There was no noise in the pack house. Silence perforated every inch of every room. It wasn’t the relaxing silence that allowed you to fall asleep at night or the kind of silence that indicated something was wrong. This silence was worse.
It was the silence of betrayal.
I could feel the disbelief coming from my pack members at my decision, I could feel how they thought I was abandoning them. But I could give them no explanation.
While it was my job to reassure them, it was not my job to give them an explanation for every action I made. If they had no faith in me then so be it.
The kitchen, which was usually full of flustered chefs trying to throw something together for hundred of people, had only a handful of people. It looked like today everyone was fending for themselves. A few people cast glances my way but were quick to look away when my gaze met theirs, unflinching. My satisfaction will be watching guilt eat them when they realize the sacrifice I’ve made.
My wolf was angry. She felt like her pack felt they could not rely on her. She thought that they did not see her as a leader. She thought they were rejecting her.
I was angry. I felt like everything that I had done this past year no longer mattered, that it never did. I felt like no matter how hard I tried I would never be regarded as a male would have.
My usual morning routine was cut short. Instead of breakfast and then training, it was breakfast and an eight hour flight to the land of Null, or more formally recognized as “No man’s land”, centered in North America. It was the center of our world just like it had been the center of the humans’ world hundreds of years ago.
I didn’t exactly expect a send off but a few good byes would have been nice. But it seemed that I would be lucky to get a few nods of acknowledgments. I was their future alpha and they’re treating me like I was a reclaimed rogue.
Breakfast consisted of oatmeal sweetened with honey. Sugar was not something readily produced anymore, seeing as the packs who controlled north Asia (and therefore sugarcane) were not keen on sharing. Other packs could produce it but it would cost you a price, a price many could live without.
“It looks like it’s going to be a tough Game this year. The male to female ratio is 4:1.”
I knew my father would try to convince me not to go but I didn’t expect the argument to come so late. “Then I guess it will be easier to find a male.”
He sighed, shoulders coming up past his chin as he dramatically expressed his displeasure. “Perhaps, but there are only three alphas competing this year. Only two with noticeable packs. But there are a handful of Betas. You can snag one of you fight for it.”
There weren’t usually a high number of alphas. Between almost a thousand alphas, more than half had been claimed. The other half were a little too old to compete. Betas competed in higher quantities.
“Who are the two alphas?”
“Alpha Braxton of StoneCrest,” he told me, walking over to the empty chair to the right of me. StoneCrest was here in South America with around 700 members. Their warriors were okay but at this point, anything would help. “And Alpha Cole of NightShade.”
I froze. Nightshade?
They were very quickly becoming the fiercest pack in the world, seeing as Alpha Cole had only taken the position from his father six years ago. He personally taught his warriors how to beat just about any opponent and he himself was worth an entire army.
I knew immediately who my target would be.
“I’ll fight for Alpha Cole.” My competition would be fierce but I trained with male warriors my entire life. I fought off wolves and bears with my bare hands. I’ve survived on my own in all types of terrains for weeks. I could take down a few flimsy females-and males.
“I knew that is who you would go for.” My father began, a rough hand coming to rest on my shoulder. “But be careful. I’ve heard that his treatment of people isn’t ... well, ideal.”
I no longer had the privilege of caring about how my mate would treat me. If he could provide for the pack then he could provide for me. If he could keep them safe then he could keep me safe.
“But he is strong. That is what we need right now.”
My send off consisted of my father and my barely-there mother. It seemed she was even more betrayed by my actions then the pack had been. She’d been so used to being able to relax and then all of a sudden she had to go back to performing the duties of a Luna.
The ride to the airport consisted of being shoved into a van with a man who looked like he’d rather be fighting rogues than sitting with me. I rolled my eyes. The feeling is so mutual. A private jet awaited me, fully funded from the council. Every Alpha family had them. We used to have two, before our money had to be directed elsewhere.
The plane ride was even more uneventful, eight hours spent by watching the twelve inch screen directly in front of me while the lady on the opposite aisle snored to some opera. I had opted out of the personal flight because I knew the pack needed the money for resources.
I was greeted at the airport only slightly warmer then what I had received when I left the pack, a group of dangerous looking men standing in a corner holding up a sign with my name on it.
It was strange to see a man who looked like he wouldn’t hesitate to murder standing with a sign that looked like it belonged to an eight year old princess.
A group formed around me as I walked out of the airport. Apparently, females competing were even more important than let on. I’d never received a welcome like this before, not even when I was considered heir to one of the greatest packs in the world.
The backseat of the car I was ushered into was furnished with expensive leather, two bodyguards stationed on each side. I could see their blank faces staring into nothing through the drivers mirror, muscles tense in preparation for potential attacks. I rolled my eyes.
“Did you guys volunteer or were you assigned?”
My question was ignored for a good minute and I’d just about stuck my headphones in when a baritone voice answered. “Volunteered.”
I wasn’t exactly expecting that answer seeing as they looked like they’d rather be anywhere but here. But then again, I wasn’t surprised. Alphas tended to be males and they probably wanted to observe what a female one was like.
Nothing else was said for the entire car ride to the pack house at Null. It wasn’t an awkward silence, but I was surrounded by strangers so it couldn’t be constituted as a comfortable one. I was left to my own devices and with everything that was going on, I couldn’t exactly bring myself to care.
I went through pack finances, resources available or unavailable, requests made by pack members. I was aware of the speculative eyes that occasionally wandered to my work but I paid them no attention. Only when one tried to tell me what I was supposedly doing wrong did I put a stop to it.
“You’re going to allow them to purchase a car? With the pack’s money? Do you know how many other things that can be applied to?” Burly Man #1 incredulously asked me, eyebrows furrowed as if he couldn’t believe what I was saying.
“Yes.” He needed no other explanation, he did not ask for one. But he obviously expected one from the way he remained silent moments after I had finished speaking.
“Why? How is that going to benefit the pack?” I liked his mindset, the only thing so far I could say I liked. He also makes sure the pack comes first.
“Well, because we are paying for it,” I began, not bothering to look back up from my work. “They cannot refuse the favors we ask of them regarding that car. If we tell them to go and pick up someone else’s child, they do it. If someone needs to be taken to another pack to visit, they can take them. Everything I do is done for a reason.”
He didn’t say anything for a long moment and I gathered that he was simply embarrassed that he was wrong about something. I was quick to give advice. “If you do not everything about someone else’s business, I would suggest not making recommendations.”
I did not respond to his apology. But seeing as we had arrived at the manor, I doubt he really noticed.
I had never been to Null before, the gray area reserved solely for the Mating Games. You could fight and kill and take whoever you wanted because it was not your territory, it wasn’t anyone’s territory. The only laws that applied were the ones created by the council, not individual ones created by alphas.
The house I would be staying at for the duration of the competition was three stories and looked like it contained hundred of rooms. Males were not permitted to stay in the manor until a female had marked them as a potential mate. Until then, they stayed outside.
I could already see their tents piling up around the perimeter while some were already standing around observing females. The females were gathered in the front yard and from the amount there were, I was one of the last ones to arrive. Getting closer, I performed a brief head count. There were around 50, a slight decrease from last year. If my fathers statistics were right then there were around 200 males. From the tents, only about half of those were here. It could be possible they were stationed in the woods nearby or perhaps they were like me: fashionably late.
As the car approached the group, they all seemed to stop what they were doing to observe the person who deemed it okay to show up on the last possible day.
Please, I thought sarcastically. Forgive me for my grievous sin.
The car came to the entrance (and exit) of the loop around drive way and my two body guards exited the car, quick to form a small shield in my vulnerable state. I could feel the onlookers gaze’s becoming more intense.
The second my body had fully exited the car, the murmurs began. They knew there were going to be two alpha males but they had not heard about the alpha female deciding to attend. The females took a few steps back while the males came forward.
I released a warning growl. There would be no communication until the Games were officially declared. The males went back to their original positions.
Burly man #2 grabbed by duffels from the back, walking towards the entrance of the manor. Burly man #1 stayed by my side.
“Where are all the males?” I asked to no one in particular. But my guard seemed to think the question was directed at him.
“Most males won’t arrive until the last day, especially the higher ranking ones. They don’t like being around so many males so they limit their time here as much as possible.”
It made sense. I recognized the smell of weakness coming from both groups. I wasn’t even remotely worried. “Then I guess I don’t have to make any effort to observe until tonight.”
Not until Alpha Cole arrived. Because whether he was aware of it or not, he was mine.