An amateur witch. A dark past. A fierce deceit.
Paladin Agent Alice Skye didn’t think much of the contract forced upon her by Rexley Wild, Alpha of one of the largest packs in Europe.
He hired her for one job.
Find the missing wolf.
Unfortunately for Alice, she might already be too late.
She's in way over her head, an inexperienced witch who has to use all her instincts to help the secretive and detached Alpha find his missing pack mate. But it isn’t long before she realises something’s not quite right. It's not simply a missing person, it was something a lot closer to home, something that reignites nightmares that make her question her own, horrific past.
Alice is in a race against time that forces her to face against vampires, daemons and anything that gets in the way, for she only has one thing to do, find the wolf before he turns up like the others.
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Alice groaned as she turned slightly, the bed creaking beneath her. Yawning, she absently reached towards the nightstand, her hand touching the familiar coolness of her phone. Blinking the sleepiness away she frowned, the light through the cheap curtains shining enough to brighten her bedroom. Bringing the mobile to her face she stared at it, confused why it wasn't lighting up. Shaking it in her hand, as if that would help, sudden realisation hit her. The phone wasn’t on charge, the white wire fallen beside the bed.
“FUCK!” Alice bounced off the mattress, running half-naked into her living room to squint at the small analogue clock on her TV.
“Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.” She grabbed the closest clothes, pulling them on while she tried to brush through the nest she called hair. Hopping on one foot she pulled on her ankle boots, stretching to grab her jacket and satchel before she ran through the front door a few seconds later.
It had to be today. Alice groaned to herself as she hurriedly made her way down several floors to the street below. The one day I can’t bloody be late. The door separating the foyer to the road was already open as she half-jogged out, her attention on the small parking space to the side of the building. Her ‘vintage,’ as she liked to call it Volkswagen Beetle sat like it always did in its dedicated parking space. The pale blue colouring more silver than it should be, the rust and scrapes flaking away at the paint. The hubcaps were gone, stolen yet again and some smartarse had scraped a bad luck spell into the back bumper. The joke was on them though, they had done one of the symbols wrong.
Dropping her bag onto the bonnet, she searched for the car keys.
“You have got to be kidding me?” she muttered. The keys were not in her bag like they were supposed to be. They were probably still sitting beside the kettle where she left them last. Her eyes rolled over to the clumsy curves of the bad luck spell.
It seemed they didn’t get it wrong after all.
Grabbing her satchel, she hitched it high up her shoulder as she turned towards the road. I don’t have time for this.
The bus stop was roughly a ten-minute walk up the road. Her light jog made it in four with only a few minutes wait. The doors screeched open as the bus driver barely looked up, his long greasy hair hiding most of his face.
“Central Caverns please,” she asked politely, her voice surprisingly strong considering she hadn’t had time for her morning caffeine.
With barely a grunt the driver accepted her money before starting the bus, not even giving her time to find a seat.
Deciding to sit at the front she scooted over to the window, the buildings blurring together as the bus manoeuvred through the residential area towards the central part of the city. The steady vibration centred her as she stared blankly, her brain on override as she tried to figure out why she had to go to a meeting.
One day is not enough warning.
Her role as a Paladin was something she was proud of, something she was good at if she said so herself. She was trained to track and detain Breed, also known as anyone not one hundred percent human, by any means necessary.
Well, within reason of course.
Witches, vampires, shifters, faeries and the occasional selkie was what she was skilled in. Unfortunately, the pay wasn’t as you would expect a high-risk job would have, especially considering Paladin Agents had a high mortality rate. Which wasn’t surprising when the subject she was in charge of bringing to justice was twice her size, had large fangs and the tendency to rip one’s throat out.
Most people that hired her through Supernatural Intelligence, the organisation created as a Breed partnership with the local metropolitan police, were genuinely tight-arsed. So she wasn’t allowed to use flashy spells or show off because the contracts wouldn’t pay for it. Don’t even get her started on the internal contracts, ones assigned by the Met themselves when they get in over their heads. They paid even less.
What the hell have I done? She pressed her hand against the window, allowing the cool glass to comfort her clammy palms. She hadn’t done anything wrong.
At least, not recently.
“Central Caverns,” a husky voice called from the front, someone that smoked fifty a day.
“Stop it, Alice.” She shook her head, clearing her thoughts as she climbed out the bus, barely stepping off before the doors closed and accelerated away. Alice groaned to herself when she noticed the Starbucks wasn’t very busy next to S.I. tower, her mouth salivating as she forced her feet to walk past the green canopy towards the rotating doors.
Conscious of the time she grabbed her security pass from her jacket pocket, barely giving herself time to wave to the security guards before she headed towards an empty lift, her nerves a flutter. She patiently waited for the floors to rise, the obnoxious music not helping with her anxiety. She hated being late.
Taking a deep calming breath, she squinted at the reflective surface of the chrome doors, trying to decide if she looked presentable or not. Her hair wasn’t awful, the blonde strands up in a half bun that looked almost purposely styled, in a sexy messy way. Last night’s makeup was still there, the eyeliner smudged enough that it looked like smoky eye shadow around her emerald eyes. Her lips were cracked, but not obviously so. She looked like she had an all-nighter, not ready for a meeting with her boss.
It could be worse.
The lift beeped, the doors opened to reveal the general bustle of the forty-second floor. Alice ignored the stares from her colleagues as she manoeuvred through the cubicles, heading towards the back of the building where the meeting would take place.
“Ah, there you are,” a high-pitched voice laughed from the corner. “I thought you weren’t going to turn up.”
Alice turned to Barbara the receptionist, intending to reply with a snarky comment. Instead, she decided to bite her tongue and be polite. It would do her no good to piss off her boss’s favourite receptionist, even if it would be satisfying. Barbara, also known as Barbie due to her likeness to the plastic doll had worked for Dread for as long as Alice could remember, and considering Dread had brought her into work as a small child that was quite a long time.
“I woke up late.” Was all she said as she went to stand beside the window, staring down at the many floors below. The view was beautiful. London, a city with thousands of years of history blended seamlessly with the steel and glass of the modern world. Alice sighed as she settled herself into a seat, the clock on the wall showing she only just made it in time, with just a few minutes to spare.
The leather cushion squeaked as she relaxed and watched the blue flame dance between her fingertips, the ball of fire common when she was feeling extreme emotion. Or for no reason at all. It was a peculiar little thing.
“If you don’t put that fire thingy out you are going to set off the sprinklers,” Barb sniggered, her baby blue eyes narrowed.
Ignoring her Alice continued to watch the pretty blue flame continue to float, green sparkles bursting at intervals. With a barely audible pop the ball disappeared, leaving her looking at her hands, her nails short and broken, the black nail polish starting to chip.
What have I fucked up now?
The blue flame burst to life once more, energised by her spike in nerves. She tried to bat it away, but it happily glided along the air. Only she had the luck to be cursed with teenage acne, mood swings as well as spontaneous balls of flame. She pondered the mechanics of the small twinkly flame, trying to remember a time when the little thing didn’t pop into existence.
“You shouldn’t slouch, it’s bad for your posture,” Barb snidely commented, her long, perfectly manicured nails tapping loudly against the keyboard on her desk.
Alice automatically sat up as her eyes darted to the bottled blonde witch who didn’t have many friends in the office. The woman dressed in the most provocative clothes she could find, her perky implanted breasts on full show. Barb was easily pushing late forties, yet she spent all her money on magic infused jewellery that helped cover her wrinkles.
“Barbie, why am I here?”
Barb’s eyes narrowed at the nickname but didn’t comment. “You know Commissioner Grayson loves a good meeting.” She pursed her lips, a slight curve at the edge. She knew why she was here, but wouldn’t say.
“This is a joke right?” Barb ignored her, her attention back to the computer but the sinister smile still in place.
She still hadn’t figured out why she was there. She only had three assignments over the past month, and they all had gone well. The black witch who was caught selling curses and black amulets online was an easy tag. She was stupid enough to have her return address on the parcels.
Then there was the wolf shifter that made a scene at the bar, one she was now unfortunately banned from. Alice slumped back into her chair, annoyance making her ball of flame sparkle. It wasn’t her fault the place got wrecked.
Her last assignment involved a Vamp, one where his psychological condition wasn’t considered when he applied to be turned. He was only three years old in undead terms when he was found bathing in blood, not his own, with his trousers around his ankles. It wasn’t a pretty sight.
“Tick tock it’s almost time,” Barbie giggled, it would sound cute on a small child, on her it was just creepy. She flicked her hair over her shoulder, making sure to pout her bright pink lips. It was people like Barbie that gave witches bad names. She smelt like a sickly mixture of roses and doughnuts, not ozone like other witches, ones who actually practised the art of magic.
A light buzzing sound vibrated next to the computer as she reached over to the old grey-corded phone. The phone was so old compared to the modern computer it was almost prehistoric, which made no sense in a company benefitting from the latest technology and equipment. ‘If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it’was a favoured saying amongst Breed over a hundred.
“Yes sir,” Barbie breathed sexily into the receiver, her voice taking on the perfect phone sex rumble, unlike her normal high-pitched soprano.
“Why yes sir, I will send her in immediately.” With a click, she put down the phone before she swivelled to face Alice, a smirk plastered across her face.
“Commissioner Grayson will see you now.”
With a pensive nod, Alice entered through the large oak door, pushing against the heavy metal handle. The room beyond was dark, almost pitch black as she stumbled inside.
“Alice,” a deep voice greeted, Dread’s whole body hidden in shadow. “Please, take a seat.” A hand stretched into the sliver of light created by the open door, his fingers, long and pale, were decorated with a diamond and ruby encrusted ring that encircled his middle finger. She closed the door behind her, the room in complete darkness.
Dread’s window, the one that would have just as an amazing view of London was blocked out with a blackout blind, the man preferring to sit in the dark.
A lice stepped forward, feeling for the chair she luckily noticed before she closed the door. She wasn’t afraid of the dark, she just wasn’t happy with it, not trusting the complete absence of sight. Especially as the man sitting quietly before her could see perfectly while she couldn’t even see her hand in front of her face.
She heard a click, the room illuminated by a chrome lamp that perched on the corner of his oversized wooden desk, clean of everything other than the lamp, a piece of paper and a single gold pen that he had perfectly positioned along the natural grooves of the wood. She tried to hide her jump as his eyes settled on her, ones that were just as dark as the room. Obsidian ovals in a white face, ones so dark you couldn’t tell where the irises started and pupils began.
Well, she thought to herself. This is disconcerting. She had known him all her life, could read him better than anyone, and he wasn’t happy.
Drum. Drum. Drum.
Dreads fingers tapped against the top of his desk in an annoying sequence.
Drum. Drum. Drum.
Dread Grayson has held his position as Commissioner of the Supernatural Intelligence Bureau since it was first built around three hundred years ago. The man sitting before her, who still drummed his fingers across the wood, was one of the most powerful people in the city, not counting The Council. He just stared at her, his face worryingly composed, the grooves, which he received before the turn, seemed etched from stone, not one facial muscle moving. He continued to stare at her unblinking, his dark hair cut close to the scalp, almost bald. Large bushy eyebrows dominated his otherwise hair-free face, the dark hair highlighting his incredibly pale complexion.
“You cut your hair recently. Looks nice.” Alice nervously commented as she brushed her own blonde strands from her face. Why am I here?
He finally blinked at her as a vein started to pulse in his forehead.
“What are you wearing?” he asked, voice clipped.
Alice looked down, seemingly confused by his comment.
Oh shit. She bit her lip, heat against her cheeks as she only just noticed what she had thrown on. Her shirt was pure white, tucked into her black jeans. Two strategically placed avocados were the only pattern on the front. Luckily it was one of her politer shirts, he was fortunate it was relatively clean.
She folded her arms over her chest, trying to hide the design as if nothing was wrong. That gets her a small, familiar smile, just the tip at the corner of his mouth. Dread had always moaned about her choice in clothing, ever since he took over as her legal parental guardian all those years ago. He still moaned regularly even though she constantly reminded him she was twenty-three.
He thought she was acting up.
She thought the shirts were cool.
The smile vanished, his face immobile once again. His eyes were something he often used to scare people, the creepiness of them enough to get anyone to behave. It was uncomfortable, to say the least. Debating whether to ask a question the door at her back opened, allowed some extra light to creep into the still too dark room. She fought not to turn, Dread holding her gaze until the door shut once again.
“Now Alice, you will remain quiet until asked a direct question. Do you understand?” Dread betrayed no emotion, he had become the Commissioner of Supernatural Intelligence, leader of the Paladins. Not her parental figure.
She just nodded back, deciding it was better not to open her mouth at all. She didn’t always have a conscious thought on what came out.
“Okay then, when Mr Wild takes a seat we can start this meeting.” His obsidian eyes broke their connection, allowing her to breathe for a second before Mr Wild sat in the seat beside her.
The man was tall, around six feet with long light brown hair that hid the expression on his face in a straight curtain. She looked back at Dread in confusion. Why was I here? She asked silently while his eyes stayed blank. He knew what she asked, had refused to respond. She huffed to herself as she chanced another glance to her right. Piercing blue eyes met hers for a fleeting second before she forced herself to look away. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. She had recognised those eyes, eyes of a shifter, someone that was part man part animal, one that was pissed.
“Let’s get on with this then.” The man next to her complained, his voice deep but emotionless. Monotone even.
She turned to look at him again as his irises changed, the brightness dimming to a darker blue, ones that showed no emotion what so ever.
Alice observed him as he swept his long hair over his shoulder, revealing an unusually narrow nose compared to his broad chin. His facial hair was messy as if he was used to being clean shaven but hadn’t had the time. She continued to stare at him even as he looked at Dread expectantly, ignoring her for the moment. He had been the wolf shifter she had tagged a week ago, the one who wrecked the bar and had got her banned.
“Let’s begin then shall we.” Dread tapped once more on the desk. “Agent Alice Skye, do you know why you have been asked to attend this meeting?”
Bloody hell, he used my full name and title.
“No.” This was serious.
“Do you remember the gentleman next to you?”
Alice gritted her teeth. “Yes.”
“Then can you explain to me why you arrested the Alpha of White Dawn?”
“White Dawn?” Alice opened her mouth in a silent gasp. Oh shit. She cursed herself. White Dawn was the largest wolf pack in London if not Europe. She had royally fucked up. “It was a contract, amber level retrieval.” She strained to remember the exact details.
“Who gave you the contract?” Dread asked as he studied her carefully.
“It was emailed across to me. Nothing suspicious about it.” She tried to shrug without moving her arms from her chest.
“How did you even find me?” The Alpha next to her growled. His irises flashed the brighter blue, barely a second before returning to the darker shade. From her experience with shifters it was his animal’s response, their emotions and instincts rawer than the human counterpart.
Alice refused to face him, not wanting to aggravate his beast. “I’m good at my job.”
“What happened Alice?” Dread leaned forward, the light from the chrome lamp giving him an ethereal glow.
“I was waiting outside the bar where I had tracked the wolf…” A small snarl to her right. “I mean, Mr Wild.” She corrected. “He held a man up by his throat, against a wall.”
“You held a man against a wall in a human bar?” Dread’s unnerving eyes turned to the Alpha. His fangs punched below his bottom lip in a show of uncharacteristic annoyance.
“Pack business.” Was the Alpha’s only response, his tone absolute.
“The man had started to shift, bones were breaking, and his fur started to erupt from his ripped flesh, but it was wrong.” She knew it, she had seen enough shifts from human to animal and back again to recognise the difference in the transition.
“Wrong?” Dread questioned her.
“I have seen people shift, and this man was wrong, sick maybe. He changed into a half state, his legs bent at the wrong angle and half his body exposing muscle. He ran from the bar and the wolf,” Alice hesitated, deciding to correct herself. “I mean Alpha Wild, chased after him. So I followed.”
“And because of you, he got away.” Mr Wild started to snarl before he caught himself, his face shocked before it relaxed back into its impassivity.
“He wasn’t my target.” She observed him from the corner of her eye, wary.
“It took me three months to track him. I needed the information he could give me. Because of you…” The Alpha started to stand, his voice deepening as violence threatened.
“ENOUGH!” Dread slammed his hand down onto the table, rattling his pen onto the floor. The vein in his head pulsed violently, attempting to escape his porcelain skin.
“I have heard enough.” He stared down Mr Wild until he had returned to his seat. “After discussing the details with both yourself and Agent Skye, I have come to a decision that my Paladin was acting correctly in these circumstances.” The Alpha started to protest until Dread held up his hand. “However, I will personally investigate how a warrant for your arrest was issued. We both know you’re not S.I. jurisdiction.”
That caught Alice’s attention. The only authority above S.I. was The Council.
“I’m not happy with this.” Mr Wild said as he settled himself into a more relaxed position. It looked forced. “It took all my resources to track that wolf and then your Paladin went and fucked it up.”
“Be that as it may, she did her job correctly.” Dread caught her eye, showing her he was still angry.
But I didn’t do anything wrong. Dread’s eyes glittered as if he knew exactly what she was thinking, which he probably did. His own eyes replied shut up and sit still. So she bit her lip, deciding to take his advice.
“Now let’s turn to another matter at hand, Alice mentioned the wolf being sick? Is there a disease going around that we should be concerned about?”
Alice turned to look at the Alpha once more, watching his jaw clench before he replied. “No.”
Lie. Now that’s interesting.
“Is there anything else you would like to discuss?” Dread reached down to his pen that had fallen, taking his time to line it back up with the grooves of the wood.
“Not at this present time,” Mr Wild rumbled, annoyed but hiding the emotion.
“Great, so that matter can be put to rest.” Dread pressed a hidden button beneath his desk. The door opened silently, allowing light to penetrate the tense room.
“Alice, we need to discuss your recent assignments. However, I will wait until we do not have an audience.” He stood up before placing his hand over the breast pocket of his jacket, a sign of respect. It looked sarcastic.
“Until next we meet Mr Wild. Please contact Supernatural Intelligence if you require anything further.”
Mr Wild said nothing. Instead, he stormed out the door as a flustered Barbie spoke to him in hushed tones. Alice stood, but decided to wait, watching Dread carefully.
“Alice, you should probably escort our guest down.” He didn’t look at her.
“Why did you do that?” she asked, confused. “You knew he was lying. Why didn’t you say anything?”
“And say what?” He finally looked up, his eyes still angry but more composed.
“If you think I’m doing an inadequate job, why don’t you tell me what you would have done?”
Alice hesitated, thinking about her response carefully. “I don’t know, ask him more questions?”
“He is the Alpha, Alice. Sickness among his wolves has nothing to do with us. Shifters, in general, have nothing to do with us unless they pay for our services. You know as well as I do they are self-governed ever since Xavier took over on The Council.”
His forehead furrowed, his expression stolid. Alice didn’t know what to say, The Council being a subject she didn’t know much about. The Council of five, or technically six when counting the Fae twins stayed out of the media, reigning over Breed silently. Dread, on the other hand, had met them all, and he wasn’t a fan.
“I’ll escort Mr Wild out of the building.” She turned toward the door.
“Oh, and Alice,” he started, forcing her to pause. “Make sure Mr Wild doesn’t break anything on his way down.”