I was talking with a group of Alphas from Germany and Switzerland when I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned around, Viktor was standing with a large, dangerous looking Russian I had seen in photos only. His eyes widened as he recognized me, before a mask went over his face to hide it. “Alpha Yuri Zubkov, this is my Mischa’s mate, Beta Heir Patrick Clarke of the St. Croix Pack in the United States,” he said.
I gathered my emotions and smiled, trying to treat this like any other introduction. I held my hand out, Yuri took it and squeezed hard, and I squeezed back. We were sizing each other up with a handshake, and I wasn’t going to submit to him. He held it a few seconds too long as we looked in each other’s eyes, then he let go. “Congratulations, young man,” he said. “Finding your mate is a momentous time. Nothing is more important than keeping her safe once you have found her.”
“I am finding that out,” I replied to his veiled threat evenly. “I will do anything it takes to keep her protected and happy, no matter what the threat.”
“Yuri, my mate is over this way, let me introduce you then we can mingle.” Viktor led Yuri away as I seethed in anger.
“Brian, Larry, if you can hear me you need to pack up and get to the airport.” I heard nothing back, they were too far away to link to. I looked around, seeing Mischa in the group of younger girls, I headed her way. Her friends and cousins were so happy for her, and her face lit up when she saw me approach. I pulled her into a hug and whispered into her ear. “Tell your Father that Viktor recognized me. Jessie is in danger, we need to get her out of the country now. He threatened me with you, we can’t know where she is. Brian and Larry will take care of her.”
She kissed me gently, her eyes closing as she linked her father. “He figured it out as well. He’s calling his men to let them know.”
“You look amazing,” I said as I pulled back from her. “I’m the luckiest wolf in the world.”
“I’m the lucky one,” she said as her arms trailed down my shoulder and biceps. She introduced me to the young women around her, all but one of whom was still looking for their mate. We walked together around the arriving groups after that, but my mind was far away. I figured Viktor would have Yuri and his men shadowed, and I was right. The greetings continued as more Alphas and leaders arrived, until the last one had shown just before dinnertime.
Marina and Viktor herded the group into the Pack dining room, which had been decorated for the event. The large central table was for alphas and mates only, it was set up in a large square in the center of the room. Outside it was a broken square of tables, where the Betas and other guests were seated. The openings allowed the wait staff to access the Alphas. The seating chart had been carefully decided and approved by the Council; some things could be taken as slights, and they didn’t want fights breaking out. Viktor and Marina were at the head as host Alphas. World Council Chair Francois was next to Viktor, while Konstantin was next to his mother. I was seated next to Francois, leaving a disappointed Mischa next to her brother. My parents were next to me, then my Alpha pair. Alphas and their mates were then interspersed with guests and council members, ensuring no table was without someone of importance.
I had met all the council members as they arrived, and they were an impressive and powerful lot. To be eligible to serve on the Werewolf Council, you had to be at least sixty years of age with at least twenty years as Alpha of a Pack and have been retired from that position for at least a decade. Most of the men were in their seventies and eighties, but they carried themselves with confidence. Created to ensure peace among the Packs and the secrets of our existence, their decisions were law. If a Pack refused to obey, the remaining Packs were bound by treaty to support the Council. Luckily, they governed wisely and this use of force had never been required. There were regional councils, like the European one represented at the dinner, and a World council. That contained the chairs of the councils from North America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia/New Zealand.
Dinner was a lively affair, with toasts, stories and laughter as the friends and rivals gathered together on neutral ground. As the courses were cleared, people started grabbing their drinks and swapping seats to catch up with others. My parents got up, spending some time with Mischa and her family, while other Alphas and council members started to size me up. I expected it, I was of Beta heritage and mated to an Alpha daughter. That meant Luna must thing I was capable of being an Alpha, and that was a rare change.
I heard laughter over from where Konstantin was standing with some other younger men, he was talking rapidly in Russian and they were looking over at me occasionally. One of the men broke free. “Very impressive, young Patrick,” Alpha Pyotr of Odessa said as he came to me. “Konstantin was telling us about how they tried to initiate you into their Pack, and you taught them a lesson instead.”
“I showed them why you should never underestimate an opponent,” I said evenly.
“Indeed!” He slapped my arm. “The Alphas are already talking about your worthiness. Some have already petitioned the Council members to test you and ensure you are worthy of an Alpha spot.”
“Oh?” This I had expected, but not so early.
“Yes, but after the ceremony. This isn’t about your worthiness to have your mate. No Council member is dumb enough to second-guess Luna on the pairs she makes. It’s more to see if the pairing means there is a new Alpha pair, or Mischa becomes a Beta female.”
“Alpha is her birthright, I will not disappoint,” I said. “How are these tests done?”
“I can’t tell you, the Council can choose what they wish. You can be assured that fighting is one of the tests. Not until after the claiming, of course. Wouldn’t want to beat you up before the photos of the ceremony are taken.” He laughed and shook my hand before leaving.
Konstantin came over and bear hugged me. “Wheels up,” he whispered in my ear before letting me go. I relaxed, thankful that Jessie was on her way out of the country and away from Yuri and his men. The meal was coming to a close as plates of dessert and bottles of vodka were brought out. It was getting close to sundown, and the claiming ceremony would take place as the full moon rose over the trees. My parents pulled me aside, it was time to get ready. I looked across the room, Mischa was already being escorted out by her mother and some of her friends.
Talking over the link, I filled my parents in on what I had learned. They were relieved to hear Jessie was gone, but nervous that Yuri had made the connection between us. I was disappointed I could no longer be Jessie’s friend and protector; Alpha Stan had been clear on that. He charged Brian and Larry with her safety now, and they reported to him and ONLY to him. I was not allowed to know anything about her except that she was all right.
My mom had talked briefly with Marina, passing along the veiled threat from Yuri. She would have to make sure my mate was protected as she finished school, until she turned eighteen and could be mine fully. I would have to trust her family to keep her safe for me as I returned home.
I took a shower, then dressed in the clothes they had brought for me. Black dress pants, belt, and a crisp white dress shirt open at the collar, black dress shoes. The shirt could be opened for the bite, and the white was traditional to show the blood of the claim. We weren’t shifting, and since she was underage we weren’t mating fully immediately after like most ceremonies entailed. My father went to get into his tuxedo, and my mom had changed into a teal-green formal gown.
We talked about people we had met and what I was doing when I returned home until there was a knock at the door. “It’s time,” Konstantin said. He pulled me into a hug before we went into the hallway. “Welcome to the family, you make my sister whole.”
“Thank you, brother,” I replied. He walked me out, my parents trailing behind. We went through a maze of hallways before we found the great room, and from there walked through the big patio doors and down the stairs to the large grass lawn behind the house. A single slab of granite stood in the center, a few feet above the ground and about ten feet square. Francois was standing in place, dressed in a tuxedo. Konstantin led me to it; I stood just to the back of center, my parents behind me, and stood facing the Pack House patio again. The guests were all gathered around the stone, and when the bell sounded, we turned as one to watch the doors.
Konstantin came through the doors first, Marina on his arm as they walked down the stairs and through the crowd. He helped her onto the slab, and she stood to the side and faced the doors again while he remained on the grass. Music began to play, a traditional Russian wedding song, and my breath left me when I saw her appear on her father’s arm.
She was a vision in white. The dress was silk, tied at her left shoulder leaving the right shoulder open for the bite. It hugged the curves of her breasts, narrowing to her waist before moving out into a knee-length skirt. The side of the dress had slits that gave glimpses of her thigh as she walked towards me. I wanted to rip it off and take her, my wolf was in favor, but we knew it wasn’t time. She was beautiful, this was her day, and she shone like the moon that lit the back yard with its soft glow.
Viktor helped her onto the slab, then jumped up behind her and moved to Marina’s side. Mischa stood in front of me, our hands grasping the others, my eyes looking at hers as we ignored everything else. Her long blonde hair had been braided down her back, and her ice blue eyes shined in the moonlight. She was perfection.
Francois was the elder werewolf present, so we had the honor of being joined by the head of the World Council. “Friends, family and guests, it is my honor to be here as we join the young ones of two great Packs that Luna has brought together. Patrick Clarke, of the St. Croix Pack and the North American Council, has found his match in Mischa Kirolinko of the Kstovo Pack and the European Council. They were lucky to find each other so young, as Mischa is not of age for a full mating, but they will claim each other tonight before Wolf and Luna.”
I squeezed her hands and smiled at her as he continued. “The claiming of a werewolf is a sacred act, a physical sign to all other wolves that the pair is tied together. What Luna has paired, may no wolf interfere with.” He turned to me. “Do you, Patrick Clarke, take Mischa to be your claimed mate? To love, protect and cherish her for the rest of your life and beyond?”
“I do,” I said with a smile.
“And do you, Mischa Kirolinko, take Patrick to be your claimed mate? To love, honor and cherish for the rest of your life and beyond?”
“I do,” she said.
“Then by the power of the Moon Goddess, I pronounce you a mated couple. You may now claim each other.”
I moved forward a step, my arms moving around her waist. She reached up, unbuttoning my shirt so it could be pushed off my shoulder. I leaned down, kissing her neck and shoulder as her lips found mine. We shifted our teeth, the wolf’s growing in, and together bit down hard on each other’s shoulder.
The pain was sharp, but quickly faded as the bond took root. My wolf howled in joy as the ties formed to her wolf; she was mine and I was hers. I could feel her in the back of my mind as I pulled back and started to lick at the bloody wound I had left. She was happy, and so was I.
We kissed, each other’s blood still on our lips as I pulled her tight to me. The mating bites stopped bleeding as we lost ourselves in the embrace and the crowd cheered. If she had been of age, we would have shifted and run off to complete the mating ritual. Since she was not, we held each other as we hugged our parents, then hopped off the stone to form a reception line for the well-wishers.
The patio was soon filled with people, along with the band and an open bar. When the line was over, I led her to the dance floor that had been set up, and we danced alone as a mated couple. The next song, she was taken by her father and I danced with my mother, then the floor filled with mated couples and singles as we partied well into the night. Take away the whole biting thing, and it was pretty close to a human marriage ceremony.
Mischa and I shared a final kiss before we were escorted back to our rooms. I fell into my bed, falling asleep immediately, the bond sharing her happiness as I drifted off.