“Did you honestly think you could waltz right in here and try and take over my territory?”
It was pitiful really, the way the mere sound of my voice seemed to inflict fear into a man who attempted to attack the pack with the best warriors, the best alpha.
But it was commendable how well he hid his fear, how his voice was steady despite the fact he would not look me in my eyes. He knew to look into my eyes was the equivalent to asking for death. Because the only people who looked into my eyes were the ones who truly deserved respect, not the ones who claimed they did because of a title their daddy had. This man was neither.
He held no title and if I had to make an assumption, I would say no parents. None that cared about him, at least.
“Then why attack?”
We both knew he was a liar. We both knew the reason he invaded was to take down me and in return, earn the title of alpha. But it was not the size of my pack we were known for. It was me. I was well aware of that fact and I knew he was, too. He knew that if he somehow miraculously managed to defeat me then he would earn the respect of every single werewolf on the planet, including my own packmates.
The thought didn’t even irritate me because I knew that there were none who could defeat me, therefore I had nothing to worry about. My pack would remain safe under my rule and they would remain loyal because of it. Until someone just as a strong and more caring came along, I thought bitterly.
“We didn’t-” Before he could finish his damning statement I had him shoved against the wall by his neck, choked gasps escaping from his mouth.
“For your sake, I hope you weren’t about to tell me you didn’t know that it was my pack you were attacking.” He tried to shake his head but my grip prevented it. I smiled. My favorite part was watching them scour for excuses.
“I’m going to release you,” I began slowly, weakening my grip only fractionally. “And then you will taken to the forest and released. You will have five minutes to run before we hunt you down and rip you apart. Am I understood?”
I had always loved the moment real fear entered my enemies eyes, when they realized that they were dead regardless of what they did. No one would save this man, no one would even miss this man. And that was always the hardest part to cope with for them. All they wanted to do was make their mark and as a result, they were killed. But their failure was my success, my way up the ladder.
Everyone in the pack house or into your homes, I mind linked the pack. I’m about to release the rogue.
Their replies came quick and were short. They knew there was no point in asking questions because the answer was probably not one they wanted to hear. They knew their alpha and his warriors were brutal and that was all that mattered in the grand scheme of keeping them alive.
Dropping the rogue to the ground, I turned to one of the guards stationed at the entrance of the cell. I ignored the gasps coming from behind me. “Take him to the east portion of the woods. Wait a few minutes just in case there are some stragglers and then release him.”
The guard gave me a curt nod.
“Oh, one last thing,” I turned back to the rogue. “I wouldn’t try asking your little friends for any help.”
“Where are they?” He asked, face pulling down into confusion. He had arrived on pack property with nearly 300 men and he was the only one being detained in this cellar.
“I killed them all.”
“We have a rat.”
The words were uttered with confidence, my eyes wandering to every single one of my officials. Their tense shoulders met my scrutiny. Ah, yes. I mused. Fear.
These men all knew what I did to traitors.
“The only people who know about the tunnels leading inside the community wall are the patrol guards, warriors, and everyone in this room.” I eyed the blueprint in front of me, red outlining every spot the rogues penetrated. The community forum was completely covered. “So either one of you has something very unfortunate to tell me or we have some interviews to do.” I couldn’t stop the nasty smile appearing on my face. “Interviews that will be done my way.”
Hardened stares met my own and I knew that none of these men would be brave enough to come forward and admit to me if they did it. I would be unwilling to walk to my death as well.
“Interviews it is, then.” Simultaneously every shoulder in the room sagged, heads briefly tilting up to the Moon Goddess in thanks. Their relief was palpable. None of the were going to die. Yet.
“However,” I started, a nonchalant smile appearing. “If our interviews prove useless, each of you will find yourselves under my scrutiny.”
Their brief relief was gone in an instant, the previous fear coming back in concentrated amounts. They would do their jobs with extreme vigor now to prevent their own torture. It was selfishness that allowed things to get done. In fact, it was one of the only things that made sure something was done.
“The next time one of you comes to me, you’d better be telling me that you found the traitor. If that is not what you are telling me, I will be very... displeased.” There were nods of understanding from around the room. “Dismissed.”
The council members were in no hurry to leave the room. They were content to procrastinate if it meant prolonging their own potential trial. I narrowed my eyes at their laziness before looking back down at the files in front of me.
“I hope I was excluded from your warning,” A warm voice sounded from behind me. I rolled my eyes, picking up one of the pens lying to the side.
“You’re my Beta, Ethan. You’re entitled to be anywhere in this house. You’re also my best friend, so I guess that gives you a little bit of leeway.” Before I could begin to make notes about the attack to send an official report in, the pen was snatched from my hand.
“What are you doing, man?” I looked towards the annoying male. His permanent grin was unfortunately still there and his hair looked just as gay as I remembered.
“Trying to work. Maybe you should do the same some time.” My words were short but there was a trace of humor. Although Ethan annoyed me, he sure knew how to make a serious situation less stressful. I try to convince myself that that is the only reason I keep him around.
“Ooh, burn. I would work but I’m usually too busy fixing your fuck ups. This time is no exception.” Ethan had settled himself to the sight to the right of me and I could feel my wolf get restless. Lune, he said. That seat is for our Luna.
I made no move to correct him, nor did I tell Ethan to move. I had more to worry about then a childish adult and a childish wolf.
“I didn’t fuck up. I rarely do. So what are you talking about?” My tone was bored. I was bored. My wolf was bored. All I wanted to do was get this report in and go run. But Ethan seemed to have other ideas.
“Oh, I don’t know. The mass of bodies sitting in the front of the forum.” He hissed, face inching closer. I rolled my eyes before writing down my personal account. They attacked, I killed.
“That was not me fucking up, that was me doing my job: protecting your weak ass.” I knew the effect my words would have on him and before I knew it, a growl reverberated throughout the room.
“I am not weak.” He said the word like it was filth. “We both know that.”
“Cole! Damn you.” His eyes were dark but he knew that he couldn’t do anything. I would take him down in just a few second, just slightly longer than it took to take down all of those rogues. “Do you know how many people I had to reassure because of that little scene? How many children will be scarred for life?”
I scoffed, ready to leave. “Do you think it would have been more reassuring to have their heads ripped from their shoulders? More scarring to watch their parents being murdered in front of them?” I was staring intently at him, trying to make him see my reasoning. Ethan has always had the softer heart between the two of us. It made him a great Beta but a bit hot headed at times.
He sighs a little before answering. “You’re becoming crueler every day. You need a mate.”
I turned to give him my full attention and felt my wolf perk up from his words. “A mate? What makes you say that?”
I had gone almost twelve years without a mate, far longer than any other alpha had, and we were doing exceptionally well. Our population rate was doubling, our pack warriors were the best, and our finances were in such good shape that we could survive off of them alone for years. I was advancing this pack without a mate and therefore did not see the need for one.
“Pack members are talking. You may be able to protect them but you cannot reassure them. I’m doing that at the moment. Do I look like a Luna to you?” I took a good, long look at him. His old school Justin Bieber haircut made him look very feminine but I wasn’t going to tell him that. He kept no facial hair but you could see the occasional straggler he had missed. He did not look like the traditional feared Beta, but he would take offense to that remark so I kept it to myself.
“No,” I replied. “You do not.”
“Exactly. And what are you going to do in thirty years when someone challenges you? You will get weaker and someone out there will be getting stronger. You can either have a heir to challenge you or a complete stranger. Which one of those options appeals to you?”
My wolf was snarling with the idea of someone other than my own blood going after our title. I had rightfully won it from my father and as far as my wolf was concerned, it would be our son who had to rightfully win it from us.
You just want pups, I rebutted, smirking in satisfaction when I heard an indignant huff in response.
“You make good points but I have come this far without one. I think that I would like to go a bit longer.” Disregarding the annoyed whine from inside of my head, I once again went back to filling out my report, already on the mailing details.
My head smacked up. Surely he had not just tried to give me an order. But there he was, face set in stony determination with a little bit of loathing in his eyes.
I leaned back on my chair. “Excuse me?” My voice was as cold as ice. If he wanted a challenge, he would get one. Best friend or not.
“I will not let you sit around and ruin this pack. Nor will I continue to clean your messes up. I am a Beta and for some reason I am acting like a house maid.” His voice held no fear, only a sureness that he usually lacked. But either way, he was disrespecting me and I intended to put him in his place. “Until you find a Luna, I am resigning as Beta.”
The impending growl caught in my throat, eyes going wide at his threat. No, no, no. Not when we were so close to victory, so close to being the best.
“What?” I breathed, hoping that any second he would pull his typical funny face and tell me he was joking. But no such time came.
“You heard me. Either you find a mate or you get a new Beta.” It was a terrible proposition, one he hadn’t thought through. If for some reason my true mate was dead, a possibility that didn’t sit well with me, then I would have to find a new Beta regardless, because a choice mate just didn’t appeal to me.
So I did what I do best. I bargained.
“How about this,” I began to propose, leaning forward on the table to I could be eye level with him. “I will attend the Mating Games this year, every year, until I meet my true mate. And it can only be my true mate. In return, you keep your position. Do we have a deal?”
I knew what his decision would be. He would agree with my terms. Partly because they were fair ones, partly because he did not truly want to give up his position. Ethan was the type of person who wanted power for the sake of security, the sake of his identity. There was no malicious intent, it was just simply the fact that being a gay Beta was unheard of. But as a beta, no one would dare mock him because of it.
“We have a deal.”