“Where have you been?” she asked him as she stared at him closely trying to get a read on his mood. Her father could have been a gambler, could have played any game that required a blank face. He held his emotions in check better than anyone she had ever known.
“There was a village meeting. All the males were called on.”
She waited for more but he did not continue. She let out a huff. “Aaand,” she drew out the word hoping he would elaborate.
“News came in about an hour ago that the Alpha and his mate are indeed dead, and Stefan’s son, Vasile, is Alpha now. Rumor is that he will be making his way to each village.” His tone dripped with weariness as he looked for a small morsel to eat.
“Why is he going to the villages? Does that mean he will come here?” Alina’s voice rose with each question. “Does he have a true mate yet?”
“Hush, child,” her father admonished. “The better question is 'Why are you so interested in the new Alpha?'”
Alina felt her cheeks grow warm as her father scrutinized her face. Alina had met―okay not really met, more like seen from a distance―Vasile a few times over the years. The last time had been when she was thirteen. He was handsome, really handsome, with a muscular build, hair black as night, and eyes so blue she was sure that the Great Luna herself had dipped a paint brush into the sky and painted them to match. It had been two years. Since then she had matured quite a bit not only in physical attributes but emotionally as well. She knew the chances of a bond showing up before the age of eighteen were rare, but she felt so ready despite her age. True mate bonds were finicky things. Typically they did not show signs until the female was of age or able to conceive. The latter varied from female to female. Alina herself had been a late bloomer in that respect and had not had her first blood until a month after her fifteenth birthday, not that she was complaining. Other than being able to bond with her mate and bear a child, having a menses was not her favorite part of becoming a mature female.
So she was slightly enamored with him, big deal. So maybe she thought about it for days and weeks after each sighting; that is not unusual when a girl sees a handsome male. And maybe a few times she had tried his last name out with hers, imagined what his lips would taste like, and fantasized about having his pups. Okay, so maybe she was bordering on obsessed at that point. Well, her father did not have to know all that. She smiled up at him and asked, “It is important for us to know our Alpha, is it not?”
Her father narrowed his eyes at her, and she knew that she did not have near the ability to wipe her face clean like he did, but she was pretty good at it when she tried.
“It is,” he agreed. “It is also important for a female to find her true mate. You are one such female. It has been a few years since you have seen Vasile, has it not? You have matured quite a lot since then; perhaps your wolf is stirring and she feels something that you do not quite understand yet.”
“Are you implying that he could be my mate?” Alina whispered as if the walls had ears and could share secrets that were spoken within.
“Why? Is that so impossible? Mind you, Alpha or not, he still will not be claiming you until you turn twenty. Actually, I should be saying especially since he is an Alpha. You need to know who you are as woman, Alina. I do not want you to only find your identity in your mate. I want you to be confident because of who you are, not who you are mated to.”
Alina looked over at her sleeping mother and stood up to be closer to her father so they would not disturb her. She looked up at him meeting his eyes. “When you look at me do you see one worthy of royalty? He is of a royal bloodline, Father, and I am…,” she paused and looked down at her tattered dress and dirt covered shoes. “I am just this.”
She felt a finger under her chin as he raised her head until she was once again looking up at him. Her father was a handsome man, not in the same way that Vasile was, but handsome nonetheless.
His lips tightened, his eyes glowed ever so slightly, and there was a gravelly quality to his voice that only happened when his wolf was near the surface. “You are not defined by the clothes on your body, the shoes on your feet, or the money in your pocket. You are defined by the choices you make, the character that you choose to have, and the respect you show yourself and to those around you. Just because he is royalty does not mean he is worthy of you. This is exactly why I want you to wait. You have no reason to be ashamed. Listen to me now, daughter-of-mine.” He dropped his hand to her shoulder and squeezed it gently. “You are a female of worth. I know your character; I’ve seen the choices you have made and been on the receiving end of your respect. Even if he is your true mate, you make him work for it. When a male wolf in the wild finds a female he wants to take as a mate, that female does not bow her head and tuck her tail between her legs. She makes the male show her that he is strong, faithful and capable.
“When you do finally meet your true mate, do not dare tuck your tail and lower your head. You meet his gaze, you challenge his pursuit, and you make him prove it.”
Alina’s mouth had dropped open at her father’s words. He had never talked with her about finding her true mate; it was her mother who had always shared and ask questions. She honestly could not believe what she was hearing and it confused her.
“What about the mating signs? Is not that proof enough?” she asked.
“The mating signs simply reveal true mates to one another. They do not give either one the right to demand, or take, what is not freely given.”
That was news to Alina. She had been under the impression that once a male found his true mate nothing and no one would stand in his way of claiming her. She had indeed wondered just how her father was planning to tell her mate that he could not have her until she was twenty. Alina still was not satisfied. “What about dominant males? I thought they became possessive of their mates and would not allow anyone or anything to stand in their way. And won’t it be painful for us both if we don’t bond?”
“I am not saying that you will not ever bond. All I am saying is that things worth having usually come at a price. You need to decide what your price is. You are a dominant female, Alina, which means your mate will be extremely dominant. He will always cherish you, love you, and take care of you. But if you let him, he will rule you because he will think it is the best way to protect you, and above all else his need to protect his mate will always come first. It would be wise of you to set the tone of your mating by letting your future mate know that you will respect him, but you will demand the same respect.”