I adored Chloe’s body. She could wear a sack of potatoes and look gorgeous. Now, though, I didn’t wear a potato sack, oh no, I wore a maxi, airy peach-colored dress that looked slightly Greek with the rope belt that hugged my waist. Also, the dress exposed an infinity tattoo I hadn’t noticed before at the small of my back, thanks to the deep back cleavage.
Why infinity? I asked as I checked the tattoo in the mirror in my room. Isn’t it a bit cliché?
It might be, but it means a lot to me, Chloe answered a little bitterly.
Would you care to elaborate? I prompted, truly curious.
For some reason, Chloe fell silent. That was intriguing. Chloe usually didn’t mind explaining stuff, but on this one she was silent. I decided not to push her, though. If she ever wanted to tell me, she was more than welcome to. Because while I didn’t exactly like her, we were still stuck in this body together.
Shrugging it off, I turned around so I could look at my front. My hair was carefully braided an rested on my shoulder, making me look angelic. Since I wasn’t really into makeup, I didn’t know how to apply it correctly, so I’d asked Caitlyn, the second big sister, to apply it to me. She was surprised at the request since Chloe, apparently, knew how to apply makeup better than anyone else, but I told her that I was so excited my hands shook, and she somehow bought it. It shocked me every time all over again how Chloe’s family didn’t really know her that they believe my personality was hers. Sure, I still believed they loved her, but they never bothered unearthing the true Chloe, and that saddened me. Because while Chloe wasn’t the perfect girl, she was still a person worth knowing, especially by her family.
You begin understanding why I ended my life, Chloe’s voice was tinged with grim satisfaction. It took you five months, but as the saying goes, better now than never.
I sighed as I grabbed the gold loop earrings and began attaching them to my ears. I still think they love you, Chloe, I told her. But I’m not oblivious. It’s pretty obvious they love the person they think you are.
You’ve just said it! she exclaimed. The love the Chloe they made up in their head! They don’t love me!
What I was trying to say is that they never really got to know the real you, therefore they couldn’t love you, I elucidated. What Chloe didn’t know and refused to even ask about, was that I knew what it was like not to be loved, to be truly ignored by your family. But I didn’t mention it, because we were living in Chloe’s world now. I had different parents now, and not to mention I had siblings, something I didn’t have in my previous life. It was all about Chloe, so much so that there was no place for Claire.
Once I finished clasping the earrings in their rightful place, I put on a matching, simple golden necklace made of gold chain and a beautiful yellow topaz as a pendant. That done, I was finally ready for the Mating Ceremony.
Norma and Jefferson were waiting in the lounge with Chloe’s sisters. Norma looked good in a beige pencil suit and matching heels, her blonde hair flowing down her back in soft waves and her blue eyes shining with excitement. Next to her, Jeff wore a plain black tux with a beige tie, to match his wife’s clothing, his dark hair glistening with gel and his dark eyes weary.
Then there was Candace and Caitlyn. Much like Chloe, those two were quite the bombshells; Candace, the oldest Danes sister, inherited their mother’s blue eyes and their father’s dark hair, and it made her look like a supermodel. With her tall, curvaceous figure, the sun-kissed skin and the light-blue maxi tight dress she was wearing, she looked nothing like her true age of thirty. Caitlyn herself was just as beautiful, with tousled dark hair, sexy dark eyes and slender figure draped in a slutty red mini-dress, which she rocked with her narrow waist and long legs.
Next to Candace stood her mate, Barry McGee. He was a respectful werewolf in the Texas Pack, being the alpha, Alfonso Jennings’ personal lawyer. He was tall, broad-shouldered and handsome, especially wearing suit like he did now, his sandy-brown hair cropped close to his scalp and his eyes a luminous shade of turquoise.
This family wasn’t just a stunner, but also successful. Luxury reeked off these people.
I couldn’t help but think of my own family and compare the two. My father was a plain, lanky human working at a shipping company and writing philosophical articles in his free time for extra cash. My mother was a short, mousy woman who worked as an English teacher at a local high-school back in Amarillo. I had no siblings, and my parents didn’t attend prestigious weddings or Mating Ceremonies. We’d been an average, insignificant family. And then I died.
Now who’s being gloomy, Chloe murmured smugly.
Ignoring her, I plastered a big smile on my face. “I’m ready!” I called to these wealthy people I now called family.
Candace gave me a big smile. “Looking good, little sis,” she complimented, giving me a teasing shoulder-bump. “Trying to catch some guy’s eye tonight?”
Caitlyn giggled and put an arm around my shoulders. “Of course she is,” she gave me a teasing grin, “Chloe’s always on the prowl.”
I chuckled, uncomfortable. Chloe had told me she used to sleep around with men, and I knew I was expected to behave flirtatiously like she did, but it wasn’t in me to do so. Heck, when I’d been me, boys were the last thing on my mind. I’d been a shy virgin who didn’t want or need a boyfriend, and that was just fine with me. I wasn’t going to change my ways now just because it would pacify the image of Chloe this family had in mind. In fact, by changing Chloe’s ways, I might prove to her that her family truly loved her.
After a few more teasing, it was time to go. We all settled inside Jeff’s BMW jeep and drove to the the hall in which the Mating Ceremony was held.
A lot of people were already there when we arrived. Appetizers and champagne were served, and the family disbanded, each going to mingle and meet people they knew. Is there anyone I should greet? I asked Chloe. It was the first event I attended since the revival and from what I knew, Chloe didn’t exactly have any friends or acquaintances. She was a lone-wolf, literally and figuratively. Still, werewolves were, by nature, social creatures, lone-wolf or not, and she might have someone she used to be friendly with.
Not in particular, Chloe said thoughtfully. The friends I used to have might be here, but I lost contact with them in the months before my suicide because I was drowning in self-despair. So for now I don’t foresee anyone coming up to say hello but maybe some old flings, but that’s not very likely.
A social butterfly, Chloe was. I see, I said in response, and then wondered, while drinking my champagne and scanning the crowd, if I could really judge her like that; after all, in my old life I didn’t have much friends either. But, unlike Chloe, I’d been a very shy and very introverted person, so making friends hadn’t come so easily to me. Chloe did use to have friends, but she’d chosen to discard them when she turned all self-loathing and bitter.
I sighed. Comparing myself to Chloe had become a stupid habit. I needed to drop this. The fact I was different from was clear, since no person was the same. But still, it was somehow intriguing to know someone so intimately like I knew Chloe and try to see the matching and mismatching traits.
As I watched the crowd, I glimpsed a few glances shot my way, from dudes mostly, but from some girls as well. The girls didn’t look happy about my presence there, and the guys were blatantly checking me out. Let me guess, girls hate you because you’re pretty?
Chloe snorted. As if. While I am pretty, they look at me like that because I probably slept with their lovers or something. I wouldn’t know; I never bothered to check with the guys if they had a woman or not.
Not very ethical of you, I noted and forced away a grimace when a man raked his leering eyes down my body. God, I hate this.
Well, sorry that I’m gorgeous, Chloe tactfully said.
And modest, too, I said back. Chloe scoffed but said nothing. She knew I was right; she was pretty vain, which I could only blame on the environment she’d grown up in. Spoilt and vain and arrogant, Chloe was, only because she was coming from a wealthy family with men throwing themselves at her feet since she was loaded and hot. If she’d lived the life I had...
There I go again. I needed to cut lose from the thoughts of my previous life, because it was’t important anymore. As of right now, Norma and Jefferson Danes were my parents, Candace and Caitlyn were my sister, and Barry was my brother-in-law. That’s all that mattered now. That’s all that should matter.
As I was musing on what I should and shouldn’t think about, there was a call for everyone to gather around for the Ceremony. I found my family sitting close to the aisle and I sat with them, waiting for the Ceremony to begin.
First walked Eugene Harris, the Texas Pack beta. He practically glowed with happiness, and it made my heart jolt a little. Then came in his mate, the bride, Maxine Simmons, and the look on Eugene’s face was melting-worthy. If a man ever looked at me like that, I would feel like the luckiest woman alive.
The Ceremony, much to my disappointment, was like an ordinary wedding. The only difference was that the line “until death do us apart” wasn’t said, and I guessed it was because mating was forever, even after the life was over. Once one of the the mated pair dies, the other would soon die as well.
Once the Ceremony was done, I was sure the festivities would begin when the priest held up his hands, quieting everyone down, and smiled. “We have a special guest in this blessed day and event,” he boomed, “and that guest asked personally to give his blessings publicly. Please welcome Mr. Zachary Greyson, the Beta of the Millennium.”
Whispers echoed in the hall as everyone clapped. “The Beta?” Norma said, astonished. Apparently, no one had included her in this little tidbit. “What’s the Beta doing here?”
No one responded to her question, because at that moment, a man in his late twenties went up on the stage, shaking happy Eugene’s hand and smiling at Maxine. The man was... handsome. Really handsome. He had short, curly black hair, a pair of the lightest green eyes I’d ever seen – which I could see from all the way down here, since they were so bright – and he was tall, muscular and really strong.
I wasn’t the only one drooling, though; I saw many other women giving him a pleased appraisals, including Caitlyn. “He’s yummy,” she whispered to me, licking her lips. “And he’s also single.”
“Really,” I mumbled, unable to look away from him. He didn’t look like the kind of man who would be single for long.
If you want him, you should go for it, Chloe commented dryly. I wouldn’t stop you. I don’t mind having my body fucked by a cute guy, even if I’m not the one in control.
I blushed. I don’t want to fuck him. I just want to look.
You dont have a vagina, then, she muttered and then paused. He’s looking at you.
“What?!” I spoke aloud unintentionally, snapping my attention back to the Beta... and realized Chloe was right. He was looking at me. Right at me, in fact. I could feel his green eyes boring holes in my brown ones. I gulped and looked away immediately, my blush deepening.
After a few, silent moments, he began speaking. I couldn’t hear a word of his speech, although it must’ve been along the lines of “congratulations on your mating, bro” and so on. I was entranced by this man for no apparent reason, because while he was truly handsome – drop-dead gorgeous, even – I had no idea who he was beyond his title, and that wasn’t like me to be smacked speechless like that by some guy I was only watching.
There you go, Chloe actually managed to sound smirking in my mind. Your vajayjay does work after all.
My blush deepened. Stop it, Chloe.
Ahh, young virginal mind, she said, reminiscing, I remember how innocent I once was, too, until Ty Gibbons deflowered me...
Oh my God, please be quiet, I begged, feeling my face turning an ugly shade of tomato.
Come on, Claire, she gave me a mental eye-roll, you’re basically twenty-five now. Aren’t you supposed to be more mature about this kind of things?
It was true; while Chloe was twenty-two still, I was actually twenty-five. But that didn’t mean I had to be mature about that concept. Just be quiet, please.
She gave me her famous scoff. Whatever.
Suddenly everyone clapped and cheered, and I realized the Beta’s speech had come to an end. I clapped politely along with the others, and finally the true festivities began.
I sought shelter at the buffet and found it in the form of a deliciously-looking shish-kebab with marinade sauce. I busied myself by eating the glorious meat and evading everyone I could. I was still aflush with embarrassment at Chloe’s words and the Beta’s momentary attention, but I acted as if I was the most confident woman in the world... Not.
As I was munching on my third shish-kebab – hey, I was hungry – I didn’t realize someone had come near me. I was busy closing my eyes and moaning in pure bliss at the exploding taste of the food so when that someone chuckled, I froze. Prying my eyes open, I forced myself to swallow the entire piece I had in my mouth – which hurt a little – and whirled to my side to see the one person I wished hadn’t just witnessed me having a mouthgasm.
Zachary Greyson was even more handsome up close. He was taller than me by a foot at least, and looked much stronger next to my delicate, soft form. His hair wasn’t just completely, but a rich kind of black, inky, which gave it a slight blueish hue. His eyes, though, were easily his best feature, which said a lot about them since every part of him was gorgeous; they were not just light green, but so light, in fact, they were almost gray, and the effect it had was quite stunning.
He was so close that I started blushing again. I lowered my head and fiddled with my dress as I greeted him respectfully. “Mr. Greyson, I – I didn’t see you,” my cheeks flamed hotter and my stutter. “May I be of any help?”
Good job, Claire, Chloe said flatly. Now he thinks you’re some submissive, weak wolf, which, by the way, I never was.
That was a surprise. My research about werewolves unearthed some info about dominance and submission in the wolf terms. Usually, female wolves were in the middle of the dominance scale, although, like in every rule, there were exceptions to that, but those exceptions were really rare. Are you saying you’re one of those legendary dominant female wolves? I asked her, momentarily forgetting who was standing in front of me.
Don’t be silly, she said, and I again could hear her facial expression, if she even had one. Now she was rolling her eyes. But there’s something your research haven’t told you; there’s no black or white in this kind of things. I’m not submissive, yet I’m not really dominant. I am, however, closer to the dominant edge of the scale. Now, quit thinking about this shit and focus on the hot man you’re screwing with your eyes.
Seeing as my eyes were currently lowered to the floor, that last statement wasn’t true anymore. Still, I listened to her because I didn’t want to make an idiot out of myself. Yet before I could say something else to the hot specimen before me, he spoke. “You may do only one thing, and it’s to tell me your name.”
His voice wasn’t as deep as I expected it to be. It was baritone and raspy and undeniably sexy. And he was asking me to tell him my name. Slowly, I raised my eyes and his locked them on spot. He was looking at me with intensity, and for some reason, even though we were standing in a respectful distance from each other, I could feel sudden warmth coming over my body that couldn’t be because of the weather, since it was chilly, and the air was somewhat charge.
Claire, meet attraction, Chloe commented. Jesus, girl, you should at least manage to understand what’s going on. No one can be that naïve.
I’ve never been attracted like that to anyone before, I told her defensively, and then focused on what was going on. I was stalling. I needed to tell him my name. He was waiting for it. He requested that of me. I needed to tell him the name under which I’d taken refuge.
And for some reason, it physically hurt me to say, “I’m Chloe. Chloe Danes.”