“Father,” Alina called. Petre came striding out of the only bedroom in the cottage. He smiled when he saw her, but it was wiped clean when his eyes jumped to Vasile. “Vasile would like to speak with you.”
Petre motioned to the door behind them. “Could we have a seat outside? My mate is lying down; she has been working herself ragged and needs to rest.”
Vasile nodded. “That will be remedied,” he reminded Petre.
“Of course, Alpha, and we appreciate your desire to see our pack thrive.”
Once outside they had taken up seats on some large tree stumps that her father had arranged in a circle so that they and others of the pack could come and spend time with one another. Sometimes they would have a fire if the conversation lasted into the night. Alina had so many good memories of their circle of stumps, and yet, as she sat there now, those memories were the furthest thing from her mind. She had started for her usual spot which was on the left side of her father, purely out of habit, but Vasile had caught her wrist and tugged her to a stump next to the one he chose. It was directly across from where her father now sat.
“Obviously, from the happenings at the home of Sain and Theris you know that Alina is my true mate,” Vasile began.
Her father nodded but he did not add anything. She knew his tactics well. He would let a person say their peace and then make them wait while he processed it. In the meantime, they would be squirming under his scrutinized stare. It made the one waiting for him to respond think that maybe what they had said did not make sense, or perhaps they were wrong. Slowly they began to second guess themselves, and if her father had a different point of view, by the time he spoke they had already begun to agree with him.
“Alina and I have been discussing the uniqueness of our situation since she is not of age. It is unusual, though not unheard of, for the bond to appear between true mates when one or both of them are fairly young. The difficulty of the situation obviously comes when the male is mature and ready to take his mate, but the female is not.” He glanced at her and his eyes were a tad too bright for her liking. She reached out and took his hand hoping that her touch would help calm him. When he looked back at her father, she did not take her eyes off of him as if her gaze could hold him in place and keep his wolf tame.
“Eighteen is the age that is considered adulthood for our females. There have been some claimed at seventeen, but the circumstances were different. I do not think Alina is ready to be mated to a male as dominant as myself. I do not want to hinder the woman she is to become. I do not want to stifle her spirit or keep her from discovering who she is without her mate. I think she needs to be confident in herself, rather than seeking my approval for validation. She should seek my approval because she truly wants me to be happy; likewise, I want her approval because I want her to be happy. I am willing to leave her in your care, unmarked, and unbound until the minute she turns eighteen, and then I will come for her. It is my right as her true mate, as it is hers to claim me as well.”
Alina looked over to her father and watched as his jaw tensed and his hands clenched until his knuckles were white. Then suddenly he was relaxed. “I am very happy that Alina has found her true mate so early in her life. I would never want her to have to wait years or decades or centuries for her to find him. I am just as happy to know that her mate is a dominant because she is very dominant. She would not respect a man that would let her walk on him. I do agree, however, that she is not ready to be your mate. What I do not agree on is the age in which you want to claim her.” Petre held up his hands in a peace gesture when Vasile began to growl. “Hear me out, Alpha,” he implored. “I think it would be foolish of us as a society to say that every female is ready at the age of eighteen to be mated because we have decided that is the coming of age for her. Each of us is a unique individual created by the Great Luna for unique purposes. Because of that, life changing decisions should be based on each individual, not on the group as a whole. I know my daughter, Vasile. She is very mature in many ways, and then there are many ways in which she needs to grow. If you were less dominant, if you were not Alpha, I would consider eighteen as an acceptable age, but you are the most dominant wolf I have come across in a very, very long time. You are an Alpha, and I would bargain to say you are one as which the likes of the Canis lupis has never seen before. Your life has just been uprooted. You and our pack are in need of healing. Healing takes time. I want her to be ready to be your mate, but more than that I need to know that you are ready to be hers.
“My gut tells me that eighteen is not the age for you to take her. I am asking you to consider her needs above your own―not her wants but her needs― and what is best for her. I have no doubt that if you asked her to come with you now she would go. But we both know that is not what is best for her.”
Alina held her breath as she waited for Vasile to respond. She could feel his anger, but she could also feel respect. He admired her father for wanting to protect her, and he respected him for being willing to even stand up to his Alpha to do so.
“Breathe, Mina, I am not going to hurt your father,” his mind whispered in hers.
“I am not worried you will hurt him; I have more faith in you than that.”
His thumb ran across the top of her hand in slow sweeping motions, and she was not entirely sure if it was to reassure her or to sooth him.
“Both,” he answered her unspoken thought.
“Could you please focus on what you are going to say to my father and stay out of my head?”
“Quit distracting me, female. I am discussing important matters about your future.” His voice was serious, but she felt his amusement with her and that helped ease her nerves better than any words could.
“I propose a compromise, Petre,” Vasile finally said. “When Alina turns eighteen I will come to see her and to talk with you and your mate. At that point we can evaluate how she has grown and decide if she is ready to be mated. If she is not then I will agree to wait another year. Then at nineteen we will do the same, and if she is not ready then either, then I will wait until she is twenty.”
Alina’s irritation level was slowly rising as the two men sat there and discussed her life as if she had no say in the matter.
“I will admit,” her father nodded at Vasile, “that is a fair compromise. I, however, would ask you to consider the fact that your markings have not changed. I do not doubt that you are true mates, but perhaps the fact that your markings haven’t changed is a sign that taking things slow is the correct path.”