My body froze, and our eyes locked. I could hear the drumming of my heartbeats as his hand fell possessively over mine. The sparks tingled throughout my body, giving life to the butterflies fluttering in my stomach. It happened so fast; all I could do was get lost in those captivating silver eyes that held so much intensity.
At that moment, I didn’t care if I’d managed to make myself look like the biggest idiot in front of him. My attention was focused on him and only him. His touch made me forget how to breathe all of a sudden. The way he possessively gripped my hand tightly didn’t help. His actions only increased the addictive sensation.
I waited for him to let me go, but he didn’t. Instead, he kept his hand on mine, enjoying the electrifying sparks that stemmed from the contact. His eyes were slowly beginning to swirl with a deep red. It bewildered me for a moment, and I almost thought I’d imagined it, but as I leaned in closer, the redness became more prominent.
“Astrid,” Nicole brought me back to reality. I blinked a couple of times before gathering my things and pulling back to take my seat. The aftereffects of the sparks left me in a daze. I couldn’t help but want more of them. Meanwhile, my friends looked at me with the uttermost concern. It was then I noticed how our peers watched me curiously.
“What crawled up his ass?” Derek commented, skeptical of his kindness. Nicole leaned back in her chair to look at my mate. She hummed once before adding, “Maybe he was just feeling nice today,” The reflective look she held screamed that she knew my secret. It felt odd not to tell Nicole and Derek about my mate, but the fewer people knew, the better. I kept my mouth shut and sat still for the rest of the time.
The meeting began shortly after the officials’ walked into the conference room. Alpha Marcus took a stand at the podium to make his plea for the land. I watched him as he spoke about his industrial designing business and all the work it required. He started most of his sentences by expressing his obnoxious self-love for his talent and hard work. Not once did he mention the people who helped him climb the high pedestal he put himself on. I grimaced as I watched the self-absorbed asshole talk for what seemed like hours. There’s no way I’d give him my vote.
The committee consisted of eight alphas who made decisions regarding important matters, sometimes more crucial than the topic we discussed now. My father left his chair for me, and I planned to take it very seriously. My inputs would be well thought out and reasonable, mainly because I was the only woman in the group. I needed to make a good impression this time around.
The remaining alphas took their turn at the podium to convince the committee they were more deserving of the land. Most of them wanted it to expand their businesses. So far, Alpha Paxton had my vote with his plans to build more schools for the wolves. I thought he was the last one, but as Arlo stood at the podium, my cheeks flushed, and I sank deeper in my chair. It would be difficult not to stare at his delicious features.
The sound of Arlo’s deep voice made my stomach dip. Our eyes met again as I listened to him talk about the population problem within their packs. Those butterflies were now eating away my insides. He would pull his eyes away for some time but not for long. I compelled most of his attention without even trying.
“If both of you stopped taking in the strays, then you wouldn’t face these problems. Blood Rose territory has plenty of acres. Silver moon shouldn’t even exist,” Marcus argued. The disgust in his tone, instantly irked me.
“Those strays are innocent people who deserve a second chance. They come from broken packs with corrupted alphas. Maybe if the council looked into these matters, then we wouldn’t have to take these people in,” Kane said, throwing shade at the officials and the elders sitting at the front of the room.
One of the elders immediately stood up. The legal power oozed off his black business suit, intimidating anyone who crossed his path. His fists clenched, and the rage simmered in his eyes as he growled, “Are you insinuating that the council doesn’t take their jobs seriously?”
Everyone fell silent. No one dared to talk down on the elders of the council, even if they wanted to. He might as well have slapped the man in the face.
Kane opened his mouth to speak, but Arlo was quick to say, “We are simply asking for the property to expand our territory. We want our people to feel comfortable and safe. I will discuss the other issue with Jefferson in private. We mean no disrespect to anyone.”
“Watch how you speak on us!” The elder growled before he sat back down. Meanwhile, I got a text from Bryson asking what he missed. I hadn’t realized when he arrived late and sat at the back of the room. I quickly texted back, spilling all the ’tea’ before concentrating on my mate.
“How many members are residing within your packs now?” Alpha Frank asked, diffusing the tension in the room.
“Silver Moon has five-hundred and Blood Rose six-hundred and fifty,” Arlo informed him. Concern and shock decorated everyone’s face as whispers filled the room. They had more members than anyone in the city.
“Together, you have over a thousand wolves,” Frank commented. He remained silent as he pondered over a solution before he added, “You could ask your people to transfer somewhere else. I hear the Shadow pack down south is taking in new members. Maybe even some of our packs here will allow them to join,” He offered.
Kane severely shook his head, “We don’t want to make our people leave their homes. Most of them resided on Blood Rose territory before we took power.”
“Fair enough,” Frank nodded, “But it still doesn’t help your situation.”
Someone abruptly slammed their fist on a table, “A pack that large already poses a threat to the rest of us!” Alpha Henry shouted, “We’d be granting you more power with the expansion of your land!”
“That’s your problem” Arlo snapped back, “I really don’t give a fuck how threatened you feel,” The way he stood up to Henry stirred something inside me. I thought he looked incredibly sexy, challenging that prick. Henry flashed his canines at Arlo, and soon the whole room broke out in chaos. No one was speaking anymore. It was replaced with growling and shouting. I could barely hear myself think.
Arlo’s mouthwatering biceps flexed as he gripped the edges of the podium. I could tell he was on the verge of losing control. He looked defeated as he stood back and watched the officials’ take back order in the room. They instructed the committee members apart from Kane and Arlo to come to a decision. Currently, Paxton was in the lead.
Meanwhile, I sat there watching everyone talk shit about my mate. My wolf was fighting me tooth and nail for control. She wanted to stand up for him, and honestly, so did I. It made sense to give the land to Blood Rose and Silver Moon because they genuinely needed it. The property was just outside of their territory limits anyway. So why was everyone so against this?
They judged the Blackburn brothers because of their hybrid blood, just like they judged me for being a woman. No one liked them in the first place, and they made sure to give them hell about it. Although both Arlo and Kane were a part of the committee, they never stood a chance.
Without much thought, I reached for my purse to grab my phone (without making a fool of myself this time) and texted Bryson.
Me: I need you to change your vote to Blood Rose and Silver Moon.
I peered over my shoulder to see him reading my text with his brows pulled in. He met my gaze with his eyes widened in bewilderment. I needed to convince him and two others to go against the majority vote; otherwise, Paxton would win. My phone vibrated in my hands.
Bryson: What?! You want me to vote for those demons?
Me: The Blackburn’s need this property to better their packs, and I’m tired of falling behind everyone’s close minded ways. I’m going to do the right thing!
He didn’t reply to my text. Instead, he remained silent, looking at me pensively. It was almost as if he didn’t believe me. I gave him my best pouty face, and batted my eyelashes, reassuring him without words. This is what I wanted, and he knew once I set my mind, there was no changing it. Soon my phone vibrated again.
Bryson: You owe me dinner and a movie.
My wolf instantly recoiled. The thought of going out with another man disgusted her, and I found myself feeling guilty for manipulating Bryson, but it was for a good cause. Nonetheless, I turned around and smiled. One down, two more to go.
“Frank,” I discretely called for him, hoping no one would notice. He remained with his back turned, talking to his beta. I rolled my eyes, “Frank,” I hissed a bit louder, slightly kicking the end of his chair. He turned around to give me a warning look for interrupting him before going back to his conversation. He obviously didn’t know me at all.
“What?” He hissed with the same hushed tone when I kicked his chair a second time.
“I think we should change our vote to Blood Rose and Silver Moon. Bryson agrees with me,” At this, Nicole and Derek nearly jumped out of their seats. They were immediately trying to talk me out of it, but I wouldn’t listen.
Frank’s mouth fell open, and he shifted in his chair to give Bryson a judgmental look. Bryson sighed, holding his hands up in defeat. He pointed at me and mouthed ‘her idea.’
“Absolutely not,” Frank said, “Have you lost your marbles, Collins?”
“It’s the right thing to do, and you know it.”
“Not a chance. The answer is no,” He said categorically. The only option I had left was to guilt-trip him.
“My father has helped you many times in the past. In return, I am asking you to please change your vote for me. Please,” I pleaded, desperately looking him in the eyes. He angrily tapped on the back of his chair with his knuckles as he looked between Bryson and me.
“Fine, but if this turns ugly, it’s on you,” He grumbled, passing the word to his beta. Alpha Travis soon followed in his lead because they were allies and good friends. He trusted his judgment.
The council member stood at the podium and announced the end of the meeting. Before he could say another word, I stood to my feet, “I’d like to say something if it’s alright with you, your excellency.”
“Permission granted,” He nodded and allowed me to speak. Meanwhile, my peers turned to look at me with a mixture of curiosity and annoyance. I felt a tightening in my chest as Arlo’s eyes fell on me. He wrinkled his brows and waited for me to speak. His shocked reaction mirrored the others as I said confidently, “I think the property should be given to Blood Rose and Silver Moon.”
Silence drenched the room as everyone stared at me. Soon it was replaced with the low growls of Alpha Paxton and his allies. Frank and Bryson were glaring at me when everyone learned about their change of vote. My breath hitched.
Did I make the right choice?