Two Weeks Later, Chicago Hilton O’Hare Hotel
Three hours into the Alpha Summit, and so far things were going well. After a welcome reception in the afternoon and a dinner in the spacious meeting room, we had broken out into smaller meeting rooms by rank. The Alphas were with me in the well-appointed conference room, while Betas were in the next room, other ranked wolves in a larger room, and the unranked in yet another. The twenty-four men in this room controlled almost all of the remaining werewolves in North America and Russia. The dominance plays were near constant, as each tried to assert superiority over the others. It was this kind of dick-measuring contest I didn’t need to deal with right now. I was glad I had brought this into the human world, it forced us all to moderate our behavior.
I stood at the head of the table, looking at the ‘future’ of our species, and I just wanted to walk out again. These men are on the Titanic, and they are arguing over who gets to have the deck chair next to the pool. Some were better than others, allies even, but I knew a few were against the kinds of changes I wanted to bring about. They were men ruled by power, who took what they wanted without apology, and that was going to have to change. I just prayed to Luna that Eve wasn’t headed for one of their Packs.
“Gentlemen, seats please,” I asked as I tapped my glass with a fork. “There will be plenty of time this weekend for you to deal with your local issues. What I asked you here to discuss is no less than the survival of our species.”
“What survival,” Alpha Konstantin, one of the Russian Alphas, said with a sneer. “All our females are dead, there IS no future. Every Pack faces the same enemy: time.” The other Alphas nodded in agreement.
“Not quite,” I said. “As some of you know, years ago after the passing of my mate, I retreated into the wilderness where in my grief I was granted a vision from Luna herself.” There was some scoffing at this, but I ignored it. “In my vision, Luna explained to me that the SPUDS, the loss of our women in childbirth, was a punishment, a curse handed down by her. We had strayed from her vision, from her guidance given to us when our dual natures were created. She created each werewolf with a perfect match, a fate mate, that we were to seek and join with. These mates were often placed in different Packs, even different countries, as we were supposed to live in harmony with each other.”
The men started to fidget, I was hitting close to home for some of them. “Instead, the Alphas pursued power and land, expanding control, creating conflict between us when none should have been in place. Instead of freely moving between Packs, movements became restricted. Some Packs didn’t want their females leaving, or didn’t value Fate mates. They misused the Choice Mate option Luna gave us in case one mate died or mated another, some even perverted this as far as to justify raping and forcibly mating females they wanted. Her messengers and her warnings were ignored, those werewolves sometimes killed or beaten. Their blood demanded judgment, the women who were wronged deserved judgment, and judgement is what we got.”
I put a photo on the projector screen, of Dr. Vivian. “This was Doctor Vivian DelMara, at the start of the SPUDS epidemic she was the Pack Doctor of the North Shore Pack, and one of the first to see the spontaneous abortion followed by hemorrhage death that became our curse. She worked tirelessly to find a cure, coordinating efforts by Pack doctors, searching human records, even adopting human methods to try and save mother and child. Working outside the Pack structure she no longer trusted, having been threatened herself and seeing other Doctors killed for failure, she made her old Alpha a deal. Ship the pregnant women to her, and she would try to save them. Twenty-one babies didn’t make it, and twenty-two mothers died on her. Heroic efforts allowed her to save one extremely premature girl, the daughter of the Boundary Waters Pack Alpha. Her name was Jennifer.” I showed a few photos of the tiny girl in her incubator, taken at the veterinary clinic Vivian had turned into a Pack hospital.
A few of the men gasped, seeing the dates of the photos in the middle of the outbreak. “This is outrageous,” Alpha Dennis Thurber of the North Carolina pack said. “Our pack is dying at the time, and she can save them? Why wasn’t this knowledge shared with others?”
“Simple. The same selfish, power-hungry motivations that led to the Curse killed this girl and nearly resulted in Doctor DelMara being forcibly mated. Her clinic was attacked by a Pack, the Doctor kidnapped, and the baby left to die.” I had to take a moment as I clicked through the photos, one of baby Jessica on a pyre. “Doctor Vivian was able to escape, but this was now two times her life had been threatened for doing her job. She and her assistant, a shewolf named Jessica, fled with Jessica’s mate to an island. They didn’t return until six years later when Jessica was pregnant, despite their best efforts to avoid it. Eighteen years ago today, Jessica started to bleed, and Doctor Vivian had a choice to make- save her best friend, or save the baby. She saved the baby, who is named Eve.” I had clicked through the photos of Jessica and Carson, their pregnancy, and her pyre. I left the photo of Eve in the incubator up on the screen.
“The last part of the vision from Luna was this; she would send a shewolf to us as one last chance to avoid extinction, we call her the Promised One. If she finds and mates her fate mate, as Luna designs, then the curse will be broken, and her offspring will eventually help us recover the species. If not, well… she will die of the curse as well, and there is truly no hope for us left. Today Eve has come of age, and today we start the process of finding her True Mate.” The room erupted as I put her photo on the screen.
“Nervous?” Kelly was picking fuzz off my dress and obsessing over my hair as I stood in my gown in the hotel suite. The room was chosen for security; a back door led to a service corridor and an elevator that was guarded by Knights. An armored SUV waited in the garage below, ready to leave with heavily armed escorts at a moment’s notice. The hotel security staff was using the same kind of plans they did when the Secret Service was here, and Abaddon’s security plans were detailed and practiced.
“That some guy I don’t know is going to grab me and carry me off to bed? Yeah, I’m nervous.”
She took my hand. “Your mother Jessica had a choice mate, but she was happy. They were such a nice couple, so in love. I just know that when you find your true mate, it will be all that she had and more.”
I nodded, I had heard the stories while growing up, I had seen the photos and the love in their eyes. “Is it more than Vivian had with Dad?”
“It’s different, but the same in some ways,” Michael said as he looked up from his phone. “The love is there, but a werewolf bond is soul deep. You are so tied together, it is difficult to go on without the other.”
“I’ll see,” I said. “I just hope it isn’t some old guy with bad teeth or something.” They laughed, and I walked back and forth over the carpeting in my heels with all my nervous energy.
“The first ones will be here in five minutes,” Michael said as he looked at his phone. The process was simple; we had sole control of one of the elevators, security not allowing the others to stop at this floor. We had rented the entire floor, some of the senior wolves had rooms here, but they were all downstairs. The small groups of men would be brought up in the elevator, brought to the room, introduced to me, and if not my fated would be escorted back downstairs and the next group would come up.
Abaddon was running everything from the hotel security room. There were armed Knights at the stairways, outside my room and in the service corridor, plus I had Michael and four other Knights in the room with me. Kelly left through the door to the adjoining room where she joined Viper and Snake, who would be watching the festivities via camera. “Do you remember your panic word?”
“Daisies,” I said. If I said the word, the plan would go into effect and I’d be offsite in minutes.
“Don’t panic, this is going to be a good thing,” Michael told me.
I stood nervously, until finally there was a light knock on the door. “Come in,” I said nervously.
Two large, handsome men walked in, their eyes getting wide as they saw me and took in my scent. “By Luna,” the older one said, “It is true.”
The second man walked to me, stopping and offering me his hand. “I am Alpha Keith Jenkins of Colorado,” he said as my hand went to his, “and I am at your service.” He brought my hand up to his lips, taking a sniff before he kissed my knuckles.
I had been told about what it was like to find your true mate by Gabriel; the tingles from the touch, the unstoppable attraction, how you would lose yourself in his eyes. I let a breath out when I realized I had none of these symptoms, this man was NOT my Fated. “Eve Hardigan,” I said as I gave a curtsy. The second Alpha came over and offered his hand, again I felt nothing. I could tell they were crushed, as the only never-mated Alphas they had been confident I was to be mated to one or the other, and it didn’t happen.
“This way, gentlemen,” Michael said as he escorted them out.
“I’m sorry, but I have a lot of people to meet tonight,” I said.
“Perhaps we will see each other again,” Keith said as he reached the door. They went out, the next group of five Betas already coming up the elevator. The night continued on; I went through Betas, Gammas, other ranked Pack members, and ninety minutes later there was still nothing. They were now bringing up unranked males in groups of twenty, basically making Michael and I into a reception line.
My feet were killing me from standing so long in my heels by the time the final man left. “Come on,” Michael said, “We’re leaving.” He started pushing me towards the back door.
“What’s going on? I thought we would be socializing,” I said.
The connecting door opened, and Snake, Viper and Kelly joined the group of us heading for the private elevator. “Our men didn’t like some of the chatter downstairs. Some of the Alphas and Betas are upset at not being your mate, and things could get out of hand. Better to get you out of here.” We entered the freight elevator, going straight to the parking garage where the armored SUV was already waiting. I was almost pushed into the seat, the Knights surrounding me to the point where I couldn’t see anything except the car. Dad got in next to me, right before the doors closed and the motorcade took off. The men had their guns out and ready, and a Chicago Police motorcycle led the way out of the ramp and onto the street.
I didn’t know how he pulled it off, but Abaddon’s escort allowed us to speed to the freeway in record time. Once we were satisfied that no one was following, the police escort left and we blended into the traffic heading to Wisconsin. I looked behind us, seeing Viper and Kelly in the trail vehicle. I gave them a quick wave. “Can I change now?”
“Of course, Eve.” Michael handed her the bag that had been left in the car for her, before pulling out a blanket.
Michael and Dad held it up after Dad unzipped my gown, and I quickly pulled the dress off and put on my favorite Harley shirt, jean shorts and sandals. I folded the gown and put it, the heels and the jewelry in the bag. “Well, that was a waste of time,” I said to no one in particular.
“Not really,” Michael said. “We ruled out the vast majority of candidates in one evening, and now the Packs know about you and the prophecy. Gabriel is already working on establishing alliances, or at least understandings, so the Packs protect you. It’s the one thing that he hopes to get them all to agree to, that you need to be protected until you find your one. Without that, we’re all doomed.”
“I’m a little relieved,” Dad said as he leaned back in the seat, rubbing his temples. “I don’t know if I was ready to see you married off tonight.”
I gave him a hug. “Good, because I don’t know if I was ready to be mated either.” I leaned against him, tucking my head onto his shoulder. “It doesn’t seem as scary now that I know more what to expect. Plus, there were some prime cuts of beef on parade there.” He stiffened as I giggled a little. “What, I’m allowed to look!”
“I didn’t like the way they were looking at you,” he said. “If a human undressed you with his eyes like that, I’d beat the shit out of him.”
I rolled my eyes. “Dad, I’m eighteen, you have to let me live my life sometime. I’m not going to be mated this summer, and I still want to go to college. I don’t want to drop my life while I wait for Mr. Right to show up.”
“We’ll see,” he said. “Let’s get you home, being out here makes me nervous.”
Alpha Keith Jenkin’s POV
“Are the men in place?”
“Yes, Alpha. Per your instructions, they are just waiting for you to arrive.”
“Good.” I looked out at the group of werewolves, they were weak. The open bar tab was going to be enormous tonight, there were a whole bunch who were planning to drown their disappointment. “Make your way to the cars, quietly.” I smiled as I walked out, pretending to go to the bathroom but instead going down the stairway to the waiting car. I walked in, my Gamma holding the door before he climbed in after me.
“Are we a go, sir?”
I nodded. “She’s more than I dreamed she would be, Donovan. She needs to be in our Pack, these wolves have no idea what she is worth.” We left the garage, a smile on my face as I thought about her face and body. She would be mine.