Chapter 10: Gila
“No more turning away
From the weak and the weary
No more turning away from the coldness inside
Just a world that we all must share
It’s not enough just to stand and stare
Is it only a dream that there’ll be
No more turning away? “
-Pink Floyd, “On The Turning Away”
I-25 Rest Stop
South of Socorro, NM
The caravan exited the freeway late the next morning. Renee’s vehicle led the group to the back of the rest area where Alpha Hastings and his top Betas were waiting outside their Humvee. Looking at Crystal and Ed, she ordered both to remain with the vehicle and wait for the Gila Beta to join them. “Michelle, you stay with me. We will be riding with Alpha Robert and his second. All of us will follow his vehicle into the Pack area, and his men will fall in behind us. They are friends, but they don’t fully trust us yet so be on good behavior.”
“Yes, Alpha, it will be done,” Rich replied as they turned in next to the Gila Pack vehicle. The other cars in the caravan stayed back a few parking spaces.
“Michelle, you stay with me and behave, OK?”
“Yes, Alpha.” She held her hand as they stepped out of their vehicle.
“Renee, so good to see you again!”
“Thank you Robert. Thank you so much for inviting us to visit you Pack. This is Michelle, she is the only cub in my Pack and has become kind of attached to me.” Robert bent down and sniffed her neck while she sniffed his, in the normal manner of wolves meeting a stranger. He then escorted them into the back of his Humvee as one of his Betas joined her lead vehicle. Renee got in first so she could talk with Robert while Michelle could look out the window. “I’m glad we have some time in private, I need to bring you up to speed.” Renee spent most of their drive relaying everything that had happened since they last saw each other at the peace talks. Robert remained quiet and calm, but she could see his fists clenching at parts and she knew he was trying hard not to frighten the cub.
“I’m glad you are here, Renee. Tomorrow I have asked other Alphas in this region to join me on a conference call. Diggs threatens us all, but it seems like with you it is personal.”
“He’s had a hard-on for me ever since the talks. He was smart enough not to approach me while I was still in mourning, but I could see him staring at me. Now I’ve made him look foolish and have taken a girl from him. He won’t stop looking for me.”
“No, he won’t, especially since you’re about to carve away a significant chunk of his pack. This betrayal will drive him into a killing rage. He won’t stop until you are dead.”
“Kelly says he wants to make me his Alpha bitch whether I want to or not. I’m thinking that may not be on the table.”
“Well, this will be one of the topics for the call. Even with the losses, he came through the war with more warriors than any of our Packs, and he’s a strong wolf. Taking him on will not be easy. We will have to be united to stand a chance.”
Just then Renee’s phone rang. “I’m sorry, I need to take this, it’s about the gathering.” She opened the phone and greeted Linda. “Hi Linda, did we find a place for Wolfstock?”
Linda giggled at the name, then said, “Yes. We’re going to use the Red Rock amphitheater and surrounding land. The station manager was able to get the city and county to lease it to us for the weekend, and to process expedited permits. It will be a challenge to get it all done, but we can have the first events Friday night and we have it through Sunday evening. It’s convenient to Denver and still somewhat isolated, plus it can handle the crowds we may get.”
“That’s wonderful! I know it’s asking a lot, but I need you two to coordinate the arrangements for this event. Hire people if you need to. Don’t worry about the cost, use this.” Renee rattled off the number of the Pack corporate credit card. “We want to make this a fun event, so look at getting food and entertainment set up, maybe some local bands. Focus on meat vendors, you know we like barbecue, maybe we can get them set up. Make a deal where they get a spot in exchange for helping to promote the event.”
“Oh, we’ve got some ideas on that already. The station will sponsor the event and help me with arrangements, I’m still an employee after all. They want to provide the coverage.”
“OK, keep me posted, I will be a few days before I get to Denver. I will take care of inviting all the Packs, you take care of advertising to bring in the humans.”
“That’s not a problem, we’re looking forward to it. Like I said, our biggest problem with the humans is getting too many of them.”
“Linda, I want to keep Friday werewolf-only. If there are going to be matings, a lot will happen that first night and we don’t want to scare everyone off. There’s also likely to be a lot of recreational sex, since this is the first time some of these people have been around other packs in years. Your camera crews may see more than they want. Make sure they are running on a tape delay and have some electronic blurring ready.” Linda giggled, recalling her experiences with her mate on camera. "Buy a bunch of tents and sleeping bags so we can set up some out of the way places for the new mates. I’ll schedule some ‘fun runs’ and mixers for that night, enough to keep those busy who don’t find their mates right away. I’ll work with the other Alphas to ensure we have enough mated pair Betas around to keep things from getting out of hand.”
“It shall be done, Alpha. I will call you when I have more details.”
“Thanks Linda, and don’t forget to have fun with your new mate.”
“Thank you, Renee. I’ll call you later this afternoon.” Linda was blushing as she looked across her desk to Andy as they sat in the station. “I think she heard us the last time.”
Renee sat back in the vehicle and looked over to Robert. “I take it you heard all that?”
“Yes, and it’s a great idea. New matings are the best way to strengthen our packs and start to rebuild our numbers. It’s a good chance for an Alpha meeting too. Now that we are out in the open, we need to discuss how we will handle it. The traditional rules may need to be changed.”
“How long until we reach your den?”
“About an hour. How about if I take the first half of the list and you take the second? Then we can get all the Packs invited and you can relax a little today.” She nodded and picked up her phone again. The first person she called was her brother.
Santa Fe Pack Caves
Stanley Diggs was never a patient man, nor one to tolerate failure. His men knew this well.
His Betas were avoiding him, searching farther and farther out from the Santa Fe pack caves and finding nothing. They had returned after dark, the sting of being outsmarted by a brand new Alpha fresh in his mind. They had found nothing.
The Pack hadn’t even gone back to their caves, all their stuff was still as they had left it a few days earlier. They had found the hiding place that had been used, and tracked the scents back to a place where the vehicles had been parked. Nothing else was found. He called his men back to their base camp nearby. He couldn’t sit around waiting for Renee to return, he had other problems right now.
His phone rang with one of those problems. “Hello Renee, nice to hear from you again. We missed you.”
“Hello Alpha Diggs. Did you enjoy your trip?” Silence. “I’m calling to invite you to an Alpha gathering. It will be this weekend outside Denver at the Red Rocks amphitheater. All US Alphas will be attending.”
“Renee, if you’ll be there, I’ll be there too. I so want to catch up on things.” The menace in his voice was palpable.
“Yes, I will be there. We’re also doing a gathering of all unmated werewolves starting Friday night. We are requesting that interested unmated attend, and asking the Alphas to provide a few mated Betas to help with security and mate control. It could get a little wild.”
“I’ll let my pack know. Thank you Renee, it’s a pleasure.” His mind was racing. An Alpha gathering could be good for him, he could take over multiple packs in a weekend.... or the other Alphas could unite against him. He had some time to plan, though. He called his second, Blake. Blake didn’t answer, nor did anyone at the Pack office.
Alpha Diggs ordered his men back into their vehicles. It was time to go home and kick some ass, starting with Blake.
Gila Pack Den
The caravan stopped in front of the Alpha’s house and across from the community center. The Gila pack had carefully hidden ownership of the land from the government, making it appear as though it was a resort property, and upon its return had quickly moved back in. The pack had lost half its members so there was plenty of room for everyone.
Alpha Hastings exited the lead vehicle then came around and opened the door for Renee and Michelle. His senior Pack leadership was lined up along the stairs leading to the dining room while the rest of the Pack waited inside. They both waited for the Santa Fe pack members to exit their vehicles, and Renee was in the process of forming them into a line when all hell broke loose.
“MINE!!!!!” A middle aged man in the reception line was sniffing furiously, trying to identify the source of the wonderful peppermint and cedar scent. He ran forward towards the cars until he saw the woman who was frozen in place, head up and sniffing as well. Both Alphas and a number of Gila Betas chased after him, and Renee yelled for everyone to give them room. You could get hurt getting between a man and his mate, especially if he had been waiting for her for decades.
Wendy locked eyes on her mate and her eyes lit up in lust and appreciation. He was tall, with short black hair and a goatee. His body looked like a basketball player, and his scent made her instantly aroused. She didn’t have much of a chance to appreciate him, as he lowered his shoulder and picked her up around her waist without breaking stride. She didn’t mind, she was too busy shredding their shirts. He didn’t stop until they were in his cabin.
The other Pack members gave up their pursuit, the pair wouldn’t come out of that cabin for a week now that they had found each other. They had just made their way back to the receiving line when a triumphant howl rang out, followed by a second more feminine howl.
“Shit.” Renee started to laugh. “I guess it’s a good thing I just gained a medic because I just lost my nurse.”
Robert laughed. “They will make a good pair then. Terry is my pack Doctor.”
“This road trip has been exciting so far, can you introduce us to your Pack?”
Robert started the receiving line and as the small group of Santa Fe wolves went past, there were no more matings, but there were a lot of happy faces. Robert moved the group to the raised area at the back of the dining hall and let Renee do the introductions.
She was interrupted several times by loud squeals and screams as long lost extended family members found each other. A half dozen pack members were led away to sit with relatives they hadn’t seen in years and had feared lost. The meal went on well into the afternoon, with groups of Gila Pack members coming by in small groups to introduce themselves.
Renee motioned to a young female Omega who was bringing food and asked her if she could bring a picnic basket for the new mates. “I want to check in on Wendy, and they might need to stop for five minutes to eat and drink.” A few minutes later she had a box of food and some bottled water and walked with the Omega to Terry’s home. They didn’t hear anything so they knocked after ensuring no males were nearby. A minute and a few ignored commands to go away later, a naked and protective male cracked open the door. The smell of new mates- sex, sweat and arousal- was heavy in the air.
Renee didn’t attempt to approach the door, not wanting to challenge him any further. “I wanted to check on Wendy and I brought you some food.” He took the basket as Wendy came out of the bedroom. She walked up behind her mate and hugged his waist.
“I’m fine, Alpha. We’ve cleaned and treated our mating bites and I might let him sleep by tomorrow.” She was reaching around his waist as she talked. He was losing patience with the visitors already.
“Good to hear. I guess you won’t need to go to Wolfstock then.” She grinned as Terry turned and picked her up and carried her giggling to the bedroom. Clearly, the time for sex had returned. Renee closed the door for them and they walked back.
Robert met them at the door to the dining room. “Would your pack like to join us on a run? We’ve been doing it as often as possible since the end of the war.”
“Absolutely, they will love it. I don’t think we’ll get the new mates to join us, though.” They shared a knowing smile. The two Packs quickly assembled and switched in the field behind the dining hall, and they all disrobed and shifted, leaving a few elders and the young behind. Robert was a good sized gray wolf, and he drank in her white wolf form with appreciation. His wolf was forward and VERY interested in her. They both howled to start the run and he set off with her at his side.
Two hours later, the group returned, tired and happy. The mated pairs returned to their homes while many of the single wolves paired up; there was nothing that got the libido going like a good run! Pairs started to drift away into the woods as Renee and Robert retrieved their clothing.
“Tired?” Robert didn’t want to push things too fast, she was still in mourning from the loss of her mate, he had to push down his wolf side that wanted to mate her now. His human side was captivated.
“I wouldn’t mind a walk. I spent so much time cooped up in the caves and in hiding places that I’ve forgotten how nice it is to just be outside under the moon. The rock formations are amazing in this light.”
“Amazing... yes, just what I was thinking. I’d love to walk with you.” He offered his arm, she took it and they left by a narrow trail.
Renee looked over at the man she was with, she was strongly attracted to him but felt like she was betraying her dead mate by looking at another that way. It was uncomfortable for her human side. Her wolf was all for spending more time with him, especially naked. She was rolling over on her back and wiggling. “Can you tell me a little about yourself?”
Robert slid his hand down and interlocked it with hers as they walked. “Well, I’m forty two years old and I have been Alpha of this Pack for twenty of those. My parents were killed by a raiding party and I had to grow into the job quickly. Luckily, I found my mate early. Lucy was the daughter of the Sawtooth Pack alphas, and we made a great team.” He paused, the emotion starting to overcome him. “She was smart and beautiful and wise and made me feel like the luckiest man in the world. When she got pregnant with twins I was over the moon.” He stopped walking and looked at her, fighting to hold back the tears. “We don’t talk about it much. She slipped on a steep trail while we were on a run, she liked to exercise even into her sixth month. I caught her before she went over the cliff, but she hit a rock hard with her stomach and started bleeding. The bleeding wouldn’t stop, she was panicking and could feel the distress of the cubs. We were miles away from help.”
Renee pulled him into a hug, knowing how difficult it was for an Alpha to share weakness. “You don’t have to continue if it’s too painful.”
Robert wiped his eyes clear. “No, I need to talk about it and I want you to know.” They walked in silence until they came across a fallen log they could sit on, she snuggled him under his arm as she buried her face in his chest. “I called for help as I picked her up and ran back. I moved as fast as I could, but she lost consciousness after a few minutes. By the time Doc arrived, she was gone.” He was no longer able to hold back the tears. “Terry said the placentas had torn away. They tried an emergency C-section but the cubs had been without oxygen too long. My boys were dead too. I was absolutely crushed.”
Renee held him tight, she shared his grief and let some of her own out. It was ten minutes before either could speak.
Renee looked up. “Didn’t you want to join them?”
“Every day. I dreamed of ways to kill myself. The Pack tried everything to get me out of my depression.”
Renee paused. “So did I. I went through the motions for those weeks, just because I still had to work to end the war. I didn’t want his sacrifice to be in vain. I was planning to kill myself after the funeral so I could be with him. It was only when I found out I was pregnant that I found a reason to live.”
Robert pushed her hair aside and kissed her forehead tenderly. “I would go to sleep every night thinking I couldn’t go another day without her, and every morning I had to find a reason to get out of bed. I don’t know if I was stubborn or a coward, but I could never do it. I buried myself in my Pack. I had no heir, we were on the edge of falling apart, so I forced myself back.”
“How are you now?”
“It got easier as I got used to being alone, but I’ve not been happy. Busy, but never happy. Every time I would see new mates I would go into a funk and be depressed for days.”
“You didn’t seem to be sad with Terry and Wendy, did that change too?”
“That... is a very recent development. I think I’ve finally let her go and I’m ready to move forward.”
Renee squeezed his chest. “I hope you find your happiness someday, someone who can share your life and give you a family.”
Robert hugged her back. “I would like that. I will wait as long as I have to for that woman to come to me.” With that, they walked silently, hand in hand back to the compound and to her guest room. “Have a good sleep, Renee, I’ve enjoyed our time.” He cupped her face and lightly kissed her lips before releasing her. “My room is at the end of the hall, please don’t hesitate to ask me or any other pack member if you need anything.”
“Thank you Robert, I enjoyed it as well. Can I join you for breakfast?”
“I’d be delighted.” With that, he reluctantly turned for his own room and she watched him for a few steps before closing the door. She listened to her voice mail- mostly updates on the planning for Wolfstock- and took a quick shower before going to sleep.
The dream came quickly, but tonight it was different. Her wolf was running along the riverbank, nose up and hunting for the scent that she desired so much. He appeared across the river, a majestic brown wolf, his bright eyes focused on her as she approached. She became aroused as she scented him, the need pulsing through her body to be dominated and loved again. She watched as he shifted into human form, his strong body sending her desire through the roof as he looked at her. “Follow your heart.” He waved and after he shifted back he trotted away. She howled and whined and paced the river’s edge but he didn’t look back, so she put her head on her front paws and waited.
A new scent wafted over as she sensed another wolf approaching. This one was gray and strong and his eyes bore into her soul as he approached. He sniffed her as she lay there, then he put his head into her chest and pushed. When she didn’t get up, he yipped and dropped his forelegs down, tail up and wagging. She ignored him, and he trotted back the way he came, looking over his shoulder occasionally to see if she was following.
Renee woke up confused and aroused, she tried to sleep but her mind and her wolf would not let her. After an hour she gave up and walked out her door, taking a right towards the door at the end. She quietly let herself in.
Robert’s wolf was instantly alert when he first sensed someone at the door, but he calmed down when he recognized her scent and saw her naked form in his doorway. “Renee?”
She fought back the tears and looked at him, her wolf encouraging her forward until she was by his bed. “Hold me?” She held a hand out to him.
Robert turned back the covers and pulled her forward. “Whatever you need, I’ll be her for you.” She climbed in and snuggled up to him, resting her head on his shoulder as he caressed her back. “Sleep, we can talk in the morning.” Robert’s desire was strong but his wolf was willing to put up with his human’s insistence on patience as long as he got what he wanted.
Renee slept soundly for the first time in weeks.
Crested Butte Pack
Stanley Diggs was furious as his caravan pulled into his compound. They had arrived after midnight, the long drive up from New Mexico being done with as few stops as possible. The senior Beta left at the compound met him as he stepped out. Before Diggs left, Darrell had been a mid-level Beta, and Stanley had rarely dealt with him. “Where is Blake?”
Darrell used all his willpower just to stay standing as he exposed his neck in submission. “Alpha, no one has heard from him since yesterday. He was last seen going after the Painters and other families.”
“Well, he’s not answering my calls so he is either dead or he’s joined them. Have you heard back from the trackers I told you to send?”
“They followed them to a highway and their scent disappeared. They must have arranged for a vehicle to pick them up. They could be anywhere by now.”
Diggs turned to leave. “Call a Pack meeting at 9 AM. Everyone is expected to attend.”
Gila Pack Den
Renee stirred but didn’t want to open her eyes yet. She was warm and her wolf was content, she didn’t want to ruin the feeling.
She relaxed her face into the firm pillow that was his stomach as she began to trace her fingers lightly over his thigh. She was luxuriating in his smell, so male, with hints of pine and forest dew. Her wolf appreciated the muscles and scars that she found in her exploration, but was much more interested in what was lying just below her face. Slowly she moved her hand up, becoming more bold she lightly stroked him.
Her movement brought Robert out of his slumber. He didn’t move, choosing instead to relax and see where she was going with this. He smiled as she wrapped her hand around him. She knew he was awake by the change in his breathing, but she pretended not to notice. She kept slowly and gently moving her hand on him, then her mouth covered him. It didn't take long to get him off.
“Oh Luna...” Robert’s head tipped back and his hands gripped the sheet. Renee finally pulled off with an audible pop and laid her head back down on his stomach. He was running his fingers through her hair when he felt her tears running onto him. He pulled her up on top of him so he could look at her as he wiped her tears away. “Renee, that was amazing. You have no idea what that means to me. Don’t cry.”
Renee snorted. “It’s not that, it’s just that I had a dream last night and I’m still processing it.” She described her dream to him. “Gary wants me to live and love again, but I feel like such a slut for having these feelings for you so soon after he is gone.”
Robert pulled her up and kissed her. “You are the first woman to share my bed since she died. I’ve been punishing myself for failing my mate for over a decade. When I met you, my wolf sat up and took notice. I couldn’t sleep that night. I finally realized that what she had always tried to make me happy, and that wouldn’t change just because she was gone. She wouldn’t have wanted me to beat myself up over what might have been, she would have told me to live my life to the fullest. When I recognized my desire for you, it allowed me to accept that she was gone and I could have a second chance at love.” He caressed her back. “Sometimes we think too much. Your wolf knows what you need, she won’t lead you astray.”
“Right now my wolf wants you.”
He wanted to make it last, but she wasn’t playing fair. It was amazing. When it was over, Renee pushed away from his chest and started crying. “What is wrong? Did I hurt you?”
She shook her head. “No, it’s just me. My wolf wanted to bite you and I just couldn’t let it. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to. I just can’t do this to you.”
He gently kissed her. “Well, then, my job is to have you go to sleep every night wondering how you survived another day without being my mate. I won’t play fair, either.” She immediately tensed up and rolled away.
“NO! I can’t mate you!”
Robert tried to put his hand on her shoulder but she bolted for the door. “I’m so sorry, I can’t do this to you.” She ran to her room, closed the door and sank to the carpet, hugging herself as she cried. She couldn’t hurt him like that. She loved him too much.
Crested Butte Pack
Alpha Diggs looked over his Pack with disdain. The full impact of the defections was apparent, it looked like over a third of his pack was now gone, including his second and a number of his Betas. He stepped forward on the platform to address them, his remaining Betas lining up behind him.
“Our Pack has come under attack. It was not the honorable battle that we sought, rather it was done with subterfuge and deceit. The families that left have not just betrayed me, they have betrayed us all. There will be a price for their betrayal.” There was a murmuring, and he let it die down before continuing. “The time of reckoning is fast approaching. Those who admit their error and return voluntarily will be granted mercy. Those that continue to rebel will be dealt with. Make no mistake, there is no place of safety for them, no place to hide from the consequences of their actions. If any of them contact you, help them out by encouraging them to return and receive my mercy. Luna help them if I have to get them back myself. Any questions, contact your Betas.” With that, he jumped down and walked back to his office.
He had just sat down at his desk when his phone rang. It was Alpha Hastings.
“Robert, how are you doing?”
“Better every day,” he replied. “I’m calling because I want to meet with you at Wolfstock to clear the air between us. Things are changing rapidly in our world.”
“I have some business to attend to as well, but I will make time for you before we leave. I look forward to seeing you again.” Stanley hung up the phone and sat back in his desk chair. Where there were Alphas, there were the inevitable challenges.
Forcing Renee to submit to him and mating her in front of the others would cement his status. It would shift the allegiance of her pack to him. He could also push the Alphas for a simple rule: no transfers between Packs unless both Alphas involved agree. Once that was passed, it would be a simple matter to demand the return of his wayward pack members.
It could even help with takeovers of other packs; once they saw how many Betas he had, and how many unmated males, they would recognize that joining him was inevitable. It would be easy to convince them to ally with him, making him the dominant Alpha of the region. His victory would be complete and relatively bloodless.
Gila Pack Den
Renee avoided Robert at the head table, nodding quickly before walking over to sit at breakfast with the members of her Pack. She immediately regretted skipping her shower when the smiles and wolf whistles started. “Did you sleep well, Alpha?” said Crystal with a smile.
“Yes, thank you. I didn’t get as much as I wanted, Robert and I had some things to coordinate.”
“Is that what they call it now?” The whole table busted up laughing, she smelled of Robert and sex and fooled no one. They wondered if it was a fling or something more; all of them wanted Renee to find happiness again. The rest of the breakfast went quickly as they talked of people they met, family news and Wolfstock preparations.
Renee finished up breakfast and walked over to Robert. “Alpha Hastings, is there an office I can use today? I have a lot of work to do to get ready for this weekend.”
“Certainly, let me show you.” He held out his hand but she refused to take it; he smoothly let it drop to his side. He was still trying to figure out what had happened last night, clearly she thought it was a mistake and not the greatest thing that had happened to him in years. She was being polite but distant. Patience, he told his wolf. Patience. He escorted her to a spare office and left her to his work.
He tried to engage her in conversation when he brought her lunch and was gracefully dismissed. Dinner was the same. She went to her room without talking to him. Her avoidance of him hurt deeply, but he had to give her time.
That didn’t mean he couldn’t try and figure out why. He made his way to the library where he found Crystal reading at the table. “Crystal, may I have a moment?”
“Certainly Alpha Hastings. I’ve been meaning to thank you for inviting us here, it’s the most I’ve relaxed in years.”
“You’re certainly welcome. I won’t keep you long. I just need help. I think I did or said something to Renee that caused her to push me away, but I can’t figure out what it is. Do you have any idea what I can do to get her back?”
Crystal sat back in thought. “I know she likes you a lot, her eyes light up when she talks about you. I also know she likes it here. I think she is just feeling a lot of stress right now and may not feel the time is right for a relationship.”
“Is it something in your Pack or is it me?”
“She can’t afford the distraction right now. She knows Stanley Diggs will be at the meeting this weekend. You weren’t there, you don’t understand how much hatred he has for her after she embarrassed him in front of his men. Twenty seasoned warriors turn tail and run from a woman with a cellphone and one low level Beta? He’s going to challenge her, and she doesn’t think she can win.”
“Well, he’s about a hundred pounds heavier, more experienced and a better fighter. Plus, he’s not pregnant. She’s trying to figure out how to get out of this weekend alive.”
Robert thanked her and walked away. Diggs was an imposing wolf, she didn’t have much of a chance against him. If she couldn’t deal with him, he would have to. She was his mate whether she accepted it yet or not. It was time he started acting like one.
Red Rock Cafe
West of Denver, CO
The gathering on Friday night had started rather well, with twenty-two matings during the barbecue dinner. It was a good omen.
The Alphas made sure their pack members were OK before they made their way to the Red Rock Grill. They had two days of meetings scheduled and a lot to cover. As with all Alpha gatherings, the challenges would be held first to get any bad blood or disputes out of the way before the real work started.
It was time, Stanley thought. He stood and addressed the gathering. “Alpha Renee Johnson has stolen my pack members and insulted me. I demand that she fight me in the challenge circle.”
Renee looked back in disdain. “Since when is it an insult to point out that an Alpha is a power-hungry ass rapist? It’s not like you can deny it.” The other Alphas snorted, pushing Stanley’s rage even higher.
“Challenge circle. Now.” Without looking back Diggs turned and stormed off, tossing his clothing aside as he walked to the amphitheater. A circle was set up at the base, below the benches that provided concert seating.
Renee gave a heavy sigh and got up, smoothing her dress over her belly that was just starting to show a baby bump from the twins within. As she followed him down the trail around the stands, she used her bond to tell all her Pack members to meet her there. “Gentlemen, this is something that concerns all of us, and every Werewolf here should witness it. Please summon your pack members to the stands.” There was a flurry of activity as wolves stopped whatever they were doing and ran to take their seats. Renee slowly made her way to the Circle, the other Alphas spacing themselves evenly around it as witnesses. Linda was on camera, the events were being carried live and she was explaining Werewolf law concerning challenges to the human audience.
“Diggs, what exactly do you hope to accomplish by this challenge?”
Stanley was pacing back and forth, the rage visible in every part of his naked body. He was heavily muscled and scarred from many fights. “When you submit to me, I will mate you. I will then take you back home and train you until you are fit to rule by my side as Alpha Female.”
Renee laughed. “Too late, I’ve heard that one before. Luis is now vulture food with that plan.”
Alpha Hastings stepped into the ring. “Stanley Diggs, I challenge you for the right to mate with Alpha Johnson. She will be MY alpha female, not yours.” He walked in front of Renee, removing his clothing as he stared down his opponent.
Renee reached forward and placed a hand on his shoulder. “Robert, I appreciate your actions and maybe one day I’ll be ready to mate again. When I do, it will be with you because I choose to give my heart to you. I’m not the prize in some testosterone-fueled contest. Matings should be as our wolves recognize them, not as a violent taking. Stand down, my love. I have to do this.”
Robert turned and looked into her eyes, which were equal parts determination and love, before walking back outside the circle. “Very well. I withdraw my challenge.” Diggs grinned, her speech meant that no other would interfere.
Derek Johnson then stepped in between the two. Looking apologetically back at his sister, he turned to face Diggs. “Renee is pregnant with twins. I cannot allow her to risk her mate’s line in the circle. I will be her Champion and answer the challenge for her.” Derek had the law on his side, it was rare but a champion could be used when the Alpha was injured or incapacitated. He looked over at his mate and saw the shock and fear on her face at what he was doing. Clearly, he had done this without talking to her first.
Renee turned her brother to her and gave him a hug. “This is not your fight, Derek.” She took his face in her hands and kissed his cheek. “I’m a big girl now, and you have your own family to protect. Don’t risk them for me. I need you to let me do this.” Tears ran down Derek’s face as he wrestled with the thought of her loss. Renee hugged him tight and whispered in his ear. “Promise me one thing, my brother. I will never submit to him. If I cannot resist and he goes to mate me, I need you to finish the job and end my life.”
“NO! Don’t ask me that.”
Renee hugged him again. “I cannot live with myself as a mate to such a man. I cannot bring up my cubs with him. I cannot live in a Pack that mocks everything my mate died for- that no matter how hard it is, you have to do what is best for your people. Gary understood that; we both knew when we left the caves that he was a dead man. His sacrifice changed everything in our relationship with humans. My sacrifice will change everything among our people. After I am done, the Alphas will agree to the changes we need to live and thrive in the open. You MUST do this.”
Derek cupped her face and kissed her forehead. “Our parents would be so proud of what you have become. Kick his ass, Renee, I don’t want to lose you.” He put his head to her forehead. “I couldn’t live with myself if you were with him. I promise I won’t let him mate you.”
“I love you, Derek. Take care of Amanda and raise strong children and a loving Pack.” With that, Derek left the circle. He returned to Amanda, taking her into a tight embrace as he apologized. She had kept the bond open and knew what she asked, she was holding back tears with all her strength.
Renee turned back to Diggs. “I will not have a champion, and this challenge will NOT end in submission. It shall be to the death.” Stanley nodded. “What exactly do you think my death will achieve, Stanley? Has your neanderthal brain thought that far ahead?”
Diggs walked forward, his claws lengthening and his eyes blazing gold as his wolf pushed up in his consciousness. “I will have my revenge. I will take everything you have- your title, your territory, your money, and your Pack.”
Amanda laughed so hard she had to put her hands on her knees to catch her breath. “You are a fool. I don’t WANT to be Alpha and I never have. You make a common mistake in thinking that which motivates you also motivates others.” She gestured at her pack members in the stand. “My pack members risked their lives to free me to challenge Luis because I was their only chance at escaping him. I got the job because the asshole needed killing, and I kept it because the Pack needed me. I’ve been trying to give up the job ever since.”
Stanley stared at her like she was growing a horn on her head. “There is no ‘territory.’ We’ve been hiding in caves on public lands and our Pack property has been auctioned off. I’d have to buy land to get a territory.” She looked over at the military leaders who were observing from the stands. “Captain Post, can you enlighten the Alphas as to the contents of the will I executed this morning?”
Captain Post strode forward, in his dress uniform and Judge Advocate General’s insignia. “Certainly, Alpha Johnson. The will you signed states that upon your death, any remaining Santa Fe Pack property will be auctioned and combined with the cash accounts. The estate will then be divided evenly among the original Pack members, with your share being divided between Kelly, Andy and Linda. The funds will be placed into personal accounts for them so they can take them to whatever Pack they join.”
Renee turned to him in triumph. “Sucks, doesn’t it? You would kill a pregnant woman on live TV and you won’t see one fucking cent out of it. Nice strategy.”
Stanley paced back and forth. “It isn’t about the money, I want your pack.” The Alphas could tell a lie when they heard it, and this was a whopper, but they kept silent. “They will join me and have a home.”
Renee laughed even harder. “Really? Let me show you something. All members of the Santa Fe Pack, please stand up.” A large contingent stood, the original members plus all the members of Diggs’ pack that had left him. “Now, everyone who has not already been invited to join another Pack upon my death please remain standing.” Every single person sat down. “You see? There is no Pack for you to take over. If my bond breaks with them, another will form with a new Alpha that isn’t you. They chose honorable and selfless men who understand that being an Alpha isn’t about YOU. Get it yet? They get to choose. A good Alpha doesn’t need to threaten or intimidate. He protects them, serves them, supports them and in exchange they follow him. That has never been you.” The other Alphas smiled, they didn’t understand what she was doing but they loved watching Stanley self destruct.
Diggs shook with rage, his wolf taking over in hybrid form, anxious to tear into the one who had thwarted every one of his plans.
Renee smiled and looked at him, standing with her feet shoulder width apart and arms crossed under her breasts. “Oh, and Stanley? You can’t keep your Pack with threats. That Pack you still have, you won’t have for much longer. You see them up there? How many of them will find another Alpha now that they know how easy it is? How many have already found one? You can’t stop it. Phones, internet, videos- there are too many people who have made friends or found extended family this weekend. Here is my revenge on you... that which you desire the most will dissolve in your hands, and the whole world will see your humiliation.”
“FIGHT ME!” Diggs was furious she hadn’t even stripped, much less changed.
“No. You can kill me if you wish, but I will not give you the honor of a fight. You don’t deserve it.” She stood impassively, staring him down as he paced back and forth.
“FIGHT!” He shifted smoothly to his wolf and ran, leaping past her, his claws leaving deep furrows across her left shoulder and chest as he went past. Instead of fighting, she stood up and glared at him, arms crossed and feet apart. He rushed her this time, putting his shoulder into her chest and knocking her down. His teeth ripped a chunk from her stomach as he pulled away.
“Asshole.” Renee stood up and resumed her defiant position, blood now oozing down her sides from the wounds. “Let us know when you find your dignity.”
Seeing red, Diggs attacked again and again, hoping to goad her into fighting back. Five times she got up and stood back in her place, silently challenging him to continue. The Alphas watched in horror, unable to interfere. Her brother was being held back by two other Alphas, and Robert was on his knees, unable to watch the woman he loved being slowly torn apart without resistance.
Finally Renee was unable to rise back up, she was bleeding from a dozen places and the last attack had taken out her right hamstring. She was pale and covered with blood, and a severed artery was pumping her life into the desert sand below her. She knew this wouldn’t go on much longer, and she prayed she would have the strength to finish.
Diggs changed back to human form, her blood coating his face and chest. She sat on the ground looking at him with contempt. “You won’t fight, so you will die.” He shifted to his wolf and leaped for her throat.
He was so focused on finishing her he didn’t see the wolf streaking into the circle until he was in the air, and then it was too late. The chocolate colored wolf was an adolescent, nowhere near his size, but his eyes blazed with righteous fury. He knocked him away moments before Diggs would have taken her throat. “KEVIN, NO!!!” Kelly rushed down from the stands just in time to see Diggs recover and pounce on the young wolf, his jaws crushing his front leg as he shook his head from side to side. Kevin howled in agony as Diggs released his leg. He ripped open his neck just as Kelly entered the circle.
Diggs changed back to human form. Looking at Renee, he saw her head had fallen back and knew it was just a matter of time until she was dead. He could extract a particularly satisfying revenge while he was waiting for her to die. “Kelly, your mate had courage but not judgment. I had the right to take his life for interfering in my challenge.” Kelly was sobbing, her hand pressing on her future mate’s neck as she tried to stem the flow of blood. Diggs stood over them both, he raked his eyes over the young woman who had betrayed him and his pack. “Stay with us Kevin, as your last memory will be me taking your mate.” Diggs pushed her shoulders down on top of his chest and ripped her dress and underwear off with his other hand. “You should have just kept quiet and I would have let you go when the next piece of ass came along.” He lined up with her entrance and pushed forward, laughing as she screamed her pain and humiliation.
His laugh was cut off as his throat was torn away. Renee spit the chunk flesh out of her teeth before shifting back to human form and collapsing. “She’s Pack, and the penalty for rape in my pack is death. Asshole.” Blackness overcame her as she bled out onto the stage.
Alpha Robert Hastings sat behind his mate, encouraging her in between contractions. The room was empty except for the Pack doctor Terry and his nurse and mate Wendy. Renee was exhausted from fourteen hours of labor.
She smiled when he told her he could see the head of the first cub. She took quick breaths as she worked through the pain until the next contraction. “Alpha, the next push will be it, I need you to bear down and keep pushing until I tell you to stop.” When the contraction hit, she did her best, Robert encouraging her as she tried to crush each of his fingers. “And he’s out!” Renee collapsed back onto Robert’s chest, as Doc laid the crying infant on her chest.
She was euphoric, checking out her his 10 tiny fingers and toes. He was small and perfect and had a shock of his fathers’ brown hair on his head. “His name is Gary Robert Hastings.” Robert hugged her and kissed her neck. The doctor cut the cord and handed her off to her friend to do the checks of his vitals and to clean him up. Wendy was glad that Renee had given birth now, in another week her husband was going to make her stay home so their triplets wouldn’t be stressed by her time on her feet.
The next contraction interrupted their moment of joy. Doc checked again. “Time for the second one, when I tell you push.” Her daughter came out quickly, and was soon on her chest being checked over. She was also perfect with longer black hair. “Her name is Kelly Amanda Hastings.” Doc finished all his checks while the babies were cleaned and bundled. Renee had some time to clean up and change her gown while a pair of Omegas replaced the bedding. When she was back in bed, Crystal let Michelle crawl up in bed with them as her new brother and sister were returned to her arms. Robert got up, kissing each member of his family, and went out to announce the births to his pack.
Hundreds of cheers greeted the news of the births of the Next Alphas. The party would last all night, except for the dozens of men who had to take their pregnant mates home early.
The Gila Pack was experiencing a baby boom, as were many of the other Packs. The peace treaty and the Alphas agreeing on a Were Council and standard rules had given them hope.
Renee looked down at the cubs in her arms and the adopted daughter asleep on her lap and smiled. She lay back and fell into a contented slumber.