Wotan strode fluidly across the floor of the woods. The greens and browns were a blur as he raced through. Anything that moved and breathed blended with the haze of colors. He had been called home, so that was his sole focus. His objective was to get home, sort out this mess, and then bring back his mate. He growled, too angry to breathe properly. He snarled, too angry to slow and ease the stitch in his belly. He would rest later. Pain fueled his anger and his drive.
"Wotan!" his father, Chetan, shouted from the front steps of the pack house as he sensed Wotan's approach. He lifted his nose to the air, detected the incoming scents with ease. His slanted brown eyes scanned the trees watchfully, looking for the right movement.
In a great leap, Wotan broke through the pack house was nestled in an open space in the center of the mass of forest. The wide clearing was precisely large enough for the house and a free area to wrestle and race without barriers. Despite his father's warning tone, Wotan did not slow as he raced toward the front steps.
Sensing his son's anger, Chetan jumped from the wooden steps and braced his body. His large muscles tensed and his stance widened, ready for the attack. Wotan growled and opened his jaws. He lunged, opting to go for his father's leg, hoping to take him down. Chetan was ready. Lifting his arms and clasping his hands together, he swung his long, muscled limbs down like a bat. The massive weight slammed with strength into Wotan's side.
Wotan growled, refusing to submit as the hit knocked him onto his back. He rolled over and stood, ready to charge again. He pulled his lips back and growled, his throat rumbling thunderously.
Chetan snapped his jaws, curling his own plump lips back. Lowering himself to the ground, he braced himself as if he were a football linesman waiting for the play to start. At six foot four and two hundred and thirty pounds, he looked the part. Every inch of his body was muscle covered by muscled covered by thick skin.
Undeterred, Wotan shot forward. Chetan's reflexes were quicker. He rolled his body to the side, missing Wotan's teeth by an inch. As Wotan landed and dug his claws into the dirt, his father moved. This time on the offensive, Chetan swung his arm out and caught his son around the neck. Chetan's large hand clasped the lower half of Wotan's throat, using the strength in his forearm, wrist, and fingers to hold on.
Wotan growled, twisting his head back and forth, looking for any break in his father's grip but finding none. Snapping his jaws, he tried to gain enough movement to bite his father's arm. Sick of the fight, Chetan stood, tightening his grip on Wotan's neck. He pulled his son up onto his back feet and proceeded to slam him onto his back.
Wotan cursed at the impact, the pain emitting in a groan. His vision swam for a moment, but he caught his bearings in time to recognize the dominate growl of his father. Every time Wotan resisted his father's hold, Chetan would growl and swipe at him. His hits grew harder and his growls became roars. Wotan's anger grew when he knew for certain he lost the fight. His anger bid him to continue to battle, but he knew his only option was to submit to his father's supremacy.
Trenton heard the snarls and growls up ahead. He looked down at his mate, who slept serenely in his arms. He adjusted his hold so that he could lean her head to his chest and cover her exposed ear with his hand. He did not want her awakened by such sounds. She had been petrified by wolves and their howling presence. He seriously doubted her ability to handle an argument.
Having walked back to the pack house, he arrived later than the other members. He broke the woods to see five pack mates sitting patiently at the wood's edge. They had been sent by the Alpha to bring back anyone who was in the woods for a meeting. Now they were being entertained, watching the Alpha wrestle his son.
Trenton stood beside them, feeling pride in his gut for the ways of his people. He wondered what Wotan fought over this time. Trenton snuck a look to the other pack mates. Did they know what this was about? Ah, so soon Wotan whined, catching Trenton's attention. Trenton smirked and shook his head in disbelief, impressed by his friend's show.
Wotan had waited until his father shifted forms, only submitting after his neck - and his life - were clasped in the sharp jaws of his father's wolf. Trenton admired Wotan, was honored to serve under him. Trenton fought with the Alpha only once before. He fared well, as well as a underling Beta could, but he did not wait to submit either. Wotan, on the other hand, postponed his losses, not giving up until death was his only other option. That was what the pack needed for their Alpha, and bless their fates, that is what they had.
Having paraded his submission, Wotan's whines subsided. When his father did not immediately release his neck, Wotan found himself wanting to snarl. The urge to rekindle the brawl began to grow.
Chetan bit down a pinch farther and jerked his head in warning. Should he lack in the most precise control, he could snap his son's neck by accident. But he had earned his role as Alpha, and he knew how to properly restrain his strength. With a final growl, he opened his jaws and stepped back, shifting back to human form.
Wotan rolled away from his father, shifting as he did. With ease he stood and leaned back, popping his back. Claps and cheers erupted around them, but Wotan's lip curled in disgust. He was no longer impressed with his fights. How could he feel proud when he lost, even if his father had been the better? Wotan had found his mate. He needed to be strong enough to defend her, even against his Alpha, should the fates come to such a time.
"You want to tell me what that was about?" Chetan snarled, looking at his son through blackened eyes. The two had their usual disagreements, anywhere from three to five a day, but Wotan did not normally push the limit like he had today.
"I found my mate!" Wotan shouted, flinging his arm through the air in frustration.
His back was turned to his father, and he rested a hand on his hip. The other he lifted to his neck, which was growing stiff from his father's attack. The ache forced Wotan's thoughts to be fixed upon his mate, upon her neck. God, the limb called to him seductively. He had half a mind to go hunt her down now, never mind waiting until the night.
He sighed, turning back to his father. His blue eyes quickly scanned the six bodies waiting at the edge of the woods. He was about to turn his attention to his father when he realized there was a seventh body, a woman held in the arms of Trenton. Wotan growled at the realization of who that woman was: Trenton's mate. And to think, Wotan should have his mate in his arms right now too. But he did not. He had his father to thank for that.
"You called us here," Wotan bit, his voice tight. "What was so important?"
Chetan grunted. He waved his large hand at those at the wood's edge, beckoning them to follow him. "We'll discuss this inside," he said, not answering his son. Wotan stood firm, waiting to move until his father reached his side. As they walked to the front door of their abode, Chetan firmly slapped the back of Wotan's head, grasping his neck and squeezing in a playful manner. "Learn some manners, young man," he reprimanded. His voice was light, but the command was a command.
"I have manners," Wotan grumbled, protesting his father's opinion but not willing to subvert the Alpha's command.
Just inside the front door was a massive mud room, complete with showers and lockers. The floor was wooden and soft beneath their bare feet. Stopping at their respective spots, they pulled out their robes so that they may cover their nudity. If a werewolf in the Myers pack loved one materialistic object above all else, that object would be a robe. The fuzzy feel of the fabric and the warmth such softness brought reminded them of their furry bodies. Dressing and undressing with a robe could be accomplished with as much ease and smoothness as shifting from human to wolf. God bless the robe. It was made for the werewolf.
Clothing themselves as they padded softly down the quiet hallway, they turned through the first opening on their right and walked down three steps into a expansive, open room. Despite having four walls, the room could technically be outside. No ceiling and no roof was overhead, allowing fresh air to constantly breathe in and out of the space. The floor consisted of soft, crumbly dirt with a few leaves, sticks, and maybe some discarded bones from a hunt. A generously-sized fire pit sat in the center of the room, protected from rain by a tent that extended beyond the pit by ten feet in each direction.
This was their meeting room. And their dining room. Their celebratory room. Sometimes also their bedroom. Most of the unmated pack slept here, if the night was right. Those who wanted space from their parents or to spend a night with friends could come here. They were free to be with each other and yet remain with the pack.
Wotan followed his father to the homey spaces beside the softly brewing fire. The area was used by them well enough that the ground felt formed to their comfort. As Chetan sat, Wotan slowed his walk, noticing his small stalker. A young pup, playful yet serious, was attempting to stealthily attack him. Wotan let the kid's imagination grow until the kid pounced. Wotan's reflexes snapped into play, catching the kid mid-air. The kid laughed and squirmed as Wotan tickled his small stomach as he held him.
"Submit to my authority?" Wotan asked, his voice light yet showing his rule.
The kid nodded whilst still laughing. Wotan grunted with a smile, slinging the child over his shoulder. "You'll have to show your respect better than that," Wotan replied. The child continued to laugh and resist.
"Peter," Chetan called out.
Immediately the kid stilled, all laughter ceasing. "Yes, Alpha?"
Wotan was pleased, the kid's voice was strong, firm. The boy had respect in him after all.
"Leave. Now," Chetan commanded.
Wotan placed Peter back onto the ground, ruffling his red locks and patting his head. The kid nodded his affection, slapping the palm of his hand against his neck, first toward Wotan and then in Chetan's direction. When the Alpha snapped his jaws, Peter ran from the room, a smile coming back onto his face as he went.
Wotan watched the young boy leave, his mind turning to his mate. How soon would they have pups of their own? Stretching his arms and running his hands over his tired face, he prayed the time would be soon. A soft, feminine groan lifted into the air, drawing Wotan's attention to the girl still asleep in Trenton's arms. Wotan grunted, his lip curled into a tight smile.
You claimed your mate first, Beta, but my children will breathe before yours, Wotan thought smugly. His pride a tad less wounded, he turned to sit beside his father.
"Trenton, bring that over here," Chetan commanded, his finger pointing at the human laying in Trenton's arms.
Trenton hesitated for a mere moment, causing Chetan's eyebrow to raise in question. Even Wotan's eyes widened in wonder. Tightening his jaw and his hold on his mate, Trenton stepped forward. "My mate is asleep, Alpha. She reacted poorly to my claim," Trenton spoke as he kneeled before Chetan. Trenton moved his mate's pony tail out of the way, exposing the bite mark on her neck to Chetan's inspection.
"Human?" Chetan asked.
"Yes, Alpha," Trenton answered. His heart was beating furiously, and he snuck a look in Wotan's direction. The two friends had spoken of mates before, of what they hoped and expected. Reality turned out to be quite different, so much better and so much worse. Trenton's mate was beyond what he could have believed possible, but now he was petrified of losing her.
"You will turn her. We do not mix breeds here. Am I understood?"
"Yes, Alpha," Trenton answered solemnly. His heart ached that his beloved human would not remain one, for he thought her gentleness to be quite exquisite. He enjoyed her difference. She literally was like nothing he had ever seen before. She will retain her human memories. She can share her history with me, he consoled himself.
"Where did you find her?" Chetan continued.
"What's this about, father?" Wotan interrupted.
Chetan raised his hand to silence his son, then pointed his index finger at Trenton, demanding him to answer.
"In the woods, two miles east of Green's lake."
"That's four miles west of Viren's house. Do you think she was staying with them?" Wotan asked his father. If this human was staying at the Bed and Breakfast, then odds were in his favor that his mate was staying there as well. Got you, Wotan boasted, his heart expanding with pride. Now only the pursuit and the collection remained. This was going to be too sweet.
Chetan sighed, his eyes roaming over the face of the sleeping young woman. Her eyebrows were drawn tight, and her lips were quaking in obvious discomfort. Beads of sweat were sliding down her forehead, making a path through the dirt that covered her face. She did not have the face of a murderer. However, precautions had to be made.
"Jaxon," Chetan called his second Beta to attention.
"Alpha?" Jaxon replied immediately, standing and ready to act.
"You will accompany your son and his mate the second Beta's house. You are to stay there, watching her and watching your son, until she is turned. I will not have a human roaming on our premises. Am I understood?"
"Yes, Alpha," Jaxon responded with a nod of his head.
"Yes, Alpha?" His voice was quieter now, sadness overtaking him. He did not want to ruin this experience for his mate. He did not want to force something that should be so joyful.
"Do what you're commanded to do. Soon."
"Yes, Alpha," Trenton sighed.
Chetan nodded his head, dismissing the three. Jaxon firmly pounded his palm twice against the side of his neck. Chetan snapped his jaws in response, turning his gaze to the young man. Trenton swallowed thickly, adjusting his mate's body so his hand could be free. Leaning his head to the side, he too slapped his neck twice. Chetan snapped his jaws together.
With a sigh, Trenton turned to leave with the Alpha fake coughed. "A-hem." The tone could not have been any softer nor any smoother, but that made it all the more frightening. "Are you forgetting something?"
Trenton's back stiffened. His mate squirmed in his arms, and he realized his mistake. Turning back to face his Alpha, Trenton ground his teeth together. He placed his palm against his mate's slender neck, gently pressing against the skin and rubbing the silkiness of her flesh, but he did not tap. He did not offer.
"Trenton," Jaxon called, his voice firm with a command.
Trenton could barely meet the dark green eyes of his father, but when he did, he found strength. His jaw ticked, but Trenton lightly tapped his fingers against his mate's neck, offering it to the Alpha in an act of submission.
The air chilled when Chetan stood. No one breathed as he steadily moved toward Trenton, who bravely held his ground.
Chetan fixed his eyes upon the young girl, probably eighteen or nineteen. Tears had soaked through her mascara. Her hair lay limp in a pony tail behind her. Lifting his eyes to bore ferociously into Trenton's, Chetan parted his lips and parted his jaw. He scooped his hand under the girl's head, lifting her away from the safety of Trenton's chest and bringing her neck into a position Chetan preferred.
Lowering his head, he broke eye contact and wrapped his jaws around her fragile throat. He paused for a moment, tightening his hold just enough to leave an imprint of his teeth. Satisfied, he pulled back and released her. Chetan met the hard eyes of Trenton full on.
"I accept the act of submission on behalf of your mate," he spoke lowly with a small nod of his chin.
Trenton turned to go, but before he took a step toward the door, Chetan's arm whipped out, his hand grasping around Trenton's neck in a tight squeeze. "Do not undermine my authority again, or I will accept such an action as a challenge. Do you think yourself worthy of an Alpha's blood, young Beta?"
"No, Alpha," Trenton gasped.
"Then let's not tempt the fates, young one."
"Yes, Alpha," Trenton agreed.
Chetan removed his hand, effectively dismissing the young male. He had much to learn. Chetan caught Jaxon's eye as he passed him on his way out. "You will teach your son, Jaxon," Chetan commanded.
"Yes, Alpha," Jaxon responded with a devoted nod.
"Everyone is dismissed. I wish to speak to my son alone," Chetan said with a sigh. As much as he enjoyed his position, he was ready to retire, a destiny within his grasp now that his son found his mate.
Chetan moved back to his son's side, snapping his jaw once for the four pack mates that left. "Where is this mate of yours, son?" he inquired as he laid on the ground. He wiggled his back into a comfortable position in the dirt, and his arms acted as a pillow for his head.
"She is waiting for me, father," Wotan grumbled. "You will meet her soon enough." Chetan grunted. "Now what is this business that you called me here for? Your timing sucks."
Chetan laughed aloud at his son's rebuke. Had this been two hours ago, he would have slapped him for such a thing. But mates bring changes, and Wotan was expected to take more authority now. Chetan loved his son all the more for rising to the occasion. He had trained his son well.
"My mother called," Chetan finally answered, his voice serious.
Wotan did not miss the thoughtful look on his father's face. The matter was critical. "Is everything alright?"
"She has a new tenant at the bed and breakfast. Not the one Trenton claimed, but a different one. Dark haired. Hazel eyes. Tan skin. She's young, eighteen years old. Possibly human, possibly not. Ayla Milandri."
Wotan's eyelids fluttered closed at the description. He swore could taste her again. The memory triggered such an electric response that before he realized what he was doing, he stood. Chetan frowned, watching his son leave the room. With a sharp exhale through his nose, Chetan stood and followed his son to the kitchen.
"Why did you come in here?" Chetan asked, leaning his hip against the stone countertop.
"No reason," Wotan lied as he grabbed a bottle of vanilla extract from the cabinet. Pulling the top off, he held it before his nose and inhaled deeply. The scent did not hold the purity of his mate, but it would have to do. Nose twitching, Wotan licked his lips as he rummaged through more drawers until he found raspberry toaster strudels. Pulling one out, he opened his mouth and held it against his tongue. He sighed. The taste was not as natural as his mate's mouth, but it would suffice for now.
Feeling his father's gaze, Wotan opened his eyes and met his father's stare head on. He twitched his lips and gruffly chewed. "What? Can't a man enjoy a meal?" he snapped, inhaling once again from the bottle of vanilla.
Chetan shook his head. "About this Ayla Milandri."
Wotan felt chills dance along his spine. That had to be his mate's name. Hearing it made his inside's quiver. "Ayla," he mumbled through his mouthful of food.
"Yes, I want you to bring her here."
"Done," Wotan agreed eagerly. Her place was beside him. Who could possibly object to that? Talk about a non-issue. However, curiosity tingled in Wotan's gut. He knew why he wanted his mate, but why did his father want to meet the girl? What possible interest could he or Grandmother Kim have in her? "Why does Ayla matter to you?" he asked as he refilled his mouth with raspberry strudel.
Chetan stroked his chin thoughtfully before he sighed. "She may be a danger to the pack. If she is, then I want her here were we can kill her. Cleanly."
Wotan choked, coughing until the lumpy pastry spewed from his mouth.