Chapter 2: Michael
Michael stood on the balcony that connected to his office and gazed out into the wilderness. He inhaled deeply as he crossed his arms over his chest. He was wearing a pair of jeans with a silk, black button up dress shirt. He was going to miss seeing the wilderness every day, basking in the silence that it offered him. He was one hundred and twenty-five years old, and he had spent everyday of it in these mountains. In this house, he thought bitterly. He was thankful that the humans had at least offered to buy his pack out first; with the amount of money that he was paid, his pack could re-build comfortably at the base. He sighed and raked a hand through his jet-black hair, his emerald-green eyes dull. It could be worse, he thought.
The only issue with the re-build was that the next best location for Mountain was around the base of the mountain, which was part of Oceanside’s territory. He loathed asking Alpha Vincent to re-distribute the territory lines to include his pack, but that loathing was quickly extinguished when Vincent had agreed to it. Mountain wolves relished in running through the wilderness, and he despised more than anything denying that freedom to his people. If Vincent had declined, Michael was going to ask City Pack to grant them a portion of the territory, and that would have been a worse situation. At least we can stay with nature this way, he thought. A gently knock at the door forced him to turn around and enter his office.
The door opened, and Alpha Vincent entered the room with Mountain’s Beta, Elijah, behind him. Vincent’s brown hair was pulled into a tight bun, his brown eyes fixed on Michael. Vincent was wearing a white, button up long-sleeved shirt with a pair of black slacks. Elijah’s blonde hair was slicked back, and he wore a black muscle shirt with a pair of jeans. Vincent was taller than Elijah, but matched Michael’s height. Michael appreciated that Elijah was shorter than himself; it made people underestimate Elijah, which was a mistake. “Thank you for coming, Vincent,” Michael nodded. He motioned to the chair opposite of him in front of his desk. As Vincent obliged the invitation to settle into the chair, Michael sat down as well.
Michael’s desk was a dark redwood, currently hidden beneath blueprints and multiple references for contractors and electricians. Elijah closed the office door and leaned against it, his blue eyes hard as he studied the Alphas. “You’re most welcome,” Vincent replied. “I am sorry that your pack is being forced out of their home.”
“You have no idea what allowing us to inhabit the base means to my people,” Michael said. Vincent could have said no to his request, but he did not. Michael did not like showing constant appreciation toward another Alpha, but the alternative was that his people were denied that land. He could at least show the Alpha helping him some respect. “I’d like to think that you would help Oceanside if the situations were reversed,” Vincent said dryly.
Michael tensed slightly. He would have said no. Isolation made his pack stronger, but also made his pack the only wolves that he cared about. He would not sacrifice his people’s comfort and freedom to help another pack. But he knows this, Michael thought. He’s just being polite. He noticed Vincent smirk suddenly. “To business then?”
“To business,” Michael nodded. He was not good at expressing gratitude or hospitality; isolation blended with his Alpha status enforced that. Even with sex, he considered the women lucky that he fucked them, not the other way around. He could always find another wolf bitch, but what wolf bitch could find another Alpha?
“Right,” Vincent cleared his throat, then continued. “The base of the mountain meets behind the boardwalk of the beach. The area between the base and the boardwalk will be yours. The boardwalk itself will be neutral territory; with the humans conducting business on the boardwalk, it is safer that neither of us directly own it.”
“Of course,” Michael nodded.
“The start of the beach homes between the beach and the boardwalk, and all of the territory in between, is ours. My pack resides in those homes, as do humans. Your territory will not have human residents and will have enough room between you and the businesses for privacy.”
“I appreciate that,” Michael said. “We have grown accustomed to limited human interaction; we would like to keep that.”
“With that said, you cannot turn into wolves during the day,” Vincent said slowly. “You may not be as close to the humans as we are, but you are close enough. Someone will notice, I assure you.”
“Are you permitting evening shifts?” Michael asked in surprise. To his knowledge, Oceanside was not allowed to shift even at night; they only shifted the night of the moon. The possibility of being seen was too risky. He saw Elijah’s jaw twitch, as if he wanted to speak, but remained silent. Michael was not too thrilled of following another Alpha’s orders, either, especially since the territory would belong to Mountain; but Vincent’s condition that Mountain needed to abide by his orders had saved Michael money. Vincent was not selling the land to Michael; he was giving it to him. Vincent asserted a clause that, if Mountain violated any of his orders, he could repossess the land and evict Mountain immediately. Michael agreed without hesitation; he was not going to get a better deal for his pack anywhere else.
“I am,” Vincent said. “As long as you mind the humans.”
“If any of mine harm a human, I will deal with it,” Michael swore. Werewolves may be superior, but he refused to see humans as beneath his kind. Their fragility and innocence were something that needed to be protected. He would not hesitate to kill one of his own for the transgression of murdering a human. Fragility aside, humans were a smart species; if wolf attacks began after his pack re-located down to the beach, it would not take long for the humans to piece together that the only new change was his pack.
Michael leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms over his chest. “Any other terms?”
“Modesty,” Vincent sighed. “Humans are not accustomed to so much nudity openly.”
“Their loss,” Elijah snorted.
“I understand,” Michael grinned. “I will advise my pack of the terms. We should not have any issues.” With isolation, Michael had permitted nudity openly. Wolves were naked when they shifted, and frequent shifting was a huge advantage to their isolation. The pack can either follow these rules, or they will be exiled, he thought. Re-locating to the base for free was the best situation available to his people, to keep them with their mountain. Exile was rarely enforced, but he was not going to jeopardize the pack over a few rebels. Exiled wolves could survive on their own, but wolves craved a pack instinctively. A new pack could not be created without the approval of the Council (all of the existing Alphas in the country), which would meet with the new pack’s Alpha to determine his credibility. Any pack that was created illegally was disbanded; the new Alpha would be killed, and his followers would be given the choice to die or join an existing pack. A rogue pack was too dangerous, to both wolves and humans; it could not be allowed to survive, which was why rogue wolves disappeared upon exile. They had nowhere else to go.
“Territory, shifting, and nudity. I think that about covers it,” Michael said.
“I think so,” Vincent nodded. “And the existing laws, of course. I understand that you would like to be on the beach for the next week?”
“Yes,” Michael sighed. He felt his composure switch from structured to exhausted. He raked a hand through his hair and motioned to the scattered papers on his desk. “I need to contact the contractors and issue them payment to begin construction. Plumbing and electricity need to be routed to at least fifty homes that have not yet been built. Not to mention, I need to buy the property from the state directly.”
“Don’t bother with paying the state,” Vincent said. “There was a reason that I offered you that land for free financially. I own the property outright.”
Michael looked at Vincent in surprise. Since none of Oceanside currently resided at the base, he had assumed that the humans owned the land. Michael thought that that part of Vincent’s territory was simply a suggestion for his wolves to stay away from the human owned land to avoid potential issues. It was easier to say that their border ended at the base of the Mountain, but he bought it outright. “Impressive,” Michael nodded. “I thought that it was human land that happened to fall into your territory.”
“It was until about thirty years ago,” Vincent shrugged. “I bought it in case my pack expanded enough to where we would need the land. I didn’t want to build on it and the state still own it.” Like we are doing now, Michael thought. His pack never owned the land in the mountains, but they owned the property. Property is worth shit, the land is where the money is, which is why the humans bought us out, he thought.
“One less thing to stress about, at least. Thank you, Vincent, truly,” Michael spoke.
“Don’t make me regret it,” Vincent nodded. “My pack has blended rather well amongst the humans. I have no problem going to war with you if your pack threatens that relationship.”
“I will join you in that war, if the retaliator is still alive when you hear about it.”
“Good,” Vincent said as he stood up. Michael rose to his feet and accepted Vincent’s extended hand in a handshake. “I’ll be leaving in an hour if you would like to accompany me home. My Beta has been tasked with informing my pack of your arrival, and a friend has prepared a spare room for you at my house.”
“Sounds good. I just need to iron everything out with my Beta, and I will be out,” Michael said. Vincent simply nodded and exited the room. Michael’s wolf growled quietly as Elijah’s demeanor shifted. Elijah’s blue eyes flared with gold briefly. He is pissed, Michael realized. “Elijah,” Michael’s voiced deepened into his Alpha tone. “Don’t start.” Michael felt his own professionalism begin to seep out of his skin.
“You know that it’s bullshit,” Elijah growled. “We shouldn’t have to abide by another pack’s rules.”
“Do you not understand how much money he is saving us by not asking a price? He is allowing us to use all of the money that we were paid out for the rebuild. At the base of the Mountain, we almost don’t have to leave home.”
“Are you really so money hungry that you would rather bow down than re-locate us?” Elijah grumbled. Michael’s eyes flared gold. He snarled and charged at his Beta. Michael bore his canines as his hand encircled Elijah’s throat. He squeezed Elijah’s throat tightly and slammed his back into the wall. His Beta gasped for air as Michael’s grasp tightened around his throat.
“This has nothing, nothing, to do with the money, you ignorant dick,” Michael growled darkly. “We will stay near the mountains, where our people have called home for centuries. Our pack has a reputation of its own rules because of the mountains. Do you really think that any other pack would take us in so easily, knowing how we live?”
“Are you too afraid to ask?” Elijah choked out.
“Fear? No,” Michael snarled. “I’m too smart. Why the fuck would I take us elsewhere when we can continue to live like we have been?”
“Others will not be as weak to roll over like you.”
“You’re right, I need to make sure that no one doubts my decisions,” Michael growled.
He snarled and ripped his hand from Elijah’s throat. Michael took advantage of Elijah gasping for air and buried his canines deep into Elijah’s throat. Elijah choked on his blood, which prompted Michael to tear into his throat. Michael ripped his fangs away, a chunk of his Beta’s esophagus nestled into his mouth. “Starting with you,” Michael panted. Michael’s hand dove into Elijah’s chest and ripped his beating heart from it. Elijah’s body collapsed on to the floor.
Michael growled and cracked his neck. He chewed the esophagus through his canines as he rubbed his fingers along the unmoving heart of his Beta. “Liam!” Michael bellowed. He looked down suddenly and cursed at himself. Motherfucker ruined a silk shirt, he realized with annoyance. He dropped Elijah’s heart with a thick plop on to the floor beside the body. Michael removed his shirt and used it to clean the blood off his face. His muscles were engorged with adrenaline, and they rippled throughout his arms and back. Tattoos of black wolves swallowed both of his arms. Both of his pectoral muscles had the scenery of Mountain; his right pectoral had the mountains with the sun, and his left pectoral had the mountains with the full moon, both scenes in full color. All of his tattoos were laced with silver; werewolves healed too fast for traditional tattoo methods, but their silver allergy had been Michael’s loophole. Considering silver felt like acid being poured on to bone, Michael was the only wolf who had tattoos.
“Goddammit, Michael!” Liam exclaimed with exasperation as he entered the room. Michael turned and grinned. Liam was his best friend for the last one hundred years, and the only member of his pack that he knew, with certainty, that he would never kill. Liam’s long, brown hair rested against the shoulders of a white muscle shirt, his jeans mis-buttoned. Liam’s brown eyes burned with annoyance.
“You have to stop killing Betas!” Liam snapped.
“Bastard said that I was weak and money hungry,” Michael shrugged as he cleaned the blood off his chest.
“Stupid bastard,” Liam mumbled. “What’s up?”
“Find a tasteful display for the remains. I want to use him as a message that if someone thinks of retaliating against my alliance with Vincent, they will answer to me.”
“You actually need to send that message?”
“I thought I wouldn’t have to, but my own Beta challenged it.”
“Right,” Liam sighed. “I have an idea of where to put him.”
“One more thing,” Michael said as Liam approached him. Michael balled his shirt up and threw it on Elijah. He quickly retrieved Elijah’s heart and ripped it evenly in half with his claws. He offered one half of it to Liam. Liam looked at him curiously and accepted. Michael smiled and took a bite out of Elijah’s heart. A wave of thrill and pleasure rolled down his spine as he ate the heart of his enemy next to the corpse of his enemy. “A favor,” Michael said in between bites.
“Anything, Mike,” Liam agreed as he ate.
“Be my Beta.”
“Why? Do you want to kill me, too?” Liam asked sarcastically.
Michael grinned and swallowed the last bite of the heart. “I should have appointed you sooner. Your trust in me is unparalleled, and I trust you more than I trust anyone else.”
“Careful, Mountain may think that you have a heart,” Liam warned.
“I’ll deny this conversation.”
“I’m sure you will. You know that I’ll accept, Mike,” Liam added as he swallowed his last bite of the heart. “I can take care of Mountain while you’re gone.”
“I’m sorry that I did not appoint you sooner. I had hoped to keep you out of politics,” Michael said.
“At the rate that you keep killing the Betas that you do appoint, it was only a matter of time before you settled on me. Four Betas in fifty years is pretty impressive.”
Michael laughed and licked his fingers clean. His canines slid back into his gums, his emerald eyes hard as he regained his business composure. “I need to ready for departure. Let me know when Elijah is ready and gather the pack. You have one hour.”
“You don’t make shit easy, Mike.”
“Four Betas in fifty years, Liam. Apparently, it’s too hard to just listen to an Alpha.”
“Stupid bastard,” Liam repeated. Michael observed his hands to make sure that they were clean of blood. He began gathering the scattered papers on his desk as Liam gathered Elijah’s remains. Exhaustion washed over Michael. Killing someone took no energy out of him, he had grown accustomed to it; but the knowledge of the work that lie ahead for the rebuild drained him.