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He kept murmuring things to me, his voice so slurred it was hard to make out anything he said. But I did pick up on some pretty disgusting things he kept calling me and the things he said he’d do to me. I was strong as a vampire, could hold my own if it came down to it, but I’d also draw too much attention to myself if I was able to take down a man twice my size and height.

No doubt talks of “witchcraft” would be thrown around for my strength.

Something I really didn’t need nor want.

So I said nothing, just picked up my pace and headed toward where I’d been staying.

I’d found a little room for rent in the village—the first one I’d come to—and decided despite the lack of modern comforts that I’d had back in America, and that it wasn’t an actual inn, I’d never felt more at ease in my surroundings.

Thankfully, the drunkard stumbled off somewhere else, and I was able to get to the cottage without any altercation. I stepped inside and saw Inessa, the wife who owned the home, cleaning up. I gave her a small smile, and she started speaking. Although I knew enough of the language to get by, she was speaking so quickly I struggled to keep up. But the gist of it was she’d have dinner brought to my room shortly.

So I gave her a small nod, thanked her, and headed to the back of the cottage and slipped inside my room, closing the door behind me. There were still hours before daylight, the night barely having crested, but I couldn’t exactly walk around the village in the middle of the night with the reason being I was enjoying the crisp mountain air.

The last thing I needed was for someone far too superstitious to claim I was some creature of the night looking to drain a child dry. And in these deep Eastern European villages, they still held the stories of monsters from folklore very close to their heart.

But even if I loved this little village, the reality was I couldn't stay here for long. Not leaving during the day so the sun didn’t drain my energy and make me susceptible to injury and death wasn’t an option. But people would soon notice.

So I’d stay here a few more days and then be on my way. But as I thought that, there was this weird tingling in the back of my head, this tightness in my body, as if the very thought of leaving Balka was abhorrent.

A knock on the door pulled me out of my thoughts, and I turned to open it, taking the small tray Inessa handed me, thanking her again before shutting the door, and getting comfortable for a night in with a great meal and one of the many books I’d brought with me.

And in the grand scheme of things, that sounded like a pretty incredible evening.



I watched as Cian and Odhran finished cleaning up camp. I turned to my steed and tied the last strap securely, then ran my palm over his thickly corded neck. He huffed out a contented sigh and stomped his hoof, as if telling me, he too, was anxious to leave.

We were making our way back to the Highlands after several stops across the continent to garner peace treaties and alliances with Otherworld factions. For the most part, everything had gone as planned, and although the trip had been long and arduous and the thought of being home and surrounded by my creature comforts sounded perfect, there was also this gnawing sensation in my gut.

It told me maybe things weren’t as perfect at home as I’d always thought. It said that home wasn’t where I’d always thought it was. Something’s missing. The most important thing.

“I donna understand why we are leaving camp as soon as night is upon us.”

I glanced at Odhran. He was acting surly, but I knew it was all in good fun. He was loyal to a fault, the same as Cian. Both thick as thieves, with Cian the general of the Guard, the Scottish Lycan royal army, and Odhran one of the strongest males I’d ever met, they were both assets to my kingdom.

I couldn’t rule as the Scottish Lycan king without males who knew that with great gain came even greater sacrifice. And it was because of these two males understanding that, as well as my sentries and soldiers, that had me building one hell of an otherworldly army.

I stared at the sky, at where the moon was starting to rise. “I donna know, honestly.” I kept looking at the moon, a chill in the wind, the air smelling… different. “I just have this feeling tae keep moving.”

I glanced at Cian and Odhran again, their expressions stoic. They might want to stay at camp tonight and enjoy copious amounts of ale and speak of battles they’d fought in together, but they’d follow me no matter what and without—much—complaint.

Cian grunted and gave a nod before heading toward the fire and dousing it. The sizzle of the flames being extinguished sounded, the scent of burned wood filling my nose and the smoke billowing from the charred wood and spiraling up to the night sky.

“We’ll head tae the next village. I want tae sleep in a bed.” The look Cian gave me said he knew I was full of shit. I could sleep on the hard cold ground every day for the rest of my life, and it would never bother me.

“Aye,” Cian and Odhran said in unison, not calling me out on my lies.

I lifted my hand and rubbed the sudden ache I felt in my chest. Something was… off, yet I couldn’t place what it was.

I was a predator, a Lycan shifter who could track and hunt down an enemy before they even knew I was right behind them. I could sift through a hundred different scents and find the weakest one amongst them all. I could kill a man with my bare hands and not break a sweat.

But this feeling percolating in the center of my chest? This tightness in my muscles, the ache in my bones? I couldn’t place it, couldn’t get a handle on it, and it made an anxiousness rise up in me. Because I'd never experienced it in my over two hundred years of existence.

“Let’s head out,” I said and finished packing things up before climbing on my steed. I clicked my tongue to get things moving, and we made our way forward, Cian and Odhran following.

I didn’t know what I was heading into, but it was definitely something monumental.