Warrior Greg Barks’s POV
Arrowhead Pack Alpha’s Home
Beta Ron congratulated me as he walked me back to my room. “You’ve worked hard on those ground moves.”
“I did. I had almost a year of rehabilitation and training as I tried to get back my status. I trained for hours daily around my physical therapy and Pack duties. One of our Betas took pity on me and taught me Jujitsu because I could learn it before I was comfortable with my prosthetic.”
“If you can beat our Alpha with it, you’re the best in the Pack. Every person is expected not just to serve, but to teach. I’ll be talking about this with Beta Coral if our Alpha hasn’t already.” We arrived back at the room; it was one of a half-dozen guest rooms on this floor. Similar in size to a hotel room, it had a queen-sized bed, desk, dresser, television, and a bathroom with a shower/Jacuzzi tub combination. “We anticipated your acceptance into the Pack so that you will remain in the same room. Breakfast is in the main dining room, lunch and dinner are served in the Pack House dining room. If you need anything, let one of the house Omegas know.”
“I’m not moving to Warrior quarters?” The Pack House on top of the hill had many small guest rooms and bunk rooms; I had assumed I would be there. The Alpha’s home was not a place for an unmated warrior male.
“You have to remember we aren’t a normal Pack. I know you are used to the Pack House holding the unmated males and Omegas along with senior Pack leadership. Here, there are so many female Omegas that they have their own homes along the water. With their backgrounds, having homes that are off-limits to males gives them a refuge they need.”
“So the warriors are housed with the Alpha’s home?”
“The mated pairs have their own homes; Beta Coral and Beta Keith have the home next door. Teri and I live just around the point, five homes down from here. As they find their mates, we continue building smaller homes along the lakeshore for them. This home holds the Alpha pair, four Omegas that help here, two Warrior pairs that are security for the Alpha’s children, and the unmated warrior male. That’s you.”
“Oh.” I should have looked into the arrangements more, but so many people were at the meals I attended that I just assumed more people lived here. “The Pack offices are here, though.”
“Yes, we keep them together next to the Alpha quarters for convenience. Most Betas work there a few hours a day, the rest of the time out of other buildings or our own homes.” It was different. “Beta Coral will be in her office after breakfast. Have a good night, and welcome to the Arrowhead Pack.”
“Thank you, Beta Ron.” I went into my room, closed the door, and pumped my fist in celebration. I’d DONE IT! I’d found a home that would accept me despite being incomplete; I was a Warrior again. The room was far more comfortable than the Omega quarters back at Banff. There, six to a room was the norm, with bunk beds along the wall and a shared bathroom. I didn’t mind the quarters as much as I hated the demotion. Being an Omega assigned to clean the Warrior quarters was torture for me and my wolf.
I sent a text message to one of my roommates at Banff, asking him to box up my stuff for me. I needed to fly back and retrieve it when I could, and bring my Jeep and motorcycle with me. He congratulated me on the position and said he would get it out tomorrow. I took a few moments to unpack my suitcase, then showered and came back to the bed. I’d have to speak to Beta Roadkill about getting some rails installed to help me when my prosthetic leg was off. Turning out the light, I tried to empty my head of thoughts so I could sleep.
It didn’t work.
It was past midnight when I got up; I’d need to exhaust myself to sleep. Putting on workout clothes, I went back out, thinking I could hit the exercise area in the basement. “Oh, excuse me,” I said as saw a woman coming out of the nursery in the Alpha wing.
“You must be Greg,” she said as she smiled and shook my hand. “I’m Meghan; my mate Tom is watching the babies now. Welcome to the Warriors, we’re looking forward to working with you.”
“You’re a warrior here?” I should have known; she had some dominance to her wolf.
“Yes, we’re assigned to protect the female heir.”
“Cheryl, the one with the Lykanos bloodline blessing.”
“Yes, I watched the trials.” Alpha Rori was a direct heir of the original Werewolf pair on the female side of the firstborn daughters. She had suffered horribly because of greedy men who wanted the fertility blessing for themselves. She found her mate, restarted the Arrowhead Pack, and has a great life now. She can have a child every year, unlike other werewolf pairs who were lucky to have two children in a century. Cheryl was the firstborn daughter and carried the blessing, making her the most protected baby in their world. “How many are assigned to her security?”
“Two mated pairs while on Pack grounds, and the four of us live here. At least one is within sight of the child 24/7, even when they are with the Alphas.” She looked at my clothing. “Can’t sleep?”
“Too much energy.”
“The pool will be deserted, that’s always fun.”
“I don’t want to get all my winter stuff on and then get wet,” I said. It was COLD out.
“Now that you are Pack, you need to know about the tunnels.” I raised my eyebrow; she just walked and crooked her finger for me to follow. We went to the basement, walking into the media room where a screen and a dozen theater chairs sat on tiered levels. “The safe room for this house is on the right behind the sound curtains. On the left is the tunnel to the Pack House.” She pulled a cord, and the curtain moved aside, exposing a door with an electronic lock. “The code is 1-9-8-7. If you forget, you’ll have to contact the Security Control Center on the intercom, because it locks out on the third attempt.” I punched in the code, there was a clunk, and I pulled the door open.
The tunnel was round concrete. “Sewer pipe?”
She nodded. “We installed it during construction; the tunnels are six-foot diameter, set more than six feet underground. It’s cool because the surrounding earth is always around forty degrees.” We moved in, closing the door behind us. LED lighting illuminated the tunnel. “Battery backups for the lights.” We went twenty feet, and there was a four-way cross pipe. I could see part way down to the right and the left, while ahead of me the tunnel sloped upwards. “The tunnels connect all the homes and are part of our Pack Defense Plan. Each home has a small safe room, but these allow us to move people between homes without being seen. It also is a way for our wolves to get around without being seen by humans on the lake.”
“Very smart,” I said. “Too many entrances to function as a safe room for an extended time. Aren’t you worried about the tunnels being used against you?”
“We have motion sensors, alarms, and cameras. If someone gains access to the tunnels, we can flood the tunnels with aerosol Wolfsbane, or flood it with an emergency drain from the swimming pool. One valve operated from the Security Center, and the tunnels fill with water in minutes.”
“Nice.” We kept going forward up the hill, then came to another door. It opened into the basement of the Pack House. “You’ve been here?”
“I got a tour of the facilities.” We passed the bunkhouse and the gym before taking the stairs up to the main floor. I’d eaten in the Pack dining room, although only one wing was used in the wintertime. We moved into the recreation area. “I’ll be all right from here,” I said.
“You’ll wear yourself out faster if you race, and I could use a workout too. Check the lockers.” She disappeared into her locker room while I went into mine. There were guest lockers in the center, but the outside lockers had nameplates for Pack members. I froze when I saw my name on one. I opened it and left my clothes and my prosthetic inside. Since the Pack swam nude, unless humans were around, I didn’t need a suit. I hopped to the shower and cleaned off before going out the door to the pool.
I loved this space; it was huge, and despite the below-zero weather outside, it was comfortable, and the water was warm as I dove in. There were lanes on one side of the pool, and I took a slow warmup lap. By the time I got back, Meghan was standing by her swim lane. Her fit body on full display, but since she was mated, I knew better than to stare. I hauled myself out and stood on my one leg. “What’s your race?”
“Each lap up and back is eighty meters,” she said. “Individual medley, four laps each stroke should give you a good start.” That was over a thousand meters; I’d have to pace myself.
“Loser has to present their dessert to the winner at dinner.” She wasn’t messing around; this meant the entire Pack would witness the acknowledgment of the other’s superiority.
“You’re on. I love dessert.” We took our positions, and when the clock second hand hit 12, it was on.
I was bigger and stronger than her, but she had picked the Individual Medley and the length because it worked to her advantage. After the first lap of the butterfly, I had a short lead. She hung close to me, using her slight advantage in the turns where she could push off on two legs instead of one. She was a strong swimmer, I quickly realized. I probably took a sucker bet, but I couldn’t back down on my first night, and she knew it.
We stayed even through the backstroke laps, and I lost ground on the breaststroke. The lack of a lower leg made a bigger difference in the frog kick than for a scissor kick. I was ten meters behind when Meghan made the final turn and started freestyle.
I did my kick turn and started swimming as fast as I could. I was tired, my lungs were burning, but I was making up a little with each length of the pool. My longer body and powerful strokes kept me gaining on her. She wasn’t making it easy for me. Going into the bell lap, I was two body lengths behind.
I found another gear coming out of the turn and closed to one body length at the far end. It came down to who had more left in the tank, and I was on empty. I pushed myself to the breaking point, but couldn’t gain on her. She was done toying with me, and I ate her wake as she touched a full length before I did.
We held onto the edge of the pool, both of us breathing hard. “Nice race,” I said as I reached my hand over to shake hers. “You’re good.”
“I pulled one over on you. I was a competitive swimmer in the Werewolf Games for years.”
I just nodded, I kind of figured that. “So how much of your best did I get?”
“I’m not telling,” she said. “If you get a prosthetic made for swimming, you’d be a tough race.”
“Yeah, well, my Alpha wasn’t going to spend money on that.” Why put more money into something not needed for me to clean rooms, he said.
“I’ll speak to the Alphas about it. We do a lot of swimming in the winter to keep in shape. I love this pool, it’s the envy of the northern Packs.” She pulled herself out. “You can make it back on your own?”
“I can. Thanks, Meghan. I just hope dessert is something I don’t like.”
She laughed as she dried herself off. “Who doesn’t like turtle cheesecake?” She walked off as I smacked my hand on the water. Dammit! I just lost the best dessert ever.
I kept swimming for another hour, making sure I was good and tired. By the time I was back in bed, I had dropped off quickly. The alarm came early enough.
Everyone smiled at me as I joined them for breakfast, Meghan tapping a chair next to her at the long cherry dining table. The Alpha came in, setting their babies in a playpen next to Hope before joining us. The door opened, and a young woman was rolled in on a wheelchair and brought to the open spot on the table. “Good morning, everyone,” she said.
“Good morning, Heather.” Rori looked around the table. “This is Heather Rhodes; she will be staying with us for an extended time. I’ll let everyone introduce themselves.”
I was glad I was near the end because it gave me a chance to gather myself. She was younger than me, beautiful and shapely under the sweats she was wearing. She wasn’t my mate, my wolf wasn’t interested, but I was smitten. “Hello Heather, I’m Greg Barks. I just moved here.”
“Banff, in Alberta, Canada. I figured I’d move south to a more temperate climate.”
She almost choked on her pancake, reaching for the orange juice she drank half of it while she recovered. “It’s fifteen below zero this morning, and I’m afraid to go outside because I’d freeze something off! How is THIS better?”
“Everything is relative,” I answered. Heather didn’t say much about where she was from, but from her deep tan, I figured it was somewhere a lot warmer. We made small talk for the rest of the meal. She wasn’t forthcoming about much of her history, but I did learn that she was a freshman in college and eighteen years old. She had been shot in the back the previous week and was facing a long healing process.
“Greg, my office now,” Coral said as she got up. She kissed Hope, and the three were turned over to their nanny. A different warrior was watching from across the room, and I nodded to him as I followed the Beta out. We went to her office, and she sat me down. “First off, congratulations. I knew you could do it, but Alpha Rori was impressed by you.”
“Thank you, Beta. I’m thrilled to be part of the Arrowhead Pack.” I was, for many reasons, including maintaining my rank.
“It will take you several months to get you fully qualified in the places we will need you. We are going to start you with patrols and security control so you can become familiar with our territory. We do outside patrols on snowmobiles; you will join me after lunch for the daytime tour. Be at the Pack House for the start of lunch at eleven; we leave at eleven thirty.”
“I don’t have much gear, Beta. The rest of my belongings are still at Banff. I was going to speak to you about taking time off to fly back and return with my Jeep and my belongings.”
She looked at the calendar. “Book a ticket for next Friday and be back in three days. I’ll adjust the watch bill until then. I want you minimally functional as soon as possible. Don’t worry about outside gear; we have plenty of extra gear at the garage. We have visitors often who need snowmobile gear and helmets.”
“We didn’t have a Brazilian JuJitsu instructor for the Pack, and this will allow us to have you teach on the mat while Beta Ron teaches boxing in the ring. Each instructor teaches a one-hour class four times a week. I’m also giving you Beginning and Intermediate Pistol classes to teach, work with Beta Ron to learn the equipment and the curriculum. Here’s your schedule.” It showed one morning and one evening classes each day. “In addition to teaching, the Pack rules for training apply. You are to attend as a student of at least one unarmed or armed class each day. I would suggest you take rifle and knife fighting first, based on your assessments.”
“I’ll put together the rest of your training schedule later, but I need to put you to work before you are fully qualified.” She explained that Heather was the daughter of the Alpha’s deceased human friends. The Pack had brought her here to hide out because her life was in danger. Jaguar shifters and their human friends, plus Federal law enforcement were looking for her. “She needs to stay out of sight for an extended period while we let everyone think she is dead. Once she heals, she’ll get restless, so we can’t let her get bored. She will be escorted everywhere because she does not know of our true nature.”
My eyes widened. “It won’t be easy to keep the secret with her living among us for an extended time.”
“I know, but those are our orders. The Alpha wants you to be part of the team watching and training her. She needs to learn self-defense skills and recover from the gunshot wound. The self-defense classes will be one-on-one for now, because we can’t work with werewolf speed and strength with her around. You have spent time in physical therapy, so you’re going to be working with her twice a day on her recovery. The Oxbow Lake doctor will be here in an hour to examine her; he will give both of you a rehabilitation plan. Use the tunnels, but only to go between here and the Pack House. Use the link to warn everyone so they don’t shift where she can see you.” She stood up; I did as well as she walked me to the door. “This is a delicate assignment. I need to know if you are up to it.”
“I can do this, Beta. Thank you for your confidence in me.”
“You weren’t my first choice, but I don’t have female warriors able to do this right now. Keep your behavior professional, Greg. She isn’t a woman to toy with.”
“I understand.” This sucked because she was precisely the kind of person I was attracted to. I needed to meet the other women and find an outlet for my urges because I was going to be horny as hell after spending time with Heather.
“Her room is down the hall from the Alphas. Accompany the Doctor when he arrives. Dismissed.”