Chapter ONE: The New Moon Club
Standing in the gym, my feet shoulder-width apart and my hands clenched, I throw a punch as hard as I can at the blue punchbag dangling before me. The chain supporting it to the ceiling groans as it swings slightly, my punch barely having an impact upon the heavy apparatus. That’s the downside to being a werewolf; normal human equipment will break too easily if we use it to train with. This punchbag is specially made, coated in a mage’s spell to stop it from breaking with one punch. I throw another punch and another. Left. Right. Left. Right. The chain creaks out a steady rhythm in time to the beating of my fists upon the material.
“Relax your stance a little, you’re too tense.” My brother Tony advises from behind me. He has six years on me, making him twenty-six years young. He should have been the Alpha of our pack by now and should have been for the past five years, bringing our father Elijah’s one hundred and fifty-three year reign to an end. Impressive, I know, but that honour will now be passed onto me. The reason why Tony cannot be Alpha is because he has what is called dyspnea; that means he sometimes has difficulty breathing. If he were to have ascended to Alpha, it would have put not only his life, but the lives of the entire pack at risk should his dyspnea become common knowledge. Only a small number of wolves in the pack know about his medical condition and it needs to remain that way otherwise Tony’s life would be constantly under threat.
Does he begrudge having to pass on being the Alpha to me? No, of course not. You see, being the brother of the ascending Alpha comes with perks of its own. There’s no one I trust more to have my back as Beta than my brother Tony, and my best friend Max if he bothers to show up for training that is.
I take Tony’s advice as I reposition my feet and shake out my arms to relieve some of the tension in my muscles. Curling my fingers back into fists, I resume pounding the punchbag. Each punch aches my knuckles, but here’s where a perk of being a were comes in - fast healing. The punchbag can weigh a tone and rip the skin of my knuckles over and over again, or even break a bone or two in my hand but my body will just heal itself. If Tony has his way, which he usually does, I’ll leave the gym with shredded knuckles and aching shoulders which will take a good night’s sleep to heal. He’s training me the same way our father trained him, by pushing me not only to my physical human limits, but also my werewolf healing limits. That way, in case of a rival or rogue challenge, we can fight for longer before needing to heal.
The steady creaking of the chain becomes an ominous harmony to the thump-thumping rhythm of my fists. And then it happens. Tony tries to cover it as him simply clearing his throat, but it continues. The insistent coughing that usually signals he’s struggling to draw a decent breath into his lungs. His breaths become laboured, his coughs more consistent. I stop punching and turn to face him, concerned for my older brother. I know his dyspnea isn’t going to go away, but his coughing fits have been getting progressively worse. He probably thinks I haven’t noticed, or if he has he hasn’t mentioned it.
The coughing stops as quickly as it had started, Tony inhaling several long and well-needed breaths. He’s doubled over, his hands resting atop his knees as he recovers. Getting his breathing under control, Tony straightens and exhales a deep breath of relief. His eyes shoot up from the ground, catching my concerned gaze for a microsecond before his fist connects with my jaw.
His sucker punch has me staggering back a few paces. The force behind his punch would have dislocated the jaw of a meagre human, but us weres are made of tougher stuff. Even though my teeth rattle in my mouth, my lip splits and dark spots dance at the corners of my eyes, I recover quickly, turning my startled surprise and bitter disappointment onto my brother.
“What the fuck was that for?” I demand, wiping away the blood that drips down my chin with the back of my hand. Tony stares back at me, his eyebrows furrowed and his arms crossed tightly over his chest. I’m at least half a foot taller than my older brother, so this is his attempt to show dominance over me. It’s to be expected considering he’s had years of Alpha training over me, I suppose old habits die hard.
"Never let your guard down.” He jabs a finger into my chest to emphasise his words and I’m forced to slap his hand away. He crosses his arms again, but just before his right hand disappears under his left arm I notice his split knuckles, at least I managed to hurt the smug bastard also.
“You were coughing,” I argue, mimicking Tony’s stance as I cross my arms over my own chest. “What else did you expect me to do?”
“Do you really think a rival Alpha is going to give two shits if I start coughing in the middle of your fight? You need to keep focused otherwise they’ll chew you up and spit you out like a day old stale cupcake.”
“Stale cupcake. That’s a good one.”
Tony spins away from me, his anger now turned onto Max who has finally decided to show up. He stands just inside of the gym, hands on his hips as he laughs at Tony’s lame attempt at comedy. I suspect it’s more sarcasm than actual humour. They might be my brother and best friend and are to ascend as Beta’s the same day I ascend to Alpha, but there is a fair amount of tension between the pair. Sometimes it’s so heavy in the air you could cut it with a butter knife, and today seems to be one of those days.
“Where the fuck have you been? Training started a half-hour ago.” Tony demands, his voice carrying an air of authority that makes even me shudder at the bitterness laced beneath his words. Max doesn’t seem to care, standing casually with one hand resting on his hip and his head cocked slightly to one side as he regards Tony and I carefully.
“I’m here now aren’t I?” Max shrugs one shoulder nonchalantly.
Tony’s lip curls upward, flashing his clenched teeth as a low growl rises from deep within his chest. As much as I love Max as my best friend and ′brother′ he always has been, and always will be a bit of an idiot. Like Tony, there’s no one I’d trust more to watch my back as Beta than Max, but if they continue to fight amongst themselves we’d might as well open the compound gates and roll out the red carpet to any and all challengers.
"Idiot.” Tony mutters under his breath, mimicking my thoughts. Max just laughs and I can feel Tony’s irritation rising. His arms unfold from over his chest, his hands clench into tight fists by his side and his arms shake with adrenaline. He looks as though he’s about to beat the living shit out of Max, but is restraining himself for his own benefit.
“You’ll never make a good Beta if you can’t be bothered to show up on time.” I stand behind Tony, coming to my brother’s defence and using my height advantage over the pair to try and calm the situation. My father has taught me that some fights can be won just by being intimidating and to use any advantage at my disposal to talk someone out of psychical violence. The upside to this is that I know Tony has had the same training as I have, which is why he hasn’t gone after Max - yet!
“Don’t sweat it. You know when push comes to shove I’ll run rings around Tone when it matters.” Max’s golden eyes meet my own, shining with mischief as the true meaning of his insult rings home. Max is one of the few who knows about Tony’s dyspnea, he had to in order for my proposition to him to be my Beta to make sense, and even though he’s sworn to secrecy, something he’s actually decent at, he takes great pleasure in winding Tony up about his condition. That, and my brother hates it whenever someone calls him ′Tone’.
“Is that so?” He questions before storming up to Max. They stand toe to toe, Max towering a head and shoulders over Tony, but Tony’s body is bulked with more muscle, his shoulders are broader and his chest more toned. The muscles in his arms twitch as Tony folds his arms over his chest, squaring up to Max who just looks down at Tony with an amused gleam in his eyes.
“How about a little wager then?” Tony proposes and I mentally roll my eyes. This is one of the things our father advised against - never settle a dispute with a bet; the risks are too great. Max seems intrigued, his head cocking to one side again and his eyes narrow as a smirk of smugness tugs up the corners of his lips.
“Sure thing Tone. Challenger’s choice. What’ll it be?”
"This isn’t going to end well.” I mutter under my breath, pinching the bridge of my nose to stop myself from saying something to Tony I’d later regret. Not only does Tony’s reply feel like a punch in the gut, it also feels like a slap in the face with a silver glove. Max’s smirk broadens, his eyebrows rising into his blond hair as the seriousness in Tony’s voice sinks in. Even he realises that Tony’s proposal is more or less a suicide mission for him should his dyspnea cause him any problems.
“A race huh?” Max taps his chin with his forefinger as he stares up at the ceiling feigning thought. This one is a no-brainer, he’s just trying to psych Tony out. “Are you sure that’s a good idea in your condition?” Max giggles but Tony, as stubborn as he is, isn’t perturbed.
“Loser has to clean the locker room toilets for a month. If I win, you stop calling me Tone.” Tony declares, momentarily breaking through Max’s teasing.
“Oh, you were being serious?” Max rubs the back of his neck nonchalantly as he stares evenly back at Tony, the glimmer in his eyes shining brighter with every word that crosses Tony’s lips. “So, what do I get if I win?”
“Name your price.”
I groan internally. What the hell is Tony thinking? This is Max we’re talking about. Asking him what he wants out of this bet is like asking a multi-millionaire which top of the line racing car they’re going to buy next.
“If I win I get to keep calling you Tone-” Max begins.
"Not going to happen,” Tony mutters under his breath.
"And you have to refer to me as MAXWELL THE GREATEST RUNNER THAT EVER LIVED for a year.”
The pair clasp each other's wrists in agreement to their challenge and terms. I stand just feet from them, arms crossed over my chest and a stern look on my face; not that either of them is going to take me seriously.
We leave the gym, Max practically skipping as he leads the way towards the gardens. I fall into step beside my brother, but Tony chooses to ignore me. He stares straight ahead, face covered by an unreadable, emotionless mask. He knows I’m about to say something to try and talk him down from his challenge with Max, but once my brother Tony has his eyes set on something, it’s almost impossible to dissuade him from pursuing it.
Stepping outside I can see Max up ahead waiting for us, shifting his weight from foot to foot in anticipation. Even though it’s late September and the air is beginning to chill, Max is barefoot and dressed in workout shorts, we both are. Tony is wearing workout trousers and an old, frayed grey sweatshirt. With our werewolf blood, the cold weather and damp grass won’t bother us.
“I still think you’re an idiot for agreeing to this.” I attempt one final time to talk Tony out if his mission. He shrugs nonchalantly back at me as we draw even with Max. They both face me, keen to begin.
“Don’t worry, I’ll go easy on him.” Max snickers. Tony strips off his sweatshirt, displaying his broad shoulders as well as the impressive muscles of his chest and abs that came from years of training.
“We’ll see who goes easy on who.” Tony responds, tossing his sweatshirt at me before crossing his equally impressive arms over his muscular chest.
“Why am I here again?” I shrug nonchalantly, hoping to stop the pair of them from having a verbal stand off again.
“As ascending Alpha you need to be present at all challenges no matter how childish.” Tony responds immediately, smiling slightly at me as he teases me with his words.
“In other words, you don’t want to ask Dad because you know he’d hand you your ass on a silver plate.” I raise an eyebrow sceptically, Max laughs and Tony attempts to avoid my gaze.
“Yeah, pretty much.” He mutters, staring around the grounds and kicking the ground with his naked toes.
“Fine. Let’s just get this over with.” I pinch the bridge of my nose between my forefinger and thumb, a headache threatening to break if I don’t get rid of the two morons in front of me soon. “The race will be one lap around the compound. First one back to me wins. Agreed?”
“Sounds fair to me.” Max agrees, shrugging as though he has no worries in the world.
“I’m ready whenever you are.” Tony looks up at Max, who stares down and meets his gaze evenly.
“May the best man win.” Max winks cockily.
“I already plan to.”
Faster than a bolt of lightening, my brother takes off leaving Max standing stunned in his dust. He turns to me, mouth slightly agape as though I can give him an explanation to what the fuck just happened. I can’t help but laugh.
“HURRY UP SLOW POKE!” Tony shouts, having already raced beyond the front of the house. Enraged, Max gives chase. He’s fast, but I know my brother will be faster. Not only does Tony have the extra five years on Max, he’s also better trained and more disciplined. Max will come up trumps in a fight, and he’s quick to think on his feet when he really sets his mind to something. The outcome of this challenge will be an interesting one.
“Everything alright out here son?”
I hear the door to the house open and close behind me. I turn to find Elijah, my father and pack’s Alpha standing on the porch. His well toned arms are crossed over his chest, the intricate black ink of his tattoo standing out boldly against the tan skin of his right arm. The grey cotton T-shirt he’s wearing is tight over the muscles of his chest and shoulders, but his faded jeans are slightly baggy and his slip-on canvas shoes are casual. He watches me intently with the same pale golden-yellow eyes all of our pack shares, his eyebrows slightly furrowed with questions no doubt racing through his mind as to what I’m doing out here alone and why.
“Hey, Dad.” I greet him casually. “Nothing to worry about here.” That’s only a half lie. He doesn’t need to concern himself with Max and I, but Tony on the other hand...
“Where’s Tony and Max?” He enquires as though he has read my mind. “I thought the three of you were starting your Alpha-Beta training sessions today?”
“We did but...” I hesitate under his harsh stare. I don’t like lying to my father, but I don’t want to drop Tony in deep shit either. He cocks his right eyebrow at me, the one that’s split in two by the horrendous scar that also cuts through his eye. It’s long since healed, and his vision is perfectly fine, but it remains a distinguishing feature about my dad. “Uh... Tony issued a challenge to Max.”
“He did WHAT?!” I shuffle my feet nervously when the air fills with the sound of Elijah’s low growl. His lips peel back from his teeth, his canines have lengthened slightly as his anger causes his wolf to pull itself to the surface. He storms towards me, the porch steps creaking beneath his stomping feet and the grass faring no better.
Up close, I’m taller than my father by several inches, but he exudes so much power being the Alpha he can make even me nervous despite the height difference. This is something he taught Tony to overcome seeing as my brother is shorter than both of us, but I don’t need to worry about having a powerful presence when I have long legs and a longer body to my advantage.
“When are you two going to get it through your thick skulls?” My father screams at me, his words echoing so loudly that the birds in a nearby tree fall silent in fear of his wrath. “Tony’s not like the rest of us. He shouldn’t be issuing challenges, let alone competing in one.”
"I know Dad, but have you tried telling Tony that recently?”
We stand barely a foot apart, arms folded over our chests as we stare at one another, the air practically warming with the power radiating from us as Alpha and ascending Alpha. Elijah’s jaw twitches as he grinds his teeth, and he double blinks, a sign that he’s beyond pissed off and is about to explode. Instead of shouting at me, he surprises me by sighing defeatedly.
“I worry about him, Ellis.” He admits, looking slightly melancholy as he continues. “Tony’s stubborn and I know he’ll push himself too hard in whatever he sets out to accomplish.” His demeanour changes once again, anger replacing sorrow as he continues. “That’s why I entrusted yours and Max’s training to him. I thought maybe the pair of you would help keep him distracted from doing something stupid. Clearly I was mistaken.”
“Well, why don’t you tell Tony yourself when he’s finished his race with-” I realise my mistake too late. The anger my father has been holding back so easily erupts and I’m the poor sucker who gets burnt.
“HIS WHAT?!” His shout has me recoiling away from him it’s so loud, even for my sensitive werewolf ears. “HOW COULD YOU LET THIS HAPPEN ELLIS? As ascending Alpha, I expected better from you. You should have discouraged Tony from partaking.”
I hate when my father expects me to abuse my position of authority to get what I want, but I hate it when he undermines Tony more.
“It’s one little race, Dad. It might even be good for Tony to-” My mouth moves before my brain can comprehend what’s been said. Now I’m not just burned by my father’s anger, I’m about to be crisped to ashes.
“Listen carefully to me son,” my father’s voice is pitched lower than usual, a sign he’s trying to reign himself in, “Tony’s dyspnea isn’t just going to go away, he’s stuck with it for life and letting him partake in this race was irresponsible of you. And I know Max is your best friend, but if you don’t learn to reel him in, he’s going to walk all over you as Alpha, then what do think will happen with the others? I want to trust your judgement son, but you haven’t given me a reason to do so thus far.”
“Jeez Dad, thanks for the vote of confidence.” I respond bitterly, his words having the same impact as several stabs to the chest. He can hardly place all the blame for this on me. I wasn’t the one who had been teasing Tony, and I wasn’t the one who issued the challenge.
“Watch that tone with me Ellis, or else-” My father growls in warning. Whatever he was going to threaten me with dies on his lips as Tony skids to a sudden stop a few feet away from us.
My brother is understandably breathless, doubled over with his hands on his knees as he inhales several long, deep breaths to control his breathing. A light sweat clings to his skin. This isn’t unusual when us weres exert ourselves in extreme physical activities such as weight training or running idiotic races like the one Tony and Max just had.
“Okay... I concede... You’re better than me.” Max appears, panting and slightly red faced. He stops beside my father as he inhales a deep breath to settle himself. Immediately my father’s gaze rests upon Max, and even though he’s my best friend I find myself relieved that my father’s rage is no longer focused solely upon me.
"Uhh... Hi Alpha.” Max smiles sheepishly in greeting. His eyes dancing between my father and me, but I’m not going to come to his rescue. Not this time anyway.
“I’ll talk with you later.” Elijah responds flatly before turning on his heel and storming over to where Tony’s managed to get his breathing slightly under control. “You, on the other hand, I want to see in my office. NOW!”
Tony draws in a deep breath and exhales it with a slight sigh knowing he’s busted and there’s nothing I can say or do to make the situation better. Squaring his shoulders he turns to face our father, his expression sober and his breathing finally stable.
He doesn’t wait for Elijah to say anything more as he follows our father solemnly back into the house, the door slamming shut behind them. Max exhales a breath, his eyes darting everywhere but in my direction. He knows I’m angry with him and Tony.
“He’s screwed, isn’t he?”
He finally plucks up the courage to meet my gaze.
“What do you think?” I snap in response before following my father and brother indoors, leaving Max shuffling his feet sheepishly in the back garden.
I storm into my father’s office, opening the door so forcefully that it bounces off the wall and almost hits my father in the face as he walks in behind me. He shuts the door a little softer before turning to face me. I stand on the rug in the middle of his study as I’m not in the mood to sit on the vacant red leather sofa he has in here for visitor’s and cross my arms over my chest, waiting for the inevitable confrontation to unfold between us.
“WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU THINKING?!” He shouts, stomping over the wooden floor to me. “I EXPECTED BETTER FROM YOU ANTONIO.” He oozes Alpha power, but the use of my full name means I’ve really put my foot in it and he doesn’t need to be my Alpha, or even my father, for me to know I’m in the deepest trouble of my life.
“I’m fine, Dad.” I reply, keeping a cool demeanour. “There’s no need for you to make this into a big deal.”
“It is a big deal, Tony.” He throws his hands up in the air in exasperation. “You let Max get under you skin again, even though I’ve told you hundreds - no - thousands of times to just drop it.” He crosses his arms over his chest, his shirt pulling taut over his impressive muscles. I’ve always been in awe of my father’s strength, but it was what motivated me to train every morning.
“You can’t blame this all on me.” I feel a low growl brewing in my throat and swallow it back down. “That little twerps had it coming for years. He should be grateful I challenged him to a race and not a fist fight.”
Even though he’s maintaining a serious face, Elijah can’t hide the sparkle of amusement in his eyes. He knows I can take Max one-on-one in a fight with both hands tied behind my back and still come out victorious, and had I not been diagnosed with dyspnea I would have run circles around him in a race. Which in a way I kind of did.
“Listen to me Tony,” Elijah pinches the bridge of his nose with his forefinger and thumb, ”I know he’s your brother’s best friend, and practically my third son, and soon to be a Beta for this pack, but you need to let this petty grudge with Maxwell go. How do you two expect to keep Ellis protected if all you do is fight amongst yourselves?”
I think of a snappy response, but his speech makes me pause. Even though my father’s words are laced with anger and bitterness, looking up I can only see sorrow and resentment in his eyes. Resentment because he’d spent so long training me to be Alpha, teaching me not only how to fight and protect the pack - our family - but the intricate politics and ethics that came with being a great ruler. And sorrow because he was afraid of losing me, of losing both his sons if I can’t learn to control my temper.
“I know dad, and I’m sorry.” I sigh, feeling my anger draining away in an instant. “I guess it wasn’t just Max I was trying to beat. I wanted to prove to myself that I could still do this, that I could still be a good Beta to Ellis. If I can’t even win a stinking race then who am I anymore?”
“I...” Elijah hesitates. “I understand, Tony.”
“Wait... You do?” I rise an eyebrow uncertainly.
“Of course I do.” He shrugs his shoulders nonchalantly. “I never in my wildest dreams thought that this would happen to you. That someone would find a way to physically harm a werewolf in such a way that-”
“In a way that stopped me from becoming Alpha?” I interrupt, my anger resurfacing before my father has a chance to finish explaining. “Thanks for the pep talk Dad, but I’ve heard it all before.”
“Don’t interrupt me Antonio.” He snaps, my full name sliding from his lips is punctuated with a slight growl. “I was going to say in a way that puts my son’s life at risk. I worry about you, Tony.” His hands drop onto my shoulders, squeezing slightly. This is as close as it’s going to get to a hug between us. “I don’t blame you for wanting to live your life and doing whatever you feel is right for you, but sometimes I feel you let your emotions control you.” I scowl, but keep my retort to myself. “So I need you to promise me that you won’t challenge anyone to anymore races.”
“Uh... Sure thing, Dad.” I stare down at my feet sheepishly, too embarrassed by my own big-headedness to look my father in the eyes.
“You’d better get going. Ellis and Max will be waiting for you.” He stands back, giving me space to leave. I pad quietly over to the door, and this time I open it a lot softer than I did when I entered.
I turn when my father calls my name. “Yeah, Dad.”
“You’d better put those two through some cardio training.” He concludes seriously. The corners of his lips twitch with the start of a smile. “Maxwell was looking a bit sluggish outside.”
I grin back. “Sure thing Alpha.”
The hot water that cascades upon my body is heavenly as I scrub the dirt and grime of the day from my skin. It’s been a strange one to say the least. The Beta’s have been wound up, more so than usual, but I can’t quite place my finger on why. I let the last of the soapy bubbles wash away before I shut off the stream and step outside. I have to share the bathroom with all the other Omegas, or ”the bottom feeders" as we’re so politely nicknamed by the rest of the pack. The bathroom is not dissimilar to any changing room in a gym or school or campsite, or so I’ve been told. Ten shower stalls stand in a long line along one wall, each with its own changing space so we have a little bit of privacy when getting undressed and redressed. Not that it makes much difference to us as we spend most of our time half-clothed anyway, but since both men and women have to share this space it allows us a little bit of decency.
I wring out my long, jet-black hair before wrapping myself in my vanilla towel. It’s freshly washed, soft and still a little warm from sitting on the shelf above the boiler; mine and my best friend Meg’s secret place to store our towels before we shower. I wipe the condensation from the small mirror hanging on the wall with my bare hand and stare at my reflection. I have a cute little button nose, wide eyes and long lashes that accentuate my sunshine yellow irises. My cheekbones and nose are spotted with pale freckles and my flawless skin is lightly tanned. I twist my hair again, drawing the final drops of excess water through my fingers and flip it forward over my shoulder.
I leave the bathroom and return to my room, planning on having a quiet night in with a good book, but the moment I open the door I know all my plans have gone out the window.
“What the hell are you doing in here?” I demand as my best friend on the whole damn world Megan lays down the book she’s been pretending to read and rises from my bed.
“I’m excited. Aren’t you excited?” She’s instantly bouncing on the balls of her feet, her pale-yellow eyes sparkling with delight.
“Excited about what?” I continue to question, cocking an eyebrow sceptically at her. She’s always been a bit excitable, but something’s really got her riled tonight and I have a suspicion that whatever scheme she’s concocted in her mind I’m going to be involved in it.
"Please tell me you haven’t forgotten that it’s a new moon tonight.” She mimics my scowl, her slender arms folding neatly over her chest.
“You’re kidding me right?” My eyebrow rises so high its practically part of my head hair. “Or have you forgotten what happened the last time?”
"I thought we promised never to bring that up again.” Meg groans audibly as she buries her head in her hands in an attempt to hide the blush creeping into her cheeks. I don’t know whether to laugh or roll my eyes at her. “I swear Bella, that’s not going to happen again.” She rises her head, her embarrassment forgotten and a large grin on her lips. “We’ll just sneak out for a few hours, have a few drinks. And meet a few attractive men." She adds in a stage whisper, punctuating her statement with a suggestive wink.
Now its my turn to groan audibly. I love Meg as my best friend, but she can be a little dense at times. I consider us lucky if we get to go the toilet alone, never mind us sneaking out of the compound for a night off.
“One slight problem Meg, we’re bottom feeders, there’s no way they’ll let us out to have any fun.” I politely remind her, but there’s still that flame of mischief burning in her eyes.
"Au contraire mademoiselle,” she replies in her best French accent, “the Alpha’s are already busy trying to keep the Beta’s under control.” She taps her chin feigning thought as she continues. “Apparently something happened earlier today and some are banned from going out tonight. Aaanywaay,” she drawls, “this is our golden ticket to sneak right out the back gate. What do you say?”
“This ′something′ -” I mime air quotes “-wouldn’t have been your doing, would it?” I ask her as my scepticism rears its ugly head once again. Meg remains silent, trying to keep her lips taught even though they twitch upwards slightly at the corners.
"Urgh... Fine.” I throw my hands up defeated. “But you owe me one if we get caught.” I add quickly before her squeal of delight can block out the sound of my semi-protest.
“We won’t, I promise.” She claps her hands together excitedly, the sound muffled by the overly long sleeves of the white hoodie she’s wearing. “I left you some outfits over there.” She indicates my wardrobe with a nod of her head. “Now hurry up and get dressed. We make our escape in ten minutes.”
I don’t get the chance to protest the fact that she’s not even ready herself as she sashays from the room, singing a little tune under her breath.
“OH, AND DO SOMETHING NICE WITH YOUR HAIR IT LOOKS LIKE A BIRD’S NEST!” She shouts over her shoulder just before she closes my bedroom door leaving me in privacy to get dressed.
I roll my eyes before walking over to my wardrobe expectantly. I drop my towel, standing naked as I open the doors hoping to be delighted. Meg can sometimes be fashionably challenged, but on occasion she hits the nail on the head and comes up trumps, this time however, its the former. My choices aren’t terrible, but I could do so much better.
I start by pulling on the black lace underwear Meg has selected. The bra is strapless, but I can work with that. On the whole at least that’s a positive as I study what to do about the rest of my clothes. There’s a selection of crop tops; two tanks and one boob tube coloured white, red and blue with skirts in blue, black and pastel pink to compliment them. I instantly turn my nose up and discard the pink skirt. I’m the farthest thing from a girly-girl its laughable, although I do enjoy a pretty skirt or a tasteful dress on occasion. I select the red cropped tank top and pull it on, the colour complimenting my hair and skin tone perfectly. I flick through my rail of shorts and skirts until I find the perfect piece to complete my look. The skirt is black and accompanied with this top builds what I call a rock chic style. I shimmy into the garment, the bottom coming to mid thigh; just enough coverage to make feel less like a slut than my usual day-to-day outfit, but keeping me looking and feeling sexy while I’m out.
Now for the shoes.
Meg’s selected heels to match each shirt, but heels and I have a love-hate relationship. I hate them and they love to try and trip me up whenever possible. Digging through my extensive collection, because a girl can never have too many shoes, I find a pair of faux leather, red and black lace-up ankle boots buried towards the back of my wardrobe. I don’t remember the last time I wore these beauties and there seems no better time than the present to give them a taste of fresh air.
Hair and make-up takes less time than reorganising Meg’s fashion faux pas. A light dab of gloss adds a shimmer to my lips and a healthy application of mascara and eyeliner accentuates my already extraordinarily coloured eyes. I run a brush quickly through my hair in an attempt to tame it a little. Meg will probably moan at me for not trying harder, but I can’t be asked.
I’m anxious, but a little excited as I leave my room after grabbing my cropped, red faux leather jacket from the wardrobe, and travel as silently as I can through the house heading to the back gardens and a night of freedom. I can’t help the butterflies of nervousness that flutter in my stomach. There’s something exhilarating about breaking the rules, but the consequences should we get caught will be extortionate, maybe even deadly. I can’t let doubt stop me though, as I close the backdoor behind me and race across the lawn to where I see Meg waiting for me under the ancient beech tree.
"Ohmigosh Bella, you look smoking!” She compliments as I draw nearer.
I’m almost disappointed in her considering what she chose for me to wear, but the deep purple dress is amazing on her. The material hugs her curves in all the right places and the length is complimentary to both her long, lean legs and ample bosom. She’s naturally taller than me, but the black and gold heels she wears accentuate her modelesque height.
“I know,” I preen, flipping my hair over my shoulder, “but you and I need to have a little chat about your fashion sense.” I add with a scowl.
“Sorry about that babe.” At least Meg has the decency to look sheepishly away from me, knowing she hasn’t won me any favours by trying to get my to dress like a slut in my own time as well as at work. She begins to fidget nervously, her eyes darting back in the direction of the house.
“We’d better go. Looks like things are calming down over there.”
I hadn’t really been paying the loud shouting any attention when I first walked outside, but now Meg has mentioned it I’m beginning to hear the chirping crickets and the quiet twittering of birds’s nesting down for the night. We don’t waste another minute as we race to the perimeter fence, our wolf blood a useful advantage to avoid getting all hot and sweaty in our best clothes. The gate doesn’t have a lock, just a deadbolt that can be easily reached through the chain-metal of the fence from the outside, after all only idiots like Meg and myself are dumb enough to break in - or out - of the compound. Nobody else would dare mess with our pack; we have the strength in numbers to deal with any and all threats to our way of life.
Meg takes a second to bolt the gate behind us, just in case someone happens to patrol this way later we don’t want to make it obvious that we’ve gone missing and then we’re sprinting off towards the woods. There’s a small distance of open grass we need to cover before we’re completely out of sight of potentially prying eyes and I hold my breath the entire time. Meg sets a steady pace as we travel farther and farther away from our sanctity, and even though I can now breath a little easier within the shadows of the trees I can’t help having the feeling that somebody has seen us.
The New Moon Club; the heart throb of the neutral zone and the place to be if you’re ever in need of blowing off steam mid way through the full moon cycle. There’s some kind of ancient spell on the place, like everything in the neutral zone, that masks a wolf scent, meaning weres from neighbouring packs can come together without fear of attack. There’s also a strict NO ALPHA policy, it has something to do with their power being too great for the spell to work against. I don’t have to worry about it for another year at least. Tonight is a chance for me to unwind and relax, have a few drinks and scope out a potential mate.
“I honestly thought your old man was going to rip me in half.” Max complains for what feels like the umpteenth time. “How did you convince him to let us come tonight anyway?”
We’re stood in a slightly clearer area of the open room, close enough to the dance-floor to feel a part of the celebrations, but far enough away that the loud music won’t make conversation difficult. We’re all dressed casually. Me in a red, button shirt, loose fitting grey-black jeans and red canvas trainers. Max is in a green button shirt, black plaid trousers and green trainers. His hair is styled up front and wild at the back, and he’s made the effort to trim his facial hair before coming out tonight. Tony’s the only once of us whose come out wearing smart casual by wearing a black and white cotton jacket over a plain black T-shirt, dark wash jeans and black trainers to match his shirt. His hair is combed to the left side out of his pale-yellow eyes and he sips casually from the tumbler of whisky in his hand.
“I didn’t have to convince him at all.” I shrug nonchalantly. “He said that as long as the pair of you had learnt your lesson then we were free to go.” It’s not a total lie, but my father did warn me the repercussions should I let Tony and Max overpower me again. “But no more vicious cardio sessions, okay, Tony.” Max snorts back a laugh as I turn to my brother, who scowls at me over the rim of his tumbler.
“I’d like to say I’m sorry, but that one was Alpha’s orders.” He takes a casual sip of his drink. “He said Max was looking a little sluggish after our race, and I have to agree with him.”
“He said what about me?” Max’s scream of disbelief pulls a few strange looks from those standing or dancing closest to us. His eyebrows furrow and his hands tremble, almost curling into fists. Both Tony and I chuckle at his overreaction.
“Lighten up, Max. Someday you’ll be as good as me.” Tony teases him lightly.
“I ought to-” Max begins, but whatever he’s said I don’t hear. I stare out over the dance-floor having the sensation that somebody is staring at me and I’m not wrong. “What’re you staring at Ellis?” Max is the first to realise I’m no longer part of the conversation. He turns on his heel, lifting his head to peer into the crowd hoping to spot who it is I’m looking at.
“Is that Cass?”
I swear the air beside me heats as Tony’s rage hits boiling point when the girl Max and I are staring at sashays over to us. She’s a beautiful girl, I’m not going to lie, and she’s also smart, athletic and kind - on the outside - but she’s actually a manipulative bitch. Literally! She was dating my brother Tony, but as soon as she heard he wasn’t going to be Alpha anymore she dumped him, and has been fawning over me ever since. I’d like to say that I’m not interested in Cassandra, but we’ve unfortunately hooked up on a couple of occasions. I’m an idiot, I know, but despite her backstabbing my brother, there are still worse girls I could choose to by my wife and mate.
“Hey, Ellis, fancy meeting you here.” She greets, flirtatiously flipping her raven black hair over her shoulder. It’s partly tied up in a princess braid, with the rest flowing in waves to the base of her shoulder blades.
“Uh, yeah... Nice to see you too, Cass.” I respond out of kindness. I notice she doesn’t greet either Max or Tony with the same sunshine attitude she gives me.
“I’m going to get another drink.” Tony excuses himself suddenly. I doubt he really needs to go to the bar, it’s just an excuse to get away from Cass and I can hardly blame him.
“Right, yeah... Me too.” Max traitorously deserts me to, not wanting to sweat under Cass’s hard stare any longer than necessary.
“How are you Ellis? It feels like I haven’t seen you in forever.” Cass continues as though Max and Tony were never here, which in her mind they probably weren’t.
“Yeah I... I’m good.” I clear my throat, feeling nervous all of a sudden. “I’ve been busy with all the training.” I add casually. It’s only half of the truth, the other half is I’ve been deliberately avoiding Cass on pack territory so she won’t pester me about my upcoming ascension.
“I can tell. You’re looking yummy in that shirt.” She winks and I’m slightly taken aback. “What do you think?” I’m thankful she continues without waiting for me to say something. “I picked this outfit especially for you.”
She’s chosen the closest thing she can pass off as a slutty, non-slutty outfit. A very short, black, glittery skirt sits low on her waist accentuates her long and shapely legs and a cropped black boob tube hugs her breasts and flashes enough of her flat, well toned stomach to make any man sweat. Around her neck is a black silk choker, decorated with a fake silver ring and she’s wearing stiletto heals, but she still can’t compete with my height, the top of her head comes level with my chin.
“It’s really nice. Those sparkles compliment your eyes.” Even I believe those words sound stupid, but its the first thing I can think of when on the spot.
“That’s kind of you to say, Ellis.” She replies, probably not bothered at all about what I’ve said so long as it feeds her already inflated ego. “So, are we going to get this party started or what?” She winks at the same time she slightly nods her head in the direction of the bar.
“Wha- Uh, yeah sure, Cass.” I catch myself before I stupidly ask her what she means by having fun. With our werewolf metabolism it will take a long time and a lot of drink to get us pissed enough to do something idiotic and regretful, and from the way Cass’s eyes comb my body I’m guessing that’s what she wants out of tonight. Having already been cornered by her, I have no choice other than to play along, for now, and hope I can find some excuse to get away from her before things get too far outside of my control.
The bar is loaded with so many people it takes a while for me to find a spot for Cass and I to stand and wait to be served. There only appears to be one man on duty tonight and he seems flustered, running up and down the length of the bar as he attempts to serve the patrons in order of arrival. I spy Max at one end talking to a girl with silver-grey hair dressed in a pink floral dress and quickly disregard going over to see him, not with Cass practically walking in my shoes. We stand and wait, the noise of the music semi-muted by the loud chatter surrounding us. Cass eventually leans her back against the bar, tapping her foot impatiently upon the wooden floor.
“What is taking this bartender so long?” She mutters, not bothering to lower her voice meaning everyone around us has to hear her irritability.
“Relax Cass, we’ve only been standing here for a few minutes.” I patronise her softly.
“HOW MUCH LONGER?” She screams at the poor bartender, ignoring my words and making me recoil at the high pitch of her voice.
“BE RIGHT WITH YOU MISS!” The man replies as he shuffles past us, busily scanning the shelves for a clean glass to pour a beverage in to.
“I need to visit the ladies room.” Cass announces suddenly and I internally breath a sigh of relief. “My drink better be here when I get back or else.” She adds snappily as the bartender passes by again.
“RIGHT AWAY MISS!” He calls over his shoulder as he returns to the couple he was serving before Cass rudely disturbed him.
“Be right back handsome.” She leans up and presses a quick peck to my cheek before she waltzes away, swinging her hips and singing along to the club tune as she goes.
As soon as she’s left I lean my elbows on the bar and bury my head in my hands, letting out the groan of frustration I’ve been holding onto ever since she said “hi” to me this evening.
“How’s the date with Cassandra going bro?” I straighten as Tony leans against the bar beside me, a smug grin on his face.
“I swear if I have to hear one more narcissistic comment I’m-” I stop myself suddenly. “Hold on this isn’t a date!” I turn my nose up and my brother bursts into laughter at my expense.
"Have you told Cass that?” He whispers mockingly at me, punctuating his words with a wink and another laugh. I cross my arms on the bar, my eyebrows pulling into a tight scowl but Tony doesn’t take me seriously as he chokes back another laugh.
“You’re a dick, you know that.” I respond flatly.
“Just looking out for my little bro.” Tony shrugs nonchalantly. “And speaking of looking out." He nods his head to our left and I have to push myself up from the bar to see what he’s indicating.
Tony and I were never the type of men to perv on girls whilst standing at the bar but O-M-G! The girl he’s singled out is absolutely stunning. She has a pair of amazing, athletically shaped legs and her waist is lusciously curvaceous. She holds herself with such confidence. Her body perfectly poised despite her having her back turned to me, with her hands on her hips as she chats to her friend. And her hair - so soft and silky looking. Coloured dark like a midsummer’s night sky. And- Crap! She turns suddenly, and is looking right at me!
“Perfectly subtle as always, Ellis.” Tony mutters annoyed that I’ve gotten myself so easily busted. I bite my lip to stop myself from shouting at my brother. If he hadn’t pointed her out I wouldn’t have gotten caught staring at her like a psycho stalker.
“Sorry for the delay gents. What can I get for you?” Saved by the bartender.
“One whiskey on ice.” I order for Tony even though my brother doesn’t deserve it for dumping me in the shit just now. “One Cobalt Blue.” I order for myself. “And whatever the pretty ladies over there want.” I point to the girl I’ve just been staring at and her friend.
“You got it boss.” The bartender smiles politely, and as he goes about making our drinks I pluck up the courage to go talk to the girls.
They’re both beautiful specimens; athletic and curvaceous like every healthy she-wolf should be. One girl wears a shapely purple dress that compliments her chocolate complexion and her auburn-brown hair. The other has a red cropped tank top beneath a ruby red leather jacket and a very short, but very sexy black skirt, and her long hair curtains her face, semi-obscuring her gorgeous sunny-yellow eyes and the cutest freckles I’ve ever seen on a woman.
“This first one’s on me ladies, as an apology for my weirdo staring.” I begin as a way of greeting, smiling in what I hope is a polite and not freaky way. The girl in the purple dress smiles shyly back at me, but her friend seems immune to my charms.
“If this is some creepy ass trick to try and get in my knickers it’s not going to work.” She says bluntly, pulling her jacket closed in a subtle attempt to hide her cleavage from my view than being defensive. Her friend slaps her forehead with the heel of her hand in disbelief of what this girl has just said to me.
“N-No... I swear it’s not.” I stammer under her intensive gaze, having to draw in a deep breath to settle myself. “I am genuinely sorry for staring. I’m not normally that perverse.” She both rises an eyebrow sceptically and lowers one with annoyance. “Not that I’m a pervert or anything.” I massage my forehead. “I’m just gonna stop talking before I say something really stupid.”
The girl in the purple has been giggling all though my babbling, but the one in black and red remains defensive and unconvinced. I back away slowly, just in time for the bartender to save my sorry ass.
“Here you are.” He places an open, pale blue bottle of drink on the bar for me.
“Thanks.” I wrap my hand around it. “Enjoy the rest of your night ladies.”
I turn and half run back to my brother, bringing the bottle to my lips and taking a long swig. The liquor burns my throat with its strength, and if I wasn’t planning on drinking enough to tolerate having to spend the night with Cass, I’m definitely going to be drinking to forget that embarrassing encounter.
“You’d better take it easy, Ellis.” Tony growls warningly, not because I’m likely to choke myself if I keep knocking the bottle back like I’m drinking shots of tequila, but because Cobalt Blue is one of the stronger beverages a werewolf can tolerate. I end up having to stop for the former reason as the burning sensation agitates my throat to the point I almost spit up the last mouthful all over Tony, but manage to swallow it in time.
“I made a complete ass of myself, didn’t I?” I don’t need him to answer me, but I know he’s going to regardless.
“You think?” His eyebrows rise dubiously.
I start to take another sip of my drink.
“What the fuck Ellis?”
And almost choke on it again as Cassandra makes a sudden reappearance. Tony’s instantly defensive, downing his drink in one casual mouthful.
“Ah crap I forgot about Cass.” I mutter loud enough for Tony’s ears only. He places his tumbler back on the bar, the slight ching noise it makes telling me he slammed it a little harder than he intended.
“This one’s all yours ”Alpha”.” He mocks me with a grin before walking away and Cass takes his place.
“I left you for five fucking minutes and you didn’t get my drink like I asked.” She shouts at me, her comment more a question than a statement. “What kind of Alpha does that to his mate?” She stands with her arms crossed, pushing her breasts up in flirtatious protests, her luscious lips pouted and one perfectly styled eyebrow raised.
“Someone who’s not an Alpha and not mated to anybody yet, and you’d do well to remember that Cassandra.” I remind her solemnly, using her full name in a similar way dad uses Tony’s whenever he gets into serious trouble. For a moment she doesn’t respond, just continues to stare at me with her wide golden-yellow eyes, pouting her lips further. Whatever she’s thinking of saying she quickly dismisses with a sigh.
“You’re right.” She drops her gaze, sighing defeatedly. “I’m sorry, Ellis. I shouldn’t rush you into making the biggest decision of your life.” She comes closer to me, my back presses against the bar as Cass pens me in and I have to put my hands out behind me to stop myself from bending backwards to avoid her. Her hands clasp my waist tightly, her right hand slides beneath my shirt as her fingertips caress my smooth skin rising involuntary shivers up my spine.
“I just couldn’t help myself. You’re so irresistible.” She pouts flirtatiously, blinking slowly as she stares up at me. Her eyes have caught the light at the right angle to make them dazzle like stars.
“Cass.” I say her name as neutrally as I can.
“Get your hands off my waist and I’ll get your drink.”
“Thank you, Ellis.” She bats her eyelashes and smiles. I gently remove her hands from her waist and she lets me push her aside to go in search of the bartender.
As I’m waiting for him to finish serving his current customers, I have the deep seeded feeling that Cass is up to something. My suspicion is confirmed when I turn and find her in conversation with the two girls I bought a drink for. Whatever Cass is saying to them they’re not impressed, with arms folded over chests and cute little scowls on their adorable faces.
“What can I get you?” The bartender asks me politely.
“Forget it.” I reply with a slight lisp of a growl in my voice and I walk away. The girl in the red and black and her friend in the violet walk past me without a single glance, not that I’d notice when I have my eyes directed on one person only; Cass.
“What have you done now Cass?” I question her as she approaches, smiling smugly at the backs of the two girls.
“How could you choose those two over me?” She answers my question with a question of her own. She plants her hands on her hips and taps the toe of her left stiletto against the floor impatiently. I draw in a deep breath through my nose and let it out slowly, reigning in my anger before it has a chance to erupt.
“Cass, listen carefully because I’m only going to explain this once.” I push a little of my Alpha power into my voice, hoping she’ll listen to me at least this one time. “You and I aren’t a couple; never have been and never will be. Especially after the way you treated Tony.” Her face drops slightly at the mention of my brother’s name, but I don’t give her a chance to explain herself just yet. “Who, and what, I choose to spend my money on is my decision, not yours. If I want to buy every she-wolf in the room a drink, I will. And if you dare to undermine me, or try to boss me around again I’ll have you ousted from the pack so fast you won’t know what hit you. Understand?”
For a moment we stand in silence staring at each other, the dull sound of the club music and the clinking of glasses against the bar the symphony to our stand off.
“Fine. If you want to settle for second best, be my guest,” Cass eventually replies, turning her nose up slightly as though she’s smelt something foul, “but I know you’ll come crawling back Ellis,” she smiles smugly, “all the real men do.” She adds for good measure before blowing me a kiss through the air and sauntering away.
I exhale the remainder of my anger. Tony wasn’t wrong when he warned me that Cass is hard work. How he managed to put up with her for so long I’ll never understand. Then again, they say that love is blind, but you’d also have to be death to tolerate Cass for a long time. I don’t dwell on it for long. Instead I finish the last of my Cobalt Blue for courage and instead of looking for Tony and Max I go looking for the two girls Cass no doubt insulted. The least I owe them, as an ascending Alpha, is an apology for the behaviour of one of my pack.
The club is packed. Wolves from all over coming together for a night of harmony. Meg can’t keep still; constantly bouncing on the balls of her feet as her wide eyes watch the room with keen interest. I, on the other hand, can’t help feeling on edge. I have that horrible feeling that someone is watching us. Is watching me. Just waiting for the opportunity to drag me kicking and screaming back to the compound. That’s the downside to being a ′bottom feeder’. Unlike the other Omega’s who are there to have fun and break tensions in the pack, we’re there to make the Alpha’s and Beta’s better in any way the Omega’s can’t. And when I say ‘in any way’ I really mean IN ANY WAY.
We’re standing at the edge of the packed dance-floor, the pounding bass causing a loose ringing in my ears, but Meg seems unaffected.
“Ohmigosh! This place is more amazing than I remember.” She cups her face with genuine excitement. I wish I could let loose the same way she does.
“If you say so, Meg.” I fiddle with the tips of my hair as I glance around nervously.
“I hope you’re not planning on ditching me now.” Meg crosses her arms over her chest, her left eyebrow lowers sceptically and she cocks her head slightly to the right as she regards me.
“Yeah, because I really wanted to come in the first place.” I reply sarcastically. It’s my go to when I’m feeling nervous, or excited, or afraid, or angry, or feeling anything at all to be fair.
“Do you know what you need?” Meg taps her chin thoughtfully. “A drink to settle your nerves.” She beams excitedly.
“I don’t think that’s-” I begin to say.
“To the bar!” Meg screams interrupting me before she’s racing to the far end of the room, her heels clicking dully against the wooden floor. “MOVE IT SLOW COACH!” She throws over her shoulder when it becomes apparent I’m not following her. I can’t help but roll my eyes after my friend. Well, if I can’t relax I can at least drink to forget my troubles.
The bar is packed with weres waiting to be served. We’re probably going to be here a while, but that doesn’t seem to worry Meg. She chats at me excitedly but I’m barely listening to her. I’m too on edge to converse, although I try to play along with her.
"Don’t look now, but I think that guy over there is checking you out.” She whispers at me. Confused I turn around, and easily find the man she’s talking about as he has the sense to look sheepishly back at me when he’s seen he’s gotten himself busted perving on us.
He’s young and handsome and tall, with fluffy chestnut brown hair and a shadow of a beard on his square jaw. His eyes are pale yellow; wide and alert, his nose is slightly sloped and button shaped and his lips are plush, the corners turning up into a shy smile as he looks me in the eye. He’s not as toned as most of the male wolves I know, but his mass is still impressive. The red button shirt he wears fits his shoulders and chest perfectly, but doesn’t hang too baggy around his waist either. He’s also wearing dark jeans and red canvas shoes; he’s dressed cool, but casual.
His attention is soon stolen away by the bartender and I’m gifted a quick relief from his stare. It doesn’t last long, as he’s soon making his way over to Meg and I. Our conversation is brief and awkward to say the least. I can tell he’s nervous and I have to wonder is he’s had much experience with talking to women before. He has such a baby face I wonder if he’s even old enough to be here to begin with.
“Enjoy the rest of your night ladies.” He ends our conversation by grabbing the blue bottle the bartender has brought him and retreats back to the lad he was standing with. They look similar, but his comrade is much shorter than he is and is dressed more smart casual than anyone else in the room.
“What will it be ladies?” The bartender asks, distracting me from my musings.
“Two glasses of your best white wine please.” Meg orders before I can stop her.
“Two glasses of vin blanc coming right up.”
“You’re kidding me right?” I raise an eyebrow sceptically at Meg.
“What? You promised me one drink.” She shrugs nonchalantly back at me.
“That doesn’t mean you get the strongest wine off the menu.” I prod Meg in the shoulder, but she only laughs at me.
“Here you are ladies. Enjoy.” The bartender fills two glasses from an impressive looking bottle of white wine. The smell that hits my nostrils is powerful but sweet.
“Oh, we plan to.” Meg winks flirtatiously at the bartender as she helps herself to one of the glasses. “To good times and good friends.” She toasts before taking a sip. I roll my eyes and keep my snappy retort to myself. Meg’s a good friend, but I’d hardly call this a good time when I’m so nervous.
Screw it. I grab the second glass from the bar and have a drink, the wine is strong and burns both my tongue and mouth, but the taste is out of this world; a mix of rose, white grape, lemon and elder-flower that probably shouldn’t mix but they do. I don’t normally get to enjoy alcohol being a bottom feeder and all, but if I’m likely to get caught out tonight I might as well go out in a blaze of glory and at least enjoy the finer luxuries in life.
“That’s an expensive wine you two are drinking, where’d you get it?”
I almost choke on the wine in my mouth when the girl speaks so suddenly behind me. I place the glass back on the bar as I turn to face her. She’s stunning with raven black hair and wide yellow eyes accentuated with long, black lashes, long lean legs and an athletes body, with plenty of boob and bum to make any man navigate towards her. She’s let herself down with her outfit though, it’s something I’d wear on a normal day just to keep my bosses happy. A short glittery skirt and tight fitting boob tube, both coloured black to stand out against her tanned skin and compliment her hair.
“What does it matter to you?” Meg responds snidely.
“It doesn’t,” the girl flips some of her loose hair unconcernedly over her shoulder, “but you see that handsome man over there in the red shirt-” she indicates the man who had spoken to Meg and I previously with a brief nod of her head “-I suspect he was the one who got it for you because that’s the kind of generous man he is, but I’ve got something else to tell you two slags, stay away from my man-” she practically growls the final five words “-because at the end of the night there’s only one woman he’s going to be taking home, and it’s going to be me!” She throws back her shoulders as she places her hands on her hips trying to dominate Meg and I. We have no idea who this girl is, what pack she belongs to or what her status in that pack is, but none of that matters when she’s practically insulted Meg and I.
“You’re welcome to him. We’re not interested.” I reply, undeterred by her insults. I turn my back on her. “Come on Meg, lets go before this bitch infects us with something nasty.” I mimic her hair flip for good measure, Meg laughs and I feel the girl’s eyes burning holes into the back of my skull she’s that offended by me.
I walk away before she can say anything else and am glad Meg is shadowing me. We pass the man in the red shirt, but he doesn’t seem to notice us. He’s too focused on the girl who insulted us. Good. He needs to get that bitch under control. Meg takes my hand as she steers me towards the dance-floor and we become enveloped by the crowd and the music. Meg begins bobbing her head and humming along to the tune. She attempts to get me dancing but I’m not as keen as she is.
“C’mon Bella, have some fun.” Meg exclaims when she finally realises I’m not joining in the festivities. “Let your inner beast out.” She begins to bump and grind embarrassingly to a song that has a more mellow beat. I know she’s trying to bait me, but it’s not going to work. This time at least.
“Not. Funny.” I enunciate in reply to her poor attempt at humour and she giggles lightly back at me. I’d love to say that the wine’s gone straight to her head, but this is simply Megan’s regular behaviour. She suddenly rises up on her toes as she stares at a spot in the room behind me.
“What are you staring at?” I query, hating having her looking around me as though I’m blocking the most important view in the world.
“I think you have an admirer.” Meg cups her hand to her face as she mock whispers at me, punctuating her statement with a flirtatious wink. I turn, curious to know who she’s looking at and feel myself sigh audibly as my eyes glaze over the red shirt wearing boy from the bar. He’s standing at the edge of the crowded dancefloor, his feet shift nervously under my own probing gaze and he lifts a hand in acknowledgement. I fold my arms crossly over my chest as I turn back to my traitorous best friend for having caught his attention in the first place.
“Don’t look at me like that. He’s cute.” She winks at me again and it takes all my will power no to punch her, or physically carry her from the club. I don’t want to draw anymore attention to us than I already have. This young lad included.
“Are you a stalker now as well as a pervert?” I whip around taking him by surprise, the soft sound of his trainers against the wooden floor announcing his approach not lost to my wolf ears despite the obnoxious noise coming from the DJ’s stereo.
“N.. No. That’s not why I’m here.” He stutters, clearly taken aback by my hostility. “I just came here to apologise for Cass’s behavior. She gets a little jealous sometimes.” He adds a little more calmly, as though that is an excuse for his girlfriend threatening Meg and I.
“I hate to sound anti-feminist, but YOU NEED TO GET YOUR GIRLFRIEND UNDER CONTROL!” I shout the last eight words, startling the boy and several people around us. I hear Meg groan behind me and I chance a quick look over my shoulder. She has her forehead buried in the palm of her right hand in disbelief at my outburst.
“Cass isn’t my girlfriend.” His nose turns up in disgust at my accusation, his eyebrows furrowing ever so slightly as he crosses his arms over his chest and looks down at me like I’m a rabid rogue.
“Uh... Oh. I’m sorry I shouted at you.” I instantly feel my cheeks burning, but whether it’s embarrassment or something else I’m not too sure.
“You’ll have to excuse my friend. She doesn’t get out much.” Meg pipes in quickly. She and the stranger laugh at the expense of my embarrassment.
"You’re not helping!" I hiss, encouraging another outburst of giggles from my supposed to be best friend.
“You girls seem pretty cool. Mind if we hang out?”
His question is bold and knocks me slightly off kilter. I half turn back to face him, getting fed up of pulling a one eighty every time I want to speak to him or Meg. I’m not going to deny that he’s an attractive fellow. Taller than me by a good six inches, with fluffy chestnut hair and the most gorgeous golden-yellow eyes I have ever seen. His red shirt clings to his toned chest and broad shoulders, the sleeves are rolled up to the elbows also stick nicely to his muscled biceps. He’s not large by any means, but his physique is impressive. He looks like he spends more time running than he does working out with weights which makes him appear different to the male wolves I’m used to seeing in our territory. At home their built like tanks, where the philosophy is kill, or be killed.
“YES!” Meg exclaims suddenly drawing me from my assessment to the good looking lad in front of me. The corner of his desirable lips curls up slightly into a crooked smile.
“Fine. But if you try anything I’ll break your fucking arm.” I add for good measure, throwing as much menace into my voice as I can muster and hoping he won’t see through my ruse. If you can trick an outsider from your pack that you’re of high status they’ll pretty much leave you alone.
“No hands on. I promise.” He holds hands palm up to me in the universal sign of defencelessness. He even takes a step back from me to punctuate his promise and I almost feel bad for growling at him a second ago. The more words that cross his lips, the more genuine I can see he is.
“Just good old fashioned dancing.” He begins waving his hands in the air and shaking his hips from side to side. Meg tries, and fails, to reign in her laughter and I’ve lost what little respect I had for him when he begins to bust a few more dorky dance moves. I almost feel my lips curl up into a shy smile he’s that adorable.
"Give him a chance. He’s funny." Meg whispers in my ear. I didn’t realise he was waiting for my permission before he stuck around. I’m that unused to men asking me what I want it’s unsettling. I sigh internally as one song morphs into another and I find myself involuntarily bobbing my head in time to the beat. That’s all Meg and the boy need and before long our duo has become a trio.
Even though I’m still weary of this stranger, he’s true to his word. He’s the perfect gentleman; keeping a respectful distance between us even though I can see a twinkle of desire in his eye. As the night wears on and the room begins to empty around us he doesn’t try anything. At some point Meg excuses herself from our company, but I can’t say that I miss her. I am, surprisingly, having a good time.
I definitely owe Meg one for dragging me out tonight.
The night ends almost as quickly as it had begun and before I know it it’s kicking out time at the New Moon Club. I spent so much time dancing with the two girls I met at the bar that I never noticed the room has cleared around us and have to do a quick run around looking for both Max and Tony before I can leave, but my best friend and brother are nowhere to be seen. I hope they’re already at home as the neutral zone will be closing for the night soon anyway and the disgruntled bouncer at the New Moon Club isn’t happy with me hanging around outside the door’s wondering where I should check for them next.
The sound of heels clicking against the pavement draws my attention and I catch sight of the two girls I met in the club running as fast as they can away from me. Well, not away from me per se as I doubt they’ve even noticed me stood just to the right of the entrance in their haste to get home.
“WAIT UP!” I shout as I chase after them. It doesn’t look as though either of them are going to stop for me, but the girl in red stops and turns to face me. She folds her arms defensively around herself, her eyes slightly downcast with worry which confuses me slightly. I was sure we were all having a good time, weren’t we?
“At least let me walk you home to say thank you for an amazing night.” I smile slightly at her, but she’s too unsettled to smile back. I can’t say I’m surprised. She has been pretty defensive with me all night and I have to respectable to the other pack’s laws.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea.” She worries at her bottom lip as her eyes dart around with uncertainty. She’s clearly avoiding looking at me, but I can’t fathom why.
“Don’t worry. This spell lasts for another hour. That’s more than enough time to walk you home and make myself scarce.” I explain remembering her friend mentioning that she doesn’t get out often. Not every member of every pack has comes to the neutral zone during their life cycles. Some wolves are content to spend eternity in their own territories. It sounds depressing, and it probably is, but each wolf is different and is entitled to spending their time how they see fit.
“I didn’t even know there was a spell on that place.” She finally smiles back at me, a light blush painting her cheeks pink as her naivety shines through.
“Your friend was right, you don’t get out often.” I joke half-heartedly, continuing quickly when the smile slides from her face. “There’s an ancient mage spell covering the neutral zone. It masks a were’s scent so there’s no fighting amongst packs. It lasts long enough for us to clear the neutral zone and return to our territories before rival packs or rogues can launch any sneak attacks.”
“You really know a lot, huh?” She cocks one eyebrow upwards, her eyes shimmering with a grin even though there isn’t one on her perfect lips.
“Well there is one thing I don’t know.” I tap my chin with a forefinger feigning thought.
“Oh, and what’s that?” Her other eyebrow raises, her lips twisting into a half smile.
“I never asked you your name. Hey. I’m Ellis.” I give her a cheeky wink in greeting, but the slight smile has already disappeared from her face and she’s worrying at her bottom lip again. She’s also hunched her shoulders as though she’s trying to make herself seem as small as possible.
“I... I’m--” She begins after a stretch of awkward silence.
She startles, an involuntary yelp escaping her. I don’t need to turn around to know who has spoken, but I do so anyway. I can’t leave my back exposed to him for a second because I know he won’t hesitate to jump me, neutral zone laws be damned.
“Well, well, well. Looks like we’ve got a couple of rats that need chasing out of town.”
Zack is still as ugly and as nasty looking as the last time our paths crossed, the jagged scar running down the bridge of his crooked nose not doing him any favours. He looks broader than our previous encounter meaning he’s been doing some savage workouts. He’s partially cut his hair, or rather he’s shaved the sides and left the top long in an attempt at being fashionable. He’s clearly been out clubbing tonight, he’s wearing a ribbed leather jacket and casual jeans unlike his normal tank top, ripped jeans combination. The material crackles when he crosses his arms tight over his chest, his dark eyes narrowing as he eyes me up and down. As usual he’s flanked by Tommy and Ryan. Tommy, with his slightly paler complexion, freckled face, bright blonde hair and varsity jacket isn’t as menacing as Ryan, who’s tall, dark, mean and nasty all rolled into one.
“What are you doing here Zack? Isn’t there some dark hole under a rock waiting for you to crawl inside?” I demand as I instinctively stand in front of Bella wanting to protect her from Zack and his cronies. His eyes narrow slightly, his nostrils flaring as he sniffs the air but there is nothing to scent. His lips pull into a twisted grimace, a rumbling noise like laughter vibrates through his chest.
“A pleasure to see you as always, Eli.” He cackles, his lips parting farther to reveal his sharp, white teeth. “But I’m afraid you misunderstood me. You see these two lovely ladies here-” he raises a hand to indicate Bella and her friend- “should never have left our compound. We’re only here to make certain they get home safe.”
“I don’t believe you.” I feel my hands clench into compulsive fists. I’d give anything to wipe that smug grin right off of Zack’s face but I can’t. Fighting in the neutral zone is forbidden by law under penalty of banishment or worse, it depends on the crime really.
"Actually...” Bella sighs in a barely audible whisper. I hear her toe tapping against the pavement with nervousness. I don’t want to turn around but I have no other choice. Making certain I can still see Zack in my peripheral I face her. She still can’t look me in the eye.
“I don’t blame you for not telling me you’re a Vikilla.” I say aloud although inside I’m fuming slightly. My father always told me the prettiest faces will cause me the most trouble and he was right. In this instance at least.
“You... You don’t?” Bella glances up at me like a scolded puppy, her eyes slightly glassy as though she was about to cry then thought better of it. I can almost feeling the relief radiating from her like ocean waves and I’m the little sail boat caught in the sudden storm. I shouldn’t be able to feel anything from her, but I do. Strange.
“I’m not going to let you take them Zack.” I return my attention fully to the men standing behind me, uncertain if I’m being brave or suicidal. My outburst is met with laughter from Tommy and a slight chuckle from Ryan, His shoulder shaking slightly before the muscles in his biceps begin to twitch. He’s itching for a fight but he won’t strike without Zack’s say so.
“I wasn’t asking your permission, Eli. They belong to us.” Zack snarls coolly, his eyes narrowing a fraction. “You either hand them over easily, or we’ll take them by force, and unless you haven’t noticed we have you outnumbered.”
Ryan’s arms twitch again as a flexation of muscles, his lips pulled into a thin line of hatred. Tommy smirks with grim satisfaction. I’ve never actually seen Tommy in a fight so I don’t know what his particular strengths or weaknesses are. I suppose he must be pretty decent though to be hanging out with the likes of Zack and Ryan.
“Don’t, Ellis. It’s not worth it.” I feel Bella’s fingers brush against the back of my hand, they’re clenched into such tight fists it almost hurts, but when her skin comes into contact with mine I feel slightly at ease, if still defensive of her.
“Smart girl. At least one of you has their head on straight.” Zack chuckles, ruining the little moment between Bella and I. “You two take the girls home. I need to have a quick chat with Eli.” He nods his head in our direction, indicating to Ryan and Tommy what they need to do.
“Sure thing boss.” Ryan grumbles as he and Tommy make their way towards us. Tommy passes Bella and I, heading over to Meg. Ryan stops beside me, trying to use his height and impressive muscle mass to intimidate me but I don’t back down, my eyes meet his cold, dark ones evenly. If there wasn’t a spell masking our pack scents there would probably have been a bloodbath by now.
“You heard the boss. Move it.” Ryan breaks our stare down, his arms folding over his broad chest threatening as he slightly shoves me away from Bella.
My jaw twitches and I can taste copper in my mouth, a sign that my teeth are about to morph into canines if Ryan doesn’t get away from me in the next five seconds. Bella sighs audibly, and walks away from me defeatedly without so much as a backwards glance. The soles of Zack’s boots tap against the pavement, his steps slow and calculating. He stops and turns to face me, his hands are shoved into the front pockets of his jeans and he has a snide smile upon his scarred face.
“Next time you think about stealing females from the Vikilla pack. Don’t.” He almost growls despite the upward slant to his lips. He’s not happy with me going to Bella’s defence.
“Next time you call me Eli I’m going to knock all the teeth out of your smug little mouth.” I snap back. His lips turn further upward, flashing his clenched teeth and already extended canines. I was right not to turn my back on him.
“I’d watch your back if I was you, Eli.” He threatens dryly. “Your father’s already lost one son as Alpha and I’d hate to see how he’d act to losing a second.” His chuckle is heartless and cruel. I clench my hands so tightly my nails break through the skin of my palms drawing blood that patters softly onto the ground. I highly doubt he had anything to do with what happened to Tony, but the way he says it doesn’t fill me with confidence. Not that I trust Zack in any way to begin with.
Before I know it, my fist is flying through the air and collides satisfactory with Zack’s twisted face. He’s taken off guard as he stumbles back slightly, his head turned away from me by the momentum of my fist. Zack growls as he turns back to face me, wiping the small trickle of blood from under his nose. His eyes narrow into dangerous slits and I know I’ve struck a nerve within him. If he thought I was going to keep to neutral zone law for a second longer than necessary when I’m face to face with a Vikilla he has sadly underestimated me.
Zack’s retaliation comes in the form of a fist to my face, his strength a million times greater than mine. He could hold a ten tonne block of concrete and still have power to spare. I’m knocked on my ass, the warm trickle of blood oozing from my left nostril the only indication that he has done any damage. It could have ended a lot worse. I stare up hatefully at Zack and he glowers distasteful back at me.
“Try that again and the next time I won’t use restraint.” He threatens with finality. Turning on his heel he strolls purposely away from me, leaving me to pick myself disgracefully up from the ground. A single drop of blood rolls off my chin to land on the collar of my shirt and I wipe the rest away with the back of my hand. It’s a good thing Tony isn’t around to see me scurrying sheepishly away from my brawl.
I don’t think I could handle two ass whooping’s in one night.