I glance around me. I’m the only werewolf here in this lecture hall. The only werewolf among the sea of humans.
Oww…An elbow pokes me and I turn to scowl at my human friend Lily. She just giggles and grabs my arm to pull me closer so she can whisper into my ear, “Look at that hottie over there.”
She draws an arrow on my notepad pointing towards a guy sitting two rows in front of us. I can only see the back of his head, but he seems okay. Tall, broad shoulders, short dirty blond hair. So this is the guy my three human friends were giggling and whispering about.
What are the chances that I found like-minded girls who are just as boy crazy as I am in a college like this? HUGE. I made friends with Lily, Amanda, and Keisha the first week I got here.
“Promising.” I jot down on the pad next to the arrow.
“Promising? Penny, he’s hot!!!” exclaims Amanda in a loud whisper as soon as she sees what I wrote. A few students turn to look at us in irritation.
Lily turns to the others and they start whispering and giggling again. I fight an urge to roll my eyes. They’re so like high school girls. Well, maybe that’s because they came here right after high school. I had three years to grow up a bit, though I doubt I look a day over 18…or if I was honest, behave much better myself.
I try to copy the note and the names of authors and titles of suggested reading scribbled on the board.
“Okay, Miss Promising,” whispers Lily, turning to look at me again. “We dare you to go and talk to Mr. Hottie right after class,” she looks at me smugly. Oh, I don’t chicken out from dares. Ever. She knows that.
“What do I get out of this?” I quiz her.
“Cappuccino from your favorite cafe for his name and phone number,” answers Amanda from beside her.
“Your whole lunch and that includes fries, paid for if you get him to join us for lunch today,” adds Keisha.
“Plus that cappuccino?” I ask them. At their nodding heads, I say, “Done!” and start to gather my things together. I have to be quick to catch this “hottie” before he leaves the lecture hall.
I’ve been here almost a month now. I’m living with the lycans, but I’ve been trying not to spend all my time with them. Not that I don’t enjoy their company, especially Genesis and Serena, but they have their mates. Every time I spend time with them, I feel like the fifth wheel or something. Their close and loving relationship with their mates remind me of how alone I am. Besides, Genesis is very committed to her art. She and Constantine are always having their painting session. Painting session. Ha!!! As if we don’t know what they’re up to.
The lecture ends and our target is getting up. Time to move my ass before “hottie” gets away.
“Get your money out bitches. Get ready to pay for my lunch,” I mutter to them with a grin and a wink as I get up and sashay my way towards the “hottie”.
The view from the front is actually quite nice. The “hottie” isn’t that bad-looking at all for a human. He’s about six feet tall, nice body, dark gray eyes, and dirty blond hair. Not anywhere nearly as good-looking as Darius, says a little nagging voice in my head that wouldn’t shut up.
I shake my head a little. I’m here to forget all about that lycan. Forget about all the three years that I wasted over a man who doesn’t want me. Never mind that not a day goes by that I don’t think about him. Never mind that my heart aches every minute of the day. Never mind that there’s a Darius’s size hole in my heart. Then there’s the anger that comes with it too. Stupid Penny. Stupid, stupid Penny. Now, focus!
I flash the “hottie” in front of me a flirty little smile.
Chapter 2 – No Hello or Goodbye
THREE YEARS AGO
My 18th birthday was just a few days ago. It’s a big deal for me because we could sense our mate when we turn 18. That’s why I planned a big party. It was going to be epic! I invited all the good-looking boys that I had a crush on. Well…that’s basically almost all the unmated werewolf boys at our school. I know, I know…Genesis called me boy crazy, but who knows, one of those boys could be my mate, right? I was just being thorough. I’m a very dedicated she-wolf.
Well anyway, that didn’t happen. My birthday party, I mean. My best friend Genesis got kidnapped by this crazy female lycan whose name I dare not mention. Cough* Milan*cough.
She was kidnapped while helping me getting things ready for my epic birthday party.
My bestie Genesis is mated to a lycan prince, Constantine. That crazy lycan bitch wanted Constantine for herself and almost killed my friend.
The moment we realized that she was kidnapped, was the worst moment of my life. Never had I felt so lost and helpless before.
Reese, my other bestie and I drove to her parents’ house to be with Genesis’s mother, Lavinia. Lavinia was a blubbering mess. We were there supposedly to support her and soothe her, but as soon as we saw her crying, Reese and I bawled our eyes out along with her. Not long after, my mom and Reese’s mom showed up. Our moms loved Genesis almost like their own too, soon they started bawling their eyes out as well. It turned out to be a big giant tear fest. No men entered the house that night. I think they heard us crying inside and that was more effective than taping a Do Not Enter sign at the door.
My birthday wish this year wasn’t for me to find a mate, but for my best friend Genesis who’s more like a sister to me to come back to us safe and sound. I wished so hard. I wished it with all that I had in me. It was such a relief when we heard that she was alive. We were so relieved and happy that we had another round of tear fest.
I wish I could join them in hunting down and killing that lycan bitch who was planning to kill my best friend, but I think I would be more of a hindrance rather than helping. I was just a regular werewolf, while they were lycans. I had no business to be where lycans were fighting lycans.
Lycans are different than us regular werewolves. When they phase, they walk on two feet rather than four and are also bigger, faster, fiercer, smarter, stronger and more powerful than any werewolves. They are like killing machines when provoked. No sane werewolf would want to mess with them. The only way you can kill a lycan is by severing the spine from its body, which is quite impossible for a regular werewolf to do.
They are known to be the direct descendants of the moon goddess, so they are treated like the nobility in the werewolf world. In fact, our king, King Alexandros is a lycan.
We hadn’t seen my best friend so far. They tracked the lycan bitch down and managed to kill her and a group of rebels in Russia.
Genesis and her mate Constantine and her other lycan friends, Serena, Lazarus, and Caspian are supposed to come back from Russia tonight. Serena is mated to Lazarus. Caspian is actually Prince Caspian. The crown prince, also Constantine’s cousin. Prince Caspian is still unmated. He’s also swoon-worthily good looking, of course. If he’s not such an idiot, I might have fallen for him. Well, actually, I did have a crush on him…until he opened his mouth. Then I realized that he’s a cocky, spoil brat lycan prince with the mentality of a five-year-old. It took only less than a minute after he first uttered his first word for me to realize this. I was cured out of my crush on him right away. Thank goddess! All I want to do when he’s around me now is to kick him in the nuts. Every. Freaking. Time.
Genesis’s family, my other bestie Reese and her mate River, and even my parents are waiting at the lycans’ home to greet them. It’s quite late, I think it’s close to midnight by the time they finally arrive.
As soon as their car pulls in, my wolf Juno starts to get weird. I usually listen to my wolf’s instinct, but I decided to ignore her for now.
“Genesis!” I pull my bestie into my biggest hug as soon as I get the chance. I thought I’d never see her again.
“I’m sorry for being such a pain for my birthday party. It’s my fault that they got you,” I apologize. Tears start forming in my eyes.
“Oh, Penny…you know it’s not your fault at all. Happy Birthday, love,” she whispers in my ear, while she squeezes me a bit harder.
“I thought I’d never see you again. Don’t you dare do that to us again,” I scold her.
“Not if I can help it,” she manages to say before Reese pulls her away.
After I released Genesis, I straighten up to find myself looking into a pair of icy blue eyes. Those eyes make my heart stop beating before it starts to race like crazy. I could feel the buzz of energy in the air between us.
The owner of those eyes is staring back at me. Watching me unwaveringly.
I’ve never seen him before. Obviously, he’s a lycan. He’s so gorgeous…and lethal. His eyes are mesmerizing icy blue. He has thick blond eyebrows that are a tad bit darker than his pale thick blond hair. His hair is so pale, it’s almost white. It is slicked back and suits him perfectly.
His sharp features look like they’re molded from granite. His red lips contrasting with his fair flawless complexion. His perfect top lip is firm, yet his bottom lip is full and sexy, at odd with his icy tough exterior. There’s a sinister dangerous air about him that set my inner alarm bell ringing and buzzing…with excitement. I’m not normal…or maybe I’m just stupid. Other normal she-wolves would’ve run away from danger. I jump feet first into danger. Danger excites me.
I learn that his name is Darius Ivanovic Rykov. He’s a commander of the Royal Intelligence Force unit and a good friend of Constantine, Lazarus, and Caspian. He’s here with his two other officers to investigate Genesis’s kidnapping. It’s a huge deal, especially since it’s connected to a ruthless and well-known rebel group.
“Beany Penny!!!! Don’t I get a hug too?” Caspian has a big mischievous grin on his face as he pulls me in for a hug. Huh? Beany Penny?
I glance quickly back at the smoking hot, icy blue-eyed lycan from over Caspian’s shoulder. He has a big scowl on his handsome face as he stares at Caspian and me.
I couldn’t concentrate on anything else around me. People are talking, yet I’m only aware of his every movement and of his eyes on me. I feel the buzzing energy every time those icy blue eyes land on me, which is a lot. My ears zone in on his deep sexy voice as he talks….and that Russian accent. I melt.
My heart flutters in my chest like a trapped little bird and my stomach clenches almost painfully every time our eyes meet. All through the night, my eyes keep drifting to him. Like a magnet, I’m hopelessly drawn to him. Like he’s pulling the string to my kite. He can’t seem to keep his eyes off of me too because, every time I look at him, he’s already looking at me. Our eyes would meet and locked from across the room. He would be the first to break the spell. He would drag his eyes away before they inevitably and reluctantly drift back to me again. It’s like he couldn’t help himself.
“Persephone Aspen Ruiz, did you hear a word I was saying?” asks my mom after I fail to answer her question the third time tonight.
Of course not Mom. “Of course I have, mom,” I answer her as I feel my cheeks heating up. Gee, thanks a lot mom! Now I’m blushing. I don’t do blushing!
My eyes involuntarily flicker to Darius’s direction. I notice that there was a slight smirk on his lips. A little amusement and a hint of satisfaction in his eyes.
Oh, how embarrassing! He must know how much his presence is affecting me.
“He’s hot, eh?” whispers Reese into my ear.
“Who?” I pretend ignorance.
“Who else?” she grins mischievously. “I think he looks like Draco Malfoy…only buffer, hotter, bigger, sexier..”
“Shut up,” I shush her as I notice his eyes slide to me again.
I watch him covertly from afar.
He looks like he’s in his early twenties…22 at the most. He looks so tough, yet sophisticated. Rugged yet so beautiful. So worldly and cultured. I guess he is all that since he’s older than 22. Genesis’s mate, Constantine looks like he’s only 18 but he’s actually over 300 years old. So I imagine he must be a bit older than that.
Compared to humans, us werewolves age slower, but Lycans age a lot slower than werewolves. That means they live a lot longer. Thankfully, a lycan mate, be it a human or a werewolf would change into a lycan once they’re bonded.
If you’re wondering about how a werewolf could possibly mate with a lycan, then maybe I should begin by telling you a bit that I know about Lycans.
You see, Lycans don’t have mates chosen for them by the moon goddess like us regular werewolves. They get to choose their own mates, either another lycans, regular werewolves, or even humans.
Even though they’re not blessed with mates, each lycan has “the one” for them. The one that they’re attracted to like no other. That one person can either be another lycan, a werewolf, or even a human. This one being is called “erasthai”. This attraction is governed by their basic survival instinct. It is believed that the erasthai is best suited to the lycan in every way. The stronger the attraction, the stronger their bond will be when they become mates. Lycans are not known to be giving up on their erasthais, even when their erasthais are already mated or married to another. How crazy is that?
That being said, there are lycans who marked and mated with another lycans who are not their erasthais. The bond wouldn’t be as strong, though.
The bond between lycans who mated with their erasthais can be stronger than that of a werewolf mates. Seeing my best friend Genesis and her lycan mate Constantine, I can believe that. She’s definitely Constantine’s erasthai. The level of love and understanding between them is incomparable.
Their chosen mate, no matter if she or he is a werewolf or a human will turn into a Lycan herself after they form a bond. The mates physical appearance as a human also would change to mold perfectly to its other half, the lycan.
In their human form, lycans are better looking and more attractive than us regular werewolves who are considered to be better looking than most humans…like way more. So, lycans are amazing smoking hot.
My friend Genesis, who’s very beautiful, to begin with, is now drop dead gorgeous, just like all the other lycans.
Genesis cornered me into telling her about what’s going on with me the very next day. My bestie thought that I was Darius Rykov’s erasthai because that’s how she felt the first time she met Constantine.
I’m so confused because I was waiting for my mate. I wasn’t expecting to be an erasthai to any lycans. Not at all. What would happen if or when I meet my mate? I don’t know, but all that I know is, the connection is so strong that I can’t stop thinking about him.
Unfortunately, he’s gone right after the investigation without even saying goodbye or acknowledging me at all.
Chapter 3 – Birds of A Feather
Still Three Years Ago
A few weeks later the school was over, and I still couldn’t get him out of my mind. I had been mulling about this over and over again in my head. I was known to be stubborn and I wasn’t a quitter. I always went after things that I wanted and right then I decided that Darius Ivanovic Rykov was what I wanted.
Genesis fully supported me on this. Right after graduation, Genesis and the lycans were planning to go back to Russia for a little while. They invited me to go along, with a hint that a certain gorgeous blond lycan would be there. Well, that’s enough to persuade me. Actually, they didn’t even have to say that to convince me to go. I didn’t have any plan beyond high school. I was hoping that I would have met my mate already by then and we’d be too busy making babies or something. Not life’s greatest plan, but that’s Penny Ruiz’s life plan.
Anyway, that’s how I find myself standing in the middle of my bed chamber in Banehallow Palace, Russia. I’m all decked up in Sue Wong’s strapless purple dress. The bodice is exquisitely embroidered and beaded, while the gown is a full feather. A pair of four-inch feathered white Jimmy Choo stilettos graces my feet.
The stylist and the ladies who did my hair and make-up just left and I’m standing here by myself staring at my reflection in the mirror.
The lady who did my hair, Olga dried, combed, brushed, and hot ironed my short dark hair till it framed my face in straight shiny cascade down to my chin. She then added a dark purple Great Gatsby’s flapper hair band with shiny beads across my forehead and soft white and purple feathers on the side.
They’re holding a party for Constantine and Genesis, and the return of Caspian, Lazarus, and Serena. I was told that Darius is going to be there. This is going be the first time I get to see Darius again after that first time.
There’s a brief knock on my door and Genesis breezes in even before I tell her to come in. Her wonderful familiar scent wafts in the air along with a light flowery smell of an expensive perfume. She’s looking glamorous and breathtaking in a peacock green and gold dress. Beautiful peacock feathers adorned the length of her long dress. More peacock feathers in her red hair which is swept up into an elaborate updo with a few wispy tendrils framing her flawless face.
She is followed closely by Serena. Serena’s looking stunning in a long red flowing strapless silk dress with a slit that went up all the way to her thigh, showing off her perfect long tanned leg every time she takes a step. The bodice of her dress is covered in soft red feathers. Her bright red lips match her dress. Her golden blond hair is swept up to the side, leaving one shoulder bare. She has feathers weaved cleverly in her hair with three red feathers stuck out dramatically at an angle.
“You look breathtaking!” exclaims Genesis as she takes my hand in hers and twirls me around.
“Look who’s talking,” I laugh. “You two look absolutely gorgeous! I feel like a purple bird.”
“A beautiful purple bird,” chimes in Serena.
Together, we walk out to meet Constantine and Lazarus who are waiting for us in the grand hallway just outside the ballroom. Our entrance is different from everyone else’s since the left wing of the castle is reserved only for the crown Prince Caspian, Prince Constantine, and his mate Genesis, Lazarus, and Serena, and now, a little old me too….for some reason.
Lazarus only has eyes for Serena, but he spared me a look after complimenting and kisses his mate affectionately on her cheek.
“You look absolutely beautiful, Penny,” he smiles, offering me one of his arms while Serena is hanging onto his other arm.
“Yes, you look gorgeous,” agrees Constantine, giving me a little bow.
“Thank you,” I smile. “You guys cleaned up pretty well yourselves. Could be better, but ehhh…not too shabby.”
“Oh, stop! You’re making me blush,” says Lazarus, deadpan. The three of us girls burst out laughing while Constantine grins, shaking his head.
Lazarus and Constantine are actually a lot more than just “not too shabby”. They’re actually looking very spectacular. A sight to behold. Lazarus is in a dark red high collared 18th-century gentleman’s suit, so dark it appears black in the dim light of the hallway. One side is trimmed with gold buttons. The open coat reveals a red silk vest and an embroidered white silk cravat. He has a hat with a long red feather sitting at an angle at the front.
Constantine is wearing a black velvet classic frock coat trimmed with green silk damask similar to the color of Genesis’s dress and antique style gold buttons. The sleeves are also trimmed with green silk damask and gold buttons. The front of his shirt is covered with a white embroidered lace cravat ascot. His black hat is also adorned with a peacock feather to match Genesis’s dress.
These men can wear such ostentatious ensembles and still look jaw-droppingly gorgeous. Not that I’m going to admit that to them. Not too shabby is all they’re getting from me.
Most of the time I feel like the men are treating me like a pesky, but highly amusing little sister. Speaking of the men…”Where is Caspian?” I ask.
Genesis leans to look at me around Constantine and grins mischievously. “He had his arms twisted by Queen Sophia to escort Lady Celeste to the ball,” she giggles. “I think he would much prefer to escort an abominable snowman…or even you, Beany Penny.”
I groan inwardly. Caspian gave me that nickname. I still have no idea what Beany means. Gosh, I hate that nickname!
“Serves him right for calling me Beany Penny,” I reply. “Just as well…we might kill each other before the party’s over tonight.”
Genesis’s eyes light up with mischief and she says, “Oh gosh! If the party gets too boring the three of us could start…”
“That’s why we intend to keep you two away from Caspian for the sake of the ball and the safety everybody attending tonight,” interrupts Constantine quickly, though he sounds amused rather than annoyed.
“Debby Downer,” mutters Genesis teasingly before we straighten up just before two uniformed men open the massive heavy door to the ballroom for us.
“I thought I was your chunky monkey,” mutters Constantine from the side of his mouth.
Genesis’s reply is lost to me as the sound of beautiful live music resonates around us as soon as the doors are opened. I feel my breath caught in my throat as we step further into the room and descend the stairs.
The ballroom is like nothing I’d ever seen in my life. It is massive. Sparkling crystal chandeliers hanging from the high ceiling everywhere. There are two sets of staircases at the end of the room. One of which, we are descending from. There are balconies with golden banisters all around. There are fresh flowers and feathers in different colors in big silver pots by the walls. Each is illuminated with its own golden glow of lights.
Underneath the curve of the staircase at the other end is a little platform where an orchestra dressed in gold and cream and outrageous feathers is performing. Near our set of the staircase is a wider and grander platform that separates it from the rest of the room. On the platform, there are several intricately carved chairs with two royal thrones in the middle of the arrangement.
Guests dressed to the nines stop and stare when we enter the room. Everyone is wearing feathers of some sort. Some more outrageous than the others. It’s a good thing that their attention is more on Genesis and Constantine.
Not long after, King Alexandros and Queen Sophia enter after the announcement is made. I’ve met them before but seeing them now in their formal attire, I can only stare at them in awe. The men bow and the women curtsy, but as soon as they’re seated, King Alexandros waves his hand dismissively and the merriment continues. Queen Sophia is looking beautiful in a yellow and gold silk dress. She’s a very beautiful lady with blond hair, green eyes and a charming smile that looks a lot like Caspian. King Alexandros is a distinguished good looking gentleman with dark hair and dark eyes. I think Constantine looks a lot more like King Alexandros than Caspian does.
I feel like a little girl playing dressed up at an adult party. Everyone is looking so sophisticated and flawlessly beautiful. Of course, most of them are Lycans. Outworldly creatures. Even my bestie Genesis is a lycan now and she looks just like one of them. She looks like she belonged here.
She is talking quietly to Queen Sophia now, while Constantine’s attention is taken by King Alexandros.
I realize that we’re in the area for the royalties, dignitaries and top ranking officers. I am neither one of those, but nobody seems to be making a fuss about it. Still, I feel uneasy. I try to slip away quietly, but Serena grabs my hand. Then she snatches a drink from one of the attendants in feathered costumes flitting around with trays of drinks and hors-d’oeuvres. I just wave the man away when he offers me a drink.
“I would start yawning as soon as they start talking politics and militaries and finances,” comments Serena. I could see that Lazarus’s attention is taken by a couple of older gentlemen. I just nod while my eyes roam around in search of a certain lycan. I know he’s not here yet though because I can feel it when he’s around. It’s weird.
“I feel like an outsider here,” I confess quietly to Serena.
“You don’t look like an outsider, sweetie. Trust me. If anybody said otherwise, they would have to deal with me,” she said playfully, but I think she means it.
“But I think this area here is for the royal family and such,” I protest.
“It’s for the royalties and their closest friends and confidantes. You are that to Genesis and more. You’re our friend too. Don’t sweat it, this is not really a formal occasion. They hold balls like this all the time. They just need the slightest excuse to have one, and now we’re it,” she giggles softly.
“Oh, my…would you look at that,” whispers Serena in amusement. I twist around to look at what she’s staring at behind me. Caspian just walks in with his date.
So that must be Lady Celeste. She barely comes up to Caspian’s shoulder. Her light brown hair is in an elaborate twist with crystals and feathers. Her deep purple dress covered with shiny crystals and feathers. Lots of feathers. She’s dressed to impress and fully attract attention. Who could blame her? She’s walking in the arm of the crown prince.
Caspian is dressed in a dark purple velvet jacket with has an elaborate deep purple silk cravat. His top hat also has feathers at the center. He is dressed a little bit more flamboyant than most men in this room, but he carries the look with such confidence and regal bearing that I can’t fault it.
Admittedly they’re looking good together but judging by the cold haughty look on his face, I don’t think Caspian is really liking this arrangement.
“Poor Caspian,” I mutter to Serena and I hear her choke on her drink. I don’t sound at all sincere.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate Caspian. Not at all. To be honest, I’m quite fond of him already. Not that I’m going to admit that to him. Caspian is truly an enigma. Despite his drop-dead gorgeous appearance and cocky, obnoxious immature royal sonofabitch attitude, he’s a complex personality.
He’s a very good judge of character. He doesn’t trust easily. The rest of the lycans, whether they realize it or not, follow his cue. Once Caspian accepted somebody, they’d do the same. So do I.
He looks at people he doesn’t know and trust with that haughty worthy of a prince look as if they’re gums stuck beneath his expensive leather shoe. Once he decided that you’re worthy, and accepted within his tight little circle where only a few are allowed in, you’ll know.
I know exactly when he accepted me. It was when he threw his first insult at me. I insulted him right back because…well, because I’m me. He looked at me with a raised eyebrow. I raised an eyebrow right back at him. We both tipped our chin up in understanding almost in unison. I saw his lips lifted up the corners in a little smile and I can’t stop my lips from curving up into an answering smile.
We have an understanding. Caspian and I. We show our mutual fondness and respect for each other by trading insults and making each others’ lives as unbearable as possible.
I have a feeling that Lady Celeste wouldn’t be winning his trust and affection anytime soon, though.
Suddenly I feel his presence. I feel Serena’s hand tightens around mine. I don’t have to wonder why for very long because my eyes found Darius Ivanovic Rykov and he’s not alone.
Hanging onto his arm is a tall blond. She’s flawlessly beautiful. A lycan just like him. He’s dressed almost similarly to Lazarus, except that his jacket is black. His vest is royal blue, the same color as the woman’s dress.
I can’t deny it. He’s looking super hot. His top hat is pulled a little low over his forehead, making his sharp perfect jawline looks more prominent and his red lips more sensual. The outline of his tall glorious body cannot be fully concealed by that fine suit. He’s sexy. He’s all man.
His pale blue eyes are slightly hidden underneath the shadow of the hat, but I can feel the heat of his gaze on me blazing even from across the room. My heart speeds up at the sight of him.
They look like they belong together. My heart squeezed in jealousy. I have no right to be jealous though. He’s not mine. I feel betrayed nonetheless. I want to go and rip off her arms that are holding him close by the socket.
“Karla, one of Lady Celeste close friends,” mutters Serena. She gives my arm a gentle reassuring squeeze.
I try to look away, but I can’t seem to tear my eyes away from the approaching couple.His eyes locked on mine immediately.
I don’t miss the way his icy blue eyes rake my form from head to toe. I don’t miss the look of want and hunger in his eyes or the sizzle of energy between us.