Chapter 1: The Wolf Council
Cade McHenry could think of a thousand other places he wanted to be right now.
Instead, he stood outside the Great Hall, waiting for the Wolf Council to call him inside. He knew what this was about, but he had no idea how he was going to talk them out of their agenda. They were right. He knew this as well as he knew that running away from this would only prolong the agony.
A light rain drizzled down on him, wetting his dark hair and aggravating him further.
“You have no choice, buddy," Flynn O'Callen, Cade's Beta and best friend, said from beside him.
Unlike Cade's posture of bouncing on the balls of his feet, Flynn lounged against a tree. He had no cares in the world because he wasn't facing the Council who was going to tell him that as the Alpha of the Lobo Woods Pack, he needed a mate.
He'd been Alpha for two years and he'd pushed them off during that time. He'd been too busy he'd told them. The pack had been in disarray after he'd challenged the Alpha before him. His step-father had not taken lightly to his position being usurped, but it had been time.
“They want a smooth transition when you're done being Alpha," Flynn said.
Cade knew this, but he had been so busy with alliances and staving off the encroachment of humans, he hadn't had time to date. Various she-wolves had paraded themselves in front of him in the last few years, but none had piqued his interest. More importantly, none had been his mate.
He wanted a partner. Someone he could depend on and that had the same values he did. He was an organized Alpha and he needed his mate to be the same way. This would be a business arrangement as well as a marriage.
No one he'd met from his pack or others had filled both of those requirements. No one smelled like his mate. He sighed. He hadn't been looking as hard as he could, but he also hadn't been turning down anyone's matchmaking.
Now the Wolf Council was going to get involved and that made things more complicated.
“I know they want me to have an heir. I get that. It ensures that someone can take over if something happens to me or when I step down. I get all that, Flynn. I do. I have time."
“The child will have to be of adult age. That's eighteen years. You don't even have a mate let alone one who is pregnant," Flynn said.
Cade glanced at his friend. He never wished to be anything but an Alpha. That was in his blood, but right now he wished he could be anywhere else. “You sure there isn't Pack business we need to attend to?"
Cade nodded and followed the man inside. Five men with gray beards sat behind a large table at one end of the hall. Cade trudged up to them as if he were going to the gallows instead of a meeting.
“Have a seat Cade," the dour man who had led him in here said.
“I'd rather stand."
“We want you to sit."
As much as Cade was an Alpha, he knew that the Wolf Council was above him in every matter. He sat, folding his hands in his lap. It was a rare situation when he had to show deference, but he did in this one.
“We've had this talk before, Cade."
“I know, sir."
He lifted his hand to silence Cade. This situation couldn't have been more uncomfortable. Cade would rather have been fighting out a turf war with another pack at the moment than here explaining why he couldn't find a mate.
“You don't know. You don't seem to see the significance of finding your mate or you would have."
“It isn't as if I haven't been trying. There's just no one."
“There is someone. All of us have a mate, Cade. You need to find yours and settle down. It makes for a calmer pack and a calmer Alpha."
“I didn't realize that I wasn't calm," Cade said.
The five men looked at him over the table as if to say they didn't believe him. “You've had some skirmishes with the packs around you."
“All have been resolved."
“Not without some bloodshed, Cade. We don't want them. We realize that fights will erupt, but we want to make sure the human world doesn't get wind of these things. If you go to war, they will see us and ask questions."
It was imperative to keep humans in the dark about shifters. Wolves had learned long ago that humans could not handle the idea of shifters existing. Cade glanced down at the floor then back up to the Council. “I need to expand my search."
“We have a matchmaker on call."
Cade tried not to roll his eyes. He had heard stories about wolf matchmakers. “No. I'd like for you to give me three months more."
“You don't have that kind of time."
“Why not? I'm young and healthy."
“Your tribe is getting restless without a Luna."
Cade looked down at his hand, now resting on his knees. Flynn's mate had been fulfilling the role of Luna. He knew it wasn't fair to ask her to do that. “I want to marry the right person. Surely you can understand that."
“We can, but we doubt that you've been looking as hard as you say. We are prepared to appoint a temporary Alpha while you go off on your quest to find your mate."
“That won't be necessary," Cade, said standing.
No one was taking his pack away from him. The men exchanged a glance. “You have one month before we take drastic measures."
Cade let out a breath but nodded. He would find his own matchmaker at the very least. “One month."
“If you haven't found your mate in one month, we'll relieve you of your duties until you court our choices."
Nothing about that appealed to Cade. “Yes sirs."
He strode out of the meeting before being dismissed, his anger getting the best of him.