My head turned up to look at Killian when they announced me with a title. I felt his arm pull my hand in
closer to his side in reassurance as they opened the double doors leading to the long stairs case. He
pulled me forward until we were standing just before the banister as he looked out over his people. I
tore my gaze away from him, glancing around the room at the luxurious setup and the people filling it.
I had never seen so much wealth in one room. It made me feel even more out of place and uneasy. As
their eyes landed on us, I knew they were thinking it too. An omega, a human on the arm of their
Lycant king. It was laughable.
I felt my heart hammering in my chest, and I had to wonder how many of them could hear it. Killian sure
could as he turned to face me. I held still with my eyes on the crowd as he leaned in and pressed a kiss
to my temple.
It was simple. Sweet. A silent declaration that I was his.
As soon as his lips touched my skin, my heart slowed, and my lungs relaxed, allowing me to take in a
subtle but deep and calming breath.
The crowd bowed their heads as Killian looked back to them before turning with me to face the
staircase. that curved around the wall of the ballroom. It was extravagant, beautiful…deadly.
I was positive that I would break my neck or, at the very least, humiliate myself by taking a tumble down
to the bottom. But Killian held me steady as we descended the staircase slowly. Rather, the king did.
Killian was no more. From the look on his face and his posture, he was back to being the king that I
hated, that his people loved, and that the rest of the world feared.
As soon as we reached the floor, people began to swarm us, all wanting to get face time with their king,
but very few acknowledged me. I was just the woman on his arm until I bore his mark and the crown of
the queen. Neither of which seemed to be happening anytime soon.
From the corner of my eyes, I watched as his people curled their lips at me, but when I turned to face.
them, they had schooled their features and graced me with a soft smile that must have taken years to
I made a *note to be cautious around those people. They would not have my trust easily.
It felt like it had been hours of being approached by people for meaningless chatter. It would have been
hilarious to watch them babble on to a stone-faced Killian who barely acknowledged them, but we had
only made it a few feet from the stairs, and I was parched.
The anxiety of being surrounded by hundreds of Lycans, had all my blood thickening until it felt like I
had also turned to stone. As soon as the man before us finished speaking, I looked up at Killian,
enjoying the way he turned and gave me his complete and undivided attention.
“I am going to grab a drink. Would you like anything?” Killian shook his head in response, squeezing
my hand on his elbow as if he didn’t want to let me step away from his side. He opened his *the
respond but closed it again as Joselin approached us, looking rather serious for the occasion.
“Your Majesty, I have urgent news. May I take a moment of your time?” Her eyes flickered over to me
before holding steady on Killian.
I hated it. The more she took him away from me and dismissed me, the more I hated her.
He may have told me that he was faithful, but even without my heat, I was doubtful that there weren’t
deeper feelings there. He was always with her, talking to her, and watching her. Even as I had
approached. him tonight, he was staring after her.
More than anything, I wanted to tell her no, that she may not have him. Not only was it rude to take him
away from his alleged mate during a social function, but beyond the pack dinners, this was our first real
outing together. There had been several little changes in his treatment of me today, but even I knew it
was too much and too soon to ask him to put me above his work for a few hours.
He glanced down at me, and I knew he saw the defeat and hurt in my eyes as his face softened, but I
held my chin up and nodded in acceptance. I knew before he even opened his *that he was going to
“I will rejoin you shortly, my mate.” He whispered, and I flinched as he leaned in again to kiss me. He
stopped immediately and pulled back with his jaw tight. He didn’t get to touch me when he was leaving
with her, the witch who had tried to force herself into my mind and held a monopoly over his time.
It was insulting that he was playing the kind and loving mate toward me when he was only moments
away from having his witch all to himself, to do any number of things.
“I’ll be here,” The nerves and excitement were gone from my tone as I took my hand from his arm. He
glanced down at his sleeve with his eyebrows pinched together before straightening his neck and
nodding once in confirmation.
I couldn’t help but watch his back as he turned to walk away with Joselin closely in tow. She glanced
over her shoulder at me, but her face was unreadable, and she turned back with her head tilted down.
I didn’t need to look behind me to know Tobias had moved up to stand near, keeping only a few feet
between us in the crowd. No one dared to approach me. No one wanted to. Without the crown on my
head or the king by my side, I was nothing but a human to them.
It was fascinating to watch them dip their heads at me in feigned respect as I walked by when it was
obvious that they looked down on me. They wanted to be in my good grace for when I was marked by
Charlie stood by the food table, snacking with a forced smile on her face as she continued to glance.
around the room, clearly not interested in what the woman circling her had to say. Her face lit up as she
glanced toward the entrance of the ballroom, and I followed her gaze to the monstrous group of men
They appeared to be even more uncomfortable than I was. The guests parted for them, murmuring to
each other as the scraggly men moved through the crowd, their heads on a swivel as they scanned the
area. Each step they took looked as if their suits made them itch with how stiffly they were moving. I
imagined it was how one would walk when wearing a burlap sack instead of the expensive fabric they
The largest of the group donned a suit made for a member of the royal family, but the large sword
strapped to his back caught my eye, and from the growl that Tobias let out, it also caught his. The
faded. leather strap holding his sheath on clashed sharply with the fine black material of his suit jacket.
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