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Man of the Year

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Kylo Ren swirled his whiskey around the glass in his hand, dark brown eyes staring out into the deep of the Chandrila night. From his penthouse suite, the city lay out around his feet, a territory so different from the vast forests and mountain valleys of his parent’s more traditional spread in Alderaan out to the northwest. Here, no one knew his past, only his present. As the newly crowned Alpha of the First Order pack, based in downtown Chandrila, it felt good to take a moment and gaze over the strange urban setting in which the pack made their home.

Six months ago, he’d taken out his mentor, Allan Snoke, previous pack Alpha for more than sixty years, and chief tormentor of his second-in-command for the last ten. For the first time in his life, Kylo felt free from his heritage, and acknowledged as a power to be reckoned with, in both the shifter and human worlds. Since his ascension to the leadership, he’d taken the company in vastly new directions, bringing them into the twenty-first century. First Order Industries was a company to be noticed, and Kylo was the head of a team of driven Lycans determined to make a name for themselves in a world where shifters were still regarded as a minority indigenous sect.

“Kylo, you haven’t answered my question.”

The annoying voice of his new second, Armitage Hux, reminded him what he was avoiding by staring out into the dark of midnight.

He needed a mate. A Council of A/B/O Regulations approved mate, to which Hux just happen to have a personal ‘in’ with the top name on all Pack Leaders’ list of eligible Omegas to court. His sister was the most beautiful woman Kylo had ever seen. Rey Niima and Hux had the same mother, different fathers, but were raised in the same house until Hux was led away from his pack by Snoke’s lies, just as Kylo had been.

Rey won Most Eligible Omega three years running without even trying. Not too tall, willowy yet powerful, with the grace of the dancer she was, Rey was the apple of her brother’s eye, and for Hux to volunteer to bring her to Chandrila to meet him was a huge indication of the esteem they held for each other, having survived the hell of their previous Alpha.

“Bring her. If the soul mark appears, then I will owe you one. If not, I’ll still get to meet this baby sister you’ve been screeching about for the past ten years.”

“It will take her a day or so to get here from Takodana. She’s just coming off her first season as a principle dancer with the Takodana Dance Company.”

“Hux, that’s the third time you’ve told Kylo what she does. He said yes, now call Rey and tell her to get out to the airport and get on a plane headed here as soon as she can. We have to head off any possible challenges by Snoke’s snake of a granddaughter.”

Hux’s mate, Gwen Phasma-Hux, was tall, blonde, and took no shit off anyone, especially not Kylo nor her mate and husband. She was anxious to meet the sister-in-law she’d only spoke with via long distance on holidays. Though Hux adored Rey, there was a ten-year age gap between them that kept their schedules from always meshing. Gwen was the glue that held their small family unit together.

“Hang on, what time is it in Takodana?”

“Three in the morning.”

“She’s probably just coming home. Let me call now.”

Kylo felt a ripple run across his shoulders, raising the hair on his neck. “She’s out at this hour in the morning, alone? An unmated Omega?”

“A heavily suppressed Omega who took self-defense and boxing as electives while majoring in dance. Rey learned early that life isn’t pretty and that is especially true for Omegas.”

Hux returned his attention to his call, putting it speaker so all three could hear. “Rey? Are you where you can talk for a minute?”

“Sure, I just walked in the door. What’s up?”

Kylo’s wolf perked up at the smooth accent. Hux tended to downplay his, so hear it full on from Rey only added to Kylo’s interest.

“I need you to come to Chandrila as soon as possible.”

There was a long pause where they could hear ice tinkling into a glass, then liquid pouring.

Finally, she spoke again.

“Okay, now that I have a drink down me, try that again? Are you ill? Injured? Dying? In jail?”

“Ha ha, Rey. Very funny. That only happened once. No, I just need you to come here. It’s important. Council important.”

“Taj, I already told you. I will not renew my registration once it runs out at twenty-one. If I find a mate, I want it to be on my own, not because some list says I’m hot. It’s degrading.”

“I agree one hundred percent, and I will support you with Mom, but I need you here as soon as you can get a flight into town. It’s a surprise.”

“Taj.” Kylo could hear the irritation in her voice.

“Rey. I haven’t asked you for a favor in a long time. Now I am. Come to Chandrila. We can go skiing.”

“Promise?”

“Absolutely. Now, Gwen checked the airlines, and there is flight leaving there in three hours arriving here in seven. I’ve bought you a ticket, all you have to do is claim it and make the flight. I’ll pick you up at the airport. You can stay here at the penthouse, with us.”

“I really dislike you right now. I don’t have time to pack anything.”

“Then just come as you are. You and I will go shopping. Whole new wardrobe, on me.”

Her tone turned suspicious. “You want something, Armitage Brandon Hux. Why do I feel I’m being punked?”

“I would never do that to my sister.”

“Bullshit.”

“See you in seven hours?”

“Of course. You know I can’t resist a chance to go ski. It’s too warm here.”

“Love you Sunshine.”

“You too Ginger.”

Hux hung up the phone.

“Ok. I’ve got her on the way. The rest is up to you and destiny.”

Kylo returned to staring out the window at the city below. He shivered, a premonition of strange things to come. Gazing at the lights below, he wondered what the premonition could be. He felt poised on the edge of something big, but couldn’t place his finger on what that something might be.

*****

Rey Niima handed her boarding pass to the flight attendant, who motioned her toward the first-class section of the jet. Taking over both seats as the red-eye flight to Chandrila was empty, she settled in and began to stew on what her brother was doing that required her to drop everything and head north this time of year. Her chances of being snowed in once she arrived were entirely too high for her to feel calm. Like most Omega’s Rey hated the claustrophobia of being trapped, by weather or by people.

The day Taj called and let her know that Snoke was gone and they were in charge was one of the happiest of her life. She’d been almost ten when her adored big brother ran away from college and joined what their mother termed a ‘cult’. She forbade Rey to have any contact with Taj until she died three years ago. Clearing out her mother’s things to sell their childhood home, Rey found letters and cards that had been sent to her but intercepted by their mother. Rather than writing, Rey found a phone number and called, getting in touch with Gwen. The rest was history.

She was almost asleep when a friendly male voice interrupted her peace.

“Would you like a coffee, or perhaps some tea?”

Opening one eye, she stared at the male flight attendant, who was entirely too perky for this ungodly hour.

“No, I’d like to sleep. Thank you.”

“Not a problem. I’m Devon if you need anything.”

“Thank you, Devon. I don’t need anything.”

“Okay.”

She closed her eyes again, sensing he hadn’t moved. Sighing, she opened her eyes. Again.

“Yes?”

“I’m sorry, really. But I’m a native of Takodana and a supporter of the dance company. Huge fan. Could I possibly bother you for a photo? Then I promise I will leave you alone.”

Shrugging, Rey leaned into the Beta and smiled. The photo showed the dark circles under her eyes.

“Thank you, and here is my card. If you ever need a quick seat on a flight, call me. I'll hook you up.”

“Thanks, I appreciate that.”

At last the young man left, and Rey drifted into the land of half dreams wondering again what her brother had up his sleeve. He’d never pulled a stunt like this before, and every nerve in Rey’s body told her he was up to something. Call it intuition, call it inner sight, she always knew when someone, human or Lycan, was lying, and right now her senses were screaming at her that Armitage might be up to something she wasn’t going to like.

In what seemed like no time at all, the pilot announced their descent into Chandrila International Airport, and Rey sat up, running her fingers through her hair. She felt as if she were moving through a fog. Lack of sleep and several thousand miles were catching up with a vengeance.

Standing, she grabbed her large overnight bag along with her shoulder purse, and waited for the jetway to connect to the door. Turning on her cell phone, she found a message from Taj stating he would meet her at baggage claim, along with Gwen and his boss, Kylo Ren.

Stepping toward the exit, she bumped into the pilot, who was also departing.

“I’m sorry,” she hurried to explain. “I’m really tired and can’t seem to stop running into things.”

The pilot, not much taller than herself, with olive complexion and wavy black hair smiled at her. She noted his scent – mated.

“Not a problem. I’m on my way home after several days of round-trips. I’m ready to crash for about a week.”

“Is Chandrila your home base?”

“Yep. We have a condo on the west side, near the mountains. Deer in the backyard the whole nine yards. My partner is in IT, so he works from home quite a bit.”

“Sounds wonderful.”

“Restive. Incredibly peaceful.”

“I’m Rey Niima,” she offered her hand.

“Poe Dameron, nice to meet you. Aren’t you a dancer?”

“Yes, in Takodana.”

“I thought so. We saw you last spring. Fabulous performance of ‘Swan Lake’. You’re amazing to watch.”

They continued chatting on the monorail from the landing dock to baggage claim. He was funny, and one of the nicest Alphas she’d met in quite a while. All the Alphas she’d dated recently seemed to be misogynistic narrow-minded assholes and Rey was ready to give up on mating and family altogether to avoid any further torment. Maybe she was too picky, but she wanted there to be more to a relationship than sex and knots.

Entering baggage claim, she quickly scanned around for her brother, eventually spotting him near the exit. She squealed as she threw her arms around his neck. She quickly surmised the tall blonde next to her brother must be Gwen, and that left the tall, broad-shouldered, Alpha behind him to be the new leader, Kylo Ren.

Taj picked her up and spun her in a quick circle before tightening his hug. His scent of leather and spice reminded her of their childhood, when he was her protector against the harsh night.

“I’ve missed you Ginger!”

“Oh, you too Sunshine, you too. How was your flight?”

“I tried to sleep, but didn’t do very well.”

“Thank you for coming, I know I was rather cryptic on the phone.”

“That’s an understatement.”

“Come on, I want to introduce you to Gwen and my boss, Kylo. He’s like a brother to me.”

“Great,” Rey rolled her eyes. “Just what I need, another big brother.”

She caught a smirk on her brother's face just as she turned away and wondered what he was thinking. Her trouble radar was screaming on overdrive.

Arm in arm, they turned around and Rey caught her first sight of Gwen and boss, Kylo Ren.

Gwen was gorgeous and tall, and entirely too good for Taj. Hopefully she’d never find that out, or she knew but loved him anyway. Rey hoped it was the latter, as she felt quite a kinship with the Alpha. Alpha to Alpha matings were deemed contentious, with both vying for power, but Gwen and Taj were neither contentious or ambitious. They were content to run their divisions within the First Order and to leave the top position to Kylo Ren, who had been on a phone call since she’d entered bagged claim.

With his back to her, Rey could tell he had broad shoulders, and he was tall, really tall, with hair the seemed too soft to be real. From what she could tell from the back view, she was certain the front wouldn’t disappoint.

They began to drift toward the waiting limo, Kylo finishing his call at last. He turned to meet Rey, and suddenly there was a loud buzzing in her ears. Her eyes widened, and she noticed Kylo’s dark eyes were blown wide open and his mouth parted involuntarily. He took her hand, and it was like a piece of live wire voltage clicked into place in her soul, and warmth spread like wildfire across her nerve endings. The world seemed sharper and her senses honed in on the giant Alpha holding her hand like an anchor. In her mind, clear as a bell on a crisp winter morning, she heard his single word of exclamation.

‘Mate!’

Her shoulder was instantly on fire, as if a branding iron had been set to her virgin skin. Raising her eyes, she noticed the same pain on Kylo’s face. The buzzing grew louder. Taj grabbed her arm, turning her around to face him, but she could not hear a word over the buzz in her ears and mind. Vaguely she noticed the edges of her vision darkening.

Before she could stop herself, Rey fainted.