“Lyla, get your butt down here. We gotta go or we’re gonna be late. The Alpha will have our hides if we embarrass him,” Teresa shouted at me from downstairs.
I rolled my eyes. As if she actually cared if she embarrassed the Alpha. I yanked my bags down the flight of stairs. Unlike Teresa, I hated that we had to do this.
Every five years Werewolf royalty held a ball. Over the last thirty years, it’s become increasingly difficult to find a mate. So difficult that one hundred pack Alphas have signed the accords to put aside their differences for one week in order to attend the festivities in hopes that members of their packs have a chance to find their mate.
Any unmated wolf who was twenty-one and over was required to attend, it was one of the many laws of our kind if your Alpha signed the accords.
Just because I understood the logic and necessity in having to have this type of event, didn’t mean I was happy about it. The werewolf population was starting to dwindle. Our reproduction rate was abysmally low. We could only reproduce pure wolves with our mates.
The only other option was to bite humans in hopes that their turning was successful, but creating halfbreeds was forbidden. Unless we wanted to face execution at the hand of the royal family, it was not done. If we weren’t careful, we’d be on the brink of extinction.
“Finally,” Teresa grinned as I reached the door.
I shrugged. “What? I’m in no rush to get there.”
“Why not? Finding our mate is supposed to make us whole. We’d find the one person who’d love us for exactly who we are. Don’t you want that? Doesn’t the possibility excite you?” Teresa asked.
“Not really. I honestly don’t think it’s gonna happen for me,” I said truthfully. “I’m guessing it excites you?” I chuckled.
“Damn straight, sister. Just thinking about it gets my nipples perky.”
I choked on my saliva. She had no filter. She basically said any thought that crossed her mind whether it be raunchy or tame. I’d known her all my life and it still surprised me anytime she said something cringe worthy.
“As much as I love to hear the status of how perky your nipples are, let’s go,” I said as I made myself comfortable in her gray jeep wrangler. “We have a long road ahead of us.”
She agreed and started the engine. I hoped the twelve-hour drive into the heart of Mississippi would happen quickly. I was prone to car sickness during long road trips. My wolf genes did their best to tame the dizziness, but there was bound to be at least one episode of vomiting.
Ten hours in and I was ready to yank my hair out. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Teresa, but one could only take so many Taylor Swift songs in a day. She’d been belting out Tay’s lyrics since we hit the interstate.
Anything to get a break from the music, I attempted to continue our earlier discussion. I lowered the volume.
“Hey,” she whined. “That song was my Jam.”
And didn’t I know it. It was the tenth time I’d heard it today. I ignored her protests. “So, you really think you could find your mate this year?” I asked her.
Her dark brows kneaded together. “I don’t know, but I hope that I do,” she answered seriously. “I pray that the Goddess finds me worthy of having a mate.
I thought about her answer. Would the Moon Goddess find me worthy?
What were the chances of finding my mate at this thing? Probably zilch, but I was okay with that. Teresa, on the other hand, would take it hard if she didn’t. No one in our pack had been our mates and she had a mini breakdown after turning twenty-one and she still hadn’t found her mate.
I was more realistic than her. No one in our pack had been mated in the last ten years. Our pack had no small children. The youngest member was thirteen and that was my sister, Skye.
It was rare for a mated couple to have more than one child, but my parents had been blessed with two children. The werewolf community believed in blessings and curses. They believed the Goddess had cursed our kind as punishment for becoming too power hungry as a race.
Who knew what the real reason was?
Maybe there was a scientific explanation or maybe we truly were cursed by the Goddess and she decided to stop granting everyone a mate.
“What about you?” Teresa asked, pulling me out of my thoughts.
She already knew my answer, but she was hoping I’d have a change of perspective. My answer had not changed in the ten hours we’d been driving. “You know that I don’t think It’ll happen for me and besides, I have Caspian.”
She rolled her eyes as she quickly gazed into the mirror, checking her hair before returning her eyes to the road ahead. She was beautiful. Her light brown skin, brown eyes, and dark brown hair held so much vibrancy it could make anyone jealous. She had a natural glow about her.
“Girl, you need to dump Asspian. He’s a grade A douche and you deserve better than him.”
She’d never made her dislike for him a secret, but she reigned it in a bit for my benefit. I never understood why she thought he was a jerk. He’d been nothing but good to me. Caspian and I had been together for two years now and we were happy with each other. This years mating call would not change that for us.
Only thirty couples had been mated at the last call. Caspian and I would be just fine.
Two hours later, we finally crossed the royal packs border. Our mental links fell into sync with our other pack members who’d already arrived. Our Alpha’s relief at our arrival was evident through the pack bond. Something had him worried over the pack safety.
Our Beta communicated a time and place to meet and abruptly severed our connection.
“Well that was rude as hell,” I said aloud.
“No shit,” Teresa mumbled.
She’d obviously picked up on the high emotions as well.
Another thirty minutes of driving and we found ourselves at the Fleur De Lis Hotel in Forest, Mississippi. It was one of the designated hotels where we could stay during the festivities for the week. The place was packed with wolves from all over the U.S. Most of the Alphas that signed the accords were from the U.S, but there were other packs here from all over the world.
Teresa was practically vibrating with expectancy in her seat. She rushed to park, nearly hitting a group of guys passing in front of us. They looked at us with hopeful gazes, but none of them were our mates. At least I didn’t think so. There were two steps in finding your mate. You needed to hear their howl and lock gazes.
Just locking gazes wasn’t a sure thing. You might feel something by just locking eyes but it was nothing compared to completing both steps.
It was sort of depressing to see the silent hopeful desperation in everyone’s eyes as they looked at each other or met each other for the first time. I sighed aloud. This was going to a hell of a long week. I didn’t want to lump myself into this group, but a part of me would always be curious every time I met a stranger. I think it’s something that all of my fellow unmated wolves could relate to.
Teresa jumped out of the jeep and quickly began to unload our bags. I had just shut my door when she pushed my bags into my hands.
“Let’s go, babe. We have lots of eyes to gaze into and lots of hotties to accidentally grope.”
I swear she was gonna get me arrested on sexual assault charges one of these days. She wasn’t shy with her compliments and her hands were quick to smack and grab what she found ‘deliciously sexy.’
I followed her bouncing figure into the lobby of the hotel. The place was swarming with bodies. Women and men of varying ages lounged about chatting and laughing as if this were a common occurrence.
The hotel wasn’t lavish or luxurious but had a modern feel to it. White couches, ivory tables, and sleek lamps were strategically placed throughout the large room. A bellboy took Teresa and my bags and waited for us to check in. Teresa was busy eye hogging every available pair of eyes in the room so I had to check us in. I didn’t know why she bothered. It’d be easier to wait until the Mates Call tonight.
After receiving the keys to our room, we followed the bellhop to our floor. He quickly unloaded our things and I tipped the man before he left. I was sure to be generous. The pack was paying for all the expenses of the trip so why not share the wealth when I could.
Our room was simple. It had two full sized beds, a tv, a table with two chairs, a vanity, and a restroom. It was good enough for me. Why would we want something more extravagant when all our time was going to be taken up with pre-planned outings and activities.
I called shotgun on the shower before Teresa could make a claim. Waiting for her was torture. The woman could take an hour getting ready and I wasn’t having any of that today.
She muttered profanities under her breath as I made a quick dash for the restroom.
“Such a lady,” I taunted before shutting the door.
A thud at the door let me know I narrowly missed a shoe to the face.
I cackled gleefully as I got in the shower. I was relieved to be out of that damned jeep and able to stretch my legs. The hot water was heavenly against my skin.
I was unconsciously humming a tune as I stepped out and wrapped the towel around my body. It was none other than Teresa’s ′jam’. I groaned and yanked the door open to find a grinning Teresa.
“I knew you couldn’t resist the magic of Tay-Tay.”
I gave her the finger as I walked away. She disappeared and didn’t re-emerge until nearly an hour later.
“About time,” I groaned as she shuffled out of the restroom.
“It’s not easy looking this good, Mamacita,” she said as she body rolled herself in front of the mirror in the room.
Her makeup was flawless but was it wise in this heat? The humidity in the air alone would ruin anyone’s hair and the heat was an automatic guarantee to make her makeup run.
“You sure you want to go out with all of that on your face?” I asked.
“Don’t give me crap because I can pull this off,” she said, secure in her makeup skills.
I raised my hands in surrender.
“Let’s go. We’re always late for everything,” I complained.
Her eyes scrutinized my outfit choice. “You’re going out like that?”
I stared down at my body. Skinny jeans, a T-shirt, and combat boots were my usual go to. “Yeah and?”
“Nothing,” she said.
I knew nothing meant something but I wasn’t about to change.
“You’re lucky you have such a pretty face, Lyla.”
“You know you do and that auburn hair of yours is on point. I just wish you did something with it instead of hiding those long locks of yours in a messy bun.”
I shrugged. I wasn’t into trying. The only effort I made with makeup was mascara and black eyeliner. I liked the way they made my brown eyes pop.
I grabbed my small wallet, stuffed it and my cell phone in my back pocket, and pulled Teresa out into the hall.
Our Alpha wouldn’t tolerate another late show to a pack meeting. We were notorious for our lateness. Well, Teresa was and I just managed to somehow be dragged into her mess. The only reason she was able to get away with it was that she was the Alpha’s daughter.
Thirty minutes later we were one royal pack property. The entirety of the Royal pack was housed on one hundred acres of land. Their pack house and hundreds of small houses made their community. The pack was the biggest pack in the wolf community. The Alpha’s house was a mansion, which was currently being ogled by Teresa as we drove by. She’d visited once, years ago, with her dad on pack business and ever since then she claimed she was in love; not only with the house but with the Alpha’s son, Sebastian. According to her, he was a ‘total babe.’
I believed it was more of an infatuation than anything else, really. He still hadn’t found his mate and I was sure she harbored a secret hope that she’d be his, now that she was old enough to have a mate.
I drove to the address Beta Alexander gave us and pulled Teresa out of her jeep. She dragged her feet, fighting me the whole way. She hated pack meetings. She had a role to fill and she obviously didn’t want it. Being the next Alpha of our pack was daunting and she no doubt felt the pressure of that role every day of her life.
She was physically prepared with all the training our Gamma put her through. She had muscles in places I hadn’t known existed. She was a badass in combat and could hold her own against most males. Not only did she know how to kick ass, she knew how to run a pack thanks to the lessons drilled into her by her dad, but she lacked the focus and the desire it took to be Alpha. Hopefully, with time, that would change.
I can’t say that I blamed her. The role was a tough one. All I could do as her best friend was make sure she showed up when she was needed.
We walked into the house lent to us for the week and of course, we were the last ones to arrive. Teresa sauntered over next to her father and Beta Alexander. The stern look on her dad’s face was a dead give away for the level of his anger. Thankfully, he was at around a five out of ten.
He sent me a grateful look for getting her here.
I found Caspian in the group of thirty wolves tightly packed into the room and took a spot next to him, leaning against the wall. He kissed my cheek. “Hey, babe. About time you showed up,” he grinned.
I shrugged my shoulders. He knew the constant battle I had going with getting Teresa places.
Beta Alexander’s eyes bore into ours. My cheeks heated with his reproachful glare. He hated that we were dating. He didn’t approve of his son dating someone other than his mate, but the Alpha hadn’t forbidden it so there wasn’t much he could do.
“Ignore him,” Caspian whispered.
His father growled angrily.
I was sure everyone knew and heard what was going on. We were in a small living room with thirty supernatural beings with extraordinary hearing.
Alpha Hugo cleared his throat bringing the attention back to him. “As I was saying, enjoy the festivities and I hope you all find your mate. Now, onto more serious matters, there has been an attack at the Royal pack’s borders.”
Chatter ensued immediately. ‘What did this mean for the week’s events?’ was whispered hurriedly throughout the room. The thought of getting to go home left me giddy, but then I remembered he’d already wished us a good time here. My happiness deflated like a slow leaking balloon.
He continued, ” The royal pack is more than equipped to take care of their borders and have declined any assistance from the packs in attendance. This being said, I ask that you remain cautious. A diligent wolf is a safe wolf.”
“Yes, Alpha,” we chorused.
The worry fell away from our Alpha’s face as quickly as it showed up. “Now about tonight’s first event,” he smiled.
I groaned internally. How was it that a grown man could be so invested in our love lives?
“The Mating Call is when you’ll find out if your mate is present. Be sure you show up on time,” he said pointedly towards his daughter.
Teresa nodded respectfully, but I could see her eyes mentally roll at his subtleness.
He didn’t have to worry though, Teresa would be there. She wanted her mate and she wouldn’t miss it for the world.
“One more thing before you go,” Beta Alexander chimed in. “If you are currently in a relationship with someone who is also attending keep the PDA to a minimum. Be respectful of the reason we are here.”
I could feel Caspian stiffen next to me.
Alpha Hugo grunted his agreement. I avoided looking at my Beta’s eyes for the rest of the meeting. Upon being released, I practically ran from the room.