Anghel walked further into the room as he watched the son of one of his oldest friends begin the grieving process. Stefan and Daciana Lupei had been two of the most loyal friends he had ever known. Being Alphas of separate packs had never hindered their relationship. Though he was the Alpha of the Western Romanian pack and Vasile now the Alpha of the Eastern Romanian pack, it did not change how he felt for the son of his old friend. He ached for him. He hurt with him and he knew there were no words that could heal him. Maybe time would heal but even that would be only a salve to the wound, not a cure.
“You will deal with it because you must,” Anghel finally spoke, his deep voice resonating against the stone walls. “You are Alpha now; you are no pup. You are a century old and you know what it means to be Alpha and I don’t remind you of that because I care little for your pain. I remind you of that because there will be some who see your position as weak. They will think you an easy target, and when that happens they will do something foolish.”
Vasile snarled. He didn’t want to hear it, though he knew it was true. His father’s pack for the most part was united, but there were always one or two upstarts who thought they could run things better. There were always a couple who thought they should be the leaders, but they didn’t understand if you were meant to lead it wasn’t something you grumbled about it late at night in the local pub. If you were meant to lead, then you led because the wolf inside of you refused to follow. Vasile knew he was a leader not just by birthright but by the wolf that lived inside of him. His wolf bowed only to his father, and that was only out of respect. He could have beaten Stefan in a challenge years ago, but he would not disrespect his father or mother in such a way. And now here he was, Alpha of the Eastern Pack, only a few short years later. He didn’t have to worry about whether he might one day have to convince his wolf not to challenge his Alpha, because his Alpha was dead.
“You must nip any notion of a mutiny in the bud, Vasile,” Anghel urged. “You must reassure your pack that though their Alphas have gone on to be with the Great Luna, the Eastern Romanian pack is still strong and has a new Alpha, just as powerful as the old one.”
“I know you are right, and I trust you just as my father did. I am still just trying to get my head around the fact that they are gone.”
Anghel nodded. “It was unexpected to say the least. May I ask how it happened?”
Vasile’s shoulders tensed. This was the part that he dreaded. This was what he did not want anyone to know because he did not want them to think any less of his father or his mother. “Do you want the official story or the one my father would have you know because of your friendship?”
When Anghel simply gave him a pointed look he continued. “You have heard that old wolves can sometimes become crazed?”
Anghel’s brow furrowed and he nodded slowly. “But that usually happens to unmated males not ones who have found their true mates.”
Vasile’s eyes slowly met the Western Romanian pack Alpha’s. The next words were ones that had not been uttered since his father had spoken them to him nearly eighty years ago and told him never to tell anyone. “My mother, Daciana, was not my father’s true mate.”
Anghel’s eyes narrow and his brow furrowed. “They were mated for a very long time. How can this be? And what about your father’s markings? They changed; I saw them before he was mated and after.” Anghel said as his eyes widened.
Vasile motioned for him to take a seat at the table that dominated the center of the room. He pulled out a chair and sat next to him angling his body so that he was facing him. “I need your word that you will never share this with anyone.”
Anghel nodded once.
“My father had the rare fortune of meeting his true mate when they were very young, too young to fulfill the Blood Rites or the bond. It was a time when humans were superstitious and Canis lupis had to be very careful about who they befriended outside of the pack. My father’s true mate trusted the wrong person and paid for it with her life. Since they were not yet bonded, he survived.”
“What about your mother? Didn’t she worry she would find her true mate and have to leave your father?” Anghel asked.
Vasile chuckled. “Why do you think my father kept her so close to his side and so close to home all of the time? They loved each other, make no mistake about that. And I believe my mother kept my father sane far longer than ever would have been possible, although I think the guilt he had for keeping her from her true mate ate away at him over time and probably contributed to his madness. He knew the fate to which he was condemning Daciana’s true mate, but he loved her and when a wolf decides something belongs to him he does not easily let it go.
“As for his markings, you know that he did not announce his mating until after the trip that he took supposedly in search of mate. My mother was already here. The trip was just a guise used to travel to the sea to meet with a band of pirates. He knew of the custom they practiced called tattooing, one that could place permanent markings on the skin. He decided that to keep up the appearance of having found his mate, he would have his marks altered artificially. Since the females marks are never seen by anyone other than her mate, it was not important that Daciana obtain markings.”
Anghel shook his head and closed his eyes as he let Vasile’s words sink into him. “What he did was proof that he was already showing signs of madness: to take another’s mate as his own, to alter his marks unnaturally, and to bear a child with her?”
Vasile nodded. “I know but he ruled his pack fairly and none could challenge him and win. For all intents and purposes he did as he was called to as an Alpha. He guided, loved, shepherded, and kept order over his pack. My mother supported him as best she could. Even though she wasn’t his true mate, she was an Alpha in her own right. Had she not been a dominant female the farce never would have held up.”
“Your mother didn’t have to die, did she, Vasile?” Anghel asked unnecessarily. He knew the answer, but he felt like it needed to be spoken aloud.
Vasile’s shoulder hunched forward as he felt the weight of her loss. “No, but they wanted to keep up the charade of their status. She was willing to die to protect my place as Alpha, and she truly didn’t want to live without my father. She loved him, maybe not in a way possible between true mates, but in her own way, she loved him.”