There wasn’t any time to lose.
Sarah held her skirts and ran through the orchard outside Cynthia Castle to find Laura. Since the king’s wife died years ago, the position of luna had been vacant. Prince Basil married Laura to fill that role and help manage the kingdom while King Adolph led the war against the vampires.
Many had been skeptical of Laura due to her origin, but Sarah had remained faithfully in her service since her appointment. In her opinion, marrying Laura was the only thing Prince Basil had ever done right.
Now, he had gone and done this.
She pushed herself to run faster. She had to tell Laura, to warn her somehow and help her prepare. Maybe Laura could figure out a way out of it if she just had enough time.
“My Luna?! Luna Laura, where are you?”
Sarah skidded and stumbled, barely missing crashing into a tree when she found Laura on a ladder in the orchard overseeing the harvest of fresh fruit.
“Luna Laura, thank god, I found you! Prince Basil, he--”
“Calm down, Sarah.” Laura climbed down the ladder. “I am not worried about Basil right now. I need to make sure that these fruits and vegetables get to the border safely.”
"You don't have to do it yourself! Why not entrust it to the human merchants? You are our Most Honorable Luna."
Laura shook her head, "Now, that the king is fighting vampires on the border, time is critical. We can't afford to give the enemy any opportunities to poison the food. Even if Basil is against me doing so..." She paused with a bitter laugh and a reluctant smile on her face. "What's the point of working so hard?"
"Prince Basil is holding a banquet in the palace, inviting all the nobles--"
Laura turned, her grey dress whirling around her as she dashed back towards the castle. Sarah followed hoping to finish her explanation, or at least get her ready to face the nobles.
“My Luna, wait!”
Music filled the air. The scent of fresh wine and roasted meat drifted out of the hall with laughter. The servants had spent all morning scrubbing and polishing the lavish hall until every piece of gold and every crystal twinkled with the grand luxury the Cynthia castle had.
Laura stood just beyond the marble pathway leading into the ballroom through the gardens, trembling with fury.
"How could he…"
Their king, Basil's father, was leading his soldiers on the border for their lives and the freedom of every wolf in his kingdom, but Basil was wasting money and precious food on such a lavish banquet.
If she had known sooner, she could have stopped it before it began, but the guests had already arrived, and the band was playing. She felt a sting on her pride for being so out of the loop.
For a few moments, she watched them whirl around on the dance floor, adorned in fine jewelry and silk. Every woman's ears twinkled with gems and every man's shoes gleamed with fresh polish.
“My Luna, please, let’s…”
A noble turned and sneered at her, freezing Laura in place and reminding her of what her life had once been as a part of the Emerald Twilight pack as little more than one of the many. It made her think of Basil’s disregard for her and her efforts too.
She was luna, yet even the nobility did not respect her.
Her gaze dropped. With horror, she remembered she was still in her plain gray dress, stained with grass and mud from working. She was the luna of the kingdom. She couldn’t be seen at a noble event dressed like a peasant! Quickly, she turned to escape before anyone could see or recognize her, but she was stopped by a familiar, cold voice.
“What an eyesore,” he drawled. She bristled at his cold tone, dripping with sarcasm and disgust. “What are you wearing? How could you bring such shame to the kingdom dressed like that?”
She debated for a moment continuing her escape, but the nobles nearby had already begun to whisper, snicker. She could imagine their sneering faces and what they would say if she fled now. She straightened her spine and turned to face him, but the sight of the woman on Basil’s arm struck her like a dagger in her chest.
Basil was as handsome as his father was and young. His dark eyes were cold in his face, yet they only highlighted his rugged features. Even his haughty sneer seemed crafted by the goddess to entice. The she-wolf on his arm was draped in all the fine silk and jewels Laura should have been wearing. In fact, Delia was wearing one of her dresses and a set of jewelry the king had gifted her the year before. Her face heated seeing her in her clothes.
They looked so lovely together, and Laura had never felt so out of place. She didn’t think she could ever feel as common and unworthy as she did right then.
It was all her fault.
Delia had been picked up by the patrol in the forest outside the Imperial City half a month ago. Injured and seemingly helpless, she claimed that she came from a very remote pack and had been attacked by rogues on the outskirts. She begged for sanctuary within the imperial city. Basil took pity on the poor girl and brought her back to the castle, but how could they have become so close so quickly?
How had she not noticed the woman inserting herself where Laura should have been?
She almost laughed. She had been so busy attending to the duties of being the luna that she had not attended to being a very good wife, and Basil had simply found something like a replacement.
The nobles leaned into the archway, watching the scene unfold. Humiliation churned her stomach and despair began to fill her chest and clench her heart. She was his wife, his mate, and served the kingdom as the luna. How could he have Delia on his arm so proudly in front of the court? How could he humiliate her like this? Had there not been one moment of consideration for her?
She shoved the thought aside and straightened her spine. No matter what, she was luna. Her pride and duty had to come first.
“We are in the midst of war. Why would you throw such an extravagant party?”
A noble gasped and it rippled through the guests nearby.
Basil’s eyes hardened as he bared his teeth, “You think too much of yourself to ask me such a thing. It is my right to do as I please in my castle.”
“But, I am your luna. We rule this kingdom and castle together while the king is on the border. I have every right to know. Our army is still at war with the vampires. We can’t afford to spend so much money--”
“You were not born to be the luna!” Basil yelled, angrily, “I have allowed you to fill the role until now. How dare you tell me what to do!”
Delia wrapped her arms around Basil, speaking softly, “Please, my Prince. Think of the guests…”
Basil’s fury vanished as he turned to Delia. His eyes were soft and his smile was sweet. It turned Laura’s stomach. Could a she-wolf from an unknown pack truly be so much better than her?
“Of course, my love. Such wise words. Truly, you are the one.” He turned back to glare at Laura. She flinched at the anger in his eyes. "Look at yourself. You are more like a maid of the castle than my luna. Don't mention the budget problems to me. Everyone knows you spend more money on useless projects. If I were you, I'd be too ashamed to show up!"
Everything she did was for the kingdom, for Basil. How could he not see that?
"You are nothing.”
Laura lowered her head. She knew that. Basil didn’t need to tell her, yet she had striven to rise above that. Three years of hard work had yielded nothing.
Would it ever mean anything?
“Though I am glad you have shown your wretched face and spared me the trouble of having you fetched.” Basil lifted his nose, “Prepare to leave at once. Soon, I will announce Delia as my mate and the one I will love for the rest of my life."
Laura gasped, her eyes bulging as her worst nightmare became real. Leave? Basil loved Delia? She knew there had never been love between them. She knew she was only Basil’s marked mate, but this was too much.
"Delia will be the luna of the kingdom. As for you, Laura Hamiltion, I care not what happens to you after our divorce."
Her jaw trembled and her eyes burned with tears. She had been luna and Basil’s wife for three years. She had led the kingdom alongside him while the king was away with all the grace and proper care.
Basil couldn’t just throw her away like dinner scraps!
She choked and stumbled in shock as their bond broke. It was so fragile like all marked mate bonds were. It had cost him nothing to destroy it, yet it had cost her everything.
"No… No. You c-can’t." She wailed. “You can’t!”
Basil turned. His eyes were cold and merciless.
His voice was almost happy as he smirked at her, "I told you. I will do as I please. You are not even fit to be a spare maid in my castle. Now, get out of my castle!"