There was silence for several minutes; only the chirping of birds and the rippling noise of the river pierced the quiet.
“He is very, very handsome,” Sisily crooned finally.
Alina chucked the stick she had been playing with. “Why does everyone keep saying that?”
Sisily heard the irritation in Alina’s voice and frowned. “Wait, are you not happy that you have finally met him? I mean, Alina, you have a true mate, and you have only waited sixteen years before he found you. Any other female in this village would be dancing like a fool and singing at the top of her lungs.”
“Deep, deep down, I am. I truly am happy. My wolf is preening like the fool you just described, and if I phased she would probably shake her tail shamelessly at him.” This brought a giggle from her friend. “But I am not of age yet. My father has already told me that he will not release me into my true mate’s care until I am twenty. That is a long time for him to wait. And, I realize how very shallow this is of me, but I do not feel adequate for him. I do not feel I am his equal. I know nothing of leading a pack. I have not been raised with fine things, and my skin is not soft and delicate as the females that surely live in the castle. I am no beauty on a good day, but standing next to him I am as dull as an unpolished gem left in the ground where it formed.”
Sisily gasped. “How can you say such things?”
“Uh, because they are true?”
“Alina you have never seen yourself clearly. First of all, you will learn how to be an Alpha female; that will come with time and experience. You are smart and mature beyond your years. How many times have others mistaken you for eighteen, or older, simply because of the way you hold yourself? There are males in this village who walk by your home every day in hopes that the mating signs will appear even though they have had no such luck in all the years they have known you. None of them have cared that you are not of age.”
Alina lifted the braid from her neck trying find some relief from the late morning air. “Now you are just being silly.”
“And your humility and utter obliviousness to all these things about you, only makes you more attractive to others,” Sisily continued. “You are a virtuous woman, pure, good, honest and lovely beyond words. Our Alpha could not have been blessed by the Great Luna by a more worthy mate. The best part about true mates is even though you may have to wait two years, or four years before you can be bonded, he is not going anywhere. You do not have to worry that he will find someone else, Alina. And even if he could, he would never find one that measured up to you.”
Alina felt tears gathering in her eyes at her friend’s assessment of her. Sisily was right; that was not how she saw herself at all. She was well aware of her virtue because being intimate with anyone that was not your true mate was disgraceful. She had no doubt that many males would wind up slaughtering whoever it was that their female had consorted with. But the other qualities she had doubts about.
“Give him a chance, Ali,” Sisily implored. “You might even discover you like him.” She grinned.
“Maybe, but he is quite possessive and overbearing. Those are things that might quickly get on my nerves.”
“Then maybe you should wait and see if a more submissive male peaks your fancy,” Sisily teased. “You know how dominants are and Vasile is as dominant as they come.”
Alina thought about the idea of having a submissive male as a mate, and though she knew there were females who preferred such men, it did not appeal to her. She wanted a male who could protect her and their children if one day they were so blessed. She wanted a male that could provide for her and shelter her, not that a more submissive wolf could not. But dominant males were driven to do such things not just for their mates but for any in need of their protection.
“I guess if I am to have the type of male that I am attracted to, I will have to accept that he will have some tendencies that will ruffle my feathers. After all, I cannot expect him to be perfect.”
Sisily nodded and leaned back on her elbows turning her face up to the sun. “Mated,” she hummed. “I am so happy for you, Ali. He will be good for you, and no doubt you will be very good for him.”
Alina joined her friend laying back on the thick grass and closed her eyes. She hoped Sisily was right. She hoped that she could be the mate he had always desired. And she hoped that he could love her completely as she imagined she would one day love him. Most of all she just hoped he would be willing to wait for her.
“You know this is going to break my brother’s heart,” Sisily said interrupting her thoughts. “He was convinced that you had to be his true mate or he would not feel so strongly towards you. He even did some research in the pack public archives on delayed mating signs.”
Alina’s breath froze in her lungs. She had completely forgotten about Serghei. He had had a crush on her for as long as she could remember but she had never reciprocated and he never pushed the issue. He did bring her all his mending, claiming the females in his house were shoddy stitchers. She did not mind sewing up his clothes and her father had never told her not to. There had only been one time when he had pushed the boundaries. It had been a couple months back; he was walking her home after a village gathering. They were laughing and joking just as they always did. They got on very well, and she considered him a dear friend. When she had reached the door the atmosphere abruptly changed.
“Thank you for walking me home,” she told him. Usually he would smile, nod, say something charming, and then be on his way. This night however he did not step away, he stepped closer.
“Alina,” he whispered her name like a prayer. “I have to know.”
“Know what?” she asked though she was pretty sure she had an idea of what he was speaking about.
He did not give her an answer or time to reject him. Like most werewolves, his movements were swift and smooth. She was in his arms pressed tightly to him and his lips were on hers. She had never been kissed before, but even in her ignorance she was pretty sure that she should feel more than just how uncomfortable the pressure of his lips were. She did not kiss him back but simply held still. She did not know if his wolf was in control or the man, and she did not want to provoke him. So she waited, standing stiff and awkward, until he finally pulled back and released her.
“Did you feel anything?” he asked her.
“Serghei, you are my friend and I love you as a friend. But beyond that there is nothing.” Her voice was gentle but by the flinch in his eyes she felt as if she had slapped him.