Chesca brushed out her long hair before rebraiding it. Not a simple braid, like what she wore when running or training with her warriors, but a fancy and complex updo like what a queen might wear. Her fingers twisted and tied the golden band around the last strand of hair, and she checked herself in the mirror.
Smoothing out her flowing top that hung nicely over black pants, she kept telling herself she wasn’t dressing up any more special than usual. She was just having dinner with her friends and command — beta, gamma, head guard and a few warrior leaders—like usual. She kept pushing to the back of her mind that a very unusual visitor would be joining them. But her heart refused to let her forget that her mate was waiting downstairs in the dining room. Which is probably why she slipped on her favourite pumps and checked herself once more in the floor length mirror.
Catching herself with a groan, she stormed out the door and bumped straight into Lexi.
“Hey, I was just coming—wow, don’t you look nice!”
“No, I don’t. I don’t look any extra special,” Chesca said quickly.
“Sure honey, keep telling yourself that,” Lexi said with a raised eyebrow and smirk.
“Stop it. Now what did you want to tell me?”
“Oh yeah, everyone’s ready for dinner. And boy, that guy is a jerk! First he refused to go to the west wing, saying he wanted to be with you, but there was no way we were gonna let him get near our Alpha. Then he practically punched Roman for telling him to smarten up! but it’s ok, Charles and Roman handled it and —“
The growl erupted from Chesca’s throat on its own accord, and her fists clenched.
“Whoa, Sis, you ok?”
Chesca took a deep breath and attempted a smile. She had no idea where that reaction had come from, but the talk of hurting her mate—
“I’m fine. Good, so he’s a jerk. That will make it all the more easier to get rid of him.”
“What are you going to do?” Lexi looked at her sideways.
“Honestly? ...I have no idea,” she admitted to her best friend, and pushed through the doors into the dining room.
Conversation was minimal, the air filled with an awkwardness that even Roman’s jokes couldn’t displace. Chesca’s third in command usually made a crack about everything from the way his warriors trained, to the colour of the potato mash on their plates. But tonight, the chuckles were forced. Everyone kept glancing at the newcomer who acted like he owned the place. They all secretly wished he was down rotting in the dungeon, but Chesca has made it clear she wanted him here for dinner, so they could get to know him and figure out what malicious plans he had up his sleeves.
Speaking of sleeves… Chesca couldn’t take her eyes off the muscles that showed through the borrowed button up shirt he was wearing. Neither her beta, Charles, nor her gamma, Roman, were quite as big as him, hence the shirt wrapped tightly across a very broad chest and biceps that bulged every time he lifted his fork to his mouth.
An image of dragging her fingernails over his skin popped into her mind—
A loud throat clearing snapped her back to reality. Lexi shot her a glare and Chesca blinked, mentally shaking the desirous notions from her mind.
“So whath’s yername?” Roman asked around a mouthful of steak.
“What, you don’t already know?” he aimed his question at Chesca, one eyebrow raised.
She swallowed hard and looked down, chiding herself for not remembering it when she heard it a couple years ago. At the time, it hadn’t been worth remembering. He was just another power hungry Alpha—
“It’s Kaiden,” his deep voice startled her, his brown eyes riveting as they continued staring at her.
Alpha Kaiden...hot!! Lexi mind linked. Chesca kicked her foot under the table.
“And why did you leave your pack?” Charles asked. He was her beta, but also Lexi’s mate. Her command had become like family, helping Chesca rule and keep the entire pack safe. She realised they were now cross-examining him for her, this man who they really knew nothing about. She smiled, but it quickly slipped when she saw him frowning.
“My father….” he began, “didn’t think I was fit to lead. He pushed me away, and that is all I want to say about it.”
A man of secrets...mysterio—
Chesca kicked Lexi’s foot again.
The table was silent for a moment, and when Kaiden’s eyes found hers once more, she saw a flicker of pain pass through them. A small part of her heart wanted to reach out and understand that pain, ease some it. She knew enough of it to recognise it.
“How long have you been rogue?” Roman pinned him with a serious gaze.
“I wouldn’t call it rogue,” his eyes once more held hers. “But about 4 months.”
“Then I assume you’ve lied and stolen and killed your way to survival?” one of her warriors—an older man with burly arms as thick as her thighs—asked with disdain. “Our Alpha is very strict when it comes to her penalties for criminals.”
“I’m sure she is,” the corners of his mouth lifted as he peered at her intensely.
A strange emotion curled in her stomach, a mixture of nervousness and annoyance. She decided she’d had enough.
“So,” she began quickly and stared at her plate. “Where will you be heading tomorrow?” she looked up at the man sitting across from her, his clean-shaven jaw line moving slowly as he chewed, drawing her thoughts away once more.
“I’m not going anywhere tomorrow. I’m staying.”
She choked on the peas she’d just eaten and flicked her eyes to his. They sparkled, and held amusement at something she did not find funny.
“I want to get to know my mate, my Luna,” he added with all seriousness.
This time Lexi choked, spewing red juice all over the table. She knew how much Chesca would hate that statement.
“I do not want a mate,” Chesca rose from the table. “And I’m certainly not a Luna, ready to stand second behind a domineering Alpha.”
“Here it goes,” Lexi muttered and put her fork down to watch. Charles shot her a frown. “Whaaat?” She shrugged her shoulders.
“I made a vow five years ago,” Chesca said lowly, her fingers clenched around the table’s edge, “to lead my pack. To rule this dominion and never give control to anyone. Anyone! Including a mate. And especially not an Alpha.”
Kaiden’s jaw twitched, and his arm muscles flexed as he too rose. She could tell he was restraining himself. Maybe she’d pushed him too far. After all, he could easily snap and go on a killing spree, for all she knew. Isn’t that what his father was known for?
“Don’t want to be a luna? But that is a woman’s rightful place!” he crossed around the table and stood close to her.
“I am an Alpha, and no man will tell me what I can or cannot be,” she glared at him, her temper fuming.
“Guys,” Roman cautioned.
“You think I can tell you that you can’t be my mate? That’s not possible. It’s fate. And together we can—“
“No. ‘Together’ nothing. I never wanted a mate. They’re too complicated,” she jabbed a finger at his chest. “I will let nothing come between me and my pack.”
“Mm these mashed potatoes are so creamy,” Roman interjected.
“Yeah? You’d just ignore me and pretend like we never met? Like I don’t exist?”
“I will lead this pack and my territory with everything I have no matter what anyone tries to do,” Chesca continued. “I will never, ever, share that with you.” She glared at him and took a deep breath, her nostrils flaring. For the second time today, she found herself face to face with a man she wanted to know everything about, but was so infuriated with him that she wanted him gone without any further contact. Her head and heart were warring about whether to clobber him or kiss him. And the worst part? She wasn’t sure which side she wanted to win.
“Well, you wanna know what I think?” Kaiden matched her glare. “I think you’re a stubborn, arrogant woman playing dress up, trying to fill her daddy’s shoes—“
“Boy, watch your mouth!” Lexi leapt up from the table, knocking her entire drink over.
“Lexi! Sit down,” Charles grabbed her hand and yanked her back before she could tackle Kaiden to the ground.
Chesca stared deep into his eyes, “I will not allow this disrespect in my house. If you’re not gone by tomorrow, I will personally escort you to the border.”
“You mean..” a smug smile crept across Kaiden’s face, “I have until then to win your heart?”
“Auugghh!” Chesca threw up her hands and stomped out out of the room. More like clicked out of the room. Her heels echoed in the otherwise silent and tense atmosphere.
Kaiden watched her storm out, then sighed, realising he’d been holding his breath. His eyes watched her heels clacking against the tiles, then moved up to her calves, travelling the curve of her—
Suddenly he felt a smack on the back of his head.
“Look what you done now, you idiot!” Lexi yelled at him, her dark eyes flashing. For a brief moment he was afraid she’d grab a knife and maybe poke his eyes out, but she scurried after her Alpha.
“Good one,” Charles shook his head darkly at Kaiden and followed the very expressive head guard, his mate.
Not wanting to get any more involved in a domestic spat, the rest soon finished and quickly left as well.
All except one.
“Looks like it’s just you and me, bro,” Roman leaned back in his chair, making it squeak, and crossed his arms. “And between us, I’d say you definitely won,” he smiled cheekily. Squeak squeak.
Kaiden just frowned. He ran a hand through his wavy hair and looked back at the closed door. “I’m gonna head to bed.”
“Sure, I’ll show you the way in case you get lost. This place sure is confusing first time you see it,” Roman scooted back from his chair and clapped Kaiden on the shoulder.
He led him through the large pack residence, explaining that it was once a castle used by royals a few centuries ago. Along the way to Kaiden’s room, he pointed out a few things.
“This used to be a council chamber, but it’s now a games room. Took a lot of pleading with Alpha, but she eventually came around and let us convert it. ’Course, she never really joins us for games…. And this is where we have all our important meetings,” he showed Kaiden another room with a huge mahogany table surrounded by modern executive chairs.
“And the party hall, but again, we barely use it much…”
Kaiden took in the large hall that looked like a ballroom, complete with fancy chandeliers hanging from the ceiling and a grand piano in one corner. Silver moonlight poured in from the many windows that lined the eastern wall, illuminating the room with an other-worldly glow. He could almost imagine couples dancing across the mosaic floor, a string quartet playing on the stage, and Chesca in his arms, her head resting lightly against his chest.
“And this is my room, yours is just down the next corridor and across the courtyard in the next wing, remember?”
“Ahh- sure, sure,” he stumbled over his words, his thoughts catching up to Roman’s stream of helpful information. “And Chesca…?”
“Sorry, man. I can’t tell you that. She made it very clear she wants her privacy.”
Kaiden clenched his fists. But despite his disappointment, he had to give the guy credit for his loyalty.
Still, he had a strange desire to know more about her. Winning Chesca over was going to be harder than strangling an alpha. Getting lead of a pack was going to take time, he decided. Chesca was like no woman he’d ever met, and he was still figuring out if he liked that fact or not. He had told her that she couldn’t deny they were mates, that it was fate she be a luna and he her alpha. But is that what he actually wanted? Did he want a mate, or was he just as scared of the idea as she? No, she didn’t look scared. He doubted she would ever be scared. She was just wary of him, angry at his bold actions, and stubborn. Yes, definitely stubborn.
“Ok, the West Wing is just through here. Be careful of the door handle, it’s rarely been used and is probably rusted out,” Roman opened a large double-door and led him down a dark corridor.
“Hmm west wing. Let me guess, there’s a secret room I’m not allowed to enter, with a special rose?” Kaiden mused aloud.
“Dude, this ain’t the Sleeping Beauty!” Roman chuckled.
“You mean Beauty and the Beast.”
“Yeah, whatever. They’re all the same to me,” the Gamma shrugged. “Chesca used to love those stories though. She’d always be carrying a book around, and sing all the Disney songs top-note.”
Kaiden smiled a silly grin, picturing the stern woman pouring over romantic fairytale stories. He wondered if she still sang. “Used to?” he suddenly asked.
“You said she used to love those stories. She doesn’t anymore?”
Roman scrunched his brows in thought. “She...she’s Alpha. She doesn’t have time for reading anymore.”
Kaiden just nodded. That made sense.
“Here we are— your room,” Roman opened the door. “I’m really glad you’re here. Like seriously, it’s gonna be so much fun seeing you and Alpha get along,” he clapped him on the back again. “Then you’re gonna have pups, and help make this pack strong. Alpha Chesca is always going on about strengthening the pack,” Roman finished with a goofy grin.
Kaiden just laughed, suddenly uneasy at the thought of pups. Finding his mate had never been a part of his plans. He’d just wanted a pack. But as fate would have it, it seemed in one day he’d ended up with both. A mate and a pack. A very gorgeous mate with beautiful hair and hot legs—
“If you need anything, you know where my room is.”
“Sure. Thanks Roman.”
Yes, things had turned out very well indeed.
Time to prove his father wrong.