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Chapter 1 The New Bride Candidate

     ~ the Dark Howlers pack ~
     Damon entered his study and looked grumpily at the stack of documents that are waiting for him to sign.
     Why is the Alpha of the largest pack in North America forced to do this office work?
     As a child, when he imagined his future, Damon saw himself as a mighty warrior, standing victoriously on the pile of his enemies while his allies and pack members worshiped him. This wood-paneled office and leather furniture are a far cry from it. It's suffocating.
     Damon plopped on his chair and glared at the documents, wishing that he can make them disappear (completed preferably). Of course, it didn't work.
     He pushed documents on the side and decided to check his email first.
     Damon's expression darkened when he saw an email from Elder Parker with subject: "Consider Marcy Redmayne as your Luna".
     Another Elder is persistent in getting Damon together with a woman, all wrapped in a story of how an Alpha needs his Luna in order for the pack to prosper, but Damon and his pack are doing just fine.
     Damon deleted the email, without reading it, just how he did with the previous twenty that had the same subject.
     Damon pinched the roof of his nose as familiar anger swelled inside him. He is irritated that these people are trying to manipulate him. Why don't they give up? He is no one's puppet!
     Last night, Elder Parker called and tried convincing Damon to see this woman, the perfect Luna, how he described her. Damon congratulated himself for managing to stay cool and not explode in rage, but he was not unaffected.
     After that call, Damon took the car and drove to a bar about forty minutes away and he found two fine she-wolves to keep him company and help him release steam.
     That's why all these documents are waiting for him. He was supposed to deal with this work last night.
     'Right. Documents…', Damon grumbled internally and resigned himself to his fate wile reaching for the folder that was at the top of the stack.
     In the bedroom on the second floor of the packhouse…
     "Do you need to leave?", Maya asked Caden in a whiny voice while moving the comforter to expose her left leg, tempting him to stay longer.
     Maya knew that Caden was late for work and even though this was their third year of living together, every morning was a struggle to separate.
     While looking at Maya's seductive smile, Caden clearly felt her desire for him, just how she felt his.
     Mates.
     Caden's wolf was clawing at him to pounce on the woman both of them adore and make her scream in ecstasy, but Caden reminded himself that there are things he needs to do.
     Caden groaned in frustration while buttoning up his jeans.
     Leaving Maya is always difficult, but the sight of her delicious skin is upgrading the difficulty level to: mission impossible.
     "I must go, baby. Your man is a Beta. Duty calls.", Caden said in a husky voice that made her smile foolishly.
     Caden leaned over Maya and gave her a long lingering kiss.
     He breathed heavily while inching away, and Maya bit her lower lip temptingly in her last-ditch effort to keep him for another round of carnal pleasures but Caden grabbed his t-shirt and pulled it over his head.
     He winked playfully before leaving the room with, "Keep those thoughts for tonight, sugarplum. I promise to make it up to you."
     "I'm counting on it!", Maya shouted after him.
     Caden didn't tell Maya that the 'duty' which called him is another marriage request for the Alpha of their pack.
     This time, the prospective bride is Marcy Redmayne, the daughter of the Alpha of the Red Moon pack.
     Telling a man that a woman is interested in marriage might seem like a small thing, but to Caden, this is more stressful than facing an attack from rogues where they are heavily outnumbered.
     First, a little background.
     Werewolves are able to sense their mate after their eighteenth birthday, and within the next few years, most of them are mated.
     Of course, there are exceptions, and one of them is Alpha Damon, a twenty-seven years-old Adonis with a full head of raven black hair and blue enigmatic eyes to match his unpredictable personality.
     Even straight guys think that Damon is hot.
     Damon's relationship status: not mated, not married, not taken, and not interested in anything beyond pleasures of the flesh.
     One might think how that's the description of a despicable guy everyone would avoid, yet the she-wolves are crazy about him, each thinking that she is THE one to thaw his icy heart and claim the position of the Luna in the Dark Howlers pack, the largest pack in North America.
     Caden knows that Damon is not an asshole. After all, they grew up together.
     They trained together, studied, and competed in everything. When Damon became an Alpha, Caden supported him unconditionally, and they became the youngest Alpha-Beta pair among all the packs in the history of werewolves. Badass.
     Damon took over the Dark Howlers pack at the age of seventeen, after his parents died in an ambush set up by rogues. At that time, the Dark Howlers pack was not the largest pack in North America, but its influence was not to be underestimated.
     Then seventeen years old Damon was the best warrior in their generation and great in academics, but he found himself unprepared for the role of a leader that a big pack needed. On top of it all, a number of Alphas and Elders started pressuring Damon into handing over his power and territory.
     Caden stood by Damon's side and helped him to the best of his abilities and to everyone's surprise, instead of succumbing under pressure and allowing the pack to crumble, Damon showed skill, determination, and strategy that didn't only maintain the Dark Howler's pack power, but he strengthened and expanded it.
     In the last ten years, Damon experienced numerous schemes that had the goal to use him. People approached him as friends, enemies, allies, and anything in-between, with an agenda to swindle him. Some were more successful than others.
     Those bitter experiences formed the man he is today: righteous, strong-willed, unyielding, controlling, unforgiving, and completely focused on the prosperity of the Dark Howlers pack.
     Saying that Damon is the most eligible bachelor is an understatement. Women are throwing themselves at him and screaming that they want to have his babies.
     Damon never allowed any she-wolf to label herself as his girlfriend, and wife (aka Luna) was out of the question, but that didn't discourage ambitious wolves with some standing from trying to matchmake Damon with their daughters, sisters, aunts, cousins, or any other she-wolf that is of marriageable age.
     One Alpha from the pack in the South of Canada even sneaked his wife in Damon's bed.
     Unfortunately for them, Damon is not moved by an endless stream of potential brides coming his way. Actually, with every next woman who is throwing herself at him, Damon is erecting more walls that make him emotionally unavailable.
     Damon has nothing against bedding a woman, but giving her a title because of their relationship is a different thing.
     Damon is disgusted by people who latch onto him for power, and that is exactly where these brides are classified.
     Alas, Caden is about to pressure Damon to meet another of those leeches. Caden hates it, but as a Beta, it's part of his work because Damon is avoiding (or refusing) Elder Parker, and things are getting heated.
     Caden reached the study and knocked twice before opening the door.
     "Why did you shut down the mind link?", Caden asked Damon who was behind the large executive desk that had several stacks of documents on it.
     He is a hard-working Alpha, no one can deny that.
     "Good morning to you too…", Damon said dryly before responding, "I didn't. I only shut YOU out."
     Caden clicked his tongue irritably.
     No one in the pack dares to act so freely in front of Damon, but Caden and Damon are childhood friends.
     Of course, Caden will never show anything other than respect when others are present because Damon deserves respect, even though sometimes Caden wants to start a brawl.
     Damon's lips lifted into a mocking grin. "Did your duties got in the way of your time with Maya?"
     "Why ask if you know?" Caden was irritated that Damon was not looking at him. "I take my role as Beta seriously and I don't skim on work, but there are things that could be avoided if you stop pushing unnecessary burden my way. Every minute of my existence is for Maya. Once you find your mate, you will understand."
     Damon raised his gaze from the document he was holding, and he frowned at Caden. "I don't need a woman in my life to obstruct me. A girlfriend is a nuisance, a wife would be a problem, and a mate would be a disaster."
     Caden rolled his eyes. 'Damon is such a drama queen.'
     There are many she-wolves eyeing to be Luna of the Dark Howlers pack and despite Damon's killer looks, those women don't care who the Alpha is, as long as they can climb that coveted position. Because of this, Caden understands Damon's aversion toward officially accepting a woman as his partner.
     However, a werewolf can't pick his mate.
     Old Shamans tell stories of how the Moon Goddess creates werewolves and navigates their destiny so that every experience until one meets his mate is molding him into the perfect soulmate. When mates meet, they recognize each other, and the bond is formed immediately as they are halves of a wonderful whole.
     But for a stubborn unmated male like Damon, talking about that divine bond is like throwing pearls in front of a swine.
     Caden waved at Damon, indicating him to drop the topic. "Enough with useless talk. I'm here for important business."
     "If the important business is about the repeated emails that Elder Parker sent, that's the reason why I shut you down.", Damon said casually, like he was discussing the weather.
     Caden felt rage and dejection swelling inside him. Damon did it on purpose! Somehow, Caden was not surprised by it.
     "We are the biggest pack, and you can win against anyone in a one-on-one fight, but their influence is undeniable. If they unite to pressure us, we won't be able to resist. You can't avoid Elders, Damon."
     "Watch me.", Damon spat.


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