Chapter 1. Mine
Brie woke up to the sound of voices in the house. She yawned and looked at her bedside table where her alarm was placed. She groaned. It was 8 AM, and she had been hoping to sleep late in anticipation of what was bound to be a tiring and late night for her. Previous Claiming rituals could sometimes be an all-night affair, and this year would probably be no different.
Brie stretched and headed into the adjoining bathroom to shower. She tried to be brief in there, as there would probably be many more showers to be taken here by the Alphas of the neighboring packs. The unmated pack members were to be housed in tents outside the packhouse, but in deference to their clout, Alphas were welcome to stay inside the packhouse, with their pack members, or in the Alpha’s home the day before The Claiming—and afterward, if necessary.
Brie thought over her outfit choices. She really would have liked to wear her usual, everyday clothes. That usually consisted of shorts and a t-shirt or tank top, but it might be thought disrespectful to the Alphas if she were not to wear something nice to greet them. She was their hostess, after all, just as her father played host. Brie nodded at the white and blue flower print dress with the asymmetrical skirt and smiled. Nice enough for the Alphas and Lunas, but free enough to do her duties in.
Hopefully, she wouldn’t spill on it and render it completely unwearable. Brie had been known to ruin a dress or two while making a pot of coffee, and if the steadily increasing noise from below was any indication, there would be plenty of coffee to be made. It sounded like a small army was congregating downstairs, and they had their marching orders. Her dress flowed like liquid behind her as she went down the stairs. She crept while listening in on their loud conversation.
“I hear the boy has been ill and could not make The Claiming this year,” said one Alpha. He was a short man with graying hair and a mustache. His Luna was beside him, and she was startling. Although she was clinging to him like he was her personal life raft, she had to be half his age and devastatingly beautiful.
She also appeared to be quite young for him, maybe twenty-five to thirty years old, whereas the small man had to be fifty if he was a day.
“It’s a shame. Plain wore out from taking care of his father, if you ask me. The man’s been poorly for years. I hear he is quite outstanding as far as Alphas are concerned, though,” another male voice spoke.
“Very handsome and so young to be the Alpha,” another mentioned.
“Since his father has been ailing, he has taken on all the responsibilities of the pack, though he is only twenty-two,” someone stated. “He took full control when he was 19 when his father first fell ill.”
Brie interrupted with her presence and met her father’s eyes, which appeared to be deep in thought and not paying attention to the conversation. Something was weighing on him, Brie could tell. She also knew that he wouldn’t tell her if she asked, so she settled on introducing herself to the guests in the room.
“My apologies for keeping you all waiting,” Brie said dutifully. “I trust that everything is to your liking so far? If not, please make me aware and I will see to your needs. My name is Brie Fontaine, daughter of Alpha Roland Fontaine.”
Brie was overly formal, as many were with the Alphas of the packs. She nodded her head in deference to their standing, and offered them more coffee.
“Your father has been most generous, Miss Brie, and we have been fed and watered sufficiently,” the short, stout Alpha with the young Luna said. “My name is Alpha John Witherspoon of the Silver Claw pack. This here is my Luna, Emily Witherspoon née Pierce. I suspect you will meet my children in due time.”
Brie nodded and smiled as he shook her hand. She made her rounds in the room, introducing herself, and then walked over to take her place by her father’s side.
“Good morning, Father,” she said, still in formal mode in front of the other Alphas and their mates. “Did you need me to oversee any of the preparations for this evening’s events?”
“No, angel. I have Beta James and Gamma Edward on it.” In fact, Roland wanted Brie nowhere near the festivities until it was absolutely necessary. She would have plenty to do here in the house until then, and he didn’t need any of the visiting pack members to get any unsavory ideas in regards to his daughter. He didn’t know them from Adam, and as far as Roland was concerned, it could stay that way.
His wolf scratched at the surface with all the unfamiliar scents of the visiting wolves on his territory. He would have done anything to be able to phase and take a long run in the woods as his wolf to clear his mind.
Brie excused herself to make breakfast, and she made quick work of her cereal so she could attend to her guests.
As she ate, she watched the other pack members through the kitchen window as some set up for the evening, and others simply talked or made up their tents in the long grass in front of the Packhouse. She saw that a handsome blond male about her age and a female of her pack named Liza were very aware of each other. Brie wondered if they were true mates.
It sometimes happened that the mates would meet each other before the festivities commenced, but for the most part, Alphas kept their unmated pack members separate from the others until the ceremony began. As much as they could, at least.
Brie sighed as she washed her bowl and spoon and then dried her hands on the towel next to the sink. She was loath to use the dishwasher as it simply made too much noise. The sounds coming from outside were enough to disturb her usually tranquil home life, and she found herself longing for the silence her quiet home held when it was only her father and her.
The day passed in a dizzying blur as she kept vigil, watching the ceremony’s preparations taking place from afar. It seemed that all the festivities were happening to someone else, and she was simply watching it all through an ever-changing television screen that resembled the picture windows of her home.
At 7 PM, the house was relatively quiet, and the Alphas and Lunas had gone to their respective packs to speak with the unmated about their decorum and what would be expected of them. The unmated already knew the rules, but the Alphas figured there was always one in the bunch that would try something radical and pretend they simply hadn’t been warned about their possible misdoings.
Brie walked up the steps to her room where she would prepare herself for The Claiming. She had her light green shift dress laid out on her bed since that morning, but she wished to wash the day away. To start fresh. Hopefully after tonight, she would have a place in this world, a mate to whom she would belong to.
It was an old-fashioned idea, but custom was a highly honored tradition in the werewolf community. Just as any she-wolf was expected to deliver pups for her soulmate, all males were supposed to protect their female and resulting said pups from their union.
As forward-thinking as her father was, she knew that she was expected to do right by her mate, and she wanted to start the process with a clean slate.
Brie washed again, and brushed her teeth for good measure. She sincerely hoped her mate would do the same. Nothing like meeting your mate and having foul breath as they attempted to mark you.
After a too-short shower, Brie blew her hair dry and put on her shift dress, foregoing the undergarments as the dress would be shed soon enough, and the extra layer of clothing would be an unnecessary and time-consuming hindrance.
The dress was thin, but the night was warm enough, and she felt no need to cover herself up before heading to the clearing that was prepared for the unmated. She let her hair lay straight down her back and unencumbered.
Brie put on sturdy, nude-colored leather sandals and made her way down the front steps of the home to where her father was waiting in his own Claiming attire.
The unmated men usually only wore bottoms to The Claiming and left their chests bare. Whether it was for convenience or pride, they often went only with shorts or pants to the place where The Claiming would commence. As Alpha, Roland felt the need to wear something over his chest, and had opted for a muscle tee and light khaki-colored shorts.
Seeing her father made her nervous. She wanted a mate, but did not want to leave him alone either.
“You look beautiful, princess,” Roland said quietly as Brie moved quickly into his waiting arms.
Her eyes pricked, and she shuddered as he held her like he used to when she was little and had nicked her shin on a rock after falling.
“What’s wrong, angel?” Roland asked.
“I don’t want to leave you,” she said as her eyes filled to the brim with tears. This land was her home, and she wasn’t ready to leave it just yet. She and her father were all the other had left. Her heart broke a little to think that this may be the last time she left this house as her home.
“Don’t worry, angel,” Roland said to his Brie. “You will always and forever be mine.”