Nyah Morgan kicked a loose twig away from the edge of her father’s grave. A breeze whipped sharply around her, the crispness of late winter laced in its chill as it lifted strands of her jet-black hair and momentarily shrouded her view of the wilting wreaths heaped against the freshly placed headstone. She tucked the loose hair behind her ear before using the cuff of her sleeve to wipe away the dampness on her cheeks. Determined to behave stronger than she felt at that moment she pulled in a deep breath and loudly sniffed away the last of her tears.
“Harper Morgan,” she read out, wanting the words carved into the stone to be spoken aloud so the surrounding earth would understand the importance of the man now resting in its depths. “Fearless leader, beloved husband . . . ” Trailing off she dragged her gaze upwards and stared unseeing towards the other headstones neatly erected in the simple cemetery. It was a moment before she could release the burning breath, clear her throat and force herself to look back down again. “Devoted father,” she continued, her voice now weaker, “may he rest in peace.”
Reaching out she traced her fingers along the carving of a wolf etched into the top right-hand corner of the headstone. The lone wolf stood proudly on the highest of three peaks, its neck carved into an eternal arch as it howled towards the moon. To the human eye, not that many ever wandered this deep into their territory, it was a simple carving. To her, and the other werewolves like her, it represented that her deceased father had been an Alpha.
“I miss you, Dad,” she whispered and then feeling her throat swell again gave her head a firm shake. “Enough,” she muttered.
When the scent of Alan, the werewolf now set to take over from her father, reached her nostrils Nyah blew out a steadying breath and tried to put a blank expression back onto her face. She preferred to keep her moments of weakness to herself; tears were best reserved for behind closed doors or huddled under the duvet, alone, at night, as was her preference.
“What do you think?” Alan said as he strode through the wrought iron gates that surrounded the cemetery. He came to stand beside her before reaching out to give the headstone an affectionate pat. “Jackson did a good job, didn’t he?”
“He did,” she agreed, “it’s perfect.”
Knowing that Alan hadn’t come to the cemetery to share his thoughts on her father’s headstone Nyah made a point of checking her watch. “I’m not late for the meeting, am I?” she asked, aware that she still had half an hour before it was due to begin.
“No,” Alan said, “I wanted to talk to you about something before it began – away from prying ears, so to speak.”
Alan nodded towards the open gate, inviting her to walk with him as if what needed to be said would disrespect the memory of his deceased Alpha. “Simon Northfell’s attending the meeting,” he told her.
Nyah let out an irritated sigh. Alan shared her less than pleasant opinion of Simon Northfell, in fact, the entire pack held little tolerance for him.
“I told him no,” Alan said, following her through the small gate, “but as he constantly likes to remind me; I don’t officially have the right to deny his attendance.”
Together, they mimicked Simon’s haughty drawl. “You are not Alpha, Mr Stenson, the decision is not yours to make.”
“He’s a royal pain in the ass,” Nyah said, ensuring that the rusting gate latch had caught properly. “I wish he’d crawl back to whatever rock he’s been hiding under for the last ten years.”
“I doubt the rock wants him back either.”
“Next Thursday can’t come quick enough,” she grumbled as they began strolling towards the copse of trees hiding the narrow pathway that led back towards the houses. “It’s a pity we can’t find a way to make you Alpha sooner.”