Chris pushed open the door, his stomach in a tightly coiled knot. He just couldn’t shift it, couldn’t calm down. His parents prattling on with the importance of the next stage of his life. “Trey?” he called into the Gamma suite.
“Yup? What’s up?” Trey’s oak haired head popped through the doorway to their living room.
Chris walked right past him, making himself at home without invitation, “Why does anything need to be up?” his nonchalance did not match his internal feeling.
“Because you look like shit. It’s not tomorrow is it?”
“Course not. I’m going to find her straight away.” His confidence a mask, a hope no one would sense these worries… anxieties.
“You probably won’t find her tomorrow,” Trey reassured warmly. “There’s no pressure for it to be instant. Your brother didn’t find his mate for nearly a decade, remember.”
“I don’t think I can wait that long,” Chris whispered.
Trey’s hand fell heavily on the younger wolf. “You don’t need a mate to complete you.”
“I know… I just… erm- I just need…”
Trey gave him a sympathetic smile. “Come here,” he directed warmly, opening his arms.
“Not a pup,” Chris grumbled.
Despite his protest, he found himself dragged into his mentor, his friend, his saviour’s arms. “You’ll always be my lil’ buddy, no matter how big you get.”
He wanted to argue, wanted to protest, wanting to counter that he was five hours from being of age. But he relaxed into the elder man, the feeling of protection he still gave him even all these years later. A tiny part of him still wanted to climb into his lap and cling on for dear life… even if he was now bigger than Trey.
“You need to stop putting pressure on yourself. What’s Marc said?”
“He thinks I should go on a pack tour.”
“So soon?” Trey pulled away.
“It’s like I’m not good enough alone,” he whispered, possibly not wanting Trey to hear him… of course he did. “I’ve never been good enough.”
“That’s not true, Chris, and you know it. Do you want to go on a tour?”
“I don’t know.”
“I can talk to your brother.”
“It’s not just him, it’s Mother and Father too… the whole council think it’s a good idea. I don’t really have a choice.”
“Course you have a choice. Pack touring can be fun though. No parents… can do what you like,” Trey’s voice had lowered, a secret between the two of them.
Chris wriggled out of Trey’s embrace. “I have to live up to expectations, follow the rules of a royal.”
“Rules are made to be broken. No one will have to know.”
“Apart from the guards that will be on me.”
“They’ll be discrete. Nothing will get back to the palace if you don’t want it to be.”
Chris sat back on the sofa, sighing.
Tiny howls brought his gaze to the door as two raven pups barrelled through the door. They bumped into each other, making them stumble. “Didn’t know you were pupsitting.” Chris patted his knee only for two fluff balls to scramble up, bounding all over him. “What are you two doing?”
“Up to mischief of course.” Sophie, Trey’s mate, waltzed into the living room, her golden curls tumbling down her back.
“Where’s Hunter?” Trey asked.
“Muuum! The twins have broken the vase! It wasn’t me!”
“Speak of the devil,” Trey chuckled.
Chris dove onto the floor, the two pups climbing all over him. Nipping at his clothes. He grabbed who he was sure was Arthur, pinning him to the floor while Alice dangled off his ear. He grabbed her too, pinning them both to the floor. “Right you two ratbags, are you behaving?” He started tickling them both, making them yelp and squirm until two identical four-year-olds appeared in skin form.
“Ah! Uncle Chris, stop! Stop!” Alice pleaded, wriggling away from his tickling fingers.
“What has everyone told you two about having a covering for your skin forms?” Trey scolded.
“Oh shut up you big grump,” Chris retorted, mercilessly tickling a giggling Arthur while Alice was draped in a small blanket.
“Stop, stop!” he wheezed through giggles. Chris laughed, yanking the youngster up and throwing him to Trey.
“My children are not footballs,” a deep powerful rumble came from the doorway. Chris looked up to see his brother, the King, standing in the doorway, a glare of disapproval he knew to be all facade.
“No, I was going for a rugby ball,” Chris smirked.
“Daddy!” Alice leapt up to him, dislodging her blanket.
“Having fun, sweet girl?” he asked as he lifted her into his arms, wrapping the grey blanket around her again.
“Dad, dad, dad!” Arthur scrambled from Trey’s hold and ran across the room, transforming halfway.
Marc chuckled, scooping to pick up the young wolf. “You need to let your skin side to the front.”
Arthur yapped, snuggling into his father’s neck.
“He’ll learn, Hunter’s nearly there,” Sophie spoke warmly, ruffling Alice’s hair.
“Chris, I need a word. My office in twenty minutes?”
Chris sighed, looking over to Trey a moment, he gave Chris an encouraging nod. “Fine.” Chris stood from his place on the floor.
As requested, twenty minutes later he knocked on the King’s office door. “Come in.”
Chris did so, entering the circular office and plonking down on one of the comfortable wing back chairs. “So what’s this about?”
“Straight to the point, eh?” Marc settled back in his own chair behind the large desk. “I think father’s right that you should go on the pack tour.”
“Of course you do,” Chris replied snidely.
“You haven’t left packland since… you know. You’re going to be full-grown, it’s time to spread your wings a bit.”
“What if I don’t want to ‘spread my wings’?”
“I think deep down you do. You’re not happy. Go have some fun and find your mate.”
“Right, alright I’ll go in a year or so.”
“No, next week.”
“Marc!” he protested instantly.
“I think this is the best for you, brother,” he stated calmly.
Chris frowned, looking away from a man he looked up to. He wanted to get rid of him? That’s what it felt like. He was too much of a burden to keep around. “I’m not going,” he stated stubbornly to the floor.
“I want you to think about it. All the arrangements are made if you change your mind. Just wish I’d done something like this at your age.”
“But you wouldn’t have found Klara.”
“No. But if you go, you’ll find out all the packs are very different, they know how to party.”
“I don’t like parties.”
“You don’t like balls. These are different. Just think about it, yeah? It’ll just be a couple of months.”
“Thought you were meant to be all positive like ‘of course you’ll find your mate, they’re just waiting for you.’” Chris gave a pointed glare at Marc. Hating the pitying look he gave back.
He hated pity. It was all he got.
“Are you going to force me next week?”
“I think it is more a suggestion.”
“A suggestion from the King… ergo, no choice.”
Marc tipped his hand in a so so gesture.
“Uh! I’ll hate it!”
“I don’t think you will. It’s just a fear of-”
“I’m not scared!” Chris defended ferociously. “I don’t see the point, the only point I see is you want me out from under your hair.”
“And you know that’s not true. Most of age wolves would jump at the chance. I thought you’d want the opportunity, but it is your choice.”
Chris squirmed in the chair. Just more evidence he wasn’t like others. Not that he had any peers to compare himself to. He kept himself to himself apart from the family. He had always felt apart from ‘normal’ wolves. Even really young he just knew he was different.
He was a Royal.
To be a royal meant a few things. Of course, he lived in a palatial castle built centuries ago. He lived with the finest things anyone could make. Respect wasn’t really earnt, although his parents had always instilled that all his siblings should behave according to the respect. They should be calm, composed. Intelligent, charming. They should treat everyone as if they were a friend. Important to them personally.
They were the Huntersons.
The oldest, the most powerful wolves. To be born of a Hunterson male, the line is passed down. The speed, the agility. The deep golden eyes, akin to the bars of gold kept secure within a chamber in the palace. They also possessed a raven furred wolf larger than any other.
To be a Hunterson equalled power.
Unfortunately, power didn’t bring friends.
And then, at ten… the event happened. Pushing him even further from anyone that could be his peer.
He left his brother’s office not giving him an answer. He didn’t want to leave the safety of the palace.
Chris tossed and turned that night, unable to settle. His wolf was irritated, agitated. Neither of them knew why… he could only put it down to the thought of leaving. He knew he wouldn’t be able to stop it. Well… he may be able to. He sighed to himself. He just had to be honest. He wasn’t ready.
Unless he found his mate.
Was that what was up with his wolf?
He was of age now.
He gave up his attempt to sleep when the sun began to rise. A tiny excitement maybe his wolf’s irritation was because he wasn’t doing what he wanted… finding his mate.
He slipped from bed and made his way through the palace from the family wing. Down the sweeping staircase, he followed the corridors around until he reached the back of the palace. His brother wouldn’t be out yet, maybe half an hour Chris had to be alone.
He stripped his joggers and ran into the woods, transforming mid-step before hitting the trees. He gave into his wolf’s want to take control, he was too restless to be able to resist his wants. Chris slipped, watching as if through a small TV. He kept stock of where they were, seeing they were going further into the woods to the western side of the packland. He didn’t mind, if his wolf needed to run the entire circuit of their land… that’s what he’d do.
A beautiful smell punched through the scents of the woodland. Molasses mixed with the smokeyness of a bonfire. It was the smell of home, that was the only thing going through his mind. He didn’t have any choice to follow the smell, his wolf was already on it, the scent as if it were a visual trail through the woods.
His large paws pounded the damp earth. Pushing faster. A wolf on a mission as the scent grew stronger, deliciously pungent in the air. A warmth spread through his whole body, the anxiety and worry he felt earlier was disappearing. How could he have doubted something that felt so euphoric? And he hadn’t even clapped eyes on them yet!
He pushed to the front a little, wanting to see his mate for the first time, not settling back in the recesses of his mind. A flash of burnt orange captured his attention, running in his direction before it stopped dead in its tracks. The wolf was one he knew. He stopped just as the auburn wolf had.
Gold against brown gaze locked on with each other, it was obvious who was in charge of both wolves’ bodies as they stared at each other. Both frozen in place. The scent of wonder was suffocating him.
’Never.’ Chris declared over the mind link. Turning on his heel, he raced from the gorgeous wolf. A wolf he’d never looked twice at, in either skin or wolf form.