I woke up in a thick haze of confusion, feeling as though I’ve been run over by a truck, but not
remembering why. Muscles I didn’t even know I possessed are screaming at me, demanding ice packs
and pain killers, and I have a thumping headache. For a moment I wonder if I somehow have a
hangover, recalling the groggy morning afters I used to experience following nights out on the town.
Slowly the memories trickled in: the wild hunt taking a horrible turn; the rogue wolves chasing me in the
forest; my near scrape with hypothermia; and fighting for my life while knowing it will all be over once
they catch me. When I reach the point where I’m reliving being trapped in the boulders, feeling their
claws ripping into my skin as I try to hold them off, I rush to the bathroom.
Emptying my stomach into the toilet for reasons that have nothing to do with my pregnancy and
everything to do with the sheer terror I feel, I collapse on the tiles and try to force the horrible memories
from my brain.
Other unwelcome images crowd into my thoughts even as I struggle to bury this most recent horror,
ghosts from my past seeing an opportunity to rear their terrible heads. Breathing deeply, I force them
back into the iron safe in the back of my mind, shoving the memories of last night inside with them. It
isn’t easy, but I’m well practiced at stowing unpleasant things away like this, protecting myself from
their torment. When the work is done, I feel dazed and numb, but that’s better than wallowing in agony.
Pulling myself up off the floor, I study my bandaged arms in the mirror, realizing they’ll clash with my
ball gown’s off-the-shoulder cut. I call the dressmaker first thing, asking her to hurry to my side. The
morning papers tell me that the bloody events of my first wild hunt went undetected from the media and
the general public, but today is the Solstice itself – it’s more important than ever that Sinclair and I
make a strong showing.
The dressmaker arrives shortly, surprising my guards – who apparently didn’t realize I was awake. She
suggests tight-fitted sleeves the same color as my flesh, to disguise my bandages without
compromising the gown’s design, and also offers to sew me a pair of matching gloves to help hide my
injuries. I agree and she quickly makes the adjustments. By early afternoon the gown is complete, and
I’m standing in front of the mirror studying the effect.
When Sinclair barges in halfway through the fitting, I’m expecting him to compliment my quick thinking.
I smile at him, feeling proud of my efforts, but he only glares. “What in the Goddess’s name do you
think you’re doing?
His growling voice sends a shiver down my spine, but I summon a soft chuckle. “Well I can’t very well
go to the ball looking like a mummy.” I answer, nodding towards my white bandages.
Sinclair stalks forward, dismissing the dressmaker with a curt “Leave us.” Once the door closes behind
her, he bears down on me, towering above me with a foreboding expression on his handsome face.
“Ella you’re not going to the ball.”
“I’m sorry, are you auditioning to be my evil step mother?” I quip, astonished by his apparent anger.
“This isn’t a joke.” Sinclair informs me sternly. “A few hours ago you were bloody catatonic.”
“I’m better now.” I shrug, turning back to the mirror and pretending I don’t see his thunderstruck
expression. “I felt a bit groggy from all the doctor’s drugs at first, but that passed ages ago.”
Sinclair shakes his head, muttering in something akin to disbelief. “Goddess, Cora was right.”
“Right about wh–” I begin, processing his words too late. As soon as I do I turn on him, understanding
slamming into me. “You called Cora? You told her? Why would you do that?!”
“Because she’s your sister, she loves you and she had a right to know you were hurt.” He declares,
turning me back towards the mirror and unzipping my gown. I try to wrench away from him but it
“Dominic stop!” I insist, backing out of his reach and clutching the garment to my chest. “You should
have talked to me before calling Cora. It wasn’t necessary to upset her.”
“At least one of you is upset!” He exclaims, baffling me completely.
“What on earth is wrong with you?” I demand, feeling my annoyance devolve into outrage. “Why are
you being like this?”
“Well to start with, the mother of my pup was almost killed last night but you’re pretending like nothing
happened!” Sinclair bursts. I feel a familiar rush of disappointment to be reduced to ‘the mother of his
pup’, but I’m not surprised.
“I’m not denying it happened,” I correct him simply. “But it wasn’t a big deal. You’re fine, I’m fine. It was
scary in the moment but it all turned out okay.”
I can see Sinclair wants to reach for me, to grab me and turn me to face him, but he’s obviously wary of
touching my wounds. Instead he circles in front of me, again imposing on my personal space with his
big body. “Ella nothing about this situation is okay!” He asserts firmly, searching my face for signs that
his words are sinking in and becoming even more upset when they don’t. “And I don’t believe for one
second that you are as unaffected by all this as you’re pretending.”
“I’m not pretending.” I insist. “I know you think I’m this fragile thing, but I’m not, Dominic.”
He sighs, wearing the beleaguered expression of someone at his wits end. “It isn’t fragile or weak to be
affected by a near death experience, Ella.”
“I know that.” I inform him stubbornly, “That isn’t what I meant, just that you want me to behave
according to your expectations… but everyone handles trauma differently.”
“Well if I thought you were handling it, I wouldn’t care what method you chose.” Sinclair grumbles.
“What bothers me is seeing you ignore it.”
“So what, you want me to be upset?” I inquire, aghast. “Why, so you can rush in and play the hero?”
“Of course I don’t want you to be upset!” He rumbles, catching my waist. “But I also don’t want you
hurting yourself by repressing your feelings. These things don’t just go away, Ella, if you don’t let them
out they fester and grow toxic inside of you.”
I notch my chin up, my own blood beginning to boil now. “I have the rest of my life to process what
happened, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to let the Prince win this campaign. Don’t you think he wants
us to stay home and lick our wounds?” I demand, surprising myself with the force of my convictions.
I want to convince Sinclair not to coddle me, but I also want to make the Prince pay for trying to harm
my unborn child. “He shouldn’t get away with what he did last night! I don’t care what he does to me,
but I won’t stand for him trying to kill our baby.”
“Well you should care what he does to you!” Sinclair explodes, pacing in front of me and looking as
though he can’t decide whether to be annoyed or impressed with my defiance. “And your wellbeing is
more important than showing him up.”
“That’s your opinion.” I hiss, crossing my arms over my chest. “I disagree.”
Sinclair narrows his eyes, pulling my body flush against his and letting me feel the full weight of his
disapproval. “We’re not going to the ball, Ella.” He declares, his fingers digging into my tender flesh.
“We’re going to talk about this whether you like it or not.”
“You can’t make me.” I combat, my lip curling with disdain, “And I don’t need you to make me feel
better, because I’m fine.”
“No, you aren’t.” Sinclair insists, seeming resigned but determined as he looms over me. “I know,
because I’m not and it didn’t even happen to me.”
“Just stop it!” I shout, fighting back tears. Why won’t he let this go? Why won’t he just let me deal with it
in my own way? I can feel myself spiraling out of control. I can feel the bad feelings hammering against
the locked door in my mind, encouraged by Sinclair’s warmth and understanding. Something inside me
wants to cave to his dominance, but I can’t let that happen. I can’t release all that darkness – it will
swallow me whole. “I’ve made up my mind!”
“Have you even cried, Ella?” Sinclair continues, stalking me across the room. “Have you let yourself
feel what they did to you?”
“I said stop it!” I repeat, pushing at his broad chest, “Just leave me alone!”
“I’m not going to do that, baby.” He states gravely, continuing to pursue me.
“Of course not!” I accuse, “You pretend you’re doing this for me but really you’re helping yourself. You
don’t care what I want.”
“I do, but what you want and what you need aren’t always the same.” Sinclair says, repeating the same
Alpha nonsense he’s been preaching from day one.
Before I can stop myself, I’m surging forward, fueled by a strange and reckless courage. “I am so sick
of your condescending bullshit,” I cry, smacking his hands away, “You’re a wolf so you get to boss me
around, you’re a man so you know what I need better than I do – well I don’t accept that!”
My feeble swats, pushing back against his attempts to console me, grow more and more desperate,
until I lash out with all my strength and strike Sinclair across the face. A loud clap rings through the air,
and only too late do I realize what I’ve done. Sinclair’s wolf blazes to life in his eyes, and I can only
whimper, turn tail – and run.
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