“Happy birthday Kairi, my love! I have plans for us tonight!” I loved her, but I couldn’t but groan at her voice.
My best friend Natasha busts through the door of my office, though technically, it’s not really my office. Technically, it belongs to my brother’s mate and Luna, but since he has yet to find her, I’ve been the acting Luna for the Willowhaven pack. It was tough balancing high school and my Luna duties, but once I settled into the additional role, I was able to establish a routine. I was able to finish high school early with extra credits this past December and now five months later, I’ve been able to attack my online college courses part time and my duties with gusto. But in the eyes of my best friend, none of that is as important as my eighteenth birthday.
I laugh at her excitement and outburst as she sinks into the buttery soft leather couch in the office. “You come here celebrating my birthday empty handed? Where’s my cupcake? Where’s my present?” I joke as I file away some last minute paperwork that came through my email. I start to open the mail that was piled at the corner of the desk. Sorting through what was junk mail and what was important.
“You know me. I’m never empty handed. Your present is already in your room and you’ll get your cupcake before we go out tonight. We’re going to FANG, and you can’t say no, because your brother said you’re going.”
I roll my eyes at her declaration. She’s been trying to get me to go to FANG, my brother’s in town club that is exclusive to only werewolves. FANG is one of his largest sources of income that he also used most of the proceeds to fund programs for the pack. It is the only werewolf club of its caliber and is widely popular with other packs since it is considered neutral ground. Anyone caught fighting or settling pack business during operation would not only get a harsh reprimand from my brother, but then their personal alpha would then get involved.
My brother is one of the youngest alphas in North America, and yet, he seems to carry the most respect among the other alphas. I am so proud of what he’s had to accomplish in the four years he’s been an alpha.
“I thought Julien was coming back sometime today?” I am clinging to anything that could get me out of going to the club tonight. Clubbing just wasn’t and would never be my thing. Outside of the night of the grand opening, I haven’t stepped into FANG for the purpose of partying. I don’t consider going there to help with inventory when the club was closed as something that should count. For argument’s sake, at least.
My hope is that Natasha would be so enamored with the return of her boyfriend and my brother’s Beta, Julien, that she won’t want to go out tonight at all. It would mean that she forgot about celebrating my birthday, but for my sanity, I was willing to make that sacrifice. For their love of course.
“Fat chance, I know what you’re doing, and it’s not going to work!” Natasha jumps up from the couch and comes around the desk. She bends over so that her face is level with mine and places her hands on the armrests of my chair. “Julien is going tonight as well, your brother will obviously be there, along with most of the pack. We just want to ring in your birthday special for the girl who helped Alpha keep this pack together. Are you really going to spoil the love that everyone has for you by not showing up.”
I hate that she is playing towards my guilt. She is right though, I’d feel like a little brat knowing that people wanted to show their appreciation and I didn’t show up because of the location. Maybe I could get away with showing up and leaving after an hour; that way, everyone would be happy and I could hurry home and curl up in some pajamas and watch a movie. I sigh at the plan I form in my head and can only pray that I can pull it off.
“Fine, I’ll be there with a smile on my face. But can we please not talk about it anymore?” Tasha looks satisfied that I won’t fight her on my attendance to my own party and backs up from my desk. I return to opening the mail and I groan at the invitation that’s in my hand.
The Alpha Summit is held every four years, just outside of Washington, D.C. Every Alpha will be in attendance, along with their Lunas, and Beta pair. Usually, it was just a day or two where grievances and pack alliances were forged and reinstated. And from what my brother once told me about the first summit he attended, it was really just a social gathering and a chance for the alphas to brag about their pack. Sure work got done, but to Lincoln, it seemed secondary.
Ugh, just the thought of telling him made me want to cringe. He won’t be thrilled at the prospect of making the trip again.
“What’s that?” Natasha asked as I set the invite aside.
“The invitation to this year’s Summit. Linc already told me he wanted me there with him.”
“Hey maybe we’ll meet your mate there! That would be awesome right?” I furrowed my brows together in confusion.
“We? What are you talking about Tash?” I finish throwing away the junk mail and lean back in my chair. Though she was going out with Julien, she wasn’t his mate. Though she wasn’t eighteen yet, it was obvious that her and Julien weren’t mates. Julien would have known by now if she was his mate within six months to her eighteenth birthday. Several of the older generation, both of their parents included, look down on their relationship. Not because of the obvious four year age gap, but because everyone knows that they aren’t mates.
Even facing me now, Natasha looked like she spilled the beans on something she was supposed to keep a secret. Or at the very least away from me as the acting Luna.
“Umm. Tonight, Julien and I are marking each other...”
“Absolutely not!” I interrupted my friend. “I forbid it! You’re not even eighteen yet. You cannot make this decision because you miss your boyfriend. He is not your mate!” I realized too late that a little of my inherited alpha command was slipped into my yelling. It was nowhere near as strong as my brother’s command, since I wasn’t mated. However, to a weaker wolf it was just as good.
I took a deep breath and calmed myself down by counting to ten.
“Tasha, you’re my best friend and I can’t let you do that. What if you mark each other and you meet your mate? You’re going to long for him until he marks another. Or worse yet, you know that Julien is a born high ranking wolf. If he meets his mate, he will always long for her. No matter what. I can see you doing something so foolish, but not Julien; Julien should know better.” As soon as the words are out of my mouth I instantly feel the regret slinking over my entire body as if someone poured tar from overhead.
Natasha’s eyes show the hurt that I didn’t mean to inflict, before quickly fading into a murderous look.
“You think I’m foolish and stupid? Because I’m not a ranked wolf? Is that it?” I knew that Natasha had harbored insecurities about not being a ranking wolf. She fell somewhere in the middle. Once, Natasha had the opportunity to train as an Enforcer within the pack, as all wolves do when they reach of age. However, she said she was meant for more than being a fighter, and didn’t complete the training. No, saying she didn’t complete it, implies that she at least started the training. It is my one pet peeve of Natasha, she always expected things, rankings included, to be handed to her. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if it had been her that suggested this stupid idea to Julien first.
“Tash, you know that’s not what I meant to say.”
“No, you always say what you mean, so you meant it. You know what, happy birthday. I may see you tonight, I may not. I might be doing something foolish, so you never know.” Natasha turns so quickly that I didn’t have enough time to get out of my chair and catch her. I mentally vow to apologize to her before we go out tonight. Knowing Natasha, she just needs a an hour or two to cool down.
I sigh and pick the invitation back up and walk across the hall to my brother’s office. An engraved placard was mounted on the door. Alpha Lincoln Elijah Samuels’ door was closed and I took a moment to remember when his placard was placed on the office that used to belong to our father.
While werewolves do have considerably longer lifespans than our human neighbors, we are in no way immortal, nor are we immune to disease. As such, my mother died due to complications of contracting tularemia. No one knew how she contracted it, but all of a sudden she was burning up with a fever, and stopped eating. She could have been treated, but my mother was stubborn and didn’t tell anyone that she wasn’t feeling good at all. By the time anyone realized what was going on, our doctors said she was too far gone for treatment. When my dad returned from a neighboring pack, a few days later, he died of a broken heart.
A week after their joint funeral, Lincoln completed the ceremony to take over as alpha of the pack. He was twenty, I was fourteen and was in the middle of my freshman year in high school.
Now four years later, the Willowhaven pack was the strongest and richest it’s ever been.
I wrestle myself from my musings and knock on the door.
“Come in,” Lincoln’s deep voice resonates through and signals me to come in.
“Hey, it’s almost your favorite time of year.” I say upon entry, so I don’t give him a chance to say happy birthday. I’m still a little ticked off that they’re practically holding me hostage to go to FANG tonight. “The Alpha’s Summit invitation came in the mail. It’s in two weeks.” I hand over the invite and he glowers at the small piece of paper now in his hand.
“I’m not going.” I roll my eyes at his attempt to challenge me. He may be my older brother, but we were both born with the alpha gene. It doesn’t always work that way, where siblings of one or even two alphas are both born with the gene. However, the moon goddess and the proverbial genetic pool blessed both of our parents with children that had the dominant alpha gene.
Of course, they didn’t feel quite so blessed when they were refereeing fights and disagreements between us, despite our age difference. I was a scrappy little girl that didn’t take too kindly to Lincoln’s assertiveness. Back then, I felt that I was every bit of an alpha wolf as he was even though he was six years older than me. However, once I gave in that his age and experience was what made him an admirable leader, I was able to work it towards my benefit. It was just before my tenth birthday that I began following Linc, not to torment and pester my big brother, but to learn and train with the future alpha of Willowhaven pack. I remember being grateful when Linc finally acknowledged that I could be seen as his equal and not just his bratty little sister.
The mere fact that he thought he would win this challenge was irritating.
“Yes you are. According to the attached agenda, The alphas want to discuss having a mixer of sorts on neutral ground for unmated wolves to find their mates. I think it should be hosted at FANG. They also plan to discuss the hunters, and reports that some rogues have joined up with them. And besides, you told me earlier in the year that you wanted me to join you. Are you really saying you’re sending me on my own now?”
“See, and there it is. There’s no reason for us to go. I can let them know FANG can host this party. I don’t mind, excellent suggestion. And we don’t have a problem with hunters. We practically own the surrounding five towns, with plenty of watchers and guards posted throughout the territory and those towns.”
“Yes and in one of those towns, you own a human club that is often frequented by other towns that you do not own. Including werewolves. You do not know if one of the patrons is a hunter. And besides all of that, what happens when these hunters and rogue hybrid teams barrage through the other packs? Those who do not succumb to injuries or death will gladly help and point them in our direction, because you deigned not to help. Don’t be foolish.”
“I’m not little sister. Calm down. I already knew of the date and already sent the confirmation that the three of us are going.” His statement only gives me another reason to roll my eyes. “I’ll let Julien know when he gets in.”
“Speaking of, Natasha has it set in her head that she’s joining us to the Summit this year.” I make myself comfortable on his sofa, bringing my legs up on the couch to lay on my back. I always loved how Lincoln had our father’s office redecorated when he took over the pack. The ceiling was white and dark grey marble and reminded me of the Renaissance era.
“She knows she can’t. Only mates are allowed to be accompaniments to the Summit.”
“Yes, which is why your Beta and her came up with this asinine idea that they’re marking each other tonight.” I felt bad for ratting out Tasha and Julien. Anyone could see how much they loved each other, Tasha often talked about having his pups and was actively planning their mating ceremony. But in the long run I knew that until they knew for sure that they were true mates their relationship couldn’t progress any further than what it was now. The consequences were too far-reaching. Too many people were involved in the ripple effect that they would cause.
“Absolutely not! They know that they’re not true mates. Natasha hasn’t turned of age to even consider marking Julien as a second chance mate.” I can see Lincoln trying to reach Julien on the mindlink, but when he let out a groan from frustration, I could see that Julien must still be too far from the pack to mind link.
I consider second chance mates for a moment. Whether a mate bond is rejected or a wolf’s mate dies, if it’s happened after the mates meet, there is a such a thing as second chance mates. There’s no fate involved however. It would literally be up to two wolves to make a choice to form the bond themselves. Once the mating ceremony is completed, the bond is then blessed by the goddess and the wolves will experience the tingles that comes with the mate bond.
Lincoln runs his hand down his face. I think it’s absolutely stupid and selfish on their end that Lincoln has to try to stop them from making such an asinine mistake. I roll my eyes to the ceiling, knowing that Natasha may have been right when I said that she was foolish.
“Just talk to him when he gets back and reports to you. Let him concentrate on returning back.”
“You can’t deal with this?” Lincoln tries the puppy dog look, knowing good and well it doesn’t work on me. I needed more than a pretty face to sway me, even if it was my brother’s.
“I tried, but Natasha was being over dramatic and played victim. I may have been a little too harsh but they need to know the truth! I’m not going to get through to her. But coming from you, his best friend and alpha, he won’t be able to not listen.”
“Alright, I’ll take care of it…birthday girl!” My brother’s grin is from ear to ear as he hops out of his chair and pulls me into a hug. “You want your birthday punches now or later?”
“I’m going to say neither, considering I’m still mad that I’m being forced to go to this thing in the first place.”
“I just want you to enjoy yourself baby sister. You’ve taken so much on at an early age. Between our parents, school, and the pack, you’ve grown up far faster than I think you should have, you know? I don’t want you to always take yourself too seriously, and tonight is a good reminder.” Lincoln pulls me into a hug and I can’t help but nod into his chest.
“I’ll keep that in mind big brother. I’m gonna go do some work for school and then get ready for tonight.” I give him a quick peck on the cheek and then turn to leave the office. I wave behind me and exit the room. I should have reminded him to not forget to speak to Julien, but I’m positive that he won’t forget.
As I walk the path down the bright hallways to the stairs that will take me to my bedroom, I pass many of my fellow pack members. All of them acknowledge me with a small wave, nod, or smile. Only a few say hey, most being so focused on their tasks or heading to parts unknown to me. None of them call me Luna, nor treat me as the alpha female, thankfully. When Lincoln made the announcement that I would be taking over those duties to help further the pack in the absence of his mate, many of them tried to call me Luna. And I was quick to shut that down.
I never intended to take over the pack as the alpha female, but it was for the good of the pack and it needed to be done. I helped my brother and Julien with the administrative stuff so that they can concentrate on training our enforcers and warriors. I also aided in the pack infirmary or the nursery when necessary. I didn’t want to make my brother’s mate feel uncomfortable if the pack were calling me Luna by habit. That would have just been cruel in my eyes, especially since I hoped I would love her like a sister.
Escaping to the solitude and serenity of my room, I turn on my oil diffuser that already has the heady scent combination of sandalwood and cedar, with a hint of grapefruit oils. The idea of this scent has been plaguing me for the past week or so and I spent days finding the right combination to replicate what I imagined in my head.
My desk was functionally littered with my Macbook pro laptop and books from school. Lincoln and Natasha could never understand how my desk in the Luna’s office could be so immaculate and pristine, but my personal desk was a mess. Though I always argued that while it looked a mess to them, I knew where everything was, and my chaos was organized for the only person who would be using it. Me.
They never understood, that while I was currently the only one occupying and using the office, it wasn’t mine. I was temporary. I only redecorated enough to erase the pain of my mother’s lingering presence in there. My personal space is separate in order for the transition to be smooth, and that is how I like it.
I begin to do my work, breezing through my assignments and turning them in online. My brother started his college degree at State University, but when tragedy struck our pack, and ultimately our family he halted his studies and took the lead role as alpha. Once I started helping out as well, he thought about continuing his education in the similar way, online like I am now. But, he keeps putting off his degree. He’s definitely my biggest supporter and has pushed me to be diligent in pursuing my degree in business administration. We both think that it will come in handy with building wealth for our pack and whichever pack I could end up in.
There’s a knock at my door, and when I look up at the clock, I notice that it’s later than I thought it would be and I should have started getting ready at least an hour ago if I wanted to be on time. I groan as I get up from my chair and stretch my body out from sitting in one position too long. As I walk to the door I wonder what I’m supposed to wear and then remember that Tasha had said that my outfit was on my bed. The thought that it’s something too revealing makes me cringe.
I’m also sad because thinking of Natasha reminds me of our fight and I know she’s still mad at me. If she wasn’t, she would have been here to ensure that I was getting ready for my birthday party.
When I reach the door, I barely register that the scent from my oil diffuser seems stronger than usual. I pause and smile at the woodsy scent before opening the door to my bedroom.
My eyes widen when for a split second that it’s not the oil diffuser that I’d been smelling this whole time, it was my mate. My heart was pounding as if it was an entry in the Kentucky Derby as our eyes met.