Authors: Jessica Sims
Copyright © 2013 by Jill Myles
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in
any manner whatsoever without written permission from the author.
There were certain things expected of a werewolf alpha female: take care of the pack, exert leadership, change to wolf form with ease. Appease the alpha male. Dominate the females of the pack.
Filling out a dating profile for lonely women? Not on the list. Not even close.
To make matters worse, I was embarrassingly bad at filling out the profile. I chewed on the end of my pen-cap with vigor as I re-read the line of questions on the form, loathing the process with every fiber in my wolf-being.
I am a ______ seeking a ________.
My brain filled in the obvious
. I am an idiot seeking a clue, or else I wouldn’t be here.
Instead, I wrote down ‘woman’ and ‘man’ in the blanks, and then frowned. Could I be any more vague? I scratched them out and wrote above them ‘wolf female’ and ‘companionship.’
The next question was even worse.
Body type: __________.
What the heck did they want there? Tall? Short? Female? Werewolf? Alive? Or was it what I wanted in a man? Would ‘breathing’ qualify? I resisted the urge to snarl at the paper and placed the end of the pen in my mouth again, chewing hard with anxiety.
The woman seated across from me at the small desk stopped typing and gave me a faint smile. “Did you have a question about the form?” Her gaze flicked to the mangled pen in my mouth, then back to my face again.
Oops. I kept forgetting that the employees here at Midnight Liaisons were human. No wonder she was so uncomfortable at the sight of a wolf with a chew toy. I yanked the pen out of my mouth and gave her a reassuring smile. “Just thinking.”
“About the form?”
“Yeah. I, um, want to make sure my answers are right.”
“Take your time.” She returned back to her typing with a smile of her own, and my estimation of her went up a notch. As frightened humans went, this one seemed less fazed by my snarly attitude than most. She wore a distracted expression on her round face and looked about my age. Except I was wearing jeans and a ratty Star Wars t-shirt and my hair was a stringy, unkempt mop of dark brown waves. She, on the other hand, was dressed in a baby pink sweater, black skirt, and her hair was pulled up in a long, pale blonde ponytail. She didn’t wear perfume, which allowed me to catch the barest whiff of were-cougar on her despite the cloying human scent.
Judging from the pictures on her desk (most of them of her with her arms around a very large wildcat), she was either married to a shifter or had a thing for hugging dangerous animals. I was going to guess the former, given that she worked at a shifter dating agency.
Interesting. I didn’t pay much attention to stuff outside of werewolf politics, but I didn’t realize that the Alliance – or whatever they were calling themselves – allowed that sort of thing. Humans were usually seen as…well, a bit…unwelcome. Not quite unsanitary, but not quite worthy of notice, either.
The woman glanced back over at me with a slightly wry smile that put me at ease. “I don’t show we have your pack in our database – is this the first time you’ve signed up with any Alliance-related business?”
I clasped the paper tightly, mangled pen clutched between my fingers. “The Savage pack is very…traditional. This is my first time applying at a dating agency. You’re the only one I know of that deals with shifters, and there’s no way I’d be caught dead with a…” the word died in my throat.
I was going to say ‘human’ because, well, they smelled way too
and they didn’t understand shifters. Dating one would be like dating your weird cousin Ralphie. It would reek of desperation and make you the laughing-stock of the entire community. No matter how hard up you were for prom, you never went to Ralphie-level. But then I glanced back at the happy pictures on her desk. On one, the cougar was licking her face as she smiled into the camera.
Maybe the Alliance was growing more accepting of humans? I mean, this one seemed nice. She couldn’t help that she was born human. I suppose. “First time,” I repeated. “Wolves sort of keep to themselves.”
She gave me a gentle look and nodded at the form in my hand that was becoming crumpled around the edges with my rough handling. “What did you have a question on?”
I set the paper down and pointed at one line in particular. I noticed as I pointed that I’d shredded the plastic end of the pen with my teeth. I probably had blue all over my mouth now. “Um,” I said uncomfortably, wiping at my lip with the sleeve of my shirt. “It says ‘status’ here…you mean like alpha, right?”
She blinked at me, her eyes slightly owlish in her pale face. “Alpha? Oh. No. We don’t normally ask that of our applicants.” She took the paper away from me and studied it. “It’s for ‘single’ or ‘networking’ or ‘in a relationship’ or things like that. So people know by looking at your profile what exactly that you want out of connecting with them.”
“Oh.” I stared down at the paper. Well, that was dumb. And useless. It should have been about pack status, not networking. “Single.”
She smiled at me again, that same shy, almost reluctant smile. “I don’t see why we wouldn’t ask about pack status,” she said in a brisk voice that belied her delicate, girly sweater and wide eyes. “Makes sense. We don’t get a lot of wolves, I’m sorry to say. It would be easy to update the forms though.” She seemed intrigued by the thought.
“Great,” I offered, not sure what else to say. So she didn’t get a lot of wolves. Either that was code-speak for ‘you’re the only loser wolf I have’ or she was lying to make me feel better. I sure hoped it was option two.
“Great. We can fill out the rest of the form as we go. I’ll start entering in your profile.”
I nodded as she turned back to her computer and glanced at the stuff on her desk.
, her desk plate read, and the name sounded vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t place it. The Savage pack was kind of cut off from the rest of the world lately.
Was I supposed to know who she was? The thought depressed me as I wiped my lip, looking surreptitiously for blue ink. Some alpha female I was. The male alpha dies and instead of me holding everyone together, I was falling to pieces and desperately seeking help at a dating agency.
She began to punch things into her keyboard. “So are you interested in another wolf?”
, if I was being honest with myself. I had so much on my plate right now that I wanted to run away more than anything else. I wanted some time to myself, time to recreate myself, to be just Alice, instead of the Savage alpha. Cash’s sister. And being in this dating agency office, seeing the posters of happy couples hugging? Seeing Bathsheba’s picture of her with her arms around the cougar and the look of intense happiness on her face? Maybe I wanted something like that.
Except that I was out of options. “Yep. I need a male wolf.”
She leaned forward and her long ponytail plopped onto the papers there, sending out another wave of human scent that tickled my nostrils. “We don’t have a lot of wolves in the Alliance yet,” she murmured, her voice low, as if sharing a secret. “We’ve had some, ah, boundary issues.”
AKA, wolves didn’t play well with others that weren’t wolves. I knew that already. But I feigned ignorance. “Oh?”
“Yes.” She didn’t go on for a moment, and then added, “They’re not very fond of my husband. He’s a cougar.”
“Ah,” I said, and turned back to the monitor, dread gnawing at my stomach. I’d made a mistake coming here. No wolf in their right mind would show up at a dating agency that was ran by humans and populated by were-cats. What was I doing here? Frustrated, I grabbed my purse and began to tense my legs, rising from the chair.
“So are you looking for an alpha?” Bathsheba asked in a friendly voice. “Since you’re not interested in dating outside of the wolf-packs?”
“Yes. Do you have one?”
That coiling in my stomach wasn’t hope, was it?
Bathsheba pursed her lips and then turned the monitor screen back to her. “Well, I don’t know for sure. I can call all of the profiles and ask them their designation, and then get my webmaster to update their profiles. It might take a few hours but if you like, I can get it finished by the end of the business day. Like I said, we don’t have that many wolves in our system. Probably about a dozen.”
“That would be wonderful,” I said, getting out my debit card. “How much extra will it cost?”
She shook her head at me and gave me a faint smile. “No charge. But I do have a request.”
Oh, here we go
…my hackles rose slightly.
“If you do find an alpha, I’d like to ask both of you to talk with my husband about your pack possibly joining the Alliance. We’re looking to strengthen our ties with the local wolves and can’t seem to get a toehold in the door. Nothing much, I promise. Just dinner and discussion. No pressure.”
Ugh. That had all the appeal of a timeshare sales pitch, but I desperately wanted the list of alphas she could get me. “You got it.”
An hour later, my own profile was posted with a bad photo of me that looked more like a mug shot than a plea for a date, and I drove my F150 back to Little Paradise, Texas.
By the time I’d pulled the truck into the driveway of the Savage house, my phone had rang three times. I let them all go to voicemail, every single ring filling me with dread. If one of the pack needed me, they’d text. Trina had them all addicted to texting.
Only strangers called anymore. Strangers, and bill collectors.
The lights were off as I drove in, but again, no surprises. Since Cash’s death, the kids in the pack had seen my pain. Seen me struggle. Watched the house fall down around my ears. They’d found ways to be scarce, to give me time to grieve. Even Holly spent most evenings god-knows-where with baby Eddie, just so I could have alone time. They were all on skittish footing around me. As a result, my normally warm, enormous house lay cold and empty.
Some alpha I was. Couldn’t even take care of myself, much less my pack. Disgusted with myself, I hopped out of the car and onto the gravel driveway.
The scent of the evening air carried with it the faint hint of rain, a stray cat or two, and the sour smell of the garbage cans around the back of the house. I mentally berated myself for not putting out the cans – I’d never done it before. Cash had taken care of it, and I’d forgotten which days were garbage pickup and which weren’t. Now I’d have to smell two-week old milk. Ugh. My wolf-nose could smell it from all the way across the yard.
With my car under the carport, I hurried to the front door, stomped up the wooden steps and the wrap-around porch of my father’s three-story house, and locked the door firmly behind me. There was no scent of anyone recently nearby, but it was hard to tell, since my property always smelled like wolves.
The interior of the house was equally depressing. Wilted bouquets of flowers covered every surface, filling the air with the thick musk of old, dried roses. I hadn’t bothered to get rid of them yet, and at least they masked the scent of the garbage outside. The walls were bare now, and it always startled me to see that and the faded spots on the wallpaper. I’d taken down all the pictures of Cash after he’d died, just like when Mom had taken down all the pictures of Dad when he’d passed on, and then I’d done the same when Mom had died a few months later.
Werewolves weren’t much for changing routines.
The house was a disaster – laundry piled up on every surface, some mine, some belonging to the pack kids. Some was Cash’s, but I couldn’t bring myself to touch it. Ditto the dirty dishes and stacks of pizza boxes – they crept over every inch of free space in the living room. I ignored all of it.
Inside the house, under the stink of rotting flowers, there was a bitter, musky scent in the air that I couldn’t place. I noticed it as I put down my keys and headed to my bedroom. It was very slight and I ignored it as I entered my study, flipping on the computer and sitting at my desk. Probably something else rotting. I wasn’t exactly going to win any housekeeper of the year awards at the moment.
And though I didn’t want to, I pulled my cellphone out of my pocket and glanced at the screen.
One message out of all three calls.
The hairs on the back of my neck prickled at that, and I suppressed the low growl that rose in the back of my throat.
I clicked the ‘Missed Calls’ icon. One number was Len, calling from jail. Probably wanting to know when I’d bail his ass out, and I wasn’t in a rush over that one – not while I didn’t have a male alpha securely at the head of the pack. Len had his eye on Cash’s old position, and I wasn’t eager to jump into bed with Len. Just the thought made my stomach churn. The next call was from one of the kids – surprise, surprise – Holly’s number. The most sensitive of my small pack, she’d been feeling out the waters on a regular basis, and I guessed that she was reporting back to the others if I’d gotten over my sorrow yet.
Not yet. I didn’t know if the ache in my chest would ever go away. My brother – and co-leader of our small pack – was dead. Car accident. Such a mundane thing to happen to a werewolf, but it killed him just as dead as any human. It left a sick feeling in my stomach every time I thought about it. I pushed it at the back of my mind, resolving to call Holly back shortly. The others wanted to know what was going on with their pack, and with the upcoming full moon.
By the time the full moon hit in a few days, I either needed to concede the pack to Roscoe and get the hell out of dodge, or find a new alpha before I ended up as Roscoe’s bitch. Literally. He’d usurp my pack in a heartbeat, leaving us helpless and bent to his will. He’d already made his intentions known, and just thinking of him taking over curdled the contents of my stomach.
The female alpha always mated with the male alpha.
There were a few exceptions, of course. Like siblings that were alphas. Myself and Cash had fallen into that category. Our father had been the alpha of the Savage Pack, our mother the female alpha. When they’d died, we’d moved into their places without a ripple stirring amongst our small pack. The Savage pack had always been an eclectic mix, but with turnover and deaths and some wandering away for a new pack, we suddenly found ourselves an incredibly young pack overnight. Len was two years younger than me. Holly, Spence and Trina were all young. Joanne was barely twenty before she’d up and left the territory behind because she couldn’t finagle the position of female alpha away from me. She’d left baby Eddie in Cash’s care as a replacement for her spot in the pack. That left Carlos, our omega. He was the only elderly person we had, and he’d been fifty before his death in the same car accident that had taken Cash. They’d been coming back from one of the Oklahoma casinos, both drunk as skunks, and ran off the road.
It had left me with a pack of children and grieving my brother’s death.
It had also left me vulnerable. As an alpha female with no male, I was at the mercy of the strongest male werewolf that came into our territory. As an alpha female, I could resist, but only for so long, before I succumbed to the stronger will of the alpha male.
And Roscoe had made it clear that he intended for my alpha to be him. I had a guess as to who had left me the message on my phone, too. With the sour taste of dread in my mouth, I clicked ‘Voicemail’ and listened.
“Hello there, sweet tits,” Roscoe drawled into the message, and I lost my breath. “You know what two days from now is, right? Full moon. Perfect time for a couple of alphas to get to know each other.”
“I just threw up in my mouth,” I muttered to the phone as the message rattled on.
“See, we both know how the law of the pack goes. Your wolves need a male alpha and a female alpha for things to run smoothly. Can’t function with just one, you know. And I happen to be a male alpha, and, well, pretty sure that you’re a female alpha. So maybe you should just accept fate and wear something pretty on the next full moon. I like my women dolled up—“
I deleted the message in disgust. Roscoe was vile. Worse than vile.
He was also correct. The law of the pack meant that if I didn’t do anything to find an alpha, he could show up and challenge for dominance on a pack run. If I couldn’t find anyone to out-alpha him, he’d assume my pack and I’d have no choice but to submit to him. A pack needed two leaders, and it especially needed a male alpha. I could exert my will over the men to a certain extent, but in the end, they’d constantly test dominance, and the moment I failed to dominate one of them, I’d be under him in all ways.
That was how it worked.
how things worked.
The Windows chimes sounded on my computer as it booted up and I tapped in my password with shaking fingers. That asshole Roscoe had known just how to bug me, to make me tremble with hatred and loathing.
Never had I felt so helpless and out of control.
My email dinged and I felt the dread well up again. Not email too? The messages in my box, however, were safe. A few emails checking in from the pack, and one from Midnight Liaisons. Probably my password or something.
When I clicked on it, though, I saw a personal message from Ms. Ward-Russell.
, it read.
All profiles have been updated with pack ranking. If you do a search for ‘wolves’ you should see all candidates with that designation and their ranking. I hope this helps you. Good luck and I will check back in a few days to see how things are going. – Bathsheba.
Well, well. Bathsheba had included a link to the Midnight Liaisons website at the bottom of the email and I clicked on it. The site itself was nondescript and comprised of blue tones and a familiar unity symbol that I recognized as the Alliance symbol. I typed in the username and password she’d assigned me and it moved into the website, displaying a list of featured profiles for the week. A harpy, smiling tremulously for the camera. A vampy-looking cat shifter. A were-boar that matched his creature – stout and hairy. Ugh. Nothing that appealed to me.
I clicked on the ‘My Profile’ link at the top. Ugh again. My hair looked unkempt and my eyes had dark circles under them. I’d lost too much weight and my collarbones stuck out. And men were supposed to look at this and want to date me? The woman in the picture looked skittish and strung out.
I’d noticed that Bathsheba had thoughtfully left my own pack ranking off my profile – I sensed that was a deliberate measure for privacy, and I thanked her mentally for it. Clicking on the search engine, I began to type in my criteria.
Male (duh). Werewolf. I left age, marital status blank – those didn’t matter half as much as finding an alpha that wouldn’t rape me and try to destroy me if he got a hold of my pack. I’d take an old geezer with a wife any day, just as long as I got to stay with my pack. Just as long as we were together. I could learn to be subordinate. I could learn to like a threesome.
It was the subordination part that was really sticking in my craw. Even the
of being subordinate to another alpha like Roscoe made me ill.
The hourglass on my cursor turned slowly, and I stared at a hair removal pop-up ad. A joke? It didn’t matter – two seconds later, thirteen profiles popped up on screen with small text boxes. The first one had a tiny picture attached to it, so I clicked on the profile.
The guy in the picture seemed decent looking – a bit more gray and whiskery than I’d care for, but he seemed stout and well-muscled (unless all that extra flesh was fat). His profile said he was in Texas, though I didn’t recognize him from any of the nearby packs. Not that we got along with any of those, mind you. Still, the man had a kind face, he wasn’t related, and he wasn’t Roscoe. He had potential.
There was a small flashing button at the bottom that said “New!” next to the field labeled ‘Pack Status’.
Drat. He was a beta. A strong second in command, but not what I was looking for. I closed the profile and moved to the next one. I had to have an alpha. I already had a bunch of boys that would make a great beta.
After flipping through several more profiles, I came to a rather irritating conclusion. Every wolf knew that there was only one beta in every pack – the second in command to an alpha – and yet every guy I’d clicked on so far had listed ‘Beta’ as his pack standing. In other words, they were big fat liars, just like when they listed a height of six foot (when they clearly were not) and ‘packing a little extra baggage’ when clearly the extra baggage could kill a small horse.
I did run into one guy that was brave enough to list himself as just a ‘pack member’, but he also stated that he wasn’t looking for another wolf. That was just as well – I’d have had to have a serious talk with any one of my pack that put their profile up for this ridiculous service.
Of course, I had to eat those words a few moments later when I ran across Len’s profile (also listed as beta, which he clearly was not). I made a mental note to tan his hide the next time I saw him.
My next two profiles did not have pictures. I took those to be a bad sign. Still, I was getting desperate, so I clicked on the next one. More of the same – beta, beta, beta. Maybe this had been a stupid idea after all.
The last, however, made my breath catch.
There was no picture, but the age was 29 – 5 years older than me. The description said six foot (again) and lean.
Best of all, the status had a big fat capital “A” in it.
Did that mean what I thought it meant?
I clicked on more information on his profile. Wasn’t local. From South Carolina, recently moved out to Texas. Well, wasn’t that a stroke of luck. Maybe he’d stay around if I offered him the head of my pack.