“Daniela, sometimes you don’t get to choose the way your future plays out. I know you’re anxious, but I promise, once you find your mate, everything will change. You’ll feel it deep down in your very soul. It’s not as bad as you’ve made it out to be in your head.” My father scolded me as I rolled my eyes at yet another speech about my role as the Alpha’s daughter.
He sat across from me at our kitchen table as my mother hummed in agreement from the stove. “Let’s not forget, I wasn’t exactly your biggest fan when we first met Eli.”
My mom bumped him with her hip as she placed the plate of pancakes down onto the table before taking her seat. The smell was heavenly, and I couldn’t stop myself from filling my plate full of eggs and bacon before towering a stack of pancakes and smothering them in syrup. I devoured them as I listened lazily, only half hearing them. My mother’s soft words pulled me from my food tunnel vision.
“Daniela? Did you hear me?” I looked up to see her deep chestnut eyes staring back at me, crinkling as she smirked at me. She knew I wasn’t listening.
“Sorry, what’d you say mom?” I shrugged apologetically as my dad let out a quiet laugh.
“Never fails. You get food in front of her and you’ll lose her Selene.”
I narrowed my eyes and huffed teasingly before turning my attention back to mother. “I said, what time are you leaving today?”
“Oh, I think Ki said I had to be ready by 11.” I checked the clock on the wall. 9a.m. I had plenty of time.
My mother read my thoughts instinctively, knowing me all too well. “You know you can’t just roll out of here in leggings and a t-shirt Daniela. You need to be sure to put your best foot forward. You represent us to all the other packs. You have to show it. You know that.”
“I know mom. As much as I hate dealing with them, I know I have to treat them the same as all the others. They’re just such a pain sometimes.”
My father scoffed as his sage colored eyes met mine, muttering under his breath. “Sons of...”
“Eli!” My mother interrupted, her eyes wide as she scolded both of us. “I know they tend to be more difficult than the others, but you both need to let it go. We will never get past this if she doesn’t learn to see them differently.”
“I’m sorry mom, but Dad’s right. The Ember pack as a whole actually isn’t terrible, but Alpha Blake is just so gruff, and his sons are just as bad.”
My father’s eyes looked away momentarily and Iinstantly regretted mentioning them. It had barely been a year since my brother had died, and we’d all had to adjust in our own way. He was my older brother and my best friend. He’d only been two years older than me.
He was just twenty-one and been out with his friends one night when someone attacked them all behind the bar as they were leaving. Before he could get his knife out, one of his attackers pulled a gun out and shot him in the chest. The bullet was laced with silver and it killed him instantly.
I’ll never forget the moment my father got the call. He broke our dining room table in half trying to control his wolf from breaking out. We couldn’t get him out of the house fast enough before he shifted. The sound of his wolf’s grieving howl was something that will haunt me for the rest of my life. He ran the woods all night for a month before he’d finally let my mom bring him in. It wasn’t good for the pack, she’d said.
I couldn’t believe her strength. I knew she’d felt Wyatt’s loss harder than any of us, not only as his mother, but as Luna. The Alpha and Luna of a pack were connected to each and every member, feeling when they felt extreme emotions, and each loss was like a stab to their own hearts. But she wouldn’t show any of it. She was too busy helping to hold our family and the entire pack together while my father grieved the loss of his son and heir.
I however, fell apart for weeks after it’d happened, completely overwhelmed with the darkness of his loss. I wasn’t sure how to live my life without my first friend, the one I told my every secret to. He was the one who knew me at my best and my worst. He’d been privy to my dreams, but also to all of the darkest corners of me. He was a part of who I was. I’d go days without leaving my bed. I’d lost fifteen pounds just from not eating. I’d barely even begun to put it back on, but I was finally starting to recover physically. I was around five pounds shy of my normal body weight, but it still felt like an entire chunk was still missing from me.
My father had raised Wyatt as his heir, grooming him for his future role as Alpha practically from birth. But Wyatt had taken it in stride. He was ready for it. He was one of the strongest wolves I’d known, only slightly less than my father. They both towered over my mother and me in our 5′7" statures. After he was taken from us, our pack was left without an heir. Without a future as far as some were concerned.
Owen, my father’s beta, had been pushing him for months to begin preparing me for my new future role. Without an heir, my role in our family had suddenly changed. I’d gone from preparing to leave my home and become another pack’s future Luna, to becoming the Luna of my own. I no longer had the leisure of time. I knew my mate would have Alpha blood because of my own. As an Alpha blooded female, it would have been my only option. Alpha blooded males often mated with strong females who were able to be their Luna, but it could be anyone.
Now, it was my responsibility to find my mate as quickly as possible once I’d matured and bring him back to our pack. I’d come of age earlier last year, but nothing had happened yet. I had been around each unmated alpha male in several outside pack meetings with my father since then and hadn’t found him yet.
My father immediately chose to make me our pack’s ambassador, sending me off to each pack to handle minor negotiations as his proxy, only accompanying me if there was a major issue to be discussed. I’d visited a new pack each month, but I still hadn’t found him. I wasn’t complaining in the slightest. I’d reveled in the travel. I took every opportunity I could, thoroughly enjoying the freedom to be on my own, even though I couldn’t be entirely alone.
As the daughter and now only child of the Alpha of one of the larger packs in the area, I was always accompanied by enforcers who watched for potential threats against my life. If another group wanted to take over, they could easily remove me from the equation and challenge my father to take over, or take the easier route and force me to become their mate to inherit the position after my father passed it down to me.
“Just keep your guard up and don’t let them bulldoze you. You’re the future of our pack, and more worthy than any one of them. Do you understand?” My father’s gaze bore into mine as his brow furrowed.
I nearly felt my shoulders slump under the pressure, but I straightened and squared my shoulders pushing my chin up. “Oh I won’t. If they mess with me this time, I’ll be sure to show them who they’re dealing with.” I hadn’t visited the Ember Pack since I’d joined my parents and Wyatt three years ago. I was not looking forward to this reunion, but I was certainly capable of holding my own amongst them.
“That’s my girl.” My father smirked at me proudly, squeezing my hand quickly before standing. He made the room look smaller as he stood, filling it proudly. “You’d better go get ready or you’ll be late.”
I nodded and shoved the last bite of pancakes into my mouth before heading upstairs to shower and dress. I slipped into my dark jeans and pulled on my favorite purple top before slipping into pointed flats. I didn’t need to look like I was trying too hard, but I wanted to be sure I looked presentable. Hell, I was made for this role, minus the hunt for my mate.
I stopped to look in the mirror and smiled at my appearance. Not too shabby. My long blonde hair fell in soft waves framing my face before cascading down my back and my mismatched eyes popped above the purple beneath them. The other kids had teased me growing up, but I loved them. I felt unique, special. My left eye was a pale blue, while my right eye was a warm hazel brown with blue peaking out from beneath. I swiped on some rosy pink gloss and mascara and headed out the door with my bag.
Ki was waiting at the car for me when I walked up. He looked down his nose through his dark aviator sunglasses at me as he leaned back casually against the car, his arms crossed across his lean muscular chest. He wore dark utility pants tucked into lace up boots and a dark tee shirt that enhanced his naturally dark hair and tan complexion. He was one of my father’s top enforcers, and one of the youngest ones in our pack’s history at twenty-five.
I looked around for Zachary but flashed Ki a large smile when I saw he hadn’t arrived yet. I dropped my bag off of my shoulder and stepped just in front of Ki, being careful not to touch him.
He lowered his face to hover just beside my ear, speaking in a whisper. “Hey gorgeous. I missed you last night.”
I felt heat slowly rise in my cheeks as my heart began to beat faster. “I’m sorry. I couldn’t get away. They wanted me to get ready for the trip, so I had to go over everything with my dad to prepare.”
I wanted to reach out and touch him, but I knew I couldn’t before I got in a car with Zachary, or met with a group of alpha males. They’d smell him on me the second they got near me and it would not come across well for appearances.
I flashed another smile at him as he leaned away from me. “But you have me now.”
“You know we have to be careful. Your dad would kill us if he knew we’d been hanging out.” His arms tensed and I could tell he was fighting the urge to touch me as well.
I rolled my eyes and waved my hand dismissively. “You worry too much.”
I stepped away and hopped into the back of the car as Zachary walked up and hopped in to the driver’s seat. Ki followed, sliding into the passenger seat and the car zoomed away. The drive wasn’t terribly long, and I tried to focus on the task ahead of me. Ember pack was our neighbor to the west and some of their members had crossed the border to hunt three weeks in a row. I had to find a way to enforce the border without threatening violence. If I didn’t, it could start a war between the two packs.
I was shaken from my thoughts as we pulled to a stop. I took a calming breath and slid out as Ki opened my door. I shot him a quick smile before turning to walk into their large main house. It stood three stories tall with a wrap around porch. I walked through the large oak door with Zachary and Ki trailing behind me. They walked on each of my flanks just a step behind as I made my way into the large great room. It had two story ceilings with a towering stone fireplace that demanded your attention as you entered.
I looked in front of it to see Alpha Blake towering next to his mate Seraphine and the younger of their two sons, Theo. Blake’s size nearly matched my fathers as he filled the space in front of me. Seraphine stood just at his muscular shoulders, dwarfed between him and her son. I fought the urge to let my jaw drop as my eyes fell to Theo. He stood only an inch below his father and his muscular figure looked as if he’d been cut from stone. Theo had grown considerably since the last meeting here with my family.
I closed the distance and flashed my best smile at Alpha Blake. It was time to put my best foot forward and fake it till I made it.