Alek found her curled up on a large armchair when he came back to the room.

He frowned as he closed the door behind him, wondering if she was really that terrified of sleeping in the same bed as him until he noticed that she hadn't changed. Her shoes had been dropped haphazardly on the floor, Emilia's dress was still clinging to her and bunched up in a few places and her hair was falling out of it's style. She had her arms folded across one of the cushy arms of the chair and her head lay across them.

Looking at her tugged at Alek's heart. She was so much smaller and sweeter looking when she slept; not ready to snap his neck or run for the woods. He assumed she hadn't planned on dodging his bed-not yet at least-seeing as she was still dressed. But he couldn't imagine why she would have waited up for him.

Alek shook his head and walked to the large bathroom, undoing his tie as he went. Drinks with Emilia had taken longer than he expected, or wanted. She had insisted he sit there with her as she made him try practically every liquor available and recount practically every story of their younger days.

It was nice to see Emilia again, sure, but he didn't come all this way to chat up an old friend, especially not with an epidemic threat looming over the packs and a future mate in his care. Neither of which Emilia seemed to care about or even notice. She blatantly showered Alek with physical and verbal affection the rest of the night and although he welcome female attention and especially some positive female attention considering the circumstances, it was in bad form for Emilia to do so in the situation and he tried to make that clear.

Removing his jacket, tie and shirt, Alek splashed some cold water on his face and chest while thinking over the rest of the night's fucked up events. Like Madeline jumping into Kieran's arms at the drop of a hat. And the fact that she confessed to kissing the beta still made Alek's blood burn even now. He and Madeline were nowhere near being officially mated but damn, she was his.

Alek wandered back into the bedroom to see Madeline in the same position as before. There were goosebumps on her bare arms and neck and Alek figured he might as well put her to bed. He usually slept without anything on but their night was already filled with enough upsets and the last thing he needed was waking up to a very irate she-wolf so he opted to tossing his slacks off and staying in his briefs.

Madeline barely stirred as Alek scooped her off the armchair and put her on the large canopied bed. She smelled of alcohol which explained why she passed out so early but not why she had tried to wait up for him. He glanced at the dress twisted around her limbs and considered taking it off of her but decided against it. Madeline would be pissed enough to find him in his state of undress in the morning and he didn't need her thinking he took advantage of her drunk ass. No matter how sweet of ass it was.

Alek opted to take her hair out of the pins instead, seeing as most of them were falling out anyway. He knelt next to her side of the bed and carefully removed each pin, trying not to pull her hair too hard and wake her. After he had deposited them to the bedside table Alek couldn't make himself pull his fingers from Madeline's hair. It was muted in the dim light, the moon through the window reflected the bronze strands beneath the soft red. Alek couldn't get over how incredibly soft it was; just like the rest of Madeline's body.

But not her heart, Alek thinks to himself with a frown as he pulls away. Alek was about to leave the bedroom when Madeline stirred. Her hand drifted to the side of her head where Alek's own fingers were only moments ago. A frown crossed her features before her eyes slowly blinked open.

"W...why?" she murmurs, blue eyes foggy.

"Quiet." Alek crouched back down beside the bed. "It's late, sleep."

Madeline looked confused for a moment before registering. She glanced down at herself, at Alek then back down to the bed. Alek slowly shook his head. "Nothing happened."

"No," Madeline said, causing Alek to frown in return. "I don't want it, Alek." She tugged at the necklace at her throat until it came loose.

Shit. Alek's eyes locked on her fingers wrapped around the chain and he froze. He didn't understand. She seemed pleased earlier when he gave her the necklace but now she rejecting it? Was that what she tried to stay up and tell him?

"I'm not your prize and I refuse to be flaunted in front of this council like you've claimed me."

Alek's stomach tightened. Yes, he had meant for the necklace as his mark on her seeing as they weren't mated and there were plenty of unattached males who would be more than willing to associate themselves with a virgin but Alek also had wanted to give her a gift, to welcome her into his pack and maybe ease some of the tension between them.

"Who told you that?" Alek asked but immediately realized his words confirmed that Madeline's suspicions were correct and he had kept the truth of the gift from her. Madeline's eyes narrowed and her fingers tightened around the chain. Fuck.

"Who told me?" Madeline bit out. "You mean, who was kind enough to inform me of the damn false mark of ownership you left on me?" She shook her head but her angry was clearly not subsided. "Kieran told me, Alek. And he was about as happy as I was to notice it."

Alek glanced away at her statement, frustrated not only because he had inadvertently upset Madeline but because once again, her former pack member had stepped in while he went unnoticed. And not just any pack member; one that held Madeline's heart and had shared something with her that Alek couldn't even dream of happening anytime soon.

"I...I'm not…" Alek felt like an idiot for stumbling over his words but as an alpha he wasn't adept in the art of apologizing. "Madeline, I never meant to-"

She cut him off with a shake of her head before rolling onto her back and glaring at the canopy above them. Her arm reached out and the necklace fell to the wooden bedside table with a noise that echoed through the tense air.

It only took Alek a few seconds to stand and leave the room.

Madeline was gone in the morning.

Alek woke with a jolt and immediately sought out her presence. A quick sweep of the room told him she hadn't been gone for long and she hadn't left for good. With a sigh, Alek settled back into the too small couch he had spent the night on.

I'm not even fucking mated yet but I've already been banished to the couch. Alek wanted to smile at the wry thought but his mind could only focus on how pissed he made Madeline. He knew she was safe in the house with packs of wolves to protect her and that jerk of a beta to keep an eye on her but he couldn't help but worry.

He had really fucked things up. Alek knew trust was one of the most important things in any relationship and he had ruined that pretty early on. Sure, they weren't doing extremely great to begin with but Alek had definitely back-pedaled a few miles after last night. He felt like he was trying but everything he did was wrong to Madeline.

And then there was that part of him that wondered why he was trying so damn hard. He didn't even know her that well but the parts he did know consisted of stubbornness, irritability and defiance. What was the point of making it work with someone who wanted to no part of it?

For your pack, Alek reminded himself as he felt his chest tighten. That was the reason they were even doing all this in the first place, wasn't it? Not because they were two prime wolves who happened to be un-mated; this was an agreement decades in the making, which was only sparked further by the sudden death of Madeline's father.

Something clicked in Alek's mind and he tensed. Did Madeline even know that their arrangement was to protect her former pack too? He didn't think so, seeing as Madeline went about this whole thing like it was a conquest for himself and a pain in the ass for her. Judging from what little he knew about Madeline, he could clearly see that she loved her old pack and would do anything for them. So wouldn't it make more sense that she be less obstinate about something that was helping her family?

She must not know, Alek realized. Whatever her brother or her former pack told her wasn't what was agreed upon and that made Alek's muscles coil in agitation. No wonder she was acting like this was the end of world and doing everything in her power to make it not work. If Madeline had any idea what was really going on, Alek was sure she'd be acting differently.

With a curse, Alek swung his legs off the couch and stood, cracking his back as he walked. He needed to get downstairs and have a talk with Madeline, hopefully get her to turn around concerning the arrangement. Alek shook his head. No, he needed to stop referring to it like some legal contract. It was a mating; he and Madeline were going to spend the rest of their lives together.

Even though the thought chilled him, Alek forced himself to get showered, dressed and downstairs in less than fifteen minutes. He successfully dodged Emilia and followed Madeline's scent to the drawing room. He stood in the entryway for a few moments. Her back was turned and all Alek could see the tumble of loose curls down her back. They were still messy from last night but looked so damn beautiful with the sun from the bay window shining across them. All golden reds and bronzed copper. She seemed so relaxed just lounging there and looking out the window.

As if she could feel his eyes on her, Madeline turned her head and glanced at him across her shoulder. Her eyes narrowed a bit but her expression and posture were lazy, as if she was too tired to put much effort into being mad at him. Madeline blinked and his world slowed down. Alek stepped forward, still forming words in his head to say to her when a hand grabbed his shoulder.

Madeline's eyebrows quirked and Alek frowned before turning to see who was touching him. It was James Teague, the alpha of one of the largest packs on the east coast and one of his neighbors. He was a lot older than Alek, with stony features and a look in his eye that said he'd been through too much.

"Kaverin." Teague's eyes flickered across Alek's shoulder to Madeline and Alek turned so his body was blocking most of the entrance to the drawing room. Teague looked back to Alek with a frown. "Didn't know you'd be here."

Alek's shoulders set straighter. "Most of the packs are. And this affects my pack so I'm here."

Teague gave a stiff nod before letting his gaze drift elsewhere. "I hear you have a new addition to your pack." Alek resisted a sigh. He didn't have time for the man's ramblings, he had to get to Madeline and talk to her.

"Yes, I do," Alek murmured absent-mindedly as he tried his best to inconspicuously glance at Madeline. Teague rambled on and Alek shifted impatiently. Before he could politely excuse himself, a voice spoke up loudly from the foyer, calling them into the meeting room.

Teague left with a nod and Alek looked into the drawing room to see Madeline gone. His stomach clenched and he prayed that he could get to her before the meeting started.

A/N: Oh my god, guys, I updated! It took almost a year and I'm so sorry but I think I finally got my spark back. Something just made me want to go back, read through this and try again and this time I came out successfully. Hopefully I can keep this going and either pick up from here or do another Nicolas chapter.

Your reviews, follows and favorites were/are THE BEST THINGS EVER. THANK YOU SO MUCH. I will definitely get back to them when I can filter through and reply either next chapter or some other way.

As for this chapter, it's not my best but I was just too happy that I got through it to worry about nitpicking. Plus, it's been a while so I need a bit to get back into the swing of things here. I figured Alek needed some screen time so here he is, Right now Teague isn't all that important, just a minor distracting plot device but he may come up later if I need him. Also, I'm trying not make Alek too soft for now; I don't want him developing any unrealistic feelings just yet.

Like always, LET ME KNOW WHAT YOU THINK. The reviews seriously kick my ass to write and they also make me so, so happy! I hope this update makes you guys happy.