A Queen Among Snakes
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Book 2 in the Queen Among series Mei Liu learned suffering from an early age. After experiencing great loss, she spent years enduring abuse at the hands of a sadistic pack of wolves, while hiding her identity. All until the day she was saved by her fated soulmate arriving at her doorstep. Mei was finally free, loved and accepted, with her happily ever after on the horizon. But an unknown enemy has been searching for her and once he finds her he has no intention of letting her go. Dark secrets will be revealed, and she will be pushed beyond her limits. Can she rise up and fight back and become the strong woman she was destined to be? Or will it all be too much for her to handle? This is a deeply interconnected series and this book sets up much to come in future books. It is NOT recommended reading as a stand-alone book. Much set up for this book is established in book one and future storylines continue in future books. Books in the Queen Among Series so far: Book 1 - A Queen Among Alphas (available on paperback) Book 2 - A Queen Among Snakes Book 3 - A Queen Among Blood Book 4 - A Queen Among Darkness Book 5 - A Queen Among Tides Book 6 - A Queen Among Gods Book 7 - A Queen Among Tempests Bite Size Luna - A Queen Among Alphas Prequel Whole Again - A Queen Among Alphas Spin-off Runaway Empress - A Queen Among Snakes Prequel Dark Invocation - A Queen Among Darkness Spin-off Valor, Virtue, And Verve - A Queen Among Tides Spin-off This will then be followed by the Royal Shadows series, which is the next generation companion to this series.
Chapter 1: Nightmares Part 1 - Mei
A cold wind blows through the crevice in the brick wall of the basement; a shiver wracking my body as I huddle my knees up towards my chest hoping to retain what little heat I have left in my fragile body. The eerie whistle of the cold wind is just as bone-chilling as the cold itself. The smell of dirt, mould and dry blood is a constant reminder of where I am.
It has been three days since my last meal, but I’m used to it. My stomach stopped protesting its need for food years ago. My bones and muscles ache from my many injuries; the cold only making them ache more.
I hate the winter months in this place. In all fairness, I hate every month in this place, but winter is the worst, but my body has never reacted well to the cold at the best of times.
Another shiver plagues my body as I pull the thin sheet – that is supposed to be my blanket – tighter around my body, but it does little to shield me.
I often wonder if this is hell. If it is, what could I possibly need to atone for? I have never hurt anyone. I have never even wished someone harm, yet so many hurt me. I don’t know why. I ask the Gods every night why they let these things happen to me, but I never receive an answer. One would think I would have given up by now, but pretending they hear my prayers helps me to not feel so alone, and I really am. I am so very alone.
I can hear the click-clack of high heels against varnished floorboards, coming from far away. I can hear my heart beating in my ears, beating so fast I think my chest will crack. My hands shake and tears sting my eyes. Please don’t let her come down here. Please let her leave me alone. I can hear her breathing on the other side of the basement door; hear the evil smile in her voice. I curl back against the brick wall trying to make myself as small as I can when the door slams open hitting the brick with a bang, making me flinch.
“Aww, did I scare the little chink?” She says in a sickly sweet voice.
I keep my eyes on a stain on the nest of towels that make up my bed – she’ll hurt me worse if I look up.
“I’m speaking to you,” she says more harshly as she storms over yanking me by my hair. I whimper as my scalp protests from the sting of pain as she drags me from the basement by my hair.
I don’t scream. I don’t beg her to stop. I’ve learned there’s no point. I’m nineteen now – I think – and it’s been this way since I was five.
She drags me up the stairs, into the hallway of the packhouse and tosses me across the floor like a ragdoll; my head collides with the drywall, going right through it. A groan of pain is all that leaves me. It hurts badly as my vision becomes blurry, and I can smell the blood right away.
“Now look what you’ve done, you slut!” She screeches as the back of her hand connects with the side of my face. Tears fill my eyes as the sharp sting radiates through my face and I can taste blood in my mouth.
I should be stronger than this, but I’m so weak.
“What has the stupid bitch done now?” Sounds a hard, threatening voice.
A large, rough hand wraps around my neck and suddenly I’m suspended in the air. I grasp at the hand keeping me off the ground as dark, glowing green eyes glare at me. I can feel his Alpha Spirit moving over me, but it has never affected me. That makes him angrier, and he tightens his grip on my neck.
Dark spots fill my vision as my head swims while my lungs struggle to take in air. Just as I feel the darkness moving in offering me sweet relief, the hand around my throat vanishes and I drop to the floor coughing and gasping for air.
“Honey, breathe,” I hear the Luna say as she calms him down with a single touch. “The bitch here will clean up the mess she made, won’t you?” She says pointedly at me.
It wasn’t really a question. I don’t have a choice.
“Yes, Luna,” I croak, my voice barely audible.
“You should be grateful we’ve let you live so long. Luckily you still have some value,” says the Alpha, but I can hear and feel the sinister edge in his voice as he squats down close to me, pinching my cheeks in his hand forcing me to look at him. “You’ve grown into a beautiful woman, maybe we can finally make some money out of that cunt of yours. I’m sure plenty of my men are just itching to get their cocks into you,” he smirks.
Icy cold dread spreads through me. There is not a single threat the Alpha and Luna haven’t stayed true to, and I know this will be no different. I want to fight back. I want to run, but they’ve kept me too weak. Most days I can barely even stand.
I wish my parents were still alive. I wish my father was here to protect me; I wish my mother was here to hold me and tell me all will be fine, but they’re gone, and I’m all alone.
The Alpha tosses my face away from him; the action of it jarring my neck. As he gets up he spits on me while his Luna cackles at his side. I want to cry, but that will only make the beatings worse. They love when I cry.
“Get to work. I don’t want your filthy, yellow-skinned blood staining the floor. When you’re done, make yourself useful and clean the rest of the packhouse, it’s a mess,” the Luna says with disgust.
“Yes, Luna,” I whisper.
Once they have walked away I get up on shaky legs and make my way to the laundry to collect a bucket, bleach, and a dustpan. I can still feel the throbbing in my head and face and the burning in my throat while blood trickles down the back of my head. I’m not allowed to see a doctor, but would the doctor even care? I like to think good people exist, but I’m not sure any of them exist in this pack.
The Albus Mons Pack is truly hell.
I’m nearly done cleaning up the stains left from my own blood when I pick up the yummiest scent in the world. It smells like dragon’s beard candy, just like the kind I ate as a child. I can taste it on my tongue making my mouth water – mostly because I pick up smells through my mouth better than my nose.
I can’t explain it, but this scent has tears pooling in my eyes. I feel what I think can only be described as hope, blossoming inside of me and something else. Something buried deep inside of me is stirring, as if it is awakening from a deep sleep. I should know what it is, but I can’t quite grasp it. I don’t get a chance to think about it because suddenly I look up to see the most handsome man I have ever seen.
Glowing green eyes with hazel around the pupil look down at me. His nostrils are flared, and his hands are balled into fists. He’s very tall, maybe 6’1” with beautiful olive skin, a neatly trimmed dark-brown beard and long, brown hair that he has tied up in one of those… man buns? I think they’re called. He looks so clean with navy blue slacks and a pale pink button-down shirt with three buttons left open. His neat clothing does little to hide the muscles that are underneath.
He’s looking down at me with a mix of emotions; there’s softness in his eyes, but anger in his jaw. I can feel a strong vibration coming from him and moving through me; it feels comforting though. I don’t know how or why, but something inside me just knows he is a part of me.
Slowly he squats down to my level and reaches his hand out to touch my face and instinctively I flinch back away from him, curling in on myself. My heart starts to thud, and I can feel panic spread through me as I break into a sweat. Inside I know he doesn’t mean me harm, but I can’t stop the fear I felt when he tried to touch me. I see hurt flash across his face, and it makes my heart ache.
“I’m not going to hurt you,” he says in a gentle voice. His voice is so soft – like velvet – the sound of it is soothing, but the fear is much stronger. “What’s your name?” He softly asks.
Name? My name?
No one uses my name here. Some days I fear I’d forget it altogether. I’m so used to being called some horrible word that should never be part of everyday English – or any language, really.
Now tears are filling my eyes as I become overwhelmed by emotions. It was such a simple question, but he has no idea how much that question means to me.
“Oh Goddess, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to scare or upset you,” he says in a gentle rush.
His heart is beating so fast, and I can see it in the veins in his neck. I want to tell him he hasn’t done anything wrong, but I can’t find my voice. I want to speak, I want to use words, but they won’t come out. I was so lost in my panic I didn’t even notice them approaching.
“Hey! There’s the fucking chink! Why haven’t you done my fucking laundry yet?” Bellows the Alpha’s son; the future Alpha, with his future Beta next to him. I still don’t know what that word they call me means, but from the tone used when I hear it I know it is not nice.
Beating me is one of their favourite activities. Just last month they poured boiling water on me. It took days for my back to heal.
In a blink, the handsome man has the Alpha’s son by his throat and has thrown him through the nearby wall. I’m in a complete state of panic. Alarm bells are going off, my breathing is hard and shallow, and I feel dizzy as part of me tells me I’m in danger, but another part is trying to tell me I’m safe and it’s making me so much more confused.
“What. Did. You. Just. Call. My. Animai?” Growls the handsome man. His voice is low and instead of soft, it sounds deadly, but it’s directed at the Alpha’s son.
Animai? What’s an animai? I think I’ve heard that word before, but I don’t know what it means.
“Chris! What the hell is wrong with you?” Yells a man as he runs into the hallway.
Chris? Is that the handsome man’s name?
These men look very alike, could be brothers. This man is only an inch shorter, has chin-length brown hair, dark olive skin and dark blue eyes. They’re both very muscular, but that seems common for wolves. I can feel his wolf spirit is strong, so he must have a rank.
“You just attacked the Alpha’s son!” The man scolds in a worried tone.
“She’s my animai, dad. Look at what they’ve done to her, and this pathetic excuse of an Alpha Heir… I won’t even repeat the disgusting word he just called her,” he growls menacingly.
Oh, they’re father and son!
His growling scares me, but I know he’s not growling at me because he’s still looking like he wants to kill the Alpha’s son. The future Beta jumps in and attacks Chris and the sight of it has more emotions raging inside me. The fighting scares me, but I’m also scared Chris will get hurt, though I don’t know why, I don’t even know him.
There’s something unfamiliar bubbling up inside me, it’s… angry and it… it wants to protect Chris. How can I protect him when I can’t even protect myself?
I scrunch my eyes tight when I feel my eyes start to change. I can’t let anyone see my eyes. They can’t know what I am. The last thing my father said to me before he died was to not tell anyone what I was, to never let them know, and I have kept that promise.
I can hear the fighting; I can hear Chris fighting against the Alpha’s son and the future Beta.
Why is he doing this? Why is he so angry?
I feel a warm hand touch my shoulder and at a speed I didn’t know I was capable of in this state, I flinch back into the wall, my eyes meeting kind, and worried blue ones.
Oh, it was Chris’ father.
“Sweetheart, my name is Delta Xander and that is my son, Chris, we’re not going to hurt you, but please tell me; has this pack hurt you? Nod your head if yes, I promise I won’t let them touch you,” he says in a kind voice.
There’s so much gentility and warmth in his words that I know I can trust him; I know I can trust Chris. This might be my only chance to be free of this place, so with that thought in mind, I nod my head.
He takes a sharp breath, but then his brow furrows. He starts sniffing the air around me and his eyes widen in alarm, “Are you a member of this pack?” He asks me, there’s a wobble in this voice that I can’t understand.
Out the corner of my eye, I see Chris whip his head in our direction. He’s hurt but he seems to be the superior one in the fight.
I look back at Delta Xander and shake my head.
Delta Xander’s dark blue eyes start to glow, and it makes me shrink back further, my heart still beating so fast it’s making my chest ache. He takes a slow breath, and his eyes return to normal, but I suddenly notice Chris has shifted!
In the hallway now stands a large wolf standing at the same height Chris was, with full, glossy black and brown fur. His wolf looks so beautiful – intimidating, but beautiful. I’m scared of it, but at the same time, I want to reach out and touch its fur
All these conflicting emotions are overwhelming me and making me dizzier than I already am, I’m not sure how much more I can take.
Delta Xander takes a defensive posture using his body to shield mine – though I don’t know why. He pulls out a mobile phone and calls a number. I watch as Chris now fights against the other two who have now shifted as well, but he is merciless in his attacks. My eyes are focused on him as I hear the Delta’s conversation.
“Xander, what’s up?” Says a happy, deep, gravelly voice on the other line.
“Elias, I need you to get someone from the Delegation on my phone right now. Chris just found his animai and the poor girl looks like she’s been horribly abused by this pack, she’s not even a member of the pack. I think she’s been abducted. Get someone on the line now, because Chris and Axel have gone postal and are fighting Zack and Aleks, and I’m sure Alpha Ivan will be here any minute,” he says in a rush though he remains calm.
“By the Goddess… hold tight. I’ll have someone call as fast as I can,” the man promises as the call disconnects.
At the same moment the Alpha storms in, a look of fury on his face that has every nerve in my body shaking in fear. I’ve seen that look before he’s broken my bones. I try to move away, but Delta Xander notices and moves between me and the Alpha.
Why is he protecting me? The Alpha will kill him.
“WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON?! YOU DARE COME INTO MY PACK AND ATTACK MY SON!” He roars with so much power and authority that the room shakes from the force of it. Everyone whimpers or bows their head under its force. I’m the only one it doesn’t bother. I fear the man, not the energy. I fear what I know has and will hurt me. “Delta Xander! Any last words before I rip off your son’s head?” He growls with that familiar evil smirk.
My stomach drops and tears spill from my eyes. Chris’ fur is covered in blood and his opponents can’t seem to get up. He was able to fight them both, but he’s no match for an Alpha. I don’t know this man, but the thought of the Alpha hurting him, or worse, killing him has me feeling a new level of fear I never thought was possible.
Please, I know you’ve never listened to me, but please, please don’t let them hurt Chris, I beg you.
I still don’t know which God I’m begging to; I just know I won’t survive if he’s hurt. I don’t know how I know it; I just know it.
For the first time in fourteen years I think the Gods have finally answered my prayers because just as the Alpha stalks over to Chris’ wolf, Delta Xander’s phone starts ringing. He quickly answers it and puts it on speaker.
“This is Defne of the Delegation, is this Delta Xander of Invictus?” Sounds a sweet melodious voice. I’ve never heard a voice sound so enchanting. Just hearing it has some of my panic lessening.
I notice the Alpha has frozen in his tracks; his eyes laser-focused on the phone in the Delta’s hand with a look on his face I never thought I’d ever witness – fear.
“Yes, this is Delta Xander. I am currently at the Albus Mons Pack and there is a situation here,” he says calmly though his eyes are looking at the Alpha with defiance. “My son has just found his animai and– ”
“Oh! That’s marvellous! My congratulations to your son!” The enchanting voice interrupts joyously.
“Thank you. But you see, the young woman, she’s covered in blood, she’s littered with injuries old and new and appears severely malnourished. She also claims she is not a member of this pack and based on what I can scent, I believe she is telling the truth. I have reason to believe she has been held prisoner and abused,” he says as he glares at the Alpha.
“You stupid, good for nothing cunt!” Screams the Alpha at me as I hide behind Delta Xander. I can hear Chris’ wolf snarling at him as the Alpha charges toward us – murder clear in his glowing green eyes.
“Alpha Ivan! Keep in mind I have ears and can hear you just fine. Attempt to lay a hand on these people and we can add that to your potential list of charges. I will be arriving momentarily, if they are harmed before I get there or you attempt to flee, the punishment will be death.” The enchanting voice has turned hard, her words a promise more than a threat.
“You can’t be fucking serious! You will not come into my pack and turn it upside down because of some loser Delta and his mangey pup who can’t control his wolf. Who the hell do you think you are?” He spits, his body shaking with rage.
“To any mutolupus within the sound of my voice, if any of you harm Delta Xander, his son or his son’s animai or aid your Alpha in fleeing; the consequence is death for going against a direct order from the Delegation,” she says with calm authority.
I glance up and notice a crowd has gathered, and I’m surprised the Luna isn’t among them. I don’t know who this lady is, but she has everyone scared to the point they each step back at her words. Just hearing her over the phone has them worried.
Who is she?
“Don’t you dare give orders to my pack! They are mine! How do I even know this is really an irshiust? Could just be this old fucks cunt back home,” he says with an evil grin. This time the Delta and his son growl at him menacingly. “Touchy, touchy. Look, you want the bitch so much, take her, she wasn’t fun to play with anymore anyway,” he shrugs arrogantly.
That’s all it took for Chris’ wolf to lunge at the Alpha; its wide-open jaw filled with sharp teeth seeking their target.
“Chris, no!” His father shouts as he runs in a flash, colliding with the wolf to stop his attack on the Alpha.
While Delta Xander is holding Chris back the Alpha turns his eyes on me, and I know this is the end. His eyes tell me exactly what he plans to do. I’m surprised I survived this long, but I knew my death would come eventually.
Chapter 2: Nightmares Part 2 - Mei
The Alpha runs at me when suddenly a breeze brushes past me and I catch something sparkling, carrying with it a sweet, yet floral scent. It’s so unique I can’t compare it to anything.
I look up and to my shock, there is a very slender woman – only a little taller than me – who has the Alpha by the throat. Her hair is just passed her shoulders, cascading in warm chestnut waves, her skin is the colour of chai latte but glittering and twinkling gold in the light. She looks so calm while she’s holding the Alpha like he weighs nothing even though he’s five times her size, maybe more.
That’s when the Luna decides to make an appearance. I don’t know where she came from or where she has been all this time, but she runs in screaming; her murderous eyes glaring at the sparkly woman.
“Luna Enriqueta, I do not advise you to take another step, I can snap his neck faster than you can get to him,” says the woman.
But… that’s the same voice from the phone call. H
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