MoboReader> Horror > Bound

   Chapter 1 No.1

Bound By Julie Embleton Characters: 22851

Updated: 2018-02-11 12:01


"Hey, Dad." Nyah Morgan stood at the edge of her father's grave. A breeze whipped sharply around her, the crispness of winter laced in its chill as it lifted strands of her hair to momentarily shroud her view of wilting wreaths heaped against the newly erected headstone. "It's a bitter one today, " she said, shoving her hands in her pockets as she hunched her shoulders against the wind. Cold crept up through the soles of her boots and she stamped her feet gently against the icy earth. "Jackson did a lovely job, " she decided, nodding with appreciation at the headstone. "I hope you like it." Hearing herself, she closed her eyes and released a sigh. "What a stupid thing to say, " she muttered. Tilting her head back, she opened her eyes to where the clear, pale sky stretched far beyond the tips of the bare trees. "This is so hard, Dad" she confessed, tears blurring the colourless afternoon. "I hate it. I hate that you're gone."

When Nyah lowered her head she used the cuff of her sleeve to wipe the dampness from her cheeks. Determined to behave stronger than she felt at that moment, she pulled in a deep breath and loudly sniffed up the remains of her tears. "Okay, " she said, firming her stance. "So, I'll read it out to you. Harper Morgan, " she began, wanting the carved words to be spoken aloud so the surrounding earth would understand the importance of the man now resting in its depths. "Fearless leader, beloved husband and. . ." Trailing off, she dragged her gaze upwards to stare towards the other headstones neatly erected in the simple cemetery. It was a moment before she could release the burning breath, clear her throat and force herself to look back down again. "Devoted father, " she continued. "May he rest in peace."

Reaching out, Nyah traced her fingers along the carving of a wolf etched into the top right-hand corner of the headstone. The lone wolf stood proudly on the highest of three peaks, its neck carved into an eternal arch as it howled towards the moon. To the human eye, not that many ever wandered this deep into their territory, it was a simple carving. To her, and all fellow werewolves, it represented how her deceased father had been an Alpha. "I miss you, Dad, " she whispered, and feeling her throat swell again gave her head a firm shake. "Enough, " she muttered.

When the scent of Alan, the werewolf now set to take over from her father, reached her nostrils Nyah blew out a steadying breath and tried to fix a blank expression back onto her face. She preferred to keep her moments of weakness to herself; tears were best reserved for behind closed doors, or huddled under the duvet, alone, at night, as was her preference.

"What do you think?" Alan asked as he strode through the wrought iron gates surrounding the cemetery. He came to stand beside her before stretching out to give the headstone an affectionate pat. "Jackson did a good job, didn't he?"

"He did, " she agreed, "it's perfect." Knowing Alan hadn't come to the cemetery to share his thoughts on her father's headstone, Nyah made a point of checking her watch. "I'm not late for the meeting, am I?" she asked, aware she still had half an hour before it was due to begin.

"No, " Alan said, "I wanted to talk to you about something before it began – away from prying ears."

"What's up?"

Alan nodded towards the open gate, inviting her to walk with him, as if what needed to be said would disrespect the memory of his deceased Alpha. "Simon Northfell's attending the meeting, " he told her.

Nyah let out an irritated sigh. Alan shared her less than pleasant opinion of Simon Northfell, in fact, the entire pack held little tolerance for him.

"I told him no, " Alan said, following her through the small gate, "but as he constantly likes to remind me; I don't officially have the right to deny his attendance."

Together, they mimicked Simon's haughty drawl. "You are not Alpha, Mr Stenson, the decision is not yours to make."

"He's a royal pain in the ass, " Nyah said, ensuring the rusting gate latch had caught properly. "I wish he'd crawl back to whatever rock he's been hiding under for the last ten years."

"I doubt the rock wants him back either."

"Next Thursday can't come quick enough, " she grumbled as they strolled towards the copse of trees arching above the pathway ahead. "It's a pity we can't find a way to make you Alpha sooner."

Alan disagreed with a shake of his head. "I don't think me being Alpha is going to change anything. He wants a place on the council and he's going to fight tooth and nail to get it."

"Who the hell does he think he is?" Nyah snapped. "He strolls back into Blackwater Ridge after leaving our pack a decade ago and thinks that just because some ancient, watered-down ancestor of his happened to be Alpha a gazillion years ago, he's now entitled access to the pack council."

"Unfortunately, his ancient, watered-down bloodline entitles him to it."

Nyah came to an abrupt stop. "No. Really?"

"Yeah." Alan drew one hand through his wavy dark-blonde hair, a familiar sign of his frustration. "I traced his bloodline and checked the statutes. He does have the right."

"That is not good, " she said after a short moment.

"I agree, " he sighed, shoving his hands into his pockets and staring blankly into the distance, "but there's nothing we can do about it."

An occupied silence shared their walk along the narrow path. It was only when the first of the houses skirting the edge of their small village were visible before Alan spoke again. "Nyah." He took hold of her arm, slowing her to a stop once more. "I've a bad feeling about all of this. Simon clearly has some sort of obnoxious plan formulating in his brain and whatever it is he wants, I think he's going to announce it at the meeting."

"Oh crap, " she groaned. "Any idea what it might be?"

Alan answered with a grimace.

"Just say it, Alan."

"I don't - it's not. Look - he's."

Alan gave up with an agitated grunt and Nyah couldn't help but laugh at how wound up he was. "You're really letting him get to you, " she warned.

Rolling his eyes in agreement, Alan threw up his hands. "I know, I know. The guy rubs me up the wrong way every time I see him. It's this smug declaration about his anaemic bloodline. It's really starting to get on my nerves. And the way he assumes he has the right to be on the council – if I hear him say the words 'birth right' once more, I swear, I'll. . ."

"He does have the right though, " she reminded him. "Unfortunately."

"Yeah, unfortunately, " Alan mumbled. "Look, " he tried again. "This meeting - he might say some things which are going to upset you, so I want you to be ready for it, okay?"

"Okay, " she answered hesitantly.

"Don't let him get to you, " he said.

"'Cos you don't?" she grinned.

"I'm just watching out for you is all, " he explained and nudged her along the path again, a smile widening his mouth, but not entirely reaching his brown eyes. "Old habits die hard, you know. And anyway, you've been through enough without that idiot upsetting you."

Nyah didn't dwell on it any further as they walked the final stretch. She was used to Alan's protective ways and his concern for her had gone into overdrive since her father had passed away. At the age of seven, in the absence of her having any other siblings, Alan had declared himself as her older brother and since then, he hadn't faltered in his promise to always watch out for her.

"See you in a few, " he said, as they separated on the path. "And remember what I said, okay?"

"I will, " she smiled, watching as he jogged off in the direction of her father's house. Pack members were already gathering on the lawn outside and she threw back a quick wave before turning into the pathway of her own house.

Once inside, Nyah quickly drank down a glass of water before hurrying to her room to freshen up. The last thing she needed was a council meeting being waylaid by Simon Northfell. Yesterday's crazed idea that she had been stable enough to start packing away some of her father's belongings had left her emotionally drained, meaning she now had nothing left in her reserves that a spat with Mr. Obnoxious would require. Wincing at the memory of how her tears had turned the entire packing operation into one big blurred, sobbing mess, she pulled her brush through her hair. After dragging herself home last night, she'd fallen, fully dressed, straight onto the bed in a state beyond exhaustion. And when she'd woken up this morning she hadn't felt much better. Dark circles ringed her eyes when she took a critical look at her reflection in the mirror above the bathroom sink. "You're a mess, Morgan, " she warned her reflection.

Back downstairs, Nyah grabbed a banana from the fruit bowl on the dining table, glancing automatically out the window to the opposite side of the street where her father's house sat. Immediately, a leaden ache swelled inside her and she lowered her snack. She had lived in that beautiful house for nineteen years and everything about it she now desperately missed. She longed for the comfort of its familiarity, the security her father's presence brought, the scents that belonged solely to the old building and most of all, the knowledge she was never alone. There had always been somebody in her home. She could not recall a single occasion of ever being the only person inside its four walls, and this was what she had loved most about being the Alpha's daughter. Her friends used to think she was crazy when she talked about it. They used to wonder how she didn't go out of her mind when pack members were traipsing in and out of her house every day, and they had never understood when she had tried to explain how it made her feel as if she had dozens of brothers and sisters, when in reality, it was only her and her father. Now, of course, it was only her. Her mother was just a very distant memory; a smiling woman in a lemon-coloured dress her father had once told her was his favourite.

"Stop with the self-pity, " she ordered herself, throwing the banana back into the fruit bowl before turning away from the window. Her new house was lovely. It was smaller, but easier to keep clean, and Karen, her housemate, was easy and fun to live with. Karen was a widow, a young widow at only twenty-five years old, and childless. Her mate, Peter, had been killed in a car accident three years previously. They had only been married for one year, but as Karen had repeatedly told her it had been the best year of her life and nothing could ever take that from her. "Just like nothing can take your memories from you, " she had consoled one night, "so take your time grieving your father, but remember; everything that's up here -, " at which point she had tapped the side of Nyah's head, "- is yours to keep forever."

She'd have to keep reminding herself of that when Alan and his family moved in to her home next week, she decided. It wasn't going to be easy to watch. Three generations of Morgan Alpha's and their families had lived under that roof and it was hard to believe it had all come to an end. Alan was going to be a great Alpha she reminded herself, pulling the front door shut. He was fair and honest, and, she had to admit, more open to change than her father had ever been. Perhaps now, she thought with a smile, they would fina

lly be allowed internet access for their small settlement.

As Nyah crossed the street she saw Simon Northfell's grey-streaked hair marking his movements amongst some of the other pack members. Although the stiff shoulders and curt nods of those he addressed were subtle, the sense of her pack mates bristling at his presence was not. Their irritation prickled in the air like electricity. Simon was an arrogant and cold man, distrusted because of his long absence from the pack and the assumption he held on return of how he could weave himself into the decision making of the pack council. Purposely letting her hair fall in a curtain over one side of her face as she saw him walking towards her, Nyah quickly ducked inside the house, ignoring his call.

In the large room reserved for pack meetings, Nyah took her seat at the table set out up front. Behind her hung a row of portraits displaying former Alphas of the Blackwater Ridge pack. Her father's portrait had been hung on the same day as his headstone had been erected – exactly twenty-one days after his death – and as with the headstone, she didn't want to linger on the image of her father. It was hard enough she saw traces of him every time she looked in a mirror and glimpsed her deep olive skin, warm brown eyes and black hair. The scent of the stodgy oil paint hung heavily in the room and she briefly wondered if part of his spirit lingered too. She could almost picture him drifting above her, his arms folded with one finger tapping on his upper lip in his familiar pontificating pose, as she had liked to tease.

Alan's arrival broke through her musings. He pulled out the chair beside her, casting a dark look in Simon's direction when he strolled into the room. Sitting down he turned to her a moment later, his warm smile back in place. "I meant what I said about you remaining on the council once I'm Alpha. You know we all want you to stay on, despite what tradition dictates, " he said below the hum of voices.

"I'll always do what I can for our pack, Alan, but I'd really like to take a step back for a while. The last few months have been tough."

"Of course – I'm not trying to railroad you into anything; I just want you to know there's a place for you here if you want it."

"I know. Thanks."

"Are you still planning on taking the college course?"

At the mention of the only subject which had kept her feeling positive for the last while, Nyah was happy to allow a smile soften her mouth. "Yes, definitely, " she said. "Registration takes place at the end of next month. I really hope I can get a place."

"Sure you will, and before we know it you'll be a wealthy business tycoon, " he grinned.

"I only want to open a single bookshop, " she reminded him with a laugh, "not a nationwide chain."

"Ah, you claim that now, " he said wisely, "but when the money starts rolling in you'll be talking about expansion and profits and market-share."

"Who's talking about market-share?" Michael, Alan's soon-to-be Beta dropped into the chair beside Alan and leaned towards them with a blue-eyed, conspiratorial wink. "Did someone say money?"

"Nyah's going to be a business tycoon, " Alan announced. "Her college course starts next month."

"And how long will it take before I can start hitting you for a loan?" Michael asked her.

"Ooh, I'd say at least fifty years, " she replied.

Michael sat back, shaking his head with mock disappointment, but then coming to understand something else, leaned forward again, his expression growing more serious. "So, does that mean you're not staying on the council?" he asked quietly.

When she nodded in reply he glanced towards Alan for an explanation.

"She needs a break from us and the council, " Alan told him. "I've told her she's more than welcome to stay on, but deep down, I think she's just had enough of us."

"That's not true, " she replied, knowing that although Alan was only joking, she'd hate for anyone to even think such a thing. "I enjoyed being on the council, " she assured him, "and I know how, even though I won't be entitled to stay on after Alan becomes Alpha, there's still a place for me. But for now I just need to take a break. Anyway, " she smiled, relieved to see Michael's eyes softening, "you know I won't be able to stop sticking my nose in; once an Alpha's daughter, always an Alpha's daughter."

Despite how authoritatively she stated her position, being an Alpha's daughter carried very little weight. It was her father who had drawn her into the council once he had known his time was coming to an end, and he had stated in his Bidding Documents, the Lycan equivalent of a Will, that upon his passing, Nyah was to remain on the council and continue to be treated with the respect his position had afforded her. Alan hadn't needed an official document to honour Harper Morgan's wishes, and seamlessly picking up where her father had left off, he had continued to include Nyah in all the pack business. But despite Alan's request for her to remain on the council, she knew it wasn't truly acceptable. The only females that held any kind of authority were Alphas' wives. Daughters, although respected, were regarded more as window dressing within a council, and if she did remain, she knew, in time, as the memories of her father faded for the pack, so would her influence.

With the pack seated Alan didn't waste time in beginning. The agenda was brief; patrol assignments, an update on the buddy system for the young pack members due their first change and a final run-through of Alan's inauguration ceremony which was to take place on the following Thursday evening. Simon Northfell waited until then to slowly raise his hand from where he sat, wedged into the farthest corner of the room.

"Simon, " Alan invited him to speak, with, Nyah noted, more than a hint of impatience.

Simon stood up, a worryingly smug smile stretching his thin lips. "I understand the deadline for Alpha nominations is midnight tonight?"

"That is correct, " Alan said tightly.

"And that any Lycan with an Alpha bloodline is entitled to put himself forward?" he continued.

A clearly audible wave of growls rumbled through the room.

"Also correct, " Alan replied.

Simon cast a sneering grin at the scowling faces turned towards him before speaking again. "I would therefore like to formally announce my submission for the position of pack Alpha."

Nyah's heart staggered with shock as growls suddenly exploded into snarls and her pack members shot to their feet. She stared in a deafened shock as the men began gesticulating at Simon, their shouting voices not breaching the pounding in her ears as Simon stood calmly, a schooled expression of innocence plastered on his face. This was what Alan had been trying to say earlier, she realized. He had guessed Simon's intentions, but couldn't find the words to tell her. How could he? He would never have been able to utter the words aloud. Nyah squeezed her hands into fists. She wanted to phase, launch herself at Simon and rip his throat out. 'You want to be Alpha?' she yelled at him silently, 'you think you deserve to become Alpha of this pack? You want take the legacy my father and his ancestors have lovingly and respectfully built and carry it on? You think you're good enough?!'

Alan rose to his feet beside her and took a firm grip of her shoulder as if aware her wolf was trembling to burst free. He barked out a sharp order for silence. "Simon has every right to put himself forward for Alpha, " he announced. "The Show of Hands will take place on Monday night as has been arranged. The only amendment is you now have two candidates to choose from. If there are no other matters I adjourn this meeting."

Nyah slid her eyes shut as she struggled to keep her wolf from taking over. The snarls and shouts were clearly audible to her now, but somehow, hearing others yell the angry words that screamed inside her own head helped. She held still in her chair, each vicious shout appeasing her wolf until there was complete silence and it was only then when she lifted her head and opened her eyes. With the exception of Alan, the entire room had emptied.

"I wanted to tell you earlier, " Alan said quietly, taking her hand from where it was still balled into a fist on her lap. "But a very small and stupid part of me hoped the idiot wouldn't actually put himself forward."

"It's so, it's just so. . ."

"Disrespectful, " Alan finished for her. "To return here after such a long absence and think he can take over as Alpha is nothing but pure contempt towards every member of this pack."

"Why would he do this? Why does he even want it? He's been gone for so long and he doesn't care for any of us! Why is he doing this?"

"I don't know, " he answered honestly. "I really don't. It's not like he's going to be voted in – hell, if he even gets one vote I'll be shocked. And a week from now, when I'm Alpha, everyone will be laughing at him."

"Maybe then he'll finally understand that no-one wants him here."

"I hope so. There's already way too much animosity towards him and after what he's just done it's only going to get worse."

To prove his point, Alan motioned towards the hallway outside. Nyah focused her hearing beyond the partly open door and immediately heard the savage threats rumbling between the men. "Oh, Alan, " she breathed, realizing how nasty the situation had now become.

"Hey, " Alan gave her hand another squeeze. "It's not your problem, okay? I'll look after this."

She nodded tightly, happy to let Alan take control. Her mind was at breaking point. Too many thoughts were tearing around inside her head, crashing into each other in a panicked attempt to be heard, and although she longed to know why Simon wanted to be Alpha, she hadn't a single ounce of energy left to try to figure it out.

Rising unsteadily from the chair she followed Alan out to the hallway. Pack members were pacing along the wide wooden floor as they waited for him, tension rolling from them so dangerously that, for the first time in her life, Nyah did not want to be in her father's house. She knew from experience that the men would not leave here tonight; they would stay and talk until the small hours, heatedly. Suddenly, she wanted nothing more than to be inside her new little home, alone.

"Try and stay indoors for the next couple of days, " Alan asked as he walked her out onto the front porch. "I'm going to ask that everyone does the same. Until the Show of Hands on Monday evening I think it would be best if we all kept our distance from Simon."

"I don't want to be anywhere near him, " she said hoarsely, her eyes flicking towards the sudden rise of enraged howling coming from the depths of the forest surrounding their settlement.

Alan frowned in the same direction as her worried gaze. "Go home, get some sleep, " he said, already turning away to catch Michael's attention. "Everything will be fine, " he added.

As she crossed the street a moment later Michael ran past her. She paused to watch him charge towards the forest, a flash of skin and fur blurring amongst the trees as he phased into his massive grey wolf form. Hurrying up the path, she was quick to open her front door, slip inside and firmly lock it tight behind her, relieved to be separating herself from Simon and the unrest he had caused.

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