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I pulled one of Roman’s t-shirts on, breathing in the faint smell of his cologne. “I’m going over to my place to get changed,” I called, my hands already on the door.
There was a moment of silence. “Okay, Ava.”
The door opened, and Ava walked in. Her hair was flying behind her, the ocean breeze brushing it out. She smiled sleepily as she walked in.
“Sorry,” she said, collapsing into my arms. “I fell asleep on Roman’s couch.”
“Sorry,” I told him. I let him wrap his arms around me. “I fell asleep on Roman’s couch.” No need to mention Roman fell asleep with me.
“It-It’s fine, Ava,” he whispered in my ear, stroking my hair. I breathed in the scent of saltwater.
“So,” I said, pulling away, “what are we doing today? I feel so useless lately.”
He smiled. “Well, we have a ceremony.”
“Ooh, sounds fancy. What kind of ceremony?” I asked, raising my eyebrows.
Shit, I thought, am I supposed to tell her about the mating ceremony that’s supposed to take place afterwards? I decided against it. “Just some kind of thing for ‘officially’ being made Alpha. It’s really not a big deal,” I told her. Even though it was pretty much the greatest honor anyone could ever receive.
“I mean, you don’t have to come if you don’t want to,” I assured her.
She smiled. “Of course I’ll come. What time?”
“Oh, that’s important. I’m not actually completely sure. Maybe…seven o’clock? I think it’s supposed to be sunset.”
A grin rose to occupy her lips once again. “I’ll be there.”
I wrapped my tie around my neck, adjusting and straightening it in the small bathroom mirror.
Knock, knock. I spun around to find Ava leaning against the doorway in a shimmering silver dress. Her hair fell down past her shoulders in dark waves, framing her face. She bit her lip, making me smile.
“What, you’re nervous?” I teased. “Isn’t that my job?”
She sighed and walked toward me. When Ava reached me, her gaze fell to her sandals on her feet. “Ava,” I said, tilting her head up, “I love you.” I placed a soft kiss on her lips, and she fell into me.
“Tell me it’s going to be the same after you’re Alpha, Jace. Please, tell me nothing between us will change.”
I kissed her forehead, an electrifying jolt surging through me. “It’s okay, Ava. Everything will be okay,” I promised. Of course, I had absolutely no way of knowing this.
After all, there was a reason that Alphas picked their mates so early.
I threw my fist into the wall, leaving a gaping hole so large, I could see through and out to the beach.
I sighed and massaged my palm. He’s going to Mark her. He’s going to do it, and I won’t be able to stop it. Goddammit. What was I even supposed to do? A rush of helplessness ran through my body, jealousy coursing through my veins.
A growl rose from inside my throat. I felt an overwhelming urge to kill Jace- Jace, a friend so good, he’d practically been my brother for centuries! And I’d known Ava only for over a month. Natalie. Her face- so much like Ava’s, it hurt- flashed in front of my eyes.
Tears formed, and I held them back. I lifted my gaze to the mirror. I refused to show weakness, even to myself.
I smoothed out the dress. It felt much to revealing with the **** up the side, but Victoria had insisted. Apparently, both Jace’s pack-to-be and David’s entire pack would be there. Honestly, just about all of them hated humans. Making an *** of myself would not help.
I perched myself on the couch in our cabin. Victoria was applying a shimmering dark brown eyeshadow, some eyeliner, lipstick, and mascara- “All the basics,” she’d claimed.
Thoughts were running a marathon through my head. I couldn’t get rid of the worry that something would change between Jace and me. Maybe I should let him Mark me, I thought. But that’s a forever kind of thing. I can’t go back on that.
And… Roman. Roman was another issue entirely. He frustrated me to the point where I wanted to hit and kiss him at the same time. A blush rose to my cheeks. I barely had time to be nervous about what the packs would think about me. I mean, I’d barely met anyone in the time since Roman changed my life forever.
I could feel the hum of anxiety and excitement in the air. Traditionally, the previous Alpha of the pack was supposed to perform the ceremony, but Joseph wasn’t exactly present. David opened the book, shooting me one last look of reassurance.
I nodded in understanding. He started the ceremony. “Friends, family, pack. You are here to witness the initiation of an Alpha.”
I wasn’t paying all that much attention to what David was saying, because I was really just focused on how freakin’ amazing Jace looked in that suit. I mean, pretty much every guy looked cuter when they were all dressed up. It was so adorable.
But, **** it, Jace looked like a god. It took all of my concentration and self-control not to run up and kiss him in front of everyone on the beach.
Lost in thought, David eventually concluded the ceremony by saying, “And, will you now take the responsibilities of the Alpha?”
“I-I…” he began softly, but his voice faltered. I think I was one of the few who could hear the stutter, being sat in the front row. “Yes.”
“Now, we disperse, but only to follow your leader, your father, your friend, your foe, your… Alpha,” proclaimed David, snapping the large leather-bound book closed.
The people surrounding me clapped, and I found myself doing the same thing.