Chapter 1: Deadly Mistake
I killed a man.
I look down at his shriveled corpse and shiver in revulsion. Not at what I've done, but at what I narrowly avoided by killing him. He attacked me and tried to force himself on me. Werewolves, I think, nothing but animals. I didn't mean to kill him, just stop him from hurting me. But my spell went out of control. The fear and anger rose up inside me and created a power like I've never felt before. I couldn't stop the spell once it had been cast and it was too late. The force I put behind it was too powerful for even a shifter to take.
There's blood on my hands now and I feel remorse for taking a life, even if it was one that needed taking. My coven is going to be very unhappy with me, but I have to tell them what I've done. Another kind of fear strikes my heart as I think about having to tell the High Witch my transgression. This will only make her dislike of me stronger.
I race into the darkness towards my friend Rowena's house. Maybe if I tell her and her mother first, they can help me tell the rest of the coven. I hate relying on anybody for anything, but this is a special circumstance. I need some support to go before the coven and admit that I just did something that could start a war between the witches and werewolves. I may have stoked the flames of war between fearsome enemies.
I knock on her door rapidly when I get there and she swings it open with a grin on her face.
“Raven! What are you doing here so late? Of course I'm glad to see you but…" she says and trails off when she sees my expression, my torn clothes and the cuts covering my body.
“Oh my god, what happened? Come in," she says hurriedly and I follow her into the warm light of her home. She leads me to the kitchen where her mother is mixing herbs for tea. She looks over at me and her eyes widen in surprise.
“Raven! You look hurt! What happened to you?" Rowena's mother asks with concern.
“I'm ok, Moira. But I did something terrible," I admit with tears in my eyes. Her caring attitude has a sobering effect on me. The night's events flood my mind as I try to think of a way to explain my actions.
“Tell me, dear, what did you do? And how did your clothes get torn?" she asks shrewdly.
“A werewolf attacked me. He tried to...force himself on me. So I cast a spell, just to get him away from me, and it ended up killing him," I tell her and hang my head in shame. I'm sure she won't want her daughter hanging around with a murderer and it pains me to think of losing the closest thing to family that I have. Rowena grabs my hand and holds it tightly and Moira comes over and puts her arm around my shoulders.
“I'm so sorry you had to go through that, Raven. Werewolves are despicable creatures and you shouldn't feel ashamed for defending yourself. But we must tell the coven right away. This could get ugly fast. I assume he is from the Dark Moon Pack since they are the closest to our borders, but either way we have to come up with a plan," she tells me soothingly. I nod in acknowledgement as she calls a meeting with her magic, sending a message to all of the witches on the council.
Thankfully Moira is on the council so she can vouch for me. I have no idea what they are going to do and I'm terrified of being cast out. We all head out to the coven's meeting hall, which is a small round building at the center of our community. The message traveled fast and the witches on the council are already arriving. When we walk in, Moira takes her place at one of the podiums.
It's a circular room with a platform in the middle, high seats with what closely resembles a judge's bench in front of each of them and seating on the lower level in front for witnesses. Rowena sits down in the witness area and leaves me to stand in the middle.
The council witches all take their places as the High Witch walks in. Her regal demeanor and patrician looks demand respect and she doesn't even glance in my direction as she sits at the main center seat.
“Explain to me why we have been called here so late at night, Raven," the High Witch asks haughtily. She intimidates me, but I refuse to let it show.
“A werewolf attacked me and I cast a spell in my defense. It was unintentionally too powerful and killed him," I reply. Shocked gasps fill the room. The High Witch shows her displeasure and frowns angrily at me.
“You killed a werewolf? Do you have any idea what you've done? Relations with the werewolves are already strained, but now you have put us all at risk for war! What were you thinking!!" she demands loudly.
“I was just trying to defend myself-" I start to reply and she cuts me off.
“Silence! You could have defended yourself without commiting murder! Now we have to figure out how to clean up your mess," she sneers at me.
“Lavinia, I think we should keep in mind the werewolf attacked her first. I'm sure she didn't intend to kill him," Moira says in my defense. Lavinia whips her head towards her with malice.
“All the same, Moira, she killed a werewolf. The Dark Moon Pack will be highly offended and their Alpha is not the forgiving kind-" the High Witch says but she is interrupted by the loud bang of the door swinging open with such force that the sound reverberates in the room.
“I want to know which one of you witches killed my Beta!" a thunderous voice calls out and I turn around to see a very large and angry man enter the room. Obviously it is the Alpha of the Dark Moon Pack.
My mouth runs dry as I stare at him. He is well over six feet tall with dark brown hair and stormy gray-blue eyes. A neatly trimmed beard covers his strong jaw and he carries himself like a man who is used to being in charge. His tight black t-shirt and jeans hug every inch of his muscular body and I feel my body temperature rise from the sight.
I feel a change in my body as I look at him, a shifting of emotions that I don't recognize. Something is compelling me to run to him and throw myself into his arms. I am confused and frightened by my reaction and I try to shove it down deep inside myself and ignore it. He could demand my death at any moment.
“Alaric, what a surprise to see you," Lavinia remarks with a fake smile. He narrows his eyes at her as if he sees right through her facade.
“Don't feed me a line of bullshit, Lavinia, you know why I'm here. I was just informed by a pack member that the body of my Beta was found at the border of our lands and I want answers," he says with authority.
“I had no idea it was your Beta that was killed, I assure you. We were just discussing Raven's punishment for her crime," Lavinia says hurriedly. Alaric walks closer to me and stares at me intently. He gets right up in front of me and has a shocked expression on his face. He breathes deeply and closes his eyes for a second like he's taking in my essence. When he opens them again he looks even more angry than before. I feel the need to back away, but I don't want him to see my fear, so I gather my courage and straighten my spine, looking him directly in the eyes.
“Why did you kill him?" he asks me and his tone is more curious than upset.
“She said he attacked her and-" Lavinia starts to speak for me but Alaric cuts her off.
“I asked her," he says firmly. I stare up at him and feel tongue tied. That pull that I felt before is even stronger with his close proximity but I'm trying not to let him see how he affects me.
“He attacked me. I only meant to defend myself, not kill him," I reply and I'm proud of how strong my voice sounds. He leans in and when I catch a whiff of his smell I'm overwhelmed with feelings of lust. Get it together Raven, I think.
“But you did kill him. So how shall I punish you?" he asks. But instead of the ill intent I am expecting to hear, his voice is laced with a sultry promise. I must be imagining things.
“We have many different options of punishment in our coven. I propose we strip her of her magic and cast her out so she can't harm anyone else," Lavinia answers his question and my heart starts beating erratically. That's the worst thing that could happen to a witch and I beg him with my eyes not to agree to her suggestion. He gives me an arrogant grin and I know instantly that whatever punishment he is going to come up with is probably worse.
“No. She will be on probation. She will work off her sentence for me until I am satisfied the debt has been repaid," Alaric replies. My eyes widen as I stare at him in surprise. What does he want with me?
“Alaric, there is no precedent for that. A witch has never worked for a werewolf before and I'm sure we can come up with something more suitable to the crime," Lavinia protests. At this point I would almost take the banishment over his idea. But my fate is at the mercy of this man standing in front of me, a man I've only just met and ache to touch.
“I have made my decision. She is mine now," he says with a finality that makes me tremble with anticipation.