Samara has been given a full scholarship to Lupi Lucania Universitas Scholarium in Italy. It's a dream come true. The university is one of the best in the world, and she intends to make the most of it. What she doesn't count on is two very distracting brothers who have a different idea of advancing her education than she does.
Usually she-wolves come to the University with full knowledge of Lupine history and traditions. James and Jason will have to teach their little mate everything. Born to a human who refused to take her wolf mate permanently into her life, Samara is nothing like what the duo envisioned...and more than they ever hoped for.
She turned away from the UMass Dartmouth table at the college fair and eyed the well-dressed, silver-haired man in confusion. "Yes?" But what difference would it make to him? Moreover, how would he know her name?
A smile lit his light brown eyes, and he offered his hand. "Pietro Galvani."
Samara shook it. "I'm afraid I don't recognize your name," she admitted.
Her cheeks flamed at that. Was she supposed to recognize it?
He laughed heartily. "Nor should you." After a moment, he composed himself and gave her a cursory up and down assessment. "I have been talking to your counselor." His hand retreated.
"Mr. Michaelson?" You mean he actually does something? .
"Quite. I notice you have not come to my table. I had hoped you would." Galvani made an expansive motion toward the far side of the room.
He tipped his head in agreement.
"Which one is yours?" To her knowledge, Samara had already visited all the college tables that were suited to her choice of major. Well...all the ones I can afford, anyway.
"Lupi Lucania Universitas Scholarium." A slight bow topped the announcement.
Her mouth went dry and swallowing failed to wet it. Samara worked at clearing her throat. "Uh...there are a few problems with applying there."
"Are there? Please...expound upon them for me?" In the meantime, he waved her toward a few empty seats along the wall.
Once they were settled, Samara took a moment to order her thoughts. "The first problem is that I don't speak Italian, and I don't feel confident I can learn enough Italian in the next year to take college in another language."
"You won't have to. We teach classes in ten languages, including English. You may want to learn Italian to interact in town, and we will assist you in that, but you don't have to do it to learn."
Excitement lit in her chest at that revelation. It died just as quickly.
"Another problem?" He guessed.
Samara nodded. "I can't afford Lupi Lucania. Even if I got a scholarship that covered educational expenses, I can't afford room and board, the flights back and forth... I can't afford much of anything." Admitting that galled her, but it was better that he know her limitations up front. His school was one of the most expensive in the world. Even if her parents could afford it--and they couldn't--her mother would balk at spending the money on her.
And she certainly won't cosign the loans either.
"Ah, but European university education is much different than it is stateside. We have several scholarships designed for foreign students. Those scholarships include everything from tuition and fees to books, room and board, and even transportation and living expenses."
Words stuck in her throat. No matter how hard she tried, Samara couldn't spit them out.
"If you would like to take our entrance exam, we have one--"
"Yes. Whenever. I'll be there."
Galvani smiled widely. Then he offered her a cream-colored envelope with an ornate wax seal. Samara took it with shaking hands, stunned.
"Two weeks from tomorrow, Ms. Tyler. We will see you then." Without waiting for her answer, he was gone.
Samara stared at the envelope, her heart dancing in anticipation. The wax was deep red, the imprint a howling wolf's head with a calligraphy-style LLUS topping it.
"Please," she begged, "I will do anything to get into this school."
It was literally the answer to all her dreams. Not only would she be able to leave home, she would have all the financial support her mother had refused her.
If I pass their exam. If it meant being accepted, she would spend every waking hour between now and the test studying.
* * * *
Sebastian didn't wait for Pietro to clear the doorway at the end of the college fair before demanding a report. "Did you convince her?"
His oldest friend tipped his head in a respectful bow. "Samara will be attending an entrance exam for the university in two weeks. To make a good showing, I invited three other high-ranking students from the county. They will, of course, not place high enough to be awarded the scholarship offered." A wry smile pulled up at Pietro's lips.
"Her mother will protest Samara attending." It wasn't a question. Sebastian didn't doubt the woman would do everything she could to dissuade Samara.
"She is a strong young woman, and..."
The fur at the back of Sebastian's scalp went up in warning. "And?" His eyes narrowed.
"One can smell the need to escape on her. If it means escaping her home life, I cannot imagine Samara will back down."
Sebastian considered his friend's observations. "The scholarship includes university break classes. She need not return home to that..." He stopped himself from specifying his opinion of the mother of his daughter.
"Understood. It will be as you say."
He waved Pietro away, rapt on the vision of his daughter.
In the distance, Samara left the building through another door. She stopped, pulled the envelope Pietro had given her from her bag, and stared at it. After a moment, she placed it carefully back in her bag and smiled. There was a spring in her renewed step.
"Yes. It will be as I wish. At last."
* * * *
Two months later
"I said you're not going." Her mother repeated her protest.
"I am. There's no way you can stop me," Samara shouted. There wasn't. The scholarship came with everything she needed and more.
"You think?" There was a challenge in her tone.
"I know I'll be eighteen long before college starts, and I don't need any money from you to attend Lupi Lucania." What else could she do to stop Samara from going?
Before her mother could retort, her father stepped in. "Back off, Florence. She did well. Samara is going to get a better education than either of us dreamed--"
Her mother turned on him, in a full fury. "Shut up. She's not even yours. You have no say in this."
For a long moment, they stared at each other. Samara's heart raced and her head spun.
She isn't serious. She can't be serious. Of all the insane things her mother had said over the years, this topped the list.
"What did you say? Is that true?" her father demanded. "And you better not be fucking with me, whatever you answer."
Samara backed off a step. She'd never seen him so pissed off before. She wasn't sure what her father would do.
True to form, her mother didn't back down. "I said she's not yours, and yes, that's true."
He stood stock-still for a tense moment. "Samara, go pack your things. Anything important to you. We're leaving."
Her mother reached out to grab Samara's arm, and she ducked away, shocked to silence, her world crumbling around her. Her father stepped between them.
Her mother slapped him across the face. Hard. "You can't take her. She's mine. Mine."
"I have no proof of what you're saying and my name is on her birth certificate, too. Even if you prove it, it will take you longer than the four months until Samara turns eighteen to do it, because I can fight you that long, at least. At her age, the courts will let her go with whichever parent she wants, and I am her father, whether you prove your claim or not."
Her mother gaped, shaking her head, her eyes wide and wild.
"Samara, go get your things." He hesitated, and his gaze was nothing short of tortured. "If you want to come with me, I'll be packed in fifteen minutes."
"I'm coming. Don't leave without me." Please, don't. Don't leave me with her.
"I won't. I promise I won't."
Samara scooped the acceptance package off the table and ran for her room. He said to take anything important to me. With the life she'd known falling apart, it was one of the few things she had left that meant something to her.
This, my father, and a few prized possessions.
She slammed her door to the sound of her mother throwing something glass against the wall.