The Mating(8)

By: Nicky Charles






“And you?” Kane prodded softly. “How did you feel about that?”





Staring at her hands, Elise whispered her answer. “I…I was hoping for the same thing.”





Kane was silent for a moment, and then answered slowly. “I see…but I’m not surprised. You are a beautiful female and it would be strange if no one in your pack had wanted to mate you.” He sighed heavily. “You know, Elise, sometimes our lives have moments of great disappointment. It’s difficult at the time, but we have to move beyond.” He reached across the table and put a finger under her chin, forcing her to look at him. “Our being mated was of great importance to the well-being of both our packs. It’s our duty to them, to make this work, agreed?”





His amber eyes bore into hers, the authority of his position evident and after a moment she nodded in agreement. He was right. Duty to her pack, and duty to his, necessitated making this union     work. He stood and extended his hand to her. Hesitantly she reached out, placing hers in his. Warmth enveloped her hand and slowly worked its way up her arm. Smiling encouragingly, he pulled her to her feet.





*****





Standing at the edge of the woods, Elise waited for Kane. After cleaning up from their morning meal, he’d headed up to the pack house to deal with a few pressing matters, saying he’d meet her in half an hour. She wasn’t sure if she wanted to run with him—that had been an activity that she and Bryan had enjoyed together—but knew that she needed to make their bonding work. Running could turn out to be one of the few things they had in common.





It was another lovely fall day. The trees were painted with orange, red, and gold while the sky was a bright clear blue. Heat from the rising sun was slowly burning off the morning fog, but wisps still swirled low to the ground giving everything a faintly magical appearance. She loved this land and knew every square inch by heart. Closing her eyes, she visualised running down the twisting paths, leaping over fallen logs, splashing through streams… It really was the best place in the world and she couldn’t imagine ever being this comfortable or at peace anywhere else.





Inhaling deeply, Elise let the fresh, crisp air invade her lungs and energise her body. Kane was later than he had thought he’d be and she began to shift around restlessly, bending to touch her toes, stretching her arms over her head then twisting side to side. She stared back towards the house and wondered how much longer he’d be. As Alpha, she knew his time would not always be his own, but did that mean that her time must be spent waiting, doing nothing. Biting her lip, she stared deep into the woods. The land was calling to her. Did she dare go ahead without him?





Her father had expressly forbidden any pack member to go out by themselves. Hunters sometime laid illegal leg traps and a wolf could be caught and shot before anyone in the pack was aware. That was how her mother had died…





“Good morning.” A voice spoke behind her and she jumped. Spinning around, she saw Bryan standing just a few feet away. The sun was shining on his sandy brown hair, giving it a golden glow.





“Bryan!” She felt her heart leap with joy and she rushed over to hug him, only to have her friend back up when she was but a foot away. His movement brought her headlong rush to an immediate stop. “Bryan? What’s the matter?”





“What do you mean, what’s the matter? You know what the problem is.” Elise frowned and shook her head. “You’re mated to Kane. I can smell his scent on you.” Bryan sounded bitter and frowned at her.





His words cut like a knife into her. How could he be so cruel? “But… You know that wasn’t my choice! The Elders decided on the need for the union    . You know that. You were at the ceremony yesterday and heard the speeches just as I did.”





Bryan looked away, his face grim. “I know. It’s just…” He seemed to be waging some type of internal struggle, then sighed deeply and looked at her, his hazel eyes sorrowful. “I had hoped to be your mate.”





“I know.” Elise took a step closer and laid her hand on his arm. “I’d hoped for the same thing.” She took his hand in hers. “This union     was for the good of the packs, but it doesn’t mean that I’ve stopped caring for you.”