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Chapter 2

Calista Fai.

The procession of cars that drove from our home in Oak creek to Blackrock was impressively long, and I wondered not for the first time just how big the Blackrock pack house must be in order to hold so many shifters from four different packs. There must be at least sixty travelling from our pack alone.

“What’s it like at Blackrock?” I asked my parents out of curiosity having never visited the packs territory before.

My parents had travelled down to Blackrock four years ago for some pack union party when the new Alpha took over, but the party had been for of age wolves only, and there had never been another occasion for any of us to attend. My two oldest brothers had been invited to attend the mating days since they themselves became of age of course, but neither of my brothers were looking to bond yet.

“It seemed nice.” My Dad uttered from his seat behind the wheel of the car. “The pack house is huge, it was an old manor farmhouse at one time, but it has been extended a few times over the years that the pack has owned it. We didn’t see much of the town when we visited last time.”

I nodded even knowing he wouldn’t see me. By all accounts the Blackrock pack was one of the wealthiest in the country, it was certainly the wealthiest out of the four alliance packs.

The drive took a little over two hours and with each minute that passed my stomach clenched. I had never felt so terrified in my life. Surely it was inhumane to force she-wolves to do this, the men didn’t have to go only the females, although from what I hear that rule is specific to Oak creek pack which just made me think our Alpha was an arsehole.

‘Cali!’ Thalia admonished me for the thought, and I sighed. She was right of course, I should show more respect for my Alpha, even in the privacy of my own mind.

‘We may not always agree, but it is not our place to judge.’ The always wise voice sounded in my head, and I smiled. After everything we had been put through in our life, it amazed me how she wasn’t cynical. After all it was the fact that my wolf was different from everyone else’s that led to us being shunned in the first place. But Thalia, as always took it with grace. Of course, there were moments when she lost her head, so to speak, but for the most part she was the definition of ‘rising above’.

I watched out the window as we drove along the edge of the Dark Forest that backed onto Blackrock, the trees seemed larger here than I was used to. As per tradition, I had never seen much outside of our pack’s town, traditionally, being a pack member was like living with a family of forty aunts and uncles and fifty cousins, everyone was so close-knit, no one tended to leave the pack unless it was on pack business, of course it was a little different for me. More like I was on the outside looking in. The ugly duckling of the family that never got invited to the party.

‘Well now you’re being silly.” Thalia admonished again and yet again a sigh left my lips. ‘You are certainly not an ugly duckling by anyone’s standards. We may be a little odd in comparison to the rest but that does not mean we are less than them. Do not put yourself down Calista.’

Her voice echoed in my head, like a thought that I did not intentionally think. It was difficult sometimes not to think of Thalia as a separate person rather than a part of me, she was the part that lay dormant for years, emerging at puberty when the body changes and letting me access the portion of my brain that would talk back, my alter ego, the other me. My wolf.

‘What are we going to do Thalia?’ I thought, hoping for a miracle, if I didn’t know the answer then Thalia wouldn’t either, after all we were just two parts of the same whole, she knew what I knew and I knew what she knew.

‘Pray to the moon goddess, that she does not give us more than we can handle?’ The thought flowed cautiously, and I shook my head.

‘Too late for that.’

“I do wish you would have brought your belongings just in case.” Mum stated, with my dad grunting in agreement.

Traditionally females being lined up for mating day would bring with them any belongings they wished to keep as usually they would leave mating day with their new mate. I had considered it, even going so far as to start packing a bag, before thinking better of it. That was just tempting fate and I was trying to avoid mating at all costs, I certainly would not be making an agreement today, or any day for that matter.

“What will I need to do?” I asked, ignoring their suggestion while realising that avoiding the topic with my parents over the years had left me in a position of having no idea what was expected of me today. And as much as I did not want to find a mate, I didn’t want to anger my Alpha or embarrass my parents by being oblivious to what was expected.

“There is a meet and greet for the first half an hour, for the most part, the packs stay segregated but some families across the different packs will take the time to catch up, and those that are willing to make an arrangement will use the time to start searching for a potential mate.” Mum informed me in lecture mode, no emotion just facts, something I was glad for. I knew she wanted this for me, she wanted me to experience the happiness of the bond, but I just couldn’t inflict this on anyone else. “We are running a little late though.” She tacked onto the end while glancing at her watch and looking to my father who shrugged his shoulders in a ‘nothing I can do about it’ gesture.

“Then the she-wolves will line up outside in the grounds.” Mum continued “You literally just all stand in a line. Anyone then looking for a mate will walk the line, typically they wont even speak they will just walk along and look you each in the eye to see if there is a true match. If a true match is found, then the she-wolf will leave the line with her mate.” She sighed a little before continuing. “Once the men have walked the line, you will then be free to leave, and we can go back home. Most people who don’t want to arrange a mating do so.” She informed and I nodded. Simple enough, stand in a line look in each mans eyes and pray they aren’t the one.

The rest of the drive was spent in quiet contemplation while I tried to ignore the glances my parents kept throwing each other.

“We’re here.” My Dad informed as the procession of cars in front of us slowed down at a wrought iron gate that must be eight foot tall, surrounded on either side by trees and foliage that blocked the beyond from view. After several minutes of our Alpha speaking with the guard at the gate, the cars were waved through into the most spectacular grounds I had ever seen.

The pack house was huge, scarily so. How big must their pack be to warrant a house of this size and grounds this large. The stone house was partially covered in ivy, with white sash windows indicating just how many rooms the building contained. The driveway up to the house curved to the left twice into two separate car parks that just about seemed to contain all of the cars and I wondered if we were the last pack to arrive.

I took a deep breath when my dad switched off the engine. Time to get this over with.

I followed behind my parents, keeping my head down and averting my gaze, my hands shook at my sides, and I gripped them together in front of me, trying to ignore the eyes I felt upon me as we walked alongside the rest of our pack, up the driveway and around the side of the pack house to a huge area filled with hundreds of wolves.

“Ah Alpha De’Maine, a deep voice greeted ahead of us all and I resisted the urge to glance at the man, his voice was like silk to my ears, a slight twang to his accent that I didn’t recognise made him seem slightly exotic. ‘Don’t get carried away Cali.’ I told myself as I picked at my nails trying to distract myself away from the instinctual excitement I was feeling, it wasn’t easy to fight your nature.

“Alpha Leroux, a pleasure as always.” De’Maine greeted in return, their voices lowering slightly after the initial greeting, and I only caught the odd snippets of conversation.

“You walking the line this time?” De’Maine’s voice queried, and my head snapped up in surprise. I could only see my Alpha’s lined face and the back of the Blackrock Alphas head. I had never before heard of an Alpha being unmated.

‘He must have his work cut out for him, having to deal with a pack this size on his own.’ Thalia’s voice sounded and I hummed in agreement. Alphas always shared their duties with their mates, their Luna. While the males tended to lead the pack and handle all security and training his mate typically handled all things to do with the pack territory, homes, education, employment.

‘Maybe I’m wrong, maybe it’s just Oak creek that works that way.’  I uttered but even still it was unusual for an Alpha to be unmated, and Leroux had been Alpha of Blackrock for four years.

Lost in my internal monologue, I missed the end of the exchange so didn’t actually know if the Alpha would be walking the line, but I guess I would find out later. If an Alpha was looking for a mate, it would be all anyone would talk about until he found or agreed a match. It was considered a great honour to be mated to an Alpha, everyone would be open to the agreement, regardless of his reputation.

And he certainly had a reputation. By all accounts the man was hard, cold as ice, unforgiving and insular, rarely communing with those below his station baring of course his Beta and commanders.

“Please, we should begin.” Alpha Leroux stated loudly with a sweep of his arm in the direction of the gathered wolves before walking ahead and disappearing into the crowd, where I noted with trepidation the young females were all starting to make their way towards the house and starting to line up.

The she wolves from our pack could be heard whispering quiet goodbyes to their families before heading over themselves, but I was rooted in spot, terrified and unable to move “Come on Cali.” My Dad tugged on my arm offering a sympathetic smile and he gave me a slight push in the direction of the house.

The walk felt like it a took a lifetime and eyes from hundreds of gathered wolves watched the collection of around 60 women of varying ages lined up.

I closed my eyes and swallowed hard, I was almost at the end of the line, with only four other women after me, all of whom were chattering excitedly about the possibility of a true match. Truth be told, based on past statistics, it was likely that only around 8 of the gathered 60 women would find a true match today, the chances of me being one of them was slim to none. I took a deep breath trying to calm my nerves, I couldn’t afford to become emotional, I would risk my eyes turning and then everyone would know just how much of a freak I was.

Silence fell across the gathered wolves and my eyes opened in reaction, scanning the area. Even if I hadn’t been terrified, I would have been nervous, having hundreds of eyes pinned on you was unsettling to say the least. I watched as the first man made his way to the far end of the line, shortly followed by several more, I wasn’t surprised to see the difference in ages, some of the men who stepped forward were around my age, but others were closer to age of my father. I couldn’t help the wince that formed at that image, what if my mate was old enough to be my father. ‘Urgh. No, I won’t find a mate so its irrelevant.’

My stomach was tied in knots as I saw the first man slowly make his way down the line towards me, dressed in smart trousers and a pale blue shirt that was open at the neck, he walked with confidence, pausing momentarily before each girl then moving on to the next, his attention fixed solely on each girl as he stood before her, he never looked ahead so I couldn’t see his face and I swallowed hard, pulling at my fingers gently as a distraction.

My eyes fell to the ground and the nerves in my body tingled and butterflies took off in my stomach, it was mere moments before he was stood before me, his black boots and lower legs were all that I could see as I tried and failed to force my eyes to meet his. A hand came into view as the man tucked his bent finger under my chin and lifted my head gently. I swallowed hard once more before forcing my eyes to meet his.

‘Oh my. That’s him Cali, that’s our mate.’ Thalia’s surprised words rang through my mind as everything else fell away. I had never before laid eyes on this man, I didn’t even know his name, but the instant our eyes connected I knew he was mine and I his.

The whole world dropped away around us and for a moment nothing mattered but the feel of this man’s skin on my chin and his eyes on mine.

I have no idea how much time passed as we stood transfixed by one another but eventually reality seemed to sink back in, I watched as he blinked before lowering his hand from my chin and nodding to me. ‘He doesn’t particularly look pleased.’

‘I wonder if he was against finding a mate, maybe he was being forced to attend.’

‘Oh, maybe he had arranged a love match. Oh no, am I now matched to a wolf that loves someone else?’

He nodded slightly again, and I let my eyes drift down to his outstretched hand. With a deep breath I lifted my hand and placed it in his as he led me away from the line. I looked around the gathered crowd trying to spot my parents. Eventually seeing them stood behind Alpha De’Maine my Mum was crying as she smiled brightly, and I offered a smile in return although I was more concerned it came out as a grimace as I tried not to be sick.

My mind was racing a mile a minute, despite Thalia’s earlier reservations, and respect for my decision not to look for a mate, she was overjoyed, excitement raced through her as we both felt the bond to the man the walking beside us. Every set of eyes was on us, the first true match of the Autumn mating day, everyone wanted to get a look at us. Alpha De’ Maine in particular couldn’t seem to stop staring, his mouth hanging open slightly, and I was suddenly very glad he had made a pact with my parents swearing us all to secrecy about my ‘oddness’, at least I knew he wouldn’t say anything.

One thought after another raced through my mind about how to get out of this, but it just wasn’t an option. I glanced at the serious expression on the ruggedly handsome face of my mate and winced. He really didn’t look happy, he would be less so if he found out. Wonderful, so how the hell do we keep this a secret.

I walked beside my match to a group that I believed to be Blackrock, everything was a daze. How could this possibly have happened?

“Your name?” The man beside me asked his voice deep and smooth as causing a slight shiver to race through my spine. We came to a stop at the front of a large group of wolves all offering huge smiles and murmured congratulations and I tried to figure out why they were all looking at me strangely. Surely, they have had true matches within their pack before, it can’t be that rare, I blinked for a moment, double checking that I hadn’t let the wolf slip slightly but no, my eyes were normal. “Your name?” The man questioned again, squeezing my hand lightly to get my attention and I let my eyes wonder to his face.

“Calista Fai.” I uttered, my voice quiet and shaking with the overwhelming desire to run and hide. This poor man.

‘Oh god Thalia, what do we do?’

‘For now, I would enjoy this. This man is delicious,’ she hummed in appreciation, and I shoved her words aside. She was so wrapped up in the overwhelming feeling of the mate bond, she would be no help here.

“Calista.” The man repeated and I nodded.

“I’m mostly known by Cali.” I informed without thinking at all about my words.

“Well Cali, it’s lovely to meet you.” He stated the look on his face indecipherable as he took me in and for a brief moment, I wished I had heeded my mother’s advice, and done something with my appearance. After a moment of staring, taking in his chiselled jaw and dark eyes and perfectly smooth, tanned skin I realised that he hadn’t introduced himself.

“And your name, sorry.” I asked a little timidly. This man exuded confidence in every movement, there was no doubting that he was a man that was sure of himself before, but when he smirked at my question and raised a brow like I should already know the answer I shifted uncomfortably. I really hoped I wasn’t fated to a man that was cocky, it was a personality trait that I couldn’t stand.

After a moments silence between us, his lips parted, his words forcing the air out of my chest. “Tristan Leroux.” He stated with confidence, and I swear I must have turned white as a sheet.

Not quite quickly enough, but as quick as I could manage in my current state of shock, I lowered my head and twisted it to the side, keeping my eyes on the ground. “My apologies Alpha Leroux, I did not recognise you.”

In my head I was cursing the moon goddess for her ridiculously sick sense of humour ‘This is literally the opposite of what I wanted. Someone got things really wrong up there.’

The Alpha lifted my head so that our eyes connected once more, and I stared with unchecked fear. “You’re my true mate, you will be my Luna. My equal. My name is Tristan, and you do not ever need to bow your head to me.” He demanded and I couldn’t make my mouth form words, although my subconscious didn’t seem to have the same issues.

‘Shit!’

Komen (4)
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Patricia Queen
Nice so far
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Debra Filmore
awww! that's soooooo sweet.
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Issele
Yes! They can work out their darkness or whatever their secrets are together. Love their wolves.
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