The Mating Games

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Chapter 6

Your pack comes first. Your pack comes first. Your pack comes first.

That was the only thing I could think about as I walked away from my surely affronted mate. I couldn’t afford to hold naive fantasies in place of the actuality. The actuality that was needing to save my pack. As a young girl, I dreamt of the day I would find my mate and live out the dreams every wanna-be princess had. But then my pack started dying, and I knew that I would have to sacrifice my own happiness for the lives of my family.

But my saving grace had been here all along. And he wasn’t just any saving grace. He was Alpha Cole of NightShade. He was the Alpha among Alphas. Just admitting that bruised my ego a bit, but my wolf was ready to dance with someone she deemed a worthy opponent.

“Alpha Turner?” Derek was the one to interrupt her musing. “Do you think we’re in a safe spot?” We had ventured maybe a mile from the manor and stood between lush forest. While our presence was surely still detected, our voices would not be.

“Yes. What is it you needed to show me?” My home had been attacked. The anger that I had initially felt was beginning to morph into guilt. I knew very well how the tides would have been turned if I remained in my territory instead of flitting off to fulfill some last-minute plan I had.

Derek looked to Levi, and I could sense the apprehension rolling off of him. Reaching into his backpack, he pulls out a laptop. It wasn’t the standard equipment the military received. No, it was chunky and looked ancient, like the blackbox of an aircraft. Whatever lived inside of it would live on forever.

He pulls up security footage from our borders and zooms into a selected still-frame before handing it back over to me. Less than a second was needed before I realized what, who, exactly I was looking at. “Roamers.”

Like their namesake suggests, Roamers were criminal wolves who travelled from continent to continent looking for weak links, lands they believed they could easily ravage and claim as their own. The fact they believed they could claim mine was telling. We had reached the desperate stretch. Our fate would be finalized in a few short months if I did not find a way to save us.

You have found someone who will help, my wolf was adamant on Alpha Cole’s role. To her, he had already saved us. But I knew better. He was an Alpha, the best one at that. To believe he would leave his own pack to help another, even if it was his mate’s, was lunacy.

“You said there was crucial information discovered? This is alarming, but it’s expected as of right now.” They shared another hesitant glance.

“Look at what’s around his neck.”

I zoomed into the photo some more, trying to make out what the pixelated image was trying to tell me. He wore a chain of some sort, the symbol a small moon surrounded by tree branches. It looked so familiar, but I couldn’t pinpoint where. What significance could this small necklace hold?

I ran through runes and ancient lore and the little history I knew about the Roamers before settling on something else. Pack symbols. My eyes flew to Derek’s. “Flos Luna?” A solemn nod confirmed what she had put together.

“You think they put them up to this?” It would make sense. They were neighboring packs and one of the few who knew just how dire their situation was. But they had always lent a helping hand. Their lands were smaller but more fertile than hours, so crops to feed us in the winter were never lacking.

“We’ve also had problems with Flos Luna.” A deep voice appeared from behind.

My head snapped back, eyes focusing on the pitch black forest surrounding me. He was hard to miss with my vision, but I couldn’t detect his aura. It was almost as if it had just disappeared.

“I told you to stay there.” I meant to sound authoritative; I really did. But even to my own ears, my voice sounded tired and defeated. The only thing that showed how serious I was being was the disappointed look on my face.

He began to emerge from his shadowed shelter, the filtered moonlight from the trees highlighting his cheek bones and reflecting from his eyes. And just like the first time, I could feel my insides grow warm and my body calling out to touch his own. I can see his nostrils begin to flare, and I know he knows what my body wants.

“You think I was going to let my mate run off moments after finding her? Being so far away from you now is making my wolf antsy.” Don’t blush, Sophia. I couldn’t feel his status anymore, but I could feel him. The primal instinct to mark was radiating off of him. The carnal attraction he had to my wolf and I continuously playing in his mind.

“You two can leave.” I did not look at them, but they could sense the order. I felt when their wolves submitted. I waited until they were out of earshot until I spoke again. “What problems have you had with Flos Luna?”

Alpha Cole chuckles. “Business already, love?”

“I can no longer afford to not talk about business.” I would love more than anything to be able to seek comfort in his arms and stay there forever. I would love to wake up with him in the morning and pretend that my life was perfect because he was now in it. But I couldn’t. My loyalty still lied with my pack, and I could not change that for a man who had yet to earn my trust.

For a moment I thought I saw his eyes soften but before I could read into it the calculating (and hot) look from earlier reappeared. “You’re Sophia Turner of Black Moon if I’m remembering my packs correctly.” My wolf purred at the usage of my name, and my spine couldn’t help but tingle.

"Alpha Sophia Turner of Black Moon.” Mate or not, he would respect my title. My pride, however, took a bruise when he snorted.

“From the sounds of it, you’re barely keeping your pack alive, Alpha Turner.” His words stung. But they didn’t hurt as much as the lack of respect held in my title. He was mocking me.

“I have fought tooth and nail for my pack, Alpha Cole.” I saw what the defeated whispering of his name did to him. His eyes focused, and there was a small hitch in his breathing. He began to cant towards me, feeling the undeniable urge to comfort what was his. I continued on. “Our females started to leave around fifty years ago. It’s been hard to repopulate since then. But believe me when I say that my father and I have done everything to keep us from running into the ground.”

There was a firmness in my voice but no distaste. My statement was not a reprimand to his but rather an open truth from one Alpha to another, a small plea for peace.

“I will do everything that I can for my family. And if that includes finding someone to help me who isn’t you-” A snarl tore through the air and the foundation the forest floor provided was suddenly ripped away and replaced by a tree to my back. Alpha Cole had a rage in his eyes that I hadn’t seen in any Alpha, but I was the complete opposite of afraid.

He took a few moments to calm down, and each breath that hit my face caused another round of wetness to soak my panties. It was at this moment I decided to soak up the feeling of his body on mine, one arm wrapped around my waist, a hand cradling the back of my head to shield me from the harsh bark, and a muscular thigh sitting in between my legs.

“You,” He breathes, leaning in until his lips were millimeters away from mine. “Will not be seeking anyone else’s help other than mine. Is that clear?” There was a dominance in his voice that made me bristle in anger. I braced myself for a fight.

“Could you honestly tell me you would leave your pack to help mine?” I knew what his answer would be. I prepared myself for it the entire trip over to Null, plotting ways I could steal him away. But I wasn’t expecting him to be my mate, and I wasn’t prepared for the wave of hurt that would wash through me when he released me and stepped away.

He gave a short sigh. “I will help you, but my wolf and I demand that it comes with a price. I need a Luna with me to reassure my pack, but I can’t leave them alone.”

I hadn’t cried in front of anyone in years, not since my father felt defeated enough to hand me the title. But I could feel the tears rising up in me now. “Then you know how I feel.”

Turning on my foot, I prepare to shift into my wolf. It was time to return home empty handed and broken hearted.

“Wait.” I hear him call out behind me. I close my eyes and remind myself I had a pack to save. My wolf whines at me to listen. “Please.” That does stop me. His tone was no longer mocking or commanding or arrogant. It was a humble request from an equal.

When I turn around, he’s inches in front of me. “Don’t,” Another breath across my face. “Don’t leave.” He’s moved another inch, and his hands are tentatively reaching towards me. It was a far cry from the angry Alpha I had seen earlier.

“Stay with me tonight. We can talk business tomorrow.” His hand had come up to rest on my cheek now, and it was impossible to resist leaning into his warmth. “I have waited so long to feel something for someone like the fire I feel for you. One night.” His lips were so close. I could lean in just a millimeter, and we would be kissing.

I knew I should leave. I knew that what he was talking about was the desire of the mate bond. But I didn’t care because I had been waiting for the same thing he was. And if one night of carnal pleasure was all we could be then so be it. I could regret my decision in the morning.

So, I took a risk and leaned in.

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