“What do you mean they don’t want an alliance?” Luke Claymore stared at his son, Adrian, pacing across the length of his office. While the pack was able to live wherever they chose on pack territory, there was a building in the center that had room to house anyone without their own place, the alpha and beta families, his office, and a homey kitchen like area for any meals. The pack must have accumulated a decent amount of money in the past, because everything that was directly owned by them, such as the Community building they were currently in, was nothing but modern. Right now poor Adrian was being interrogated by Luke one again, and no pack member was dumb enough to interrupt that, in his office or not. It was just before lunch on Claymore Pack territory, and despite the bad start to Adrian’s, day, the sun was shining without a cloud in the sky. The alpha had sent his son to see another pack alpha about becoming allies. Luke was intent on getting as many as he could by name dropping and threatening. Unfortunately no matter what Adrian had or could have done, the other alpha would have never agreed. He knew Luke, and knew how hungry he was for power. Everyone knew that got you into trouble eventually, didn’t he see that? Poor Adrian was caught in the middle, and now he was hearing it. “Adrian Claymore I swear I should keep you on pack territory and never give you another job in your worthless life. I asked one thing of you.” Not true, he asked a lot of Adrian, but it was never good enough. “One thing! One very important thing, and it didn’t get done. I would have sent Rick, but he’s got his hands full getting a mate for the sake of an alliance! A mate, Adrian! What are you doing to help this pack, hm?” The look in his eyes was furious, and his hands moved in an exaggerated fashion with every word. But those eyes…those eyes that held an anger that hardly ever left, stayed on his son during the entire rant. ******* How could her father just give her away like that? With arms crossed over her chest and eyes looking nowhere but the window, Vera Evans rode alongside Rick in his red pick-up truck. She was didn’t understand why she even had to meet his pack, and if Rick thought for one moment she was going to let him mark her he had another thing coming. If he wanted someone who would go with what her father said just because he’s an alpha then Rick had another thing coming. Vera would not be one of his past lovers, a submissive that would take his physical abuse. “Come on, baby. You don’t want to meet your new family?” he laughed, glancing at her but keeping his hands on the wheel. Rick had already tried touching her arm and had gotten a swipe full of claws for it. Shifters could partially change when they wanted to show claws or teeth, and he’d seen hers enough to last a lifetime. “New family? Have you listened to a word I’ve said, Ricky? I’m not your mate and I’m not joining your pack!” she yelled, finally looking away from the window to glare at him instead. “By the way, I like your truck. Really tells a lot about you. I mean you know what they say about men and their big trucks, right? They’re making up for something else?” The man chuckled, shaking his head. “You and that attitude. I’m going to have fun breaking you, girl,” he hissed, his language making it even more clear than it already was that there was an age difference between the two. Why did everyone in her pack buy into his charming smile and good looks? Didn’t they see his manipulative ways beneath all that? “And didn’t your daddy tell you? We have a mating ceremony scheduled within the next few days. Luke is going to perform it.” Vera’s eyes widened. “What?” she whispered, finally showing fear rather than frustration and defiance in her eyes. It wasn’t like it was a wedding…no money was spend, not much of a big to-do. The alpha usually said a few words and the two mated…in front of others or in private. Not everyone even had a ceremony, but for Rick it guaranteed a reason and occasion to bite and mark her permanently for all to see. Then nobody could argue that they weren’t ‘meant to be’ as he was claiming. But Vera knew…this wasn’t her true mate. Sure, sometimes signals got crossed and one didn’t notice at first, but Rick wasn’t it, she was sure of it! The rest of the ride over to Claymore territory was silent. The gate surrounding the wide, open space surrounding their community opened at the sight of his truck and Rick waved to whoever was standing guard. One of the trained shifters with a lot of muscle, that she knew.