The island casts its long shadow over Sophie’s soul as she tries to survive her new world. Her distant mate forces her to accompany him wherever he goes and she finds herself put into one danger after another. Their blood bond forces them together, but will their dislike of one another force them apart just when they need each other the most?
“Nice place you have here. A good example of modern convenience and medieval madness,” I commented.
The day was after my kidnapping, and the time was morning. I still remained in this strange place that was a mixture of medieval fortress and modern mansion. My ‘mate,’ Erik Greenwood, had placed me into the care of one Greg, a servant with a twinkling in his eyes that I wasn’t sure I trusted. He seemed smarter than the average servant, and that wouldn’t help my efforts to escape, for I still sought my freedom and that of the other girls.
My current attire would also hinder me. Greg had found a dress of dark red that, while it set off my dark hair, wouldn’t help if I needed to run.
This Greg was also the person who now led me down the myriad of cold halls to breakfast. We walked side-by-side down the stone corridors. On our left stood large, arched windows that looked out on inhospitable rocks and rough lake water.
The sun shone through a partly-cloudy sky and cast a dampness on my already-weary soul.
Greg chuckled. “Yes. The Old Den and New are quite different.”
We reached an intersection in the dungeon-like part of the Den. I neither saw nor heard anyone. “Anyone live here besides Greenwood?” I asked him.
“None but myself and the other servants. Old Den is now used only for ceremonial purposes, while the New holds the living quarters,” he told me.
“Any secret tunnels and stairways I should know about?” I wondered.
“None you should know about,” he quipped.
I frowned. “You’re not a very helpful servant to your mistress.”
“My Master was my master before you were my mistress,” he pointed out.
“Fine. If you won’t help me escape, at least tell me about my enemies,” I demanded.
He raised an eyebrow. “Enemies?”
“Yeah, the Greenwoods. They seem to be the top-dogs around here, so I’m guessing they gave the orders to have me and the others kidnapped,” I told him.
“That isn’t quite how you came to be here, but I will tell you about the family. They were once sovereign rulers over the inhabitants of the Islands, of which Wolf Island is the largest, but a hundred years ago they relinquished much of their control in favor of a more democratic form of government,” he revealed.
“How kind of them. . .” I muttered.
“Kindness was a secondary motivation,” Greg interjected as we turned a corner. The Old Den slipped away and was replaced by the new one. We were surrounded by shining white walls and electric lights. Greg also led us down a flight of stairs to a lower floor that was of the same modernity. “Many of their subjects demanded a greater voice, and it was granted to avert war. A good leader knows when to submit and when to stand firm,” he told me.
“So this happened a hundred years ago? How long have these werewolves been here?”
“Our ancestors sailed across the ocean as many others did, and they settled on these islands far from humans to avoid the persecution they had endured in their old homelands,” he explained.
I furrowed my brow. “If they didn’t want to be near people than why do they kidnap human women?” I asked him.
Greg opened his mouth to speak, but movement ahead of us caught his attention. I followed his gaze and saw a tall, thin young man approach us. His hair was raven-black and his eyes were blue like those of Erik, but they didn’t have the warmth hidden in their depths. There was something else there, something I couldn’t quite describe, but which left me with a cold feeling down my back.
The man stopped in the middle of the hallway and bowed to Greg. “Good day to you, Gregory.”
Gregory frowned, but bowed his head. “Sir Blackwood.”
Blackwood’s eyes turned to me and his smile widened. “And you must be the new Mrs. Greenwood.” He stepped past Greg, grasped my hand and planted a soft kiss on the back of my palm. His eyes turned upward and swept over me with more interest than I cared to see. “I must congratulate my cousin on such a fine mate.”
I scowled and yanked my hand from his. “I’m not his mate,” I protested.
Blackwood was undeterred by my bluntness. He straightened and sighed. “I see. I can understand your frustration.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Can you?” I sarcastically asked him.
He gave a nod. “Yes, I think I can. You must excuse some of us for what’s happened to you. We’re not all like those you saw last night. We have some very old, very barbaric customs that should be done away with.”
“And you can save the day by getting rid of it?” I questioned him.
He smiled and shook his head. “I am but a lonely servant of the house of Greenwood. As such, my advice is rarely heard, much less heeded.”
“Sir Blackwood, Mrs. Greenwood has been called to breakfast,” Greg spoke up.
Blackwood smiled and stepped aside. “Then I won’t keep you waiting any longer. It was a pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Greenwood.”
“The pleasure’s all yours. . .” I mumbled as I passed by him. We resumed our traveling and I once more sidled up beside Greg. “Who, or what, was that?” I asked my guide.
“Tyrone Blackwood, cousin to my master. His father, Sir James Blackwood, and Lord Greenwood were distant cousins,” Greg explained.
“‘Were?’” I repeated.
Greg pursed his lips and nodded. “Yes. Sir Blackwood sought to obtain by force the position of lord many years ago, but Lord Greenwood learned of the treachery and had him put to death.”
I cringed and rubbed my neck. “Is that the usual punishment for people who make this Lord Greenwood mad?”
Greg smiled. “No. He generally has an even temper and-”
“Where is he?” a voice ahead of us roared. It came from an open, arched doorway that stood down the hall twenty feet from us and on our left.
I jerked to a stop. I recognized the voice as that of Lord Greenwood.
“Well, a generally even temper when in the mood,” Greg corrected himself.
I lowered my voice so as not to be overheard. “And how’s he going to feel about his son not being here?”
Greg touched my arm and smiled. “He will not blame you for his son’s actions no more than Sir Blackwood is blamed for his father’s treachery.”
“Blood’s thicker than water. . .” I mumbled.
“Courage, my mistress. You will need it if you wish to escape,” he reminded me.
“You have a devilish way of giving me enough encouragement to keep going and not enough information to actually escape,” I scolded him.
He bowed his head. “I thank you for the compliment.”
I took a deep breath, balled my hands into fists and put on a brave face. “All right, let’s face this dragon. I suppose I have a couple of bones to pick with this werewolf, anyway.”
I marched forward with Greg behind me. We reached the doorway and I stepped into the entrance with a firm foot on the ground. Before me was spread a fine, modern dining room complete with chandeliers, a long table, and ornate chairs. Old tapestries hung from the wall and the floor was made of highly-polished stone, both a nod to the Old Den. The table ran left to right, and there was a door opposite me through which male servants entered and exited.
My ‘host’ and the Lady Greenwood sat at one end of the long table. It could seat over thirty people, and they looked quite lonely with only the two of them. Two other places were set and food lay before them. Lord Greenwood sat in a high-backed wooden chair and had his fisted hands on the table on either side of his empty plate. His face was twisted with rage. A male servant stood beside him furiously mopping up the contents of a spilled goblet. Lady Greenwood sat with her back to me.
The pair turned to me with my making a noise. I stood as tall as my short, pudgy stature would allow and scowled at them. “Your son’s not coming,” I informed them.
Lord Greenwood jumped to his feet and slammed his fist against the table. The remaining contents of goblet were once more spilled, and the servant frowned and continued wiping.
“Not coming?” Greenwood growled.
Lady Greenwood set her hand on his arm. Greenwood visibly relaxed and his scowl morphed into a frown. His eyes looked past me at Greg. “Find him.”
“He won’t come, My Lord,” Greg argued.
Lord Greenwood growled and waved his hand at the servant. “Then leave us.” Greg bowed his head and hurried off. Greenwood turned his attention to me and gestured to a chair beside his wife which held a set plate. “If you would care to dine with us,” he offered.
“Do I have a choice?” I quipped.
“Only if you wish to starve,” he countered.
I frowned, but walked over and reluctantly took a seat beside the Lady. She was dressed in a light green dress that fitted her perfectly slim form. Her golden, curly hair shimmered against the material. Her eyes curiously swept over me and her mouth held a soft smile.
“I hope you slept well,” she commented.
My memory recalled the previous night’s escapades and I damned myself when I blushed. “As well as can be imagined being kidnapped and all,” I retorted.
Lord Greenwood resumed his seat and waved away the servant by his side. “It would be better if that foolish son of mine didn’t insist on sleeping in those quarters.”
“It’s not the quarters, it’s the company,” I corrected him.
Greenwood frowned, but his wife closed her eyes and shook her head. He pursed his lips and stabbed a piece of sausage that lay on a plate in front of him. “If that damned fool doesn’t want food then we’ll start without him.”
Lady Greenwood turned to me with her disarmingly kind smile. “What do you wish to do with yourself today?” she asked me.
I paused in my piling of food and my face twisted into confusion. “Do with myself? What am I supposed to do?”
Lady Greenwood opened her mouth to speak, but her husband interrupted her. “Do you know any archery skills?” he questioned me.
“Then you’ll learn. What about sword skills?”
“Why should I be learning about that?” I returned.
“Because it’s more useful than anything else, these modern technologies be damned,” he insisted.
“Cyrus. . .” Lady Greenwood warned him.
I snorted. “You sound like your son with him wanting to live in the Old Den.”
Lord Greenwood’s bushy eyebrows crashed down and he stopped his chewing. “That worthless son of mine and I are nothing alike. Nothing. He shows no care for traditions nor even his own duties as future lord of Wolf Island and all the clans! If he was to become ruler tomorrow then-” A coughing fit interrupted his soothsaying. He covered his mouth as his body was wracked by his violent hacking. I swear I saw something red slip from between his closed fingers.
Lady Greenwood stood and hurried to his side to hold his shaking shoulders still. She looked to the servant’s entrance. “Heather!” A young woman of thirty-five emerged from the doorway a moment later and hurried over to the table. Lady Greenwood nodded at me. “Will you please take Mrs. Greenwood to her husband? And if my son requests it, tell him she is not to return to me.”
“Yes, My Lady,” Heather promised. She walked around the table and gently grabbed my arm. “If you would follow me, Mrs. Greenwood.”
Lord Greenwood’s cough had died down to a tremor, but he was now as pale as a ghost. Lady Greenwood set him back down in his chair and turned to me with a smile. “I will see you later,” she promised.
“Yeah, later. . .” I murmured as I was led away through the main entrance.
The last sight I glimpsed was Lady Greenwood dabbing something from the corners of the lord’s mouth.