7 | The Alpha's Offer

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It was all a dream.

That was Luiza Lazarov's first thought upon waking. It had all been a dream, the most terrible dream. One filled with canine teeth and a muttering red woman. Nika had been there, and Elliot, and her other friends, too.

But as she blinked away the bleariness, Lu lazily registered her surroundings. The room was infinitely small—barely large enough to account for the single-sized bed. Thanks to the heavily tinted windows, which were also fortified with bars, a weak stream of light tried and failed to properly illuminate the space.

Lu bolted upright, throwing an old, worn blanket off her body. Dizziness rushed through her, and she steadied herself with palms flattened on the mattress.

Her heart was a storm, so violent that she clutched her chest for fear of it bursting.

Because this place...it was definitely not a dream.

She carefully rose, discovering that she was still dressed in the navy blue, pleated skirt she'd been wearing when it had happened.

The confrontation with Dante Azzara, that red-haired woman dragging Lu into the woods. The last thing she remembered was Nika screaming her name. And the rest...

"Oh my Oldbloods."

But hailing to the Daemonstri ancestors did little to soothe her panic. What was going on? Where was she?

With wobbly knees and bare feet, she crossed the carpeted floor and gazed through the window. Or rather, gazed at it, since it was much too warped to have been any use to her. But at least she could tell night from day, and it was certainly daytime right now.

But how long had it been since that dreadful night? And what had become of her friends? Were they alright?

Think, she told herself. What would Nika do?

The answer came as quickly as her next heartbeat—assess your surroundings.

So Lu did, though there wasn't much to observe. Other than the small bed—which her captor had been compassionate enough to stock with not one, but two pillows—there was only wooden walls, the colorless carpet on the floor, and Lu's outrageously expensive Oxfords neatly positioned beside a door. A door, she realized, that was propped open.

After rushing to put her shoes back on—which, in reality, was not fast at all, thanks to whatever drugs she'd been given—she took a quivering breath and pulled on the crystal knob. The hinges creaked and Lu's first step into the next room was accompanied by a moan from the floorboards.

Immediately outside the bedroom was a narrow hallway. To the left was a bathroom, complete with a toilet, sink, and one-person shower, all crammed into five-by-five-foot space.

Directly in front of her was a kitchen and dining area, if they could even be called so. After checking the drawers, she found them all to be empty, apart from spare linens and towels. And there was no stove or microwave either.

Smart of them—giving her access to fire or sharp utensils probably wouldn't have ended well. Though Lu had to admit that the thought of wielding a salad fork as a weapon made her stomach uneasy.

And speaking of her stomach—there was a refrigerator that wasn't even large enough for Nika to crawl into without losing a limb. Lu wiggled the handle, holding her breath as she peeked inside to find...blood bags. Two of them, neatly displayed on the otherwise empty shelves.

It felt like an invitation for her to help herself. And although her hands trembled from fear and lack of nutrition, she was too afraid to dare.

Besides, she knew what Nika would say during this moment: What if it's poisoned? I don't want to play nurse or watch you die of stupidity.

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