Poverty is no disgrace.
Her mouth was dry, and her hand shook as she raised it to touch the place on her neck where Vasile, Alpha of their pack, had only moments ago caressed her gently with his thumb. Something so insignificant, and yet it was the most precious touch she had ever received. He was gone now, along with his two warriors and her father. Females could attend meetings, but really there was no point. The males would be too busy trying to protect their mate if they were there, and then they would not get anything accomplished.
She had not moved from the place where he had left her. Her shoes were suddenly filled with lead too heavy to lift. Her eyes stared, not seeing anything in front of her as her mind raced, and she battled her will. She wanted to flee, to hide from the male who had affected her so. She also wanted to throw herself in his arms and make him promise never to leave her again. But instead of doing either, she just stood there frozen with indecision, doubt, and, to her surprise, curiosity. While he had been next to her, she had felt as if she could fly, but now her body felt heavy and uncoordinated.
“Alina,” her mother called to her yet she still could not move. She heard her footsteps coming closer and knew that her mother would want to know what was wrong, and for once she was afraid to tell her?afraid she would insist she pack and leave with him at once and afraid she would not.
“He is the one, no?” she asked.
Somehow Alina managed to get her head to perform a wobbly nod. Her eyes finally shifted as she looked at her mother. “How could you tell?”
Georgeta’s lips puckered. “Tsk, girl, I know a male on the hunt when I see one. He was staring at you as though you were the ripest fruit plucked from the harvest and dropped in his lap. I might have even seen a tad bit of salivating.”
That finally made Alina move as she laughed at her mother. The thought of any male salivating over her, especially one such as Vasile, was indeed ludicrous. She was no great beauty, she knew that, and usually that did not bother her. “You must not have seen him clearly, Mother. Had you seen his expression from a more direct position, you would have seen the scowl plastered on his handsome face as he glared down at me.”
“He is quite lovely, is he not?” Her mother beamed at her.
Alina crossed her arms in front of her and narrowed her eyes. “I hardly think your mate would appreciate you saying so.”
“Did you notice how tall he was? And that hair was so dark and thick,” her mother continued completely ignoring her. “His lips were definitely worth a second glance.”
Alina stomped her foot, childish, but unavoidable. “Enough! How can you carry on so?”
“Feeling a bit possessive, dear?” Her mother’s knowing eyes sparkled at her.
Alina turned and walked towards the house needing to sit down in the shade for a few minutes while she gathered her thoughts.
Her mother took the chair while she sat on the edge of her bed. She looked around their tiny home, so simple, but it met their needs. So why was she embarrassed? “He lives in a castle. His wardrobe is probably the size of our entire house. I just . . . I do not,” she stumbled over her words as she ran her hands over her thighs repeatedly.
“Well,” her mother breathed out. “I never thought I would see the day that a pretty face and full purse made my daughter tuck her tail and run.”
Alina’s eyes snapped up. She could not believe her mother had just said that to her, but even in her wounded state she knew she was right. “I do not feel like myself,” she admitted. “Ever since I saw him standing there?confident, beautiful, and not appearing as if he needed anything from anyone?I have just felt inadequate. What could I possibly have to offer him?”
“Perhaps you need to get to know him before you pass judgment on either of you. I know you are sixteen in less than a month, but you are still young in many ways. Give him time to show you the man he is before you decide who he is not.”
A knock at the door had both of them turning, and before Alina could see who it was, her stomach dropped in anticipation but quickly righted itself when Sisily, her best friend, walked in.
“When you did not show up I was worried about you,” she said biting her lip in her usual manner when she was unsure of herself.
“I am so sorry, Sis.” Alina stood quickly and went to her friend. “I did not forget; I just got held up.”
“But what she really wanted was to be held down,” her mother muttered as she walked past the two girls into the kitchen.
“Mother!” Alina’s face flushed as she glowered at Georgeta.
Sisily was grinning from ear to ear as she looked back and forth between mother and daughter.
Georgeta shrugged. “I, unlike you, see no reason not to celebrate and enjoy the beginning of true mates joining, bringing hope to those still waiting.” She looked at Sisily pointedly.
Sisily was bouncing on the balls of her feet, too focused on Alina to notice the look. “You have met your true mate? Who is he? Is he from another pack? Is he handsome? Did he….”
“Sisily, stop,” Alina interrupted her exuberant friend. She glanced at her mother who now wore a smug smile. “How about we go to our usual meeting spot and talk,” she suggested.
Sisily happily waved to Georgeta as she rushed after Alina. “Are you in a hurry?”
Alina slowed immediately, realizing that she was letting her emotions get the best of her and taking it out on the closest thing she had ever had to a sister.
They sat by the edge of the river, picking at the grass and tossing sticks into the water. Alina knew that Sisily would not begin speaking until she started first. She had gotten her initial shock out of the way and was now willing to be patient. She was a good listener.
“Vasile, the new Alpha is here,” she finally said. Sisily nodded but did not comment. “He came by our house earlier this morning and had two warriors with him.” She paused drawing in a shaky breath. “I felt him in my mind. The pull to go to him was…was…strong, as though I had not felt or drunk a drop of liquid in ages and he was the rain. I wanted to run to him, to be covered by him, and to be drenched in his scent as he washed away everything that came before him.”
“Which one?” Sisily exhaled as she fanned herself.
Alina nearly laughed at the sight of her friend flustered and breathless. The smile faded as she looked away back to the slow running water. “Vasile.”