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Chapter 2: Welcome

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"You can come out," Alpha Draven says. "You aren't being punished."

I hesitate before slowly leaving the cell, and I flinch when he shuts it behind me, clamoring the bars. I face him and run my hands down my legs, pulling on my frayed shirt to make it even a hair longer.

"How long have you been here?"

"Through the night," I tell him, avoiding his eyes like the rogue said to.

Alpha Draven sighs somewhat regretfully. "What's your name?

"Celeste."

"And this?" He touches the sleeve of my shirt, and I watch his fingers on the fabric.

"The men who brought me here gave it to me. I didn't have clothes," I explain, timid. "Excuse me. I've never spoken to an Alpha, let alone one like you."

"Like me?"

"An Alpha with your reputation," I say.

"Are you afraid?"

Before he came here, I was. But now it's strange because the mate bond makes me feel conflicting things; it doesn't want me to fear him. I chose to say, "No," yet it fails to sound compelling.

"Come. I'm taking you to clean up."

Alpha Draven heads the way he came. I watch him for a moment before reinforcing my sense of bravery and catching up. I slip through the door at the hall's end as it draws closed behind him, not wanting to discover what happens if I defy him.

The Alpha peers over his broad shoulder as we walk through a dimly lit room reeking of wolfsbane with nothing but a metal chair in the middle of it. Before he had the job he has now, my father used to come home sometimes with the unmistakable scent on his clothes. Mom hated it—said it lingered.

The Alpha opens a second door to the outside. The morning breeze immediately sweeps through my bare legs and knotted hair, blowing his scent into me.

Under the brightening sky, my mate looks even more divine—devilishly so. I pick at my nails as my feelings battle with one another; is it right or wrong to be drawn to him? Being bonded to a man like Alpha Draven should not be celebrated, but to deny the Goddess's pairing would be morally wrong. I trail a few steps behind him and study his walk, the way his back moves under his shirt, and the shine of his soft, slightly waved brown hair. My hands grow clammy. He's dangerous, and I'm not sure he can be trusted.

I walk in the grass beside the path to protect the soles of my bare feet, looking and feeling wild—unkempt—exactly how Mom would hate me to be. Alpha Draven peers back again, so I ask, "Should I call you by your first name, or should I call you Alpha?"

I nearly hear his smile. "You can call me Theo."

Theo. I chew my lip. "Okay."

"Do you belong to a pack?"

"Yes. I'm not rogue."

"I didn't think you were," he mutters, talking into the space ahead. "Which one?"

"Are you going to send me back?"

"No."

"Then what are you going to do with me?"

He glances a third time. "I said you aren't being chastised. Do you not want to bathe? Eat?"

Nervous, my throat swells, and the Alpha turns away.

Numerous stone paths wind through the forest and its clearings. The one he takes me down leads to a three-story house nestled by towering trees. The house looks older than the ones at home, and it's adorned with ornate wood detailing and steep, pitched roofs. Two circular turrets pierce through the canopy, one on the front of the house, and another towards the back, made known by its cone-shaped top. The house is hauntingly beautiful and well-kept, and the Alpha takes me inside.

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