“What shall we do until then?”
He chuckled as he walked over to her and took one of her hands in his. “Until then I will spend every waking second with you with the intent of making you fall hopelessly in love with me.”
She grinned at him. “Maybe it will be you who falls hopelessly in love with me.”
His smile dropped away as he tugged her closer to him. “That fate was sealed before you ever met me. I have loved you from the first minute I laid eyes on you.”
“When was that?” Her voice was breathless but she was over being embarrassed by her reaction to him.
“In the marketplace more than a year ago. You were defending a woman to one of the merchants. You were so fierce, so sure of yourself. I had to tear my gaze from you lest someone think me depraved for gazing upon one so young. I was confused by my reaction to you. You were young and yet not young at the same time. You were beautiful and there have been many nights I have had to banish your face from my thoughts. You were simply too young.”
“You said I was beautiful,” she prompted.
He nodded. “Yes, you were.”
“What am I now if I was beautiful?”
He ran a finger down her jaw line and her neck. “Now Mina, you are breathtaking. Beautiful is too mundane a term for you. It is a very good thing I have not seen you in the marketplace recently.”
“Why?” Her words were barely a whisper.
“Because I would have snatched you up and taken you to my den and, had that happened, I do not think I would have been able to let you go regardless of the fact that you still have a year until you are of age.”
He chuckled. “No, beloved, whoa does not even begin to cover it.”
“Are you sure no one followed you?” Ivan asked Emilian as the small band of conspirators from the two packs stood in a deserted shack. Eleven in all, eight males and three females. from the Eastern and Western packs agreed to meet when Emilian had informed them that he had the proof that Vasile did not need to be the Alpha of the Eastern pack.
“I think I am capable of being discrete when it is warranted,” Emilian answered while looking over the group. He was hoping for more. But perhaps it was a good thing so few had shown. More wolves meant more of an opportunity for his secret to be exposed. He did not want anything revealed until the time was right, and he was sure that Vasile could be taken out. There were seven total from the Eastern pack: Anton and his mate, Mara, Aurel, Calin and his mate, Lizuca, Drin, and Costel. Anton, who was the most dominant in that group, had informed him that there were others who would come forward once there was definitive proof to stand against their Alpha.
“So what is the big news that you were so intent on speaking about with us?” Anton asked.
Emilian smiled. “I overheard my Alpha and his mate speaking last night and came across some very disturbing news that I thought your pack should be aware of, especially since it concerns your new Alpha.
“It will have to be pretty damning for most of the pack to stand against him. He is very well liked,” Costel spoke up.
“Everyone has skeletons.” Emilian’s eyes flashed dangerously. “Vasile is not any different than the rest of us and should have to answer for his skeletons because he is a leader. He should be held to a higher standard than the rest of us.”
“Why are you so concerned for the wellbeing of our pack?” Drin asked with narrowed eyes.
“There is only one way to move up in the ranks of a pack―you know this.”
Aurel frowned. “You think to take Vasile’s place?”
“What of his second?” Mara, Anton’s mate spoke up.
Emilian crossed his arms over his chest and drew himself up to his six foot one inch height. “I will take on Vasile if it comes to that just as any others have the right to challenge him. The strong are the ones who should lead. His second cannot take over if his Alpha is bested in a challenge, only if Vasile were to die of natural causes like an animal attack or disease.”
“What if one of us wants to challenge him?” Anton asked.
Emilian opened his hands out in front of him as if to say have at it.
“So what is the news you have?” Marian, one of his pack mates, asked sounding impatient.
“From what I overheard from my Alphas, Stefan and his mate, Daciana, were not true mates.”
The room was silent, not even the sound of breathing penetrated the stillness. Emilian watched in satisfaction as the wolves in Vasile’s pack swallowed the information with obvious difficulty. They did not want to believe it, but they also knew how close Anghel and Stefan had been.
“Did your Alpha know all along?” Aurel asked.
Emilian shook his head. “No, Vasile was the one to tell him. Anghel and his mate were shocked.”
“If they were not true mates, then why did she die when he did?” Lizuca, Calin’s mate, asked with skepticism written across her pixie like face.
“She poisoned herself,” he answered without any hesitation.
“Then there will be no way to prove it,” Drin pointed out.
Emilian chuckled. “It is obvious that you have never attempted a coup. You have to think, look at all the angles. We do not have to know how she died. There are other ways to know if they were true mates.”
Mara’s eyes widened as his train of thought reached her. “Their markings.”
Emilian clapped his hands together with a wicked grin. “Exactly, she-wolf.”
“How exactly are we going to check their markings?” Costel frowned.
Emilian shrugged as though they were talking about the weather. “We dig up their bodies.”
Romanian Proverb # 9
Cine n-a gustat amarul, nu stie ce e zaharul.
If there were no clouds, we should not enjoy the sun.
“You leave tomorrow,” Alina murmured as she sat on the ground by the river with Vasile’s head in her lap. She ran her fingers through his hair, loving the way the strands tickled her skin and loving even more that she alone had the right to have her fingers in his thick, dark hair.
“Hmm,” he responded.
She grinned. His eyes were closed and he was nearly purring at her under her ministrations. Three days had flown by. They had been inseparable except at night when they were forced to sleep apart, and even then he had slept opposite her with only the wall of the cottage between them. Every night she had fallen asleep to the sound of his deep voice telling her tales of his life, the short time he remembered with his brother, and the years he had had with his parents. It was obvious he loved his family very much and she ached for his loss. He was alone, left with a pack that had been falling apart around him without his notice. He had told her how his father’s mind had begun to fail, and that was why his attention had not been on the pack. She could feel his guilt and that broke her heart as well.