Chapter 1 - Fallon
I stood off to the side of the crowded clearing watching many of the girls simpering and batting their eyelashes at the males walked by. I didn’t understand the point. We lived in a patriarchal society, and while you only rose as high as your mates position, mates are fated, not chosen on superficial appearances or to gain a better place in the pack. Pushing out your boobs, twirling your hair and giggling would not force a mating. The best these girls could hope for is to be a paramour of high powered male and I didn’t see why you would put yourself in a position of possible heartbreak when you knew one of you would eventually find your mate. We could love but it was a hollow in comparison to a mates love that was all consuming. I’d decided years ago that I didn’t want to settle for anything less.
I’d grown up watching the relationship between my parents. They were both powerful individuals in their own right prior to meeting, but they used their bond to support each other and Mom told me they were infinitely stronger together. They were each others halves, they made an impressive unit, balancing each others strengths and weaknesses to support the other. Mating was our reward for the hard life of a shifter. We were trained from the time we could walk to be strong, along with needing to protect our secret from the human world while living and sometimes working beside them. Along with the danger of being discovered, there was infighting between the different species and even within the different packs. It was harsh world. Knowing that your one true love was out there that would complete you made it all worth it.
I shook my head at an overly agressive female rubbing against our Alpha’s son, searching the faces in the crowd hoping to see someone I knew. I spotted my brother Finn, speaking with a beautiful man. He towered over my brother who was over 6 feet and had to be one of the biggest men I’d ever seen. His thick black hair hung loosely in waves just past his shoulders. I could see from his profile his face was chiseled with a strong jaw covered in a few days growth. Whatever they were talking about neither of them were happy. Looking away when a bright pink dress near the desert table caught my attention, when the girl moved I noticed a lonely cinnamon roll left on a tray. I made my way over smoothing my hands smoothing the pale blue dress I’d been forced to wear. I was more of a combat pants, boots and t-shirt kind of girl.
As I ate my cinnamon roll a female with a strong rose perfume came up beside me, my wolf senses wrinkling and causing me to sneeze. I looked at her wondering if she was trying to attract a mate or repel them. She was beautiful with long hair so light it was almost white. At my sneeze she gave me an apologetic smile her eyes a pretty mix of green and grey. From that smile I knew she was trying to over power her scent. I leaned in whispering ‘If you aren’t ready to mate, be sure to keep your hands full. I’ve heard physical contact is even more powerful than scent.’ She nodded grabbing a few cookies as I leaned to the side pouring us both a cup of coffee and holding one out so she could grab it with her free hand. She smiled gratefully and I moved away from her hoping the scent would clear. I wandered over to my brother rubbing my nose burning from the scent of her perfume.
As I walked up the beautiful man looked at me his nostrils flaring as his sapphire eyes narrowed at me. His mouth curling into a faint snarl. My eyes widened at that and I gave my brother a quick look silently asking if I was interrupting. He raised his eyebrows at me, with a quick shrug that told me he was also perplexed at the reaction. A provocatively dressed woman came up to us and she wrapped an arm protectively around the man and gave me a death glare. She was obviously a paramour staking her claim. Mated pairs had no need of making such a statement, there was no cheating or interest in any other once we met our mate. I gave my brother a look that clearly said What the Fuck? He shrugged his shoulder again telling me he had no clue for the bizarre reactions. I pasted a fake smile on my face and asked my brother ‘Have you seen Mom or Dad? I’m ready to head out.’
The man spoke up his tone sharp and condescending ‘Do you know nothing about protocol. No one is allowed to leave until the King has left.’
Finn cleared his throat ‘My sister is a Protector, she has a shift on the border tonight. She wouldn’t have come had it not been a mandatory function for all. As I was saying earlier, there’s been a higher number of attacks at the perimeter of our lands by a neighbouring clan of cougars.’ My brother explained then watched as I rubbed my nose again trying to clear it of the rose perfume. ‘Why do you keep rubbing your nose.’ Finn asked.
I shook my head at him and said ‘Someone bathed in a strong rose perfume by the food tables. I can’t get the smell out.’ I saw the man visibly relax at that but there was still an underlying current of tension running through him. This guy may be beautiful but he was strange.
The man gave a sniff of disdain ‘You’re putting yourself and the other members of the pack at risk having to worry about having your back as well as their own.’ I saw Finn’s eyes widen at the comment and meet mine knowing I was one of the strongest in the pack regardless of gender.
Done with the conversation I told Finn ‘Let them know I left if you see them. I’ll talk to you later.’ Giving the couple a bright fake smile and walked away heading to the door pushing the annoyance of the man’s words away.
It had taken over 2 days for the rose scent to finally clear from my senses after the gathering of the packs. I’d had to sit out until my scent had cleared and it was good to be back out patrolling. I looked up at the sky breathing in the crisp spring air noticing a hint of rabbit and the rich aroma of the earth. I knew I was downwind from any possible threats coming from the west so I made my way back into the forest to circle around the perimeter my senses alert.
It was nearly the end of my shift, the moon low in the sky went I smelled electricity in the air and skitter under my skin. I tentatively walked on, scenting the wind catching a hint of ammonia that was part of the cougar marking scent. I communicated to my commander through the link to let him know my location as I followed the trail cautiously. I was still hidden by the trees when I spotted a pack of 4 cougars that were hiding just outside my sector. I clicked my comm 4 times to let them know how many I had in my sights. I heard our commander Dion come through my earbud telling me that they received my message and were sending back up. I knew Liam and Quinn were monitoring the two sections flanking me but the problem was whether or not this was a diversion to pull all our resources off another sector. I gave 2 long clicks with 4 short telling him I would follow but not to pull the two others off their areas and to have a teams sent to all three sectors. I was sure this was a timed attack so I did 3 long clicks. I continued watching them and let them breach without alerting them we were aware of the plot. With our increased hearing we had come up with a clicking system that was undetectable to any shifter nearby.
Staying upwind I followed them at a distance until I felt the presence of Joe and Aiden at my back. They were in their wolf form and I quickly stripped out of my uniform shifting into my wolf form. I gave my red fur a shake then made eye contact with my companions. We didn’t need to communicate the plan, we had all trained together for years and we all knew the plan before they’d even left the compound.
Joe split to the right, while Aiden took the left and I continued straight behind them. It was about a mile before they became aware of my presence. They turned as one seeing me and came running towards me at full speed as I stood my ground. As anticipated, Joe and Aiden sprang take out the two flanking cougars as the middle two were focused on me. I knew they could out jump me, while we were stronger by nature. I assessed the two coming at me and while I knew the younger would be stronger the older would be more cunning. I heard Aiden give a victory bark but knew he wouldn’t be able to reach us before they attacked me. I hunched down and growled at the older cougar challenging him. He screamed in response and the younger slowed his pace in acknowledgement.
The older cougar hit me trying to get a grip on my neck as I ducked and twisted to lessen the blow and to strike his under belly. I got a good chunk but I knew it would’t be enough to slow him down. We disengaged, snarling and growling as we circled each other looking for a weakness. We all had them, the trick was to not let your opponent know what it was or make them believe you had one you didn’t. I allowed my instincts to take over and pretended to not guard my left side. I was ready when the cougar struck again leaping to the side and taking the bite on my front leg. I knew he’d broken it, ignoring the pain I used his grip to my advantage allowing him to pull me into him. Before he could release his grip of me and go for the killing blow, I twisted, ripping into his belly pulling his entrails out in one movement. He released me immediately as he shifted back to human form.
I stood on three paws whining to make the younger male think I was easy prey. As I expected, the other male attacked landing on my back, I flipped slamming him on the ground knocking the wind out of him. I stood back up putting pressure on all 4 legs gritting my teeth through the pain. He got back up immediately, diving towards my good leg hoping to prevent me from standing upright. As he lunged I grabbed him by the scruff and tossed him against a tree hearing his back break. I walked up to where he lay inert on the ground, using my jaws I ripped out his spine at the the base of his neck. I sat on my haunches panting through the pain as the final cougar morphed back from fur to skin, watching Joe and Aiden making their way to me.
It was about 15 minutes before we heard the ATV’s making their way to us. I’d be taken to medical, where my arm would be set before I could shift back. I wasn’t concerned, knowing my arm would be healed in a few days and be as strong as prior to breaking it. Another perk of being a shifter. I sat watching Aiden shift back unharmed as he spoke to Cam telling him where to find the other two bodies. Cam told the two on the other recovery ATM’s to go ahead as he and Aiden piled the two bodies on the back of the machine. Once they were strapped down, Aiden came up to me giving my head a rub saying he’d go pick up my clothes and meet me back at the mess. I gave him a nod, leaping carefully on to the back of the ATV with Joe as Cam turned it around to head back to the security compound.
After my bones were set I was allowed to shift back, pull on some clothes and my arm was casted. While the cast dried I walked to the mess to join the guys. There were only a few female protectors in our clan and I looked around for Lila feeling disappointed when I didn’t see her. Aiden waved me over showing me a plate on the table in front of an empty chair. I smiled and sat down as our Alpha and his son made his way to our table. He told me that Quinn and Liam and their team had each taken down a pack of 4 intruders as well. They’d been on the other end of their zone when Dion informed them regarding her alert.
It had been a coordinated attack by the cougars and after thinking about it he suspected that the Torino’s Alpha expected maybe two teams would get captured but never would’ve anticipated all 3 teams to be caught especially not the ones in my sector. They’d been able to id a few of the males and the older of the two I’d fought was the Torino Alpha. He had a reputation of being a sly fighter, who’d obviously underestimated me thinking I’d be a weaker opponent being female.
My Alpha was one of few leaders of any species that allowed his females to take an active role in protecting the pack. Most females were trained solely for defense and protection of their young. Our Alpha’s father was killed when he was still in his teens, his mother had been a big part of holding on to the pack and guiding her son. He knew females were just as strong as any male and insisted all females be trained the same as any man. Only a few of us had chosen the position of Protector, but the option was there for every member of the pack. He and his son Kean who would was referred to as Future Alpha were meeting with the King and the other Alpha’s in the Rocky Mountain area to discuss the issues of the cougars. He thanked me for moving so quickly to alert everyone of the threat.
His words had taken some of the sting out of my aching arm. I smiled broadly at them both as they walked towards the food tables.