"Mom said if you tip the canoe she's giving you up for adoption!"
Vega and I turned to look at her younger brother who stood on the balcony above us. "What?" She asked.
Brennan nodded, confirming she had heard him correctly.
"Can I have your room if that happens?"
"Sure," she said sarcastically. Vega turned to me and rolled her eyes before we continued our trek down the hill behind her family's cabin.
"He wasn't being serious was he?" I asked, narrowly avoiding stepping on a loose rock.
Vega laughed nervously. "He wasn't, but my mom might have been."
We reached the small dock which looked out over the half-frozen blue lake. Walking across the old wooden boards took courage.
"Are you sure we can't just talk in your room?" I asked. She shook her head, causing tight black coils of hair to poke out from under her beanie. She readjusted it as she loosened the dock rope from the cleat.
"Not with those two brats running around, they've gotten on my nerves all day. Hop in," she said pointing to the canoe.
I sighed as I steadied myself and lowered my body down into the canoe. She threw the rope to me and got in a little less carefully than I was comfortable with. "You're going to tip us over one of these days," I said, firmly grasping the sides.
Vega said nothing as she picked up the oars from under our feet and handed me one.
Once we had paddled out a few hundred feet, she seemed satisfied with our distance away from the dock and laid the oar across her lap. I did the same and looked at her expectantly.
"So?" I asked. "What did you want to tell me?"
She chewed on her bottom lip nervously. "Well.." I said, prompting her along."
"I'm going to break up with Shawn!" She said suddenly.
I rolled my eyes and huffed. "This is what you brought me out here for? You've only been dating for three weeks. Why are you breaking up with him already?"
Vega shrugged. "I don't know."
I gave her a knowing look and she smiled.
"I know you think it's stupid," she said laughing as I rolled my eyes, "but I still believe there's a chance.
"Mates don't exist anymore," I said shaking my head.
Mates, a term used to refer to soulmates amongstLycanthropes, were around hundreds of years ago before interbreeding happened. Lycans hooked up with humans and their children hooked up with other humans until the entire population was more human than wolf. The entire bloodline thinned out so much it was impossible to have a mate as a modern-day Lycanthrope.
"Don't be such a cynic," Vega said. "I think it could still happen. I heard it happened someplace in California last summer---"
"---between two teenagers in the same pack there," I finished for her. "I know, you've told me that a thousand times."
Vega shook her head and leaned back. "I'm perfectly happy choosing the person I want to fall in love with, thank you," I said.
"And how's that coming along there, Evie?" She asked.
I gave her a hard look and she smiled before shrugging. Vega began picking at the wooden oar's dents with her manicured nails.
"I just think it would make our lives a whole lot easier if we were handed a husband," she said laughing.
"I might have actually passed my Chemistry class last semester if I wasn't too worried about getting Shawn to ask me out."
I rolled my eyes. "There's more to life than finding a boyfriend, Vega. Also, I can't think of too many people who did pass Chemistry on the first try."
"Whatever," she said shrugging. "It's cold out here, do you want to head back?"
I nodded eagerly and grabbed my oar. I'd been shivering since we left the house.
"Vega, do Vampires still exist?" Brennan asked.
He was waiting for us in the doorway as we made our way across the patio and back into the house.
"I don't know. You should ask Mom, Ethan," she said, pushing past him and taking off her beanie.
I thought that was Brennan. Vega and I had been friends since the twins were born, but I still didn't know how she could tell Ethan from Brennan. They even dressed alike.
"Mom, when is Dad going to be home?" Vega called out, removing her jacket and hanging it on the hook beside the door.
"He just called. The council had an urgent meeting called so he had to close up the shop early and head into town," Mrs. Chandler yelled from the kitchen. "We're eating dinner in five minutes, don't go too far!"
We both took our boots off and I followed Vega into the kitchen.
"Hi, Evie! Are you staying for dinner? We're having chili," Mrs. Chandler informed me.
"Yeah, sure," I said, giving her a hug.
"You should text your mom and ask her if she would like to join us as well, since your dad is at the meeting too," Mrs. Chandler said, returning the hug.
"There's no point. You know how she is about being out after dark," I said, nodding towards the setting sun outside the kitchen window.
Mrs. Chandler just shrugged, something I had noticed her daughter did often as well when she didn't want to argue.
"What was the meeting for?" Vega asked, getting glasses and bowls out of the cabinet.
"Yeah, it seems a little weird for them to call a meeting on a Tuesday," I said as I began to fill the glasses with ice.
Mrs. Chandler just nodded. "I know," she said, "he didn't offer any information to me when he told me so I thought it best not to ask.
Vega's father, along with mine and thirty-eight other men from town, were on Southern Utah's Council of Lycanthrope Affairs.
The Lycanthrope population was very small in Utah and it was an hour's drive to each of the meetings so there were never more than three or four of them a year. An emergency meeting was certain to raise some eyebrows.
"I don't think it's anything to worry about," Mrs. Chandler said when she noticed the two of us had gone quiet. She wiped her hands on a towel as she spoke, "If there is a problem, it's likely just a political thing. I, on the other hand, wasn't so convinced and judging by the look on Vega's face, she wasn't either Two hours later, we were all sitting on the couch watching sitcom reruns and talking about the upcoming semester.
"Are you ready to go back to school?" Mrs. Chandler asked I groaned.
"I can't tell you how many times I've thought about just taking classes online. The smell of that city alone makes me want to vomit. Even just thinking about it makes me sick."
"But you get used to it after a while right?" Vega asked. I just cringed. Although Lycanthropes are no longer pure-blooded enough for mates, we still inherit traits such as a heightened sense of smell.
There were reasons most Lycans chose to live in extremely rural communities and one of them being the stench of pollution that came with densely populated areas. As a girl who went off to college coming from a rural area, this was a serious shock factor.
Eventually I became accustomed to the smell, but I knew going back after winter break would be a miserable transition.
Vega, on the other hand, took classes online so she had no clue just how bad it was.
"Well, I think that---"
Mrs. Chandler's sentence was cut short when Mr. Chandler opened the front door. Body rigid, his presence made us all jump from our seats on the couch.
"What on earth is the matter?" Mrs. Chandler asked, rushing over to him. He saw Vega and I and pointed to us.
"You two, come with me " He turned his attention to Mrs. Chandler, "Lock the doors after us, we'll be back. "
Mrs. Chandler grabbed Vega's arm as we hurried past her and looked at Mr. Chandler. "You're not taking my baby anywhere unless you tell me what's wrong.He rested his hand on her shoulder.
"We're going to be okay. Evelyn's father is waiting in the car. They're safe, okay?" He turned to Vega and I, "C'mon girls."
Mrs. Chandler reluctantly let go of Vega and watched us out the door.
"Warren Charles Chandler! If anything happens to either one of them, we are getting a divorce!"
We hurried out to the car where my father was waiting in the passenger seat, looking as stoic as ever. He was still in his suit so I knew he had been staying late at the firm when the call came in. Because he and Mr. Chandler didn't get along well at all, I knew there was something wrong if the two of them had willingly ridden in the same car.
"What happened?" I asked.
"We'll discuss it in the car," Mr. Chandler said, opening the door for Vega and I to get in. As soon as he got into the driver's seat, the car was taking offbackwards out of the driveway.
"So..?" Vega said.
"Listen," Mr. Chandler said. "There are things that go on in packs today that you two need to be aware of. You're the next generation of Lycanthropes and that means it is important you know how to handle situations when they arise.
"You are kind of scaring me," I said, nervously fidgeting with my seatbelt strap.
"An Alpha Superior is here tonight. He called a meeting with the council because one of our neighboring packs believes we are housing a defected member of their pack within our territory,"my father said, speaking finally.
"But housing a rogue is illegal," I argued.
My dad nodded and caught my eye in the rearview mirror. "That's why this is very serious."
"So where are we going?" Vega asked. "To meet him somewhere?"
"Yes, we are meeting the Alpha Superior and the leaders of the other pack in The Valley," Her father answered.
"Alpha Superior?" I asked, frowning.
"Why do they even still have those? Alphas haven't been used in pack dynamics in so long."
"They're our leadership," Mr. Chandler said. "That entire echelon of Lycanthrope still thrives with the Alpha-Beta pack mentality."
"It just seems so primitive," I said, crossing my arms.
"They're just a bunch of old guys who can't let the glory days die." If I hadn't been looking out of my window when I said this, I would have seen Mr. Chandler smile at my naivety. I didn't yet know how wrong I was, but I would soon.
We pulled into an empty parking lot between the base of the two mountains.
"Where is everyone?" Vega asked.
A few moments later, three cars pulled into the lot and parked next to ours. Seven men who I recognized from the town got out of the cars and came over to us. More than one of them eyed Vega and I suspiciously.
"What are they doing here?" The one with cowboy boots asked.
"Conflict resolution is an important lesson they need to learn, my father said." I rolled my eyes as soon as I heard his stupid attorney tone. Everyone always believed whatever came out of his mouth when he spoke like that.
The rancher didn't look so convinced, however. "I don't think they should be party to this. It am not appropriate to have ladies present when politics are being handled."
"It's a good thing you weren't asked then, isn't it?" My father asked, holding a stare that threatened the rancher to say another word against his.
The rancher was obviously still bothered by our presence but he didn't dare say another word as we began walking from the parking lot and onto a path that led into the surrounding forest.
It was freezing cold outside and Vega and I barely had time to grab our shoes and jackets before walking out the door, meaning our gloves and hats were left behind. I compensated by pulling my long brown hair out of a ponytail to cover my ears and shoving my cold, pale hands deep into my pockets.
Once we had reached a clearing in the trees, we saw a large group of men-very large men I might add-waiting for us. One of them, however, was turned from us, standing in front of someone. They were speaking in hushed tones that even a Lycanthrope's hearing like mine couldn't pick up on. You could very clearly tell who the foreigners were.
They were all dressed in dark, regal clothing. The other men, clearly belonging to our neighboring pack, were in blue jeans and fur-lined denim jackets.
"This isn't all of them!" One of the older men from the neighboring pack yelled angrily.
"Our apologies," Mr. Chandler said. "Not everyone could meet us here tonight on such short notice."
The man who had his back turned to us stopped speaking and turned around to face Mr. Chandler and our group. His cropped blond hair was all I noticed before my father stepped in front of me, blocking my view. Vega's father did the same to her, causing the both of us to shoot each other questioning looks.
"I need not explain how important this accusation brought against you is, so my Alpha and I will not excuse the negligent behavior of your pack's council in this matter. It is not appropriate to degrade such an issue," someone said.
I detected an accent in his voice, but I couldn't place it.
"Degrade?" I mouthed to Vega, shooting her a questioning look.
She just shrugged, still listening. Everything went quiet, deathly quiet. No one was speaking any longer. Silence was all anyone could hear. I looked at Vega.
"This can't be good," she mouthed.
I heard a twig break under someone's foot about two feet in front of my father. Was there going to be an attack? Are they all going to start fighting?
Then I heard his voice, deep and demanding.
Was he speaking to my dad?
My question was answered when my dad hesitantly stepped out of my way. The first thing I saw was a very broad and muscular chest trapped beneath a black, long-sleeved shirt. The next thing I saw were his eyes, electric blue and gorgeous. They seemed to be glowing in the sparse moonlight that filtered in between the trees
It felt like something inside of me had caught fire.
"Holy shit," was the last thing I remember hearing Vega saying before everything went dark.