As I left the pack that morning to visit my Grams, I reflected a bit on the last year. My life had been a whirlwind. In one day, everything had changed when my Gramps and Dad had been killed by a rival pack. It was an unprovoked cheap shot by a new and foolish Alpha of a small pack who was trying to make his mark. I was devastated, my mom lost her mind with the death of her fated mate and died a few weeks after my dad. My Grams held me together, actually held the whole pack together, somehow.
In spite of that, my pack, the Silvercrest pack, fought back hard and got our revenge. We wiped that opposing pack from the face of the earth with unmatched ferociousness. The innocent among the opposition were invited to join our pack, and our already formable size increased. Before my dad’s death, we were well established and respected, but the swiftness and completeness of our victory solidified our position as one of the most powerful packs in the western part of the country. Plus, we were now one of the largest and I was at the helm. Alone.
Since my sudden rise to Alpha, I had not had a single minute to breathe or call my own. I’m not even sure I had the chance to grieve the loss of my parents and gramps. I had worked non-stop to modernize pack procedures, use technology to improve pack security, and ensure beneficial alliances with surrounding packs. My Dad had been a well-respected Alpha, but he was old school which is one reason he was vulnerable. I was committed to rectifying those vulnerabilities and ensuring the pack was well-insulated in case of another sneak attack. Plus, our business interests needed a complete makeover. The main reason I had not assumed the Alpha position before that horrific day was because I spent some extra time at university obtaining my master’s degree in business administration.
I was a bit of a rarity among Alpha’s—not just because I was older than most when I took over, but I was still single, having not met my fated mate and refusing to take a chosen mate. Honestly, over the last year, there hadn’t been a single minute to think about hunting for my mate. I knew if I took a minute to think about it, I would feel the pervasive loneliness that was threatening to seep in. Maybe once all of this was settled with Maggie, I would think about trying to visit some other packs in a quest to find her. Although, it was a miserable proposition. Women tended to throw themselves at me because they were interested in my power and position. It’s not that I didn’t always enjoy their attention, but I was always clear about where I stood regarding my mate.
Living as a fairytale character, an animal of which legends are written, a werewolf in the modern world, was a juxtaposition of oddity. I was half man/half animal and though I had excellent control of my wolf, there were still animalistic urges that were nearly impossible to control. Some of the more primitive packs in rural areas preferred to succumb to these urges. Myself and some of the other young Alphas were interested in modernizing while maintaining our secrecy. The other, older Alpha’s were afraid of discovery. There was nothing more important than hiding our true selves from the rest of the normal, human world.
My Grams was unique among the pack, not only was she the former Luna, and honestly, the acting Luna until she got sick, she was a normal—completely human. She and my Gramps met when she moved to the city to take over her family café. As the story goes, my Gramps visited daily for weeks to woo her after he recognized her as his mate. He introduced her to his wolf on their second date and the rest is, well, history. She readily accepted him and the world in which he lived straightaway. It was a simpler time, before all the technology we have today. In spite of Grams acceptance of my Gramps and pack life, she never wanted to be changed into our kind, choosing instead to live her days as a human in a pack of wolves. Grams was deeply loved and well respected among the pack and even our surrounding allied packs.
Visiting a human hospital was always tough. The smell of sickness, sorrow, suffering, and fear combined with the astringent cleaning products burned my sensitive nose and made it hard to take a deep breath. My wolf, Axel, agreed with me and he was reluctant to go to the hospital as well. I promised him a long run at the end of the day to clear our senses and relax. That helped calm his incessant whining. Plus, Axel had a soft spot for Grams and was eager to see her again, as was I.
I wasn’t thrilled that my Grams had decided to stop treatment and return home and to the pack, but I wanted to respect her decision. Today, I was hoping the doctors would have some insight as to how her treatment was going and that she should continue to fight her cancer. Jace, my Beta, was joining me at the hospital later. First, he was going to check in on a few of our city businesses for me. I brought him along for backup. We had been raised together—basically like brother’s and I thought he might be able to help convince Grams to do another round of treatment.
As I walked by the nurse’s station on my Grams floor, I caught the faintest whiff of something … delicious. The other scents were overwhelming so I couldn’t identify it, but Axel definitely stood up and took notice. Just as quickly as it came, it was gone and Axel settled down in the back of my head.
Knocking on the door of gram’s room, I slowly opened the door until I heard a bright “hello!” Grams was sitting up in bed, her head wrapped in a colorful scarf since she had lost her hair during her treatments. I was caught off guard by her appearance. For the first time, she looked ill. Her skin had this weird pallor, her eyes were dull, and I could tell she was much thinner than the last time I saw her. However, her smile was still bright.
“Maverick, my boy, it’s about time you visited me! Let me look at you. Are you sleeping? Are you eating? Where is Jace? Is he doing his share of the work? And that good-for-nothing Gamma, is he still flirting with all the she-wolves?”
I laughed. Grams questions came flooding out all at once, without a break. Goddess, I missed her. I leaned over to give her a big hug and ignored most of her inquiry.
“Yes, Grams. I’m eating and sleeping enough,” I replied with an eyeroll.
“Don’t sass me boy. I want honest answers from you!”
I laughed again, “Grams, I promise. I am taking care of myself. I’m here to talk about you.”
“Fine. But first help me to the bathroom. I’m not supposed to go by myself in case I feel weak. My poor, sweet nurse runs around like crazy and I don’t want to bother her. But don’t tell her and get me in trouble!”
“It will just be our little secret,” I smirked as I bent down and picked her up. She barely weighed anything anymore and feeling her bones through her robe made me realize she was sicker than I thought. She shoo-ed me out of the bathroom and promised to call when she was done.
A little while later, I felt the energy around me change as the room door opened. The most alluring voice called out, offering her help for Grams. Axel stood right up in my head as we sensed her before I caught her scent. Damn this hospital and its strong smells! But then she looked up and I saw her striking golden-brown eyes and I was done. Remarkably, my world became infinitely smaller but seemingly larger all in one swift moment as our eyes locked. The air began to shimmer around us as the magic inherent in our world sensed the impending joining of two halves of a soul into one.
Finally, I caught it, that faint smell from earlier, it crashed into me in the best way—a deep, spicy citrus. It wasn’t a hospital cleaner. It was her. My mate. I finally found my mate. And she was a normal just like my Grams. Startled, my phone clattered to the floor as I took her in. Her dark blonde hair was piled on top of her head, a mask covered half her face, and even though she was wearing shapeless scrubs, she was curvy in all the right places. There wasn’t a speck of makeup on her visible skin.
I had never been so attracted to someone in my life. Was it weird that I wanted to coat myself in her scent? This intense need to touch her, that’s normal since she’s my mate right? It took all of my self-control to refrain from pulling her into my arms, burying my nose in her neck, and kissing her senseless.
I knelt down to pick up my phone as did the beautiful woman in front of me. She swayed a bit and I grabbed her by the waist to steady her. Would I be able to let her go? Our proximity caused all sorts of sensations to flow through me and settle heavily in my c**k. The last thing I wanted was to remove my hands from around her waist. If anything, I wanted to pull her closer, whisper sweet and naughty things in her ear, soak in her scent, and taste her. But she was a normal, I would have to play this slow.
There was electricity sparking between us, just like legend foretold when one meets their fated mate. She seemed flustered. Was she able to feel the bond already? Once she steadied, I did the only thing I knew to do, I introduced myself. She stared at me and I began to swim in the depths of her eyes before she responded, “I’m Aspen, Maggie’s nurse. It’s nice to meet you.”
Aspen. My mate’s name was Aspen.