“Hey, Elsa.”

I frown up at my two younger sisters, Ora and Anda. “Hey, what’s up?”

“Are you going out tonight?” Ora asks me.

I shake my head. “It’s Thursday night. When do I ever go out on Thursdays?”

“Yeah, but it’s the first day of summer vacation. We thought you’d want to celebrate.”

I shrug. “Are you guys going out?”

Anda shakes her head just as my phone rings, playing Happily by One Direction into the silence. I hold up my finger to them and answer it.

“Elsa?”

I smile as I hear my best friend, Kyndal Neve. “Hey, Kyn. I’m so glad you called…”

“Are you busy?” Kyndal asks.

“No, why? You wanna do something?”

“Yeah. I was thinking we could hit up a club.”

“You mean the Tune of Sanction?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay.”

“Meet you there?”

“Sure.”

 

The local “under 21” club, The Tune of Sanction, is five blocks from my house. I walk there, after arranging for my sisters to sleep over at their friend Hana’s house and getting dressed for the situation.

Kyndal is waiting for me right outside the door by a long line. “Hey,” she greets me. “You look hot.”

“Hey, Kyn.”

We get in line.

“You ready for a wild night?” Kyndal asks.

I laugh. “Sure thing.”

The bouncer, a big bulky fellow named Bomb, admits us with a once-over and a smile.

A curvaceous brunette in a tight, short black dress comes bouncing over the second she spots us.

“Race,” Kyndal greets her. “It’s so good to see you…”

Race Mindell gives Kyndal a hug, then moves to embrace me. “Where have you guys been? I’ve been getting numbers and offers to take me home all night. And where were my girls when I needed them?”

“Well, we’re here now, Race.” I say.

“Oh, Elsa. I’ve been meaning to tell you…”

“Tell me what?”

“There’s a boy here. He’s been askin’ about you.”

“Really? What boy?”

“Here, I’ll introduce you.”

I’m too surprised at the fact that a boy is asking about me to wonder how on earth this boy knows who I am.

Race leads us up to the bar and touches a man’s shoulder. “Fang.”

The handsome man turns and smiles at her, then he spots me. His smile grows wider. He holds out his hand, takes mine, and presses a kiss to the back. “The beautiful Elsa has finally arrived.”

I blush.

“I am Fang Bloodbane, and I’ve been looking for you.”

“Well, we’ll leave you two to have fun…” Race gives me a meaningful look as she and Kyndal walk off.

This so-called Fang Bloodbane is absolutely gorgeous. Gorgeous with a capital GOR-GEOUS. He has dark black hair, cut short, with red and purple accents throughout it. His glittering eyes are a deep, emerald green. His voice is a masculine timbre, low and husky, but somehow the sexiest thing I’ve ever heard.

Fang smiles at me and all rational thoughts scatter.

“H-hi,” I stammer.

This makes Fang’s grin grows. “You are seventeen, correct?”

 “Yes…”

“And you are Elsa Aime?”

“Yes.”

“Does the name… Blade Ambernight ring any bells for you?”

“Sorry, no.” I shake my head at the unfamiliar name. “Should it?”

Fang sighs. “It’s okay. That’ll change.”

“Do you… wanna dance?”

Fang glances in the direction of the stage with a live band and shrugs. He takes my arm and leads me into the crowd. As I put my arms around his neck, Fang wraps his arms around my waist and says, “There are some people I’d like you to meet sometime.”

 

My phone rings at 1:30 in the morning. I pick it up and glance at the screen. “Hey, Race,” I answer it.

So…” Race sounds like she’s grinning. “Did you have fun with Fang?”

“Yeah.”

“Did you think he was hot?”

“Sure.”

“Why’d you leave early, then?” Race demands, all traces of her smiling tone gone.

“I got tired.”

“It wasn’t even midnight yet!”

“So?”

So? Oh, sweetie. How are you going to ever have a life, if you can’t even stay at a club all night?”

“I’m perfectly content with my life as it is.”

“Oh, honey. You poor, pathetic schoolgirl…”

I frown, insulted. “Why are you calling, Race?”

“To see if my Little Miss Goody-Two-Shoes BFF has gotten any yet.”

“Any what?”

Race sighs. “See what I mean. If you’ve gotten laid, Els.”

“Why would I do that?”

“Because it’s fun.”

“I’m not giving up my V-card to a guy I just met, Race.”

Race sighs again. “How can I be friends with someone like you?”

“What do you mean?”

“You’re all good-girl and I‘m not even a back-door virgin any more, Elsa. One of these days, you’ve gotta open your legs. I’d rather it be sooner, rather than later, but it really doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you’re a fucking virgin!”

“I don’t see how my virginity is a problem.”

That‘s the problem, Elsa. I’m a bad girl, and you… Well, you’re just not.”

“Sorry?” I offer lamely.

Race sighs in disgust. “Well, I’ve got someone waiting— a man. One of which yo should seriously consider getting. Bye-bye, love ya!”

Race hangs up before I have the chance to respond. I sigh.

Getting up, I freeze. There’s a scratching sound outside the door leading to my balcony.

Against my better judgement, I make my way over to the door. I unlock it and slip into the warm summer breeze.

A light rain is falling. It forces my sheer nightgown to stick to my skin.

I hear the sound again. The scratching noise behind me.

I turn and glance around, but can’t see anyone.

I go the the edge of the balcony and look over, squinting at the ground beneath me, by the mansion’s portico. A dark shape steps out of the shadows and I gasp.

I can barely make out the silhouette, but it looks like a horse or a bear. Then the figure disappears back into the shadows and another figure strides forward. It’s a man’s silhouette.

It draws closer and I recognize him.

Fang,” I whisper. “What are you doing here?”

Fang steps into the light of the house lights and smiles. “Greetings, fair maiden.”

“What are you doing here?” I repeat. “Are you stalking me?”

“Why, of course not.”

“Then how did you know where I live?”

“Your friend told me. The curvy, annoying one.”

Race told you?”

“Yes.”

“When?”

“At the club. She told me to come.”

Why?”

Fang shrugs. “I don’t know. She said you needed me.”

I sigh in exasperation. “I can’t believe she’d do that.”

Fang’s green gaze seems fixed on me and I blush, remembering what I’m wearing. A soaking, skin-tight, see-through purple nightgown.

“Are you busy, lovely lady?”

“No.”

“Would you like to go out for awhile? I know some people that would love to meet you…”

“You told people about me?” My blush deepens.

Fang seems to consider the question. “In a way.”

I have no idea what that means, but I ignore it. “Sure. Let me just go get changed first.”

Fang nods. “I’ll be here when you get back.”

I go back into my room and hunt for the sexiest, sluttiest dress I own.

I head back outside to meet Fang. He’s leaning against a pillar on the portico.

His eyes appraise me as I approach. “Nice… dress.”

I smile. “Thanks.”

“My friends are a short distance away. We’ll be there in no time.”

 

Fang’s friends live in the most expensive, cavernous house I’ve ever seen. It’s even bigger than mine!

Fang walks right in, ignoring the brass knocker and modern-installed doorbell. “Welcome to our lair.”

I look around at the ornate statues and elaborate tapestries. It’s like a medieval castle in here, complete with suits of armor. Frescoes depict epic battle scenes between fanged people and wolves.

A stunning woman comes out of a room, closing the door behind her. She stops when she sees us, then smiles. She walks forward and extends her red-manicured hand to me. “You must be Elsa Aime. I’m Yvette.”

“Yvette Countess is the best huntress we have.”

I frown at this odd statement, but shake outstretched hand of the chocolate-skinned beauty. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Yvette.”

“Likewise,” the woman replied. She turns to Fang. “Has Blade seen her yet?”

“No.”

“He’s in his study, if you’re looking for him.”

“Thanks, Yvette.” Fang puts his hand on the small of my back and leads me to the grand staircase.

We ascend, and Fang knocks on the third door down a long corridor.

The door opens and a man even more beautiful than Fang is standing there. He has long brown hair that reaches to his shoulders, hard chiseled features, and sparkling blue eyes.

Is this Blade? I wonder.

The man’s azure eyes slide to me. “This is Elsa?”

He speaks with a heavy accent I can’t place. It’s harsh, but sexy. It makes him sound like a vampire. Maybe it’s from Transylvania.

“Elsa Aime.” Fang confirms.

The tall man in the doorway nods and steps back for us to enter. We do.

“This is Blaze,” Fang tells me, motioning to the man. “Blaze Ambernight.”

“And I am Blade.”

We turn towards the voice and find an absolutely breathtaking man sitting at a mahogany desk. He’s even more beautiful than both Fang and Blaze combined.

I stifle a giggle as I think, Race would flip shit if she knew where I was right now…

Blade comes around the desk to reveal he’s wearing a leather outfit with sparkles. He resembles a straight Adam Lambert. And he is hot. Even his teeth sparkle.

My. What big teeth you’ve got there…

And it was true. His teeth were long and sharp. Pointy canines protruding from his gums to press indents into his lips.

“I’ve waited so long to meet you, Elsa. Have you ever heard of me?”

I shake my head. “Sorry, but I think I’d remember.”

Blade sighs. “No matter. I can jog your memory…”

“Are you sure that’s wise, brother?” Blaze asks him.

Blade gives Blaze a look. “She deserves— needs— to know.”

“But—”

Blade cuts Fang off. “Soon, she’ll feel the pull of the beast, the unexplainable desires, and how will she cope, if we don’t help her?”

I’m now super confused. “I don—”

“She’ll feel the moon calling in less than twenty-four hours and she’ll need all the support and answers she can get.”

 

I come awake violently in an unfamiliar room. What the hell happened?

I know that’s a cliché thought to have when you wake up in an unknown place, but I can’t help it. My body starts to shake and my mind goes blank in terror. I fight to still the trembling and form an escape plan, but no memories or rational thoughts will come to me.

The door opens and lets in some light. A lamp flickers on and I see a black-haired hottie before me. I sense a name, but it won’t stick to my tongue. I think it starts with a B.

The man comes closer and smiles at me. “Welcome back. So glad you’re finally awake.”

“Who the fuck are you?” I growl.

The man laughs. “You’ll find out soon enough, Elsa.”

What the heck does that mean?

The man comes to the side of the bed I’m lying on and helps me up. Then he moves toward a closet. He turns back to me just as I stumble.

“Are you guys kidnapping me?” I ask.

The man shakes his head, and snorts. “It’s hardly kidnapping when you belong here, Elsa.”

“You’re making no sense,” I inform him.

The man laughs, then quickly sobers. “Do you remember anything, Elsa? Anything at all?”

“I know who I am.”

“Elsa Aime.”

I nod. “But not you.” I frown. “Or where I am. Or why I’m here…”

“I’m Blade Ambernight.” He stares with an intense sapphire gaze into my eyes. He’s twirling a shiny pendent he took from his neck around his fingers. “Your boyfriend. Do you really not remember?”

I answer, “I… remember.” But my voice is all wrong. It’s dead and flat. Unconvincing.

“Good, good.” Blade Ambernight, my boyfriend, smiles. He continues. “You love me and you’d never leave me. Correct?”

I nod. “That is… correct.”

Blade’s still talking. “You want to give me your complete loyalties and your unbreakable blood oath.”

I nod, agreeing to the unfamiliar terms.

Blade strides forward with a knife he produced from one of his boots. He takes my chin into his hand and drags the knife along both cheekbones, then moves it lower to carve ancient runes I don’t know into my chest and both of my arms. He pressed a bottle to my skin and collects a drop of blood from each new drawing.

I scream with the pain and try to break free. But Blade is too strong.

He finishes branding me with his knife that’s now stained red and lifts the full bottle to his lips, draining the contents. Then he slashes a cut into the crease of his elbow and presses it against my lips.

I scream, but am powerless against his persuasion and magic. I assume it’s magic he’s using, because I don’t seem to have a mind of my own. My body leans forward and takes the middle of his arm into my mouth. The blood doesn’t taste anything how I’d imagined it. One would think blood would be salty and coppery from all the iron, but this magic man’s blood is incredibly sweet and intoxicating. It tastes like… chocolate.

Blade kneels down beside me and holds my head up. I’m dizzy. He runs his tongue along his lips and teeth in anticipation. He leans forward and licks my neck, smearing the dripping blood from my cheeks. He runs his tongue down my neck to taste all the blood and my skin. Then he moves his mouth from my neck to my arms. His canines dig and tear into the flesh of my arm, but I can’t move. My body won’t obey.

My breath leaves me in a rush as Blade takes his knife and plunges it into my stomach.

“Don’t worry, love,” he whispers in my ear as he holds me upright, supporting me so I don’t fall over. “Relax. It’s all be over soon. This is for your own good, you know…”

Then I do fall. Not my body, but my mind. I fall into darkness.

 

The darkness overwhelms me. Blood is everywhere, sticky warmth that coats everything. My body is covered in it.

I lift my hands to inspect the damage. I can’t see anything, so I have to use my fingers to feel for the holes in my skin.

“They say the bite of a werewolf can kill you,” a voice says from somewhere in the dark.

I freeze, shaking uncontrollably in a fetal position.

“But I say they’re wrong.” The man says, this time the voice coming from a different direction. “It’s not the bite that kills you. It’s that some humans can’t withstand the venom used in turning mortals. The poison is too much for their feeble minds.”

“Who are you?” I demand. It’s not very effective, because my voice is shaking.

“Your boyfriend.” The masculine voice sounds like the man it belongs to is smiling. “You forgot me already?”

“I don’t have a boyfriend!” I hiss.

“Of course you do, silly. It’s me.”

A name comes to me, floating through the fog in my brain. “Blade?”

“That’s me, love.”

I still can’t see anything. “Where are you?”

“Waiting for you.”

“What?”

“It’ll happen any second now. That’s why you’re locked up.”

I glance down as I try to move and hear metal rattling. I rotate my wrists and ankles and realize they’re bound by strong chains.

“They’re coated in silver. I would advise against struggling.”

I hiss in pain as my skin brushes against the silver coating. “Why am I chained?”

“For protection.”

Mine or his? “Protection?”

“The first transformation’s always the hardest.”

“Transformation…? Into what?”

“Oh.” The man sounds surprised. “I thought that was obvious.”

“If it was, I wouldn’t have asked,” I spit through my teeth.

“A wolf, of course.”

“A wolf,” I repeat incredulously. This freak is delusional!

“More specifically, a lycan or lycanthrope.”

“A werewolf.”

“Precisely.”

“You think I’m a werewolf.” I say slowly. This is madness. He’s insane.

“No, I don’t think you’re a werewolf.” The man says.

“What?”

“I know you’re a werewolf.”

“I’m sorry, but you must have the wrong girl. I can assure you I am not a freaking werewolf!”

“You are,” the man tells me certainly. His smugness grates on my nerves.

“Are you going to rape me?” I ask.

Blade snorts, looking offended. “Of course not, my pretty.”

“Oh. Are you going to murder me?”

Murder.” Blade repeats. “That’s such a dirty word. With evil connotations. But, if you must know, no. We won’t kill you.”

“What are you going to do with me, then?” I’m not sure I want an answer.

“Recruit you.”

Recruit me?” What is this? Some sort of cult?

“Into the pack. My pack. No— our pack.”

“Our… pack.” Oh my gods. He thinks he’s a werewolf.

“Our wolf pack. I’m the alpha. And you’re my mate.”

“I… mate?”

“You really don’t remember any of this?” Blade sounds hurt.

“No.”

“Oh, well. I guess your memory was wiped when you went missing. I’m so glad we found you, though… Just in time for your Change.”

“It’s almost time, sir.” Another voice says.

“Thank you, Draugluin.” Blade says to the newcomer. “How long?”

“Should be any moment now. Lord Blaze is estimating around three minutes, tops.”

“Thanks.”

“My pleasure.” I can hear the sound of retreating footsteps in the darkness and Blade’s manservant, Draugluin, is gone.

Suddenly, everything looks different. Nothing has changed, but it’s my perspective that’s clearer.

I can hear perfectly. Hear the pounding of Blade’s heart in his chest, faster than any human’s should be. I can hear his breath and the birds communicating outside. I can hear the chains dragging along the stone floor. I can smell better, too. Smell the sweet, coppery scent of blood. Smell Blade’s cologne. And I can see. My gaze penetrates the shadows, the solid cloak of darkness, to take in my surroundings.

I’m in a cavernous room made of steel, silver, and touch rock. The window that forms a screen between me and the figure I can see just outside it is made of diamond. It’s a cave designed to keep dangerous things inside. Dangerous strong things.

Then I notice the window high above. It’s made of diamond, as well. I can see the stars twinkling in the inky indigo sky. A slice of moonlight cuts across my vision and I recoil from its rays. The places it touched me burn with desire. With need. Longing.

My body reacts strangely. I wonder if my period’s about to start.

But that can’t be it. First of all, it just stopped last week. Second, my body was acting way differently from anything I’d ever experienced. Third, the feeling that courses through my body at this very moment was an intense, burning need to stick back my head and howl up to the silver symbol of the goddess Artemis.

I can see Blade smiling behind the diamond screen. Blaze and Fang have joined him. They all watch as the moon taunts me, moving in and out of my field of vision. As I’m tortured by the thing inside me, desperate to break free.

“It’s almost midnight,” I hear Fang comment.

“Two more minutes.” Blaze agrees.

“I really hope she can survive this.” Blade says nonchalantly.

I turn to glare at the three gorgeous men. “You bit me, not even knowing if my body would survive?”

Blade laughs at my growl. “Yes, she’ll definitely live.”

“One more minute.” Blaze announces.

Searing pain rips through me, clawing at my chest. It feels like a demon really is trying to tear its way out of my body. I shriek, loud enough to shatter glass.

Blade laughs again. “Time, Blaze?”

Blaze nods. “Sixteen more seconds… eleven…”

They count down the moments until the mood finally claims control of me.

Five…

Four… Three…

Two…

One.

I scream as something in me breaks.

 

“She’s beautiful, Blade.”

I can hear Blaze’s voice, but can’t locate him. I grunt and spin in a blood-thirsty circle, searching for the source.

“I didn’t think her fur would be snowy, though. I always pictured her as silver or russet.”

“She’s the first white wolf I’ve seen in these parts.”

“It will be difficult for her to hunt.”

“Or hide, if hunters are on her trail.”

I finally pinpoint the direction the voices are coming from. I stalk towards it in a crouch, ready to pounce. I’m in full-out attack mode.

“She looks healthy, though.” Fang says. “And she survived the transformation.”

“We should dub her something else though,” Blaze suggests. “I don’t think Elsa fits her now. She’s too powerful and lethal for that name. Elsa doesn’t sound dangerous. It sounds soft and cute, like a kitten. She needs something sexy.”

“What about… Lucia?” Fang offers.

“The perfect name for a predator.” Blaze agrees. “It’s hot and promises death.”

Blade smiles slowly, sapphire eyes never leaving mine. “How do you like your new life, Lucia? It takes a while to get used to everything… But it’ll get easier. I swear.”

I snarl and Blade takes that as a yes.

He grins and steps closer to the werewolf-proof cage. “I’ve missed you, Lucia.”

 

I was in that cave for nearly two weeks before they deemed me calmed down enough to be released. I overheard Fang and Blaze talking. Apparently that was some kind of record.

Once my hear rate has slowed and I’m in human form again, Blade comes to visit me. He stands outside the cave and peers in at me. I’m too shocked over what had happened to realize I’m completely naked. “Are you tranquilized?”

“Am I what?”

“Tranquil. Calm.”

“If you’re asking if I’ll rip your head off if you come in here, the answer’s no.”

“Good.” Blade opens the door and enters. He walks over to where I’m lying and helps me to stand. “Can you walk?”

My throat is sore from all the screaming and snarling. “I… I’m not sure.”

Blade supports me in case I can’t. We leave the cavern and he takes me to a huge throne room. Fang and Blaze sit in two thrones on a platform. The middle throne is empty, presumably for Blade. Blade removes a necklace from under his shirt and puts it around my neck. It’s the pendant he used earlier to hypnotize me.

I want to yank it off and throw it at his feet, but I like the heavy feeling of it between my bare breasts. I don’t touch it.

It lays there, solid and cold, like an anchor. It feels like it’s guarding my shattered heart. My heart feels broken and bruised. It’s like a protective cage to lock around my heart. To shield it from further harm.

I inspect it and realize it has an engraving of a dagger with a fancy-scripted B in the middle of the amulet. It must be his symbol, like a coat-of-arms. I wonder silently if this means he’s claiming me.

“You look well.” Fang tells me.

I blush, wondering distractedly where my little black dress went. Did it get destroyed when I changed? Probably.

“Keep your hands off the stunning young lady,” Blade growls in warning at his friend. “She’s mine.”

“I would never defile the first lady, My Lord.” Fang replies with mock- seriousness. “She’s your queen, not mine.”

“That’s exactly right.” Blade wraps his arm around my waist and pulls me flush against his side.

I wonder at the possessiveness of this strange man. I know he claims we have history, but he still feels like a stranger to me.

“How is your heart, Milady?” Blade whispers in my ear.

I frown at him, puzzled. “My… heart?”

Blade nods.

“It is… untouched.” I say cautiously, careful not to offend him. “It is fragmented, smashed, splintered into a million pieces… But not by man. This is from the realization that…”

“You’re less than human?” Blaze inserts.

I nod. “My heart is crushed… No more. Gone. But my soul is still intact. Mostly, I think.”

Blade chuckles. “Yes, it will feel like that for awhile. What color would you say your soul is?”

“Black,” I say without any thought. The answer just comes to me automatically. “Stained. Drenched in shadows.”

Blade nods, as if he expected that answer. “Your blood?”

“Gloomy and vivid. Craving. Lustful.”

“And your mind?”

“Excruciatingly lecherous and lascivious. Searingly yearning for blood. I feel a fierce pull towards doom.”

“Yes, that’s part of this life. Having an intense, almost unbearable sexual desire.”

“When will this bitter tension end?”

Blade shrugs. “Soon. Then again, maybe never. You’re new. Give it time.”

“So, I’m just supposed to stay locked in this cage of impulse and want?”

Blade nods again. “Locked in shadows.”

 

My heart is dead, but my soul is alive and vibrant. It is the soul of a demon. It aches to satiate the burning desire residing within me. My soul, oddly, cries out. I don’t feel its sorrow and loss, but it seems to want something… I’m just not sure what.

A voice in my head keeps insisting it wants love, but that’s ludicrous. Love does not reach monsters with demon souls. Yet, however, my traitorous soul basks in the attention whenever Blade is around. I don’t really know him, yet he’s been inside of me. His venom courses through my veins and his canines have pierced my skin, sliding into my arms and neck…

I shiver involuntarily. The memory brings back feelings of horror and fear that I once felt. For some reason, now, I’m indifferent. I don’t feel them as I watch the scene over in my head. I’m not scared now.

I’m… strong.

Free. Brave.

I look up and spot Blade watching me. I’m wearing a low-cut, tight dark purple dress that ends right above my knees with strappy black high-heeled shoes. Blade ordered Yvette to outfit me. She even completed the get-up with makeup and purple nail polish. My lips are painted bright scarlet and my eyes are accented by black eyeliner and gold eyeshadow. The mascara makes my eyes pop and makes my eyelashes look longer. I like the look. It makes me look like a real werewolf.

Sexy and dangerous.

Blade, Blaze, and Fang have taken to calling me Lucia instead of Elsa. Surprisingly, I like Lucia better. Elsa feels like an old pair of mittens, used and too small. It’s time for me to grow into my new identity.

My phone rings and I answer it. “Hello?” My voice is low, changed through the transformation, and sounds more flirty. Sexier. More like Race’s.

“Oh my god, Elsa! You had us all scared to death. I thought you were dead!”

I smile as I hear the familiar voice of Kyndal. She sounds like she’s crying. She sniffles. “I’m sorry for frightening you all.”

“Your parents have put up posters and notices just about everywhere. You were even in the news. They say you’re missing. The suspect you were kidnapped. I’ve left a billion voice mails and texts and emails and snapchats and messages on just about every website I could think of. You never replied or answered. Where are you?”

“Away,” I reply vaguely.

Elsa,” Kyndal begs. “Please, tell me. If you’re in trouble, we can get you out. Tell me what’s going on.”

“I’m not in trouble, Kyn.” I cast Blade a look. “I’m… with someone.”

“Oh my fucking god, Elsa! You eloped!” She accuses.

“Elsa?” Race says. She must have grabbed the phone from Kyndal.

“Yes, I’m here.”

“Are you alright?”

“I’m fine.”

There’s a pause.

“I was wrong about you.” Race says eventually. “You are a bad girl.”

I smile. Oh, I miss them. But I can’t go home like this. Not so inexperienced and untamed. I could risk hurting one of them, or my family. “Definitely.”

Blade catches my eyes and smirks. He wiggles his eyebrows at me in a suggestive, seductive manner. He runs a tongue along his upper lip and winks.

I giggle.

“Els?” Race says.

“Sorry. I got… distracted.”

“You are so naughty.” Race laughs. She actually sounds happy about that. I find it ironic that my being turned into a man-eating creature is what makes her proud. “So. How many times have you done it yet?”

“Please, please don’t answer that.” Kyndal pleads, having gotten the phone away from Race. “And please come home.”

“I can’t, guys. I’m sorry. But my parents wouldn’t understand.”

I don’t understand!” Kyndal points out.

I can hear Race in the background. “I do. While love is a completely foreign concept to me, I’m an expert at making love. However, that doesn’t seem to be the case here… Kyn, our friend appears to be in love.”

“She’s right, Kyn.” I’m in love with this wild side of me. The darkness.

Blade gets up and draws my attention from what Kyndal’s saying, something about how utterly wrong this is and how much they want me to return. I stare as Blade removes his shirt and his muscles ripple under his bronzed skin. I notice a tattoo on his back. It’s an ancient, Celtic-looking symbol. I have no idea what it means, but it’s sexy as hell.

I reach out and press my fingers to the symbol. “What’s this mean?” I ask.

“What does what mean?” Kyndal demands.

I ignore her, temporarily mesmerized by the damned Adonis before me.

Blade seems self-conscious about the symbol. “It’s your name.”

I blush, fascinated. “Really?”

“Really what? Els, what’s going on?”

“He has my name tattooed onto his back.” I say.

Who? Elsa, what are you talking about?”

“The man I eloped with.” I barely pay any attention to responding to her questions, as I watch Blade.

“What’s his name?” Race asks.

I don’t answer, too awe-inspired and curious at the sight of Blade unzipping his jeans. “I…” I clear my throat. “I’ve got to go.” My voice is thick with lust.

Blade smiles at me and all reason flees.

 

Blade Ambernight was the best first ever. He was experienced and skilled in the ways of pleasing women and I was thoroughly tired out afterward.

Exhausted, we had both gone to sleep.

 

Now, it is three in the morning and I am wide awake. My demon soul seems to be singing in joy. I guess last night’s escapade satisfied it.

I get up out of the bed in the room Blade had assigned me, adjoining his, and pad in stockinged feet to the door. I open it quietly and slip out into the corridor. The halls are totally deserted. You would think more people would be out and about at this hour in a werewolf castle.

I find a balcony and shut the glass doors behind me. I stand there for what seems like hours, but is probably close to twenty minutes. Then I sense a presence and hear the door slide open and click shut behind me. I don’t have to look to know it’s Blade. His scent is branded into my senses.

“Couldn’t sleep?” He asks.

I shake my head. “You?”

A smile curves Blade’s lips. “Not after the best time in bed I’ve had in a long time. You are truly exquisite, Lady Lucia. Perhaps sometime we should consider inviting Blaze or Fang to join us.”

“In the bedroom?”

“Why not?” Blade muses. “It might be fun.”

I shoot him a look. He looks thoughtful. I laugh. “Why not, eh?”

“There’s the Lucia I fell in love with.” Blade takes me into his arms and kisses my forehead. “Except, you were a much different girl then. Your name was Elsa Aime, and you were a normal, ordinary girl. You were human— yet to turn seventeen and undergo your first change. But you were still frisky and playful. You used to enjoy teasing me. I miss those days… But I think I like the new you slightly better.”

I laugh. “I really have nothing to compare Lucia to, since Elsa was only a pretend girl.”

“No, I think Elsa was real. It’s just that Lucia fits you so much better.”

I nod, agreeing. “Right you are, Sex God.”

Blade grins. “You’re the one who set my sheets on fire… in more ways than one.”

I glare at him out of the corner of my eye. “Only because I accidentally knocked your candle over—”

Blade stops me with a passionate, lingering kiss. “It’s okay. I forgive you.”

I frown. “I have yet to perfect my sexy-time techniques.”

Blade snickers. “Really? I think you did exceptionally well for a first-timer.”

“Are you making fun of me?”

“I’d never dream of doing such a thing.” Blade assures me. “You just need to find the best rhythm to suit both our needs… Find the right song.”

 

The next few days, I spend prowling the hallways inside the castle. I’m restless.

Finally, Blade suggests a hunting expedition. I agree, desperate to get out and feel the fresh air.

Blade says his favorite hunting spot is Haunting Crow’s Wood. It is a forest close to the castle and teeming with prey and meaty, juicy game. My mouth waters as we wait for Blaze to hurry up and get outside.

He joins us and we set out, all four of us.

“You’ll enjoy your first time hunting,” Fang tells me, walking on my left flank. We’re still in human form. Blade says it’s wisest to change once we’re there, since I’m so noticeable.

I guess this really is the year for firsts. First kisses, first fucks, first hunts… First transformation.

I’m truly a woman now, not a little girl. I’m no longer a child.

We reach the woods and Blade makes us stop. He runs through the rules and strategies of hunting.

We creep into the trees and Fang whispers to me, “The chase is my favorite part. The thrill. You’re in for a real treat.”

Blade gives the signal as we spot a herd of antelope and we shift, shedding out unassuming human shells. We’re careful to stay downwind of them. We stalk in a line away from them until we’re close enough to not be sensed.

Excitement courses through me. I get ready to pounce and await Blade’s orders.

He flicks his tail and streaks forward. Blaze, Fang, and I follow. I spring onto the nearest one. It tries to shake me, but I do as Blade taught me, and sink my claws deep into its flesh. I rabidly tears at it, making a mess, staining my white fur in crimson deliciousness. I wrap my mighty jaws around its neck and hear the snap as it jerks and falls under me. I grin wolfishly, victorious.

Blade brings down the biggest one, a hefty buck that doesn’t stand a chance against Blade’s size and ferocity. He looks up and catches me watching. The large black wolf winks at me and bites into his kill.

I turn back to mine. I murdered this poor, innocent animal without a second thought. I felt the rumblings of hunger in my chest and I acted upon the urge. Did that make me an awful person? Am I a monster?

I don’t know the answer to that question.

Am I a monster…?

The phrase reverberates around in my brain as I lower my head, trying to block out the nasty thoughts from my mind, and bite into the succulent prey.

Prey…

Am I a monster?

 

Fire is the most beautiful thing in existence. It can be used to destroy things and to mend things. Blade is made of fire, undomesticated and hot, and he is a destroyer of the innocent, but he managed to mend my broken soul. My heart is far beyond repair, but at least my demon soul is safe.

It takes a true love to fix that.

Love is the key to anyone’s broken soul. Love, blood, and tenderness. All of which Blade has shown me.

And my un-beating, lifeless heart couldn’t want anyone but him. My soul is entwined with his, both of our demons to be fought together.

“You know what it takes to kill us?” Blade asks as we lie, side-by-side, in his humongous bed.

“What?” I ask.

“Silver and magic,” he replies. He drags a finger along my arm, sending chills and shivers all over my body. “And fire.”

“Fire,” I repeat.

Blade nods. “Oh, yes. Fire.”

“I wasn’t aware Hellhounds feared their energy source. I thought fire fueled us. Sustained us. Isn’t it a revitalizing substance?”

“It is.” Blade agrees. “But it also causes massive amounts of damage.”

“Like silver and magic?”

Blade smiles. “Precisely.”

“Are silver and magic a revitalizing source?”

“They can be,” Blade says. “But, in most circumstances, they’re not. Silver and magic are usually used against us, by people deemed ‘heroes’ for trying to defend towns and villages from our kind. They believe us to all be wicked, with malicious intent, when that is certainly not the case.”

“Of course not.” I say, grinning. “You’re wicked with fun, naughty intent.”
                Blade laughs and rolls onto his side and kiss me. “You are a very bad girl, my beautiful wolf queen.”

I giggle, thinking of Race. “I know.”

“Want to play a game?” Blade asks suddenly.

I look up from under him. “What kind of game?”

“A dangerous game.”

That makes my blood pump faster in anticipation. I smile. “What’ve you got in mind?”

 

The rules of Blade’s game are simple.

It involves two handguns loaded with silver bullets, two pairs of fuzzy pink handcuffs, and two long black leather bullwhips. The point of the game is to basically not get killed. We each get a gun, cuffs, and a whip.

We each have fifty minutes to find a good hiding spot within thirty miles of Blade’s castle. Then we would hunt for each other. The winner gets to choose their prize and the loser’s consequences.

It sounds fun to me, for some reason.

 

I’m crouching in the woods when I hear footsteps nearby. I’m not good at telling time by the sun, but I’d guess about three hours have gone by from the start of the game. So, that would make it approximately 1:00 in the afternoon. Blade must have caught scent of my trail.

I curse myself mentally for not covering it up better. Determination sets in. Blade will not win.

Suddenly, there’s a loud BANG that nearly bursts my eardrums, followed by a yelp and a thump.

Curious, I slowly creep out of my hiding spot and peer around the forest. There’s nothing and no one in sight. Maybe it wasn’t Blade I heard.

I get up and walk around the tree I was tucked inside. I gasp as I see the other side of its trunk. Someone had taken red liquid that smells strongly of iron and formaldehyde. How I knew what formaldehyde smelled like, I don’t know. But it did. Which was strange, because who would mix blood— which is definitely what the liquid dripping down the tree was— with formaldehyde? And why?

The blood is supposed to spell out something. I frown as I study the crude message. The blood-formaldehyde mixture definitely is forming words. It’s wet, which means it’s still new, and says: Beware, lady queen. If you don’t watch your back, the shadows will swallow you whole. They already have your heart. Now they want the rest of you. And the shadows will find you, no matter how far you run or where you hide. No matter how fast you escape. They’ll be there, every step of the way. Wanting, waiting, watching.

Then I notice a a carving beneath the words. Someone must have etched it with a knife. It’s a wolf with X’s for eyes, insinuating that the wolf is dead.

A glint of light catches my eyes and I turn to find a heart-shaped locket swinging from a low branch beside the words and drawing. I reach out to look at it, but it burns my hand. Silver.

I glance around, but I appear to be alone. I wonder at the loud bang I heard. I leave the disturbing image of the mutilated tree and forget the game. I go in search of Blade.

I don’t want to call out in case whoever left the message is nearby.

A searing pain rips through my arm and I grit my teeth. I think, I must have nagged myself on a bush.

But glancing down at my arm, I draw in a deep breath. There are cuts that form letters as I watch.

I am coming for you, wolf queen.

I scream as the cuts keep spreading all over the body like snakes, writhing all across my skin. Blood coats everything.

I feel my conscience waver. Right before I pass out, a sharp odor— sulfur— stings my nose and then I’m aware of no more.

 

I am lying, curled up in a ball, in the forest when Blade finds me. He’s carrying the gun at the ready as if he thinks I’m about to ambush him. At first, he doesn’t see me and nearly steps on my leg. I cry out and he glances down, leaping away, then he drops to my side.

“Oh, my goddess, Lucia! What happened?”

I have no idea, but I don’t trust myself to talk without completely breaking down. I point painfully in the direction I came. Blade glances back and spots the clearing a few paces away. He gets up and goes to inspect it. He comes pack, pale and shaking. He’s seen the tree. I can tell.

Blade kneels back by me. “Who hurt you? Who did this, Lucia?”

“I— I don’t know.” Another torrent of blood pours out of my mysterious wounds, as new ones open up. That’s been happening every six minutes and thirteen seconds for the past two hours. I’ve counted, so I know.

Blade is freaking out. “When I find whoever dared do this to my queen… I’ll gut them where they stand.”

I brush off the cute possessiveness in him and focus on not dying just from the sheer agony. I whimper in pain as claw marks tear open my stomach. I howl as my blood soaks my dress.

Blade raises his head and sniffs the air. Then his nose wrinkles in disgust.

“Formaldehyde and sulfur,” I cough.

He turns his concerned blue gaze back to me. “Yes, I can smell that.”

“What are you doing?” I manage to ask as Blade glances back towards the clearing where my tree is and starts to get up.

“Checking on something. I’ll be right back. Stay here.”

As if I can go anywhere else in this condition… “Hurry back,” I say.

Blade nods and moves slowly away from me.

I struggle with staying silent as another six minutes and thirteen seconds pass, leaving me weak and dizzy and breathless. If I lose any more blood, I’ll be a corpse.

Blade returns five minutes later, this time in wolf form. The big black predator stands guard over me. He shifts back to human and pulls me into his lap. “There’s magic, involved, Lucia. The malicious, malevolent kind. The type that utilizes silver as a weapon against us.”

“You think this is foul play?” I pant.

“What else can it be?” Blade asks. “It’s killing you.”

I wince at his bluntness. “Yes,” I agree.

Anger takes over Blade’s face. It contorts in fury. He lifts me up and carries me all the way back to his castle, where Blaze and Fang take me to my room to rest and get cleaned up. But washing all the blood off and changing clothes seems pointless, if in another six minutes and thirteen seconds, I’ll just be a mess again. I tell Blaze and Fang that, but they disagree. They think I should try taking a bath or a shower, but they capitulate that I don’t have to put on clean, dry clothes. They leave me, to stand sentry outside my door as I bathe.

The scalding water begins to tint red and I realize I was soaking longer than I’d wanted to. I quickly climb out just as my skin releases the flooding cascade of blood. The floor is now a dark puddle.

There’s a knock on the door and Blade enters without me answering. He finds me in the bathroom, woozy with dimming vision.

Blade kneels in the pool on the tiles floor. He ignores the liquid seeping into his clothes. It’s lucky he’s wearing black.

I try to tell him that he’s ruining his outfit, but he brushes off my concern.

He pulls a small velvet box from a pocket and opens it. Inside it a diamond heart attached to a ring. “I know this isn’t the most ideal time, my love… But—” he smiles up at me sheepishly. “Will you do me the honor of being my bride?”

I laugh, even though it hurts. “Of course. It would be my pleasure.” I’d love to be his wife. He’s kind and caring. And he’s amazing in bed.

“You want to marry me?” Blade sounds surprised that I would accept his proposal.

“Yes.” I tell him. “But why so shocked? Are you disappointed? And if so,” I say, getting angry. “Why the hell did you just propose?”

Blade smiles and rises up to kiss me. “I’m merely surprised, my lady, because I didn’t think you’d say yes.”

“Why didn’t you think I’d accept?”

“Because, well… Because I’m evil.”

“You’re not evil,” I tell him.

“I belong in Hell, Lucia. Not here with a beautiful, perfect woman like you. I bit you. Set your transformation in motion. And if I hadn’t fallen for you, you wouldn’t be in this state that you’re in now.”

I smile down at my fiancé. “Meeting you was the best thing that’s ever happened to me, Blade.”

Blade kisses me again. “We’ll find a way to heal you, my pearl. I promise you— we will.”

 

BLADE’S POINT OF VIEW:

I pace back and forth around my room. I am not going to lose Els— I mean, Lucia. Not so soon as I’d just gotten her back. I couldn’t bear it if she died… It would leave me broken and empty. It would leave me in the world without my heart.

There’s no way in hell I’d allow her to go. In any sense. I wouldn’t let her walk away from me, to leave these sweet memories behind, and I certainly wouldn’t let her leave me for Death. I mean, what does he have to offer her?

No. Lucia will live. She has to. I am determined to make sure she survives, even if it kills me.

I glance down at the outfit I’m wearing, still drenched and dirty from Lucia’s blood. I sigh and peel the clothes off. I go into my bathroom and wash up, then return to my sleeping chambers to find a pair of clean pants.

There is a knock on my door. I answer it, now in decent clothes that can be seen in public without making me look like a mass murderer.

I open the door and see Lucia standing there. “I thought I told you to rest, Lucia.”

“You did,” she admits. “And I disobeyed you.”

“That’s not safe, Lucia.”

“I know.”

“Then why are you here?”

“To thank you for saving me and to express how happy I am that we’re to be bound, not just by soul, but by legality, too.”

I nod. “You don’t need to thank me, Lucia, and I am happy, as well… More than happy.”

Lucia stares at her feet. She’s naked, having expressed her fear of soiling any of her other clothes with her timed-spontaneous bleeding.

“Did you walk here alone?”

“My rooms are just down the hall.”

“Yes, but you’re undressed.”

“Is that indecent for you, my lord?”

I chuckle at her simpering, teasing smile. “Of course not. Not for me, my lady, but I’m not the only one who lives here.”

Oh, god. It would be so terribly desolate without her here, in my life, wearing my ring…

I’m euphoric that I engaged to her. And that she accepted… I smile at the memory of her saying yes. Gods, she’s beautiful.

My homeland would be so desolate without her. My heart would be barren and dry and aching for her… I can’t let my river of love wane.

I won’t.

 

Blade sees himself as a beast, but I certainly don’t see myself as the beauty. Or, I hadn’t until I was transformed.

Now, even I have to admit I am quite beautiful. I am strong and glowing. Vibrant.

Blade smiles at me in the candlelight. He’s set up his room with dozens of lit candles, flickering across his handsome features. He’s layered his bed with roses. He fills my glass from a bottle of French champagne and leans over to taste my lips. “I love you, Lucia.”

I freeze at the unexpected declaration. He pauses as I tense. Then he waits. He doesn’t draw back, he doesn’t move. Then, very slowly, I relax and smile against his mouth. “I love you, too.”

Blade takes my wine glass from my hand and places it behind him. Then deftly, he scoops me up into his muscular arms and carries me to the bed. “You know I’d never intentionally hurt you, right?”

“Of course—” I cringe back against the pillow as fresh wounds open on my chest. “I’m getting you wet,” I say. There’s blood everywhere.

Blade shrugs, disregarding my worry. “I don’t mind.”

“We’re crushing the roses,” I tell him.

Blade laughs. “So we are.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Whatever for, my fair maiden?”

“Ruining your silk sheets.”

Blade gives me an incredulous stare. “We’re on a bed with roses in a candlelit room, and you’re fretting about my sheets?”

“Won’t it be a bother for you to clean?”

“How about we make it wetter?” Blade suggests with a mischievous twinkle in his eyes.

Smirking, I say, “What would your dear brother think? Or your best friend?”

“Blaze and Fang can think whatever they want. But quite frankly, I don’t give a fuck.”

I smile coyly. “I‘ll give you the best fuck of your eternal life.”

Blade grins. “I’m counting on that, my lovely beauty.”

I wrap my arms around his neck and pull his lips down to mine. “Anything for you, my tender beast.”

 

And we lived happily ever after.

No, I’m just kidding. This isn’t your typical fairytale, with all that Disney crap. While neither of us died and we were— are— both still madly in love, we never found a cure for my extempore bleeding. You know, mix this with my period, and I’m royally screwed.

I wonder how long it’ll take until I die of blood loss.

Our tale, Blade’s and mine, is a story woven of candlelight and stardust.

 

In the end, all that matters is the heart. Too bad mine  is dead and gone.

I don’t get a happy ending. You may have read this, thinking there would be an epic love scene that miraculously saves me and brings back my heart… Sorry to disappoint. Kudos for you, though, for getting this far. Most people probably would have given up by the second chapter.

My heart is vanished, obliterated, but my soul– however demon it is– is fully intact. And I fully intend to keep it that way, linked with Blades, written on our gravestones.

For, no matter how eternal one is, there’s always an end.

For everyone.

And ours is now.

Forever.

Together.

 

So, here we are. Blade and I, condemned to damnation and blood. But at least we have each other. Always.

If we’ve got one another, we can live in this suffering, so happily.

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