Authors: Chanel Smith
A Pack Trilogy Book 1
OTHER BOOKS BY CHANEL SMITH
THE PACK TRILOGY
THE HUNTRESS TRILOGY
The Vampire With the Golden Gun
The Vampire in the High Castle
The Vampire Who Knew Too Much
THE GHOST FILES
Published by Chanel Smith
Copyright © 2015 by Chanel Smith
All rights reserved.
Ebook Edition, License Notes
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
Frumuseţea este superbă, cu inteligenta divina.
Beauty is superb, Intelligence divine.
—A Romani saying
In 1189, Eleanor of Aquitaine was quite the beauty with her unusual, nearly-waist-length blaze red hair. Her younger sister Petronilla, known as Petra to those who loved her, rivaled her in beauty, but far overcame her mentally. It was Petra who insisted that Eleanor marry the far-too-young Duke Henry. Eleanor balked at the thought: at thirty, she wasn’t eager to take on a nineteen year old fool of a husband and her enthusiasm was markedly lacking as she walked down the long aisle in her superb wedding dress.
Petra smiled at the sight, as did so many others at the ceremony, but for Petra the smile had nothing to do with the wedding and everything to do with the Duke’s future and by extension Eleanor’s security. Eleanor’s temperament was far too modern for the times but her sense of entitlement seemed to permit every indulgence without consequence. Any affable gentleman that caught Eleanor’s eye posed as a new distraction; she did everything in her power to bed him. Her conduct was that of a libertine, chasing every beauty without conscience. Many disapproved of this, but no one could truly condemn a Queen and Henry was slated to become the next King of France.
After the ceremony, Petra accompanied her beloved sister to the French court where there gathered all of the wealthiest houses of Paris. The French court had a wild reputation of indulgence: parties, beautiful people and decadent foods. The court proved to live up to its reputation, it dazzled Petra. The Ladies-in-waiting and the Noblemen of the Court were more than she could have imagined. Moreover, the very-married Count Raoul I of Vermandois requested her dance at the party in Eleanor’s honor. From that first night, that first dance, Petronilla was lost to him.
Raoul was charming, and gave all of his attentions to the Queen’s elegant younger sister. He was French and naturally, had allure down to a fine art. Petra fell fast for the smooth Frenchman with his dark curly hair which fell about his shoulders in ringlets. Even his beard consisted of those compelling dark ringlets. And his eyes—oh, those eyes. Petra shivered at the thought of his intense gaze that seemed to look past her beauty straight into her soul as no man had ever dared.
She had to be with Raoul, permanently and as soon as possible. As Petra had always appeared to be the ‘good’ sister, the quiet, obedient one; nobody expected what followed.
Raoul repudiated his wife and promptly requested the hand of an ecstatic Petra. She had no choice but to accept. They were hastily married and just as hastily excommunicated by the Pope.
Eleanor gathered every powerful ally she knew to get her beloved sister back into the good grace of the church. Pope Innocent II promised to lift the excommunication, but recanted at the last moment in 1143. The pope’s action infuriated those who had assisted in the Queen’s petition to the Pope, including Louis VII, famed for burning Vitry-le-François to the ground.
But fortunately Petra and Raoul did not have to wait long, Pope Innocent II died soon thereafter and his successor Pope Celestine lifted their excommunication. It was 1144 and finally Petra could live the life she so deserved with the man of her dreams.
She could hold her head high as they entered the ballroom, Petra proudly propped on Raoul’s outstretched arm. Life simply couldn’t be any better. Short of an act of God, nothing could distract her from this bliss: Petra relaxed; enough even to learn to really dance, something Raoul had begged her to do for so long.
It wasn’t an Act of God that disrupted Petra’s perfect life. Quite the opposite of godly in fact; her nemesis came in the form of a short, repulsive Countess with a face that one expected to bark, but she was an heiress with more coinage than the Vatican’s coffers.
Countess Arabella DeLanghi was a new addition to court. She had lived deep in the country with her much older husband, who had succumbed to pneumonia only a year prior. The longest year of her life, as Arabella had told her preferred lady’s maid. As soon as was appropriate she came out of mourning and deserted her vast country estate castle to experience the incomparable splendor of the royal castle.
She instantly gained the attention of the Noblemen and was the topic of much talk with the Queen’s ladies. It certainly wasn’t because of her looks. Her vicious wit and her seemingly bottomless purses made up for what she lacked in beauty. For Arabella the only good joke was at the expense of another, her wealth and recent freedom had given her opportunity to have the Court’s favor—and a part of her abused her recent position to make up for all the thinly-veiled jokes made at her own expense over the years. Petra enjoyed a good sense of humor, but never mockingly.
Arabella didn’t factor into Petra’s world right way. There was something about her face which, if one added a droopy neck and ears could pass for that of a bulldog. But soon enough the two women had more in common than either would have believed possible. Both were hopelessly attracted to his black ringlets and soulful eyes.
Raoul was quite in love with his beautiful and dutiful wife, but Raoul was nothing if not pragmatic. Petra was but the sister of a Queen and as such, and as a woman, had little opportunity to increase their estate. The Bulldog, as Raoul privately named Arabella, was on the other hand extremely wealthy; she owned half of the lands in France. To Raoul who had been born with title that could only take him as far as Court, a castle in need of repair, and a father who continually gambled away his lacking inheritance; the Bulldog had an instant appeal that Petra could never hope to match.
They met, and the attraction was instant and mutual: her to his ringlets and charm, him to her estate. That he was already married never entered Arabella’s mind; another commonality between the ladies of Raoul. Some ten years later she’d have regrets on her conduct. But not now, now, Raoul clouded her better judgment.
The couple were scrupulously careful for more than a year, meeting in out-of-the-way dens that no-one would ever suspect. Certainly Petra had no idea that the eyes she fell in love with were the same eyes that now looked upon another.
After thirteen months the couple’s meetings grew far less clandestine. Raoul realized he had nothing to lose and everything to gain. And Petra began to hear whispers of her husband’s duplicity. She found them difficult to believe. The ladies of the Queen’s court were jealous of her happiness and she knew many Noblemen that would stop at nothing to lure her away from Raoul’s arms. How could it be otherwise, a woman of so little grace could curdle a bottle of milk?
But presently even Petra could no longer lie to herself. The adulterous couple became more public in their trysts. This felt worse than the excommunication for Petra; this was brand new for a woman of such beauty and rank. She had to face the talk of the Court alone. She, whom comforted others in losing their husbands to younger, wealthier women. She never thought it could happen to her. The agony was startlingly unbelievable, and Petra had no idea how to assuage it.
In 1152 she finally allowed him to annul their marriage on the basis that he was still married to his first wife who had recently died leaving him free to marry Arabella. She immediately fled Court with her beautiful head hung low in shame and disappointment. And this is where known history diverges from reality. Petra moved to her sister’s country estate and faded from society. Towards the end of the year she made the decision to travel back to her motherland. On her voyage back to England she contracted a fever and died before port was ever reached.
This is the story the history books tell. But the Captain’s log tells another story. His account does not show that Petra was aboard the ship when it docked on English soil; post mortem or otherwise.
And she wasn’t. The ship had made a brief stop in one of the Channel Islands at the behest of the Queen, and when it left for England, it did so without Petra.
Petra disembarked from the small dinghy that ferried her to shore to feel solid rock under her feet. She felt instant relief as she took in the sights before her. The island had a mysterious beauty and here no one but her knew her past. This freedom was just what was needed after the gossip of court, and the awful mortification of being lost; a husband who’d torn her heart from her chest and left her for dead.
That she’d been blind to his nature simply astounded Petra, she had always prided herself on her wit and intelligence. Never in her life had she made such a drastic miscalculation and it ate at her like a mouse at a chunk of cheese.
The Captain, who generously took her ashore, accompanied her to an intimate and beautiful inn that was nestled into the South facing cliff of the island. This is where he left her. So, alone she requested the innkeeper reserve her room ad infinitum.
That night she couldn’t sleep and went for a long walk along the cliffs. It was a bright night; the moon was full. Petra stopped after a mile and paused captivated by the moon’s reflection on the sea; shining out as if creating a moonlit path to the edge of the world.
What possible good was her life now? She’d dreamed of a humble life. Summers in the country so Raoul could enjoy the hunt, winters at court with her sister and the newly crowned King. She would be mother soon enough and birth his male heir. After a year or two, a girl to bring life and beauty to their home. She’d even written of her dream life in her journal. It made the black days of their excommunication tolerable. She had a chance to live part of that life she dreamed of, once they’d been permitted to return to Court and into the grace of the church she was in raptures! But then there was Arabella and her pocketbook to contend with.
And now there was nothing but blank pages and no way to fill them. She’d not have another husband that much was sure. Her life was ruined she saw that clearly now as if the moon’s reflection set a path, clarifying her thoughts. It was just her, the moon and the sea; the waves pounding against the beach far below.
If she chose to stay in France, her life at most would consist of sitting back and watching the lives of those she loved flourish. Her beautiful sister: Queen, wife and mother. Raoul her charming ex-lover, his new wife, the children they would raise on their beautiful estate. Even her lady’s maid could look forward to more than she. Such a thought was beyond awful; intolerable. Petra had always been a power behind her older sister, her constant advisor; the name that propelled those around her into good favor at Court. But she’d always known her own life was as important and Raoul destroyed that hope and her reputation. The needs of her sister were not enough to hold her in France.
As Petra stared consumed by despair, out over the English Channel she heard a distant howl. It startled her for a moment but she cared not if wolf or beast came for her. Her dark thoughts continued, what did it matter now.
Her thoughts were bleak and Petra saw but one recourse. It would be quick and easy: no one she knew would find out soon, and if they did she would not be present for any of the consequences. She had been excommunicated once already and her soul was, despite the Pope’s decision, more than likely doomed to a fiery afterlife for her sins of this life. She made up her mind; she took the few steps that lay between her and the edge of the cliff. Brightly lit, the cliff fell to the sea at such an angle that no living creature could walk or climb down. She lifted her head proudly, closed her eyes, and took one large final step forward.
Instead of air rushing past as she plummeted, something large hit Petra with the force of a running horse. She was knocked twenty feet to the right and landed head-first against an oak tree.
As her head spun and rang from the force of the blow, Petra wondered what on earth had happened. Something had hit her from a dead run, that was for sure. But what?
As her head slowly cleared she became aware of something panting heavily nearby. Opening her eyes was difficult, the world swam at each attempt but finally she succeeded and found herself looking into exquisite gold eyes.
Her own eyes widened with shock when she realized what stared at her with those eyes; quite the largest wolf she’d ever seen. There was no doubt what had knocked her back to safety. She felt a medley of emotions; strangely curiosity was one of them.
Petra’s thoughts made her nauseous, how could this reality be possible. Wolves didn’t have the intelligence to observe a woman’s despair; to save a human’s life. Did they?
“Not your normal wolf, no,” a voice that was not her own spoke to her clearly in her mind. She had no time to question what she heard; the mammoth golden-eyed beast lunged at her as rapidly as a snake sunk its sharp teeth into her arm.
That was enough for Petra to give up. No more questions, no more despair, no more hope. She welcomed the darkness that engulfed her.
When Petra woke she found herself alone in unfamiliar surroundings, to comforts that were not offered to her at the Inn the Captain left her at the previous night. The over-sized bed embraced her with the help of the cotton sheets and feather-down pillows. From where she lay she could see the fisherman’s bay. The open window was positioned in such a way that when she looked through it from the bed it felt like she was still outside standing on the cliff’s edge, the sea stretched out in front of her; it seemed the sea was the only constant in her new reality: its rhythmic pounding; the salty-sea air you could taste and smell; the strong northern winds.