If you have a copy of Mate & Kingdom that doesn’t include two epilogues, I’ve provided both epilogues below.
Hope you enjoy the story, and I can’t wait to know what you think!
When I was young…just an unforgotten maid washing dishes and mopping up the floors of the old Caedmon mansion, people used to ask me if I would ever get married. I’d tell them, ‘No, never. Boys have germs. They’re rude with no manners, and some of them even pick their nose.’
I could remember as far back as eight when the other maids in the house told me that I’d escape the Caedmon life and marry a handsome King. They were partly right. I married an Alpha and a King.
There had to have been hundreds of people here. I had no idea where they all came from. Caedmon-kind. Arnou-kind. Human-kind. Witch-kind. Members of COBRA. Anyone Tristan had ever dealt with or made friends with in the past. I had like twenty close friends, maybe less. And I could only hope they were here too. Everyone was anxious to witness the union of Tristan Vasilije Arnou and Elisa Caedmon.
I was nervous as hell, as evidenced by the way my heels shook as I walked across the white-blanketed aisle to my future husband. Taking a deep breath, I silently prayed to the gods to give me the strength to walk the distance without tripping over my own two feet.
One of the gods had definitely answered my prayers because when I looked up again, I saw the spirit of Roman Caedmon standing right next to the officiant. My heart slammed in my chest and I swallowed. The apparition of my great-uncle stood there, grinning proudly, reminding me that I, too, was supposed to be smiling. While carrying the secret of Roman’s spirit with me, I felt the corners of my mouth lifting upward.
“One day you will guard this pack.” Roman DeSantos pushed a small journal in my hand.
“I can’t fight. I’m too young,” a ten-year-old Elisa said, shaking her head and refusing the journal.
“Oh, but you will grow old.” Roman took her hands and dropped the journal down in it.
“I don’t want to grow old!”
Roman laughed, a joyful noise that lit up the room. “We all grow old, Elisa. You will grow wiser.”
“Who told you that I’d be a Seer, like you?”
“No one has to tell me anything.” Roman tapped his temple. “This is what I know. You’ll be more than a Seer, Elisa. You’re special. You’ll be a Guardian.”
“I don’t know if I can do it. Will you be there to help me?”
“Oh, yes, I will. I’ll be there every step of the way.”
When I looked up again to the right of the podium, Roman’s spirit was gone.
I looked at my mate, Tristan. He was all I had left in this world who understood me. He held my hands and talked me through whatever Caedmon puzzle I was trying to solve. He calmed my nerves whenever something was troubling me. And despite the extent of my gifts, he never pushed me to use them for anyone’s gain. Not even his own.
Tristan Arnou was still the most misunderstood wolf in the history the Caedmon. But that didn’t matter. I understood him just fine.
We shared a brief glance just before I came to a stop in front of the officiant. I blushed when his eyes danced up and down the length of my dress. I’d had it custom-made. An impeccable, white shoulder-baring crystallized mermaid gown with a face-bottomed veil and princess tiara. By the looks of it, he loved the dress. As always, Tristan was handsomely dressed for the occasion.
“Who gives this woman?” The officiant spoke up, bringing me back to reality.
Devin gave my arm a reassuring squeeze before stating, “Devin Tomas Caedmon.”
The wedding ceremony went by in a breeze and before I knew it, I had a big rock on my ring finger and a loving mate and husband at my side.
Mate and Kingdom indeed. But I was going to honor Tristan with more than that. I was going to give him the world.
After the wedding and reception, the mating ceremony was held. A mating ceremony held in the presence of a pack—or in this case, two packs—was one of the most sacred unions among our kind. This time, our pack brethren would witness a true union that would officially unite both packs.
The blood bond that Tristan and Devin executed nearly four years ago made the packs stronger. But a true mate bond like this would unite us, not only in blood, but by family.
After the reception, the guests left. All that remained were members who had pledged to both packs. The mating run began with shifters splitting off into two groups—male and female—and disbursing through the woods surrounding the Arnou estate. Unmated females would run into the woods, and unmated males would descend upon them shortly afterwards. Mated couples would split up and then find each other through their own special bond.
In the case of Tristan and I, Tristan’s wolf had found me within minutes of the start of the run, but to make things fair and allow everyone a chance to enjoy the thrill of the hunt, we drew the event out. I raced through woods with my mate hot on my tail. Not one time did he lose me—our bond was just that deep.
When the hunt was over, Tristan and I raced back to the estate where members of our pack were waiting. When we came to the decorated courtyard where the mating would be witnessed, I took the steps up to the podium—which was decorated just for this occasion—and shifted.
Just like my mating dress, the podium was surrounded with an opaque fabric that flowed effortlessly in the breeze. All eyes were on me, but I had prepared myself for this. I waited for my mate and my husband to join me.
When Tristan rose on the podium, he rose as a wolf, flanking me with hunger in his eyes. The moonlight beamed against his sleek, soft fur. His eyes were bright, majestic, and filled with love.
In my human form, I knelt down on the pavement and folded my legs under me. In a show of submission, I slid my hair off the nape of my neck and bowed my head.
Everyone and everything was quiet. Even the night owls and crickets had stilled for a moment of silence.
Tristan’s wolf brushed against me and then I felt his soft nuzzle against my body. Even through the see-thru garment, I still felt his heated breath on my skin. Even though we had a crowd of onlookers, I was completely aroused and couldn’t do anything to hide my arousal as my nipples beaded against the flimsy dress in anticipation of Tristan marking me.
Tristan finally shifted with a dignified grace that only a shifter of his lineage could pull off. He reached down and took my hand.
“Rise, my Queen.”
I rose to full height and then lifted my gaze to meet him. After seeing the playful grin lining his lips, I couldn’t help but join in his happiness. After sharing our brief secret moment, he moved behind me.
With gentle fingers, he moved my hair from the nape of my neck and buried his lips against it. Before his canines scraped gently against the column of my neck, his tongue prepared me for the bite, releasing a healing serum that would aid in sealing his mark on my flesh.
As Tristan always does, he prolonged the occasion, kissing and licking the column of my neck and throat until my skin grew numb with the serum and I became weak in the knees.
Without warning, he sank his canines into me, breaking through my very soul. I gasped. My powers surged for only an instant before the pain faded. The discomfort was replaced with a blinding intensity that elevated me and filled me with warmth and visions of our future together.
When the mark was permanent, Tristan spun me around. I kissed him first, taking his lips passionately.
The crowd rejoiced behind us. The wolves howled, and the men and women in human form cheered. As a sign that the pack members had accepted our union and mating, each person in attendance brought lupinus perennis as a gift and placed them at our feet.
I turned to Tristan and smiled.
“Best day and night of my life,” I said.
He returned my grin and took my hand in his. “You just wait until twilight. I’m going to do things to you that you’ll never forget.”
Of that, I had no doubts.