I followed Viktor across the compound to the large building in back. He opened the door and waited; I smelled sweat, blood and wolves as I entered. “There’s some extra shorts in the bins there, and the locker room is through that door. We don’t wear shoes on the mats.” I looked around, all the men were warming up or running, none wore shirts, just these same gray athletic shorts. I grabbed a pair in my size and went into the locker room.
It wasn’t much, a bench down the middle and some small lockers for your stuff, a couple showers and some toilets in the back. I stripped, folding my clothes and stashing them in an open one, before pulling the shorts on and walking out. Konstantin and some of the Betas were already standing around the Alpha as they sized me up. I was in good shape, well defined, but nowhere near as barrel-chested as these males. I started stretching as he talked to three of his men in Russian. At the end, he told them “udarit’ yego zadnitsu” and all the men started to laugh. He turned to me with a big smile. “We thought we’d start with the same assessment we give all of our Betas in this Pack. They’re going to put you through it,” he said as he pointed at the three men walking to the center of the room.
“So what is the test?”
“Survive,” he said. “No shifting, eye gouges or broken necks. Other than that, good luck.”
I walked towards the three, moving my neck around to loosen it up. I tried to relax, and I put on a smile and reached out a hand to the first one in line. “Patrick Clarke,” I said. He didn’t do anything, but out of the corner of my right eye I saw the third man in line drop his shoulders and charge me.
I dropped my hand and quickly stepped back, moving my left leg back as I spun to avoid being tackled. Bringing my right arm up, I hooked under his armpit and hip tossed him as I spun away. His two friends tried to take advantage, and I knew I had to avoid being taken to the ground. Instead of backing away like they expected, I attacked the second man. I punched him in the throat, then grabbed his hair and brought my knee up into his face. There was a satisfying crunch as his nose broke and blood sprayed over my leg.
The second man was knocked out, but the first had gotten behind me and was trying to complete a chokehold. I dropped my chin, blocking his arm from my neck, and stomped on the inside of his right leg. The knee collapsed, and he screamed in pain as he let go. I quickly twisted inside, bringing my left elbow into his ribs and breaking a few. Continuing the spin, I brought my right leg up and kicked his nuts halfway to Moscow as I broke away.
The third man, the one I’d thrown, was back and he was pissed off as he saw his friends taken down. Changing tactics, he got into a boxing stance and started to circle me. I danced away from the downed men, my hands up in front of me in more of a Mixed Martial Arts-style position. I ducked a few jabs, then when he tried to use a right cross I grabbed his wrist and pulled him forward, causing his right leg to move forward to compensate. With all his weight forward, I kicked above his knee, breaking his femur with a loud snap. He fell to the ground holding his leg.
I looked around, guard still up, in case any had come back from their injuries. They hadn’t. I caught my breath, looking over at Alpha Viktor. “That a pass?”
He and the other men were looking at me slack-jawed. I’d just waded through three of his men and barely broke a sweat. “Yes, you pass,” he said. “It seems we underestimated you.”
Konstantin and a few other men brought stretchers in, and the injured were carried to the Pack hospital. They would be fine in a few days.
“I do more than play on the computer and drive my fancy car,” I said with a smirk. “What did you say to them before they went into the center?”
“I told them to kick your ass,” he said as we both laughed.
“Can I watch some of your men spar?” I had an idea of how they trained by the tactics they’d tried to use, mainly wrestling and boxing techniques. They work well if you have a size advantage, but it could be turned against you if you met a different fighting style.
I sat with Alpha Viktor as his top Betas ran the others through their training session. “Tell me, Patrick, what can I do to keep my remaining men from being taken down the way you did?”
“Your men are strong and big, but you’ve stagnated in their training. They all fight the same ways, and only against each other. I won because I fought with a different style and did things they didn’t know how to counter.” I watched as one of his men shot the leg of his opponent, trying to get him to the ground. “My Alpha makes it a point to send his Betas to train with humans in different fighting styles. I’ve been doing Krav Maga since I was twelve; others have learned in Mixed Martial Arts gyms, judo, taekwondo, jujitsu. We do enough to learn with the humans, then we bring the techniques back and train the others in our Pack with the things best suited to our abilities.”
“And this works?”
“Yes. Everyone becomes an expert in one discipline, but we also learn enough about the other disciplines to know how to use and defend from them.” Viktor nodded, he wasn’t happy as he saw what I was talking about.
“Will you help me train them when you return for the mating?”
“Of course, it would be my honor. I’m pretty sure I got their attention.”
“Good. Go shower and change, then meet Marina and I in my office in twenty minutes. I need to speak to you about something in private.” He walked out, and I headed for the locker room.
I arrived at his office a few minutes early, Marina was sitting in his lap and Konstantin was in the chair across from his desk. He didn’t look happy with me. “Maksim is going to be out for four days with that broken femur, and you tore up Dima’s knee enough to sideline him for three.”
“Then they should have fought better,” I said as I sat down. “I didn’t eye gouge, shift or break necks.”
“Stop it, Konstantin. He showed me today how poorly we are training our men, and that will be changing. After the mating ceremony, I’m sending you to a Mixed Martial Arts academy in Moscow. You’ll learn, and you’ll teach when you get back, but right now you’ll listen.” He turned to me. “We have to move Jessie out of the hospital tonight,” he said.
“Wait, WHAT? Is there a threat? She’s not even awake!”
Marina fixed me with a look that immediately made me sit down. “We’re fully aware of that, as is our Doctor. We don’t have a choice, though. Yuri is coming for your claiming ceremony.” That was something I never expected.
“The European Council was thrilled to find out that our daughter was to be mated to you. Since a number of other Alphas from Europe and North America will be here, the Council wants to tag on and hold a meeting the next day. I had no choice but to offer to host, and since it was a Council event, Yuri and his mate and Betas will be here. We need to get Jessie to a remote cabin our Pack owns and clean the hell out of the hospital, so they don’t pick up the scent.”
I sat there for a moment, figuring things out. “I need to be there when she wakes up, I’m the only one she knows,” I said.
“We can’t risk it. If you are with her, her scent could come through and they might be able to tell she is here,” Marina said. “I talked to your Alphas, they are bringing Brian and Larry along. She said both of them knew Jessie and would not be missed at the ceremony. They will be here in the morning, and after they arrive, you need to stay away from her.”
“And I’m putting you against Konstantin tomorrow. When he’s done with you, I won’t expect you to smell of anything except sweat and blood,” Viktor added.
I looked at Konstantin, a smile on my face. His superior attitude had taken a shift today and I took his friends apart, he no longer was confident he could take me, and he didn’t like that. Sooner or later, we were going to have it out. “Can we do that tomorrow night instead?” Viktor looked at me quizzically. “After Mischa is home. I want her to know I can protect her from anyone, even her big brother.” Viktor laughed, Konstantin glared, and Marina just smiled as she nodded.
Beta John’s POV
I walked into the room and sat down at the table across from Alpha Stan. He looked troubled, I could see he was nervous about what he had to tell me. My mind went immediately to Jessie. “Is Jessie all right? What happened?”
His face fell, he wanted to ease into this and I wouldn’t let him. “I need you to relax and listen, John.” He switched to link, which he could use since he was now my Alpha. “You are not to shift or react with your wolf. If I see you getting agitated, I will leave.”
Using the link was better anyway, the sessions were videotaped and I didn’t need any misunderstandings because we had to talk around things. ”I understand, Alpha. Now what is going on with Jessie?”
“She is still in Russia. While she was walking through her town of birth, walking with Father Kempechny, she was the target of an assassination attempt. She survived, but is seriously injured.”
I started to see red, the command washed over me. I closed my eyes and shoved my wolf back, he was furious his mate was hurt and wanted out. I just, we just couldn’t let him. It took a minute before I could open my eyes again. I took a deep breath and let it out. “How is she?”
“She nearly died. She is with the Kstovo Pack, in their hospital. Patrick and their Pack were able to get her out and get her help in time. The doctors say she is recovering well, but it was bad. She had multiple injuries from the blast, but the fractured skull is the most serious. I have doctors from the Mayo Clinic consulting, she’s getting good care. A few days more to let the swelling in her brain come down, then they’ll bring her out of the medically induced coma.”
“I should be there.”
“Yes, but you cannot leave. Even if you were there, there is nothing you could do. Luna Larissa and I, Betas Peter and Abigail and two warriors are heading over to Russia tomorrow. We will bring her home. You need to trust us to take care of her and stay calm.”
I nodded, I had little choice right now. ”Why was she attacked?”
“It turns out her biological father was Alpha Yevgheny Zubkov of the Moscow Pack, a powerful Russian Mafia boss. He killed her mother when she was a baby. Now that he’s dead, Jessie found out the truth. She met with a lawyer, and her lawyer filed papers in court to be declared his daughter and heir.”
“She’s the daughter of an Alpha?”
“Yes… and not only is leadership of that Pack unknown, if she is declared his heir, she gets the money and lands that otherwise would go to Yevgheny’s brother. Alpha Yuri Zubkov of the St. Petersburg pack.”
My mind was reeling. My beautiful young waitress was a null daughter of an Alpha, and heir to a Pack and fortune. ”What can I do to help?”
“Stay out of trouble and get out of here, you can’t do any good behind bars. Learn the language, she might be spending her time over there in the future. Hell, you might even be Alpha if you play it right.”
“Not if she rejects me,” I said.
“That is what you need to focus on. Protecting her and getting her to love you depends on getting out of here and getting next to her without scaring her.”
“I’ll do whatever it takes, Alpha.” Our time was up. I walked back to my cellblock in a stupor, my mind reeling over what I’d just heard. I laid on my bed and just tried to sort it out in my head, and an hour later I still was reeling.