“In a few days, we will have all the money we need, and she will be one less problem for us to worry about."
The rain was beating down on me, and the pain in my body from pushing myself hard was agonizing. The burning in my lungs was becoming too much and my legs were cramping, but I knew I was in for far more pain if I didn't make it on time.
Last time I was late by only two minutes, and I got beaten so hard that I couldn't lay down for a week.
I only slowed down as I got closer to my father's office, panting to catch my breath. The voice of my stepmother drew my attention.
“Harland, sweetie...In a few days, she won't be our problem anymore." The subtle smugness and malice in my stepmother's tone made me instinctively aware that they were talking about me.
What did she mean?
My heart was pounding from the running and from what I had just heard, but I couldn't help but quieten my footfalls as I listened.
I knew I shouldn't be eavesdropping—anything I did without permission would come back to bite me. But her words made me stop in my tracks. I had to know more.
“...they'll take her, and we'll have the money."
My eyes widened and my body began to shake uncontrollably.
What was she talking about?!
“Tick tock, Rosalie. You're late again," said a voice behind me.
I snapped my head around and came face to face with Derek's sinister smile.
My stepbrother's gray eyes were looking me up and down in my drenched clothes, as if he wanted to peel them off with his gaze.
Ever since he first met me when I was fourteen, he had been trying to lay his hands on me. I didn't even want to know what he would've done had my stepmother not forced him to leave me alone—only because I was the one who had been making money for the family.
I tried my best to avoid Derek, and that no doubt angered him. That was probably why he got sick pleasure from seeing me chastised by my father or stepmother.
But at this point, Derek wasn't my greatest concern.
I noticed that the voices in the office had fallen silent. They had heard what Derek said.
My father's voice set my nerves on edge. I was done for. I almost tried to flee, but I knew Derek would stop me.
Nothing like a good beating to end the night.
Gloating, Derek moved around me and pushed open the door.
I took a deep breath, suppressing my fear, not daring to look up at the people in the room.
"Father…" my voice trembled.
"I told you she was a troublemaker, hiding and eavesdropping like a mouse," My stepmother said with a smirk. "Who knows what she'll do when she grows up?"
"You were eavesdropping on us?" my father growled.
I smelled the familiar whiff of alcohol and began to tremble uncontrollably. I knew how horrible my father could be when he was drunk.
I lowered my head, afraid to look him in the eye.
I had to redirect his attention. "Here's the money I earned today…"
Isis giggled. Her voice was like nails on a chalkboard.
"Look how slick you are, trying to cover up your crime with just a few bucks? Not only are you late, you're also eavesdropping… Looks like someone needs a little lesson," she said, wrapping her long-manicured nails around my father's upper arm.
My father raised his hand.
Out of reflex, I lifted mine to cover my head. Trembling, I bit my lips so that I would not scream out—screaming would only bring more brutal chastisement.
One second, two seconds… the expected pain did not come.
Instead, I felt my wallet being pulled out of my hands.
I opened my eyes to see my father with money in hand, gloomily surveying me. Instead of feeling relieved, I felt even more scared.
The look in my father's eyes told me that something worse was going to happen.
He hefted the wallet in one hand and frowned. "Is that all?"
I shuddered and whispered, "It's raining hard today, so not many customers came to the restaurant… I've given you every penny I've earned…"
A heavy blow struck my face, knocking me backward and onto the floor.
I slumped to the ground, hearing my father's angry roar faintly over the ringing in my ears.
"What do you mean? Are you saying that I'm dependent on you for support? How dare you mock me?"
Fists fall down on my head and back like a heavy rain.
I cradled my head in my arms and cried out, "No, I am sorry… So sorry… Please stop…"
The intense pain put me in a trance, and my vision began to blur.
"Father… please stop…"
"You'll kill her." My stepmother's voice sounded like it was coming from a very far away place. "Harland... Sweetie, remember… That pretty face and voice of hers are her biggest assets. We don't want to ruin things, do we?"
My stepmother Isis. I used to be happy that my father found someone after my mother died, and she seemed to make him happy. I used to wish I could make her happy, too. I had naively hoped that, one day, things might get better between us.
“She obviously isn't working hard enough! This money is nothing! Pennies compared to what I was expecting. Why did the moon goddess give her such a talent to begin with?" my father roared.
I leaned against the wall and cowered on the floor, looking at my father in fear, afraid he would raise his hand to strike again.
“Well, sweetie," Isis stopped my father, “she obviously is more of a disappointment than we expected. No matter. You already spoke to Talon this morning. You know what the plan is for her. In a few days, we'll have all our financial issues sorted and she'll be one less problem for us to worry about."
My father's drunk expression turned from anger to amusement. There was something sinister lurking in his eyes, giving me goosebumps.
“You seem confused, daughter." My stepmother looked back at me with a subtle smile. “Do tell her, Harland. I bet she will be excited about the news. I know I am."
Isis's grin had me terrified. If she was happy at this moment… it wasn't for a good reason.
My father squatted down to my level, and I couldn't help but flinch backwards in fear. He raised his hand and pressed it on my head—which sent a shiver down my spine.
“You are going to do a big job for me. In fact, one that will change our lives forever."
My heart was pounding with fear, but I remained silent waiting for my sentence.
“You are going to serve the Alpha of Drogomor. It seems he is in need of a… maid, and is willing to pay a lot of money to obtain one."
I gasped in disbelief.
My father! I called him father, but he sold me, as if I was just a sheep... How could he?
I was terrified, shocked, and speechless. This couldn't be happening!
My eyes frantically went back and forth between Isis and my father as he stood up. The look on Isis's face showed nothing but amusement and confirmed the truth of what he was saying.
“Don't look like that, Rosalie," Isis said. “You should consider it a huge honor to work for the wealthiest and most powerful of all Alphas. He may have done his fair share of killing and hurting people, but he is well renowned, and to be a part of his pack… well, that's the greatest of honors," she added with a smile.
The Alpha of Drogomor, the ruler of the most powerful pack of the West.
He was known for his cruelty and hatred for the ill-mannered. Rumor had it that he killed most of his servants, and his reign was steeped in blood—including his own father's.
There was nothing that man wouldn't do to make sure those around him followed his every command. Manipulation wasn't something he had time for. He would rather slaughter the weak and bathe in their blood under a harvest moon.
Even his wolf was said to be a monster, with red eyes that glow in the shadows—watching its victims before tearing apart their bodies limb from limb.
And I was going to be sold to that ruthless killing machine, by my own father!
I gathered all of my courage and begged. “Father, please don't. Please, I'll work harder. I promise. Let me stay!"
Isis seemed to be in a fairly good mood. She smiled at me, but her smile was vicious. “Rosalie, don't stress your father like that. Begging gets you nowhere in life."
They couldn't be serious. I was his only child. The only one to carry on his bloodline!
“There're many things I can do here to help make you more money… Please, give me another chance to show my worth to you," I pleaded with tears in my eyes.
I even turned to Isis. “Isis, please… say something…"
The hits that came next were harder than the previous ones.
I let the tears roll down my cheeks.
“Don't you dare speak to her like that!" my father yelled.
“Father, please don't do this to me..." I sobbed on the floor. “Don't send me to him, I beg you.... If mother were still alive...."
But I could not finish my words.
The defiance drove my father crazy. I watched his gaze turn murderous as he whirled around and grabbed me by my throat, lifting me into the air.
“YOU WILL DO WHAT I F*CKING TELL YOU TO DO!"
He screamed at me, and before I knew it, my back hit the wall, hard. All the bones in my body felt like they were broken, and the intense pain made me almost pass out.
Sliding to the floor, I began to cry. I no longer cared if he saw me. I missed my mother more than anything right now.
My father, the Alpha of our pack, had changed when she died. He was never like this before. I had been his pride and joy, and so much more. He used to let me ride on his shoulders and call me his "little lark."
He loved me, once upon a time, and thinking about it broke my heart.
“Derek!" My father ordered.
“Take Rosalie upstairs so she can clean herself up. Our distinguished guests are arriving soon, and I don't want her looking the way she does."
My entire body was in unutterable pain. I could not breathe. My vision blurred.
As Derek got closer, the last thing I heard before I passed out in a heap of tears was Isis persuading him not to ruin my face or my voice, the two assets of mine that might get them even more money from the buyer—The Alpha of Drogomor.