Alpha Stan’s POV
Larissa and I sat in my office as Charles Thompson, our Pack’s lawyer, reported back to us on what he had found on Jessie’s status. “Let me start with Minnesota law first,” he said. “Basically, without a body and a death certificate, she isn’t dead yet,” he said. “If a missing person report is filed in Minnesota, AND the person is not found for four years after a diligent search, AND the absence is not explained, the person can be declared dead four years after last being seen. The exception to this is if there is a ‘specific peril of death,’ then the person may be determined to have died before the four years is up.”
“So, the video of Jessie, does that count for the exception?”
He paused. “Normally that exception is used for things like airplane crashes, fires, even the 9/11 attacks. If someone wants her declared dead, that would probably be enough IF there was no evidence to the contrary. Even the FBI is treating this investigation as a homicide based on the video. The problem is in entering the legal process. Thus far, no missing person report has been filed. She’s not being sued for collections, not involved in any legal actions in Minnesota, and she is an adult with no living relatives. The statute applies to ‘any action or proceeding involving the property of the person, contractual or property rights contingent upon the absentee’s death or the administration of the absentee’s estate,’ and so far there isn’t one. She doesn’t have a will, no life insurance, no estate to speak of. Our Pack holds the lease on her cabin, and it is not in default. She doesn’t even have a credit card, she uses a debit card and her bank account is full of money from her legal settlement. You even paid all her medical bills.”
Larissa picked up on it. “So someone has to start legal action against her, file a missing person report, then get a judge to agree the video is enough.”
“Yes. Until then, nothing starts. The power of attorney she signed for Patrick would apply in Minnesota as well, since it regarded her legal affairs. If it is filed, he can fight it, and probably drag it out a few months. We could lose in court or we could drag it out for four years. Eventually, though, if we can’t find her or evidence she is still alive, she’ll be declared dead.”
“How about Russia,” I asked.
“The difference there is that there is an active legal proceeding she is a party to. Russian law is similar to ours. Article 45 of the Russian Civil Code allows a judge to declare the person deceased if missing for five years, OR if a person disappeared under life-threatening circumstances, which make it likely the person died of an accident AND six months has expired. The actual death can be ‘back-dated’ to the date of the disappearance, or in this case the tape. The key here is that six months has to expire. He can’t argue that.”
I smiled. “So six months minimum in Russian courts, and a few months if action is filed here. That gives us time, time for Patrick to get ready for an Alpha job.”
“And time where he doesn’t get three billion rubles of his brother’s money,” Larissa added.
“He really messed it up when he offered the reward the way he did,” Charles said. “Without a body, he screwed himself.”
I’d just had sex for the first time and John had bitten my shoulder, marking and mating me. My body was quivering with power, and tingles were rushing everywhere I touched him. I was floating on clouds of pleasure and love, and I never wanted to come down. I snuggled my face down into his chest, completely sated and happy.
All of the sudden, it felt like my whole leg cramped up. I cried out in pain, grabbing my calf with my hands as tears fell down my face. John tried to help, but then my other leg cramped up and the pain was worse than before. “You’re shifting,” he said as he held my hand.
I couldn’t talk, the pain was too much. I felt bones crack and move, muscles shifted and grew, and my skin felt like it was being shredded as fur pushed out. The changes started at my feet, as it elongated into a wolf’s lower leg and my toes turned into a paw with claws, then worked their way up my body. My hips folded, and it sounded like gunshots as my spine changed and a tail grew out. My arms turned into legs, I looked at the white fur on my new paws before the pain got even worse.
When my head and neck changed, the pain became unbearable. I screamed as my head reshaped, my jaw moving out and my teeth changing and pushing through my gums. Halfway through the scream, it turned into a howl of pain, and then it was over. My head collapsed back down to the mattress, and I lay there, panting and exhausted. I couldn’t tell how long the change had taken, it seemed like hours but was probably less than a minute.
“You’re so beautiful,” John said as he ran his fingers through the fur on my back. I relaxed into his touch, it didn’t hurt, and the tingles helped calm me. He sounded different, and as I listened I could hear so much more than before. I could hear his heartbeat, his breathing, even the scratches of the mouse under the cabin. I took a deep breath, and the smells overwhelmed me. It was like I had watched television my whole life on a 13” black and white, and now I had a 70” 4k hi-def monitor to watch. EVERYTHING smelled different, including my mate.
Especially my mate. His scent calmed me, it called to me and told me he was MINE. I felt my wolf in my head, she was happy to be free, happy to have her mate. She wanted to run and play with him, but I could barely move. “I don’t know if I can get up to run outside,” I told him.
“We will run, but not until the storm is past,” his voice in my head said. I looked at him quizzically. “We have a mind link now that we are mated, love. All you have to do is think of me and talk in your head, and I’ll hear you.”
“Cool beans,” I said. “How did this happen?”
“The mating bite must have broken the spell that held your wolf down,” he said in my head. I rolled onto my back a little as his hand rubbed my chest and belly, it felt so good. I looked over at him, he stepped back and shifted into the silver-grey wolf I knew as Cuddles. He jumped onto the bed, laying next to me, his body curling around my much smaller grey and white wolf. “The first shift is the worst, after this it will be much faster and not as painful,” he said.
“I’m too tired to shift back,” I said. “Let’s nap.” He put his head up so it was resting next to mine. He was much bigger than me and he curled right around my sore body. My whole body tingled from the fur to fur contact. I relaxed into him, and it didn’t take long for me to fall asleep for the first time as a wolf.
My nose woke me the next morning; I could smell everything. The sheets smelled of him, of us, of the sex we’d had last night. The cabin was saturated with our scent, and the window had been cracked open to let some of the cool morning air in. I could smell the lake, the trees, and the smell of leaves burning in the distance. Mostly, I could smell the steak cooking.
I rolled up onto my four legs, shakily standing as my wolf and I learned how to move in this body. I made my way to the edge of the bed, jumping off my front legs landed on the floor, but I wasn’t quick enough and I fell onto my chest and face as my back legs caught up too fast. I whined a little, then stood up again. Walking slowly into the main room, I saw my mate at the cookstove, turning a large steak in the cast iron pan. “Good morning, Jessie,” he said as he looked back at me. “Do you want to shift back now for breakfast or wait?”
I whined and looked at the door, I had to go to the bathroom and I really didn’t want the pain of shifting right now. He walked over and pushed it open for me, and I trotted out onto the deck. “Be back in a few minutes, breakfast is almost ready.” I walked slowly down the stairs, getting more confident with each step, then broke into a run for the trees.
My wolf and I were as one as we ran through the woods, dodging trees and jumping over fallen logs. It felt wonderful, freeing, and I felt complete for the first time in my life. I stopped and did my business, then turned around. I was surrounded by woods and had no idea which direction I had come from. My wolf just laughed and told me to use my nose. I caught my own scent and followed it back to the cabin. I got onto the porch and scratched at the door. “I’m back,” I sent to my mate.
He opened the door, a plate of steak and eggs in his hand. “Do you want this on the table or the floor?”
I was enjoying my wolf time too much to change now. “Floor please.” He cut up my steak into chunks, then brought the plate over and set it on the floor next to the couch for me. I was famished, and almost inhaled the eggs before realizing they weren’t cool enough yet. I dropped them back on the plate and looked at him, tongue hanging to the side as it cooled. “Owww…”
“What did you expect, I just took them off,” he said. He brought over a bowl of water for me to drink, and I cooled my tongue that way. He was laughing a little as he sat on the floor by me, his plate on the small coffee table, and started to eat. I tried a single piece of steak, and biting into it was a revelation. He’d cooked it rare, where I had always liked it medium rare, and I knew why. The taste of the beef exploded in my mouth, my taste and smell being so much more intense now than before. I looked at him, tail wagging, then started chowing down on the rest of the meat. “You need lots of meat and protein after your first shifts, they take a lot out of your body.”
“Was yours like this?”
“I don’t remember my first shift, remember that we normally shift about the time we start crawling as babies. They don’t like it, it is difficult on them, but baby bodies are more flexible, and the bones aren’t as hard. Your shift was the most painful I’ve seen.”
“Because Father Kempechny cast a spell to keep my wolf from coming out?”
He nodded. “I can understand why he did so. The power and dominance your wolf has is impressive, clearly that of an Alpha. It would show at your first shift, and how could he have you adopted into another Pack and have that come out? It would raise questions, and DNA tests would prove who you were, and Yevgheny would kill you too. He sent you to a human family far away, where you could grow without detection and as a human. It worked well, everyone smelled you as fully human. It was only my wolf that was able to detect yours and connect with it.” She tilted her head. “My guess is the spell was designed that way, or it just wasn’t powerful enough to withstand the mating pull. That comes from the Goddess herself, and it is the most powerful thing in the werewolf world. I don’t know, maybe it is fate. What I do know is that as soon as I walked into that place and caught your scent, I knew you were mine.”
She licked my face, her breath smelling of steak and eggs. “As soon as I shifted and smelled you I knew as well. My wolf had always known, I guess.”
We finished our breakfast, and he took the plates and set them in the sink. After he washed up, he pulled his shirt and jeans off and stood before me nude. “How about a run?”
I barked and ran to the door, rushing out when he opened it. He stretched on the porch, looking out over the lake, then shifted into his wolf. I ran over to him, my head only came up to his chest. I could easily sit down under him while he was standing, and my head could stay under his chin; my wolf loved his size and power. “He’s a strong mate, able to protect us and our pups,” my wolf told me as I rubbed against his chest. He stood still as my wolf rubbed our scent along his body, then we came back out in front and faced him. I gave my wolf the lead, and she dropped her front legs to the ground, back legs up and tail wagging, and we barked at him. She wanted to play.
He dropped down into the same position, then we spun and took off for the woods. He followed close behind, always there but not pushing us. I was much more coordinated now than I was when I woke up, and soon was leading him on a merry chase around the small island. We stopped on a rocky point at the south end, laying on the cool rock as the morning sun warmed our bodies. The lake was quiet, the cabins surrounding it mostly empty this late in the season. It wouldn’t be long before the cold weather would start to ice the lake over. The days were short and the nights long as we headed towards November. This far north, the first big snow could happen any time.
I put my head on his front leg and closed my eyes. “I could stay like this with you forever, but we can’t really do that, can we.”
He started to groom my neck and ears while I looked at the lake. “We can’t hide from our responsibilities forever. You need to go to Russia eventually, and prove you are alive so you inherit your father’s estate. Then we need to decide if we want to fight for his Pack.”
“Won’t we just get it if we want?”
“As his direct heir, you have the strongest claim to the Alpha title of the Moscow Pack. As long as you and I can prove to the Council we are ready, I think they will give it to us. We will have to prove we are strong enough to defend our Pack and our titles, though.”
“How do we do that?”
“We train. We are going to alternate language training with training for you, in wolf and human form. I’ll teach you all I can to bring out the warrior that is your wolf. She is strong, trust her and believe in yourself. The Goddess Luna gave you this power for a reason, and she has given me to you to rule by your side.”
I looked out over the lake. “I’m only twenty-one and I’ve just found my wolf,” I said. “I don’t feel ready to lead a Pack.”
“Then it’s a good thing we’re isolated here. Give your wolf and I a few weeks and you’ll be amazed at what you can do.” He licked my face. “Break time is over. I’ll give you a count of ten head start, but last one to the porch does the dishes.”
I was off through the trees like a shot.