Alina opened her eyes. She realized she was on the bed in the small home of her parents and no longer in the busy streets of the market staring after a future she could never have. She sat up and stretched her tired limbs, her vivid dreams having kept her from getting a good night sleep.
“I thought you might sleep the day away,” her mother’s voice came from the kitchen.
Alina walked into the small area and watched as Georgeta expertly twisted dough that would become the bread for their evening meal. Her hands were strong from long hours working. The skin, tough and callused, still looked young and beautiful but obviously the hands were of one who worked the land. Alina looked down at her own hands and realized that, though they were still soft, they were showing the beginning signs of the effects of hard labor, even on a werewolf.
“What is going through that busy head of yours?” her mother asked.
Alina lowered her hands and slipped them behind her back feeling as though she had been caught swiping a bite of pie before dinner.
“Father said the new Alpha is visiting the villages,” she answered nonchalantly. Her mother knew her better than that, not to mention had seen Alina’s reaction to the few times she had seen Vasile.
“You have changed much since the last time you saw him.”
“That is what your mate said,” Alina’s eyes sparkled with humor. “He seems to think that there is a possibility that Vasile could be my mate.”
“And what is so impossible about that? Although you are still young for the mating signs to appear, your sixteenth birthday is not too far off, so it is not an impossibility that he could be your mate or that the signs would begin to appear.”
“I am more likely to be the mate of that old mare in the field than the mate of a royal, let alone the Alpha of our pack. And for the signs to appear even before I am sixteen seems quite doubtful.” Alina stepped up to the front door. It was open, as usual during the summer months. Her mother loved the fresh air and the sounds of nature. Alina knew it called to her wolf, just as it did her own.
“It is not like you to be so unsure of yourself, of your worth, Alina,” Georgeta’s voice chided her softly. “Vasile would be a blessed wolf if he were to have the honor of you being his true mate.”
“You have to say that; you are my mother,” Alina sighed.
“Maybe.” She felt her mother's arm come around her shoulders and pull her close, the familiar scent of spices enveloping her. “Or maybe I am just the smartest female in all the land. Either way, I am right.”
Alina laughed. “And humble too.”
Weeks passed as Alina went about her usual routine. She laid out each evening in her field staring at the sky, dreaming of her future, wishing for the impossible. With every passing day she grew more and more anxious of the Alpha’s arrival. Some nervous part of her did not want him to come and wished that he would just bypass them all together. But then another part of her, namely her wolf, waited with baited breath for him to arrive. She had thought one night that maybe he had not shown up thus far because he had found his true mate in one of the other villages. This had put her wolf in a rage that ended with her phasing, running, and hunting until the possessive jealousy had finally cooled. When Alina returned to her human form, she was shaken by the intense feelings her wolf had for Vasile, a man whom she had never even spoken with. Could it mean that he was indeed her mate, or did she just have an unhealthy fascination with what she could not have? Unfortunately, there was nothing she could do but wait.
A thought hit her suddenly just as she decided to let the worry go. “What if I really am his mate?” she spoke into the dark night. “What then?” The Great Luna’s words replayed in her mind. “Be ready, child, the one I have for you comes with much darkness, much baggage, and he will need your goodness. For without you, his darkness will rule and he will destroy the Canis lupis race.”
Alina sat up abruptly.Her heart threatened to beat out of her chest as moisture collected on her neck and in the palm of her hands. Vasile was bound to have baggage; he lost his brother and now his parents. She knew that the males of her race struggled with the darkness that their beast brought with them until their true mate filled them with their light. How much darkness would the deaths of three family members deposit in a man’s already dimming soul with no one to help him bear it? And an even better question, 'Was she ready to be a mate to one such as that?'
Romanian Proverb # 4
Nu vrea sã audã.
There are none so deaf as those that will not hear.
“Your hospitality is greatly appreciated, Louis.” Vasile thanked the family once again for allowing him to stay with them during his visit to their village. He stepped out into the cool evening air and stretched. His third, Ion, and fourth, Nicu, were waiting for him near the edge of the village. He had decided to travel at night for a couple of days so that they could hunt. The only down side to this decision was that they sometimes had to ask for clothes in the communities they came upon. Not that any of them protested giving their Alpha clothes, but it was irritating to him to be an imposition on his people.
“That went well,” Ion said just as Vasile reached them.
“So far there have been none attempting to challenge me, which is making my life somewhat easier for the time being,” Vasile agreed. “I am surprised to see the state of things in some of these villages,” he confessed. “I am afraid I have not been diligent about monitoring our lands, even when my father was still alive. I did not know that the outer parts of the pack were suffering so. I guess that was one way in which my father’s madness was beginning to show in his inability to care for his pack and to protect them.” He pinched the bridge of his nose as the realization of just how much damage his father had done to their pack became clear. “When we get to the next village, Nicu, send one of the young males back to the castle. Have him tell Alin to send out financial aid, food, clothes, and anything else to the last four villages we visited. We will probably have to do the same to the village we are about to see.” Nicu nodded and Vasile could see the relief in the wolf’s eyes. He was a dominant as well and it was natural for him to want to protect those in his pack.
They had been traveling around their territory for more than four weeks now, staying for several days in each village they came upon. Anghel had been right. His pack had needed reassurance that they were still intact and that there wouldn’t be anarchy or a hundred challenges among the males vying for the Alpha position.