There's a little bit of strong language in this chapter but that's why I made the story an M rating, but just wanted to give everyone a heads up. Longer Author's note at the end. Enjoy.

Chapter Five-Blood and Peanut Butter

Oh what does it mean? Baby it didn't show 'til 8.15 And should you love another guy I would die to know where you lie to go To see him tonight

-Blood and Peanut Butter, BC Camplight

February 6th, 2005 Waning Crescent

Clearing in front of the Hell House

It looked like he was constipated; the way Henry's face got all screwed up with concentration. Mila smirked to herself and caught Casey's eye who giggled. The air had its own fangs to bite with but all five males were wearing old sweatpants and jeans-nothing else.

"It won't matter if you can change you aren't twenty-five." Mila yelled over to Dallas. Mila and Casey were perched on an exposed rock that was devoid of snow, watching Theo, Adam, Alex, Henry and Dallas try and change at will. According to them the only thing standing between them and victory in the challenge was their inability to change. They were willfully ignoring the fact that only Henry was old enough to take part in the challenge. He had been giving them tips but now he was just watching leaned against a tree with his shirt off even though it was a little below freezing outside. Another werewolf advantage an inability to acutely feel cold because of their higher body temperature.

Mila could hear Theo's bones popping and cracking but he remained as humanoid as ever though perhaps his shivers were actually the beginning of a change but with the temperature being 28 degrees it was more like he was cold wearing only a pair of loose sweatpants.

"The book states that a male who's seen 156 moons is allowed to compete in the challenge."

"Which is twenty-five. I know I'm not a math genius but even I know that." Mila retorted

"Yeah but it doesn't specify when the count begins at birth or when a male makes the first change." Adam added in.

"It's a loophole." Alex said through clenched teeth.

"Doesn't matter." Casey joined in the argument. "The elders will never allow it."

"You'd only be ripped to shreds." Mila paused and made a show of thinking hard. "So Dallas if you die can I have your car?" It was an old Volkswagen Bug that Mila lusted over every time she saw it. Not that her Fiesta didn't do its job she just wanted a new ride.

"I'll be sure to remember you in my will." He snipped back.

Mila phone went off playing a Britney Spears song. She saved that ring tone for Cam as a sort of ironic joke. He hated it but every time he texted she giggled like a girl.

"I gotta go." Mila said texting Cam back that she was on her way. They were supposed to go to someone's party. Their relationship was really just a blur of parties and concerts, completely normal stuff that she was completely enjoying.

"Of course she does." Dallas said his tone scathing.

"The Petite Tsarina has a new plaything." Adam and Alex said in stereo

"I can't wait until she rips it to shreds." Henry joined in.

"Oh fuck you too. You couldn't change at will if you life depended on it and even if you could and you won the challenge we'd be more like to kill you before letting you take on the Taoiseach." Mila yelled back her voice echoing throughout the woods. Haughtily she grabbed her bag and made for the path that would lead her back to her car. Casey had driven with her but she was just going to have to find her own way back home.

How dare they insinuate that I would ever rip Cam to shreds? Fucking bastards, Mila fumed to herself. It hit a deep cord inside of her and the gulf opened up again; the one that stood between her and Cam. That he would only ever know her veneer never her soul.

February 7th, 2005 Waning Crescent

Two Balls and a Pin Bowling Alley

"So you've never been bowling before?" Jake asked incredulously.

"Nope. I use to live in a small logging town not a lot of entertainment going on there." Mila said back feeling like she was a very ignorant child.

"Do they not have bowling in Russia?" Amanda sneered. Mila gave her a glare as did Cam.

"So who wants to go first?" Maggie who was sitting at the computer to enter their names, asked.

"I'll go." Cam said. He grabbed Mila's hand and pulled her up with him. Her feet were in stinky shoes that many others worn before and as far as she could tell the point of the game was to throw a ball at a couple of pins with the object of knocking them all down. "Okay here's how the pros do it." He picked up a black ball with four finger holes.

"You put your fingers through these holes and then put your thumb here, you see?" Mila nodded. "Okay now watch me." She did as he rolled the ball and with a flick of his wrist sent it soaring down the lane until it curved too far to the right and went into the "gutter". Mila couldn't help but laugh.

"So the point isn't to get to the pins, it's to get to the gutter?" Mila couldn't help but laugh.

"Oh that's just mean." Cam said laughing he grabbed her and gave her a big hug. "Your turn."

Mila poked her fingers through the holes and let Cam get behind her to show her the correct movement. She could smell his warm human scent of sweat and some brand of men's body wash that made him smell like an evergreen. It made her stomach jumped to have him so close. The feeling excited her and unnerved her at the same time.

As soon as she was in position she launched the eight pound ball and it landed with a crash on the waxed lane before swerving into the gutter.

"Well if the point is to get it into the gutter you both are doing spectacularly." Dean said. He was a friend of Jake's, already graduated and working at the local newspaper.

Cam drove her home and they sat in comfortable silence.

"Do you believe in magic?" She asked on a whim.

He smiled, "What are you Wiccan?"

"Yes." She said in a voice that clearly indicated no. "And I'm just wondering."

"Yeah I do. I believe in ghosts and that's like magic right?"

"Yeah I guess so. I mean I believe in ghosts too."

"Your house has to be haunted it's like epitome of creepy Victorian mansion." Mila laughed, oh if you only knew the kind of monsters that are haunting my house you'd run screaming.

"I don't know, maybe."

"Can I ever meet your parents?" He asked randomly.

"I don't have parents. I have a parent. Why would you want to meet my mother? I'm doing you a favor by not introducing you, trust me." Lydie would shit a brick if she brought Cameron to the house. He looked a little discomfited but didn't push the issue.

They were arguing the finer points of bowling when they pulled onto Mila's street. Both of them had lost spectacularly.

"Park further up the alley. I don't want my mother spying."

"I had fun tonight." Mila said genuinely meaning it.

"Me too." He leaned over and kissed her full on the mouth his hands slowing making their way up her waist. He was always a gentleman.

"My parents want to meet you." He talks about me to his parents, she thought. It was almost sweet. She avoided talking about Cam to anyone in the pack.

"Really?" She felt so normal. Meeting parents was like the next big step in their relationship.

"Yeah. I have some family coming up from North Carolina for my birthday."

"When's your birthday?" She asked surprised she hadn't thought to ask before.

"February 12th. It'll just be a family party. My mom says I can't invite the gang."

"Okay sure I'll come." Mila said her insides were squirming at the thought but she wasn't a coward. At least that's what she told herself. She gave him one more light kiss and hopped out of the car. Her stomach churning but her head was full of scenarios of meeting parents and them loving her right off the bat. It would be another form of acceptance that she was craving like an addiction.

February 7th, 2005 Waning Crescent

Somewhere in Palatine Mills

The young werewolf's face was hidden by the shadow of the streetlight but he could see the vampires in full. He looked like he was changed when he was older. He had a receding hairline. Though the meeting was planned it didn't mean that the werewolf wasn't worried it was a hoax.

"What's your name?" The werewolf asked suspiciously as the man approached

"Gideon." He said in a light accented voice that the werewolf couldn't place.

"I'm-"

"Oh I already know who you are." He smiled and his fangs were caught in the streetlight and glimmered for a moment.

"How can you promise me an alphaship?" The werewolf got right down to the point.

"Prove the alpha isn't fit to rule." He said in a luxurious voice, like silk.

"We don't have an alpha."

"But you will and it can't be you."

"Fuck you."

"Gladly. But I try not to fuck where I work."

"What are you doing? Why do you care?"

"I have a weakness for uncrowned rulers. You know you can do this and so do I."

"What are you a vampire philanthropist?"

"Yes."

"And you'd want what in return?"

"Just an annual tithe."

"A what?"

"Oh my dear ignorant werewolf, I want you to pay me homage each year. 15,000 a year when you come into your own."

"So what you gonna kill the alpha and give it to me? That's not how it works. They'll just call another challenge and as you've pointed out I won't be the winner."

"I'm sure you'll think of some way of making the alpha unfit to rule. My advice is to get the people against him. Death is a beautiful tool, did you know that? Absolutely beautiful. The last gasping breath, the fear but they all want to die. They all want to know what's on the other side."

"You're fucking bat shit crazy." The werewolf said, walking away from the vampire who was only laughing.

February 8th, 2005 New Moon

On Pointe Ballet Studio

Mila wiped the sweat from her brow and chest. Today's class had been tough but she felt reasonably secure she did well. She waited until all the other students left before approaching Madame Tara.

"So I've thought it over and I'd like to go for the Petrova audition." Mila said holding out the forms.

Tara smiled, "I'm glad. I will put in a good word for you."

"Really? I'd appreciate that. I think I really want this."

"I think you really have a shot."

"But my age…"

"Won't do you any favors but they may overlook it with your skill and stamina."

"What was it like? Being a professional dancer?" If she got accepted to the company she was going to have to choose between her art and her dancing.

"It's exhilarating, it's brutal, it's real and you feel like, like a god on stage with thousands of eyes watching you." Tara's eyes got misty with memory. "Of course there were horrible things about being a dancer. You're pressured to be what they want you to be. It's all very regimented. But I think you'd do well, better than well."

Mila managed a weak smile. "Thanks for thinking about me." AS soon as she handed in those papers she got a dreadful feeling. A feeling that she had before; the day her Art Institute acceptance paper had come in. Theodore had thrown it in the trash thinking it just another piece of junk mail. Mila had to wait until everyone went to sleep before trash diving through their dinner to find the stained envelope. And as soon as she held it in her hands she realized that she was probably never going to get to go there. It was a suffocating feeling like she reached for a handhold and grasped only air.

February 10th, 2005 New Moon

Lydie's Birthday

It was Lydie's birthday and she told anyone who would listen that it was only her thirty-fifth. Mila had done her daughterly duties and gave her mother a present that morning before going to ballet class. Provencal lavender perfume that she was obsessed with. Mila took her mother's thanks and then put the fact that it was her birthday out of her mind.

Lydie would probably call later begging Mila to come up to Bailey's where there was sure to be an informal party of sorts. She didn't want to go and be verbally harassed by politicos. This didn't mean that she wouldn't end up there anyway. It was a magnetic pull.

After Lydie left Mila went to the fridge in search of food, finding none she went upstairs hungry to do some studying for her classes. No way was she risking failing them. She moved the debris on her floor into one corner so she could move more freely then opened the blinds to get the last rays of the day before she settled down to her Art History book which was as entertaining as watching old people cross the street. She stared at the page without seeing for a while thinking.

Finally she threw the book on the ground and opened her laptop. Her quiet search for art schools on the west coast had begun months ago when she realized the very real possibility that she would face opposition when she tried to leave from her mother, and perhaps from the new alpha, with a new leader she wasn't sure what her educational status was. But when a new Alpha was picked her life would be in his hands. He could let her go or he could stop her and Mila got the chills every time she thought about it. Mila closed her laptop after she X-ed out of the Art Institute homepage. It was making her edgy and jumpy.

Mila lay on her bed and watched as the patches of red sunlight faded and it became dark in her room allowing her mind to wander at the kind of life she would have in LA as an artist. Almost to reassure herself she went to the box of hidden things in the crawl space and pulled out her acceptance letter to AI and her photocopy of her Petra Petrova application. She touched them over and over again, read every time over and over again like they were a talisman against the turbulent events happening around her.

But reality kicked in when her cell rang. Making a dive for her bag she caught it just in time.

"Hello." She said muffled by a tee shirt that she landed in.

"Mila come up to Baileys." Lydie said over the phone. Typical.

"I'm studying." Well it was sort of true.

"So? Study tomorrow. Casey's here with Allison. She asked about you-lots of people are." Lydie scolded. She then added on a nice topping of guilt, "It's my birthday and I want you here."

She weighed the possibilities in her head, stay home and starve from lack of food, or go to Baileys and get fed for free. It also wasn't a bad idea to suck up to the challengers because she would be negotiating with one of them before too long over her college dreams. It wasn't a hard choice anymore.

Usually Mila could care less what she looked like. She stayed with one style. Dark clothes that all match each other, easy to pick out. But tonight would be different, she'd be viewed for the first time after being named by three of the challengers, but what exactly did she want to show them? That she was tall and pretty, but not interested? Like they'd believe it, she thought, eyes rolling. Or did she want to present the fact that she was actually available, she was just selective about who she let touch her in any way.

In the end she decided to go with a pair of skin tight black jeans and a tight black shirt with a plunging neck line. She thought her greatest asset was her breasts and wasn't going to go in looking like a nun so as to deter suitors. She was going to show herself off and enjoy saying no to every single one of them because she had a human boy wrapped around her finger. She looked decent, casual like she didn't give her clothes much thought. She left her hair and makeup the way it was; a little smudged and mussed up from a long day.

Baileys was right on Main Street about a ten minute walk from Aventine Hill. As she walked down the hill of Main Street she saw cars she recognized. It was a Thursday night and it was packed with the pack. Casey and Allison and Agnes Taggart, Casey's mother, were sitting at a table with Theo Carey who was Allison's father. Aunt Kitty was bumping elbows with Ryder Demetriou at the bar.

Most of the pack's males weren't over the age of twenty-five, the minimum age for an Alpha. Those who were over twenty-five were competing but some in the pack thought that new blood should be taken in and were hesitant to accept someone they had once been equals to. She looked around at all the faces she grew up with, the Curran's, the Kelly's, the Carey's, the Dares, and realized that none among them had the guts and the muscles to knit them back together again.

Adam and his cronies were smoking in a corner, making eyes at every female ass that walked by, making comments when they saw something particularly good or bad. Theo made up the fifth member of that group but he was tied down by Agnes. In another corner there was Bastian talking with an ill mannered looking man, he tried to catch her eye but she rolled her eyes and turned to the bar trying to get the bartenders attention.

Most of the pack was circulating over Lydie who sat at a corner table like a queen. There was a half-eaten coconut cake in front of her and she was hanging all over Avalon Vermillion. Mila knew she was half in the bottle; she recognized the signs. If she had to bet she'd say Avalon would be joining them for breakfast the next day.

She put in her order of vodka and ginger ale. Though she wasn't twenty-one yet she looked older than she was and no one cared too much at Bailey's. When the drink was placed down in front of her she decided to make her diplomatic rounds. She started with Casey and co. Recently Casey had tried to be Mila's best friend. It wasn't that Mila didn't like Casey it was just that she didn't have much of anything to say to her. Casey was a perfect example of a she-wolf and Mila was acting like a human with all her college dreams. Their similarities ended at their species.

"Hey Case." Casey got up and hugged her which surprised Mila who couldn't process what was happening. They didn't usually hug on meeting. Casey wasn't looking that good. It reminded her of when Casey had given birth to Allison. She had looked hallow in her face and body like her child had sucked the life out of her. But Allison was a normal bubbly Three year old who looked like Theo. Agnes she merely nodded her head to. For some reason Agnes never liked Mila ever since she came from Russia and she couldn't figure out for the life of her why.

They chitchatted about pointless things. But in Casey and Agnes' aura there was an undercurrent of anxiety. The real good stuff they weren't allowed to talk about in public. Apparently Casey was trying to get her high school diploma but Agnes was fiercely against the idea. It had the stink of old conflict and Mila stepped over party lines tactfully, but she was in Casey's favor.

She said her goodbyes and went over to talk to Jonathan Alvey-Daley and his life-mate Ruth Fitzpatrick.

Mila and Ruth gave stiff hugs. Ruth straightened out her sweater set when Mila wasn't looking but John and Mila kissed on both cheeks. "Kahk Dyeh-LAH Vlad Dyadya John?" She asked. (How are you?)

Generally Mila liked John as a person and as a wolf. He was gentle when it mattered and fierce when needed. If he wasn't old she would have given him her full support for the alphaship, but she doubted his strength against younger males. He was also the only other person she could practice her Russian on. Even though her mother lived there for twelve years she liked to pretend that never happened and so would never admit to knowing Russian.

"Khah-rah-SHO, Mila." (Excellent).

"There are more people here than we usually see on a Thursday." Ruth commented taking the conversation back to English.

"You know as well as anyone that this is just the challenger's way of kissing babies." John replied in a tone that showed his disapproval of the situation. He was one of the elders who voted no on calling a challenge. Looking around the room at all the different sects of wolves that naturally clique he was right. This was the first size up the other males got of the newcomers and likewise. After the meeting all challengers were officially named. Now began the grandstanding politicos standing on soap boxes. Even thought it was an alpha right by combat having the support of the pack helped. If someone won that the pack as a whole did not like he could be chased out of the territory-it happened all the time.

They chattered for a few more minutes in English and in Russian before Mila excused herself and went outside for a private smoke. She wasn't a habitual smoker, it was just when she was drinking or particularly stressed. And the whole tense atmosphere of the bar was making her stressed.

There was a small alley way that the kitchen crew used for smoke breaks but it was mainly deserted so Mila smoked there. The night was turning cold and cloudy. There might even be a snow storm later. She hoped it would storm, she loved the snow but hadn't thought to check the weather. It was the best part of her favorite season.

"Mind if I join you?" A smooth voice came from behind her making her hair stand on end. Bastian. She gave a shrug trying to play it cool. He took out a cigarette from behind his ear. "You have a light?" He asked trying to make eye contact. Mila looked up at him and saw that his eyes were grey pools.

Wordlessly she handed over her lighter. "Not much of a talker, are you?" He asked handing back the lighter. He was taller than she thought he was and broader too. His tee shirt betraying a well muscled body. She exhaled smoke through her nose.

"Not especially." She said pursing her lips.

"You could ask me how I like it here in Palatine Mills." He said putting a hand on the wall behind her head leaning close to her. She flinched a little but didn't move.

"I could." She admitted.

"Well I'll just tell you. I think this town is perfect for a pack and for raising pups." She gave a pursed smile but didn't say anything just took another long drag on her cigarette. "Have you lived here all your life?" He leaned against the brick of the building.

"Nope." She said dropping her stub and putting it out with her heel. She turned to go back inside but a hand gripped her elbow gently. "Stay out here and talk to me." He said his voice low and rumbling like thunder. Mila didn't say anything and for a second thought of smacking his smile off his face but the façade of the LA Art Institute flashed before her eyes and she realized that she could be chatting with her future alpha; she had to make nice. She took a step back but didn't say anything just looked expectantly.

"So where'd you live before?" He asked lighting up another cigarette.

"Soyuz Sovietskikh Sotsialisticheskikh Respublik." She answered; snow and sleet were beginning to fall in sheets. "Going inside now." She said abruptly opening the backdoor and almost hitting him in the face with it. He didn't follow her and she grabbed her things and left through the front entrance throwing goodbyes over her shoulder. She left without eating; somehow the whole situation was making her feel nauseous.

Hey my faithful readers, so that was chapter five. Things get a little more complicated but it was really just a filler chapter to show the contrasting dynamic playing out between Mila and her pack-mates and then Mila and her human friends. Next time we have a lot to look forward to and the story really gets rolling so here's a sneak peek at the next chapter…

"Why didn't you tell me your grandfather fought in the cold war?" Mila asked seriously pissed. If she would have known she would have never let her soviet flag tattoo show. "It's info I'd really like to know because he's asking me how many KGB members I have in my family."

So hopefully that'll keep you surmising or at least entertain you for about five seconds. Special thanks to Celestrialuna and Smrae. I really love getting reviews and I love that you've stayed with me. And to everyone else who either put me on their favorites list or their story alerts thanks to you guys too.

And I know I keep promising to review your guys' work as well and I really do mean to but between writing this story and getting ready for summer classes time has me crunched in his jaws. But I will one day review! KM.