A Gift from the Goddess Book Two – Chapter 20

We exited the vehicle and I began walking to the front door, thinking that Kieran was next to me. Only, as he called out to me, I realized he was still in the car.

“Come here for a second,” he said, crooking his finger for me to return.

I did as he asked and he stood in front of me, a smirk on his lips.

“I hope you don’t find this too weird,” he said, and I merely raised a brow in question.

He then gently grabbed my hand and placed it across my chest. “It won’t be a very formal setting but you’re still going to meet my father. It means I need to teach you this. It’s the same thing that Daniel did. You place your hand here and bow your head a little. It’s a sign of respect for those ranked above you, as well as those amongst allied packs.”

Oh, I did remember the gesture. Though I hadn’t known what to do at the time and just stood there. Was I meant to have done it back? Was I considered “allied” despite not being from a pack?

“Like this?” I asked. And I mimicked what I’d seen.

But it instantly made Kieran’s lip twitch, looking as though he were trying not to laugh.

“Was that… wrong?”

I thought back on what I’d done but couldn’t work out which part I’d messed up.

He quickly cleared his throat though and smiled. “No, no, it wasn’t wrong. It was perfect. It’s just amusing to see you do it towards me. I never thought I’d be in this situation.”

“What situ—.”

“Let’s go in,” he said, guiding me with a hand to my shoulder. “Everyone will be waiting.”

I didn’t pry for more answers.

From the minute we walked inside, I became painfully aware of just how much I stood out.

There were a few people around, all of whom were staring at me or… whispering. Every time they accidentally caught my eye, they would instantly look away. A little unnerving, but I did my best to shrug it off. I had a feeling this was going to become the norm everywhere we went.

“Alpha heir,” a lady said, approaching from another room. She then did the bow that Kieran had shown me moments earlier. “…Miss Reid.” Another bow.

She knew my name. I took that to mean Daniel had already made it here and the people were gathered to meet us.

I placed a hand over my chest, thinking that bowing back was the respectful thing to do amongst ‘allies’, but Kieran’s hand shot out so quickly to stop me that I almost didn’t see it.

“If you can please have the luggage from the car put away, it would be greatly appreciated,” Kieran said, giving the girl a polite smile. “Please also have the room arranged to ensure Raven has a comfortable stay.”

…An employee. Maybe a maid? I guess it would have been strange to do it as a guest.

The lady looked at me, breaking her guise of formality to momentarily crease her brow, but she soon recovered. With another quick bow, she left to do what she was asked.

“…Just to my father,” Kieran whispered, reiterating what he had said earlier.

And I nodded my head.

I’d gone from being able to navigate high society etiquette with my eyes closed to… feeling like a clumsy child. A much steeper learning curve than I anticipated.

We walked through some hallways, the place being even bigger than I initially thought until we eventually arrived at a set of double doors. It was here that Kieran stopped for a moment and gave me one final look.

I wasn’t sure what to expect on the other side, but I had been imagining an antique-style living area with a bunch of people in formal attire. Or maybe something like those old-fashioned cigar rooms.

But, as the door opened before me, I found it to be… normal.

Sure, it was furnished really nicely, but everything seemed somewhat modern. Closer to the sort of living areas I had back at my house than anything else.

Several people stood inside the room, it being large enough to accommodate it. Three adult men around my father’s age, Daniel, and a few other older gentlemen who seemed more elderly. All dressed nicely but not the blazered suits with ties I’d pictured.

…However, as we entered inside, their eyes all instantly fell on me.

Kieran was the first to move, walking up to the man who stood at the center. I already vaguely knew what his father, Victor, looked like, having read it in my folder weeks ago, but seeing him in person was another thing entirely. Based on looks alone, it was easy to see the resemblance. They had the same dark hair and build, the only real difference being their eyes. Victor’s were brown as opposed to Kieran’s hazel.

And there was something else too. He had a sort of… air about him. Almost as if you could feel the importance coming off of him. Even if I came in here blind, I was sure I could have pointed to who was in charge. Or was…’ Alpha’, as Kieran had told me.

“Father,” Kieran said, giving a small bow. “Apologies for the short notice. I hope you weren’t busy.”

But with the short formality out of the way, I was taken aback by how Victor just immediately stepped forward and brought his son into a hug.

…Something that induced a pang of longing inside me, one that I’d thought to have buried long ago.

“It’s good to have you back,” he said, pulling away after a pat on the shoulder. “And please don’t worry about any of that. I just appreciate you going in my absence to the event. Besides, how could I possibly be annoyed? What with you bringing home your….”

There was a pause as everyone looked to Kieran… and then to me.

“…Guest,” he finished.

I took this as my cue and stepped forward, doing the bow in respect.

“Allow me to introduce you to Raven Reid,” Kieran said, gesturing a hand back towards me.

I felt an itch of discomfort overhearing the name but smiled nonetheless.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” I said to Victor. “I can’t tell you how much it means to me just being here, and I sincerely appreciate the generosity of accommodating my abrupt visitation. This is all new to me so I hope you’ll forgive any faux pas I may make. I’ll do my best to learn quickly.”

It wasn’t quite the same thing, but making a good impression was still something that felt more natural for me to do. Being able to quickly put on the face I needed to show was important to ensure my assignments were completed.

“Well, aren’t you just so charming,” his father said, walking up to me. “And so beautiful too. Those eyes and smile of yours are stunning. I’m sure you hear that all the time though.”

He then held a hand out for me to shake, which I quickly did.

“The pleasure is all ours though, I assure you, so please make yourself at home,” he continued. “I’m very much looking forward to getting to know you and hope you’ll excuse all my questions. I just find your situation a little fascinating. It’s not often that children of our kind are raised by humans.”

However, just like his son, I found him a little difficult to read. He either genuinely wanted to know… or he was trying to suss out if I was actually telling the truth. Maybe both. Either way, I held my smile in place and remained composed.

“These are my second and third in charge,” Victor then said, pointing to the men of similar age. “Reece, our Beta, and Neil, our Gamma. As well as three members of what we call Elders. Elder Atticus, Douglas and Roy.”

I gave them each nod of acknowledgment and smiles as they were introduced one by one.

“…And I believe you’ve already met Reece’s son, Daniel?”

“Yes,” I said, meeting Daniel’s guilty eyes. “I’ve already had the pleasure.”

No one else apart from Kieran seemed to notice the small tension there. Probably for the best.

“Perfect. Then there is also Neil’s eldest son, Camren, but he’s currently patrolling. You’ll probably meet him at some point.”

This was entirely too many names to remember at once, but I did my best to retain what I could. Already, I knew I would have to ask Kieran to remind me later.

I looked around the room one more time, internally memorizing their faces, however, it was then that I noticed something else.

…They were all men.

Didn’t they have any female leadership?

It was an uncomfortable thought that made me start to wonder just how archaic the values here might be.

But in the end, I wasn’t able to think about it for long… as then the door burst open.

“Kieran!” a female voice squealed behind me.

…And a wave of nausea instantly hit me, the voice piercing through.

Slowly, I turned around to see who had entered… and saw a young girl with blonde hair and hazel eyes.

But it was difficult to pay attention to anything other than what was happening in my head. Because every part of me was now screaming, urging me to reach for my dagger. To not waste any time in just ending it.

…And I took a step back Shocked by my own thoughts.

“You’re home!” she said, immediately running to hug Kieran. “I was starting to think you weren’t coming back”

Al… Alli…

It was at the tip of my tongue. As if I should have known it.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Kieran sighed, pulling away to pat her head affectionately. “Of course, I was coming back.”

I stared at the two of them, doing everything I could to keep myself away. Whatever this weird sensation was, I clearly wasn’t in the right state of mind.

…But then she turned to look at me. Her eyes met mine. And it suddenly came to me. It was her name.

“Raven, meet my little sister…,” Kieran said. … —Allison.

“—Allison,” he finished.

The girl didn’t seem to notice anything off though. No, she seemed completely normal Just a young girl, maybe barely older than eighteen, who appeared nothing but sweet.

What the hell was wrong with me?

I needed to say something. Anything. Everyone was staring at me. But I was internally having a battle inside myself as I tried to restrain those thoughts screaming at me.

Allison just smiled brightly though, clearly unaware, and, before I could get any words out, she did the one thing I wished she hadn’t.

…She walked up and threw her arms around me.

“I’m so excited to meet you!” she gushed. “As soon as I heard you were here, I ran the entire way! I almost couldn’t believe it.”

‘Move, Raven,’ the sane part of my mind yelled inside. Move or say something.’

And, very robotically, I managed to bring a hand up to pat her shoulder. Making sure to control the movement as much as I could.

“Give her some space, Allie,” Kieran said, pulling her off me.

“She’s already got a lot going on.”

“Oh, Goddess, I’m sorry!” she said, her eyes wide as she looked up at me.

“I must have gotten carried away. You’re just so beautiful though! Ahh! I can’t believe I finally have a sis —.”

“—Alright, come on,” Kieran said, pushing her out the door. “There’ll be plenty of time to talk to Raven later. Let her settle in first.”

“Oh… w-wait, Kieran—!”

She kept struggling, protesting her forced departure, but did finally manage to get a glance at me from around his arm, giving me one last smile.

“It was nice to meet you, Raven!” she called out.

And, finally, the door was closed. …What was that?

I momentarily stood in a daze, still trying to collect my thoughts. I’d never had such an adverse reaction to someone before. It seemed almost insane. And did I know Kieran had a sister? He must have mentioned her at some point for me to know her name.

…Hopefully, I had that doctor’s appointment soon. The faster the drugs were out of my system, the better.

“You’ve had a long journey,” Victor said, pulling me from my thoughts. “We should let you get some rest. Tomorrow night I’d like to have a proper dinner to introduce you to Ashwood… if that would be okay with you.”

`Move.’

…I forced my lips back into a smile.

“Of course,” I said automatically. “I’d love that.”

“Come on, I’ll show you to your room,” Kieran said, gently touching my shoulder.

He managed to walk me a step before I quickly turned back around to face everyone in the room, remembering my manners.

“It was lovely to meet you all. Thank you again for the warm welcome.”

They each gave me kind smiles and a wave, and we proceeded to leave. Heading to the place I would be sleeping for the foreseeable future.

I allowed Kieran to lead me through the house, walking through the large building that felt more like a maze, but I couldn’t seem to focus on anything around me.

Because, inside, I was still struggling to comprehend what had just happened.

Wondered why I’d had such a violent urge to hurt his sister… and whether, deep down, I was an unknowing threat to the people here.

…If perhaps maybe, just maybe, I was already too far gone in the darkness of my past.

That I really couldn’t be changed.

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