The next morning, Ryder came to pick her up and bring her to breakfast. He wanted her to meet the rest of the pack. She didn't want to tell him she already knew them. She'd been scrying on them for years. She'd watched their every move from a glass of water in her little prison. Knew all their names and habits.
"Some of them you may remember from Ash's previous pack."
The alpha's home was full of people, picnic tables had been set up outside to seat everyone, and food was being brought out and served. No one even hesitated aside from a glance when she joined Ryder at one of the tables. It was kind of surreal to her to be so easily accepted. It was one thing to watch these people from a cup, but another entirely to be among them in their daily lives.
"So you're the one we'll be sinking our claws into, eh?" A woman laughed, plopping down across from her with a hearty plate of food.
"So it would appear," Dahlia confirmed.
Once a witch was chosen, she was marked by all the wolves belonging to the pack, whether by tooth or claw. It initiated a false pack bond, in case their witch was ever kidnapped or injured and needed assistance. The false bond would be severed with magic if the witch failed in her duties. The reason she hadn't been marked for Ash Clayton's pack was largely due to being institutionalized, though now she realized it was because Ash had never been planning to commit to her with the other woman here.
"So you're our reject witch? Heard you murdered your family," a male she recognized as Zachary sneered at her. He was known throughout the pack for his volatile temper and snarky remarks. His own parents had died in a fight with a rival pack at a young age and he was very sensitive about it. In private, she'd seen him shed more than a few tears while staring at their pictures. He needed his tough exterior to pretend he wasn't hurting.
She leaned across the table to him and murmured in his ear quietly.
"I know about you Zachary. Unless you want me to spill the beans about your little secret cry fest you've got going on, you need to chill the fuck out." She sat back in her seat with a satisfied, overly cheerful grin.
"Are we clear?" She asked in a normal tone.
"Crystal," he muttered and skulked off, taking his plate with him and snapping at anyone that got in his way.
"Whoa, I don't think I've ever seen him do that before," Annabel comments with an amused cock of the lips. "You'll have to teach me how you did that."
Dahlia made a zipping and locking motion against her lips, and threw away her pretend key.
"A good magician never reveals her secrets," she grins.
A gruff hey caused a hush to fall over the excited group, quickly putting an end to their conversation. The alpha was speaking.
"We can identify as an official pack now!" He began, waiting for the whoops of excitement to die down before continuing. "I'd like to welcome Dahlia Angelou as our resident witch. Please show her courtesy and respect, as she'll be working along side us to protect our pack."
"Didn't she belong to Clayton?" A wolf called. The voice belonged to a spikey headed blonde. Cade, her mind supplied.
"She decided to leave him for personal reasons." She was grateful he didn't outright admit she was tossed aside like yesterday's news paper.
"You mean because they already have a witch right?" A dark haired girl pipes up. That sparked a bit of controversy between members.
She wanted to set something on fire. Her fingers tapped the table with increasing agitation, only stopping when Ryder smothered her hand with his and rubbed calming circles into her palm. She shot him a suggestive grin and to her delight, his eye twitched.
"Silence!" The alpha demanded. "She is our witch and that's final. We hold the Marking tomorrow." He announces and disappears into his home. The hushed talk starts back up immediately upon the removal of his presence.
Just have to get used to it, she sighed to herself.
Dahlia picked at her breakfast, appetite having disappeared at the rejection she received from her new pack members. Would they send her away too? Ryder noticed her melancholy immediately.
"Hey perk up kid, the boss says you're not going anywhere so you're not going anywhere."
"Yeah Dahlia, the alpha's word is law. They can complain but that's about it," Annabel adds around a mouthful of toast. She waves a piece of bacon at her dramatically, "but why would a witch concern herself with the opinion of us lowly wolves?"
"You're not lowly, we're equals, you guys are my comrades. I have to trust you to watch my back, just like you have to trust me to watch yours. How am I supposed to trust the people that don't even want me here?" She bites out seriously.
It really ticked her off that these wolves could be so ungrateful. She was risking her life to keep this pack of mutts safe. Werewolves were in short supply these days, what with all the black marketing going on for the regeneration potions rogue witches were so adept at making. Not to mention infighting and declining birth rates, since wolves could only reproduce with their mates and finding them was difficult at best and unlikely at worst.
"Stop dwelling on it," Ryder growls.
"Ryder, are you worried about me?" She grins and blinks up at him slowly. He just sighs and pinches the bridge of his nose.
"Is there something going on between you two?" Annabel questions after she swallows.
"It was love at first sight!" She gushes.
"No it wasn't."
"He's wanted to ravish me for a while now-" she plasters herself to his side, gripping his arm like it was a life line.
"Please don't touch me."
"-but we agreed to wait until marriage, isn't he a gentleman?" Dahlia continued, ignoring his protests.
"I would like to remind you that she just got out of Grayspire," was his last attempt at retaining his dignity.
The woman across from them was stock still, the twitching of her lips the only thing giving away her amusement. Ryder was occupied trying to remove his small attachment.
"So when's the wedding?" Annabel finally gives in. Ryder's eye twitching in irritation. The grin that lit up Dahlia's face was devastating.
"I don't know, we haven't picked a date, when do you think, sugar?" She asks him with a cloying sweetness.
"I think I'm done playing, Ms. Angelou."
"Are we gonna fight now?" She pouts, sliding her fingers down his chest.
"I'm not in the mood today Dahlia. I'll send you back to the institution for a few weeks if you don't get your act together," he warns her with a low growl. She releases his arm like she'd been burned.
"Fine." With a snap of finality she was in her room.
"You could always destroy him?" Wrath offered gleefully, reveling in her rage.
"Don't be an idiot, he's her friend. She knows he gets irritated when she does that and chose to play with him anyway. He was right to snap at her." Humility rebukes him.
"He could've just played along. He didn't have to be an asshole," Pride injects.
"Will you all just shut the fuck up?" She snarls violently, breaking the lamp beside her bed, the shattered pieces clattering to the floor against the wall opposite her. "I can't hear myself think with you rambling!"
"Talking to yourself again, Ms. Angelou?"
The deep baritone of her new alpha startled her, and she looked up at him standing in the door to her room, leaning against the frame with a look akin to boredom and mild interest.
"How did you get in here?" She ignores his question. The jingle of a keyring being pulled from his pocket reminded her that he did, in fact, own these buildings.
"I really hope you'll replace that," he nods at the wrecked lamp. She waved her hand and it pieced itself back together and returned to her bedside table.
"That's convenient," he acknowledged.
"What do you want?" She was impatient and irritable, but she mostly wanted to just be alone.
"I want you to take a walk with me. I want to discuss your future here."