Chapter 1 - The Ceremony

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Today, the sky was gray and constantly threatening rain. It seemed fitting, however, as if the Moon Goddess wanted to cry with us. I for one, had already cried. I cried more than I thought any one wolf was capable. Rogues didn't attack packs anymore; we had been at peace for years now. Why her?

My mother was a simple woman, yet loved by so many in the Gold Wind pack. In fact, we were an all around simple family. None of us ranked highly, yet we weren't seen lowly like the omegas either. Father was a great farmer and very appreciated by all of the pack. Mother even had ties with the Alpha and his family, being their personal seamstress. She was hands-down the best seamstress in our pack, maybe even all of the packs. As wolves, as a pack, we would have mourned the loss of any member, but mother was well known, and therefore today was darker for everyone.

It was the darkest for me.

I knew father and Hailey were suffering too. No one should have to go through the pain of losing their mate. No girl should have to go through the pain of losing her mother, especially at the mere age of thirteen, when a girl needs her mother the most. Maybe I was selfish, thinking I hurt more over losing mother than Hailey ever could, but I had spent twenty-one years with the lovely soul. I had known her at almost every stage of life. Now that I had reached my adult years, she was not only a mother and someone to look up to, she was a friend.

I sat quietly in front of my vanity mirror, noticing for what seemed like the first time, all of the features she had passed on to me. The gold locks that nearly reached my hips, the gray-blue eyes wide and full of thought, the fairest golden skin and rosy cheeks - it all stood out now. I don't even know if I realized it for myself until it became apparent that father couldn't look at me anymore.

My young sister Hailey wasn't as painful for him, for she shared more features of his own with her dirty-blonde hair and hazel eyes. I tried not to take it personally, but it was obvious father didn't want to be around me now. That, and he began to see me as a nuisance. At twenty-one I still hadn't managed to find my mate, so I was still stuck under his roof, doing nothing of value for the family. I knew I needed to help him out now - with Hailey, with money. Even if my own father couldn't bear to look at me, he needed me.

After sitting in front of the mirror for what must have been ages, I decided not to even bother with the makeup. My appearance was still put together and presentable, but what's the point in makeup when you know tears will come? I slowly stood and walked to Hailey's bedroom, softly tapping on her door before entering. I needed to make sure she was ready, her hair might need braided. Mother hadn't got around to teaching her yet.

"You almost ready Hails?" I asked, offering a weak smile.

She returned the smile with the same amount of effort. "As ready as I'll ever be."

I noticed she didn't need her hair braided after all, for she had settled on a neat bun instead. I nodded to her with understanding and held my weak smile as she approached me at the doorway and took my hand. They were cold. The warmth had truly been sucked out of both of us.

"Let's go," I whispered as we slowly walked towards the living room and out the front door. We didn't bother looking for father, we both knew he had gotten to the ceremony hours early. He wanted to be with her alone before everyone arrived.

We arrived at the pack square right on time and made our way to the front of the crowd, the family-only section. Hailey squeezed my hand as we both tried not to notice the looks of pity we received from nearly everyone in our pack. Father was already waiting at the front, staring straight ahead. His face lacked any emotion. He was stone hard, hollow inside. We took our seats next to him without saying a word. Although the entire pack was present, it was quiet. Silence and respect was required for these solemn occasions. It wasn't the human tradition, a funeral. It was a ceremony of respect and remembrance. Like all wolves, mother's body would be burned at the end.

Already seated up on the concrete stage on one side of mother's covered body was our current Alpha, Alpha Mathus, his mate, our Luna Sierra, and their son, our soon-to-be-alpha Gavin. On the other side sat Alpha Elijah and Luna Lena from the Polar Moon pack, and Alpha Wyatt from the Blue Mountain Pack. They had come to pay their respects and discuss security measures against the rogues with our Alpha.

"Thank you all for gathering on this solemn day, I wish it were under better circumstances," Alpha Mathus spoke. He was a very fair and warm Alpha compared to some from other packs, including the ones who had joined him on the stage.

"Let us all silently pray to the Moon Goddess as we begin this ceremony to honor and remember Lillian Hawthorne," he added, bowing his head and closing his eyes.

Everyone followed his lead. I began my silent prayer to the Moon Goddess, but became rather distracted. The sudden smell of cinnamon and leaves overwhelmed my nose. It was heavenly, and I couldn't help but wonder if this was part of every traditional ceremony for the wolves we lost. I tried to shake it off and get back to my prayers, but I couldn't. The smell wouldn't let me. I had to open my eyes. I had to know what they were doing to cause this beautiful, warming smell.

I opened my eyes and they instantly locked with only one other thing.

The brightest pair of crystal blue eyes I've ever seen in my life.

I was mesmerized, completely enchanted. I suddenly forgot where I was or what I was supposed to be doing. In fact, it took me much too long to realize whose eyes I was shamelessly staring into on the stage in front of me.

Alpha Wyatt.

My mouth dropped open a bit as an involuntary gasp escaped my lips.

"Mine," he growled lowly. It was meant for my ears only.  

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