Anger was all I felt.
When my father had spoken to me once I had gotten up and eaten breakfast, I was livid. He was taking what was supposed to be one of the most significant days in my life and turning it into a clusterfuck of epic proportions. This was supposed to be the date I marked and mated my future Luna, and now it was put on hold. For how long, I didn’t know, but I wasn’t going to allow him to fuck my life up for me—not if I had breath in my body and the free will to choose my own destiny.
I growled as I cut the link off with my Lucy, and I wasn’t fucking quiet about it. The tension in my house was deafening, and I was about to find out why I was being told what to do and how to live my life.
“You can’t mate with Lucy Wallace, son,” his gruff voice told me as my breakfast of cereal churned uneasily in my stomach.
“And why the fuck not?”
I stood from my place at the table. It was like he was telling me to stop breathing, the command seemed so wrong.
How would I live without my other half, the person who was destined to be mine? Why give her to me only to snatch her away when I finally could have her officially?
“There…there’s something you don’t know that we have to talk about.” My father stood tall and foreboding. “Let’s go into my office.”
“Let me speak to Lucy first. I have to tell her I can’t…I can’t make it to her at the appointed time.”
Father stood there for a moment before nodding his head once, a sign he was giving me permission to communicate with my mate. As I reached out to her in my head, I noticed the fuzzy haze of her sleep and felt bad for waking her so early. If it wasn’t so important, I would have let my sleeping beauty rest.
After I felt the panic in her voice, I felt horrible. It killed me to have to give this news to her—whatever it was going to be. I didn’t know why he was telling me I couldn’t mate with my Lucy, but I was going to find out, and find out soon.
Stalking to my father’s office, I ignored my mother’s greeting. It was soft and gentle as always, but I felt the tension in her as easily as I felt my own as it bunched up my shoulder blades and caused a dull ache in my strained neck.
I lurked outside the door of my father’s study, gathering up enough gumption to knock and be asked to enter. With the same surly disposition, my three knocks on his door invited his loud bark to bid me to enter, as if I was some lowly subordinate instead of his beloved son and heir to the pack.
I loathed the man some days.
As soon as I entered the room, he gestured with one long arm to the office chair across from his where I planted my churlish ass before leaning forward and speaking. As I spoke, my hands gripped the edge of his cherrywood desk and I felt the wood give under the strain.
“Why can’t I mark and mate with Lucy?”
My voice held a challenge and he met it with the same strong timbre.
“Because you are to be mated to another.”
You could have fucking knocked me over with a single light breeze, I was so startled at the news. All air was extinguished from my lungs as I blew out what little I had been hoarding.
“What? You expect me mark and mate another? What about Lucy? She’s my true mate, Father. I sensed it the moment I woke up. The pull, it’s unbelievably strong. I want to make my way to her right now, but you’re here preventing me from claiming what’s mine!”
My voice rose with every syllable until I was shouting at a dull roar. How dare the man before me—the man who claimed his own true mate a year before I was born—tell me I could not have the woman I loved? How could he stop me from claiming what was mine this very day? How could—
“I owe a blood debt,” he said, his voice calm and collected, like he hadn’t just attempted to shatter my soul into a million pieces.
“That is no business of mine what debts you owe,” I barked out at him. “If you owe someone, you owe them, not I. Find some other way to repay the man or woman for your trespasses.”
My father sighed and I thought I saw a spark—just a hint really—of emotion behind the stoic mask he kept up to hide any real sympathies the man felt.
“I can’t,” he told me. “This is what the man wants—the only thing he wants. Alpha Seneca Strasser said I could repay him with only one thing. That thing is to have you mark and mate with his daughter, Enid.”
I had met Enid once years ago, maybe when I was 14. I remember her being pretty for a young female, and had been surprised to find the demure thing to be the only daughter of an alpha in a neighboring pack. She was much more humble than many females would have been in her position.
She was pleasant enough—she just wasn’t my Lucy.
“What about when she finds her mate?” I questioned. “What then? You know that unless her mate marks and bonds with another there will always be a pull to him, same as mine to Lucy. If she meets him, then what?”
“Her mate was made rogue and killed a few years ago.” That cut me dead. “There is no other male for her, and to…ease the tensions between our two packs, we made a deal that you would mark and mate with her as soon as you turned 18. I only didn’t bring it up last month because your mother was hoping there was some way to change Seneca’s mind. The man is stubborn though and this is the only way to keep the two of us from warring over my…my mistake.”
“What did you do?” I bellowed. “What have you done that was so wrong that Lucy and I have to suffer for it? Why must your faults fall onto Lucy and I?”
I was enraged at this point and my claws poked through the thick skin on my callused fingertips. The tips left little divots into the fine wood of his desk, but I couldn’t be bothered to give a shit. It was a thing—an item, and this was my life we were talking about. My happiness. To be told you couldn’t do something that you were meant to do was terrible, but to be forced into something because of someone else’s error almost felt worse. The man had fucked up, and I was the one who would have to pay for his crimes, whatever they were.
“It’s…that’s not important,” he gritted out. “What’s done is done and you will heed your father and Alpha, even if I have to place The Command on you.”
“No!” I lashed out, swiping half the contents of his desk onto the floor and leaving claw marks across the once pristine surface. I craved to slash him across his face with those same talons and felt a thin layer of fur popping out on the surface of my skin. I was as close to shifting as I could be without actual feeling my bones pop and maneuver into their wolf form. Another second and I might have done so, seeking blood for his offenses against me and my Lucy.
“Yes!” His tone was a command—the command—and I stood frozen in place. His voice lowered as he gained control of his temper. “You will not shift in this room.”
Immediately my skin was smooth as the fine hairs descended back into skin. My claws retracted and I felt my elongated teeth move back into place in my jaw.
“I’ll leave.” My voice sounded weak, even to my ears. “I’ll give the pack over to Nolan when he comes of age and go rogue. I’ll…I’ll take Lucy with me and we can find somewhere else to live.” I leaned forward, pleading with him. “I can’t be without her, you know that. What if you’d had to reject Mom? Would you have been able to do that to her? To yourself?”
A small tic at the edge of his jaw told me I had gotten through, but his eyes were still steely and determined.
“I’m sorry, son, but you can’t do that. This pack is yours when I hand over my responsibilities to you. I can force you to my will and make you reject her, and I will if I have to.”
I banged a fist on the top of the desk, toppling a desk lamp and sending it crashing to the floor.
“This is un-fucking-fair! You can’t just wreck my life because you made a stupid decision that got someone killed! I will mark and mate with my true mate and not this…this poor excuse for one! You cannot make me!”
“I can, and will, and you know it.” The jut of his chin was defiant. “All I have to do is say the word.”
More items crashed to the floor as I whipped around the room, causing chaos in his usually tidy office. He didn’t stop me and for that I was glad. I might have wrung the damn man’s neck if he so much as laid a finger on me.
You’d think an Alpha-to-be would have had a temper and cut up every once in a while, but I had never been one for dramatic temper tantrums. The little angry outbursts I had once indulged in had all but dried up once I felt the bond with Lucy a little after my 14th birthday. She calmed in a way nothing and no one else could. How could I reject her, the love of my life and the one beautiful and perfect thing I’d found in her?
I wore myself out after a few minutes and surveyed the room with grim satisfaction. If he was going to make a mess of my life, the least I could do was make a mess of a small bit of his. The only thing he seemed to value more than his personal space was my mother, and I wouldn’t have done anything to harm her for any reason.
“Are you done?”
His voice was calm, which only irritated me further. How could he be so undisturbed when he was condemning his son to a life without his fated mate? He’d found and marked his and made a family. Could he not let me have the same?
I loathed the man with everything in me at that moment. There was nothing he could have done that could have persuaded me to be convinced that he was only interested in his own self interests. His fuck-ups became my punishments.
“Do it, Zach. Do it today.”
“Don’t make me—”
“I said no!”
He heaved a sigh and shut his eyes slowly. When they opened again, there was a bleak tenacity in every flicker of green irises, down to the golden flecks that matched mine.
“I’m sorry that I have to do this then.”
He cleared his throat before his stature seemed to double in size. His eyes bore holes into mine with a rigid determination.
“Be still.” His Alpha command rendered me motionless until I realized I wasn’t even able to blink without his say so. “Zachary Greenwood, you will reject one Lucinda Wallace as your true mate and mark and mate with Enid Strasser. You will reject Lucinda by midnight tonight. I give you permission to get to know Enid a bit before claiming her as yours. You will have no more than three months to do so and mark her as your mate. This is on pain of death.”
The air was sucked out of the room as the last syllable of his command fell from his lips. It was as if time stood still and I watched as he heaved an unsteady breath and nodded to himself.
“You may move now.” The command was gone and I straightened my spine before looking him dead in the eyes.
“I hate you,” I told him, meaning every damned word. “From now on I will always hate you.”
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