Lore has it, every wolf in the Heartlock Pack used to acquire mate marks. As soon as their lips touched, if it was their true mate, the marks would appear in an instant. It happened as soon as the mates had their first kiss. A kiss that sealed their lives to each other. Fated and forever.
I dream of a kiss like that. Lust, attraction, fate so powerful that loves truest kiss physically marks you. A manifestation of love when it first appears.
But no one has had a mate mark in over a hundred years. The last few generations have relied on arranged marriages to sustain the pack. No has felt true love in decades.
I’m determined. This must not be my fate.
“Take off that trash bag of a dress. Borrow one of mine.” Bettina grabs a pink tight maxi dress out of her closet and throws it to me.
“This will totally complement your skin tone, Ryan.” I slip it on and turn slowly to face the mirror and groan at my appearance.
“It’s so tight. And flashy, uhh.” I huff adjusting the dress around my body. I usually wear clothes that hide my form. Bettina roles her eyes, used to my antics and low-self esteem.
Running to the vanity, Bettina sprays herself with her new perfume. I can smell cloves, and pine and it reminds me of something I can't quite place.
“Ok hurry up girl, we are already fashionably late and I need to get home by 12,” I know she's thinking of her boyfriend, Luke. Bettina grabs my arm, pulling me out of the room before I can change my mind.
I promised I’d go with her Jason Miller's party. I didn’t want to, but a lot of whining, and bitching and a bit of forcing and I said I’d go just to get her off my back. Bettina's impossible in so many ways but she's the only friend I have. And having her by my side, even the assholes at school who taunted me faded to the background. Her big boisterous personality drowned them out.
I’ve never felt like I fit in with other people. And when I became friends with Bettina, it was like a light out of the darkness. I was ok on my own, living with my mom who I hardly see, going to school and spending all my free time reading and walking in the woods near our apartment.
But it was the last party of senior year and I’d never gone to any of the ragers Bettina begged me to attend, preferring to stay at home and read my books. Bettina says she’s making me go for my own good, that it’s good to socialize, obviously she doesn’t understand that I socialize with the characters in my books when I read.
But after tonight, I won’t have to go to any more parties like this. It’s the last one and I can spend the summer working and saving up for school.
Bettina’s parents got her a new white Toyota and since I don’t have a car, she’s always driving us everywhere. It still has that new car smell and when I'm in it the world seems full of possibilites. That I can be anyone I want. I love when we drive down the streets, blasting Olivia Rodrigo, and enjoy the smells of forest and pine that drift into the window. But tonight we aren't going for a joyride.
I hesitate at the car door and Betttina roles down the window.
“Get in the car loser, were going shopping.” Bettina cackles, referencing our favorite movie.
I open the door to the passenger side and slide into the seat, trying to keep the dress in place on my rather large chest and feel the nervous hum of my pulse kick into gear. This is so totally out of my comfort zone.
Bettina starts the car and drives like a maniac until we are in front of Jason Miller’s house. It’s a straight up mansion.
She parks and the minute I open the door I hear the bass thumping. It's going to be so loud in there. I feel my heart beating to the beat of the music, and not for the first, I think I'm too sensitive. Bettina grabs my hand again, gives it a little squeeze of reassurance, and pulls me up the walk.
She pushes the door open and there's already tons of kids from school here. Dancing and groping one another in an alcohol fueled haze.
Wow. The entry way could fit my entire apartment. I take a few deep breaths and follow Bettina into the kitchen where I think we're getting drinks.
Everyone loves Bettina. She's getting tons of hellos and hey B, and I just follow her like the loser I am.
I know she's excited to see Luke. They've been flirting for over a month now, and Bettina's sure, tonights going to push them over the edge.
"Ry, I'll be right back." Bettina spots Luke in the living room and even though I know I couldn't follow her around all night, I wish it hadn't happened so fast.
I grab a drink from the counter, and that's when I feel his eyes on me. I swear I can feel a stare like hands on my body. I look up, and there on the stairway is a man staring down at me. He's the most handsome man I've ever seen, his eyes big and luscious brown, his honey skin, broad shoulders for miles, towering over the other people on the stairs. And the way he's looking at me makes me weak. No one has ever looked at me like this.
He holds up a finger asking to stay right where I am. I couldn't move if I wanted to. As he stalks towards me, I smell his scent, a deep musky flavor that make me feel at one giddy and lustful and also a deep sense of wellbeing. My nipples tingle and I feel myself growing hot.
I lean against the counter, letting it support my weight. He walks closer to me, and gets closer than I've let anyone.
I look down, nervous at what's happening. He gently puts his finger under my chin, willing me to look into his eyes.
I look up and without a word he kisses me.
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