I awoke to find myself completely shrouded in darkness. For a moment, I thought I was back within my weird dream. Yet something told me I was not. Rising carefully, I stretched my cramped muscles and gazed about the room. My eyes adjusted and I could make out every item within the room in vivid detail. Merging with the wolf had given me several unique abilities and this enhanced night vision appeared to be one of them.
As my other senses unraveled, my stomach growled with hunger. Pondering what I wanted to eat, my gaze settled upon a covered silver platter sitting in the middle of the table. Someone had obviously left it there hoping I would find it. Approaching it with care, I popped off the lid and stared at the small feast.
The medium-rare roast beef drizzled with caramelized onions and green peppers made me salivate. Roasted potatoes and steamed vegetables accompanied the meat, the delicious aroma wafting into the air as I drew the plate closer. A pewter pitcher full of Solam Dinae had also been left behind for me. Whoever had put together this glorious offering obviously knew exactly what I liked to eat.
The wolf within me was pleased to soon partake of such a bounty as I pulled a chair close and sat down. Digging in, I savored the myriad of flavors that assaulted my taste buds. Never had I felt anything like this before. As I reached for a cup with which to drink a bit of the Solam Dinae, the door to my chambers swung open.
The cup clattered onto the table as a very beautiful woman walked inside. Her loose golden locks fluttered softly against her shoulders as she moved, her brow furrowed as she addressed someone I could not yet see. A thin blue gown made of the sheerest material I had ever seen draped the curves of her body to perfection. The silver bracelets wrapped around her wrists jingled softly as she whirled about to face the now open doorway.
“I’ve done as you’ve asked,” she said with agitation. “Now let me go.”
“I cannae,” a voice replied as my mind registered the fact that it belonged to Erendir.
“Marius needs ye.”
She snorted, her hands curling into tight fists as they descended upon her hips. Unable to help myself, I admired the delicious curve of her derriere without her knowing. Yet something told me she knew exactly what I was up to even if she couldn’t see me.
“He’s a big boy,” she spat as she tapped the tip of her sandaled foot against the floor.
“He has no clue as tah what he must do or how he must do it. As his intended, ye must teach him.”
“Intended?” I asked as I pushed myself off of the chair and stepped around the woman to glare at a very startled Erendir. “Ya must be mistaken.”
“I’m afraid he’s not,” she said as she came to stand beside me.
I turned to face her, unable to understand what she was getting at. “Forgive me, but I must correct ya on that declaration. Ya and I are not betrothed. We never have been.”
She ignored Erendir’s loud snort and stared back at me intently. “Oh, but we are. Although I was brought here under false pretenses, it does not change the fact that I am your intended. We have been since the moment we were born, whether you like that fact or not.”
“That’s not possible. I’ve never heard of ya until recently.”
“Be ‘at as it may,” Erendir supplied, “the both of ye are tah mate when the time comes.”
Every part of me rebelled at the idea. There was no way I was going to tie myself to someone I barely knew. Granted, Daeanyara was beautiful, but I refused to betray Julay in that manner. She and her clan would have to do without me. My heart belonged to another, even if my body said otherwise.
“Ya and I both know I am promised to another, Erendir.”
“I bloody well hope so,” I barked, unwilling to accept these unforeseen circumstances.
“I thought I’d made it clear tah ye ‘at there were things ye needed tah understand?”
“I got that much, but this is way too much to take in at once. You’re practically telling me that I’ll need to let go of life as I know it.”
“Of course,” he stated firmly. “‘At’s exactly what I’m telling ye.”
Daeanyara cleared her throat and said, “I’m not happy with our betrothal either, Marius.”
Her topaz eyes narrowed to half slits as her mouth thinned to a tight line. “No. I’ve been running from this my whole life. I know exactly what you’re going through.”
She nodded. “My heart also yearns for another.”
“Then you’ll understand that I want no part of these sordid schemes currently underfoot.”
“Ye have no choice,” Erendir declared.
“Ha!” I stated roughly. “You’re wrong there. I do have a choice. I’ve no wish to be mated with her.”
Erendir stepped in once more, hoping he could make me accept the stipulations set forth before me. “Boy, we can stand here and argue semantics all damned day, but in the end, ye have no say as tah how things truly are. Like it or not, the both of ye will be mated. The Kandenkine and the Foroberos must be united. The safety of this realm depends on it.”
Running an unsteady hand through my hair, I turned around and walked over to the fireplace. Wrapping my hands against the edge of the mantle, I stared down at the cold embers littering the fireplace’s interior. Damn it all to hell! I said to myself. Why can’t things ever work to my advantage?
Daeanyara’s hands descended upon my shoulders, kneading the tension from my muscles ever so gently. The wolf stirred to attention, growling with contentment as her fingers massaged my skin. It was then I sensed the presence residing within her, one that matched the being harboring deep within me. I whirled about and stared at her with confusion, wondering whether she was feeling the same exact thing I was.
A sad smile played about her lips. “We have duties to fulfill, Love.”
The pull between us intensified as I gazed deep into her topaz eyes. My wolf yearned for hers. So much so, that part of me wanted it, too. Yet another part of me rejected the idea. I loved Julay, didn’t I? She did not deserve this sort of betrayal.
Pulling out of her grasp, I pointed to the open doorway. “Get out,” I spat.
Surprise lined every inch of her face. “I don’t understand.”
“I’m tired and I’ve no further wish to continue this conversation. Get out. Both of ya!”
Erendir approached, wrapping a hand around her right forearm. “Come, dear,” he said lightly. “There’s time enough tah finish what we’ve started.”
She frowned, her gaze unwavering as she stared back at me. “No, there isn’t.”
“He needs time tah make sense of what’s transpired. I’m afraid there’s nothing else we can do, for the moment. His transformation is complete, at least, so be thankful for ‘at. Everything else will soon fall intah place, yoo’ll see.”
Taking a deep breath, she nodded and gazed back at me with regret as she followed him out of the room. My head throbbed with a painful insistence as I moved forward and swung the door closed. Clicking the lock into place, I reached up to rub my temples. As my fingers moved in a circular motion across my skin, a profound, yet unsettling, realization settled over me. My wound was gone. No hint of a scar was there. It was as if it never had been.