Home > Autumn's Wolf (Court of Shifters Chronicles #4)

Autumn's Wolf (Court of Shifters Chronicles #4)
Author: Alyssa Rose Ivy

 

1

 

 

AUTUMN

 

 

It’s always the most attractive ones who get you. They distract you with their good looks, get you to fall head-over-heels, and then when you are at your most vulnerable they do what they do best: break your heart.

But not anymore. I was done moving through that cycle of heartache and humiliation. It was time to steel my heart and let my head do the leading. Who cares if I needed to find my mate in order to take the throne? I cared. That voice inside me wasn’t going to give up. Nor was my mother, but that was an entirely different story.

“I need you to step in for me.” My mother stood looking into her mirror as she fastened her necklace.

“Again?” This was far from the first time she’d asked me.

“Yes.” She turned toward me. “Is it too much to ask? You do realize this is going to be your job soon.”

“I do.” I took a long look at the stunning woman in front of me. No matter what came her way she managed to appear unfazed and in control. I was terrified of what the people of my court would think of me in comparison. “And, no. I don’t mind. I’m just surprised. You usually like to handle things yourself.”

“And I have plenty to handle.” She turned back to the mirror and replaced a small section of hair that had sprung loose from her coiffed bun. “Occasionally I need help. Especially now…” Her eyes were sad, and I didn’t have to ask her what she was referring to.

My father had died a few years before. Losing her mate at such a young age was unheard of. No one fully understood what happened. Least of all me. I missed him terribly, but I knew my mother was going through something more than grief. Losing your mate was like losing a substantial part of yourself.

“I understand.” I hated to sound ungrateful. I had responsibilities, and I wasn’t a child anymore.

“It shouldn’t be long or involved.”

“So you say about every council meeting, yet somehow they are always long and involved. Not that I’m complaining. I am merely being realistic.” It was an element of royal life I did not enjoy, especially when it involved the public. I liked listening to and interacting with the people of my court, but they only came to council if they had a problem, and somehow the problems were always our fault.

“Being realistic is still complaining.” Her arms lay perfectly at her side as she stood up straight. My mother looked like a queen. There was no question about that.

“Well then, I’m sorry you don’t have other offspring to choose from.” I smiled. I was making a joke, not a jab. My mother had only wanted one child.

“You are all I need. You are all that the court needs.” She stepped toward me and put her hands on my arms.

“I’m not sure about that.” I was petrified of failing as I worked to follow in her footsteps.

“It’s time for you to have some confidence in yourself.” She looked into my eyes.

“I have plenty of confidence in myself. Running an entire court is a lot though. It’s not a small, easy job.”

“You think I might have some idea what you are talking about?” Her lips twisted into a light smile.

“You are the only one who would.”

“Not the only one, but I agree there aren’t many. Only four families.”

“Do you believe it’s right?” She removed her hands from my arms.

“Do I believe what is right?” I missed her touch. She was so good at calming me down.

“That control of the courts always stays within the same families? That it doesn’t matter who else may be fit to lead?”

I searched her eyes for the punchline. Was she baiting me? What answer was she looking for? “We are destined to lead. It is why we get our gifts.” I watched her, and she seemed to be waiting for me to say more. So I took a chance and went with how I honestly felt. “But we are not the only ones of our kind that are gifted. There are others out there with strengths and talents too.”

“The Royals are gifted beyond most. And it wasn’t designed to be this way. To be such separate courts. The gifts are stronger when they are used together.”

“I didn’t know that.” I’d always been curious about the other courts and took any opportunity given to get to know the other heirs, but that was about all I knew about our connection.

“There is a lot you don’t know. And that is not your fault at all.” She took my hand in hers. “I have not given you the education you were owed.”

“You have had a lot of challenges.” I was not patronizing her or making excuses. It was the truth.

“All leaders have challenges. I should have delegated your education.”

“I had fine tutors.” I hated to hear her criticize herself. It was always easier to criticize yourself than to hear it directed toward those you love.

“You did. But not none of them knew all the secrets.”

“Of course not.” But they’d taught me what they could. “But really are you ever going to think it’s time for me to know all the secrets?”

“Yes. That time is now.”

My body went still. “I’m listening.”

“You know I don’t mean literally this moment. We both have work to do.”

“Yes, you want me to oversee this not long and overly involved council meeting?” I was excited enough by her agreeing to share the secrets, that I was no longer dreading the meeting as much.

“You have my permission to shut it down after an hour. I can’t control how involved it is, but I can control how long it is.”

“Thanks, but I’ll do whatever it is I need to do.” Otherwise it would just fall back into my mother’s lap. She had enough to contend with.

“I wish this could be different for you.” She squeezed my hand. “I hope it is different for you.”

“You mean with a mate?” I asked as carefully as I could. “Are you talking about my father?”

“Yes and no. Everything.”

“I will do my duty. I understand there are bigger things than myself. There are things that go well beyond me.”

“And you will find love.” She squeezed my hand and then released it. “Your mate is out there.”

“I know.” I didn’t know, but I hated to see my mother worry so much. There were far bigger things to deal with. “I will brief you on anything significant that comes up at the council. Good luck with your day's work.” I headed toward the door.

“Autumn,” Mom called. “You are a good daughter.”

I stopped and turned back to look at her. “You are a good mother. And a good queen.”

 

 

The council room was packed. Far more than usual. We always had some members of the public at these meetings. They came with issues, disputes with other community members, requests for aid. But it was normally a handful at most. This time the room was practically full. Corner to corner.

“The heir!” A man yelled as I walked into the room. “The queen has sent the heir in her place again.”

The disdain was clear in the voice of the declarant as I brushed by on my way to the podium. I tried not to let it get to me. Having thick skin was a requirement for this position. I greeted the council before taking my seat— or rather my mother’s seat at the center of the podium. In other words: the throne. “Good morning.”

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