I closed my eyes as the hot water soaked my skin. My eyes closed as my head was lost in wonderland. I pressed my hands against the cold tile of the shower, letting the steam take me over.
It had been ten years to the day that the fire took my mother from me. I guess that explains the nice reminder in my sleep last night. Normally I can get through the day without thinking about it, hell I can even go weeks without thinking about it— thinking about her.
I had too much to do today to be acting like this. I had my time, I grieved the loss of my mother just like the rest of the pack grieved the loss of the 22 killed that day. I had to move on with my life, I couldn’t stay in my bed all day and cry. But man did I want to. And I did. For about a week. I took baby steps and joined my dad for meals at first. Then I went back to school. The teasing stopped, but I didn’t make friends. I was still the odd girl but now everyone was too worried they would snap the fragile wolf and I’d go too far. So I was ignored like the beautiful graffiti under the bridge down by the river. It was better that way.
After high school I started bartending at my dad’s bar. It was everything I never asked for. It opened me up socially and the money was great, especially looking the way I do. I’m not naive to the fact that my physical appearance brings even the strongest wolves to their knees. I train with my pack and then some on my own so my body is ready for anything.
I met Derek at the bar, a charming wolf with a bad attitude for authority. He stood well over my five foot two inch height; hitting around six foot even. His hair a dirty blonde and his eyes an ashy gray, he was good looking. Well muscled like all the males in the pack. He became a regular at the bar, mostly the weekends at first but he changed that when he took notice to me. I politely let him down easy, I wasn’t interested in mating. He stuck around and turned out to be one hell of a friend.
I turned off the shower and let the water drip from my naked body. I had to get the bar ready. Tonight there would be a huge pack meeting about the mating ritual coming up and the bar was always stacked to the roof after pack meetings. I dried off and scrunched my hair in the towel before throwing it in the hamper. I dressed in a pair of jean shorts and a red tank top that set off my auburn hair. This was my normal attire for the bar: simple.
I was wiping the counter when I heard the bell of the door. I looked up and smiled at Derek. “You’re early.” I said.
“Looks like I’m late.” He countered. He filled a stool at the bar and looked around. “You set up without me.” I chuckled.
“You know me, nothing better to do than work.” I continued to clean the glasses as he watched me.
“How are you feeling?” I gave him a puzzled look at the question. “The mating ritual.” I scoffed.
“I don’t participate in that kind of thing.”
“Come on, Emma.” He stood up from his stool and grabbed a glass from my hand. “You’re telling me you don’t have men fighting to be yours?” I narrowed my eyes at him and took the glass back.
“The bar isn’t open yet.” I ignored his question. I wouldn’t know if any males would be willing to fight for me because I don’t participate in the ritual. Which is frowned upon by the elders but until the Alpha changes the rules of the ritual, I will keep to myself. “Who’s the lucky girl you’re going in the ring for?” I cleaned the glass Derek had just put his fingers all over. I desperately wanted to sway this thoughts away from me.
“You know I only have eyes for you.” Derek shot a crooked smile at me in the most charming of ways. Dammit. Why couldn’t I just want to give in?
“I’m serious, Derek. You take enough wolves home you probably have a list.” Derek wasn’t only a regular at the bar, he was a regular at taking home a different girl almost every weekend.
“That’s all good and fun, Em, I don’t want anything serious from them.” He smiled at me again. “We should get going. The meeting is gonna be starting in a bit and I know you don’t want to miss a thing.” He laughed at himself and jumped down from the stool. He knew I didn’t give a damn about this meeting. A pack meeting on the rouges? Sign me up. A pack meeting to tighten the boarders of our territory? I’m there. A pack meeting about a male fighting for his spot in my bedroom? No thanks.
I walked out of the bar with Derek, locking the doors behind me. Everyone would be at the meeting so there was no point in keeping the bar open. I looked up at the moon as we walked, she was barely half full but she shined brighter than any of the street lamps. The meeting was being held at the fire hall just down the street from the bar. That was our usual spot for full pack meetings. Most of the meetings were strictly Alpha, Beta, Omega and maybe the elders, depending on what the meeting was about.
The place was packed by the time we got there, we were probably the last to come. Tables were set up in a neat row across the front of the hall. The elders were sitting at each end with Daniel, the beta, sitting in the front next to an empty chair. Where was he? I looked around but I knew he wasn’t there...I couldn’t smell him. “Where’s the mighty Alpha?” Derek chuckled and rolled his eyes. While Derek had no personal experience with the Alpha he did not like him. I think it has to do with his bad attitude for authority. I smacked Derek’s arm in disapproval. I didn’t need the negative attention if someone heard him cracking jokes about the Alpha.
As if on Derek’s cue the door opened and I was smacked in the face with an all too familiar scent. The Alpha walked in and took his seat beside his beta. I closed my eyes and took a breath. Oh Moon Goddess, why does it have to be today? Why on her anniversary? Even though we haven’t shared a single word between each other since the day my mother died, he still took my breath away. I opened my eyes and stared at my Alpha; Nick Slater.