The Mating(3)

By: Nicky Charles

He continued to speak. “And the human threat is still real. Not so much that they know we exist, but that they continually try to encroach on our territories. We need to be united and stand firm against selling our land to developers.”

Elise opened her mouth to protest again but her father’s stern look had her shutting it, leaving the words unspoken. It was useless to protest. The Elders had decided and the Alpha had concurred with the decision. To go against the edicts of the pack would result in being cast out. Elise had lived her whole life in a pack. The concept of being alone was unthinkable, yet the idea of mating with a total stranger was also abhorrent. “When?” She managed to pronounce one word.

“Tonight. There is no use in waiting. Kane and his council are here. A dinner is being prepared and the rest of the pack is being notified. We’ll conduct the ceremony as the moon rises.”

Three hours. Three hours and she would be bonded for life to a man she’d never met. He’d be her mate and… The rest she couldn’t even think about at the moment. She knew what mating involved. Sex wasn’t a secretive topic within the pack yet she’d always thought it would be with someone she knew and cared about.

Suddenly she realised that someone was speaking to her. Looking up, she saw Kane had moved forward and was standing beside her father. “I’m pleased to meet you, Elise.” His voice was deep and low, his eyes steady on hers.

Licking her lips, she managed to croak out a hello. Kane appeared even larger up close and she wished she had more inches to her height. At five foot, six inches, she was an average size but next to the new Alpha, she felt positively petite. Her father nudged her with his elbow and she realised that Kane had extended his hand towards her. Tentatively, she reached out and took it. The warmth of his skin immediately enveloped her and shot up her arm. Startled, she craned her neck to look up at his face and noted a faint smile pass over his mouth.

“I think we will suit each other.” He nodded to her father and then gave her hand a squeeze. “I’ll see you later, at the ceremony.” Kane looked her up and down again before taking his leave and heading over to where the councils were meeting.

“Elise, I must go. There’s other business to attend to today before the ceremony.” Her father kissed her on the forehead and then gave her a gentle push, effectively dismissing her. “Go and find Sarah. She’s been instructed to help you get ready.” Sarah was Jake’s wife and in some ways like a surrogate mother to her. Hunters had killed Elise’s own mother years ago and her father had never taken another mate.

She briefly considered running away and going into hiding but knew that wasn’t possible. There was nowhere to hide that she couldn’t be found, short of taking a car and driving off, but then what? She had no money to speak of, nowhere to go…

The rest of the day passed in a blur. Elise tried to tell Sarah of her reservations but was shushed. It was for the good of the pack. Being mated to an Alpha would give her status. He would take good care of her… The well-meant words swirled around her.

She wanted to find Bryan, to cry on his shoulder and feel his arms around her, offering comfort one last time, but that too was denied her. It wouldn’t be proper. There was no time… Were these actual reasons or just excuses? Either way, the result was the same. She found herself seated at a table beside a man she didn’t know.

As she looked around, her heart thudding heavily in her chest, she noted that the hall had been decorated with fall mums and the best china set out. Linen cloths adorned the tables and various dishes of meat and vegetables, rolls and salads appeared. It always amazed Elise how Sarah could pull a meal together for a small army on a moment’s notice. The food was no doubt delicious but she couldn’t bear to eat. Well wishes from her pack members were given followed by speeches from the Elders and then the bonding ceremony began. Kane escorted her to the front of the room and words were spoken which she didn’t even hear, let alone comprehend. Worst of all was the agonised looks exchanged with Bryan across the room as the final words were spoken and her wrist was bound with Kane’s by a ceremonial leather rope.