The dagger was cold against Christoff’s skin. Tucked into his belt underneath a loose shirt, Christoff tried to move normally without calling attention to the weapon and without its fine blade slicing into his abdomen. This wasn’t the way this was supposed to be done, but he couldn’t wait for the next full moon cycle. It had to be now. Rounding another curve in the hallway, he ignored the guard standing against the wall, brushing past him at a calculated pace: too slow, and he risked giving the guard an opportunity to stop him, too fast and it would look suspicious. Scowling deeply as he walked, Christoff thought not about what he was about to do, but rather why he was doing it.
He didn’t want to be Alpha, had never wanted to become Alpha. The power there came with responsibility and far too much diplomacy. Christoff’s already tense stomach tightened into a knot when he thought about having to deal with the Wolfkin Council, and being forced to show his belly to a bunch of weak-minded, pretentious, inbred fools. Tasting gall in the back of his throat, Christoff swallowed it down. How easy life had been just a few months before when Ivan needed only to wave a finger to unleash Christoff, the Vulke enforcer, to do what he did best: discipline, punish, remind, and when necessary, cull. Christoff hadn’t had to think, just respond to his Alpha, to the duty and loyalty pulsing through his veins.
But it was all ruined now. All it had taken was one pathetic boy to topple Christoff’s perfect world, and he wouldn’t rest until that pup’s blood stained Christoff’s teeth. A bumbling stray searching for answers, they’d taken him into their pack, given him food and shelter, and began his training as a Vulke foot soldier. Little did Christoff know the poison that the stray would introduce, and that Ivan would become obsessed with the notion that some doctor out there, some American female could threaten the Vulke. Had he known, he would have slaughtered the boy no matter what Ivan wanted. But the traitor had come, infected his Alpha’s brain with paranoia and then fled. Why Ivan refused to send Christoff after the pup, he could only guess, but he suspected that Ivan feared Christoff would kill the stray turned Vulke traitor before he could lead them to the doctor.
Christoff was ashamed of his Alpha. Talk of viruses and cures was madness, and to be threatened by a female was humiliating. Remembering this, Christoff’s resolve hardened. He needed to do this. He was the only one who could. Though so much damage had already been done, he would save his pack from the destruction Ivan’s feebleness had wrought, even if it meant having to feign submission to the Wolfkin Council and enduring the demands of leadership.
Finally, Christoff entered the last corridor and stared straight ahead as he approached the two elite guards stationed before a huge, scarred, wooden door. He stopped just a few paces in front of them, but didn’t look them in the eye. Even Ivan’s most elite guards were beneath him.
“I need to see him.”
The guards eyed one another and hesitated.
Christoff didn’t have to raise his voice. The single syllable left no room for argument, and the guards hastened to open the door for him. Entering the chamber, Christoff again became aware of the cool steel of the dagger. It wouldn’t be like this with that pup, with the traitor it would all be teeth and claws.