Constance walked down the main path heading toward the town hall of Silver County. A small town located near the mountains with a questionable population, especially as most of them werewolves. Human by day, wolf by moonlight. This was once her home, a place she loved to be. The people were her family, but since the rejections, she felt the cold seeping into her bones, ready to cast her out.
At twenty-one years old, she was the oldest person to go through her transition as most made the change between the ages of sixteen and eighteen. Not her. Nope. She had to turn on her twenty-first birthday. As if her life wasn’t already hard enough. She loved the pack, she did, but they had a hard time accepting her.
She was the only woman in the pack who possessed curves. Of course, they called her the fat one, chubby, whatever name suited their cruel mood, but she had embraced her figure. Mainly because all the diets she went on were fucking useless. None of them worked. She didn’t lose weight, but gained it.
It wasn’t fair, but rather than dwell on what wouldn’t be, she embraced who she was now, and well, she truly believed she was awesome, or at least she had no choice but to keep telling herself that.
So, the cold. On the moon of her twenty-first birthday, she had turned. Her first-ever full transition into a wolf. Great times. Nothing like a body snapping to really embrace your furry side. She’d also found her mate. The one who was destined to be hers for all eternity.
And this was where the cold came in.
She was a fat, late-changing wolf with a mate who rejected her. That summed up her life in a few short words. Tanner Silver, the alpha’s son, had sniffed her, and he’d been aroused—she’d scented that—but he’d turned her down in front of the entire pack. Rejected her like some diseased thing.
The memory awakened the humiliation.
Within twenty-four hours, her job at the library was revoked, her parents had kicked her out, no one in the pack wanted anything to do with her. She’d gone from being tolerated to rejected not by one, but by all.
She’d packed her bag and been headed to the bus stop when Gage Silver, the alpha himself, had approached her. He told her that she couldn’t go, not yet. She had to come to this town meeting. This had all occurred three days ago.
Three days of pain.
There had been one hotel that had put her up. The room was small, and she’d spent all three days curled up on the bed, arms wrapped around her stomach, shivering and sobbing as the rejection began to hit her.
In all the pack history, no one had ever refused their mate. The very idea of it was … it wasn’t right.
The thick sweater she wore did nothing to make her feel warm, and considering it was a nice and toasty summer’s evening, that was saying something.
The pack must have been wanting to get rid of her for some time for the effects to be so instant.
A couple of people up ahead stopped and pointed at her. She heard the chuckles and tried her hardest to ignore them. Her face didn’t show the signs of her turmoil, the pain rushing through her body as if she’d been struck by a train repeatedly. No one knew she was close to running.
The alpha had given a direct order, and she had no choice but to abide by it, even though it was the last thing she wanted to do.
She pressed her lips together as she entered the main hall, moving to the back of the corner, wanting to hide. Even her wolf was broken inside. Her wolf being the one that suffered the main rejection.
What sucked the most was that she didn’t like Tanner. They were the same age, had gone to school together, and the truth was, he was a fucking asshole. Gage was a nice alpha. She’d liked him growing up, and if she’d been truthful, had always had a bit of a crush on him. He exuded power but not cruelty. He was fair and controlled the pack with ease. She had never heard anyone complain about his decision-making or his punishments, not once. Her parents had been in awe of him.
Tanner was the complete opposite.
Sure, he was good-looking, and he knew it as well. He chased after girls like they were candy and he wanted to gobble them all up. Being the alpha’s son, he took advantage of his position.
That night when she realized who Tanner was, what her wolf wanted, she had been on the verge of rejecting him. Of saying hell no to him, but he’d gotten there first. Had he known her intention? Did he realize she fucking hated him? Even as her wolf wanted to be with him, she had far more control, and the very thought of being near him made her want to vomit.
As if her thoughts brought him into view, Tanner entered the town hall like he owned the place.
His arm was draped around Tiffany, another cruel pack member. The two had been going out for as long as Constance remembered. Everyone had expected them to mate, but of course, it hadn’t happened.
Tanner had been furious the night after she turned.
Pushing those thoughts to the back of her mind, Constance kept her arms wrapped around herself as she stared up toward the main podium.
Gage had entered, and she looked at him, surprised to see his gaze on her.
“Is everyone here?” Gage asked. He looked away, glancing across the main hall. Not everyone was in residence. There was no law to say they had to be here, but anyone missing would get an update at some point. Everyone was a gossip and everyone liked to be up in others’ business.
“As you all know, this is a special meeting tonight. I appreciate you all coming out on such short notice.”
She noticed his hand grabbing the edge of the podium.
Gage was a tall man, and he towered over most of the pack, well over six feet. He had short, black hair and intense blue eyes. She’d seen his wolf a few times when she’d gone camping out in the woods in an attempt to turn herself. He’d been walking by. She didn’t know if he knew she was there, or if he was just enjoying a night’s stroll. Either way, she’d taken her time to watch him, to admire him.
“Earlier this week, one of our own, Constance Button, had her first turning, and during that time, she found her mate. My son, Tanner.”
She stared at her hands.
No one said a word.
This was what Gage was good at, commanding authority. Taking the attention away.
“Tanner rejected her. This was not a spur-of-the-moment decision. I have taken the necessary three days, and before our meeting tonight, he has said he will not have her as his mate. Now, I’m aware that this has caused some … confusion amongst you. I am saddened by your rejection of Connie during this time.”
She lifted her head. No one called her Connie. Gage wasn’t looking at her.
“I’ve heard her position at the library has been removed, even though we all know that place runs smoothly when she’s there. Her parents have kicked her out, again, at a time when a first-time wolf is most vulnerable.”
Glancing across the town hall, she was surprised to see people actually looked ashamed.
“Due to this … circumstance, I’ve had to consult past town chronicles about my position on how I can help this current situation.” Gage paused and his gaze landed on her.
She couldn’t help her body’s reaction. Even now, her crush remained firmly in place.
“According to the books—” He lifted an old book that had certainly seen better days. Everyone was aware of the chronicles. They were available for anyone to consult, if they wanted to. “A rejected mate is not a common occurrence, but it does happen.” He flicked the book open. “I will read what a previous alpha has stated.” He stopped, took a sip of water, and then read. “A rejected mate is indeed causing for much grief, but there is no cause to expel any party from the pack. We are a pack, a unit, and so, after consulting with many elders in different packs, I have decreed a law.” Gage stopped and glanced up. “If all parties have agreed to the rejection, then there can be no other choice. An unmated male or female of the rejected line can come forward and claim the rejected for themselves.” He snapped the book closed. “You all know I’m not mated.” Gage looked at her. “And I claim Constance Button for myself.”
“Everything you need is here,” Gage said, looking down at Connie’s head.
She glanced into the bedroom. “My stuff? How did you get my stuff?”
“Your parents had thrown it out, and figuring you’d want it, I retrieved it and brought it back here.”
“Thank you.” She went to reach out as if to touch him, but stopped at the last minute. Her hand clenched into a fist before she dropped it down at her side. “This is sweet of you.”
He’d been so pissed off when he saw her stuff thrown out on the doorstep as if their daughter meant nothing to them. “Please let me know if there is anything you need.” He took a step back, allowing her time to get used to her current situation.
“Wait,” she said, making him stop. “About tonight … I … thank you.”
“You don’t have to thank me, Connie. You’re always welcome here.” He couldn’t resist his gaze traveling down her body. Over the years, he’d heard the names directed at her, the ridicule. When he was witness to it, he made sure to shoot everyone down. He didn’t want to hear any nastiness or violence toward any of his pack.
At first, Connie hadn’t even registered with him. She’d been another member of his pack, but she had stood out in the crowd, sure. She was a bigger girl, and after her eighteenth birthday, he’d started to notice her.
Connie had a body, and in the past three years, he’d watched her blossom. To some, her large tits, full hips, and juicy thighs were disgusting, but not to him. He wanted her and couldn’t deny his need. The other pack women had never appealed to him.
Tanner’s mother had been part of the pack for a short time. She’d been slender as well. There was no real attraction or passion.
His son’s conception had been a mistake. He hadn’t been mated, nor could he stand her. The moment their son was born, she’d left town, and he’d not heard from her since.
“What … er … what does this mean exactly?” Connie asked. “I never looked up rejected mates and everything before.”
“We’ll talk more in the morning. It will be best if you get a good night’s sleep.” He walked up toward her as she rubbed her arms, the cold seeming to get to her.
He put his hands on her arms and rubbed up and down, trying to infuse her with his heat. “I’m going to take care of everything now, Connie. You’ve got nothing to be upset about. I’m here.”
She pressed her lips together, a beautiful blush staining her cheeks. For a long time, he’d known Connie had a crush on him. She rarely spoke to him and when she did, she’d often stumble over her words or blush. He found it so endearing.
“I will leave you. If you need anything, I’ll be in my office.” He turned on his heel, shutting the door quietly and then heading toward his office.
He needed a stiff drink.
Gage went straight for the whiskey, pouring himself a generous amount and downing it within two gulps. Their bodies had a faster metabolism, which meant it was difficult to get drunk unless you were a young wolf.
Connie being in his home was all part of his plan. One he’d set in motion three years ago.
“Dad, what the fuck!” Tanner said, rushing into his office.
“Good evening to you too.” He turned to look at his son. Tanner looked exactly like him in physique and appearance, but his personality was all his mother. One Gage struggled with. It was hard to openly admit he didn’t like his son. He loved him. He would always love Tanner, but he didn’t like him.
“What the hell was that about?” Tanner asked. “I rejected her, and now what, you’re going to have my sloppy seconds?”
Gage snorted. “You would’ve had to have her first, Tanner. You didn’t even give the mating a chance.”
He’d suspected who his son’s mate was three years ago. After his son’s first transition, when Connie became another anomaly within the pack, there had been some weird connection.
He hadn’t gotten to be the Alpha of the pack without observing and knowing every single little detail of all the pack. He’d watched Tanner. Knew his son wasn’t the nicest of men, but the girls and some of the women seemed to enjoy his edge of cruelty. There had been no reason for him to interfere.
The body wanted what it did, and no one came to complain about his son’s behavior. Jumping from one bed to another. If that was what people wanted, he’d leave them to it.
Gage had watched the way his son reacted to Connie. The way he seemed to constantly be close by, watching her. No one else noticed, but Gage did.
With his own agenda in play, Gage had decided he’d see how his son’s mating would play out. He never expected Connie’s transition to take so long, but he promised himself if Tanner accepted her, he’d back away.
Tanner had denied the mating, and as far as Gage was concerned, he was in the clear to pursue the woman for his own. There was no mistaking Connie was a woman.
“That’s beside the point. I forbid you. You can’t have her!” Tanner slammed his foot on the ground.
Gage took a step toward his son. “You think you can order me around?”
Tanner tried to keep his ground, but alpha son or not, he wasn’t the man in charge. “Dad, she is a fat waste of space.”
He released a growl. “I taught you better than that, boy! You will learn to mind your tongue while you’re in this house. I pay for the roof over your head, the clothes on your back, and the food in your stomach. You have a position within this pack because I make it so, but I can take it all back.”
“You can’t be serious.”
“I am. I’ve watched you hurt that woman for too long. Rejected or not, she has a right to be in this pack.”
Tanner burst out laughing. “I checked the fucking rules. You know what it all means, don’t you? You’ve got to try to mate with that thing!”
Gage wrapped his fingers around his son’s neck. He didn’t hold him too tightly, but it was enough to give the boy a warning. “You think I didn’t check the rules, Tanner? You think I would put a woman in a position when I didn’t know what was expected of me? I know I’ve got the opportunity to make that woman my mate.”
He squeezed a little tighter. “I get to take her, claim her, fuck her, make her mine, and because of your rejection, there is not a single thing you can do about it. Now, I suggest you learn your manners while you are under my roof. You prove to me that you’re worth my time, or I can make life very uncomfortable for you.” He released his son, poured himself another generous shot of whiskey, and flung it back.
“I don’t get it. Women throw themselves at you all the time. You can have anyone.”
“I’m cleaning up your mess.” He turned back to look at his son, perching on the edge of the desk. Gage scented the air. “You think I don’t know what you did? Why you did it?” He chuckled. “After three years of finding yourself near her at every opportunity, it all became clear. You think I didn’t see your body’s reaction to that time she went to the pool? Your dick getting hard at the sight of her?”
Tanner grew even redder with every passing second. “I knew she was your mate. I didn’t expect you to reject her like this. A true mate is rare, my son. You threw her away, and I picked up the pieces. Now get out of my office. I’ll be watching you closely.”
“You really did know?” Tanner asked. His shoulders were slumped.
“Yes, and for the first time in my life, with the way you rejected her, I felt shame in you. You’re not the son I raised. You’re not the man I hope to have take over this pack. Now get out of my sight before I give you a reason to be pissed.”
Tanner didn’t argue with him, merely stepping out of the office and leaving the stench of his mood lingering in the air.
Gage had never been a selfish man. From the time he’d been a little boy, knowing his fate to take over from his grandfather, he’d devoted his entire life to the pack. Never taking anything for himself. His father had been killed hunting for a thrill down at a waterfall. He’d made a jump, got trapped by the waves, and drowned. His mother hadn’t stuck around. Gage’s grandfather had discovered her dead body a year after. She’d overdosed, rare for a wolf to do, but still possible with the right substances and mixes.
From that point on, he vowed to be better, to learn everything.
Connie was the first time he felt selfish, but he’d given his son the chance. Now she was his, and he wasn’t going to let her go willingly.