My Omega Mate

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Chapter 8: Max

Max descended the stairs towards the first floor, pinching the bridge of his nose in an attempt to get rid of the annoying throbbing in his head. He couldn’t sleep a wink last night — not after running until he was exhausted enough to pass out, not after an icy shower, not even after gulping down a few glasses of alcohol.

The feeling of horror and regret kept his mind wide awake and pulled on his heartstrings until he wanted to strangle himself. He was such a pathetic fool for losing control like that. And seeing his mate cry and stare at him with fear was the worst feeling he had ever felt in his life.

And then he sent him away. Without an apology. Without explanation. Without even looking at him. He could only imagine all the stupid things that were running through James’ head right now.

He had to talk to him again. To explain. To convince him to stay. Max wasn’t sure if it was the kiss, the closeness, or the feeling of protectiveness that had woken up in his chest as he stared at James’ scared expression last night, but he knew one thing for certain. He could not reject him or let him go, not unless he was the one being rejected. And even if he was…

“Good morning.”

Max tensed, pulling his hand away and locking his eyes on the person who had spoken to him with that amused voice. Hunter and his beta were standing by the front door, both staring at Max. He couldn’t believe he didn’t even hear them — and why were they allowed to wander around alone?

“Good morning,” he said stiffly just as the door opened again and Logan stepped through, smoothening the frown on his face. “Is it time?”

“Yes, I have prepared one of the back rooms,” Logan nodded readily. “And I was just escorting Alpha Hunter and Beta Jack there. Two more of your people are coming too, aren’t they?”

“Yes,” Hunter replied with a polite smile that somehow managed to look condescending at the same time. “They should be back shortly. I sent them to the city earlier to get me some cigarettes since I’m all out. There was a lot of drinking and smoking last night. This reminds me,” he turned to Max, raising an eyebrow. “Did we miss a party over here? You look like you had a wild night. And here you told us you are not into those kinds of stuff. Tsk, tsk.” He shook his head. “I am starting to feel very unwelcome.”

Sending his warriors for cigarettes? Like that wasn’t suspicious at all. Logan probably had put a tail on them, so for now, they weren’t a problem.

“It was nothing like that,” Max said quickly, stepping down the last of the stairs. “I had to finish my work so that I can give you my full attention today. The Alpha’s work is never done, right?” He stopped next to Hunter, trying his best to give him at least a polite smile. “Shall we? Once your men are back, I’ll have someone bring them to us. We can enjoy breakfast and coffee while we wait.”

“Sure,” Hunter chuckled just as Max moved past him, giving Logan a quick look. His beta nodded with understanding, staying behind to make sure the two warriors wouldn’t get ‘lost’. Max led Hunter and his beta to one of the spacious rooms, which they had turned into a conference room that was usually used for pack meetings and receiving guests. He pushed the door open and walked in first.

His body immediately tensed as the sweet, tantalizing smell that wouldn’t give him a moment of peace tickled his senses, his eyes searching desperately for its source. There were three omegas already inside, fussing around the side table set by one of the walls where a few plates overflowing with food were waiting, along with cups for coffee and tea.

Two of them were male omegas from his own pack, both greeting politely before moving back to the wall. The third one was James, his eyes glued to the floor as he followed the others’ example.

Hunter cleared his throat behind him and Max hurried to look away from James, stepping aside to give way to his guests. Hunter shot him a curious look before moving further into the room, looking around while murmuring ‘Not bad, not bad’.

Max closed the door, stepping nearing the table while keeping Hunter in his field of vision. The other alpha was still walking around the room with a slow gait, studying the dark wooden panels covering the walls, his eyes lingering a bit longer on the big landscape painting hanging on the wall opposite of the door. His Beta stood stiffly by the table, patiently waiting for his leader to sit first.

Hunter finally reached the other side of the table where the three omegas stood and for a moment he studied them one by one before turning swiftly around and heading towards the table.

The alpha of the Ironclaw pack lowered himself into one of the chairs with his beta on his left and Max taking a seat across from them. He should have sat down first, preferably with his back to the omegas, since now that he was facing James, it was even harder to concentrate on what Hunter was saying. Max wasn’t sure if his mate was avoiding his gaze on purpose or just showing obedience in the presence of his alpha, but looking at him with his shoulders slumped, reeking of uneasiness and sadness, it was like sitting on a chair with silver needles sticking from the seat.

Thankfully, the door opened a minute later and Logan walked in with the two Ironclaw warriors trailing behind him. Max gave them a brief look as they smirked and chuckled, then switched to Logan, who was trying to keep on his fake polite smile.

“Now that we are all here, shall we start?” Logan suggested, motioning for the empty chairs while taking a seat next to Max. The two others joined Hunter’s side, one of them taking out a single package of cigarettes and putting it in front of his alpha. Max gritted his teeth — he sent two of his biggest warriors for a single package? It was like he was mockingly telling them, ’I’ll do what I want and you can’t stop me.

Hunter pulled the small cardboard box with his nail, starting to play with it while leaning back in his seat.

Wrong, everything was wrong. Max’s head, his heart, his body — everything was out of rhythm and it was becoming obvious. Not only was he distracted and more irritable than usual, but he was also losing control of the situation and it showed. They were on his land, in his house, yet they were doing whatever they wanted. He had to stop this before it was too late.

Focusing his full attention on Hunter, he chased away all other thoughts from his head, locking himself in a small bubble of calm just as his father taught him. Being calm was the most important quality of an alpha, his father always said. Being calm meant being in control of yourself, and that was the biggest strength there was.

“Let’s start,” Max said, feeling a hint of relief when he finally sounded like himself. James could wait. This was more important. Because if he couldn’t convince the Ironclaw pack to sign the pact, he couldn’t give something as simple as safety and respect to his mate. And if he couldn’t give that, he didn’t deserve to be an alpha or have a mate.

As if sensing the shift in attitude, Hunter stopped playing with the box and sat a little straighter. Max continued with the scenario he and Logan used when they talked with the other packs. He did most of the talking with Logan joining in occasionally, but he kept their attention on himself on purpose, watching their every move, every look aside, or shift of the body.

They weren’t listening at all. Nobody spoke apart from Hunter, who asked a question here and there. But even in those cases, he sounded uninterested and reserved. He wasn’t even trying to smile anymore and as Max reached the last part where he explained the changes he wanted to implement that were mainly benefitting the omegas, he realized he completely lost them.

Their expressions changed and Hunter even started looking around, as if the interior of the room was more interesting than what was coming out of Max’s mouth. The reaction was within their expectations, but it still annoyed him.

When Max was done, he continued to stare at the other alpha, who hadn’t even acknowledged the fact that he had stopped talking. Under any other circumstances, this complete lack of respect would have sent Max right for his throat. He could take him — or at least hold his ground equally. He had invited them though, and he needed them to be in a good mood and receptive to his ideas. He couldn’t intimidate them with strength since they were already strong and he couldn’t intimidate them with numbers since the Ironclaw pack was bigger than his. So he had no choice but to suffer a little humiliation or kiss goodbye any chance of a treaty between the south and the north. If he couldn’t secure Ironclaw, the others wouldn’t follow, and if they didn’t, the north will slowly fall apart too.

“We know it’s a lot to process, so take a few minutes to think it over,” Logan suddenly spoke, and Max realized he had remained silent for far too long. “You probably have questions and concerns, so let’s listen to them after a short break. How about some coffee?”

“I’d take something stronger,” Hunter replied, suddenly interested in the conversation again. Logan glanced at the omegas and all three of them sprung to action immediately, stepping towards the helping table in the corner where the sound of liquid being poured into cups spread through the room. “I couldn’t help but notice the lack of diversity among your omegas,” Hunter said and Max raised his eyes to him, holding onto the bubble of calm. “Do you usually keep your women locked away, or are you keeping them away from us on purpose? What, you don’t trust us? Even though we came here as a show of goodwill?”

“In my pack, everybody has a place and responsibilities. As long as they are useful to the pack and do their part, they are free to go anywhere and voice their opinion on matters regarding their work and living conditions. I am not going to force them to be somewhere they don’t want to be,” Max replied in a cold tone.

“Useful huh?” Hunter chuckled, looking up as the three omegas stepped towards the table, carrying the cups. The two men from Max’s pack brought him and Logan a cup of coffee, while Jamie was left to tend to the other four himself. He was just leaving the first cup in front of his alpha, when Hunter spoke again. “I have found that omegas are rarely useful for much. But we are not that picky.” His hand shot out, and he grabbed James by the wrist, stopping him just as he was about to walk away from the table to bring the rest of the drinks. “Isn’t that right, Jamie?”

“Yes, Alpha,” James answered in a quiet, obedient tone, his eyes still on the floor while Hunter stared at him with a wicked smile on his face.

The bubble of calm shattered in an instant, rage flooding into Max’s head as he stared at the hand squeezing Jamie’s arm. It would be so easy to tear it off, he thought, like taking candy from a kid. Even with the four warriors in the room, it shouldn’t be a problem.

He hadn’t realized when he had jumped to his feet, but a second later he distantly felt something squeeze his elbow and Logan somehow managed to drag him out of the room and down the corridor. By the time Max calmed himself, Logan was pushing him through one of the doors, slamming it as he followed. He turned towards Max, glaring at him.

“What the hell is wrong with you? You’re all over the place!” he hissed. Max took a deep breath, trying to slow down his racing heart, when he noticed his hands were shaking. “Max, look at me.” Maxwell forced himself to do it, staring at his friend, who had switched from angry to concerned in a split second. “Are you going rogue? Your eyes flashed damn red just now. You told me that if you ever went rogue, I must kill you to protect the pack. So answer me — are you going rogue and what the hell is making you crazy?”

Ah, this is not going to work, Max thought as he squeezed his hands into fists to stop them from trembling. He couldn’t do this alone and he couldn’t let it be. And it was obvious that he couldn’t stay calm when James was in the room.

He looked up at his beta, letting out the breath he was holding. If he could trust anyone with this secret, it was Logan. He was going to need him and his support if he decided to claim James.

“It’s the omega,” he said, his voice still sounding tense.

“Their omega?” Logan frowned in confusion. “I know you sympathize with him and you want to make sure all omegas get better treatment, but to get this angry…”

“It’s not just that,” he said, stepping closer to his beta and lowering his voice. He couldn’t hear or smell anyone outside, which meant they were still in that room. There was enough space and noises between them so there was no way they could hear him as he whispered. “That omega… he is my mate.”

Logan’s eyes widened with surprise, his mouth opening while he searched for the right words. In the end, he closed his eyes, covering his face with his hand. A single word escapes his mouth, barely audible even for Max.

“Shit.”

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