Chapter 1: Elizabeth
Elizabeth closed her eyes and inhaled deeply. The smell of the ocean’s salt water drifted into her nose. She breathed in again as a smile stretched across her lips. The warmth of the sun caressed her body as she laid in the sand on the beach. She was wearing a white bikini while she sunbathed, which contrasted against her tan skin. Her long, blonde hair was splayed out beneath her like a halo. Her wolf purred in serenity.
Elizabeth was a member of the werewolf pack that lived on one of the California beaches, the Oceanside pack. For decades, werewolves had expanded throughout the country, living amongst the humans but keeping their true natures a secret. Elizabeth had heard stories of how werewolves began their lives as one large pack, and now they had expanded into hundreds of packs across the United States. Allowing co-existence in the human world required a lot of self-restraint, and a strong Alpha to enforce the werewolf laws. Wolves were not allowed to fully shift amongst the humans and were not allowed to reveal any part of their true nature. Secrecy had been the preservation of pack life in the expansion, and no wolf had dared to challenge that. Decades amongst the humans had revealed that humans’ naivety fueled their desire to kill what they perceived as a threat, what they did not understand. Werewolves would be no different to them.
Rather than hide in the shadows like their ancestors had, Alphas across the country had allowed their packs the freedom of the country; to live openly amongst the humans, as long as both human laws and werewolf laws were obeyed. Immediately implemented with the expansion was forbidding sexual intercourse with humans. The birth of a werewolf was excruciating to the werewolf mother; a human mother would die. Werewolves also prohibited half-breeds, where a female wolf would become pregnant with a male human’s child. Humans would want to be involved in the child’s life, and the world of the wolves was no place for humans. Werewolves kept their bloodlines pure; a half-breed would be killed, and wolves were prohibited from creating their own werewolf by turning a human into one. An exception could be made by the Alpha of the residing pack, but any human turned without Alpha approval would be killed by the Alpha himself. The preservation of their species was more important than turning a human that the Alpha did not approve of, or a female wolf becoming pregnant with a male human’s child.
Elizabeth opened her sparking blue eyes as she heard humans running past her. A group of men in their late twenties were each holding surfboards and entering the ocean. She propped herself up on her elbows to watch them, and she bit her lip. Humans are so damn tempting, she thought. With their expansion, wolves had ceased the belief of mates; that the moon goddess who cursed them also created their counterparts, one true mate for each wolf. The mating bond belief was no longer realistic in their current world. Thousands of werewolves were spread out across fifty states; preserving themselves for the possibility of one person that may never be found was no longer abided, which also assisted in the expansion. However, to prevent an overwhelming number of pups, condoms were quickly adapted into the werewolf world. Females’ metabolisms would burn through any birth control medication, which left limiting the male’s true enjoyment of sex.
Pups were very welcomed amongst the werewolves. Children were treasured and deeply protected since they attributed to the species’ expansion, but all of the packs agreed that the Alphas of respective packs would need to be informed once a female found out that she was pregnant. While pups were treasured, they were a security issue until they were taught how to control themselves. The child’s parents would teach them, but the Alpha always gave the approval for the child to integrate amongst the humans. If the child was not ready by school age, the child would be home-schooled by a pack member until control was achieved to attend human school.
Werewolves’ bodies ceased the aging process at twenty-five to preserve their strength and fertility, but that also set a time limit on human integration. Most wolves would work in the human world until they turned forty in human years, and then would quit that job and re-invent a new life somewhere else. Immortality was a blessing until humans noticed that their co-workers were not aging, then it became a headache.
The expansion also increased the likelihood of households having multiple children, siblings. Siblings amongst common werewolves were treated as equal, like any other wolf; but siblings of wolves of power were treated differently. Siblings of the Alpha or the Beta were protected; other than the siblings’ immediate pack, no other pack had knowledge that the sibling of the Alpha or Beta existed. The sibling was also taught self-defense for his or her protection and was taught to keep his or her true nature a secret from any visiting packs. If other packs learned that an Alpha or Beta had a sibling, an opposing pack could retaliate by harming the sibling; with wolves of power, siblings were seen as a weakness to the pack as a whole, something that could be exploited for higher gain with opposing packs. The threat of a known weakness to a pack was powerful enough for the pack members to keep the secret.
“You look like you will devour them,” Natalie grinned as she sat beside Elizabeth. Natalie was a human that Elizabeth had bonded with. Natalie’s brown hair flowed to her shoulders, her brown eyes warm. She was wearing a pink bikini against her tanned skin. Elizabeth laughed at her. “Nat, they would not stand a chance with me. They are just wonderful eye candy.” Werewolves may be immortal, but they still needed the sustenance of blood and hearts. Werewolves found other means of obtaining their food source, since they treasured human life and swore to never harm a living human. Wolves worked at hospitals and morgues to provide food for their packs. Elizabeth’s wolf purred gently at the sound of Natalie’s heartbeat, and she shook her head. I need to eat when I get home, she thought.
“Is that a challenge? A man asked as he approached Elizabeth and Natalie. He was in his late twenties with jet black hair and brown eyes. His body was littered with muscles, the surfboard accompanying him no doubt responsible for his physique. Elizabeth smiled at him and allowed her eyes to wander down his chiseled abs to his black swim trunks, and back up to his face. “A promise,” she said.
“One you care to fulfill?” he smirked.
“Only in your dreams,” Elizabeth answered.
“If you want to make it a reality, my name is Kent. I’ll see you around,” Kent nodded with a smile. He turned and joined the group of men in the water with his surfboard.
“What are you, a monk?” Natalie asked in disbelief. “How can you say no to that?”
“No, I’m not a monk,” Elizabeth laughed. “I’m just not interested.”
“Please,” Natalie snorted. “Not interested in eye candy? Does that mean that you finally have a boyfriend?”
“Not anymore,” Elizabeth said. She had been friends with benefits with one of the wolves, but she knew that it would never go further than that.
For a pack to operate, an Alpha relied on his second in command, his Beta, and Elizabeth happened to be the sister of her pack’s Beta. As such, Elizabeth was rather restrictive with sex; if anything happened to the pack’s Beta, she would automatically become the next Beta. Elizabeth could not, in good conscience, engage in true intercourse with a wolf that she did not see a future with; if she became pregnant with some fuck boy’s child, then the father by default would be forever tied to the Beta of the pack, and she refused to allow that to happen. While Elizabeth did partake in other sexual pleasantries, her blatant refusal for intercourse had been what pushed her friend with benefits into the bed of another she-wolf who would. She was one hundred years old and had not found a male wolf that she felt confident enough standing by her side if the day ever came for her to take her brother’s mantel. She kept her virginity a secret from the pack, though; the male wolves thought that she was just a prude with her status in the pack, which was fine with her. If the males of her pack knew that she was a virgin, she imagined that it would not end well for the males.
“I’m sorry, Beth,” Natalie said.
“Don’t be,” Elizabeth smiled. “He found someone else, and I’m happy for him. I am,” she added as Natalie scoffed. “With my brother and his friend, the poor bastard is better off without me anyway.” When her and her brother were children, their parents died, and their pack’s Alpha immediately took them into his home and cared for them. The three of them grew very close over the years, which also attributed to her prudishness, as it were; with the power statuses of her Beta and Alpha aside, both were very protective of her. “Speaking of which, your brother is walking over here,” Natalie said. Elizabeth looked to the left and saw her brother and his girlfriend walking toward her as they exited the boardwalk.
Grayson was six feet tall with the same blonde hair as Elizabeth. His hair was clipped short to his ears. Contrast to her blue eyes, his green eyes gazed at her brightly. He was wearing a pair of blue swim trunks. His girlfriend also happened to be Elizabeth’s best friend, Audrey. Her and Audrey were both tiny compared to her brother, both at only five feet tall. Her brother was three inches shorter than Vincent, their Alpha, so he enjoyed how he towered over his sister and his girlfriend. Audrey’s long, red hair was pulled into a ponytail. She wore a deep red bikini, and her green eyes reached Elizabeth as well.
“If they ever break up, would you be opposed to me giving it a shot?” Natalie whispered.
“Maybe,” Elizabeth grinned. Audrey and Grayson had been together for the last ten years, and Elizabeth did not see them splitting up any time soon. They still lived separately, but that was by choice; Vincent had told Grayson that she could move in after they are married, when she could become acting Beta if anything happened to him, but their relationship was not ready for marriage yet. Grayson was her twin brother, only older than her by ten minutes, but she swore that his Beta status added many more years to his face.
“Hey, Lizzy Beth,” Grayson grinned as he approached.
“Hey, Gracie Bear,” Elizabeth shot back. Audrey laughed as Grayson rolled his eyes at the nickname. “Hey Audrey.”
“Hey, Liz, Nat. Sunbathing without me?” Audrey teased as she plopped down next to Natalie.
“You were with Grayson,” Elizabeth nodded to her brother. “Figured that he was more important.”
“Don’t feed his ego,” Audrey said.
“Let him enjoy it while he can,” Natalie teased.
“While this is very entertaining, can I steal a word with my sister?” Grayson asked as he rolled his eyes. Elizabeth’s eyes caught a brief flicker of gold in his eyes. Beta business, she realized. She pushed herself to her feet, and instinctively squished her toes into the sand. “Nat, you can enjoy eye candy with Audrey for a minute,” Elizabeth said. Grayson rolled his eyes again and walked toward the ocean. Elizabeth followed behind him and crossed her arms over her chest. Grayson visited the water when he was troubled, a trait that Elizabeth shared with him.
Grayson stepped into the shallow part of the ocean. Elizabeth stepped beside him and looked at him curiously while the soft waves explored her feet. “What is it, Grayson?”
“Vincent has left to meet with the Alpha of Mountain Pack, Michael. Apparently, the humans ordered an evacuation of Michael’s property to develop a tourist town up there. They offered to buy it from him or remove the pack by force.”
“And he took the money,” she nodded. At least with the sale, Michael had the funds available to rebuild his pack’s home elsewhere. The Mountain Pack was only about an hour from Oceanside, nestled at the very top of the mountain that bordered the beach, but she had heard the issues that Michael was having with the tourists. The humans realized that they could make money off the mountain, which was when they contacted Michael.
“Correct,” Grayson said. “Michael contacted Vincent about re-building at the base of the mountain, with some distance between the mountain and their development to avoid the tourists and any conflicts. However, the base is part of Oceanside’s territory. Vincent is going to realign our territories with Michael, and then Michael can fund the rebuild. Vincent should only be gone for about a day or two, so I’m acting Alpha until he returns, but Michael may be staying with us to hire the contractors and designate building plans.”
“A little easier to do here than tucked in the mountains,” Elizabeth murmured. She was rather impressed at Michael’s determination to stay with the mountain, but it did not surprise her. Mountain Pack had lived there for centuries. She wondered how they would adjust to living at the base among the humans; aside from tourists, Mountain Pack kept to themselves, and very rarely interacted with the humans. They were used to more freedom because of their isolation, such as shift changes whenever they desired, which made Mountain a nudist colony since clothing was nonexistent to those who shifted constantly. She had never met Michael, but she had heard about him. He ruled with fear rather than respect, and he allowed his people to do what they desired because of their fear of him. If his people crossed him with the freedom he permitted, they would feel the wrath of their Alpha. Oceanside would feel the wrath of Vincent if they ever wronged him as well, but Vincent had gained his pack’s respect due to his common decency to his pack.
Elizabeth noticed Grayson’s jaw tick suddenly and she narrowed her eyes at him. Despite the noise of a public beach near a boardwalk, she did not hear anything that would have triggered such a reaction. “What’s the issue with Mountain expanding near us?” she asked softly.
“What? No, that’s not it. I mean, yes, I worry about human interaction, but Vincent has to agree to this re-location as well, which means that Michael needs to agree to Vincent’s terms.”
“So what’s the problem?”
“Michael is a bit of a man-whore. He says the right things to she-wolves, and they worship him. He’s been through countless she-wolves in his own pack.”
“You’re worried about our she-wolves while he’s here.”
“I worry about you,” Grayson said sternly. “The man is a dick who doesn’t fear other Alphas and takes what he wants.”
“Seriously?” Elizabeth laughed. “I’d fucking hope that he doesn’t fear another Alpha.”
“What?” Grayson asked incredulously.
“Gracie, if an Alpha feared other Alphas, he’d be a pretty shitty Alpha himself,” Elizabeth said. “Him not respecting other Alphas is a different story, but Vincent is doing him a favor by re-negotiating the territory lines. He doesn’t have to do that. I feel like Vincent may be the one Alpha that Michael respects, but he’d never fear him.”
“When did my little sister become so wise?”
“Being raised with the Alpha and Beta has that effect,” she grinned. “It also taught me to how to take care of myself.” She grabbed her brother’s hand and squeezed it gently. “Try not to worry about me, Gracie. You and Vincent have both taught me how to fight, I will be fine. It’s not like he can hypnotize me into having sex with him.”
“And that’s enough sex talk with my baby sister,” Grayson growled as he scrunched up his nose.
“I’m only ten minutes younger than you, you know. I’m still a century old.”
“Yeah? Well, you’re still the baby sister that I have to take care of,” Grayson said in his Beta voice. Elizabeth sighed and simply nodded. He was a royal pain in the ass, but she knew that he meant well. No wonder men worry about my brother, she thought with a smirk.