“I heard that woman from the Neeman Pack saying that the pickings were so good this year that she might actually ask for a wine list to go with the feast her eyes were having.”
Boyd said it with little emotion, but Derek knew they all felt as disturbed by the joke as each other.
Derek shivered and pressed himself further into the wall next to the door to outside. It was pretty obvious just why the Neemans were still shopping for a replacement Alpha after four years of looking. Why the hell would anyone want to take them on? He’d been practically groped by three of their betas this morning already, and it was only the first day of the conference. He wondered if they’d be so free in their attempts at handling the merchandise if he did become their alpha.
Once again he cursed the fact that the Hale blood was so strong. He was still convinced that he could spend the rest of his life as his sister’s beta, no matter what Deaton had said. Derek and Laura’s mother had almost grown three inches when the Druid had told her that both of her twins carried the alpha potential. It had lasted all of three minutes, of course. She’d quickly realized the harsh reality: one day Derek, the younger of the two, would be forced to leave the pack to avoid the inevitable friction that would happen when the alpha-spark was passed to Laura.
And so he was here, in a bland hotel, basically waiting to get courted. But finding a new pack wasn’t an easy process, and it wasn’t just that there were unpleasant possibilities with those like the Neemans. Derek would also have to find a pack with a pleasing scent and, to keep his sanity intact, a similar level of power as the one he came from. Hale blood meant that was high, and most packs who were strong enough didn’t need someone to come in and take over.
Derek suppressed a whine.
He ran a hand over Boyd’s and then Erica’s arms, then down over his own face to calm himself. He wasn’t an alpha yet, but they would be two of the three or four betas that would come with him when he took over a new pack, and his wolf recognized that. He daydreamed, on occasion, that he could make a clean break with just them and build a pack of his own that way. It wouldn’t work, of course, they’d all forever stay linked to the central Hale alpha-spark if it wasn’t mixed with the pull of another’s.
There was a commotion at the other end of the conference hall, near the doors that lead further into the hotel. Derek felt a small rush of distress from Jackson and Isaac, and then saw Isaac’s blond curls coming towards them through the crowd, making a beeline to packmates and safety. Jackson was close on his tail, likely having put himself between Isaac and the Alpha Pack—everyone in the hall could smell them approaching—so Isaac would have less chance of coming face to face with one of the men who’d roughed him up last year.
“That’s decided which of the next sessions we should attend then,” Erica huffed as she folded away the timetable. “We’ll pick whatever’s the farthest away from the Skank Parade.”
Erica was particularly offended by the way Kali and Julia attempted to use their feminine-wiles, every year, to get Derek to join the obscenity they called a pack. The first two conferences had been bad, but last year had almost ended in claws and fangs when they’d blatantly stated that no matter how good Erica was, they could, and would, fuck better. Just the memory left a bad scent in his nose.
Derek hated that his difficulties in, and reluctance to, choose another pack was putting all of them through this once more.
“They’re headed this way.” Isaac was practically panting when he finally came into view.
“Then we’ll face them again, together,” Derek said, pushing his alpha-potential into his voice in an effort to calm the four other beta’s hearts, and soften the feeling of stress they were all pushing at him through their bonds. He really, really didn’t want to get a call from his mother because she could feel it all the way across the country.
Derek took a few steps away from the wall and felt as Isaac and Erica slipped in behind him, Jackson and Boyd standing either side. He waited, counting each breath out for eight and in for six.
Deucalion and his minions didn’t push through the crowd to them, though. Derek stepped forward and as if on queue the crowd pulled back to reveal just what had prevented it.
“You dare show your face here, boy? My Julia could have wiped the floor with your pitiful magic even when you had an alpha to tether it to.” The ‘boy’ Deucalion was addressing was in his mid-twenties. He stood tall with his shoulders back and a smirk on his face. It was a courageous stance for anyone when faced with the self-proclaimed Alpha of Alphas. Deuc didn’t seem to notice just how not-intimidated by that the guy was, though, and kept talking. “What makes you think any wolf in their right mind would want to claim a group of misfits so unworthy that their alpha’s dying spark didn’t choose any of them?”
That was a slightly shocking statement. Derek had never heard of an alpha-spark just disappearing. The packs that came to these conventions to shop for alphas did so because no one within their ranks wanted the power. There was the odd case where the current alpha didn’t feel anyone in their pack was worthy of passing the responsibility to, but, well. Derek had never heard of the power not getting passed to someone if there was a death.
“Pack,” said the guy Deuc was harassing.
“What?” spat Julia, her eyes glowing a dark Druid-purple momentarily.
“We’re a Pack, not a group of misfits.” The guy’s eyes answered back with a strong white glow that marked him, openly, as a spark.
Most of those watching, that is most of the room, reacted to the realization the same way Julia did, flinching slightly.
Deucalion just snarled. “Oh? Should I be scared? Mine do that, too.” His alpha eyes glowed stronger than most, the color sickly and wrong.
The spark laughed sharp and loud at Deucalion and then his face went blank and his eyes went from spark-white to alpha-red.
Deucalion, and everyone else in the room, stepped back. That wasn’t just unusual, it was down right bizarre.
Derek realized too late that he was in the open. The spark had already turned to look at the fact that the Hales were the only ones who hadn’t retreated.
Derek flared his nostrils, trying to get more of an understanding of what might be about to happen; the spark’s eyes were still red and his face was still blank. His scent though, it faded from obvious anger to something Derek wanted to call intrigue. It was not an unpleasant aroma.
The guy’s eyes faded from red to white and then human, and his smirk returned. “Hey there, ballsy-wolf. What’s your name?” He tilted his head and the smirk turned softer.
“Hale.” He wasn’t sure how he’d managed to speak, but apparently the spark liked that he had.
“Of the Hales? From New York?”
“That’s a bloodline I can get behind. You, sir, are about to buy me a coffee.”
Product (n): merchandise, ware, or commodity offered for sale