Beauty in the Beast

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Chapter 3

“First of all, I’d like to thank you all for being here. I know you all have lives you’d like to get back to so I don’t plan on keeping you here all night.” Nick’s voice was like velvet. So smooth yet so rough. “I have been meeting with the elders for the past few months to prepare for the upcoming mating ritual. We have made some changes and I know you all will have your questions but please save them for the end. I will not tolerate interruptions.” He kept talking but I’m not sure I heard what he was saying. Honestly, I was bored. I wanted to get back to the bar and do my job.

Nick became Alpha shortly after his eighteenth birthday. He was the youngest Alpha this pack had ever seen. My mother’s death wasn’t the only attack our pack had. Rouges raided our territory and our Alpha was badly injured. He made it back to the pack hospital alive but it didn’t last. He appointed Nick as our new Alpha before he died. The bond between Alpha and Beta is decided upon by the Moon Goddess and Daniel was the clear choice.

Daniel stood, taking over for Nick, he cleared his throat and began his speech on the mating ritual like none of us knew what it was. On the first full moon of the third month in the year, the males fight for their mates. The participating females are brought out one by one into the woods where any male is given the chance to enter the ring. If multiple males enter the ring they fight for the female. The fights are brutal and animalistic. They last until one male is left standing, whether it be the other males backed down, or it was a fight to the death. In the older days, many males were too proud to back down which resulted in many deaths. Once the male is the last standing in the ring, he shows the female his belly in submission and she has the choice to rub his belly by accepting him or flat out deny him which would make her eligible the following year to participate again until she finds her mate. There hasn’t been many fights in the last decade. Many times the male and female are already in a relationship without the official mating ritual and by the time the third month’s moon appears it’s just a technicality. The male entered the ring alone and the female accepts his submission. It’s actually quite beautiful to witness.

“As for the eligible females,” Daniel continued with his speech. “Every unmated female is eligible to participate in the mating ritual.” Nothing new there. “But this year, participation will be mandatory.” What? My jaw dropped. What? Wolves quietly chattered amongst themselves about this new decision. Nick stood and slammed his hand on the table.

“Silence!” His bark turned everyone into mutes. “I meant what I said about interruptions.” He turned to his beta to continue then sat back down.

“It is in the pack’s best interest to have as many mated females as possible.” Daniel continued. I couldn’t think straight. I’ve avoided participation since I turned eighteen but now the sudden change has butterflies in my belly. I knew this had to do with the elders. They finally pushed Nick to agree with them.

I fiddled in my seat as long as I could. The minute we were dismissed I was out the door. I didn’t even wait for Derek. I rushed to the bar and opened the doors. The thought of shutting them and locking myself in with a bottle of gin all to myself sounded delightful but I knew better.

I was so busy I didn’t have time to talk to Derek. Not that he asked, he was busy flirting with a female by the dart board. As the night went on more and more wolves left. In front of me was Derek, Natalie, Chloe and Lucas. The usual crowd that could stand me for more than just my bartending abilities. Natalie was probably the biggest slut I have ever met. There wasn’t a male around that she didn’t try to get with. She was a sweet girl though. Chloe was the calm in the storm. She always had an answer for everything and she was one hell of a fighter. Lucas was a sweetheart. He was unsure of every move he made. We lost our virginity together after a drunken night in this bar. We were both barely sixteen at the time, not exactly legal but when your dad owns the place, after hours become a don’t-ask-don’t-tell situation. Our night together was our one and only and that was perfectly fine between both of us.

I poured another shot and smacked it down in front of Natalie. “Thanks, love.” She gave me half-assed smile and turned back to Derek. He somehow lost the female from the dart board and ended up at the bar with the rest of the misfits. “I, for one, am not completely mad about this situation.” She giggled, obviously a little tipsy.

“Of course you’re not.” I mumbled.

“What? Should I be mad that males are going to be throwing themselves at me for the chance to be my mate? Of course not!”

“I don’t think that’s the point of the mating ritual, Natalie.” Chloe scrunched her brow at the thought of it. Natalie rolled her eyes in return. “I’m not going to say I’m upset about the situation, I could feel it coming.” Chloe has a mate, a suitable mate at that.

“Everyone knows you’re spoken for, Chloe. Kyle is just going to stroll into the ring and roll on his belly for you with no problems.” Luke rolled his eyes with Natalie, making Chloe blush.

“Where is Kyle?” I asked her.

“He went to work.” She responded. “He’s been putting crazy hours in.” She looked down at her wrist. “I should be getting home. He’ll be back soon.” We waved her goodbye and I slid down the bar to take care of a couple of new customers.

“I’ll take a shot and a beer for the Alpha.” The man ordered. My eyes darted to the table in the corner. Nick and Daniel were sitting with a few Omega. I gave the man his order and he walked away, joining the gentlemen at the table. I wasn’t surprised to see him there, he’s been in the bar before, yet he always finds ways to ignore my existence. I joined my friends at the other end of the bar.

“What do you think, Em? How many men am I going to have to fight off for you?” I prayed Derek was joking.

“None. You’re not fighting for me and neither is anyone else.” I popped the top off of the beer and handed it to Derek with a fake smile. He chuckled.

“If you truly think not one single male is going to step into a fighting ring for you, you’re crazy.” Luke agreed with Derek.

“I’m not crazy, I’m just thinking realistically. Yeah, I get hit on for a living but when it comes down to it, I’m not mate material and the males in this pack know it.” The boys scoffed at my low self-esteem. “This thing that the Alpha has going on is ridiculous. It’s basically an arranged marriage. Chloe and Kyle have been fine in their relationship and now they’re being forced to mate before they want to. What if they aren’t ready?” Everyone knew they were ready to start their lives together but I was trying to make a point. “The Alpha has gone soft and he’s letting the elders run the pack.” I slammed Luke’s drink down in front of him a little louder than I needed to.

“Careful, Em, you’re starting to sound like me.” Derek sipped his drink with a grin. Luke laughed loosely, I could tell he was beginning to feel the alcohol I’d been serving him.

I turned to put a glass away and when I turned back Nick was standing at the bar, staring at me. I knew he heard every word I said to my friends by the look on his face. I braced myself for the backlash. Instead, he placed his empty beer bottle on the counter, turned and walked out of the bar.

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