Chapter 1 of Scent of Deception - Releasing August 29!
The glittering opulence of the San Francisco Omega Prep Academy was on full display for all the world to see, the party exactly as over-the-top as I’d imagined. Raven and I walked through the antique double doors to discover crystal chandeliers, flickering candlelight, vases of fresh-cut flowers and polished marble floors. The floral scent of omegas floated on the cool coastal breeze, mixed with the spicier aromas of the attending alphas. It was a fancy party, but everyone knew the truth: All here were part of the hunt. Alphas the hunters, and omegas the prey.
After relentlessly guilting my little sister into letting me attend as her guest, my excitement for this occasion had grown incessantly for weeks. I bought a gown, arranged the trip from the northern hell hole my parents had banished me to, and even bought all the things I needed to blend in with a crowd of omegas.
As far as anyone knew I was an omega already, just attending a fancy European omega prep school because I was ‘too well known’ in the states. Sometimes celebrities, or kids of celebrities, did actually study abroad for privacy. I didn’t think I was really that famous, but Mama felt it was a reasonable excuse that people would believe.
It wasn’t unheard of for a born omega to fail manifestation and end up as a beta. People would understand, we all knew it happened. In any other family, I might have been allowed a perfectly normal life, maybe even a happy life, as a beta.
But not in my family. Mama insisted that all of her girls, her ‘lucky seven’ as she called us, were all destined to be as fruitful as she was. All born omegas, all given special names to set us apart from the crowd.
Of course Mama didn’t know I was here. She and my dads were off at another fundraiser on the other side of the country, which is how Raven and I were able to pull this little visit off.
I was so excited to get a taste of society once more, and even though I wouldn’t be in the spotlight this time I was honestly just happy to get out and enjoy a party. Fun times were few and far between at Brookhaven Community College in eastern Washington state. And it was as gorgeous of a party as I’d expected.
However, my enjoyment wasn’t what I thought it would be. At first I was nervous about how I’d field questions from fans, people curious about what I’d been up to since they last saw me on stage. Raven and I worked up a whole plan to deal with it, including an emergency escape route if it became too much.
But a few moments after striding through the doors and breathing in the tangible sensation of promise that drifted through the air, it was obviously nothing like I expected. Raven had started out nervous, but was almost immediately swept away to chat with an excited group of girls she knew from school. I stuck to guns, letting her enjoy herself without being the awkward, clingy big sister that didn’t belong here.
My nerves were on edge, at least at first, waiting for the onslaught of probing questions from well-meaning but nosey people. I held my breath, hoping desperately that no one would recognize me and I’d be able to drift through the crowd like just another girl in pretty packaging.
As more and more time passed, I realized that my wish had come true. But instead of relief, it left me feeling hollow.
No one knew who I was.
Perhaps they didn’t recognize me—it had been years since I was on television, and I’d developed from barely more than a girl to a fully-grown woman. Maybe I’d changed more than I realized in that time.
I swiped a glass of champagne from a passing waiter and climbed the garland-wrapped staircase to end up resting on my elbows against a balcony, overlooking the crowd from the otherwise empty mezzanine. Toying with the glass, I lost myself in melancholy.
Maybe people had simply forgotten about me, since Mama wasn’t making sure I attended every event she could strong-arm me into.
Perhaps celebrity was exactly as fleeting as everyone said.
At Brookhaven there had been the initial comments and a few people asked if I was Sapphire Steele. I concealed my omega mark with makeup or wore gloves, and pretended to be just another beta. Eventually people accepted that it was an uncanny resemblance and nothing more.
Now I really was just like any other beta, feeling left out and a little lost in a society that was built to cater to two specific groups. All the courses at Brookhaven were geared toward having careers that supported alphas or omegas. Nobody talked about the real dream: earning a cozy place with an elite pack that, while they might still expect us to put in the work, would also treat us like family.
After so many years, I’d long since given up the hope of manifesting and re-entering society as an omega. The window for me to marry was quickly shrinking—omegas were meant to marry in their twentieth year and my birthday was a few months ago. It was highly unlikely I’d get my period (or blossom as Mama put it), manifest, and find a pack in such a short time frame. Even if I did eventually manifest, I’d probably end up using a match-making service to place me since I wouldn’t be able to attend another ball like this one.
Which meant I should be out mingling, flashing my fake omega mark and trying to attract the attention of some alphas. Mama would expect me to flirt, then put them off while I ‘finished school’ and hopefully manifested.
Instead I heaved a sigh, swilled a little more champagne, and worked my way to an intrigingly curtained nook in the corner. I was looking for a spot to sit down and hide out until it was time to leave. The realization that I didn’t belong here hit me like a load of bricks, crushing my enthusiasm and squeezing the air from my lungs.
I’m not an omega. I’ll never be an omega. Why did I think this was a good idea?
I passed through the ornate drapery and discovered, to my surprise, a cozy music room with a couple of high-backed chairs seated behind a baby grand piano.
My eyes teared immediately, and a magnetic force pulled me to the velvet-covered bench before I even knew what was happening. My throat clenched as I ran trembling fingers over the satiny finish of the polished wood.
It had been so long since I played…
Before I knew it, my champagne glass was resting on top of the instrument and my hands were lifting the dust cover from the keys.
I told myself I’d just tinker a little, test the tuning on this little tucked-away baby grand. Of course it was perfectly in in tune.
I should have known better… I couldn’t resist playing a familiar tune, my fingers flowing over the keys like long-lost friends who were never forgotten. It wasn’t long before my voice followed suit, adding the melody that blended with the piano harmonies.
I lost all track of time and space—no one could hear me over the cacophony downstairs anyway. I moved seamlessly from one light tune to a rich, heartfelt song that capitalized on the emotion flowing through my chest. Every bit of the sadness and failure that lived in my heart poured from my lips in the familiar story that was somehow far more poignant to me now.
As the last notes faded, a slow, lazy clap startled me out of my music-induced reverie. I spun around to find a tanned, tuxedoed, muscular man with a square jaw and sparkling blue eyes watching me with an amused expression.
His voice was rich, with a slight southern accent. “I wondered where you’d run off to, Sapphire.”
All copyrights reserved by Laurel Night 2022
Can't wait to devour Scent of Deception? Pre-order here: books2read.com/ScentofDeception