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Carnage Island (Reject Island)
Author:Lexi C. Foss

Males protect it.

Hence, females focus on preparing their mortal bodies for procreation.

While males learn how to fight in their strongest form—as wolves.

My stomach flips at the notion of finally meeting my animal. We’ve bonded for so long and after tonight, I can finally embrace her to the fullest.

She’s softer than my mind, but still fierce in her own way. I can sense her need to shift, her desire to run free in the woods on four paws instead of two feet.

But I’ve denied her for twenty very long years.

Tonight, I tell her. Tonight, we will run with our mate by our side.

It’ll be his job to show me how to function on four legs. To embrace my animal half. To flourish in the trees beneath his protective gaze.

My wolf snorts at the notion of someone else protecting her. She has claws and teeth for a reason. But it’s how the males in our packs thrive.

“Let them think they’re in charge,” my mother has always said. “Our animals know the truth.”

Females bear the children. That gives us a certain amount of power that no male can take from us. Even if they try to control us in certain ways.

My mother ensured that I understood how the games are played in this world.

I know when to bow—such as now—and when to fight. All because my mother wanted me to know the truth about this world and how to survive it.

I can feel her eyes on me now, watching my every move. She’s anxious. It’s an irritation I sense against my skin, the nerves of my pack making it that much harder to remain still.

Because the Santeetlah Alpha and his son are approaching.

We’ve met a few times to establish the requisite chemistry. Tonight is the final test—a dance among our wolves.

His father, Alpha Crane, clears his throat.

I don’t move. I just breathe, keeping my shoulders relaxed and my eyes on the ground.

My intended mate stops before me, his feet bare, just like my own. However, I can see the edge of his jeans flirting with his ankles.

Unlike him, I’m without clothes.

Because I’m ready for him to call upon my wolf, to set my animal free. Some packs are blessed with magic that allows them to shift while wearing clothing. My wolf-type doesn’t possess that kind of enchantment. And neither does his. Which means he intends to strip after he’s forced my shift.

I don’t mind.

All I really want is to feel my fur and stretch out my legs.

And run, I think wistfully.

“Today marks a momentous occasion,” Alpha Crane says, his deep voice reverberating through the clearing like a rolling thunder.

Goose bumps pebble down my arms in response, his power evident in that vibrating tone alone. Alpha Bryson carries a similar presence, but not quite as overwhelming. Perhaps because I’ve grown up near him.

My father is his Beta, otherwise known as the second in command. Which is one of the reasons why I’ve been given the honor of mating Alpha Crane’s son. The responsibility would have gone to Alpha Bryson’s daughter, and did, when he tried to strike a truce with the Black Mountain pack.

And well, that did not go as planned.

The Black Mountain Alpha’s son rejected her.

No.

He did worse than reject her.

He slaughtered her.

And the Black Mountain Alpha responded by laughing.

“The Santeetlah Pack and the Nantahala Pack will unite beneath a mating union,” Alpha Crane continues. “One both myself and Alpha Bryson have blessed—the mating between my son, Canton, and the Nantahala’s highest ranked eligible female, Beta Gafton’s daughter, Aspen Clover Donough.”

I don’t react to him using my full name. Canton knows I prefer to go by Clove. That’s what matters.

“Together, we would build a more powerful territory and provide a united front against those who intrude on our land.” Alpha Crane releases a low growl, the sound making my stomach twist. “The Black Mountain savages think to attack our land and our people. No more. We will unite as the Santeetlah-Nantahala Pack and show them that our wolves are superior to their beastly ways!”

Howls take over the night, sending another shiver down my spine.

Our packs are uniting as one, the wolves joining together in harmony as our ceremony officially begins.

I’m not allowed to join in on the howls; none of the females are. Not that there are many in attendance tonight. Most are home, protecting their offspring with a few enforcers remaining behind.

My mother is here because of me.

Just as Alpha Bryon’s mate is here to show her support of this union.

The rest are males, their animalistic aggression a hot wave in the chilly winter air.

My wolf whines inside, begging to be released. I resist her, just as I’ve always done, the pain in my heart spiraling through my veins and sending electric shocks to my fingertips. It’s never felt natural to suppress her. But I do what I have to for my pack.

I do what I need to do… to survive.

Canton places his hand on my head, his fingers running through my hair. He’s pleased that I’m obeying and remaining still while everyone howls, including him. It’s a display of my loyalty to him as my intended mate. It’s a show of understanding my place in our packs.

I may possess the heart of an Alpha, but I will never be the Alpha. Men are stronger. I accept that. I accept my place. I accept him.

On most days, I think, recalling my mother’s warnings about choosing my battles.

Swallowing, I wait for the men to calm and the next phase of this ceremony to begin.

Canton circles me, his eyes roaming over my exposed skin. I can feel his approval and interest. He knows he’ll finally be allowed to taste me tonight. My own interest is slickening my thighs. He’s an Alpha in his prime, a beautiful specimen of a male with a jawline I’ve wanted to lick from the moment I first met him.

Canton leans down to press a kiss to my temple, his breath warm as he whispers, “I can smell your arousal, Clove. You’re already ready for me, aren’t you, sweetheart?”