“That is so much for one man to carry.”
Vasile nodded. “Maybe, but it is my burden and one that I cannot share with the pack—ever. They would see my father’s actions as weak and his dishonesty with them about his mate traitorous. And then they would question my integrity and my loyalty to the pack. They might even take it as far as to say that Alphas must bear their markings, even the female, for all the pack to see as proof of their mating, and that would not be wise.”
Anghel shifted restlessly in his chair as he considered the quandary Vasile now found himself in. “If you are to be Alpha, and be obeyed completely, you must demand their fealty. You must command their submission and the only way to do that is to be present. You will need to go out and visit the villages of pack members. You need to make yourself known, and you need to squelch any rumors about your parents’ death and reveal the truth.” Vasile started to interrupt but Anghel held up his hand to stop him. “I do not mean the real truth. I mean the truth that you will tell your top four, and their mates as well. By now, even the furthest pack members will be feeling the loss of their Alphas. They will need reassurance that the pack is safe and intact. They will need contact with you, the heart of their pack, and they will need to see confidence in your eyes. That is where they will find their comfort and stability.”
Vasile rubbed his face as he let out a long sigh. Already the difficulties of what was ahead weighed heavily on him. “The pack is scattered. My father’s hold was strong enough to keep them united even as they sought out new land and territories. As we’ve thrived in the absence of war we have grown through matings. There have even been a couple births, and without a healer that is a miracle in and of itself. It will take time to reach them all if I am to visit every village.”
“Rumors of your visits will spread quickly. You know as well as I do that male wolves gossip worse than any of the females.”
Vasiles’ lips turned up ever so slightly at the older wolf’s words. “That is true enough. I need to meet with my father’s…,” he paused and then corrected himself, “with my top males. I will leave my second, Alin, here in charge and take my third and fourth with me.”
“That is wise,” Anghel agreed. “Have you thought about your mate?”
Vasile’s head snapped up. “What do you mean have I thought about her? I have yet to find her. How am I to think of her?”
“I mean have you thought about searching for her, actively, instead of just hoping that the Fates grace you with their favor. You need a mate. She will make you stronger, not to mention give you the ability to produce an heir. You know that proven virility is seen as a strength by the males. It will make them less likely to challenge you.”
“So while I’m out reassuring the pack you want me to be hunting as well?” Vasile’s eyes began to glow as he considered the idea of actually finding her, his true mate. He had not entirely been telling the truth when he claimed that he could not possibly be thinking of her since he had yet to find her. There wasn’t a second in any day that he did not think of her. He wondered what she would look like. Would she have long hair or did she keep it shorter? Was she tall and lithe, or short and curvy in all the right places? Would her eyes sparkle when she laughed? On and on the questions bombarded his mind. In truth he was desperate for her. Whoever she was, he needed her, wanted her, and prayed the Great Luna would show him mercy and lead him to her.
“I heard from your father that you are the most patient hunter in your pack. He said that when you hunt as your wolf, you somehow allow the animal more control without losing yourself. Maybe you should try to stir your wolf’s patience while in your human form?”
“I have a feeling that this hunt will not provoke the same kind of patience in him as the hunt for a kill does. My wolf is restless for his mate. The darkness inside of me gains more ground every day, and now I have no family left to keep my wolf in check. I almost pity the female who gets stuck with me.”
Romanian Proverb # 3
Nu te juca cu coada ursului.
Never trouble trouble till trouble troubles you.
It was in the heat of the afternoon that Alina felt the ache, the emptiness left from the loss. It was like a hole had been carved into her heart and a chunk of it removed. She gasped from the pain as she fell forward over the table where she had been kneading dough for the evening meal. She knew what it was immediately because she had been taught as a child the strength of the bond between Alpha and pack. She felt the tears on her cheeks before she even realized she was crying. This hurt far worse than she had imagined it would.
“Alina!” She heard her mother’s voice coming from outside. She hurried to the door, clutching onto anything she could for support.
“Mother, are you alright?” Alina asked as she saw her mother doubled over in a similar position.
“The Alphas,” her mother breathed out. “They are gone.”
Alina’s head turned at the sound of a low growl just as her father came around the corner of their small home. He had phased into his wolf form because the need to protect his own was stronger than his ability to keep the man in control.
“Mother, is he okay?” Alina asked her mom, knowing they could use their bond to communicate.
Her mother nodded but didn’t answer. She was breathing hard and the tight features of her face testified to the extreme discomfort that she was experiencing.
“How long will this last?” Alina asked desperate for a reprieve.
“As long as it takes for the entire pack to know,” her mother answered.
That was not the answer Alina had been looking for. Theirs was a large pack. The reigning Alpha and his mate had been good leaders, strong and fair, and the pack had prospered because of it. She clenched her teeth together in an attempt to keep the pain at bay and walked out to help her mother up. Her father was staring a hole into his mate, and Alina knew he did not like seeing her on the ground, vulnerable. They tripped and stumbled their way into their home, and Alina helped her mother into one of two chairs that occupied the small living space. There was nothing left to do but wait. Alina was not good at waiting. Her father took up sentry at the door, small growls escaping his throat occasionally. He never moved; he endured his pain in stillness and silence as he protected his mate and daughter―from what she did not know.
Alina woke with a start when she heard the door close. Her father was walking in on two feet and he looked more tired than usual. She took a deep breath and realized that the pain was gone. There was still a dull ache, but it was manageable.