Giving Her the Finger
I could hear the party before I even got to the door. “You sure this is all right,” I asked Stan as he escorted my bridesmaids and I to the doors of the club.
“Of course,” he said. “Not all human traditions for marriage translate for us, especially those associated with bachelor parties. Once you’ve met your true mate, there isn’t desire for another, and if a woman tried to kiss him, he’d probably throw up. This is a celebration, a chance for all the guests to get together and have fun before the ceremony tomorrow.”
“Lots of drinking, but we’re wolves and you’re pregnant so we’ve got lots of non-alcoholic drinks for you,” Mischa said.
“I’ve rented the whole venue, the bartenders and staff are all Pack, and we have buses to get people back to their hotels or our Pack House,” Stan said. “Relax and have fun, tomorrow is going to be a blur.”
I stepped into the club and an attendant took our coats. I was dressed in a clingy red sleeveless dress that came down to mid-thigh and showed the beginning of my baby bump, with matching heels and gold jewelry. Mischa looked older than her seventeen years, in a silver dress that barely covered her ass and had a daring plunge to her bustline. “Patrick is going to freak over that dress,” I said as I looked at her.
“Then he better not leave me alone,” she said as she pushed through the doors into the club. The beat pulsed through the room and the lights were going, the place was already packed, and it was only ten at night. Young couples were on the floor, mated couples with eyes only for each other, and single males looking for Miss Right Now until Miss Right shows up. The music stopped, and people turned towards us, most bowing slightly towards their Alpha as the other leaders joined us at the doorway.
“Thank you all for coming to celebrate my marriage to Alpha-Heir Jessie Donato,” John said as we pulled me to his side. “It means a lot to us that you would travel here to be with us as we join together in the human world.” There was clapping and calls for us to kiss, calls I was all too happy to meet.
It seemed like hours, meeting and greeting all the guests from across North America and Europe. “I haven’t seen a gathering like this in a long time,” my mate said to me as we took a table overlooking the dance floor. “It’s been good for everyone.”
“Matings are a good thing,” I replied as I saw James and Katya walking over. I got up and hugged my friend from the Moscow Pack, while John congratulated the Gamma of his former Pack in Scotland. “I’m so happy for you,” I said.
“Me too, he’s amazing,” she said.
Tears on her face and fear in her eyes betrayed something, and I pulled her into the chair next to me. “What’s wrong, Katya?”
“I’m going to miss my kids,” she said. “James’ Pack isn’t as big as ours, and the children go to school with humans. I’m going to have to leave them all and start over,” she said.
It was the norm, she wasn’t a ranked wolf and thus would move with her mate. I had an idea, but I needed to know if they would even consider it. I linked the idea to John, and he agreed with me. “Katya, if we could arrange it so you two would stay in Moscow, would you do it?”
She looked over at James, who nodded. “I don’t have family in Scotland, my parents are gone and my sister is living with her mate’s Pack in Germany. I do have responsibilities, though.”
“Let me work on it,” I said. “Meanwhile, have some fun before you head back to bed,” I said with a knowing grin. I got up, taking John’s hand and walking over to the table in the bar area where Alpha Esca, Luna Eleanor, Betas Jack and Sarah, and daughter Julia were sitting. Konstantin was seated between Esca and Jack, looking rather subdued and uncomfortable since Julia was ignoring him. “Where’s Jane?”
“Dancing with some new friends from Colorado,” Eleanor said as I bent down to give her a hug. With an eye motion, Konstantin jumped up and offered me his chair, moving around to sit next to Julia. “Quite the party you have going,” she said as another round of drinks was passed out.
“Thank you, Stan went all out,” I said. “I have a favor to ask of you, and I’ll understand if you say no,” I said as the pair turned to me.
“Whatever you need,” Esca said.
I looked over at Katya swaying in James’ arms on the dance floor. “Our Pack is going to be a mess when we finally take over,” I started. “Right now, the upper leadership is a mish-mash of people volunteered from different European Packs, and in six months they’ll return home. Most of the Pack leadership was killed, arrested or left for St. Petersburg, and what is left may not be loyal to me. I have Patrick and Mischa staying on as Betas, but I’m worried after what happened with Polina.”
“You’re worried about security,” Esca said.
“Exactly. Even if it wasn’t for all the money and notoriety we’ve gained, we’re vulnerable without loyal people in key positions. I may be the heir, but no one there knows me. I need a Gamma I can trust, and Luna just did something amazing.”
“James,” Eleanor picked up quickly.
“Yes. Katya is a schoolteacher, she loves her kids and her family is all there. I’d like to ask for permission to let James join my Pack as my Gamma. I’ve talked to them already, and he is willing, but his loyalty to you would not let him be the one to ask.”
Esca looked over at Jack. “Are you ready for a promotion?” Jack nodded and smiled. “Of course you can take him, Jessie. When you agreed to take on the Moscow Pack, every European Alpha breathed a sigh of relief. It is in our best interest to make your transition safe and smooth, because we have enough to deal with in St. Petersburg. It will be a good challenge for him to take on a larger Pack in an urban location, too. The fact that it makes his mate happy is just a bonus.”
I smiled and hugged him, then hugged Eleanor. “Thank you so much,” I said. Lowering my voice to a whisper, I leaned into her ear. “How’s it going with Konstantin?”
She laughed. “That boy has a mile of groveling to do before my stubborn daughter will forgive him, but he’s had a good start. Esca didn’t even have to do anything, there wasn’t any fight left in that wolf after his Mom got done with him.” She looked over at the two, Konstantin was trying to talk with her and she was watching Jane on the dance floor. She wasn’t making it easy for him, her dress showed off her developing figure and her sharp wit cut like a knife. “She still won’t talk to him, so he wrote her a long letter. I caught her smiling, so he did something right.”
“He won’t give up,” I said as I sat back and smiled again at Esca. “I have another proposal for you to think about.”
“Haven’t you taken enough?” Esca was laughing at me.
“No, this is a good thing. I plan to start an exchange program for the younger members of my Pack, like the humans do with their foreign exchange programs. As juniors in high school, they would spend a school year abroad in an allied Pack under the protection of that Alpha. I’d like to send some to Scotland, some here to America, European countries, wherever there is a Pack I trust. The Moscow Pack has been isolated far too long, and I have to break that cycle with the younger ones. It also gives them a chance to immerse themselves in another language and culture.”
“I’m in favor of it,” Eleanor said. “I’m surprised someone hasn’t tried it before.”
“And I want to ask Jane and Julia to come to Moscow for a year.” Esca’s eyes got wide, but then he thought about it for a while and let out a breath. “She will need to learn the language, and she can be there under our protection. Konstantin will be close enough to see her on weekends, supervised of course. It might help Jane find her mate as well. I plan to travel and see the world, and I’ll bring them along.”
“I can’t stop worrying about their security, they’re my only daughters,” he said.
“Send a Pack Warrior to be their bodyguard. There’s probably someone out there who would want to attend University, learn a language, or search the Continent for their mate.”
“I know this is unorthodox, but we won’t be normal Alphas,” John said. “To me, they are like my nieces. I’ll keep them safe.”
Esca nodded. “I have to think about it and talk to my girls first, plus ask the Pack. Have you talked to Alpha Stan yet?”
“I have, he is excited about it. We’re already getting Charles to draft an exchange treaty to spell it all out. We can set it up to be bilateral or expand it to include other Packs willing to meet the same conditions.” I looked over at Julia. “I imagine she’d love to see the Moscow Ballet or the Symphony. There are excellent music schools there, too.”
“She’s already been looking,” Eleanor said. “She may be pissed at him, but she knows her future and wants to be the best Luna she can be. Jane is apprehensive, she’s always done things with Julia and now she’s the one waiting for her mate.”
Like a cold sheet of water, the Alpha command from Stan to protect the building crashed across the club. Instantly, warriors and Pack leaders were on edge, ready to fight. “What’s going on,” Esca said as he gathered his family behind him. Konstantin stood on his right side, Julia holding him from behind.
“John, Jessie, come to the front door please. There is a messenger here for Jessie.”
“I don’t know, it’s a messenger but it must be bad,” I said as I took John’s hand. We walked through the people as they moved the vulnerable to a defensible position in the bar area, fighters surrounding them.
“I have a bad feeling,” John said. We walked past the coat room to the entryway, where a dangerous-looking man was standing holding a small box. His expensive suit, slicked back hair and pinkie ring were all I needed to see to know what we were dealing with here. “Don’t get too close to him,” John sent me.
“He’s here alone, and he’s not nervous, so he has something in reserve,” I answered. I walked up in front of him, letting my wolf buck up my confidence as I stood tall and unafraid. “You wanted to see me?”
The man smiled, the kind of smile that made your neck tingle with danger. “Ah, Jessie Donato, such a pleasure to finally meet you. I am Santino Riina of Corleone, Sicily. I have a message from my father for you.”
“Why should I listen? I have nothing to do with the Sicilian Mafia, and never will.”
He shook his head and offered me the small box, the size a book would come in. “You will listen to what I say, and do what I ask of you. You know what we are and what we are capable of, Jessie. You have already inherited Yevgheny’s wealth, and as the only surviving relative of Yuri Zubkov you will inherit his as well. Along with his wealth comes his obligations. He owes us one hundred and thirty million dollars, American. On Wednesday at midnight, that goes to a hundred and forty million. You will make good on his debt to us.”
“I don’t think so.” Something was wrong. I reached out and took the box, pulling the bow open. Lifting off the top, my heart stopped right before John went to grab Stan, who was on the verge of shifting in front of a human. “GET HIM OUT OF HERE,” I yelled.
“Payment information is in the box. We can wipe out everyone you love, Jessie. Don’t be stupid. Pay the money before Larissa Larsen loses anything else.” He walked out, escorted by five men, as Alpha Stan Larsen was pushed back inside and out of public eye. I picked up the box, looking down in horror at it.
It was Luna Larissa’s ring finger, her wedding ring still attached.