Alpha Hell (The Rejected Mate #1) by G. Bailey




Prologue





Zarina Thornblood





Eighteen years ago



The Demons of Hell are hunting us.

They do not want my blood, but rather the bundle I carry so preciously in my arms; the bundle I stole from the High Demon Lord’s chamber as he slept, cocooned in his blanket of shadows that would devour anyone who got close.

My legs threaten to collapse under the strain of running, constantly running, for so long now my feet have blackened and burned against the rocky terrain. But I don’t stop. I must keep going, if not for me then for Kade. He surrendered his life to give me time to leave. I cannot—will not—let his death be in vain. If he’s right then the portal should be at the top of the tower.

This is our last chance.

Only a single staircase stands in the way of our freedom. I can’t give up now. With a shaky inhale of air, I adjust my grip on the baby and climb the first step.

Dry, molten rock burns my bleeding soles, and a choked-back sob escapes me despite the adrenaline coursing through my body. It’s like walking on shards of glass, blades that have been forged in a fire. Even if it kills me, I’ll reach the top of these forsaken stairs; my life is a small sacrifice if it means saving the sweet little bundle in my arms.

In the shadows not far below, howls and yips penetrate the darkness.

If I don’t hurry, they’ll take her from me.

No!

I adjust my grip on the blankets and raise my other foot, followed by another. They will never have her. My baby will escape this hell even if it costs my own life. My mother will take care of it. It’s all been arranged. I just need to reach the portal.

A deafening howl echoes around me, drowning out the rest of the demons. The vibrations shake the entire staircase, and I instinctively touch the wall for support, forgetting that, too, will burn me. I release a sudden gasp, and the bundle lets out a shrieking cry.

“Shh, shh, darling girl. It’s okay.” I press a kiss to her forehead, my heart breaking at the sound of her distress. “We’re going to get out of here once and for all.”

Another step and the world sways underneath me.

Almost… there… keep going…

At last the portal appears within sight, but my worst nightmare has come true: the portal is closed. There’s no light, no magic that will take me to the human world. There’s nothing but darkness, and this was my last chance, my only hope, to save my daughter.

I collapse to my knees before the portal and finally let out my screams. They tear from the depths of my being and erupt from my lips like a deep, shattering crescendo. It was all for nothing. The escape plan, Kade’s death…

“All for nothing!”

“Oh, I wouldn’t be so sure about that.”

Dark tendrils of smoke wrap around me. One of them tilts my chin and forces me to look up into a set of gleaming red eyes. Flashes of male flesh, tattooed and shrined with gold bands, peek through the darkness. That’s all I can see. Everything else is shrouded. However, by his fiery scent alone, I know who he is—the alpha of Stormfire.

Guardian of the Gates of Hell and Inflicter of Pain.

I should’ve known he’d be the one hunting me.

“Your suffering has been admirable. Unnecessary but admirable.”

His power raises me to my feet. I clench my baby to my chest as fear snakes into me, coiling around my stomach like a venomous serpent.

“The High Demon Lord has placed quite the bounty on you.”

Rizer caresses me with a hand masked in darkness. I snap my head from his grasp, and he chuckles. Behind him, countless demonic eyes blink at me from the shadows.

“I am almost tempted to take you back to him,” he says, retracting his hand. “But I have thought of something much better than monetary gain.”

A single tendril lifts the top of the blanket, exposing my daughter’s beautiful little face. Her large, silver eyes look up at Rizer, and she must sense the darkness that clings to him, for she stirs and lets out a startled cry.

“In eighteen years’ time, on the night of the Blood Moon, I will claim this wolf as my mate. Until then you will have my protection and the portal will be opened for you. The decision is yours to make, but only one will offer you the freedom you seek.”

The horror at what he’s proposing rips the air right out from my lungs.

The Stormfire alpha, one of the most ruthless wolves in all of existence, wants to claim my daughter as his mate.