Fated to the Alpha by Jasmine White
The crackling fires clawed up toward the night sky almost as fiercely as the two furred beasts bit and clawed at each other. Everyone around me was shouting and cheering, filling the night with the sounds of bloodlust. We formed a circle around the two viciously fighting wolves, enjoying the show.
At least, most of us were enjoying it. I wasn’t in the mood to be entertained by violence.
I was among the few who still had my clothes on. Most of the pack around me was naked by now, several of them with fresh wounds from having been in the ring already; others had taken their clothes off in anticipation of getting their turn. Some of them were just naked for the hell of it. It wasn’t uncommon.
There were a few who were watching the fight in their four-legged forms. Every here and there among the humans standing around, was a wolf throwing his or her head back and howling, or just letting their tongues hang out. Now and then another one would join them, dropping to all fours and growing out their fur, their tails, and their protruding muzzles.
Everyone loved the fights. Most of the time I did too.
But not tonight.
Eventually, one of the competitors gained the upper ground, stepping over her opponent and baring her teeth, while the defeated party curled up beneath her with her tail between her legs. Victorious, the dominant wolf rose up on her hind legs, which extended into long human legs as her fur receded back into her flesh, and her snout shrunk back to form a human face, and long human hair extended from her head. Where there once was a drooling, sharp-toothed wolf, a nude, muscled human woman now stood before us, covered in fresh bites and scratches, and raised her fist in the air, giving a long, feral shout of victory. The rest of the pack howled and cheered with her; all except for her opponent, resuming her own two-legged shape while curled up in the dirt and crawling away.
And except for me.
I decided I’d seen enough, and turned and walked away. Watching the fight should have cheered me up, but it just wasn’t working tonight. I guess that spoke volumes about my state of mind.
I didn’t get very far before someone came running up behind me. I knew by her scent before I turned around that it was Charlene. Unlike me, she had long since ditched her clothes showing off all the scars she’d gotten participating in fights herself over the years. I had never been a fighter myself; I just liked to watch. Not to mention I liked my skin smooth and unscarred.
“Evie, where you going?” she asked. “Aren’t you having fun?”
“Can’t really get into it tonight,” I shrugged. “Guess I got too much on my mind.”
“Yeah, that figures,” Charlene sighed. “If I were in your place… getting cold feet?”
“I don’t think I ever had warm feet about this to begin with,” I said. “I’ve been going out of my mind about it all day.”
“Didn’t it make you happy when he announced it?” she asked. “Half the girls in the pack would’ve given anything to be in your shoes.”
“I was a little too overwhelmed to be happy,” I said. “I never expected this…”
“You’re not thinking of refusing, are you?” she asked.
I sighed. “How could I do that? Leon is the alpha, and besides, my dad would disown me. The chance for his grandchild to be the next alpha? He’d never forgive me if I walked away from that.”
Charlene looked at me sympathetically. “Maybe you just need some time to get used to it. You’re just reeling from the shock of it all. Once that passes, you’ll realize what a great deal you’ve gotten.”
I shifted uncomfortably. “Maybe.”
“You want to go for a run?” she offered. “Might clear your head.”
I smiled. “You know, I think that’s exactly what I need.”
“Come on, girl, get those clothes off already! Let’s go!”
She hurried off ahead of me, dropping down onto all fours as her body changed shape. Shaggy fur grew out from her skin as her hair receded, her ears moved up her head and reshaped into points, her hands and feet transformed into canine paws, and her mouth and nose extended into a long muzzle. She loped along a short distance before she stopped and looked back to me.
I finally started stripping my clothes off, too. I started after Charlene, walking at first, getting steadily faster the more articles of clothing I discarded. By the time my underwear finally hit the ground I was actually running, alongside Charlene’s lupine form. And after only a few more running steps, I leaped forward, and began to shift into my four-legged form in mid-air. I had my hands extended out before me when I leaped but they were my paws when they reached the ground and propelled me forward.
I went from running with the wind rushing over my bare skin to running with the wind rushing through my fur. My claws dug into the dirt, pulling me forward much faster than my human legs ever could.
Together we dashed past trees and bushes, leaping over banks and roots. Birds and small animals scattered from our approach. Nothing could stop us, and nothing could catch us. Not even my worries.
Charlene was right. This was what I really needed right at that moment. I needed to be free.
Maybe because that was exactly what I felt like I wasn’t anymore.
My thoughts couldn’t stop coming back to the events of that day.
It had been a day like any other until that moment when my dad came into the house with that big proud smile on his face. When I asked him what was up, his response was to tell me that Leon wanted to see me in the circle, and that he had something very important to say. He was deliberately vague about it, but the giant grin he couldn’t wipe off his face kind of worried me.
Appropriately so, as it would turn out.
When I got out to the circle, I was massively unnerved to find that the whole pack had gathered there. I’d been expecting Leon to have something he wanted to say to me privately, given how dad had been so secretive about it. This was something he wanted everyone there to hear. This could not have been good.
Leon was standing proud at his place of honor atop the large rock at the head of the circle, decked out in his brown leather jacket and his slicked-back hair. As I drew near, moving progressively slower as I got closer to the circle and grew steadily more nervous, Leon held out a hand, beckoning me to join him. My heart pounded with apprehension. I cautiously approached, taking his hand and stepping up with him onto the rock.
Then he turned to the pack. “My pack brothers and sisters,” he said. “Serving you all as alpha has been one of the most rewarding experiences I could have asked for. But there comes a point in every wolf’s life when he realizes he can’t face all the trials of life alone. That’s why I’ve come to a decision.”
Then he turned to me, looking me straight in the eye. “Evelyn,” he said. “I’ve chosen you. I want you to be my wife.”
The whole pack erupted in cheers and howls. Many of the she-wolves had tears in their eyes, torn between being overjoyed for me and wishing they could be me. Me? I just couldn’t breathe.
I felt like I’d been in a state of constant disbelief ever since. I kept waiting for someone to come along, wake me up, and bring me back to reality. Any minute now, this dream would disappear, and I would go back to being my own self-sufficient
she-wolf with no expectations on my shoulders.
I was, wasn’t I? That was my reality. It always had been. I was never one of those girls who spent ages dreaming about her wedding day. I never even imagined myself being married, and for that matter, I’d barely given any thought to ever having pups. Yes, I had plenty of sexual encounters with other members of my pack before, but I never looked at any of them in any long-term kind of sense. Let alone the alpha himself.
I'm not quite sure what Leon even saw in me. I certainly wasn't the hottest catch in the pack; sure, I had no scars, but I wasn't the only one who could claim that. And there were others in that category who were a lot hotter than me. I was too curvy, for one thing; I'd been telling myself for years to lay off those snacks. And I had too many freckles, too. And hell, Charlene pulled off the curly brunette look better than I did; I always seemed to have some frizz hiding somewhere, and my split ends just didn't want to go away. So what was it about me that made him single me out?Of course, my brain kept wanting to answer, "Dad suggested it."
The hours kept ticking by, and I had yet to wake up. That moment with Leon on the rock in front of the pack had still happened. I was still promised to become Mrs. Alpha of the Pack.
Still… as shocked and overwhelmed as I was about the whole thing, I wasn’t completely sure I didn’t want it either. Many times throughout the day I contemplated the idea of what being married to Leon would be like.
Honestly, when I really considered it, the possibility didn’t seem that bad. Being the wife of the alpha was a good role to have. Everyone would look up to me; I would be in a position of power, with influence over the whole pack. My pups would have that same kind of influence after me.
I liked Leon. I really did. I’d always looked up to him and given him the respect he was due as an alpha. I even enjoyed his company from time to time.
I just did not love him.
Charlene and I ran until we tired ourselves out. I gradually slowed to a trot, and then stopped and sat, while Charlene lay down on the ground, sphinx-like. I spent a while catching my breath, my tongue hanging out, before Charlene finally turned her head to look up at me. She shifted her position to allow her legs to reshape in the right direction as she returned to her two-legged shape, lying on her side on the ground. “You feel better?” she asked me.
I shifted back to my own two-legged form, and then sat back, putting my hands behind me to lean on. “Yeah, a little,” I said. “I needed to loosen up.”
But of course, a little run didn’t change my situation.
“What do you think you’re gonna do?” she asked me. “You gonna go through with it?”
I shrugged. “I can’t imagine I’d have the guts to say no,” I said. “Now that everyone’s expecting it, I can’t let them all down.”
“But is it what you want?”
I hesitated, taking a minute to think before I answered. “Maybe it will be. Once I get over the shock, like you said. Maybe once I think about it, I’ll decide it’s exactly what I want. I ought to at least give it a chance.”
“That’s the spirit, girl!” she grinned, reaching over to pat me on the leg.
It was pretty clear what side of the fence Charlene was on about this issue. I was more than sure most of the pack shared her sentiments.
I just wished I could make myself share them.
After I woke up from a fitful night’s sleep the next day, I came out to the kitchen to find Mom making a batch of pancakes. She looked up at me and smiled as I entered. “Good morning, Mrs. Alpha,” she beamed.
I made a face as I churned the strange taste of that through my mouth. “That still sounds weird,” I said.
“Good weird?” she pried. Then cautiously she tried, “Bad weird?”
I shrugged. “I don’t know. Just weird.”
She flipped the pancakes she was cooking. “I’m making your favorite this morning,” she said, still wearing that big smile. “Buttermilk pancakes, and I got you some powdered sugar and strawberries!”
Well, I knew I could be happy about that, at least. “Thanks, Mom,” I relented, taking a seat at the kitchen counter. I watched her work, bringing her culinary craft to life. Mom was always a master in the kitchen; I could never quite measure up. Most of the stuff I tried to cook usually ended up as kindling for the bonfires. Well, they might as well have, if I didn’t see fit to chuck them in the garbage first.
I just hoped Leon wasn’t planning to have me cook for him.
Oh, crap… I’d just imagined myself actually being married to him. I didn’t know if that was a good thing or not.
I decided not to dwell on it as I saw Mom stack up my breakfast on my plate, topping it with sugar and strawberries and sliding it toward me. When I dug into that stack, my worries, doubts, and uncertainty were allowed to melt away in the face of sweet, fruity heaven. They were almost as good as my little run had been last night.
I was able to lose myself in the food until I heard the door open and approaching footsteps, accompanied by my dad’s scent. I lifted my head to see him coming into the room, looking at me with that same proud grin on his bearded face he had yesterday. Except now I knew what it was about. He didn’t say anything; he just stepped up behind me and placed a hand on my shoulder.
“Did he just decide this yesterday?” I asked him. “Or were you planning this with him for weeks?”
Dad shrugged. “Well, I may have suggested you’d be a good match for him. You should be happy, darling. I put in a good word for you with the alpha, and it paid off. He picked you!”
I was tempted to say, “Did you wonder if I would’ve picked him back?” I refrained from saying that out loud. Dad would have looked at me as if I was from Mars if I said that. Rene Godfrey’s only daughter not wanting to be married to the alpha? Just the suggestion would be enough to give him a coronary.
Honestly, the smiles all around were kind of unsettling to me. Especially Dad’s. I knew from experience how quickly his happy look could turn to something far less pleasant. I didn’t dare want to tempt that.
A chance for his bloodline to reach the coveted alpha position had been offered. To deny him that now would be the worst affront to him imaginable.
It was no secret that Dad had once challenged for the right of alpha back in his youth. It was years ago, before I was even born, so I’d only heard about it in stories. The stories all came from other members of the pack who were there at the time; Dad didn’t like to talk about it himself. It was apparently his greatest shame.
From what I understood, the previous alpha died without an heir, and Leon’s father and mine had each vied for the position. Or more specifically, they had fought for the position. As in with tooth and claw. Long story short, Dad lost. He’d apparently resented that loss ever since, and while he’d eventually made peace with the situation, and accepted Leon as alpha, once he became of age, and took over for his father, Dad had always hoped he could have a descendant take the position of power that he was denied.
So I didn’t say anything more to him. I stuffed my face with a mouthful of pancake and chewed slowly.
Dad clapped me on the shoulder. “Come on, you look like you’ve got the world on your shoulders!” he thundered. “This is the best thing that’s ever happened to you! Where’s your smile?”
“Rene,” Mom came to my defense, “leave her alone. This is a big deal. She needs time to process it.”
Dad apparently still didn’t get it. “What’s to process? She should be jumping up and down instead of sitting here all mopey!”
“Rene!” Mom demanded, exercising the one source of authority besides Leon that Dad respected. “Give her some breathing room.”
Dad grimaced, and walked away. “Well, I guess I’ll go chop some wood while you process,” he said, and disappeared out the front door.
I turned back around with a sigh. “Thanks, Mom.”
Mom placed a hand atop mine. “This is very sudden for you, isn’t it?” she said. “You’re being asked to take on a big role that you didn’t prepare for. But you still have a lot of time. You can get used to the idea.”
I turned a vulnerable look up at her. “I don’t know if I want to get used to it,” I said weakly.
Mom gave me a look of understanding. “You don’t love him,” she acknowledged. “I get that. You know, love isn’t always like it is in romance novels or John Hughes movies. It doesn’t happen all at once in some miraculous moment like a fireworks display. It takes time. You build it up, day by day. Like laying bricks. It took me a while to learn to love your father, you know.”
Why doesn’t that surprise me?
“I know this seems scary to you now,” she went on. “But you can learn to love Leon if you try. It just takes time.”
I appreciated what Mom was trying to do. I wasn’t as comforted as she wanted me to be.
“Why don’t you go talk to him today?” she offered. “Start laying some of those bricks.”
I sighed. “Okay. I’ll give him a chance.”
After downing my whole plate, which had enough pancakes to feed three, I resolved myself to get some actual face time with the man who had been chosen to be my fiancée. Leon wasn’t at home when I showed up at his door, but I followed his scent trail to old Tobias’s garage. He was seated on the workbench with one foot resting on the seat below him, the other hanging free, as he watched Tobias, James and Terry working under the hood of Terry’s rusty old pickup.
James lifted his head as I approached, and whistled to the others. “Heads up, fellas,” he said. “Future Mrs. Leon is here.”
Old Tobias slid out from underneath the truck. “Hey, hey, beautiful!” he chimed. “What brings you down to the grease pit?”
In response, I turned my attention toward Leon. “I was hoping I could borrow him for a minute?”
Leon smiled. “These old ratchet-heads were boring me anyway,” he said, hopping down from where he sat. “I’m all yours.”
As we walked out, Tobias made the quip, “Not even hitched yet and she’s already got you whipped! Poor boy!”
“We’ll see,” Leon replied, turning his head back. “She doesn’t seem so tough.”
“Famous last words, buddy!” Terry said. “Famous last words!”
Leon and I put some distance between them and ourselves before he finally asked, “So, what did you want to talk to me about?”
I stopped. By golly, I had no idea what to say to him. “Well, I, uh… I… I just thought…”
I shrugged. “Well, if we’re going to be married, I thought we should have a chance to talk to each other.”
“That’s a wonderful idea,” he said. Then he repeated, “So what did you want to talk to me about?”
And again, I was speechless.
“You’re awfully tightlipped,” he said. “You said you wanted to talk; don’t you have anything to say?”
He wasn’t being especially helpful. Searching for something, I craned my neck to look again to the garage in the distance. “What’s wrong with Susie this time?” I asked, referring to the name given to Terry’s rust bucket truck.
Leon looked back at it with me. “Tobias just replaced the transmission, and then there go the shocks again,” he replied.
“Think the old girl’s ready to be retired yet?”
“The old girl, I think she was ready to be retired years ago,” he said. “Terry is just too stubbornly in love with her to know it.”
At least someone around here is in love with something.
“That, and it’s still one of the only four working vehicles we have around here,” he added.
“Barely,” I commented.
“Devotion counts for a lot,” he said.
I wondered if he was referring to me at all.
I decided to come right out and ask him. “How long were you thinking about this?”
He turned and grinned at me. “Longer than you probably think,” he said. “I didn’t choose you lightly, Evelyn. I honestly decided you were the best choice, and that was after a lot of consideration, believe me.”
I wasn’t overly encouraged. It sounded like he was thinking of me like a new car that he’d bought.
As I contemplated what to say next, I turned my head to the sound of running feet and panting breath approaching. Three lupine shapes came bounding up to us, whom I was able to identify by their scents as Marla, Ken and Rudy.
I also noticed that Ken was sporting a deep, nasty bite in his shoulder, which became more obvious when the three of them shifted to their two-legged forms, and the fur that partially obscured the wound disappeared. They looked haggard and exhausted, Ken especially. I could smell the faint aroma of a strange wolf on him.
“What happened?” Leon said.
“The Morgandorf Pack,” Rudy said through heavy breaths. “They’re getting bolder. We ran into four of them on the wrong side of our western border. When we tried to chase them out they attacked us, as if they didn’t care they were in our territory. Ken got it good.”
Leon’s face looked grim. “Where did they go?”
“After they took a bite out of Ken, we tried to chase them off,” Marla said. “We were outnumbered, though. They stood their ground, but then decided to slink back where they came from before things got too ugly.”
“This won’t be the end of it,” Leon said. “If the Morgandorfs are disregarding our borders and not even trying to hide it, we can expect them to show up again, in numbers this time.” He looked over the trio and said, “Ken, go get that looked at. The rest of you get cleaned up, and tell everyone to gather tonight for a howl.”
They all nodded, and headed off. Leon’s calm smirk was gone, replaced by that narrow-eyed look of venom he always got whenever the subject of the Morgandorfs came up. He wasn’t alone, either. Many members of my pack seemed to know only one way to say that name, and that was by spitting it out as if it were a curse. Dad in particular had always been especially vehement in referring to our neighboring pack.
“Are you planning something?” I asked him with more than a little concern.
He turned to me again, still not regaining his confident look. “Nothing drastic, don’t worry. But we do need to prepare ourselves for the possibility of those Morgandorf fleabags trying to move in on us. Consider this a yellow alert.”
Again, I wasn’t encouraged.
Then suddenly his smirk returned with a vengeance, and he put a hand on my shoulder. “You’ll be by my side when I address the pack tonight,” he said. “You should get a taste of being my pack mistress. I think you will learn to like it. Even if it is in time of conflict.”
I didn’t say anything. It seemed like whatever I had to say would not have mattered. He obviously had everything figured out.
“I promise you, once you’re up on that rock by my side, with everyone in the pack bowing to you, you’ll feel the power. And you’ll never want to let it go.”
Then he just walked away, not even waiting for a response from me. I sighed. That didn’t go the way I wanted at all.