Vessel

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Two

Joey looks over the list of invited guests for her birthday party and has to ask Valerie who half of them are. All she cares about is having Valerie, Andrew, Dina, and the rest of her closest friends there, but she knows this party is also a small way for Valerie to prove herself. Organizing, planning, socializing, and executing are all important parts of being a Luna. So she lets Valerie invite whoever she wants even if Joey doesn’t really know them.

“It’s gonna be great,” Valerie says as they sit over pages and pages and pages of notes and diagrams and lists at their kitchen table. “We’re getting your favourite foods delivered here and Andrew and Tyler will help get it all over to the Alpha House. I’ve got tables set up along the sides of the foyer for food and drinks, we’re moving all the furniture either out of the living room or around the edges for a better social area. Couple pong tables. Dart board. Foosball and pool. We have a karaoke machine on loan only for emergencies so if the night bombs I’ll whip that out. We have donuts from Duft & Co., beer, wine, coolers, liquor. Are you listening?”

The spoon covered in Nutella leaves Joey’s lips with a pop. “Intently.”

“The party’s in two days, we have to get this done.”

“But it is done,” Joey shrugs. “You’ve had it planned for weeks and you’ve thought of every obstacle. Let yourself relax and look forward to it. I know I am.”

Valerie smiles sweetly at her sister and Joey can tell how appreciated her words made her feel. Valerie doubts herself, but she’s still everything Joey wants to be. “You’re right. It’s fine. We did good.”

“You did good, I ate Nutella.”

“Peanut butter’s better,” Valerie says.

“Yeah, well, unless you want me to spend the rest of the day vomiting, I’m gonna stick with Nutella.

Valerie stands from the table with a content sigh and rolls her tense shoulders. “Okay, relaxing. I need to remember how to do that.”

With no knock, Andrew lets himself into their home and closes the door behind him. Both girls turn to see him standing in blue jeans and a grey t-shirt on its way down his chest. He must have ran there in wolf form. “Bad news, party can’t be at my place.”

“What?” Valerie suddenly looks like she’s just shy of having an aneurysm.

“Great timing,” Joey nods to him.

“Why?” Valerie asks.

“Some local Alphas are visiting with my dad and they need the house, but Beta House is free. Tyler said his dad offered it up right away.”

Valerie places a hand on her heart and exhales. “Okay, I gotta go call some people.”

“I can help,” Joey offers just as Andrew walks through their foyer-slash-family room to the kitchen and makes his way to the drawer of cutlery to grab a spoon.

“No, no, it’s fine. It’s my job. Just stay put and don’t mess with my papers.”

She whips her phone out of her pocket and rushes upstairs to call whoever she needs to call. Joey watches in annoyance as Andrew dips his own spoon into her jar of Nutella and takes the seat on her right. It’s not the first time. “So, local Alphas... must be important.”

Andrew’s expression turns grave as he focuses on getting the right amount of Nutella on his spoon. When he does and pushes the jar back to her, he stays silent.

“More disappearances?”

He sighs and nods. Up close, Joey can tell how stressed he must be. For centuries it hasn’t been uncommon for young and immature female wolves to go missing. Some would never be seen again, others would be found a long way from home with absolutely no memory of what happened to them. For a long time it was only happening in Asia, Africa, Australia, and among the small population of wolves in Europe. Only recently have North American girls been taken.

She doesn’t know what to say, so she just pushes the Nutella jar right in front of him and he smiles halfheartedly. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be, just don’t go walking around by yourself at night.”

She smirks. “I don’t think they want a wolf the size of a dog who can’t hear, smell, or see much better than a human.”

“I mean it, Jo,” he says deeply. His expression haunts her. He’s not messing around.

She takes a deep breath and nods. “I won’t.”

He nods as well and clears his throat, starting on his spoonful of Nutella. “So, 18.”

“Don’t remind me.”

“What’s so bad about turning 18?”

“I’m old.”

"I’m old. Turning 18 is great. You’re an adult, you can make your own decisions, you can fight, you can’t drink on human land but you’re legal in wolf circles.”

“Hasn’t stopped me before,” she smiles.

“You think you’ll meet your mate right away?”

Her face falls slightly and she studies his expression. No getting out of this one. “Uh... I don’t know. Maybe. But I’m not originally from this pack as far as we know so maybe I’ll have to travel around to– But then again maybe he is here and–”

“Joey,” Andrew cuts her off with a smirk. “Stop being weird when we talk about mates.”

She sighs, urging her nerves away. “Sorry.”

“Maybe it really is Thomas,” Andrew shrugs. “He turned 18 a few months ago and hasn’t found his mate yet.”

“Could you imagine that? The pack’s most talented warrior and the girl who can’t not trip up every flight of stairs she meets?”

He laughs. “You never know.”

“Fate would’ve put us together for a reason. Probably to balance each other out.”

“Okay!” Valerie exclaims as she comes running down the stairs. “It’s all good, everything’s fine! Crisis averted. I’ve got my little birdies spreading the news that we’re at Beta Jeremy’s tomorrow, not your place. I almost had a heart attack there but we’re fine.”

By the time she’s done she’s ended up in Andrew’s lap and he immediately wraps his arms around her waist. Having been a witness of their touchy-feely nature since she was a child, Josephine doesn’t feel any discomfort being beside them. It’s when they start sticking each other’s tongues down their throats when she would usually get up and leave.

“Hey, if we’re at the Beta House that means we might as well just get ready there with Dina,” Joey suggests.

“No,” Valerie shakes her head. “I’ve planned that, too. We’re getting ready here, you, me, and your friends. Dina’s just gonna have to deal with going back and forth.”

Dina, the Beta’s daughter, is Joey’s absolute best friend in the world who she met at school when they were five. They’re almost inseparable, and with Dina’s older brother, Tyler, two years away from becoming Beta and Joey’s older sister two years away from becoming Luna, they’re convinced they’re going to run the pack themselves.

Because Dina’s family are the Betas of the pack, they live within the Sumas Mountain wilderness with the Alpha family, the Gamma family, and the elderly. The young families live in the residential outskirts of Abbotsford and Chilliwack, close enough to the humans so as not to draw attention but far away enough that they can be wolves without interruption. When a wolf hits 150 years of age, they’ll hand their home down to their children and grandchildren to move to the heart of the pack.

Valerie will be moving to the Alpha House to become Luna when Andrew officially replaces his father. In most packs – theirs included – an Alpha won’t take over until they are 30 years of age, at which point the next in line for Beta and Gamma step up as well. But Alphas start training at a young age and Andrew’s been shadowing his father since he was 25. He’s even taken meetings and visited packs without him on occasion. His family has been respected for centuries and Joey can tell their pack is excited to see him step in as Alpha. She, however, can’t imagine taking orders from Andrew Ross, the boy who used to put on tutus and fake eyelashes and played airplane with her, all to make her happy.

Luckily she’s got an in with the Luna.

“Is she as uptight with you when you talk about your wedding?” Joey asks him.

He rolls his eyes. “Worse. I still have whiplash from the ever changing seating chart.”

“Oh! Oh!” Joey raises her hand like she knows the answer to the question her teacher just asked. “Put me beside Mr. Da Silva!”

“No,” Valerie says.

“Please?”

“No.”

“But he’s so funny and he does magic.”

“You’re a bridesmaid, you’re sitting at the head table.”

“Well then who gets to sit beside him then?”

“His family, Joey.”

She groans and sulks back in her seat.

Valerie laughs and starts gathering all her papers from the table. “Okay well you stay here and be moody, Andrew and I are going up to my room to do some more wedding planning.”

She uses her spoon to salute them as they stand and make their way to the stairs. When her mom gets home from work a few minutes later, she uses the same argument Valerie did as to why Joey can’t sit beside Mr. Da Silva at the wedding. Typical.

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xx

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