Alina watched her father quietly walk over to his own mate and pick her sleeping form up as effortlessly as if she was a child. He took his mate to the only room in the cottage and closed the door, leaving Alina with her thoughts.
Her price? she thought. What could she possibly expect from the male made for her? How could she demand his respect and expect he wait to complete the bond with her until she was sure he would treat her as his equal? Her father had given her some things to think about that she had never considered. Of course, he was a male so it made sense that he would know better than her mother how her mate would act and the best way for her to respond to him.
“My price,” she whispered into the empty room as she lay down on the bed in the far corner. Her eyes slowly closed and her mind drifted back to the first time she had ever seen Vasile. She had been in one of the larger market places close to the castle of Stefan and Daciana. She was all of twelve and it was the first time her mother and father had allowed her to accompany them. She bounced on eager feet as they walked through the crowds of people. The new scents in the air nearly overwhelmed her, and the chatter of the vendors trying to catch the attention of every passerby was like a swarm of bees swirling about her head. Her eyes never rested on one thing for too long because there was just too much to see. There seemed to be a vendor for everything she could imagine: colorful fabrics at one stand, fresh produce at another, jewelry, tack for horses, tools. Her father nudged her in the direction of a hut filled with all sorts of metal tools and even weapons. She had always thought it strange that they made weapons when they werewolves. Their very form was a weapon, but her father had said a good predator utilizes all of its options, and fighting in their human form was definitely an option and sometimes necessary.
“Petre.” A large man with shaggy black hair, brown eyes, and the beginning shadow of a beard walked from behind a curtain. “Georgeta, it’s so good to see you both.”
The use of her parent’s first names told her that they were good friends with this man. Alina stood silently to the right and behind her parents, looking around the small area at all of the treasures hanging and lying on shelves. It took her mother’s throat clearing to realize they had been speaking to her.
“This is our daughter, Alina.” Her father motioned for her to step forward.
“It is very nice to meet you, Miss Alina,” the large man said holding out his hand. She took the offered hand and watched as he leaned over and ever so lightly pressed a kiss to hers. She didn’t miss it when he took a long, deep breath as he leaned over her. He was handsome, but then most werewolves were. Still it did not stop her from politely but quickly pulling her hand away.
Her mother had explained that the older she grew, the more males would attempt to discover if she was their mate, even if she was not of age, though they would not take her before they were allowed. Alina had told her mother in no uncertain terms that if some random wolf came sniffing around her claiming that she was his, she would poke his eyes out. Her parents had both laughed at her, thinking her jesting, but she was dead serious, and if the man before her did not stop sniffing the air around her, she was going to make good on her threat.
“Cezar,” her father’s deep rumble and the loud clanking of the bag of metal works that he set on the counter in front of them had the man turning away from Alina, finally. “I’ve brought what you ordered.” Cezar went about inspecting the tools while her parents waited patiently.
Alina was not so patient. She walked to the edge of the hut to look out into the busy street. Dust rose in the air from all the shuffling feet and tickled her nose causing her to sneeze. The sneeze made her eyes water, and the dirt filled air only made her eyes tear up more. Because she had been attempting to wipe her eyes with her dress without showing anything that would be deemed inappropriate, she was bent over and had not noticed the person that had stopped next to her.
“Are you alright?” a kind, smooth voice asked.
Alina’s eyes suddenly became of little worry as she righted herself to see a tall man, wearing the crest of the Alpha on his arm, standing in front of her. He smiled down at her and handed her a swatch of fabric. “The air can get very thick during the busiest time of the day,” he told her.
She nodded and took the offered piece using it to quickly wipe away the moisture that had gathered in her eyes. Once she was not looking through a blur of tears, she could see that the man before her was attractive and had a kind smile. She heard shuffling behind him and watched as he looked over his shoulder and nodded his head. She followed his line of sight, and her mouth dropped open as she realized who stood some distance away, though close enough that she had no trouble identifying him.
From the black clothing, that only the royals wore, to the piercing blue eyes he was known for, Alina realized that she was seeing the Alpha’s son for the first time. He was talking with a vendor, an older woman, who, being a Canis lupis, must have been very old to appear anywhere over the age of thirty-five. He handed her some money. When she attempted to give him some of her produce, he shook his head and pressed a kiss to her hand. Her heart clenched at his generosity and the obvious affection the woman had in her eyes for Vasile. As he turned back in her direction, she saw his dazzling smile only for a minute, and then his face was back to its neutral state that every dominant male seemed to wear.
“Please keep that.” The man in front of her lightly touched the hand that held the cloth. She looked back at him, and it was an effort to turn her gaze away from Vasile. “I wouldn’t want you to endure any more discomfort from the crowded street.”
Alina smiled up at him. “Thank you.” She bowed her head and tilted it ever so slightly as to show that she knew he was dominant to her, but she did not belong to him and therefore would not fully bear her throat to him. He watched her for a second longer and then turned and walked towards Vasile, and, now that she wasn’t completely focused on the young heir, she saw that he and the other men were dressed in a similar fashion. Those must have been the Alpha’s top wolves. She would not call them guards because it would be perceived as a sign of weakness if Vasile walked through the market under the protection of others. He walked out in front, with one nearly walking even with him and the rest behind him, making them appear more like companions. The protective way in which he maneuvered his body in front of the men showed that he was the one doing the guarding. He was not weak and he need not hide behind any other.