The preparations for tonight were already in full swing. Rows of trucks lined the drive, each with its own purpose. I stood against the stone wall, flicking my lighter against my leg, observing the waiters as they poured glasses of champagne, and carried food from room to room.
Just like every other year, tonight had taken up most of my mother’s free time. As well as a lot of the pack’s reserve money. She was in charge of planning and overseeing this massive party after all. A job she took very seriously. Rightly so, of course. If she didn’t take charge, it would no doubt be a cluster fuck of a mess.
“See you after, brother.” Daniel waved goodbye, as he headed out to the foyer in a hurry. Not missing a stride as he went. I had never been more grateful for an assignment before. To be pulled away from the chaos that tonight would surlily bring. This was one time I was more than willing to let my brothers have all the fun. I had been to my fair share of these ceremony’s and they all ended the same way for me. Either alone or under a mate less female. I wouldn’t put myself through that again this year. I had better things to do with my time.
“You sure you don’t want to come?” Carter said adjusting his suit jacket as he came down the stairs.
I was more than sure. These parties were not my scene anyway. I would much rather be tearing my teeth into something or someone.
Which was exactly what was on the agenda for the night. Tonight, was about pay back. Apparently rouge wolves, need to be taught a lesson. In which I was more than willing to teach. My inner wolf craved the taste of a good fight.
“You know your kind of boring, Cyrus. This party is going to be a blast. I don’t see why you wouldn’t want to come.” Killion bounced down the stairs, wide eyed, with a pep in his step, ready for the night ahead.
I looked up to my brother. Who was still so young and unchanged by the burdens of our family. Of our world really. I wouldn’t be the one to give him the hard truth. That things weren’t always black and white. “Yeah, yeah. Just try not to embarrass us. Okay kid?” I spat the words him.
Killion was a wild one. He was your typical male. Stubborn, completely in love with himself, and super cocky. A playboy. Tonight, for him was more about hooking up with mate less females, than anything. Always thinking with the other head. Never thinking about the big picture. It was hard to believe he was even old enough to go. Or mature enough. But in fact, he was.
I looked to Killion.
The youngest of our small pack.
After tonight his whole world could potentially change. Before he even had a chance to experience his life to begin with. What a laugh that would be. Considering Carter nor myself have found our mate and this would be my third ceremony. If I was wasting my time going, that is.
“Whatever, Cyrus. Go on, remember though. All work and no play make for a boring man.” His signature boyish grin, strained at his cheeks as he followed behind Carter. He was excited for tonight.
They all were.
I really did hope for the best, for all my brothers. Including Carter who had already found his mate and settled down. He was in charge of keeping the other two in line tonight. I just didn’t share their views on love, or sex for that matter. Maybe I would understand when in fact I did find my mate.
I hoped so at least.
I wanted to believe there was more to this life than violence. And war.
Even though I just so happened to be a pro when both were involved. I was in charge of keeping the peace between our packs. I had responsibility, to my family. My brothers, my mother, our pack but most of all my father. I wanted to settle down one day. Fulfill my duty to the pack.
I would someday rule, alongside my brothers, I’m sure. But for now, I had to stay focused. I had a job to do. Defuse the bomb. Meaning, rough some guys up. We weren’t about to let anyone slip. Rules were rules and when you broke them. Well, you had to be punished. Simple.
I grabbed my black duffle full of weapons, and the keys for the hummer from the hook. Heading out to the truck, I looked around as the party planners fanatically finished putting out the decorations.
Mother really did out do herself. The manor was breath taking. I bet the
In just a couple hours, the manor would be completely over run by wolves.
Which you would think would be a security issue, but my mother did not. Or knowing father, she wasn’t about to back down. She strived for perfection, and this party would be just that. Perfect.
Who knew, maybe tonight would be an interesting affair for my brothers. I hoped they would find a mate, sooner rather than later. I mean after all what the worst that could happen?
The meadows were exactly how I remembered. In full bloom and beautiful for the start of the lilac season. A little something our small town was known for. As I rolled down the window of our car, I inhaled deeply. Savoring the potent smell of lilac in my nose. A smell I might not be able to enjoy after tonight.
The scent of lilac’s always reminded me of home, and as we made our way through the crowded streets, I was reminded just how much I was going to deeply miss it. I had spent the better part of my life here, in our small town with my parents and my brother Liam. Even though I had spent some time away. I still loved it here. The people, the surroundings. All of it. Being gone, I hadn’t realized that it had taken a toll on me, I missed it here. I was excited to be home.
I looked over to Liam, who like always looked relaxed and content as he gazed outside the car window. I envied him sometimes. Being able to overlook all the bad things that had happened to our family over the last year as if it had never happened. As if the earth didn’t just swallow us both up and spit us back out.
Yet somehow Liam, made it look easy as if he were unfazed by every part of it. When deep down I knew, just like I was, he was fighting to breath. I knew he was a mess, and the ceremony tonight was not making things any better for either one of us.
I knew this day was coming. Honestly, I had been looking forward to tonight for as long as I could remember and even though the last few months had been rough to say the least.
I wanted to enjoy myself tonight. I planned on forgetting the last year of my life, as if only for one single night and enjoy myself. It was not every day the mating ceremony and your twenty first birthday fell on the same day.
I thought to myself about what was going to happen in the next twenty-four hours, realizing that my life was going to drastically change one way or another. I would be taken more seriously within our community even though I may be a part of a completely different pack after tonight. Something I had forgotten was a possibility for myself. I would no longer be the little girl who lost her father to a boating accident, or whose mother abandoned both her children in a point in their lives when they needed her most. No, after tonight I would be my own person. Even if that meant starting over completely.
I looked over to Liam once again, imagining what he must be thinking right now. He looked so focused as he looked out the car window. As if tonight was not going to be the biggest night of both our lives. I could not tell if he was nervous at all, but if he was, he did not show it even in the slightest.
Liam wore his dark blue suit, with a white button-down shirt underneath and his solid gold cuff links, which were a gift from our father on his eighteenth birthday. His shaggy blonde hair was slicked back with too much hair gel, showing off his icy crystal blue eyes under a set of baby lashes he got from our mother. “Are you ready for tonight?” Liam’s voice said pulling me from my own thoughts. His eyes did not meet mine but stayed focused on the moving scene outside the car window.
We were almost to the Manor. The location of this year’s mating ceremony. My nerves were starting to kick into overdrive, causing my stomach to tighten in knots. I was worried obviously. Tonight, not only was a day to celebrate but an incredibly special day for a lot of my people.
“As ready as I can be.” I responded; eyeing Liam next to me in the car. “What if I do not find my other half, Liam? What if I’m just not meant to have a mate.” I said, remembering the stories my mom would tell me of how she had met my dad at her first mating ceremony. How lucky she was, to find her mate as well as her best friend. I remembered the stories she would tell us when we were kids.
“Trust me, Mar you got this. There is nothing to worry about.” Liam responded his face finding mine for the first time since we left our home in the country. I gave him a reassuring smile as I turned to look back out the window. I knew we would be approaching the Manor soon. I tried to calm my nerves, knowing that tonight wasn’t in my hands. You didn’t get to choose your mate. Our mating bond didn’t work like that.
“Oh, and by the way. In case I forget to tell you. Happy Birthday Mar.” Liam said extending his hand across the car to mine, squeezing my hand in reassurance. I gave him a gentle smile. Feeling a surge of dread fill my body, all the way to my bones.
The mating ceremony only happened once every five years. Which made it kind of a big deal to anyone and everyone who was involved. If you were one of the coming-of-age wolves, turning twenty-one the year of the ceremony like myself, you were granted an invitation to the mating ceremony automatically. No matter what pack you came from, or your status in society. Hundreds of wolves from all around the globe showed up. Eager to try their luck with fate and find love. I found it amazing and beyond romantic. I could not wait for my time to come. I could not wait to find my mate.
I could feel the beat of my own heart in my chest as our car pulled into the estate driveway, followed by dozens of other limos and town cars patiently waiting to reach the enormous estates entrance. Lanterns lit the driveway adding to the romantic atmosphere, as fireflies flew around giving the entrance a mystical look to it. The royal estate was breathtaking, and everything I imagined it would be from how my mom described it as a kid.
The moon had already begun to peak and soon would make its way from behind the clouds and into the night sky for all the party goers to see. That was when the real fun would begin, and everyone could shift with ease. I could feel my nerves starting to get the best of me and cause me to panic. Something I was more than accustomed too, having the anxiety of a wounded bird and all. Not one of my strong points, but a flaw I had learned to live with after dealing with it my entire life. One of the many traits I had dear old mom to thank for.
At least I knew my source of anxiety tonight, which made it a little easier to keep at bay and under control. This was a huge deal for not only me but for my whole pack as well. Depending on who the great ancestors mated you with, you never knew who or what you would be after the ceremony was over. In past mating ceremonies, it did not matter what pack or house you came from for that matter. You did not have a choice in who you were mated with. That was a choice made by the ancestors and them alone.
Sure, you had the right to reject your true mate, but in the centuries since my pack had been around it had never been done. It was one of the highest insults a wolf could give to another wolf. You were branded, broken, and tossed aside like last week’s trash. Not something anyone wants to endure or put anyone through.
I looked across the car one last time at my brother, who still seemed so calm and relaxed. Even though we were minutes away from both of our lives changing forever. “Wow, this is all becoming so real. I can’t believe this is all really happening.” He said finally, gawking at the scene outside the window as we made our way toward the entrance. I looked from my brother to the front of the driveway where butlers stood awaiting guests. Liam was adjusting his suit, as we were just a couple limos away from the entrance. I smiled over at him realizing that after tonight, I may never see my brother again. That fact was enough to bring tears to my eyes, but I held them back knowing that tonight was not about just me but Liam as well.
Liam and I had always been close, it just being the two of us siblings and all. We had to be. After our dad died, we had to be strong for one another as well as our mom, who was not the same person after dad died. Then less than a year after his death when our mom just disappeared in the middle of the night, nothing more than a note. I honestly do not know what I would have done without him.
I took a deep breath, as our car stopped in front of the entrance. I took one last good look at my brother. Trying to mesmerize his every feature just in case tonight was really the last time I would see my brother. I did not want to forget him. Neither one of us knew what the rest of the night had in store for us, and if this were the last time, I would see him I wanted to make it count.
“You ready?” Liam asked as a butler opened the car door. I gave him a reassuring nod and slid across the seat, taking the extended hand he held out as he helped me out of the car. I took the folds of my gown in my hands and ascended the small staircase leading up to the estate, hoping tonight I would not regret wearing a taller heel than I normally did. I couldn’t help but say a small pray to the moon goddess that I didn’t make a complete fool of myself in front of everyone.
“Are you nervous, Mar?” Liam asked as we made our way through the grand entrance of the estate. The building was obviously incredibly old. The stonework was impeccable. Something you only seen in really old movies, or history books. I was in complete awe.
I knew that Liam would be worried about me the whole time if I told him just how nervous I was. So, I shook my head and continued to make my way through the estate. I really did not want to make tonight about me. Tonight, Liam could potentially find his mate as well. The thought of Liam finding his better half made me smile. Causing my nerves to slowly ease. “Not so much nervous as I am excited.” I lied putting on my best face. Liam nodded his head, smiled, and steered me towards the flow of other people goers making their way out toward to the garden where the party had really taken off.
I handed my shawl over to the over-eager coat attendant, who took it without hesitation as she handed me a coat number. I looked back to my brother, who handed off his jacket as he headed further into the party. I gave him a nervous smile feeling completely out of place but pushed on following the flow of party goers.
As we made our way out to the garden followed by all the party goers, the party was already in full swing. People of all different backgrounds, and packs mingled together as one. Some on the dancefloor, others socializing at the bar and others chatting with other wolves from different packs. It was an amazing sight to witness. I knew now why my mom had always described her ceremony as magical. Something you didn’t see every day. I had never seen so many different people all in one place in my life. Even at the moon festival which happened once a year, where wolves from outside packs would come and bestow gifts on our Alpha and Beta. A sign of obedience as well as respect towards the powerful.
“This is amazing.” Liam looked around wide-eyed and full of life. “If you are going to be alright, I am going to go mingle. Find you later?” he asked, cautiously moving in the direction of a female wolf from a neighboring pack with beautiful jet-black hair, and perfect legs.
“Of course.” I said shooing him away, a genuine smile appearing on my face for the first time tonight. I was excited for Liam. Maybe tonight would be everything we both hoped for after all. Apparently already going towards Liam’s favor.
Once alone, I looked around the beautiful garden; a DJ was blaring the newest hip hop jam on the dance floor. As bodies grinded up against each other, dancing along to the music. Their bodies almost melting into one another. It was almost too erotic for public, and I could feel my face begin to blush from just watching them.
I decided this was as good as time as any to get a drink. Maybe a little liquid courage would help me relax, and enjoy myself tonight. I made my way over to the open bar and stood in line waiting for a drink.
“Hey pretty, what can I get you?” a young female bartender asked as I approached her. I smiled at her sitting at one of the seats, embarrassed by such a compliment. Back home, I was your typical wolf, nothing special so having someone notice me was out of the ordinary. It wasn’t that I couldn’t take a compliment I just wasn’t used to being noticed. I tended to stay in the background compared to some of the other wolves.
“I’ll take a red wine, please.” I said to the bartender, feeling like I was almost yelling so she could hear me over the pumping music in the background. “You got it, sweets.” She said as she danced off behind the bar, dodging other bartenders in her way.
I looked around the Manor. Wolves from all over, were everywhere. In sync with one another no matter, of status of pack. It was incredible. I loved watching so many different wolves mingling together as one without a care in the world.
“Gale, please tell me you have something to ease my suffering? I really thought this would have been more fun.” a man said sliding into the seat next to mine. “You got it boss.” She said as she handed me my glass of wine. I gratefully accepted and took a small sip, savoring the flavor of the wine. I wasn’t much of the drinker but tonight I wouldn’t be the same shallow girl I always was. Everything was going to change. It had too.
“Hello.” The man next to me said, propping his arm up on the bar as if he owned the place. I looked over at him and when I did, I felt my breath catch in my chest. A sudden warmth grew in the pit of my stomach, and my lungs felt like they had been completely drained of air. It was hard to breath.
He was that breathtaking and beautiful. One of the most handsome men I had ever seen in my life.
He had to be about my age, maybe a couple years older. With a head full of long blonde hair that was tied back from his face in a ponytail, and eyes that were the deepest color blue I had ever seen. I blinked a few times to make sure he was real. He looked like he stepped right off the cover of a magazine. I had never seen such a beautiful male before. Or at least not where I was from.
“Hello.” My voice sounded panicked. I sat unsteady swirling my wine around in my glass. Finding anything to avoid eye contact with this man. I knew my face was beat red, and if I looked at him again, I would lose it.
He chuckled a bit. “May I ask your name?” his words started sending shivers up my spine as he spoke. I stopped swirling my wine and took another sip. Goodness how the rich live, I thought to myself. This was by far the best wine I had ever tasted in my life. Not that I was much of a drinker, but you could tell it had been aged to perfection, for a special occasion just like tonight.
“Yes, you may ask. But that doesn’t mean I will tell you.” I said with a bit of sass. He gave me a genuine smile. A surprised look on his face.
“Ah, a feisty one. That’s good I like a challenge.” He stood up. “I’m Killion.” He announced, as he bowed in front of me. I smiled. This man was perfect. Literal perfection. I could only imagine the type of mate the moon goddess would mate him with. A what a lucky girl she would be.
“Nice to meet you, Killion.” I bowed following his lead, doing my best to avoid giving him my name. What would it matter anyway, I would never see him again after tonight. I was here for one reason. I stood from my seat and bowed, showing him my respect.
I motioned over for the bartender to refill my glass, and without hesitation she did. After just a few minutes she was back and my glass was full again. “Well, enjoy your night, Killion.” I stood starting to leave before Killion grabbed ahold of my arm to try to stop me. Not tight but enough to stop me.
“Wait, you never told me your name sweet girl.” His face held a smirk that I could tell had gotten him into a lot of hearts and probably even more beds, but I was not that type of girl. “I know.” I replied with a wink over my shoulder as I turned and walked away. Swaying my hips a little more than I usually would.
I could feel his eyes on me even with my back turned to him. I could feel the warmth spread from my stomach to the tips of my fingers. Why Killion had such an affect on me, I would never know.