“Grace,” Stephen murmured. If I had thought his tone was cold, it was nothing compared to the shimmering veins of ice in his eyes, rooting me to the spot as my childhood nerves came flooding back
I should have known he would still be here. It wasn't uncommon for ALphas to step down from their role, allowing their sons to ascend earlier than planned in order to keep the strongest wolves at the top - this would serve as a warning to other packs. We were lead by the strongest, but if by some stretch of the imagination Duke was to be defeated, Stephen was still here, ready to take his place if Duke did not have sons old enough. In the meantime, Stephen would act as a rule enforcer, making sure the pack lived in relative peace
Ha. As if Stephen had ever wanted peace. He wanted to rule with an iron fist. I felt my anger resurface once again and so I straightened my spine with pride. I was better than him, he would not get the satisfaction of seeing me crumble
“Stephen” I shot back, making sure I put a hardened edge to my voice. He would not do this to me, he would not reduce me to the blubbering wreck I had once been. I hadn’t spent 5 years relentlessly training only for an asshole like him to come along thinking he could put me back in my place.
Duke cleared his throat next to me, indicating that I had been rude. I smirked. “How have you been, Stephen?” I said, stressing his name so that he was under no illusions. I would not call him Alpha. Duke was the Alpha now. I owed him nothing.
A wolf at the end of the hall shouted Duke, successfully calming the storm that had been building.
“Fuck,” Duke muttered, “I need to go deal with this - you two will be okay, won’t you?”
“Best friends” I replied, a sickly sweet smile plastered on my lips.
“Plenty to catch up on, you go on ahead. Never let a woman interfere with the important things, boy. Remember that”
Duke frowned at his father before shooting me a nervous look as though he wasn’t sure how to leave me, finally settling on a chaste kiss on the cheek. As he passed his father I heard the low rumble of “play nice” being muttered.
The minute he was out of earshot, the tension shot up, making the hairs on the back of my neck stand in awareness, my wolf adopting a suspicious glare. “So,” he said, eyeing me from head to toe. “You’ve returned at last. What’s your game?”
“I’m fine, Stephen, thanks for asking. Yes, I have enjoyed my time at my new pack. Lovely bunch. Oh, you want to know what I’ve been up to? How nice of you!” I said with evident sarcasm, rolling my eyes at him as I took a seat at the table. He remained standing, staring down at me with a nasty, scathing look
“I don’t give a fuck what you’ve been up to or who you’ve been with. Why are you here?” He hissed
I picked up a bread roll from the table, tearing off a chunk and throwing it in my mouth as I grinned up at him. “Why, to take what I’m owed, of course.” My tone was pleasant, my feature twisted in a concerned frown. “Is there a problem, Stephen?”
He rested one arm on the back of my chair and as I followed his movement I saw his knuckles turn white with the force of his grip. “You are not owed a thing”
“These are no longer your decisions to make. I think Duke would see it differently” I saw that we had caught the attention of some of the nearby wolves and so I smiled at them, waving softly, adopting a superior edge. I knew that Stephen was losing his cool and for once I had the upper hand. It wasn’t me being hysterical and causing a commotion.
“You don’t stand a chance with him, you know that, right?”
I let out a small chuckle, “Oh, I think the Moon Goddess would disagree”
“Over my dead body” he barked, his body beginning to shake with rage
My eyes went wide, “Stephen, are you okay? Your face is very red... do I need to call the pack healer?”
“Fuck you” I hissed back
I held my hands up in surrender, “That was uncalled for. I’m just concerned. Duke is my mate, you’re his father. Doesn’t that make me partly responsible for your health and wellbeing? You’re not in your youth anymore, you can’t afford these setbacks and temper tantrums”
“Temper tantrums? Why you stupid little whore I...” he caught the eye of one of the nearby wolves.
“You’re causing a scene. What have I ever done to upset you like this? Let me help you” I made sure to have my eyes filling with tears, seeing the concerned looks in my peripheral vision
Stephen looked around, knowing he was defeated. He couldn’t unleash all his venom and hatred with such an audience. He bent down low and hissed in my ear, “bitch! You'll regret this if it's the last thing I ever fucking do!”
I made a big display of flinching at his tone as the force of his breath caused my hair to fan around my cheek. He spun on his feet and stomped away, slamming the door shut on his way out.
The other wolves began murmuring amongst themselves, looking away out of embarrassment at the poor girl who had just endured a verbal beating she hadn’t deserved. I met a few of their gazes with watery eyes, playing my part to perfection.
One of the guards placed a comforting hand on my shoulder, shaking his head in disgust. “I’ll go speak to Duke, Luna. That was unacceptable”
I tried to speak but choked on my words so I simply nodded instead. As I watched his retreating back I reached forward to grab an apple off the table, holding it to my lips to disguise my smile.
Grace 1, Stephen 0. I guess I was better at manipulating people than I thought.
My phone buzzed in my pocket and as I saw the email my smile grew wider. What a fun morning this was going to be! I had enjoyed my time playing with Stephen, now it was Duke’s turn
She was up to something. I had no idea what it was but I knew it as sure as I knew the days of the week.
I hadn't meant to leave her on her own for so long, especially considering it was her first day here but time had run away from me.
First, there had been some issues with the new training regime we had in place, then the another complaint at the school with a troublesome young wolf. Just when I thought I would have a moment spare, it was brought to my attention that my dad had been less than favourable towards Grace this morning at breakfast. I tried to find him but he was occupied with his "ladies", refusing to see anyone.
For a moment I had been tempted to kick the door down, to demand respect in my own home. To remind him of his place. He had stepped down as Alpha because he knew that I was getting ready to challenge him. It was in our nature as wolves to be the best, to take out the weak links. He had stepped down to save face and yet he still had the nerve to have me waiting on him, acting as though he didn't have to show me the same level of obedience as the rest of my pack. I added that to the long list of things I needed to address with him.
The only thing that had stopped me was the call of the council meeting. Once a month, we were required to check in with the rest of the pack and the council members, allowing the wolves to address their concerns or ask for items out of the pack budget that were not normal expenses.
Susan had wanted a playing arena for her children. Fine, granted. Lisa wanted to change the shifts for the omegas, stressing that the morning shift for breakfast was killing her. Draw up a plan with the other omegas and bring it to my attention, then we'll talk.
Lucas wanted to go over his business plan, detailing how his new woodworking business would benefit the pack and bring in more revenue.
I pinched the bridge of my nose between my fingers, catching site of Grace through the window. She was up to something.
I saw the way she laughed with the delivery men that had been installing something for the past couple of hours. My wolf growled as she placed her hand on their arm, throwing her head back with delight at something they said. What the fuck were they doing? What took this long to be delivered? It was annoying me that everything had come in discreet cardboard packages.
"Alpha?" Lucas asked, bringing my attention back to him. I sighed heavily.
"It's a huge sum of money, but I can see the potential" I began, trying to ignore Grace as she shouted out cheerful goodbyes to the delivery guys. Why was she so cheerful today? Why was I so in tune with her, so aware of every move she made that it sounded as though she was right next to me all the damn time? "I need a 5 year plan - what you expect to spend, your planned profit, especially in the first year. How much loss you expect to make. The first year is crucial, that's when most businesses crumble. If you can work on that, bring it back to me and we can talk"
"Thank you, Alpha" Lucas inclined his head to me respectfully and left.
I was just about to get up and follow him out of here when yet another wolf stepped forward, causing me to grit my teeth.
I never usually minded this. In fact, it was of my favourite parts of being an alpha, knowing that I was making a difference to my people and enriching their lives and their time here, but today was different. Today a golden-haired angel was on my mind, dominating my every thought.
I sat back in my seat and offered a strained smile to the wolf in front of me.
She was up to something, I just knew it.
Duke! Duke you gotta come see this! My best friend shouted over the mind link. Jack and I had grown up together and whilst Grace had been away at her new pack and her dad had grown too sick, he had been acting as temporary Beta and I was more than pleased with the job he had been doing.
Duke! He yelled again, his voice breathy and full of excitement.
I'm still in council, Jack. Can it wait? I linked back, discreetly rubbing my temples. Today never seemed to end!
I dunno mate, she might not have any clothes left on her body if you wait any longer. That caught my attention
What the fuck are you talking about? I roared back, my fingers drumming the arm of the chair in impatience. Answer me, Jack, I shot after a few seconds have passed
Just come to the gym. Trust me on this, you don't want to miss it! Grace is dancing and it's fucking hot! Dancing? In the gym? Full of males?
My mind was barely capable of stringing a sentence together. All I could picture was Grace and her luscious body on display for all the wolves to see. I'd have to kill them all. Each and every one that looked at her, I'd kill them
"Council over!" I barked, shooting to my feet and heading straight for the gym, my blood roaring in my ears as it raced around my body.
I reached the gym in record time, my jaw dropping to the floor the minute I saw Grace.
"See what I mean" Jack grinned, nudging me with his elbow
I sure fucking did and now I knew what Grace had been so busy with today. I almost couldn't believe it.
She was dressed in a skimpy pair of shorts and a bra, her hair long and loose as she danced.
"Leave" I ordered Jack, my tone allowing for no arguments. "You tell everyone the gym is off-limits for the foreseeable. Understood?"
"Loud and clear," he said with a knowing grin, clapping me on the shoulder as he left
I leant against the doorframe and simply enjoyed the view
I had been pole dancing for as long as I could remember. When I first entered the RiverBed pack I was too weak to train with the other warriors. I had done every form of exercise I could think of and nothing really helped with toning me or gaining upper body strength. I spent months researching different techniques until one night, by pure coincidence I had walked past a gym offering beginners classes and I went for it, learning all the tricks and techniques until I was confident enough to get my own pole installed at my house.
There wasn't a day that went by that I wasn't dancing, ensuring that my core remained strong, my muscles defined.
I could feel the sweat beginning to run down my body as I jumped to grab the pole, my legs swinging out to the side of me, tipping my head back, back, back until my hair reached the floor, my legs sliding up the pole to cross at the ankles, my back arched, my hands clasped beneath my head.
I scissored my legs, my toes pointed as I jerked my hips, bringing my body slowly forward, my hands in perfect synchronisation, working their way up the pole as my legs flipped down to the floor, ending in a perfect split.
I got back to my feet, clasping the pole in my hands as I shook my hips, gyrating from side to side. I grabbed the pole more firmly, using my feet and thighs to climb up to the top, locking at the ankles once more as my hands let go, bending my body backwards so that it was just the strength of my weight holding me up.
I snapped back up, grabbing the pole with my hands, loosening the grip of my legs and sliding down the pole, grasping back on about halfway down and allowing my body to spin round, kicking my legs out in a variety of positions.
I went on, my body gyrating, writhing, arching as I worked the pole harder than ever before, leaving no part of my body left out.
As the song came to a crashing end, I was on the floor breathing heavy, my legs twisted beneath me when I heard a slow clap come from the doorway.
My head snapped towards it, my eyes growing large as I saw Duke stood there, a very sizable bulge in his trousers letting me know that he had seen the entire dance.
"That," he said, walking into the room with the gait of a deadly predator, "was one of the sexiest things I have ever seen in my life." His eyes were trained on me, never once leaving my face, letting me know that if he was the predator, I was most definitely his prey