1. Northern Hospitality
Skin to skin, hot tongue tracing her every curve, creating burst after burst of tingles. Savannah arched her back, giving her mate better access, and grasped his hair as he teased her sensitive spot over and over.
“You are mine, Savvy, only mine!” Zack growled as he entered her in one powerful thrust, locking their eyes and growling from the pleasure.
The car jumped on an uneven northern road, and Savannah woke up, realising this was just a dream. She sighed in relief, looking around and seeing her best friend Kyle and new assistant Zara by her side.
Savannah yawned as she looked outside of her car window. The views of the North did not impress her much. She sighed again, remembering that this would be her home from now on. It was unlikely that her future husband, the Northern Lycan King, would let her live in the West with her brother and his family. After all, he had been asking for her hand in marriage for so many years. Kai was a known cold-hearted brute, and she was surprised he was interested in her at all. Not to mention that she was still a minor the first time he dared to suggest the marriage. Fast forward to her being twenty now, and he still did not leave this idea.
She, however, did not care about his motivation. She did not care about her future husband at all. This was a sacrifice that she was willing to make for her people. Because after her mate’s betrayal, she couldn’t feel anything anymore anyway.
Just a few months ago, she was the happiest girl alive when, during a terrible war, she met the perfect man among her brother’s allies. Zack Morgan was an Alpha who earned his reputation as a great warrior and ruler. And everything in her life made sense the moment they laid their eyes on each other, and he called her his.
He took her back to his pack and announced her his Luna before his packmates, proving the seriousness of his intentions. And then they had a night of passionate lovemaking. It was pure bliss, heaven on Earth, all her dreams came true… Up until the moment she woke up and accidentally heard about his plans to kill her brother and make her nothing more than a breeding machine for him.
“Savannah will be busy the next few years mourning her brother and friends as well as giving birth to my pups… ” His cruel words would be imprinted in her memory forever. A scar that would never heal.
Her heart broke into a million little pieces, and she ran away from him. Zack tried to get her back, but she made it very hard for him. And when they were finally able to face each other again, she rejected him. Only that he did not accept her rejection… which complicated everything for her.
The car stopped, and she blinked a few times, trying to get out of her daze. She promised herself not to go into that darkness anymore. None of that mattered. She would never see him again.
She was here, she was alive, and she was about to fulfil her princess duties and marry the man she did not love, need or even know. All for an alliance that her brother, the Western Lycan King needed, for she knew that if the two kingdoms were not working together now, they might both got destroyed by their enemies very soon. Her brother knew that, but King Kai did not. And they were lucky he agreed to all that in the first place.
The driver opened the window and handed the papers to one of the northern guards.
“Princess Savannah Stormhold,” he announced. “The bride of King Kai Fionnlagh.”
The guard took his time to check the papers that were handed to him, and another one joined him, looking over his shoulder.
“Is everything okay?” he asked.
“Yeah, just one of the king’s brides arriving for the Trials,” the first one replied and handed the papers back.
“What did he just say?” Kyle brushed his hand over his red hair. He had this little habit since their childhood.
“There must be some kind of mistake,” Zara said reassuringly, checking her iPad. She always kept herself busy.
“Of course,” Savannah chuckled. “Relax, Kyle. What else could it be?”
They drove into the territory, and she was finally able to see what the high stone walls were hiding.
It was a castle. A real castle! Huge, dark, ancient, and gloomy. Just like in history books.
Savannah couldn’t believe her own eyes. She was a princess, yes, but she used to live in modern-style mansions. This was… so not what she expected. Even though her brother told her not to expect much from the North.
And she didn’t. But she didn’t expect to get into the Middle Ages either.
“Not important,” she breathed out. None of this was important. She just had to find Kai. Get married to him fast and be done with it. Then maybe they could work on some kind of agreement as to how their life together would be. Surely, they could agree on monthly visits. Hopefully, yearly, after she produced him an heir. Then maybe she could find her mate, kill him and just concentrate on her child. This was a good enough plan.
She and her entourage got out of their cars. And Savvy noticed a woman in a dress too luxurious and open for the ugly and cold weather they had today, walking leisurely in their direction with a much younger girl by her side. The latter had some kind of folder in her hands.
But it was the first one that bothered Savannah because she knew exactly who that was.
“My name is Elene,” the woman smiled, playing with her heavy golden locks. “I am the Northern Princess and the sister of King Kai.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” Savvy managed to curl her lips in a smile. “I am…”
“I know who you are,” Elene sneered, and Savannah swallowed. Of course, she did. Elene probably knew everything about her family. After all, all this started with her. Years ago, Kai proposed her hand in marriage to her brother. Gideon declined the generous offer. The first time Kai asked for Savvy as his wife was probably just out of spite. It was no secret that Elene was in love with her brother. And now that he found his mate and was happily married, all her dreams about becoming the Luna of the Western Kingdom were gone.
She probably hated her. Not that the situation was Savvy’s fault. But she could see that in the woman’s eyes now.
“Follow me,” Elene waved to her and started walking. Sighing, Savannah did as she was told.
“Your castle is magnificent,” she decided to start small talk just as etiquette required of her.
“Thank you,” the northerner smirked and turned to have a look at her. “The other contenders said the same. You will be able to enjoy northern architecture more if you advance in…”
“Excuse me?” Savannah was never slow, and she stopped right there and then. She knew a scheme when she saw one. “Other contenders? Maybe the princess will be so kind as to explain to me what that means?”
“Other contenders for the title of The Luna of the North, of course,” Elene gave her the most innocent smile. “What else could it mean?”
“But I am king Kai’s future wife,” Savvy lifted her chin up to meet the woman’s delighted gaze.
“Oh, no, dear. You got something wrong. You are a contender for the position of his wife. Con-ten-der.” Elene spelt the word for her, enjoying the moment to the core.
“There must be some kind of a mistake,” Savannah insisted.
“There is no mistake, dear,” the princess of the North said, “You are a contender in The Luna Trials. Take it or leave it.”
“The Luna Trials?” Savannah clenched her fists, “You must be kidding! King Kai is of a very high opinion of himself if he thinks that his future wife should humiliate herself by fighting with other women over the honour of becoming his Luna!”
“This is the North,” Elene suddenly became sharp, and all her smiles were gone. “The Northerners will never take a Luna who is not worthy! If you want this place, you need to prove that you are the best among all possible options. You need to be of excellent health and lineage, you need to know how to behave, you have to be smart, but most importantly, you need to prove your strength!”
They were serious. Savannah realised that it was not a joke. They were absolutely serious. This was happening. The Luna Trials or whatever they called it… It was real.
“And by the way,” the princess looked at her with some kind of superiority, “That was minus five points. You will be the only contender to start with a negative point balance.”
“There are points?!” now Savvy was pissed. How dared they? She was a princess, for the Moon Goddess’s sake! The whole situation was an insult like none other.
“Of course,” Elene giggled as they entered a huge inner garden, “how else would we find out who is the best?”
Savannah wanted to say something. She actually wanted to say a lot of things but shut her mouth before she lost more points. She needed to think first before doing anything else. And preferably alone.
“Now, wait here,” the princess told her, “Your maid will come for you when your room is ready. But we didn’t expect you until Sunday, so they just started to prepare it. It will be a while.”
“That’s quite all right,” Savannah smiled charmingly, switching her fake politeness mode too. She knew how this game was played. “The northerners are famous for their hospitality, are they not?”
That was a jab, and Elene’s smile faded. No one praised the northerners for, well, anything. And even if they did, hospitality would be at the end of the list.
The princess left without saying anything else, and Savvy knew that it would be hours before she was able to relax in that room they ‘forgot’ to prepare.
She motioned for Kyle and everyone else to not come close to her. They were her friends, and she did not want them to see the ugly side of her. She needed that ugly to come out of her somewhere else, so she went deep into the garden to avoid any witnesses to her fury. She found the ugliest rose bush she had ever seen, with strange metallic-looking flowers and growing out her claws, she shredded every single one of them to pieces.
It was not fair! It wasn’t supposed to be like that! All she wanted was to sacrifice herself for the sake of her people, ensuring their safety. Because the alliance could give them that. That thought was bringing her at least a little bit of peace.
But she wasn’t prepared to fight for the man she did not even want! What was that? Hell?
And most importantly, was the alliance even still an option? Considering that her so-called arranged marriage turned out to be a scam.
She had to find this out. And she had to do it as soon as possible.
But even thinking of the Northern King made her blood boil. He must have been atrocious if he did that. What can one expect from the man who called himself the Northern Star? Ugh.
“That lying, cheating, self-absorbed, manipulative, conniving, treacherous piece of a b*stard!” she yelled as she destroyed the last flower. She was panting, and no, it did not help her to feel better in any way. Not at all.
It only became worse when she heard a chuckle behind her back.
“What did that bush ever do to you?” a husky voice inquired, and she turned to see the witness of her despair...
NOTE: Hello to the old readers and the new! This is book 2 in The Moonrise Kingdom series, but this story will be written as a standalone book. Most of Savvy's history is already explained in this chapter, but you can find out more about her backstory if you like in the first book - The Perfect Luna.
You can find me and news on updates and some visuals for my book in my FB group Marissa Gilbert's Reading Circle. Not to mention that there will be a giveaway for my readers soon. Join us if you aren't already there. It's fun ;) And let me know what you think of this chapter. As always, I am waiting for your suggestions for the title. And also, we will be voting for the best cover for this book in the group (there are three options to choose from). Don't miss it!