Passing the Baton
It seemed like Danielle would not get entry into the palace any time soon. The moment they stepped out of the car at the entrance of the main palace building, she could smell powerful wolves inside, waiting for them.
The king allowed her to loop her hand into his bent arm and he led her inside the gigantic doors. There, a group of thirty to forty people was waiting for them. At the forefront was a regal-looking, well-dressed white-haired lady with a forbidding look who oozed power and strength.
“So this is the woman who’s taking my place?” The older woman looked critically at the girl — no, woman — standing beside her son. Alex narrowed his eyes at her tone, Lycan snarling inside. His wolf really didn’t like the way she was talking to his mate. He opened his mouth to warn her but she beat him to it.
“How capable do you think you are, girl?” She demanded.
“As and when the need arises, I will become that much capable,” Danielle replied in all seriousness.
Alex was so proud of her at that moment that his chest actually puffed.
Danielle saw a flash of surprise in the old queen’s eyes, and she realised what the latter was doing.
“Fairly good looks, but that isn’t what matters, I suppose, when one is dull as a beanstalk,” Alex’s mother continued as she perused her daughter-in-law. “This is not a palace, girl, this is a war zone. We won’t have snivelling babes coming in here and causing needless chaos.”
“Mother!” Alex snapped. “That’s enough!” His mother snapped her head towards him. She was about to speak when Danielle placed a hand on his and spoke up.
“You don’t see it, Your Majesty,” She said in a low tone. Alex’s brows furrowed and the dowager queen looked at her, perplexed. “You don’t see that she is warning me, prepping me to take over. You are not looking the concern that’s hidden in her eyes.”
The dowager queen’s eyes widened and she took a step forward. She walked forward and pulled the young queen’s hand into her own. Her eyes, emerald green like her son’s, now had immense warmth in them. She looked her up and down affectionately. “Any child of Ursula is one of mine.” She whispered to her, drawing her into an embrace. “You’ve brought yourself up well, child. I can’t see one more suited to the throne.”
A surprised Danielle hesitantly put her arms around her mother-in-law. Listening to her words, she noticed that firstly, she didn’t say ‘I can’t see a woman’, she said, ’I can’t see one’. This meant that she saw her as her son’s equal. Secondly, she said ‘suited to the throne’ and not ‘suited to my son’, which made her feel complicated.
After all, as a young woman, she also wanted to be suited to her mate.
“Okay, mother, that was a good fastball you threw at me. Now please let go of my mate.” He demanded. Danielle suppressed a smile at undertone of possessiveness in his voice.
The dowager queen complied and stepped back. “Call me Helena,” She told her softly. “Ask the guards to lead you to my study when you have any questions.”
Danielle nodded saying, “Of course.”
Alex then led her by the elbow and moved forward along the line that had been formed. “This is my beta, Richard.” Alex introduced to her. Richard made a shallow bow with a distant smile.
“It’s my honour, ma’am.” He said in clipped tones. Alex narrowed his eyes about to show him his place, but he didn’t want to take away that right from his mate.
“Wow, what crawled up this guy’s ass?” Lupa commented. Danielle was bewildered why anyone would hate her without reason. Then she chuckled to herself. Didn’t her dad do the same for most of her life? He was still against her, sending forces to tail and capture her.
Danielle was merely amused by this guy. She nodded. “Beta Richard,” she murmured, looking right past him as if she didn’t notice his hostility at all.
Alex’s lips curved slowly. Indifference was the best insult. Richard was a good beta but a questionable man.
They moved on to the next person. “Darling, I’m not sure whether you know this, but the Royal Pack has two betas, and four deltas because of the large responsibilities they generally undertake. So this is our other beta, Ian.”
Danielle’s eyes popped out at the way her mate addressed her. She reprimanded him with her eyes but he merely chuckled. She turned to Beta Ian who looked like he was in his late twenties. But she knew everyone in this pack was filled with immortal monsters, so she didn’t even try to guess.
Ian gave her a deep bow, his eyes filled with respect. He could sense the aura leaking out of his queen despite her trying to restrain it. He knew she deserved his, the Royal Pack’s and the kingdom’s respect. “My queen, it’s our good fortune to have you here.”
Richard snorted lightly; to him, Danielle was only a little girl. No on paid attention to him.
The king introduced her to Spears next, the Head Butler of the Royal Palace. She would be interacting with him quite frequently. “My queen, I can’t tell you for how long this palace has been waiting for your arrival! Quite cheerless, quite empty. Regrettable, that’s what it was. Now that you’re here, we hope things will start changing!”
Danielle smiled wryly. Happy? Cheerful? She wasn’t any of that. This poor butler was keeping unreasonable expectations. She patted Spears on the shoulder. “Good man,” she praised him. “I - and His Majesty too, I’m sure - appreciate your loyalty to the crown.”
Spears beamed with joy as his eyes started to water. Wiping his eyes furiously, he said, “Thank you, Your Majesty.”
Following Spears were the four deltas of the pack. Then there were some lower rank wolves whom Alex didn’t bother to introduce. He slipped an arm around her waist and dismissed Spears who came running to help. The driver handed over the couple’s luggage to Spears who hurried to deliver them to the Royal Chambers.
As they went passed many twists and turns, Alex introduced her to the many rooms, halls and ballrooms. He didn’t really expect her to remember which was which until much later. But he wanted her to feel at home and not be intimidated by this whole experience.
He turned to look at her expression repeatedly. Sometimes she was interested, sometimes she was curiously bored. But she was never surprised. She was never fascinated. She was never awed. It was a calm that was beyond her years. This kind of calm and stability was scary for even a hundred-year-old wolf.
Alex began growing increasingly curious about this seemingly extraordinary mate of his. A self-satisfied smirk slowly spread across his face. She was all his.
Then they finally reached their rooms. There were two rooms side by side. One door had the king’s crown while the other had the queen’s crown embossed on them. These symbols conveyed that no other wolf had the right to step into these rooms unless she or he had permission. These rooms were royal territory.
Alex led her to her room. He unlocked the door with keys that Spears had given him earlier and opened it wide for her to enter. When she went in, Danielle’s eyes were blinded. There was so much pink and purple that she wanted to throw up. She swallowed tremulously. “Erm... Your Majesty?” She said softly.
Alex frowned. He turned fully towards her. He walked to her and she took steps backwards until she hit the wall. He placed his hands on either side of her and leaned in. He captured her lower lip and bit it hard until she hissed (out of pleasure or pain, it was unknown). “Love, I hate to do this, but you have to be punished for calling me by my title all the time. And my name isn’t ‘Your Majesty’. It’s Alexander. Or Alex.”
Her breath hitched at the intensity of his eyes as they bore down hers.
“Now, love, what were you saying?”
She blinked twice and shook her head as if clearing them of thoughts. Alex found it adorable. “Well. Ahem.” She cleared her throat. “I was wondering, Alex, whether I could redecorate this... room.” She stopped herself from saying the adjectives ‘terrible’ and ‘awful’.
Alex seemed to understand something as he looked around the room. He adjusted his shirt awkwardly, “You’re right, this doesn’t seem to suit you very much. Please, don’t ask permission for anything here. You’re the queen. Go ahead and redecorate.”
For the first time since he had seen her, Danielle gave him a full-blown smile that took his breath away.