Astrid in Love

By Free the Dancing Llamas

Chapter 1: The new-ish boy in town

In Astrid's humble opinion, Coven meetings had to be the biggest waste of time ever. Coven meetings, magic, witches. she knew it was supposed to be cool, it was supposed to be a sisterhood, and all wonderful and blah, blah, blah. But Astrid found it was mostly just incredibly boring.

A prime example? Astrid spent the last 2 hours listening to her sister, Ana, argue with Lola – the Coven's enforcer. Ever since Ana come into her power as Coven Mother a few months ago, the two had been going head to head arguing about how things were to be run in the coven constantly. It was enough to drive a witch mad. And Astrid felt that there are definitely better things she could be doing at that very moment instead of listening to the fiftieth argument about Putris Root versus Lizard Lotus for treating magic inflicted wounds.

Like who cared?

They both did the same thing. So one of them was possibly slightly toxic to humans. There were a lot of things that could be slightly toxic to humans and it didn't seem to bother them much.

The fights were always about the magic shop. And quite frankly Astrid didn't think she should be forced to attend the meetings because unlike most of the coven, including her sisters, she didn't actually work in the Coven shop.

Most days of the week Astrid was busy being amazing and doing a top job working providing her magical expertise with the team at Marche Enterprises, the business which provided security to The Underground.She knew she wasn't much good at potions and prayers, but she was pretty damn good with enchantments and hexes. As it turned out that made her pretty valuable to a security company.

And working at The Underground was something else, it was an absolute Underground was a series of rooms and tunnels underneath Sydney which housed the city's preternatural denizens and kept them safe. And boy-o did they need to keep themselves safe. While supernaturals had co-existed with humans for centuries it wasn't really until around seventy years ago that they all started living in integrated society so openly.

Despite this, things were still tense between the two communities and that meant that it was vital to keep supernaturals safe from zealots and others who don't like the idea of a supernatural/human integrated society (And un-suprisingly there were a lot of those).

So, while it made things tense and unpredictable, Astrid actually loved her job. Much more than she love attending annoying Coven meetings at any rate.

Times like these made her wish she was back in Italy living with the vampires there. She had spent the last three months there helping some of the supernaturals from Sydney settle down and only just returned home that very morning (Which was another reason she really hated today's coven meeting, because it was boring and she had jet-lag). Suffice to say when the meeting was over she was going to enjoy settling back into her room at The Underground.

For a moment a glint of gold caught her eye, and Astrid looked over to see her younger sister, Lena. Like her, Lena was a junior priestess in the coven. Although she was far more gifted in the arts of healing and potions than Astrid was. Lena was also sweet and kind - the sweetest and kindest witch in the Coven, actually. Although she was also kind of vague and distracted a lot of the time too. It'd been worse lately. While Astrid was away in Italy, something terrible had happened to lena. She hasn't been the same since. Every time astrid see her sweet face, it remind herself that there was a reason she came to the stupid coven meetings.

Just when the argument seemed like it was about to end, it started up again. Round Fifty-one of Ana vs. Lola was about to begin and Astrid was counting down the seconds until she was able to back to The Underground.

When the meeting finally finished, Astrid ran out of there as fast as she could manage - Ana had tried to convince her to stay the night, but she managed to get out of it by promising her she'd be over on Friday for Coven dinner. Ana wasn't super happy about the compromise, but she was too busy to even bother arguing. As it turned out being Coven Mother was exhausting, time consuming and didn't leave much room for an actual life. Which was sad, because Ana was barely twenty-nine and Astrid couldn't remember the last time Ana actually did something slightly selfish, even before she ascended to the leader of the Coven.

As soon as she could Astrid raced across town, when she stepped into the tunnels she could physically feel my body relax. Although the relaxation was short lived because soon after she stepped through and got my bags into her room, Lachlan a very excitable and hyperactive werewolf - bombarded her.

Lachlan was best described as Astrid's best friend. Or would be if she weren't twenty-one and kind of passed the whole 'best friend' age. She'd known him since she started working in The Underground - like Astrid, he also worked in the security team. Lachlan was a sweet if slightly overbearing person. He also had a massive crush on the Coven's enforcer, Lola. It was hilarious watching him flirt with Lola when she came down to visit because she was a no-nonsense, tough bitch and Lachlan was just about the nicest guy Astrid had ever met.

The other good thing about Lachlan was that he was also a beacon for gossip, and the best person for up to date information on the runnings of The Underground. Which was why, at precisely 9.30pm as Astrid was walking through the tunnels, She was also getting up to date on all the gossip that had happened since She had been in Italy.

"A few new wolves have come through," Lachlan gave her a wide smile as they walk through the hallway towards the kitchen.

"Sounds like it's been fun," It didn't actually, but she was kind of spaced out on account of the fact she had the longest day in the history of the universe.

"You have no idea. There have been so many fights - you know, everyone trying to figure out who is who. A new alpha came through, one of Vanessa's sex candidates."

Astrid tried her best to keep a neutral face, but she knew she was frowning. Vanessa was the Alpha Queen of the Sydney Werewolf Clan and ever since she turned thirty, she had been obsessed with having pups and continuing to build the Clan.

But of course, being Queen and an alpha meant that she needed to find a werewolf to match her rank and power. Unfortunately for the local wolves there weren't too many alphas she'd considered. Evidently she had started shipping them in from other towns. Which was kind of weird if you asked Astrid, but werewolves had this whole freaky hierarchy system and rituals. She tried not to think about it too much, because it had major ick-factor.

"She still trying to get pregnant is she?"

"Well she is the Clan Queen, it's vital for the continuation of the wolf bloodline," Lachlan shrugged, "All I know is that she isn't too thrilled with the new alpha."

"Isn't too thrilled? What, she's having too much sex with a hunky alpha?" Astrid couldn't stop herself from snorting, "I'd like to have her problem,"

"Nah, don't think they're getting on too well. He's too alpha, and I don't think he's particularly thrilled with Vanessa either." He leaned closer and his voice lowered to a whisper, "Word is he can't bring himself to have sex with her. But anyway, it's been interesting because he's also head of the security team now."

Well that just about stopped Astrid in her tracks. This new werewolf is head of security?

"Excuse you?" the frustration was evident in her voice, but I don't care, "Head of security? Why? I wanted to apply for that position, are you serious?"

She can't believe it, she had left for three months, and in that time the head of security position had been filled. Astrid had wanted that job, everyone on security knew that. She had wanted a new challenge, an achievement, and well if she was being quite honest, the raise. She can't believe that in such a short amount of time they'd gone and filled the position.

"Well, I'm sorry to tell you, but the new alpha's got it - and he's made quite a few changes," Lachlan's looked is apologetic. They finally find themselves in the kitchen.

Astrid hurried to the cupboards eager to make some tea. After the day she'd had? she needed it. It'd been three months since she'd had good tea. Lachlan sat himself at one of the tables, watching her as she fussed around with the kettle.

"Mind making me one?" Lachlan asked, nodding towards the kettle.

Astrid gave him a nod, reaching to grab another mug and tried to focus as Lachlan continued to chatter, telling her about this and that. It was hard to focus because now all she could think about was the fact that she wasn't sure what her next career move was going to be.

She was beyond annoyed, so much so that she barely noticed Lachlan had stopped talking, and in fact, the kitchen had been enveloped in a still silence. Astrid turned around to bring the two teas to the table and noticed that Lachlan looked majorly pale and tense. Bizarre - he was chirpy and talkative only seconds ago and now he was stony and frozen like he'd been cursed with a Lutrovic spell.

"Lachlan," a bubble of laughter escaped from her throat, "Cat got your tongue so suddenl-"

"Astrid Castegarde I presume?" a deep voice shook the room and Astrid's eyes were instantly drawn to the door. She didn't know how she didn't sense someone else coming into the room. Her eyes connected with cold grey ones and she can feel her breath catch. Had she not just put the tea mugs down, she knew she would have dropped them because in the doorway stood a large, tall, beast of a man.

This had to be the new alpha, she didn't have to be told because the power was practically vibrating from him. His cold eyes and messy hair give him an altogether feral look. He was utterly gorgeous and Astrid found herself wondering how in the hell Vanessa was having such a hard time with him. She knew her heart was racing, and tried to take a few breaths to calm herself. She wasn't sure if she was scared or aroused. Possibly both.

"Astrid," Lachlan managed to find his voice, "This is our new head of security, Caius."

"Yes," Caius' voice was gruff, and Astrid couldn't help but feel intimidated, like an ant under his icy stare. Caius continued, "You may remember me from your loud conversation in the hallway from about five minutes ago."

Bloody Lycan hearing.

Astrid knew she shouldn't have been laughing, but she couldn't stop herself. There was no doubt in her mind that he was referring to Lachlan's previous comments about the whole Vanessa situation. Astrid felt like a terrible friend, because she it wasn't a good look for Lachlan to be gossiping about hoity-toity Alpha wolf business. Caius doesn't look particularly impressed with her display of giggles either. In fact he looked deadly serious and well, just generally deadly. Astrid managed to find her words.

"It's nice to meet you,"

Well done, Astrid. You know how to use your words.

"Right, well I just came in here to say that now that you've returned it would be a good idea to move your plants to an outside area away from The Underground," Caius replied, head nodding towards her special herbs on the sink, "They're taking up space and furthermore I don't think they're going to flourish in here."

Astrid can feel tension in the room stretching out between them, crackling like an electric energy. Suddenly she didn't find the situation so funny anymore, because now Caius was ordering her around. She couldn't believe the cheek of this new wolf, coming into her kitchen, telling her what to do with her plants. He wasn't a witch, he had no right.

And ok, it wasn't quite her kitchen but she was pretty much the only one who used it. Alpha or not, Astrid wasn't going to have a bar of it - She was a witch, damn it, and she wasn't going to be told what to do by some dog.

"I don't know who you think you are -" she got up from the table to stand in front of the tall man, hands on hips. She knew she must've been a funny site, because she was quite a bit shorter than the wolf.

"Caius," the handsome man interrupted, face wearing a smug smile that Astrid wanted to punch, "As Lachlan said, my name is Caius, and I'm in charge of security in The Underground. Which is a bit of a demotion if you ask me."

Her eyes probably look like a crazy person's, reaching comical levels of wideness. Astrid couldn't quite believe he'd called her dream job a demotion or that he'd dare to tell her what to do. She feel like saying that if the job was such an insult, he should just quite and leave it to someone better suited for it (her, obviously).

"I. Do. Not. Care." She managed to grind out, "You have been in this city all of two seconds-"

"Two months," Caius interrupted again, eyes dancing with humour, "You were in Italy, so I understand your confusion coming back here to find things changed."

Before Astrid had thought it through properly, she found myself leaning forward and clamping her hand over Caius' mouth, which seemed to genuinely take him by surprise.

"No," she shook her head slowly, as if he was a naughty child, "Stop talking," she took a moment to notice that his skin was hot to the touch. She was so close she could smell him, and he smelt good. It was frustrating as all heck, because the contact was sending delightful tremors throughout her body. Which was distracting and annoying - she suppose to be mad at this guy, not aroused.

The werewolf suddenly grabbed her hand and pulled her close, his other arm coming to secure Astrid around the waist, pressing her against the long line of his hard body.

What the hell is he doing?

She realised too late that she was in trouble, and yet again her mouth had gotten her into hot water with someone she had no strength against, and no chance of actually being able to fight. It was then that she also noticed that his skin wasn't warm, no - it was searing hot. Burning through both their clothes, teasing her, tickling her in places that she'd rather not be tickled. The proximity was mortifying. He was too big, to warm, too handsome, too strong, too much.

"Listen here, little witch," Caius whispered harshly. She could see Lachlan practically about to launch himself from the chair, but Caius turned and snapped, "Do not intervene, pup."

Lachlan immediately froze and sat back down.

Caius's head turned back to me and Astrid could feel his eyes raking over her face, which was unfortunately tilted up at him. the angle of her head sending an ache through her neck. His arms were strong and she couldn't really manoeuvre herself into a more comfortable position. Astrid decided then and there that she utterly hate wolves. Their culture was all about mental and physical domination and she wasn't going to be getting out of this situation without at least a hefty dose of humiliation.

"You would do well to follow my command if you wish to live here peacefully. I am a patient man, but there are some things I won't tolerate. Lycan-ensnaring herbs in the main kitchen is one of them," Caius nodded towards the Bascillius plantsitting on the kitchen bench.

Astrid tried to wriggle from his strong grip, but all it did was further rub her against the infuriating man. it was becoming hard to ignore the pooling wetness between her legs and the sudden ache in her stomach. She could feel the hard little tips of her nipples pressing against her bra, begging for touch. Lycans had excellent smell and sense which just made all of it so much more humiliating and stressful. She could guarantee that he could feel her body's reaction, although thankfully there was no acknowledgement from him on this.

"It's non-flowering," She managed to say without screaming, "It doesn't work if it's non-flowering,"

"I don't give a damn," Caius whispered hotly into her face, his breath caressing her skin. He's was so close now, she could've kissed him, or bitten his face, and contemplated if the latter option is a viable choice at this point (although this was a terrible idea because as a general rule you didn't bite werewolves and you definitely didn't bite alphas unless you wanted to die). Caius continued his command, "move the plants now or I will put them in the bin."

The thought of Astrid's plants going into the bin was enough to pull her brain out of its aroused stupor.

"No! They're just babies."

The werewolf looked perplexed for a moment, seemingly evaluating whether or not she was nuts. He'd evidently had come to the conclusion that she was because the next moment he was releasing her, moving away from her body. The cool air brought Astrid back further into her own control, it was simultaneously a sweet relief and a bitter realty. She was surprised to realise she was missed the contact. How humiliating.

"Do it now." His voice was final, commanding.

I couldn't stop herself from glaring hatefully, "fine," she spat out, "But you would do well to stay away from me, dog."

Astrid knew she shouldn't be baiting an alpha, but she just didn't give a shit any more. This guy had her dream job, he was a bully and just plain rude. She didn't need this.

"Fine by me," Caius held his hands up, "Just move your damn plants."

Astrid made sure to huff and puff, dragging her feet along - she wanted him to know that while she was obeying him, she didn't like it and wouldn't actually be conceding if he wasn't her boss. She grabbed the little plants and marched out of the kitchen with as much grace as she could muster, leaving the new alpha, Lachlan and her tea behind.

"You're a pig," she threw over her shoulder as she left the room.

She could've sworn he yelled "oink oink" after her, and she had to stop herself from screaming. She don't know what it is about this guy, but he made her want to behave like a child.

Caius had to be the most infuriating werewolf she'd ever met, and clearly stupid because who would dare to challenge a priestess of the Dark Witches Coven? And while not the most powerful witch, she was sister to a high priestess and coven mother.

As she trudge down the hallways, plants in her arms, Astrid swore to herself that she was going to make this man regret his move and regret taking her job. She was a witch, damn it, she didn't need to be taking orders from a lowly Lycan.