ROMEO AND his lovely wife, Amanda, walked the land just outside of their home. Over the last quarter century, they’d purchased hundreds of acres, building on the property borders that Jeremiah, Romeo’s father, had purchased before they were born.
“It’s lovely this time of day, before the sun wakes.”
“It’s lovely any morning I get to walk with you,” Romeo said, pressing a kiss to Amanda’s temple. Neither of them had aged poorly. Romeo was still tall, well-muscled, and ruggedly handsome. His hair, a light brown, was just starting to gray at the temples, making Amanda only more attracted to her sexy husband. He still wore it long, pulling it back into a ponytail because he knew she loved it that way. His blue eyes, still clear and beautiful, smiled at her. “Does that get me brownie points?”
“Only because you’re so damned sexy,” Amanda grinned. She wore her dark hair pulled into a circle braid and pinned down, knowing full well her husband liked to nuzzle her neck. She liked to let him. “Sarina will become a breeder in two weeks.” Amanda didn’t need to look at her husband to know his whole body went tense with protectiveness for his oldest daughter.
“I don’t want to think about it. I remember what I was like with you. She won’t be taking an alpha as a mate and I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Like it or not, it is something we should discuss. I don’t want her brothers thinking that they can keep her under lock and key. We’ve raised her to be a confident and independent woman.”
“And?” Romeo said, hating the logic in his wife’s words.
“And, we have to have faith that we raised her right. She’s not without her own set of defenses you know,” Amanda grinned.
“Yes,” Romeo sighed. “Jason, Wade and Joshua.”
“More like her powers of witchcraft and her wolf.”
“They aren’t enough,” Romeo growled.
“They’ll have to be,” Amanda said wisely. “I didn’t even know I had powers until my twenty-fourth year. At least she’s going into this knowing how it will be for her.”
“She’s never changed before. With her first full moon coming up, I don’t like the idea that all the males in our community will sniff her out.”
“We can’t keep them away forever, Love. We can, however, continue to give her the tools she needs to choose wisely.”
“I didn’t let you choose,” Romeo said, his blue eyes pensive.
“I don’t believe I would have chosen differently, even if I’d been offered someone else as my mate. I was made for you, remember?”
“I’d remember easier if you’d let me have you.” Amanda giggled and ran as Romeo got that needy look in his eyes. She loved that look, the one that said simply, I want you, now. She played cat and mouse with him for a time before she let him catch her and remind her of what it’d been like when she was twenty-four.
Sarina grinned after besting her twin, Jason, in racquetball. They’d begged and begged their parents for a racquetball court and finally for their eighteenth birthdays, they’d been given their present. The walls were well worn where they’d also played wally ball during inclement weather, when neither the wolves in them, nor their human selves wanted to go outside.
“You just can’t win baby brother,” Sarina laughed.
“My ass,” Jason pouted. Princess Sarina never missed an opportunity to rub in the fact that she was older by all of five minutes. “I can best you any time I wish.”
“Ha, you can’t tell me you let me win every time. Remember brother, we shared the same womb. I know you better than you know yourself.”
“Not likely,” Jason scoffed. “You have no idea what it’s like for me to be with a woman.”
Despite the blush that crept along her cheeks, Sarina laughed. “No, but it won’t be long now before I find out what it’s like to be with a man.”
The growl came fast and furious as Jason bared his teeth at the mention of Sarina mating. She’d expected as much and just rolled her eyes. “Ease off J, I haven’t taken a man to my bed, yet.”
This time when he growled, Sarina grinned when Romeo set a firm hand on his shoulder. “Don’t antagonize your brother Sarina. You know he’d rip out the throat of any man who touched you, especially against your will.”
“Yes I do, but it’s so much fun, Dad.”
“Maybe so,” Romeo grinned, knowing his two oldest children well. He never told them they were more alike than they were different. Both were fiercely loyal to the other, as well as their family. Both valued the other’s opinions, and both would give their lives in protection of their womb-mate, or any member of their family. “But your mother and I appreciate the peace that has finally settled over our house.”
Just then, they heard screaming coming from the kitchen. “You were saying?” Amanda giggled. Everyone else followed her into the large kitchen that Romeo had upgraded upon Amanda taking over her Aunt Mabel’s mansion. Mabel Walker had been an intensely loyal woman. So loyal in fact that she’d had a hysterectomy to ensure that no wolf would have the say over her breeding rights. She’d let the Walker and Traverse lines and legacies pass on to Amanda, even to the extent of making Amanda believe that she had no other family to care for her after her parents had been killed.
“I’ll thank you not to finish that sentence as I’m the woman who birthed you both,” Amanda said, her voice firm.
“Sorry, Mama. But you didn’t see what Joshua did!” Shawna whined. At nineteen she was just becoming the woman they’d raised her to be. Still five years off from her own breeding season start, she had much to learn.
“I don’t need to see what he did to know that somehow it hurt your feelings.”
“She’s as sensitive as a new pup,” Joshua smirked before getting a thump on the head from his father. “Ow!”
“Tell your sister you’re sorry,” Romeo warned. “She shared the womb with you, Joshua. Try to remember that when you start bickering and wanting to tease her.”
“But she—” Joshua defended himself.
“Whatever you two did to each other doesn’t matter now. I can, however, promise that it will matter tonight at supper if you two don’t straighten it out.”
The twins groaned through their apologies and then went their separate ways. “They’re just like you, you know,” Amanda chuckled.
“Oh, no. Those two are absolutely yours.”
“That they are. I wouldn’t have it any other way.” Amanda allowed Romeo to pull her into his arms, kissing her soundly. Had it really been nearly twenty-four years since she’d brought their two oldest children into the world? Regardless, the day had been one for their personal history books and he was still just as handsome as she remembered.
Brody Duscene paced back and forth in his home. He could feel the full moon rising, the urge to change gnawing at him ferociously. Panting as it rose high in the sky, he felt the change begin. The searing pain of it ran through his blood and into his bones as they began to lengthen and shift. He bent down to his knees as his hands and feet turned to five-toed paws and his clothes tore away as long, gray fur grew thick over his body.
It always occurred to him after the change that he’d save himself some considerable money if he’d learn to strip before the change, but regardless of the countless times it’d happened since his eighteenth birthday, he had yet to take to the change without his clothes on. The last part to change and always the most painful was his face. His nose lengthened and flattened as his cheek bones and jaw became a muzzle. His tongue grew longer and thinner and his eyes became a keen and sensitive part of his five senses. Within mere minutes he’d become a werewolf and would hunt his prey like a predator, with stealth and a vicious appetite.
Brody waited near a clump of trees as a young couple necked in a car near a stretch of abandoned road. His eyes were barely slits as he watched them. Their soft whispers were easy for his big ears to hear and made the man inside the wolf horny as hell. He always felt guilty when hunting humans, but it was a necessity in order to be a member of Reggie’s pack. There were other packs that strictly prohibited the hunting of humans, but switching packs wasn’t as easy as changing shirts.
Knowing full well the two love birds in his sights were focused elsewhere, Brody approached the car slowly, sniffing their scents and imprinting them in his memory. If one tried to run, he’d find them. Grabbing the door handle, Brody ripped the door away. He yanked the boy out of the car as the girl screamed. Turning his head back to her, Brody bared his teeth in a snarl that had the girl stumbling away from the car as she attempted to run. Brody let her go, knowing he’d find her when he was done with the boy.
Unlike some in his pack, Brody wasn’t one to play with his food. Nor was he the type to hunt with other wolves. He preferred to hunt solo. Whatever he caught was his own. He knew the boundaries of his pack; had been taught them from a pup. But the difference between Brody and the other young wolves in his pack was that Brody didn’t care about boundaries. Who’d know if he stepped over his section of the world?
Every full moon from the spring equinox, Brody had been exploring regions beyond where his pack lived and hunted. He didn’t like hunting in his pack’s territory where he’d grown familiar with the local human population. In order to hunt humans he wouldn’t get a chance to know, he had to escape the confines Reggie had set for them. Brody was smart enough to know that he wasn’t near ready to challenge Reggie for the alpha position of their pack, but soon, very soon, he’d be more than ready.
“Please doggie,” the boy in his grip pleaded. The hardest part of the hunt was when his prey begged. Without hesitating much longer, he sank his teeth into the soft flesh of the boy’s neck. Blood, rich and full of flavor, rushed past his throat and soaked into his muzzle as he feasted. Brody didn’t toy with the humans he preyed upon. Being partly human himself, it always felt like a kick to the teeth to watch another wolf do it, so Brody hunted, ate, and left his carcasses in peace when he was done. He finished the boy with relative ease, licking his lips clean. Returning to the car he picked up the girl’s scent and howled at the full moon as he sniffed her out.
Twenty minutes later he found her hovering in the lower branches of an oak tree. He gave her props for being smart enough to climb a tree so he left her there and lay down to sleep. When he woke the next morning naked and sleepy, Brody looked up to see the woman watching him. Smiling, he waved to her before he took off at a sprint. If Reggie caught him outside their boundaries there’d be hell to pay and Brody just wasn’t in the mood today.
Sarina heard from everyone as she blew out her birthday candles. Across from her Jason did the same thing. Growing up, they’d always kept the same tradition. Always facing each other and blowing out their candles together as everyone yelled their birthday wishes.
“Can you believe it?” she said to Jason later when their extended family and friends had finally gone home. “We’re twenty-four.”
“It’s just another year, Sis,” Jason said, blowing it off and irritating her.
“The hell it is. It’s my first breeding year buddy. Just because you don’t give a shit, doesn’t mean I shouldn’t.”
“Look, just because you’re in an all fire hurry to blow your virginal attributes, doesn’t mean that I have to run around as if I’ve never been laid before.”
Sarina snarled at him and stalked off. Finding her mother alone, she sat down on her parent’s bed.
“What was it like for you, Mama, when you turned twenty-four?”
“Different from what you’re experiencing, I can tell you that,” Amanda said as she hung Romeo’s dress shirts in the closet. “For starters, when I turned twenty-four I had no idea that I was a werewolf nor a witch. I came to claim my Aunt Mabel’s estate and was accosted by your father, who back then was not a people person. He demanded that I marry him and was all too forthcoming with details I didn’t want to hear.”
“Dad really did that?”
Amanda laughed. “That and more, sweetheart.”
“You were a virgin?”
“Yes,” Amanda replied. Sarina could tell by the way her mother was eyeing her that she should explain herself.
“I’m nervous,” she continued, rushing through the details as if she couldn’t breathe. “I don’t even have a wolf or man who’s interested in me, but I know they will be once they learn I’m in season and especially an alpha’s daughter.”
“The right man won’t care whether you’re an alpha’s daughter or not. He’ll want you for certain, but he’ll also care about the woman inside the wolf.”
“Did Dad care?”
“In his own way,” Amanda smiled. “Like you, we were both young and had less control than we’d probably have liked.”
“Is it normal to be scared?”
“Yes,” Amanda chuckled. Sarina let her mother pull her into her arms. “Your first time will be something to remember, surely. Just try to remember as well that you don’t have to rush. The full moon is nearly a month away and you won’t go into season until then. There’s still time, especially as werewolves tend to come together in whirlwind circumstances.”
“Uncle Elijah and Aunt Penelope didn’t,” Sarina countered. She knew she was being difficult, but without any prospects and on the day of her twenty-fourth birthday she was feeling edgy.
“Your aunt and uncle certainly did come together in a whirlwind,” Amanda explained. “It just so happens that they only thought they couldn’t be together. When I became the leading Radiant, I changed the law so that Radiants could marry the loves of their hearts. I didn’t want anyone, especially my fellow Radiants, to suffer their hearts for the duties of their souls.”
“I hope I’m half the leader you are if it’s ever my turn.”
“As the oldest, the leadership of the witches would pass to you. However, you could choose to pass it on to Jason if you felt he’d do a better job.”
“Not if he doesn’t get his head out of his ass,” Sarina scoffed.
“And just think. I’d hoped by now you two would have stopped the petty bickering. Aren’t there bigger things to worry about?”
“According to him, I’m in an all fired hurry to lose my virginity. Doesn’t he know what it’s like? Certainly he had a first time too.”
“Men rarely see those things the same way as women, darling.”
“Still, he could be a little understanding.”
“Oh just wait until a man starts sniffing around you. You’ll find out how fast your brothers will defend you, even when you wish they wouldn’t. Not just Jason either. Wade and Joshua will protect you with the fierceness of our kind. Even Shawna would come to your defense if she was needed.”
“Great,” Sarina moped. “First I’m a slut, because I want to talk about it. Now I’ll have to beat my siblings off the poor man with a stick.”
“Who knows, maybe they’ll be in the mood to play fetch.”
“You always know what to say to make me feel better.” Sarina laughed and thanked her mother for the talk.
“It is a skill I learned over time. You will too, darling.”