On our way back to the bedroom, we saw Rosebud walking down the hall serenely.
"Where is your escort?" Angel asked and Rosebud giggled. Angel rolled her eyes. "Rosebud, go back to your room."
Rosebud pouted and slid over to me, putting her arms around my neck. Angel looked furious and struggled to speak.
"Why don't you be my escort?" she asked me seductively and I tried to pry my arms off of me.
"Thank you, but my wife and I are going to bed."
"I'll go to bed with you."
"Seriously," I snapped, pulling at her arms. "Hands off, Rosebud, or you'll be in the dungeon. That means with the other men in this castle, as well."
She pouted again and walked back to her room, her hips swaying as she walked. I turned to Angel. Her face was red with rage and she looked ready to tear Rosebud limb from limb.
"I thought you said she'd keep her hands to herself," I said.
"She's supposed to," Angel snapped. "Excuse me."
I grabbed her hand before she could run off. I smiled and kissed her deeply. It was cute, seeing her being so protective of me.
"It's okay," I assured her. "I promise you I am not tempted."
"I still don't like her putting her hands all over you," she argued.
I pulled her so that we were walking back to our room.
"I was serious about what I told her."
She sighed. "I still feel a little pity for her, though," she admitted.
I closed our bedroom door and unbuttoned my shirt. "Because she's stuck with the blade?"
She nodded and pulled her gown over her head. "I wouldn't want to be like that, either." I was staring at her body and she smirked. "Can I help you?"
"Actually, you can," I said in a low voice, grabbing her hips and pulling her close.
I kissed her and she pushed the shirt off my shoulders. Her hands worked on my trousers as we walked toward the bed, arousing me more than I already was. I slid my tongue into her mouth as we fell onto the bed. Just as I kicked my boots off, though, I felt a sharp pain in my ankle and hissed. I wouldn't be able to do anything now.
"What happened?" she asked, propping herself on her elbows underneath me.
"I rolled my ankle the wrong way," I sighed and kissed her neck. "I'm sorry."
She guided my face to hers and kissed me deeply. I ran my hand into her hair and was surprised when she rolled me on my back. She kissed my neck, straddling me. Her face was red from embarrassment as she placed butterfly kisses on the marks on my stomach and chest from my fight with Alec. I swallowed thickly as she lowered herself onto me.
I gasped and ran my hands up her sides, closing my eyes. She moved slowly and carefully at first, as if she was getting used to it. I gripped her breasts which aroused her and she moved faster, panting. I moaned and arched my back as she ran her fingers up from my waist. I moved with her the best I could and she leaned her head back, her quiet moans high pitched.
When we were both satisfied, she rolled down next to me, breathing heavily.
"I love you," I panted, kissing her gratefully. "Thank you."
"I love you, too," she panted back.
I pulled the blankets over us and she put her head on my chest. I caressed her cheek and she smiled sleepily at me.
If only beautiful moments like that could last forever.
We were in the throne room when the Sword practically vibrated right off my hip. I gripped it tightly and knew right away what it meant.
"They're here," I said just as the throne room door opened.
My jaw dropped as 100 men and women filed in. They all stood before us and, when they were in even lines of ten, they lifted their voices in a howl and bowed down to me. I gripped my cane and stood up.
"Summon William," I said quietly to Tiberius and he nodded.
The werewolves were all staring at me with fascinated black eyes. I didn't speak until William was led in. He avoided the eyes and ignored the snarls as he was placed to the side next to Tiberius. Though he wouldn't admit it, I had a feeling William was relieved to be next to him amongst all these openly hostile werewolves. I swallowed thickly and looked around at the assembly.
"Who will speak for you?" I asked and a young man stepped forward.
He knelt on one knee, his right hand in a fist and pressed against his chest above his heart.
"My alpha, I am Adam," he said. "I was Alec's older brother. I will speak for the clan."
I glanced to my family and Roland gave me a reassuring nod.
"William has explained the process of being a human alpha with me," I said. "If I understood correctly, I must first explain why I choose to remain a human."
Adam hissed at William's name but made no other comment.
"I acknowledge how you view your clan," I began. "I know you see yourselves as the strongest of the strong and, after fighting Alec, I do not doubt your strength. You are fast, too, which is an advantage to quick travel." Though you certainly took your time getting here. "However, these are traits I do not desire."
"It would heal your ankle," Adam said suddenly and I gripped my cane.
"Let me finish," I said quietly. Adam bowed his head in apology. "There are benefits to being human. Not only do we experience life normally, we are not driven by lust for blood. Again, I-"
"Yes you are," a wolf interrupted from somewhere in the assembly. "You would be surprised of how many of your dead we have feasted on from your pointless wars!"
Before I could respond, Adam spun and growled. "Do not speak to your alpha in such a way!" he snarled and I heard a doglike whimper. "You will let him finish speaking!"
"Thank you," I said to Adam who resumed his position. "Please stand. That looks terribly uncomfortable." He did, looking surprised at my concern. "It is true that there are humans who want nothing to do but kill. There are many others, though, that wish for peace. This kingdom, under the leadership of my father-in-law, has sought this peace for many years and achieved it. If I recall, you once expressed displeasure at this."
"Our apologies," Adam whispered, sounding ashamed.
"Again, I acknowledge and respect your decision to remain werewolves. I do not require your extended life span." I reached for Angel's hand and she stood beside me. "This is my wife." They stared in shock then did the salute to her as well. She looked uncomfortable. "She is the love of my life and I desire nothing but to have a full life of love and, when our days are done, to die by her side."
Adam stared at me, confused.
"May I speak, alpha?" he asked and I nodded. "But why will you not heal your wound?"
I looked down at my ankle. The temptation was strong. Suddenly, Roland and Miranda stood. He gripped my shoulder and Miranda held Angel's hand. I looked back at Adam's shocked face.
"My ankle is a mark of who I am," I said softly. "It shows how-how much I have sacrificed for my family and kingdom. It shows that I love them. And, as you can see, I do not need it healed. I have the support I need."
Adam still looked confused but said, "We accept your reasoning, just as you have accepted ours."
Roland and Miranda sat back down but Angel kept holding my hand.
"Our next order of business includes this man." I nodded at Tiberius and he brought William in front of me, next to Adam. Adam inched away. "As we have already noted, I am in no condition to fight him in his wolf form. I do not have any desire to kill him, either. I have given it great thought and echo the words of my wife: I have killed your previous alpha and your beta and that should be enough proof. You were all witness; you saw no foul play. You have two options: accept my decision or face my Sword."
"Why keep that traitor alive?" Adam asked with a snarl.
William curled his lips back at Adam, a growl emanating from the back of his throat. I cleared my throat pointedly and he fell silent.
"Because he has helped me and my family," I said simply. "You do not need to know the specifics. Now, make your decision."
Adam looked to the wolves behind him. I held my breath and Angel tightened her hold on my hand.
"We accept your decision," Adam said finally and Angel sighed in relief.
The door behind the thrones opened and I gulped. Amelia walked in with a large goblet and, hidden from the wolves at my request, the tonic that would help replenish my blood. I had been trying to find a way to make this work for several days. It was Angel who came up with the idea of the goblet.
"This is the final part," I said and Adam nodded. Roland passed me the dagger he always kept, a look of fear and slight disgust on his face. I sighed and made a slit in my arm. I winced as blood poured into the goblet. "With this blood seal, I become your alpha. Angel is my wife - my mate - and, as such, she also has command over you. By drinking this, you accept it and you also follow these terms: You are to protect me and my family. You are to leave this kingdom untouched. Leave our citizens be. Do not feed, do not hunt, do not terrorize them. Preparations will begin to help you build a community where you wish. You are more than welcome to live among our people, though."
When the goblet was full, Angel pressed a handkerchief to my arm. I was feeling weak at the loss of blood but I stayed standing. William was the first to drink and he passed it to Adam. We stood and watched as the goblet made its way around the room to each wolf. As they drank, I took in my clan. I was still new to the idea of being an alpha but, if I truly had the respect of those assembled before me, it wouldn't be as difficult as it seemed.
"Talk among yourselves," I said when the last wolf drank. "Decide where you want to live. Have Adam come to me with your answer."
I finally sat back down and Amelia handed me bandages to wrap my arm. While the wolves were distracted, I drank the tonic. I didn't want them to see weakness. Suddenly, a fight broke out. The wolves had split into two opposing sides and I heard Miranda whimper in fear. It sparked my anger that they scared my family and I stood up.
"Stop!" I yelled but they couldn't hear me over their growls. Two were starting to transform and Angel whimpered in fear, increasing my anger. I pulled the Sword out of its sheath. "I said stop!" They froze, staring in fear at the sword I held aloft. "What is the meaning of this?"
Adam bowed. "We cannot decide, my alpha."
"Decide on what?"
"Where to live," he answered. "Some wish to live among the humans, some wish to live in a separate community."
I frowned. I knew how important it was to a clan to be together.
"Someone bring me a map of the kingdom," I called, sitting back down. Angel passed me one and bent over my shoulder. "What about here?" I whispered, pointing to the edge of the farmlands. "That way they're near the marketplace and can interact with the humans but they're also far enough away to have their own space."
She thought it over. "And they can have a place to farm," she whispered, showing me where they could start planting. "Yes, I think this is the right place."
"We've made our decision," I announced and stood. "Follow me."