Missed the earlier scenes in Chapter 2? Click here for Scene 2.
Chapter 2, Scene 3
“Unavailable?” My visitor’s tone was confused and I couldn’t resist the unkind thought that Justin not only lacked his brother’s other positive traits, but that he was also missing Wolfie’s acumen. My mate would have read between the lines in an instant, but the concept of a female pack leader was so alien to Justin’s mindset that it took him a solid minute to wrap his mind around my words. Even once my statement seemed to be sinking in, my visitor’s brow remained furrowed, so I elaborated.
“My father has opted to step down as leader of clan Wilder,” I said, then took a deep breath and tossed out the lie that I hated to voice, but that I had come to accept as a necessary evil during my run home through the winter woods. “At the upcoming All-Pack, my father and I will be selecting a mate for me, someone who can help lead our clan into the future. And in the meantime, I’m the acting pack leader. If you like, you may call me Chief Wilder.” Then, in an attempt to steer us back onto firmer ground, I asked, “Were you hoping to speak to my father about All-Pack planning?”
“About the location,” Justin said absently, and for the first time since I’d come upon my uninvited guest in the pool house, I could see the other alpha’s wolf rise up behind his eyes. Justin’s lupine half had been notably absent during our earlier conversation, which was a good sign that my pack-princess charade had been at least moderately believable. But now the alpha’s wolf was very visible as it attempted to sniff out any potential advantage that he might leverage from the Chief’s absence from the upcoming gathering.
Justin is power hungry, my own lupine half warned as we waited for our visitor to reenter the conversation. Be careful.
Aren’t they all? I thought back grimly, then returned my attention to my mate’s brother. “The location will be here, of course,” I told the other alpha, not waiting for his wolf to finish strategizing. “After all, Wilders have hosted All-Pack for as long as I can remember.” The truth was that, even though the event was a serious hassle to manage, hosting All-Pack had also solidified my father’s role as the unnamed head of our regional gathering. No way could I allow those hosting rights to slip through my fingers during my first attempt at standing in my father’s shoes.
“But so many alphas underfoot might be too much for a young lady to handle,” Justin countered quickly, his attempt to woo me clearly forgotten as the shifter instead chose to fill the power vacuum that my father had left behind. “Perhaps you’d prefer that we hold the event on Young land instead?”
No, I would not prefer giving this bully the status that hosting All-Pack would provide. But, instead of stating my opinion, I simply looked up at the visiting alpha between my lashes, aiming for enticing and hoping that I at least appeared weak enough to be dismissed as a potential threat. I abruptly wished that I’d paid more attention when my stepmother had schooled me and Brooke on the proper behavior of a pack princess. I wouldn’t have run off into the woods and let my malleable older sister be the only one to learn the intricacies of flirting with visiting males if I’d known that eyelash-batting would be such an imperative skill for my future career.
“You know, my father wants me to mate with your brother,” I said by way of reply once I could smell the arousal wafting off the werewolf in front of me. I had a feeling that it was time to pull out the big guns, and while sex appeal had worked in my favor initially, sibling rivalry might just be the true deciding factor in cementing my alliance with this unpleasant relative of my mate.
“My brother?” Justin demanded immediately, and I fought down the urge to grin. He’d taken the bait.
“Wolfie,” I confirmed. “The Chief thinks that another bloodling would make a perfect replacement as leader of the Wilder pack. But now that I’ve met you, I wonder if perhaps you and I might not make a better match….”
I wanted to go on, to fully reel this alpha in, but it was tough to maintain my own feigned attraction. Instead, I resorted to maidenly modesty and lowered my eyes to the ground, hoping that Justin would decide it was worth his while to protect my hosting rights if he seemed likely to benefit from Wilder status in the future. Plus, what red-blooded werewolf male could resist trying to upstage his little brother?
And my visitor was sorely tempted, I could tell. But then Justin looked away from my downcast face and clenched his jaw. “I’m already mated,” he said gruffly, then he reached down to raise my face with one finger beneath my chin. The gesture might even have seemed gentlemanly if my rampant wolf hadn’t been able to discern that Justin’s lupine half was snickering at my chagrin.
Despite my best attempt at maintaining a poker face, my cheeks turned red from embarrassment as I realized that I’d made a fool of myself. Great job, Terra, I berated myself. Use your womanly wiles to gain the support of an alpha who isn’t even available. All-Pack had yet to begin and here I was flailing about wildly, making enemies instead of allies. Chief Wilder would not be impressed.
“My mate and I are separating, though,” Justin continued as he took in my blush. From Wolfie, the words would have been meant to cheer me up, but my mate’s dark brother instead seemed to be musing largely to himself. “She and I never were a good match. So perhaps….”
And as he spoke of casting off his current mate in favor of another woman, Justin’s confidence sounded so very much like Wolfie’s…so eerily familiar, and yet so much more malignant. I shivered, realizing that if I hadn’t fled my home village as a teenager, I might easily have been forced to marry Justin in order to shore up my father’s waning power. And while I was currently willing to feign consideration of this alpha’s suit for the duration of a few short weeks, the idea of living with Justin for the rest of my life was unimaginable.
But I had started down this path, so I would have to continue using every tool I had at my disposal if I wanted to achieve my goal. A goal that currently consisted of ensuring that our regional gathering continued to be held on Wilder land. So, when I was finally able to get words out through my suddenly tight throat, I asked, “And the All-Pack location?”
“I’ll consider it,” Justin answered. Then, without a farewell, my mate’s brother strode out the door and left me blissfully alone.
That’s it for now! If you’re still wanting more, you can click here for the link to purchase Pack Princess on your favorite retailer. Other readers have said Pack Princess is:
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