Arrowhead Alpha House
Having Harleigh around was going to cause a lot of problems for our Pack if we were to keep our secret. “Attention Arrowhead Pack,” I sent. “We have a guest staying with us, a human who does not know of our kind. I have restricted her to the Alpha home or the home of my parents. No one is to shift within sight of these homes or speak of our nature where she may hear of it. She is in danger, both from humans and Jaguar shifters. Her old name and her old life are gone. Her new name is Heather Rhodes, and she is under our protection. Any questions, talk to me or your Betas.”
A chorus of “Yes, Alpha,” came back over the Pack link. I went upstairs, ignoring the sounds of giggling and sloshing coming from the master bathroom as I checked on the babies. They were sleeping on their stomachs in the crib, Hope’s hand grasping Mark’s left hand while Cheryl was touching his right. I leaned over and kissed my babies before heading back downstairs.
“Ron, bring the warrior candidates to my office for their interviews,” I sent to my Beta. Ron Carlson was an older Beta in charge of Operations and Recruiting. I looked at the files his mate Teri had put together for me while I was waiting for them to arrive. Vic Knightly was first up; as a human, he looked to be in his late forties, but he was over two hundred years old. He had a distinguished career as a warrior in the Denali Pack. He still had acceptable test scores despite his age; the Alphas had adopted a series of physical and combat exercises when they had the idea of friendly competitions like the Olympics to gain bragging rights. He’d competed in the first Warrior Games in 1900, and every four years since. If he were a sixteen-year-old apprentice, it would be an obvious choice, but few warriors were still active at his age.
He’d found his mate in 1973 and lost her in 1989 during childbirth. He kept going for the sake of his daughter, who had a mate and young child now in the Oxbow Lake pack.
I sensed them outside before the knock on the door. “Enter,” I said. Ron smiled and shut the door, remaining there as Vic walked in and stopped two steps short of my desk at an ease position. I stood and extended my hand to him; he had a firm grip and a no-nonsense manner that put me at ease. “Thank you for seeing me, Alpha Rori,” he said. “I’ve heard a lot about you.”
“All good, I hope,” I said as I indicated the chair in front of the desk, and we sat down. I looked down at the file again. “Your credentials are impressive, Warrior Knightly. I’m a little surprised you want to start over in a new Pack at your age. Why not stay in Banff?”
“My Alpha just forced me into retirement, and I’m too stubborn to sit around drinking coffee and talking about the old times. The warrior life is what I was born for, and I still feel like I can contribute to the safety of a Pack. When your request for warriors came out, I wanted to apply but wasn’t allowed to as an active warrior. My daughter, Celeste, is in Oxbow Lake pack now with her mate and my grandson. Transferring here would allow me to spend more time with them.”
“Why not transfer there for your family?”
“The Oxbow Lake Pack won’t let me be a warrior either. Established Packs like that might keep me as a reserve force, stuck inside a safe room watching the women and children but won’t put me on patrol or ask me to fight. I have an open invitation to visit my daughter, but I’m hoping you’ll take a chance on me here.”
I smiled as I considered him. “And you think my Pack will do that.”
“I’ve done my research and talked to my son-in-law about it,” he said. “Your pack is both young and old. You have experienced leadership in many places, but you also have an imbalance between dominant and submissive wolves; few warriors, lots of Omegas.”
“The women here are not like those in other Packs,” I said. “I won’t stand for sexual harassment of them or any other females.”
“I agree. I like that there are so many unmated females who still remember what things were like before electricity. It gives me more to talk about.” He grinned, and I laughed out loud. I liked his style. “I wouldn’t object if I found one willing to put up with a scarred old wolf like me. I feel like I’m finally able to move on from the loss of my mate.”
“How did you survive? I couldn’t imagine what losing her was like for you.”
He sighed. “Without Celeste, I wouldn’t have. I threw myself into her care, and my wolf and I buried the pain deep. It’s gotten easier with time, but I miss her.”
“I understand completely.” I looked back at his file. “Beta Coral speaks highly of you from the time you spent teaching long-range shooting at Bitterroot.”
“Working for Beta Coral is another benefit of this Pack. She’s smart and fair, a good leader who isn’t afraid to innovate. There are still Alphas out there who don’t teach firearms, but I believe we must use every available means to protect my Pack. I believe in training everyone, including the children, so none are ever helpless.”
“Alpha Chase and I agree on that. You know my story?” He nodded. “Only two members of the Pack survived that night, and my infant daughter carries the Lycanos bloodline blessing. Things are better now, but we face security risks no other Pack does. Our lands are different too. We don’t have a land buffer like the Canadian Packs with hundreds of square miles of territory. We have about a thousand acres of land here, making us one of the smallest Packs by territory. Our homes are adjoining the humans, the lake being public property. It’s not uncommon for humans and their fishing boats to be in between our docks in the summer. We can’t patrol in wolf form, not with the trail cameras and satellites. We keep our wolves hidden unless we are well inside our lands.”
“That makes sense. The lake alone is a security risk no other Pack would take. Reactions times are in seconds, meaning your defenses are a challenge. I can help you there.”
I nodded. “We patrol with All-Terrain Vehicles or snowmobiles depending on the season. We are working on stringing fiber optics and wireless networks to provide alarm and camera coverage on the lakeshore and our borders. We’ve also wired up all the homes and designed them carefully. Each home has its safe room or a readily accessible tunnel that leads to one. We won’t be unaware and unprotected again.”
“It would be my honor to protect your Pack and your daughter,” he said.
“Beta Coral wants you, and I like your style. Your application is accepted. I will call your Alpha tonight and arrange the transfer on an interim basis. After a three-month trial, you will become a permanent Pack member.” He was smiling broadly. “I trust my Beta already has classes set up for you to teach?”
“Yes, Alpha. Long range rifle, knife fighting, and small group tactics.”
“I look forward to it. Report to Beta Coral in the morning, and ask Beta Ron to send in the next candidate.”
“Thank you, Alpha.” He stood at attention for a moment, then turned smartly and walked out the door again.
A much younger man walked in, a slight limp noticeable. He was a typical warrior wolf; tall, broad shoulders tapering down to a narrow waist, and powerful arms and legs. His raven-black hair was shoulder length and pulled back from his face with a leather thong. He was wearing boots, ripped jeans, and a plaid long-sleeved shirt over a knit undershirt. Before I met Chase, he would have given off the bad-boy vibe that would have attracted me. I was sure Greg Barks would be popular with the ladies around here. “Thank you for seeing me, Alpha King,” he said.
“Please sit, Warrior Barks.” I opened his file, which was much thinner than Vic’s. A twenty-two-year-old warrior in the Denali Pack, he had been a fully-qualified warrior for six months when a rockslide took out his patrol. His left hind leg ended up crushed between boulders, and by the time help reached them, it was impossible to save. His Pack Doctor had to amputate the lower leg a few inches below the knee. He’d spent the past year learning to use his prosthetic leg and fighting unsuccessfully to regain warrior status. “Your application states that your Alpha has disqualified you from Warrior status and relegated you to Omega status,” I said.
He stiffened but nodded. “Yes, Alpha. The concept of a three-legged patrol wolf precluded that rank for me at Denali. I’m hoping you will see past that to what I can still do.”
I read through Coral and Ron’s notes on the testing they did. “You are correct in that our criteria are different, the same as our Pack is. I just got done explaining to Warrior Knightly how our patrols aren’t in wolf form.” I looked in his eyes. “I can’t understand why your Alpha would give up on you like that. Amputees are serving in combat Army units, and there are prosthetic limbs available for your wolf.”
“He does not believe an artificial leg would strike fear in the hearts of our enemies. He sees what I lost as a weakness.”
“And you don’t?”
“A weakness in one area can be compensated for by strengthening others.”
“It says here that your combat style is Mixed Martial Arts heavy on Brazilian jujitsu, and your combat arm is knife throwing. Why did you choose those?” Most warriors didn’t learn fighting disciplines that didn’t focus on quick kills.
“Standing, my leg is a target. On the ground, it doesn’t matter, and I can use my strength and speed to win. If you watch MMA matches these days, the ground game wins. As for the knives, it’s silent and effective at a distance.”
I opened my drawer and removed a throwing knife I’d been playing with, handing it to him. “Stand over there,” I said. I went to the refrigerator under the bar and pulled out an apple. “In the air,” I said. I tossed it underhand across the room, and he drew and threw the knife in one motion, spearing the apple and pinning it to the door. I was impressed. “I’ll expect you to teach that knife throwing to my Pack. It would be a good skill for the women to learn.”
“Of course, Alpha. Am I accepted?”
“Not yet. Come on.” I walked out of my office, waving to Beta Ron to follow. We went downstairs to the training room I had in the basement to the full-size boxing ring. Ron showed him the small locker room for the men, and a few minutes later, we both were back out in workout clothes. “MMA rules apply, fight to knock out or tap out,” I said.
“I outweigh you by a hundred pounds,” he said. He was a good-sized man, about two hundred and twenty pounds on his six-foot-four frame. His arms were the size of my thighs.
“I’m used to that,” I said as I pulled took off my shoes and put on the gloves. “Ron, you referee.” We bumped gloves, and he started the fight.
I kept my hands near my face, bouncing around him in a stance that was more Muay-Thai than boxing. His stance was more boxing than anything else. I used my quickness and started to probe his defense; he was fast and had a much longer reach, so I moved on.
I noticed his footwork suffered from the artificial leg, so I faked a punch to his chest and dove low to grab his good leg with both arms. He countered well, dropping down on top of me as we both crashed to the ground. I tried to shift and get around his back, but he quickly countered by grabbing me around the chest and locking his legs around my thighs. I managed to break his armlock and twist, but his legs kept me from getting up or getting around. I kept fighting to get free, finally regaining my feet. “Let’s see you go for a takedown,” I said.
He nodded, watched me before picking his moment. A quick step towards my hips I was able to spin away from, only to have him shift directions and grab my forearm with his left hand. He stepped through my spin, holding my right arm to his left shoulder while his right arm circled my back from behind. Before I could escape, he lifted me and suplexed backward, bringing me up and over his shoulder and slamming me to the mat.
The impact stunned me long enough for him to wrap up my arm in a submission hold. I tapped his forearm, and he let me go. I jumped up, reaching my hand down to help him out. “I think your old Alpha was a fool to give up on you, Warrior Barks. I will speak to him tonight about your transfer if you still want to go ahead with it.”
“I will be a Warrior here?”
“Of course, the last thing I need is more Omegas. See Coral in the morning.” He gave me a big smile and left with Beta Ron, while I took a quick shower before going back to my babies. I enjoyed the spar, and I was looking forward to learning new skills from my new Pack members.