Layla was a ball of caffeine and Christmas cheer. It was Christmas Eve and she was excited to enjoy the holiday with her pack, her family, and with Jace. The pack cooks had been busy all day making the food for the event and Layla had been organizing and decorating and making sure everything was perfect.
"Wow!" Jace hollered as he walked into the ball room. He looked all around in awe at what Layla had done with the place. "Layla, this place is beautiful."
Layla turned to Jace with a smile, "Thanks!" She wrapped her arms around Jace's waist and looked at the room, "I just hope everyone enjoys themselves."
"They will. You did an amazing job," Jace said as he reached down and kissed her lips softly. They were closer than ever now that Jace had marked her.
"How much time do we have before the party?" Jace whispered in Layla's ear.
Layla chuckled, "Not THAT much time."
Jace pulled back, acting offended, "Who's to say that's what I was talking about?!"
Layla looked at him sideways, "Oh. So you didn't want to go upstairs and help me get ready? That's fine." Layla shrugged at him, her eyes flirting as she walked out of the ballroom.
Jace smirked and chased her up the stairs, catching her as she entered their room. Jace scooped Layla up so that she was straddling him, her legs wrapped around his waist. She squealed as he did, until he overcompensated and they both toppled to the floor laughing. Jace propped himself up on his elbows and pushed Layla's hair out of her face. "I love you," he said to her quietly.
"I love you too," Layla replied, smiling warmly as she touched her hand to Jace's cheek. Jace leaned in and kissed her lips gently. Layla kissed him back, their passion igniting and quickly they were in the throes of making love. When they finally came up for air they moved to the shower to clean up and start getting ready for the party. Layla stood in the hot water with her eyes closed, letting the steam and the heat relax her. Jace climbed in and stood behind her, wrapping his arms around her waist. She leaned against him and they stood in the warmth together. Jace took a deep breath, inhaling his mate's scent and letting it wash over him.
They both stepped out of the shower and Jace went out to get dressed while Layla stayed in the bathroom to do her hair and makeup. He sat on the bed in his tuxedo and put on his shoes before taking a seat in the chair by the window, knowing Layla would be a while. An hour later Layla emerged from the bathroom and into the closet.
"Jace," Layla said quietly, making him turn to face her.
Jace's eyes widened as he took in the sight of her. Her long, dark hair was curled and dancing down her back. Her blue eyes made brighter, if that was even possible, by her makeup. The gown fit perfectly, hugging every perfect curve.
Jace rubbed the back of his head, "Layla.. you look amazing."
Layla smiled warmly and walked toward him. "Thanks. You are looking pretty dashing love," she said as she straightened his bowtie. "Ready to head down?"
"Definitely not. We should probably just stay here," Jace said as they walked, still unable to peel his eyes off her.
They entered the ball room and enjoyed the evening, dancing and talking with pack members. Layla moved around the room, talking and laughing. Jace would watch her with a smile and once in a while he would see her scan the room before her eyes rested on him with a smile. Near the end of the evening Jace made his way through the thinning crowd of pack members to Layla’s side.
He placed his hand on the small of her back, “Ready to call it a night?”
Layla smiled up at him, “Yep.” She said goodnight to the few wolves she was talking to before they walked back through the ballroom and through the pack house.
“Where are we going?” Layla asked with narrowing eyes as she realized they weren’t going upstairs.
“Well...” Jace said as he led her through the house and out the back door, “I decided I wasn’t ready for the night to be over.” At his words the lights strung through the backyard clicked on, illuminating them just enough so they could still see the night sky above them. Layla smiled brightly as she cuddled close to her mate in the cold night air. Jace kissed her softly, feeling her melt into him. If you had asked Jace what his life would be like four months ago when he had found Layla again he wouldn’t have guessed this was the way it would have turned out.
His moment was ended when their heads turned to hear rustling in the bushes. Jace stepped in front of Layla defensively as they saw Hunter walk out of the bushes. He looked worn but proud. Hunter’s eyes were darkened by his anger, red and hollow from the struggle in his mind.
“Jace,” he hollered proudly.
“Hunter...” Jace growled.
“Hello brother, it’s been a while,” Hunter smirked.
Jace stood tall, “I have no brother.”
“I’ve come for Layla... and for my rightful place as Alpha. You have no Luna now, so step down,” Hunter said as he took a step forward.
Jace smirked, “I have a Luna.”
Hunter scowled as his eyes flashed to Layla and the small mark on her shoulder, “WHAT DID YOU DO?!” He yelled.
“Hunter...” Layla spoke quietly as she stepped out from behind Jace, “I’m not your mate anymore. Remember? I rejected you.”
Hunter shook his head, “No.. you love me.”
Tears began to fall from Layla’s eyes, “I do Hunter, I really do. But not as a mate. Remember? You hurt me. Jace is my second chance mate, I’m his Luna now.”
Hunter glared at them, “NO! You are MY Luna! I will be Alpha! It was always supposed to be me!”
Jace shook his head, “Hunter you lost the challenge fairly, you know that. You killed Ryann, now you know what that means. Come with me without a fight, I don’t want to have to hurt you.” That was a lie, all Jace wanted to do was hurt him, but he needed to get Hunter away from Layla and secured in the silver-lined cells in the basement.
Hunter stepped forward aggressively, “Jace! You took my position, you took my Luna, you took everything!”
Suddenly he pulled a gun from the back of his pants and pointed it at his brother.
Layla’s heart stopped and suddenly she saw red. Hunter had taken too much, hurt too many. She was done.
Layla unzipped the back of her dress and handed it to Jace. Jace grabbed her hand tightly, “No Layla.”
Layla smiled and reached her hand up to Jace’s face, “Jace, I told you I can take care of myself.”
“Doesn’t mean I want you to,” Jace said quietly.
Layla kissed Jace softly, causing Hunter to growl loudly. Layla looked to Hunter and stepped forward, “Hunter, I’m done with this. I’m going to beat the crap out of you and then you are going to go nicely with your brother here.”
Hunter chuckled as he lowered the gun and stepped forward, “No, but you are going to come with me after we wrestle a bit. I’ve been waiting for so long to touch you again.”
At his words Jace stepped forward, “You won’t lay a finger on her! Layla- inside! I’m going to finish this.” Jace began to remove his shirt.
Hunter raised the gun again and they took a defensive stance. When they both began to inch forward Layla stepped between them.
Both men froze in confusion as she continued, “You’ll do this tomorrow. In the arena. We will have a second challenge. This time to the death unless one of you decides to magically submit.”
“Not likely..” Jace mumbled.
“Do you agree?” Layla said with authority.
Hunter and Jace both nodded silently. They watched as Hunter slinked back into the woods. When he was gone Layla hugged Jace tightly before they walked inside, the thought of tomorrow hanging above them.