“Are you sure you want to do this?” My Beta, Zander, asks.
“This war has been going on for four generations. It’s time for it to end.” Mostly so there can finally be peace long enough for me to search for my mate.
“But this way?” He presses further. I know where his concern was coming from. Challenging the Alpha of the Shadow Pack was not the most brilliant decision I’ve ever made. I’m 24 years old and all I’ve known is war. I want to live in peace; I want my pack to be able to live in peace for once. I don’t want anymore pups traumatised with losing their parents or the drills they are forced to do at school, evacuating them to the tunnels that lead to the safe houses.
“It won’t be a challenge to the death. If he yields; he lives,” I said simply. “Neither one of us can afford to lose any more pack members. And the challenge will only come into play if he doesn’t agree to a treaty.” A knock on the door interrupted us. “Come in,” I called, standing to my full height of 6′3″ behind my desk. My Delta, Carter, walked in. He was small for a delta, my head warrior, especially for werewolf standards, barely standing at 5′10″. He was the only adult male wolf in my pack that didn’t reach at least 6′.
“We’re ready, Alpha,” he nodded at me, formally. He and my beta were my best friends, the only ones who could get away with calling me on my bullshit or teasing me, but they both knew when to respect my title.
“Call the warriors.” Carter’s eyes went glassy as he mind linked the warriors he was in charge of. Once the other top 9 warriors in our pack entered my office I laid out the strategy. We’d run the short five miles to the battle field. The same field that we’d been battling in for four generations, since my great-grandfather was alpha. After that I’d lay down the demands for the treaty and ceasefire. If Alpha Montgomery agreed, there would be peace. If he didn’t I’d challenge him for his position. His age would play against him. Since his only son and heir was killed last year, in yet another clash, by one of my warriors, he had to resume his alpha duties.
The plan was simple. Hopefully there would be no loss of life tonight, on either side. Although, no-one would believe me if I said I didn’t want the Shadow pack to lose anymore either. To them, and most other packs in the nation, I was the ruthless alpha. Heartless. Cold. Those were the reasons I hadn’t found my met yet, according to them. What they didn’t know is that I wasn’t cold or heartless. I wasn’t the things the world portrayed me to be. I was just a pup when my parents were killed. Twelve years old and already having to take over as alpha. Since that time all I’d wanted was to find my mate. The woman who would bring balance into my life and bring warmth to the parts of me that were cold and cruel. The parts of me that had been shaped by circumstance, decisions of who to kill and who to spare before I was even a teenager.
My pack was an anomaly. The top three wolves were unmated. A fact that was strong enough to bring down any pack. No top females to balance the men often lead to failure. A luna is vital. The pack was pressuring me to take a luna who wasn’t my true mate. Something I would never do. Couldn’t do. But I needed her. Desperately. Most high ranking wolves would take time away from their pack, travelling to allies in search of their mate. Because of the constant warring I didn’t have the luxury of leaving my pack for an extended period of time. All the allies I’d invited with their daughters, sisters and high ranking females hadn’t brought any success. I was still missing the other half of my soul. Zander was in the same position. Carter too. Although Carter was looking for his mate amongst the men in other packs, but still, my third in command needed his other half too. Maybe my mate was a man too. It wouldn’t be the first time an alpha thought he was straight only to be mated to a man. If that was the case it wouldn’t matter, he or she would be perfect to me. All of my flings had been women. A fact that my mate, man or woman, would hate. I let my thoughts travel to what she’d be like. I always imagined her petite, coming to the middle of my chest, long brown hair and eyes, matching mine. My wolf, Tobias, whined in the back of my head, desperate for his mate too. He hated me for not waiting for her and never let a moment slip by where he could reiterate that fact. I’d been waiting 6 years and it was beginning to take it’s toll on me. On us.
“Let’s go,” I said, my deep voice rumbling in the large room. The twelve of us walked out the backdoor of the pack house, stripping down and shifting. My bones cracked, as I shifted, my back arching painfully as the change happened. It took less than 3 seconds and I was standing on all fours, my jet black wolf standing at 5′6″ from my snow white toes to the points of my ears. Carter was the smallest of us, barely reaching 4′ in his wolf form, but being the smallest gave him the advantage of being the quickest. He raced in front of us, masking his scent with water and mud as he went. We walked slowly, sniffing the air as we went. Tobias was scratching at the back of my mind, anxious. Stop. I yelled at him. He needed to chill. Anxiety wasn’t normal for him, or me and I didn’t like the feeling. When we were about a mile away from the clearing we stopped, shifting back and grabbing stashed clothes. Zander stood next to me, his eyes scanning the forest constantly, alert for any threat. A ruffling of the leaves had us all on high alert, taking defensive stances, but when Carter’s red wolf appeared we relaxed. He shifts quickly, speaking before putting anything on. “There’s 20 of them. The Alpha, Luna, Beta, 12 warriors, and five other’s I didn’t recognise,” he shared, pulling on a pair of shorts.
“Let’s go,” I said, not reacting further to the information. I wasn’t worried that we were out numbered. We walked quickly through the forest in our human forms until we reached the clearing. “Everyone know the plan?” I asked, standing in front of my men and women.
“Yes, alpha,” they said in unison. I turned my back, Zander flanked my right while Carter did the same on my left side, the remaining warriors forming a half circle behind us. I stepped out from the trees, making my back long and my full height visible. My chest was still bare, exposing my broad chest and abs, and bulging biceps. I was built like every other alpha in the world, genes doing all the work for my physique.
Alpha Montgomery stood on the other side of the field, his Luna to his right, standing beside her was the pack’s own delta and to the left of the alpha was his beta. This was not the first time our packs had met like this to discuss peace, but I was determined to make this time the last time. A treaty that was lasting. I was tired of war, tired of death, loss and constantly preparing for attack. Alpha Montgomery was tired too; I could see it in his eyes.
“Alpha Montgomery,” I greeted him, fighting every alpha instinct I had to take him out. He had killed my father, which in turn had lead to my mother’s death. One of my warriors had killed his son. And so the circle went. For every death a retaliation, going back nearly 100 years. Tobias’s greatest shame was that he hadn’t avenged his parents death. It was mine too.
“Alpha Jefferson,” he greeted me, his voice full of venom. “Why have you called us here?”
“Peace,” I said simply. His reply was a scoff. “This war started before any of us were even born. It’s time we ended it. My demands are simple. We obtain a common ally. Alpha Jackson from Dark Moon has agreed to be both of our allies. No more deaths by either of our packs to the other. If you agree we all walk away.”
“And if I don’t,” he challenged.
“You also have no heir for your pack,” I continued, choosing not to answer his question until I was finished. The luna let out a pained whimper while her mate growled lowly. The memory of losing their son still painful.
“Are you planning on solving that problem for me too?”
“The alpha of Dark Moon has two sons. The youngest will take over, when you’re ready to retire, ensuring the alliance between our packs and the future of yours.”
“And if I still don’t agree?” He asked again.
“Then I will challenge your position as alpha of your pack,” I growled at him. His Luna gasped and his beta growled right back at me.
“You just said no more death,” he mocked.
“I didn’t say the challenge was to the death,” I grinned, unable to keep my sarcastic nature at bay. “If you yield, I’ll spare your life.”
“And let me live as a rogue?” His voice got angrier and angrier the further our conversation went.
“No,” I shrugged. “As a member of the pack.”
“What makes you think I won’t kill you?” Now it was my turn to laugh. Zander was nearly pissing himself from giggles. In his prime alpha Montgomery would have been a worthy adversary, but he had at least 20 years on me. Most alphas of his age were already retired. He didn’t stand a chance.
“Or lead a rebellion,” he decided to go with a different scenario.
“Simple. The not killing you deal is a one time offer. If you start any trouble, I’ll execute you on the spot.” He gulped, knowing I wasn’t kidding. His eyes glowed sapphire, showing his wolf was on the surface, not liking being challenged. Tobias was still in the back of my mine, pushing for control. I could feel him clawing at me. He wasn’t feeling threatened so I still couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him.
“We need to discuss.” His choice was simple. There’s no way an alpha would willingly give up his title. Peace was the only option. The alpha, his luna, beta and delta stood in a small circle, while the warriors took a protective stance around them. I couldn’t hear their conversation which meant they were mind linking each other instead of speaking.
Are you sure about this? Zander’s voice sounded through my mind.
Yes. He sighted loudly in defeat. His second guessing of my decisions was starting to get on my nerves. He meant well, but I knew what I was doing. I’d given Montgomery as choice, but not really. Unable to accept my challenge he’d be forced to accept the truce. Before I could repeat these facts to my beta I caught whiff of the most delicious thing I’d ever smelt. Lavender and honey flooded my senses. Tobias was clawing at me more impatient than ever. I searched the forests and the field across from me, searching for the carrier of the scent.
“What are you doing here?” The Shadow Pack’s Luna yelled in a high pitched voice. “We told you to stay hidden!” Being caught a young woman stood, walking slowly out from her hiding place. She was breathtaking. Tall. She had to be nearly 6 feet tall with straight blonde hair falling just above her shoulders. Her hair was shorter than mine when I didn’t have it in a bun. She rolled her eyes at the luna.
“Mine,” I growled, as she took her place in between who I’m assuming were her parents. The mythical daughter of alpha and luna Montgomery. After Darren, their only son, had been killed there were rumours that the had a second child. A daughter, who was sheltered, barely seen by her own pack, let alone anyone from a different one.
“Mate,” my beautiful blonde mate whispered in disbelief.
“Absolutely not,” alpha Montgomery snarled at me.
“This changes everything,” I said loudly, both packs shutting up immediately.
“This changes nothing,” he bit back at me.
“What’s your daughter’s name?” I asked, ignoring his indignation.
“Averie,” he said automatically. A smile crossed my lips at hearing her name. It was beautiful, perfect for her. He cursed himself under his breath for his answer.
“Averie,” I addressed her, my brown eyes locking eyes with her green ones. She gulped.
“Don’t you dare speak to her!” Alpha Montgomery had taken protective stance in front of his wife and daughter. The growl that left me was the loudest one I’d ever let out. Anger coursed through me and rippled off my body. Nobody would stand between me and my mate.
“Reject him,” alpha Montgomery said to his daughter. I heard her whimper. Unsure of what was about to happen I stepped forward.
“New rules for the treaty,” I interrupted whatever they were whispering about. The luna had shielded Averie behind her, not that it helped. My mate towered over her petite mother. “I leave with my mate and the treaty stands. If you force her to reject me, I’ll challenge you for your alpha position. In a match to the death.” Tobias growled at me. Okay, maybe not the best plan of winning my mate’s affections, threatening her father. “Only now,” I continued, pressing my luck. “Now instead of Dark Moon’s son taking over your pack, we combine ours. The daughter of an alpha mated to an alpha. Nobody would challenge our union.”
“Reject him,” Montgomery muttered again. Tobias was terrified she’d do as he said. Now that we’d found her we wouldn’t be able to live without her. Stepping out from behind her mother Averie walked towards the middle of the field, closing the distance between us. I stood, frozen, unable to move as I watched her long slim legs carry her towards me. Zander bumped me with his shoulder, cocking his head, indicating that I should move towards her too. Snapping out of my daze, I walked towards her, holding my breath. She stopped in the middle, waiting for me to close the rest of the distance.
When I was finally in front of her it took all my strength to hold Tobias at bay, preventing him from marking her. The scent of lavender and honey were stronger now, intoxicating me. Her ivory skin was adorned with freckles across her nose and cheeks, making her appear younger than she was. “Hi, freckles,” I said, the nickname rolling unexpectedly off my tongue. Her forehead came up to my lips, putting her at the perfect height to plant loving kisses there. God I’m such a sap. She was thin too, almost too much so. I could see not only her collarbone but her first and second ribs that were exposed underneath the loose t-shirt she was wearing.
“Mate?” She whispered again in confusion, disbelief in her big green eyes that were looking up at me.
“Kane,” I told her.
“Moon Goddess, why?” She cried. That’s not good.
“Please don’t reject me,” I begged. I was pathetic. Less than five minutes in her presence and I was already begging for her affection. Some big, strong, fearless alpha I am. She leaned in closer, making my heart beat faster.
“I’m not going to reject you.” I let out the breath I hadn’t realised I was holding. “Yet,” she whispered darkly. Shit. “Spare my father,” she ordered. I could only nod at her. Turning around she yelled across the field, “I’m going with him.” My warriors let out howls of happiness knowing their alpha had finally found his luna. Little did they know that they were celebrating prematurely.
“This truce is contingent on my daughter fully accepting you as her mate,” Montgomery called to me.
“Agreed,” I acknowledged. I could live with those terms. No matter what it took I would get her to accept me. “She comes with me, tonight.”
“I need to pack,” she said matter of factly.
“I’m going with you,” I told her.
“Only you,” Montgomery yelled across the field at me.
“This is how this is going to go down,” Zander said, stepping forward. There’s no way you’re going behind enemy lines by yourself. Mate or not I still don’t trust any of them. He said to me through the mind link. I nodded. He was right. “You clear your pack house. Averie, chooses two of your warriors. Kane chooses two of ours. Only those six are allowed inside. My luna,” he slips in her title, showing his respect, and trust in her new station. “packs her belongings and then we leave. She’ll remain in contact with you, ensuring her safety and happiness in her new home.”
“Jacob and Alexander,” I motioned for my two strongest warriors to come with me. “Go home,” I said to Zander. “I’ll keep in touch.” He nodded before jogging towards the remaining warriors. They disappeared into the forest, heading back to the pack house. Averie walked in front of me, Jake and Alex walking at a respectable distance behind us. I ached for her. If I wanted to I could reach out and touch her, but she was still too far away. Only the alpha, luna and two warriors remained by the time we’d finished crossing the field. Averie must have mind linked them who she wanted with her.
Averie stopped, allowing me to catch up to her. The mate pull must have been getting to her too because once I was standing next to her she continued walking. I desperately wanted to take her hand and pull her close, but I still feared her rejection.
“It’s empty,” Montgomery said when we finally stood at the pack house entrance. Averie walked in first, followed by me, then Jake, then one of her warriors, then Alex and finally her last warrior. She walked up multiple flights of stairs while I diligently followed her.
She’s perfect. Tobias said to me through the link.
Don’t screw this up. I shook my head. I would do my damnedest not to.
What about you? I quipped back. Her wolf has to accept you too.
She already has. He replied smugly.
WHAT? I shouted at him.
Athena. He sighs like a lovesick puppy. She’s already accepted me. I have game, unlike you. Unable to listen to him anymore I block the link. Athena. Even her wolf had a gorgeous name. Silently, I wondered what her wolf looked like. Was she tall, like her human form? White or grey? Maybe even red?
“I’m ready,” she said, pulling me from my thoughts. I don’t know how long I had dazed off for but she was holding a suitcase in one hand and a large purse in the other.
“Let’s go, freckles,” I said, taking the suitcase from her. I couldn’t wait to get out of here. To show her who I really was, to let my alpha mask drop and let her see who her mate truly was.
I carried the suitcase down the stairs to find the four warriors, all with their arms folded over their chests and scowls on their faces as they watched us. Once we were outside Averie’s parents were waiting for us. Her mother was blubbering while wrapped in her father’s arms. Hugging her mother, Averie told her to stop crying.
“Call us everyday,” alpha Montgomery said.
“I will,” she replied. “My car is this way,” she said motioning for me to follow her.
Run back to the pack. I’ll be there in 30 minutes. I told my warriors. Nodding they ran to the trees, shifting into their wolves and disappearing into the forest. Averie strolled to a fire engine red chevy Camaro. “Nice,” I whistled at the car.
“Don’t objectify my baby,” she said sternly. I chuckled at her.
“Can I drive?”
“Don’t be cute,” she said, opening the trunk so I could load her suitcase in while she slid into the driver’s seat. I climbed in and my senses were overwhelmed. The car was filled with her scent and it engulfed me and Tobias. Clutching the oh shit handle I held on, trying to control mine and Tobias’s instincts that demanded we put our mark on her, claim her.
“Know where you’re going, freckles?” I asked, my knuckles turning white as I held on and tried to control my breathing.
“Don’t call me that,” she snapped. “And yes.” Whatever rapport I thought we were building had vanished. She was going to make me work for it. I remained quiet for the rest of the thirty minute drive back to the pack house. By the time we arrived the sun had already set and it was getting late. She parked her car behind my mustang and climbed out. It was eerily quiet. Zander must have given everyone a curfew to make sure we weren’t bombarded on our return. I’m sure by now the rumours were flying all over the place. Carrying her suitcase I guided her to the top floor, where the alpha suite was. The beta suite was on the floor below. Carter’s delta suite was the floor below and on the remaining floors family that choose to remain in the packhorse were spread out. About half of my 300 pack members lived in one house.
“I’m going to get lost,” she said, while we climbed the last flight of stairs.
“I’ll give you a tour tomorrow,” I said, trying to keep the hope out of my voice. Unlocking the suite with my fingerprint, I opened the door for her, allowing her to enter first. “And I’ll set the lock up with your fingerprint also.”
“Where am I sleeping?” She asked, bored.
“Here,” I said guiding her to my bedroom. “My room,” I said simply.
“No,” her reply was immediate and definitive.
My patience was gone. It’d been a long day and I’d been waiting for her for six years. There’s no way I was allowing her to sleep anywhere else. “Listen, freckles,” I said invading her space, using my height to my advantage even though she wasn’t much shorter than I was. “I’ve been waiting for you for six years. Six long years, Averie. If you’re here but sleeping somewhere else, Tobias will take control while I’m asleep. Do you think he can be trusted with Athena? If I go to sleep with you in a different room, we’ll both wake up marked and mated without any recollection of it happening. I know Athena has already accepted Tobias. Do you trust them?” She shook her head no. I softened my voice. “You take the bed. I’ll take the couch.”
“I’m sorry,” she said softly before disappearing into the bathroom, pyjamas in her hand. I wish I knew what she was sorry for. While she was showering I opened the empty dresser drawers I had set aside for my mate on my eighteenth birthday and opened the closet door so she could unpack. Steam escaped the bathroom when she opened the door, standing there in a tank top and matching shorts. My eyes raked over her hungrily. Her slim legs were on full display in the tiny shorts; her hip bones protruded out. I wanted to wrap her in my arms and snuggle with her while we fell asleep. Hopefully someday, soon, she’d let me.
Once she was clear of the bathroom door I entered, showering before putting on a pair of clean boxers. I was done quickly, but by the time I came out her empty suitcase was laying open on the floor; the closet door was closed and the drawers were all closed. She was laying on her side, facing away from me. Grabbing a pillow and blanket from the chest at the end of the bed I laid on the couch, my long legs hanging over the edge.
I fell asleep to the sound of my mate’s breathing. Her soft snores filling the stillness of my, our, bedroom, a smile on my face knowing she was close.