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Warlord: A Dark Shifter Romance by Delta James – Sample


The world came apart not from an invasion or war, but from a silent plague that had decimated those who had once ruled. What was left behind were small bands of humans, mutants, and shifters. The wolf shifters had been the first to assert their dominance on the global food chain. Humans lived in small clusters far-flung from one another with no centralized authority or power. Mutants were a law unto themselves and had joined together in hordes that were loyal only to their specific band and saw all others—human, shifter, and mutant alike—as enemies to be raped, pillaged, and killed.

Technology had mostly been lost, overrun, or destroyed. Wolf packs had returned to a more medieval system as alphas exerted their dominance and ruled as they had more than a thousand years before. Rowan, of Calon Onest, ruled as those who had gone before her with one notable exception… she was female.

Chapter One

Rowan’s sleep was disturbed by a recurring nightmare. She didn’t relive any of the battles she had fought or see an impending one laid out before her, but instead she saw a warrior—strong, proud, and nude. He towered over her. His muscular physique was impressive as it rippled and bulged. He had coal black hair of medium length but which appeared to have been shaped by a well-honed knife. The warrior’s pale blue eyes, the color of shards of ice, regarded her with a mixture of warmth and unnerving intensity. Rowan instinctively knew this was no alpha with a hereditary title, but a warlord of commanding power. Jutting away from his body was an enormous cock—not freakishly large, but one she was quite sure she couldn’t accommodate. It had both length and girth and was ridged with veining that led from his body to the tip that dripped the precursor of his seed.

“Come, Rowan,” he said silkily. “It is time you were mated.”

Even in her dreams, Rowan remained defiant, even though she was somewhat transfixed by the site of his hardened staff. “I have no use for a mate.”

The warrior chuckled and cupped his phallus in his hand. “But I, mate, have need of you.”

Rowan watched with growing concern as a massive alpha knot began to form at the base of his erection.

“I would rather die than submit,” she said with disdain and only a hint of fear.

His eyes reflected amusement as though she had made a joke. “I think that’s a bit much even for you. I long to feel your pussy contract around my cock as I breach you with my knot. To hear your cries as I revel in your surrender as you call my name and rake my back with your nails. To feel your cunt spasm around me as I pump my seed deep in your belly. Come now, mate.”

“I am not your mate,” she whispered to the apparition.

“Not yet,” he agreed, “but you will be and then I will claim and mark you as mine.”

He had closed in on her and reached out to draw her to him. Somehow, as was often the way with dreams, she was as naked as he. Her nipples were beaded and painful to the touch and her nectar gathered and swirled deep in her belly, snaking down to her most feminine places—pooling in her pussy and causing her pleasure nub to swell.

Rowan cast around for her sword or dagger. Finding neither, she looked around for anything she could use as a weapon.

“Nay, mate. You do not entreat me into your bed at the point of a blade,” he said cajolingly.

“I have no need or use for you in my bed.”

“But when I have claimed you as mine, you will desire my possession above all things. You will eagerly anticipate the formation of my knot so that I might breach you with it and tie you to me.”

“No,” she whispered, now desperate to find a way to fend him off.

“Yes,” he murmured as he backed her against the cold stone wall of her chambers before swinging her up in his arms as she struggled against him.

He crossed the room and deposited her in her bed, following her down and covering her with his body. He wedged himself between her legs, forcing them apart. She could feel his rampant cock seeking her entrance. Rowan had never feared death, but she knew there were things worse than death, including surrendering herself to the warlord.

She threw numerous punches, most of which did not land. The ones that did seemed to hurt her hand more than the spots on which they landed. Rowan had been forced to mete out blows in battle, but normally her fists were encased in armored gauntlets that served to protect her hand as well as increase the effectiveness of the punch. Being pinned beneath him with no real way to put much power behind her blows diminished her ability to inflict any harm. The only time he even grunted in acknowledgement that she had caused him any distress was when she was able to land a strike to his kidney area. His eyes flashed feral with both annoyance and pain. Most hits, however, had no effect whatsoever. The warlord grasped both of her wrists in one of his hands, tied them together, and then secured the tether to the headboard of her bed. Once she was bound, his mouth descended on her breast, teasing, nipping, and ultimately suckling her nipple. His hand slid between their bodies and found her swollen nub as he began to play with her clit.

“Don’t…” she said as she felt her body begin to betray her.

Her mind might not want this but the remainder of her entire being wanted nothing more than to willingly surrender to him… a man who would force her vows from her. As much as she struggled against the warlord, her shameful reaction to his treatment of her was even more devastating and unexpected. She had faced numerous enemies in battle, but how could she fight herself? Her nipples were beaded and hot, wet desire gathered and pooled between her thighs. She watched his face as he sniffed the area and caught her scent. Primitive lust was reflected back to her as she saw the color of his eyes change from that of ice to the spray that leapt from the wave peaks in a stormy sea.

“You are mine, mate. Best you begin to accept that fact. I will mark and claim you this night. I will prepare you to be breached for the first time and then at the height of our passion I will sink my teeth into your throat and leave my mark. And you will thank me for it.”

“I will kill you,” she vowed.

“You may try,” he said, seemingly amused, “but you will not succeed and will be disciplined for trying. Come tomorrow, I will begin to teach you how you may best please me both in and out of bed. Given your responsiveness even now, the first should come easily.”

He continued to play with her, much as a cat does with its prey before devouring it. His bold caresses between her legs roused her in a way her own playing never had. Her hips began to undulate of their own accord in rhythm to the suckling of her breasts.

Rowan cried out as she felt him penetrate her with two fingers, roughly mimicking what he planned to do with his staff. She felt as though he were holding back, bringing her to the edge, but not probing her as deeply as he might. She knew she should be grateful, but was disappointed and frustrated that he did not push forward and allow her to claim the reward of her own climax. She felt at war with herself—her mind wanted to be allowed to fight him with sword and hand… her body desired the sword that all men carried between their legs to be plunged deeply into her hot, wet sheath.

As if in answer to her unspoken thought, he whispered, “I will see your maidenhead shattered by your first knot. My hot cum will bathe your ravaged and knotted cunt.”

The warrior centered himself more fully between her legs and grasped her buttocks, steadying her for his penetration. Rowan felt the head of his cock at the entrance of her core. His mouth left her breast and came up to devour her own. With one mighty thrust, he drove himself up fully into her, breaching the fragile membrane that had guarded her virginity. She screamed into his mouth as his knot entered her and began to swell as he lay still on top of her.

“Shh,” he murmured, nuzzling her neck. “Twill only hurt for a bit. The pleasure I will give you will negate it and leave you only with a joyous memory of our first joining.”

He began to rock slowly within her. She felt the truth of his words as the pain receded and was replaced with a great need. He held her fast and rocked her steadily. Rowan felt her body responding to his possession—her pussy quivered and softened, accepting the invasion of his manhood and the knot that only an alpha wolf could provide. Her entire body tingled in a way she had never felt before and her nipples remained swollen and were over-sensitized by his chest hairs grazing them as he rocked within her. She felt her first climax at his hands only moments before it burst from within her, causing her pussy to spasm all along his length as he growled contentedly in her ear.

“Good mate,” he said soothingly as he continued to rock her and kiss her, thrusting his tongue within her mouth in the same way his cock moved inside her.

She was surprised at how quickly her body responded to his command. Rowan felt as though raw energy surged through her body only to gather in the sheath he now used for his pleasure. Although there seemed to be no space at all between them, she could feel every bit of his powerful physique cushioned by her femininity. No part of her body seemed immune from responding to him as she orgasmed again, clutching his biceps as he relentlessly continued the motion that only an alpha wolf could make.

Even as her pussy still trembled along his length, his abbreviated thrusting became more powerful and Rowan could feel the steady building of her need to summit to the pinnacle of ecstasy that he seemed to so easily evoke. Her nipples hurt with an almost excruciating need to be used by his mouth or hands. It made no sense that they burned with need and she ached to feel him pinch and tug on them. His rocking continued to scour her sensitive tips with the matted hair that covered his chest in the same way that the hard nub between her legs was pressed and stimulated by the place they were joined. The way he moved should have caused an uncomfortable friction. Instead her body produced the natural lubricant he needed to easily soothe her channel as he relentlessly rocked within her.

Rowan could feel her entire body being seized and driven toward the abyss of her own desire. Her toes clenched and her muscles contracted. She realized her legs had wrapped around his and her pelvis was tilted so that he had a more perfect angle for his cock to rasp the walls of her warm, wet channel. Her pussy began to spasm in rhythm to his stroking as it contracted with a powerful climax that caused her entire being to shudder in blissful surrender.

As once more she tumbled into the abyss of her own desire, she felt the warrior sink his teeth in her neck between the hollow of her throat and the start of her clavicle. Rowan screamed again, not knowing if it was from pain or rapture. She felt him continue to deepen the bite as he sought to claim her once and for all time.

The warrior’s rocking became more frenzied as she felt his cock seeming to swell inside her before it burst, releasing his seed. She could feel his balls sending his semen up from their depth and into the farthest reaches of her womb. What had ached deep inside her now seemed to be made right by the warmth being passed from him to her.

“Now, Rowan, you are mine,” he said before collapsing on her, unbinding her wrists and then rolling over onto his back, gathering her closely so that she found herself stretched out along his entire body.

Her body was ravaged and exhausted. She wanted to get away from him, but the tie prevented her from doing anything other than lying on top of him. Her eyes seemed to close of their own accord.

“Lady Rowan! Lady Rowan!”

The sound of someone pounding on her door woke her.

“Milady, please come! We’ve word from the village that another emissary from the Ruling Council has been spotted.”

Oh, good lord, she thought. Another one? Her head was pounding, much like the fist of the person outside her chamber door.

Rowan rose from her bed, walked wearily to her door, and opened it.

Edan, who now served as her beta, was the only officer of what was left of her army. He tumbled in, almost falling to the floor. “Milady, there’s another knight headed to the village.”

“The Ruling Council doesn’t seem to be getting our message. What does this make—the second or third one?”

“The third, Milady,” he responded. “The first arrived shortly after your father died. You politely sent him back with a message that the pack had no need of an alpha, that you had assumed leadership and that your army and your people were in favor of your doing so. The second you sent packing when he arrived with an entourage including guards and a small cavalry.”

“How many are with this one?”

“He heads a small army.”

“Do we have men to defeat them on the battlefield?”

“They would outnumber us three to one, but I know the fighting spirit of our men and they will defend you, your sister, and this keep—or die trying.”

Rowan gave him a tired smile and reached out to touch his arm. “I know they would, but what kind of alpha sends her men to die when they have no chance of winning? Do we have any idea who it might be?”

“My guess would be one of the younger brothers of either the alpha of Dinefwr or Chepstow. Both have younger alpha brothers whose allegiance the Ruling Council can be sure of.”

“Rowan? Rowan!” she heard her sister, Arielle, calling before she burst into the room. “Has Edan told you? They say there’s an army approaching. You won’t let them take us, will you?”

Rowan loved her little sister dearly, but the two couldn’t have been more different. Arielle was everything one could want in the mistress of a great pack. She knew how to run a household, care for the people, and be submissive and obedient to her alpha mate. Arielle had been raised from birth to be that woman, and so had Rowan, initially.

When their mother had been unable to conceive a son, her father had begun to consider his options. Taking another to mate had never crossed his mind. While it was true that their home, its land, and its people were wealthy and would be considered a prize by many males looking for a home, her father did not want to consider bartering off either of his daughters. Instead, he chose a different path. He trained Rowan to be a warrior and to lead the pack.

“It will be all right, Arielle. Before we panic or decide what’s to be done, let’s see who it is they’ve sent this time. Perhaps he’ll be your Prince Charming, sweep you off your feet, and take over as alpha here.”

Arielle giggled. It was a sound Rowan loved to hear. It bubbled with joy and sunshine.

“Do you really think so?” she asked breathlessly. “If you’re going to receive them, perhaps I’d best go make myself presentable. Sloan! Sloan!”

Rowan shook her head as her sister ran down the hallway calling for the one maidservant they shared—a human Rowan had found one night more dead than alive as she tried to steal food from their storehouse. Rowan had taken her in and had her nursed back to health. Sloan had chosen to remain in the service of Lady Rowan in gratitude and for her own safety.

Edan looked at his alpha… and Rowan knew he did think of her that way. His father had been beta to her father and been killed with him in the last great battle to preserve their people. Her father’s death had been swift and unexpected. It had fallen to Rowan to pick up the mantle of leadership.

“Perhaps whoever it is would prefer to take the leader of our pack to mate,” suggested Edan gently.

“The leader of your pack does not choose to mate. I will call no man my alpha or master. I have earned the right to decide my own destiny. If the wolf who comes knocking is worthy of my little sister and our pack, I will abdicate in his stead to see us at peace.”

Edan nodded. “Of course you would. You are alpha and will see to the safety and needs of your people first and foremost. But what would you do? Would you ask to remain here and unmated?”

Rowan laughed. Like everything else about her, there was little that resembled her sister’s joyous sound. “No. Any wolf worthy of being alpha here would not allow me to remain, especially unmated. I will simply withdraw to a life of solitude and contemplation.”

“You would join some kind of religious order?” he asked incredulously.

This time, her laughter reflected genuine amusement. “I can’t imagine any of them would have me.”

“Then where will you go? What will you do?”

“I will rest. I will allow myself just to be without having to worry about anyone else. I think, sometimes, I was never meant to be in a pack… that I was always destined to live in solitude.”

“The burden of leadership is great, thus why our kind evolved the way we did so that male wolves can bear that load. But you could still find a mate. Think what a prize you would be… you would be able to provide your lord with such empathy and understanding…”

Rowan shook her head. “In other words, I could spread my legs whenever he wanted and be knotted and tied to him when he had a mind to rut with me? Thanks, Edan, but I’ll pass.” She held up her hand to forestall any argument. “Let’s go see who the Ruling Council has sent us to consider today. Get some of our men out to assess the strength of the army he brings at his back.”

“Aye, Milady,” he said, ducking his head in deference to her authority as he left her chamber.

Rowan remained where she was and breathed deeply, trying to clear her annoyance and exhaustion. She knew Edan hadn’t meant any insult when assuming that if by some feat of magic her fated mate were to show up on her doorstep, she would give up her freedom and be ruled by him. But Edan was wrong. She wondered how a fated mate might recognize her. She had long ago given up the long dresses and skirts that were worn by fashionable and appropriate she-wolves.

Instead, she had been wearing doeskin breeches with blouses under her leather jerkins. Many times, she had been forced to don armor as she led her men into battle. Her one nod to her femininity was her long, wavy mahogany hair most often worn in a single plait down her back. Well, that and the use of silk and lace for her blouses and undergarments. Shaking herself and rolling her shoulders to force her body to relax and make ready, she left her room and headed down the main staircase of the keep.

At the foot of the stairs, she was met by Dawson, who was ostensibly the pack’s ambassador and omega, but who had also become a majordomo of sorts. “Milady, the Ruling Council has sent Lord Maxon to meet with you and discuss the surrender of the castle, keep, and town. He bids you to let him enter the keep and speak with, as he said, whoever is in charge.”

“Tell Lord Maxon he does not have my leave to dismount his horse and he can bloody well sit in the bailey and await my joining him there.”

“Rowan, do you really want to start negotiating with him by making him feel unwelcome?” asked Dawson.

“He is unwelcome,” snapped Rowan. “When you don’t send word that you’d like to visit and just show up in force at my castle, I’m not about to invite you into my keep and offer you refreshments.”

“As you wish, Milady,” said Dawson, leaving her in the entryway to the keep.

Hearing someone approaching her from behind and to the left, Rowan turned to see Sloan carrying her heavy leather jerkin as well as her weapons.

“You didn’t bring my armor?” asked Rowan in amusement.

“I wasn’t sure you needed it… yet,” Sloan answered. “Arielle has deemed him too old and not to her liking and suggests either you mate with him or send him on his way.”

“I may as well go send him packing,” said Rowan with a resigned sigh.

Most of the time, she shouldered the responsibilities of alpha with grace and ease. Leadership came naturally to her. But there were times, like now, that she felt its weight crushing her—making her exhausted and older beyond her years. Even though Edan was her beta, it was Sloan with whom she shared her innermost thoughts and concerns. Rowan felt no concern that Sloan would mistake her weariness as weakness.

“Milady!” called Edan, returning to the main hall before she went outside. “I’ve had reports. The army he brought with him into the castle is just a show of force. He has a much larger troop stationed just beyond our borders. I think you should probably tread lightly until you hear what he has to say.”

“Then I’d best go speak with him,” she replied, handing her sheathed sword to her beta.

Rowan walked into the brilliant sunshine of the bailey and inhaled deeply. There was something about the smell of this land that spoke to her and strengthened her resolve. It was a mixture of rich farmland and salt air. Her roots and those of her people ran deep here.

“I have been waiting, Lady Rowan,” said a tall knight sitting upon his white horse.

Really? Does he think I’ll mistake him for a knight in shining armor aboard a white steed?

Instead of giving voice to her thoughts, she replied coolly, “Had you or the Council sent word that you were coming, your welcome might have been more to your liking.”

“The Council has been reasonable and patient with you. I am here to meet with you and your sister to decide which of you I will take to mate and then will set about making a suitable match for the other as well.”

“And what did you and your bloody Council expect me to do when you cast your verbal gauntlet at my feet? Roll over and show you my belly? Or perhaps you were hoping I’d just roll over and spread my legs?”

There was a startled gasp from the retainers who had accompanied him.

“It is clear to see, Lady Rowan, that it will take an alpha of considerable strength and willingness to welt your backside often enough to settle you into the proper, obedient state of mind.” Lord Maxon paused to let his threat sink in. “You will afford me the proper respect and have your people look after mine. Once I have been well fed and rested, I will have you and your sister stripped so that I can make a decision as to which of you I will take to mate this day and consummate the pairing this night. If I see the proper attitude from you and your sister from this time forward, I will have that done in private. But either way, one of you will be marked and knotted by this time tomorrow.”

“I wouldn’t be thinking about stepping off your horse were I you,” Rowan said in a threatening tone. “If you’ll look up and around my ramparts, you will see that my archers have taken aim on you and yours. We both know that they can kill you before you ever set foot on my land. But it is not the way of my pack to murder innocents. So Maxon, that verbal gauntlet you threw? Consider it picked up and slapped across your ugly face.”

This time the gasp of outrage at her audacity was considerably more audible.

Rowan lifted her chin and glared at her opponent, her eyes glittering with defiance. “I challenge you, Lord Maxon, to a trial by combat with the sword…”

Rowan knew she had him where he couldn’t back down without losing face with those who followed him. And in this time and place, if an alpha lost the respect and control of his pack, he would most likely be ripped to shreds by them.

“You cannot challenge me! I will not fight a woman. I would not sully my sword with drawing first blood on a female.”

“Forgive me, but I’m fairly certain that I did challenge you. You assume you will be victorious. You won’t be. It isn’t a duel to first blood drawn; I am challenging you to a fight to the death. If you win, you may have your choice of any unmated female within my lands. When I win, your army will withdraw and not just those that I can see—those who accompanied you and the remainder that wait outside my borders. Your beta will tell the Ruling Council that I am alpha here and I will hold my lands and be accorded the same rights as any other alpha,” she said, turning her back on him.

Sufficiently insulted, Lord Maxon growled at her and sent a wave of angry alpha energy in her direction. Rowan felt it hit her back; it took every ounce of strength she had to not stagger forward. She smiled malevolently at Edan. Maxon had wasted precious energy for his display and gained nothing by it except perhaps the knowledge that she could not be easily bowled over. Rowan, however, now knew the strength of her opponent.

Rowan approached her beta, who was clutching her sword and shaking his head.

“Give me my sword, Edan,” she said in a clear, firm voice.

“No, Rowan. He’ll kill you.”

“Perhaps; perhaps not. But I will not be subject to his rule or to any other alpha’s.”

Edan looked at her with pleading eyes and then to Lord Maxon, who still sat astride his horse.

“It would seem your beta gives you good council, woman. Best you heed his advice and withdraw your challenge before I step off my horse.”

“Now, Edan,” Rowan growled.

Edan bowed his head and presented the sword to her. She withdrew it from its sheath and gazed at the engraving on the blade itself: Conquer the Storm—her pack’s motto.

Rowan removed her jerkin to reveal a fine silk blouse cut with a deep v-neckline, lace at her wrists and throat, and an under-bust, boned corset covered in red satin. From the scabbard strapped across her back, and previously concealed by the heavy leather jerkin, she drew her second sword. Unlike most, Rowan did not fight with sword and shield. She found shields to be heavy and unwieldy. She preferred the speed and lethal tactical advantage in having two swords.

“Lord Maxon, if you accept my challenge, step down. Otherwise, leave my land and never return.”

He dismounted his horse and pulled his own sword from the saddle scabbard. “All of you here will be able to attest that Lady Rowan left me no choice. She will die today by my hand. I will take her sister to mate this night. I will keep my new mate in seclusion and when we rejoin you, you will find I am a tough, but fair alpha and this land will thrive under my command.”

“Lord Maxon,” started one of those who had accompanied him, “your shield?”

“I have no need of a shield to dispatch this ungodly woman from the position she has misappropriated that is so far above her station.”

“Are you going to cross swords with me or bore me to death with your idle chatter?” Rowan challenged.

Again, those gathered in the bailey on both sides looked on in a combination of fascination and dread.

“I will make your death quick so that when I am through with you, I may revel between you sister’s thighs with your blood still wet on my hands.”

“Kill him, Ro,” hissed Arielle, who had come to bear witness.

Rowan said nothing as Lord Maxon sent another wave of pure alpha energy at her. This time she felt both his anger and his lust. The first she dismissed as inconsequential, the latter as amusing. She wondered idly if she should send the Ruling Council his head with his stiff cock placed in his mouth.

“Come ahead, Maxon. As your eyes glaze over in lifelessness, remember that I gave you the opportunity to tuck tail and run.”

The fact was she needed him to come at her. She needed to kill him and send his head home in a basket. The Ruling Council needed to see, once and for all, that she would not be dictated to and that she, and she alone, would rule here.

Rowan baited her opponent by crossing and rubbing her swords, one against the other, in front of her pointed downward. Maxon let out a great roar as he charged her, his sword raised high over his head. She found it hard to believe he was such a fool as to leave his midsection wide open, especially when he wore no armor. She delicately sidestepped and sliced him across the middle with her broadsword, opening up a mortal wound that would never have a chance to kill him.

Maxon screamed in pain and disbelief, stumbling and falling to his knees. Rowan circled him, staying just out of reach and with her swords at the ready. She kicked his sword away from his side. Standing in front of him, she crossed her swords again, laying the blades on the tops of his shoulders. His face was a study in shock and fear of his imminent death.

“Lord Maxon of your brother’s pack at Chepstow. You have violated my borders and threatened me and my kin. I am alpha here and I sentence you to die.”

With that Rowan drew the two swords toward one another, passing through his neck so that his head was severed from his body. Rowan lifted the head by his hair and glared at the man who had appeared to be his beta, or second in command. One of Rowan’s men ran toward her, basket in hand. She unceremoniously dropped the head into it.

“Take your lord’s head back to his brother or your masters at the Ruling Council. Tell them this land has belonged to my pack for more than two thousand years. We will not have our inheritance and legacy stolen from us and placed in the hands of lesser wolves.”

Turning her back, Rowan headed back into the keep.

“Are you all right?” asked Arielle, following her sister.

Rowan turned to face her. “I’m fine. See? Not a mark on me.”

“Why do they hate us so much they would send someone like him?”

Rowan shook her head. “I don’t know for sure. I think the Ruling Council fears us and the fact that we represent a new breed of female and, perhaps, a new breed of alpha. They want the continuation of the old ways where men were the absolute rulers and women had little say. I hope there are those that would support us if it comes to a fight, but I will not be mated or have this pack given to someone not of our bloodline just because he can knot his mate.”

Rowan continued up the great staircase to her rooms. She wanted to wash the blood off her hands and change into a more comfortable tunic before returning to the great hall. It did not go unnoticed that Sloan trailed behind her and her sister.

“Have you ever been knotted?” asked Arielle.

“No, my nosy little sister, I am still a virgin by my choice.”

“They say…” Arielle started to continue as Rowan entered her chamber.

Sloan intervened. “Arielle? Why don’t you help Rowan by going back down to the great hall and letting them know she’ll be right down to attend to their concerns.”

“I can do that,” Arielle responded, happy to be of help.

Rowan watched her depart and smiled at Sloan. “You’re very good at that,” she said.

“She loves you dearly,” said Sloan, “but she doesn’t understand all of the pressure you’re under.”

“I know,” she sighed. “Have I ever thanked you for trying to steal from us?”

Sloan snorted. “Every single day when I wake up in a warm, safe place and have food to eat and people who consider me a friend. Why don’t you let me get you freshened up?”

“I just took down a male alpha wolf; I’m pretty sure I can handle getting cleaned up.”

“It isn’t that you can’t, but it is supposed to be my job and you might think about letting some of us do what we can to help.”

Rowan nodded.

Sloan had Rowan sit on the bed and unfastened her corset and pulled the stained blouse over her head. She used cool cloths to clean the blood from Rowan’s hands and arms before pulling a comfortable silk tunic from her wardrobe and slipping it over her head. She angled Rowan so that she could get to Rowan’s hair and took it out of the single plait down her back and ran a comb through it before doing a more elaborate braid.

“Much better,” Sloan said, satisfied with her efforts.

“That it is. Thank you.”

She shook herself physically and mentally before exiting her chamber and descending the stairs to meet with her people to hear any grievances they might have.

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