Kratos growls, and I snarl after Father pins us yet again. He rolls off of me and jumps to his feet with ease. I sit up and watch the two hundred and something-year-old man grab a towel. My Father's tattoos glisten as he wipes the sweat from his never-aging skin. I want to yell and slam my fist through the wall, but I contain my anger at his indifference as usual.
I have never been my father Jackson's favorite, and now that my sister has passed, he is even worse. He still trains me; he still acknowledges my existence, but he doesn't talk. He doesn't bond. He acts as if he can't get attached to anyone else. He has Father Jason and Mom to share his love with now, and there seems to be no room for me.
I climb to my own feet and stretch my large body. I look just like my Fathers, except for my eyes. I have my mother's blue eyes. Females love my looks, but I ignore them. I literally watched their grandmothers age and pass away. I'm not interested in anyone but my mate. My mate, who will never die. My mate who will be by my side forever.
"Good training," Father says before leaving the room.
Silence falls around me, and I move to the punching bag. My fists immediately begin to pound away at the thick fabric. I set my rhythm and let my mind wander. This year will mark the twentieth year Sasha has been gone. The twentieth year without a prank on my birthday.
I will be 91, but I look like I am in my mid-twenties, which is precisely how I will look for the rest of my existence. Goddess, I miss my sister. My sassy scared of nothing, sister. The woman who I called every day. The woman who comforted me over her own demise. My gorgeous sister......
"Ease up, son," Dad says from behind me, and I whip around immediately.
Kratos snarls as the shock of his presence slowly wears off.
"How did I not smell or hear you," I snap out, and Dad chuckles.
"You seemed pretty intent on killing the punching bag.....what's wrong," Dad asks as he moves to the bag next to mine.
.........."Why does Father not.....I don't know........bond with me? It's getting ridiculous. When I was a kid, he at least smiled sometimes," I snap, and Dad freezes.
"He... It isn't you. He loves you, but he fears you. He fears caring about you too much, Ethan. The three of us only have a little bit of time left in this realm before your mother has to take her great grandmother's place. Our days around you are limited....and we have gotten used to mourning. Jacks has locked himself down. He is burying his emotions and keeping his wounded heart protected...I know that doesn't excuse him shoving you to the side for the last.....50 yrs... Just know that he loves you. He focused on Sasha because he knew he would never see her face again. But you, when we leave this realm, we will get to watch you...you and your descendants," Dad explains with a red face.
I give him a nod before refocusing on my own punching bag. Mourning......I'm mourning too. I still show love—what a lame excuse. I've lost just as many people as my fathers' have......I'm not a cold fish. I finally decide my body has had enough, and I leave for the showers.
Memories of the past flood my mind as I peel off my sweat-drenched clothes. Memories of how Riverstone used to be... How the world used to be.
Over the decades, the supernatural community has merged with human society on a massive scale. Vampires intermingled more with the upper class and have stocks in medical companies all over the world. They have also funded and built a huge company called Cleanblood that supplies them with cloned blood. Only savage rogue vampires feed on humans now. And werewolves have, for the most part, turned their backs on pack life.
Werewolves still value close bonds and community, but they view pack life as risky. During the Great War, vampires targeted packs. Rogue werewolves, like my mother, had better chances of survival. During the clean-up and rebuild of the werewolf community, the remaining packs started rebelling either against us....or their Alphas. Today there are only five packs in existence. The royal pack...my family's pack Riverstone, White Crest, Yellowstone, High Ridge, and Black Tail. Mindlink has been almost abolished. Everyone communicates through screens now.
I miss running through the woods with my pack members almost daily...now that only happens once a year at the werewolf ball. My ball basically...my mating ball. Each year my mother gets more and more desperate. She wants me to have my mate before she leaves this realm, but I don't think it is meant to happen.
I think the Goddess, my great great grandmother, wants me to experience being King without a mate. I mean, I am supposed to live for... Who knows how long. I need to experience life and its challenges before mating. So far, all I have experienced is grief. My parents handle any rebellion swiftly and thoroughly, so I haven't been subjected to battle since I was 13. I need them to treat me as a man who has seen nearly a century worth of life and hand over the reins.
I turn the water to cold and lean into the freezing spray. My muscles bunch and tense until they adjust to the temperature, but I remain still. I hate the feeling of cold water, but I need it.
Kratos- Our time is coming. It is good our parents have given us such a long time to learn. I am no longer a wet behind the ears pup, and you aren't a lanky human male. We are ready. Just be patient.
Ethan- I'm sick of being patient. I'm sick of my Father's brush-offs and my mother's mate obsession. I'm tired of traditions going out the window and this dumb yearly ball. Only pack members come.....my mate most likely isn't in a pack.
Kratos- Our mate...
Ethan- Sorry..yes, our mate. More than 80% of werewolves live and exist inside the human world now. Only the large and strong packs remain. We don't need balls and dancing to find her. We need to travel..like Sasha did.
Kratos- We are next in line. We will not leave our pack vulnerable.
I scoff at Kratos out loud.
Ethan- The world fears mother, Kratos. No one in the right mind would challenge her. She has perfected her death touch and mind burning......in fact, there aren't many lessons left for her to learn before she can't live here anymore. Why do we need to stay? No one will threaten Riverstone. The other four packs are allies. We are interwoven now.
Kratos huffs before shaking his fur and putting up a wall ending our mindlink.
I finish my cold shower and get out. I wrap a towel around my waist as I leave the gym's restroom. I have no fear of moving around the mansion naked, but I really don't want my mother to see me since she lives here as well.
Since so many wolves left pack life and moved around, the land opened up inside of our territory. My parents and I decided to tear down old homes built by my Great uncle Scott in favor of a new mansion. Now my parents, me, and a handful of omegas live in a ten-room mansion with three floors. We also demolished the old schools and businesses in favor of new ones, including a new college.
I get to my massive room and throw off my towel. I enjoy walking nude, as do most werewolves. We like the freedom and the breeze. I let my hair air dry before styling it and getting dressed. I have nothing planned for the day as usual, but I know my mother will want me down for lunch since I skipped breakfast.
"Ethan, the ball is in three days...Any ideas on what colors you want to wear," Mom asks as she smiles at Louise for handing her a large plate of food.
"I know when my birthday is, Mom... And no, I do not. I imagine the basic black tux," I reply before shoveling in another large bite of food.
"Lose the attitude," Father Jackson growls, and Kratos gets defensive in my head.
I glance up from my plate and meet his eyes directly before responding.
"I don't have one. I am stating my thoughts," I growl, and mom tenses.
"You will respect your mother, Ethan," Father orders, but the power he wields does nothing to bend us to his will.
"You will treat me like an adult. I am tired of walking on eggshells. I am tired of this endless circle...Workout, eat, workout, discuss the ball, discuss becoming King, and repeat... For eighty years," I snap as my temper from this morning's wrestling match boils over.
"You think you are tired of the endless circle? You think you walk on eggshells," Father growls, but his eyes stay chocolate brown.
Helios isn't irritated or angry; father is.
"How do you walk on eggshells, father? What do you keep bottled up," I snarl sarcastically, and his eyes snap to my mother.
She stares at him intently while clearly mindlinking him. He rips himself out of his chair before stomping from the room in anger, and I am left annoyed and unheard. My eyes fall to my forgotten food, and mom sighs.
"We all have demons Ethan, not just you. Your life has been easy, son. You might think you have experienced loss, but you were prepared. We became immortal. We were not born immortal. We all thought we would die normally. We never thought this is what would become of our lives. Your father is ready for his life to be over...He hides his emotions from us as best he can, but he has let his dark thoughts slip...Try to understand Ethan; he is so far gone in his depression he has contemplated the worst. The only thing stopping him is his tie to Jason and me," My mother explains as shock slaps me in the face.
"Suicide," I whisper, and she nods.
"How would that be possible," I ask myself more than her.
"Stake to the heart made of silver. Simple," Mom answers, and we fall silent as we think over my Father's mental state.
After a few moments, I know why this year has been so ball-oriented.
"This is the last year...You three plan on leaving the living realm after this ball," I state before meeting my mother's watery gaze.
She nods before offering me a weak smile.
"I can't stay anymore. The Goddess can no longer walk. She is aging like a mortal now. Her remaining essence has left her. We will crown you two days after the ball, no matter what. It's time...and before we go, I know you and your father need to clear the air. He is stubborn, though, and emotional. I need you to go into the conversation level-headed and patient. Talk to him, explain everything, all the hurt you have been hiding behind your Stone mask," Mom says before kissing my forehead and following her mate.