It was easy to get caught up in the daily routine. Rubbing my eyes and loosening my tie, I glanced at the time, right as my office door swung open.
“What the fuck is his problem Dom? You need to take over with Mr Franklin, I swear one more day working with him—” Luca was fuming again, balling his fists, as he landed in a high back chair before my desk.
Luca Castille was my beta, my second in command. Though he was five years younger, he’d been my best friend for most of my adult life. His blonde hair was pulled back in a tie, and his beard, usually professionally trimmed, was getting out of hand. When I’d suggested he trim it, he’d responded with a roguish grin and explained the ladies liked it. He was a ball of worked up muscle under his pressed shirt.
I pinched the bridge of my nose. This wasn’t the first time I’d had to deal with his issues regarding Mr Franklin. “What’s the problem this time?”
“He wants Willow Lane.” Luca’s cobalt eyes met mine with a knowing look.
“All of them. He wants the whole subdivision. I already told him there isn’t anything for sale in that area, but he’s being his usual bossy self and insists on meeting with an owner to talk.”
I grunted. This was a problem. One of our oldest safe houses was in that area, and I wasn’t keen to lose control of ownership if it was a place used by my pack. Meeting the owner would essentially mean me, though he couldn’t know that since it was deeded under a well-concealed parent company. We certainly didn’t need anyone knowing which properties were ours, especially someone like Bryson Franklin.
Unlike many of our customers, he knew that we were wolves.
“Anything else?” I asked.
“Nothing beyond his usual complaint of how much we charge him for closing costs, how thick his paperwork is, how we nickel and dime—”
Waving my hand, I urged Luca to stop, “I get it.”
It was all bullshit. It was just a way for him to bitch about having to work with us. What I didn’t understand was why he kept coming back when he clearly didn’t like us. “When did you tell him that we’d be in touch?”
“Thursday.” Luca quipped. Three days from now, great.
“Okay, I’ll schedule him in and deal with it.” It was my job as alpha to stand up when necessary, and it seemed that I’d need to take charge of this situation before it got any more out of hand. Another matter pressed on my mind, “Have you secured a venue for this year’s Fertility Festival?”
He busted out laughing. “You should put Mimi on that.”
“Damn it, Luca.”
His eyes glinted, and I contained my wolf’s growl as I realized he was fucking with me. At least we were a close enough pack that he knew I wouldn’t tear him apart for his jokes. Many alpha wolves wouldn’t deal with a subordinate talking to them like that, without making an example of them. Lucky for Luca, I wasn’t like that.
“You should.” Luca insisted as he tapped his fingers on his knee. Deciding he’d pushed me far enough, for now. “But, yes, I did it. The pack is getting bigger, we need more space, so I picked a State Forest to the west. It’s called October Mountain. I know we haven’t used it since I was a kid, but it will work well and get us out of the city. It is about two and a half hours drive from here; it’ll be good to change it up.”
I leaned back in my chair, considering, “That is a bit further out, but I’m fine with it. How about amenities?”
He smirked. “We’re gonna rough it. I’ll get a team together to set up solar lighting, music will be instrumental, and we’ll do a hunt and roast for the feast.”
I bit my tongue. Fucking Luca.
“Fine. You have invitations, drinks? Many will want to dress up, so they won’t want to travel in wolf form for several days ahead of time.”
“I’ve got it, Dom. This event is more about the couples who found each other this year than making an impression with glitz and glamour.” He had a point. Though I preferred a warm venue with good music, prime beef, and fine Kentucky bourbon, I could get on board with my wolf and enjoy the forest this year. Perhaps.
“Let’s get out of here.”
We made our way outside, where my forest green Porsche Carrera GT shone in the day’s fading light. Luca hopped in the passenger seat, and we made the quick trip uptown to Beacon Hill. The four-story brownstone came into view right at twilight.
Unlike many packs, ours didn’t use a traditional packhouse. Instead, we conducted most of our pack business in the bottom three levels of my home, or in our office building downtown.
Luca had his own place outside of town, but with his mother staying there, he spent most of his time crashing in his favorite room here.
“Why the fuck, are you asking me?” The raised voice traveled from the kitchen. I sighed, and Luca chuckled as we hung our jackets by the door. The sweet voice peppered with sailor-like curses got louder as we approached.
“Whatever. It’s your blasted life. I gave you my opinion, and you clearly disagree, so I don’t know, call mom.” She snapped her phone closed, and apologetic brown eyes landed on me. “Sorry, boss.”
“Everything okay, Mimi?” Luca swiftly helped himself to the half-empty bottle of Chianti.
The petit woman crossed to the breakfast nook and plopped her phone on the table. She was going to break another one if she kept that up. Her elbows leaned against the tabletop, and she rested her chin in her hands as she glared at Luca.
I pretended I was ignoring her and rolled my sleeves to wash my hands. Gathering vegetables out of the crisper, I promptly went to chop them into bite-sized pieces.
As alpha, the care of my pack was the most important part of my life. It was humorous that leading wasn’t all battle this and protect that. It was ensuring everyone was coping, and though I couldn’t make every individual wolf happy, I wouldn’t let one suffer if there was something I could do about it.
Luca and Mimi sat in an uncomfortable stare-off, and I’d decided enough was enough. “Do you want to talk about it?”
Mimi exploded. “She’s being utterly ridiculous. Riley wants to have a wedding and make it some big fancy affair out on the beach. She knows I don’t give a shit about her boy toy. They’ve been together, what? Six months?”
“Come on, big sis. That’s what you’re supposed to be there for, right? Picking out flowers and being all supportive. Painting nails and shit.” Luca patted her head on the way by, moving to snatch a carrot from my pile and shoved it in his mouth. We both glared until he threw his hands in the air and went back to sipping his wine.
“She should know by now, I have better, more important things to worry about than helping her set up a silly human ceremony with Jim. It’s not like he’s her mate.” Mimi didn’t date. At least I’d never seen it.
“Is that the problem then? That he’s not her mate? I didn’t think you felt so strongly about such things.” I asked, tossing the veggies into the wok with a bag of shrimp.
“Six months, Dom. She’s going to throw away any chance at it, for her ridiculous infatuation with a decent fuck.”
Luca snorted and coughed through his gulp of wine, while I ignored her.
Mates. It was a problem I’d yet to find a solution to, not that I’d put much effort into it. By thirty-seven, most alpha’s would’ve already mated or at least bonded with another wolf to start having pups. I couldn’t seem to wrap my brain around that as a high priority.
The Clear Lake Pack was an anomaly among wolf packs. Though we had more numbers than most, actually we were the largest pack in the lower states, we didn’t behave like a traditional were-society. My wolves worked side-by-side with humans, mingling our societies together.
It made finding your mate tricky, hence the annual Fertility Festival. Luca was right, we did celebrate newly found pairs at the festival, but many would come together in hopes that they’d run into their chosen match.
Mates were chosen by the Moon Goddess Selene for each of her five races, and though many find their one true match, sometimes the Goddess throws you a curveball. Alpha Killian in White River was a great example of just that. He found his mate last year, though he was several years younger than me; she was human. I was too busy to go searching the world for some destined love when I always had so much else on my mind.
Many pack members were employed in our Real Estate business, and operating it was a full-time job, not to mention dealing with individual pack member’s issues. Then there was navigating the circus of living so close to the Thorne Family, and Master Vampire Lucina, who’d been suspiciously quiet lately.
Luckily, some other issues had mellowed out since Alpha Lina took over Lycaon this winter, but that only raised more questions. After discovering the location of previously believed lost magical artifacts, I’d begun the investigation into where they were and what they could do. We knew that there were four dragon scales that an ancient witch infused with magic to amplify his spells, but to what extent they could be used and how dangerous they were, was still a mystery.
Not to mention that we only knew the current location of three of them. One was in Lycaon with Alpha Lina, another with the Estrella Coven in Brazil, and the third was apparently in the hands of Master Lucina, which bothered me immensely.
After dinner was made and Mimi stopped glowering, I met with Luca in one of the sitting rooms. “We should check out that address in London once the festival is over.”
His feet were propped on an ottoman, and I settled in my favorite leather chair. “Any idea what we’re going to find there?” He asked, sipping his drink.
“No. Whoever or whatever it is may know more about the scales, though. And, it won’t be “we.” You and Mimi are going.”
Luca’s brows furrowed. “Me and Mimi? That sounds productive. Have you seen her lately? And with her sister’s wedding right around the corner—It’s a good thing you had me work on the festival, I don’t know if she could handle planning another event right now.”
It was justifiable, but I knew Mimi’s dedication. She always put her work first. “Just don’t get her worked up, and you’ll be fine. I’d prefer the two of you went together; she’ll back you up in a fight better than anyone else I could send. You make a good team.”
It was true. Mimi may have been small, with her black hair bobbed above her shoulders and wide pretty eyes, she didn’t seem like much of a threat, but that was deceptive. Beneath her soft appearance and scattering of piercings, the woman was an extremely dominant and talented wolf. Luca knew this better than most since they were regular sparring partners. Once, I thought there could be something more between them. That idea died after Mimi pretended to gag in the sink when I suggested they get out of the house and go out for dinner together. She may be a temperamental ball of fire, but she was an excellent third in command.
“I thought you frowned upon us making waves.” He snarked.
Luca’s sarcasm rolled off me. “I do. I expect you to think about the pack and curb your temper, but if shit goes south, it’s better that it’ll be the two of you than just about anybody else.”
The information tip came from Valente, the ancient vampire historian, as a gift last time we parted. It was a scroll with the history of how the scales were created and for what purpose. Luca discovered a slip of paper, folded in the yellowed velum, with a London address printed on it. Who knew if Val meant for us to have it, but we definitely needed to check it out.