Freshly bathed, River sat on a stool in front of the mirror. He looked miserable in his new clothes. I took a towel and ran it over his head. When I rubbed in the hair gel, his nose scrunched up.
"It smells bad."
I chuckled. "Welcome to the human world where flowery artificial scents are very popular." I brushed his hair away from his eyes.
Lowering his head, he frowned.
"It's not that bad." I finished and lifted his head. "See, you look really nice."
River peered at his reflection. "Do civil always walk around as human?"
I nodded. "From what I understand most of the time, yes. They work with humans." I shrugged. "It's best to look like them."
He sighed, slumping over.
"Hey." I moved around him and sat on the counter. "You could get a mate today. And as soon as you got this," I pulled over my shirt, "you can do whatever the hell you want."
River smiled. "I just hope he's not too strict."
I leaned back on my arms. "I don't think Xavier is going to let someone mate with you unless the alpha knows they'll treat you right. He's partial to you."
The golden haired boy blushed. "No, he's not."
"Yes, he is," I said plainly. "I don't see him doing this for any of the other omegas."
Biting his lip, he lowered his eyes.
I swung my legs. "I'm going to miss you."
"It's not for sure yet."
I pressed my hand to my chest. "I saw the way that guy got all flustered when I told him your name. If it's the same dude and he's high up there, you're going to be ruling this pack."
He sucked in his lips, but I could still make out a grin.
"Come on." I jumped off the counter. "Let's go get something to eat."
River followed me from the room where Xavier and Titus were waiting. The alpha put away with his phone.
"You look very nice River," said the alpha.
"Knowing Aden, you'll get your man." Titus gave him a wink. "Even if he has to barge in there and knock some head together."
My mouth fell open. "What the hell does that mean?"
"You have some of your mother in you," he replied with a shrug.
I smacked his arm on the way to the door. "Let's go, River. I'm starving."
He hurried after me with the dominants not too far behind. Downstairs, we were ushered into a large reception hall. Tables line the walls piled with food, and more were placed in the middle as seating. A lot of them were taken.
I glanced at River. All the color had drained from his face when he saw all the people. Dropping his head, he looked ready to cry.
"Don't you dare." I quickly pulled him into a hug.
River's head fell onto my shoulder.
"You are far better than any of these people. So don't let it get to you." I held him out in front of me. "Alright?"
He nodded. "Okay."
"Now," I tried to sound like the alpha. "Wipe your face, and let's get some food. It's all you can eat."
River laughed and went with me to get plates. If he had been in werewolf form, his tail would have been wagging. I could see the excitement on his face. He took a little of everything. With our plates full, we found an empty table.
A waiter came by with a cart. "What would you like to drink?"
River's eyes darted along all the different colored bottles. "Um... water."
"Oh no." I held up my hand. "He's traditional. Get him one of everything."
She smiled and reached below the cart for a few different smaller bottles. "Try these." She left a water well. "What would you like?"
She handed me one before continuing on down the line.
Titus and his father arrived.
"Thirsty?" my mate asked.
"I wanted River to have a taste of everything. Water is boring." I took that bottle and handed it to Titus.
"Thanks, you're too sweet." He chuckled.
"I'm just saying he never gets any of this."
"Well if you do good today, you'll get to try a lot more," said the alpha.
River sunk down in his chair. Grabbing one of the bottles, he twisted off the cap. We all waited as he took a sip. His nose scrunched up.
He took another and another. "This is good."
I gave Titus a grin. I knew what I was doing. We ate while Xavier went over what was happening that day. Titus was blatantly ignoring him while River was hanging on every word.
A very large man with solid black hair walked down the aisle toward us. He was even bigger than Darius and put me on edge. I took a deep breath, thankful he hadn't been in werewolf form.
"Xavier," the man held out his hand, "I was worried you won't make it."
"It's a long drive." He shook the man's hand.
My mate shook his hand as well.
"Trevor, this is Aden, Titus's mate," said the alpha.
I gave a small wave. "Hi."
"Finally mated." He squeezed Titus's shoulders. "Took you long enough."
"Get away." My mate shoved him off. "I'm twenty-four. I'm not that old."
Trevor chuckled. "How old is your mate? There looks to be a bit of an age gap."
I smiled, arching a brow. "Eighteen."
"Six years," breathed Trevor after a moment. "Gez, you like them young."
"Five and a half," muttered Titus. "It's not that uncommon."
"We're not all mating teenagers, though." He hit Titus's shoulder with the back of his hand. His eyes moved to the golden haired boy. "And you must be here for the interview."
River was ready to disappear under the table. I could even sense this man was a very, very powerful werewolf. I was surprised River hadn't made a run for it. I was glad I hadn't done so myself, but he hadn't tried to shake my hand either.
"This is River," said Xavier.
"And how old are you River?"
"Nine... Nineteen." He forced a smile.
Trevor started to laugh and patted my mate's shoulder. "Seem is might be more common than I thought. Well, good luck, and I'd like to talk to you both a little later."
"Just let us know when," said Xavier with a nod.
The golden hair boy fell forward and rest his head on the table. "I don't know if I can do this."
"He wasn't so bad." I rubbed his back. "Since when have you been older than me?"
"Birth," chuckled Titus.
I glared at him. "Don't start acting like Darius just because he's not here."
"What's weird about me being older," River muttered. "I'm taller."
I shrugged. "Just figured you were younger by the way you act."
"Peter's twenty," Xavier took a drink from his cup of what looked to be coffee, "if that puts things into perspective."
"No way," I exclaimed. "I thought he was my age."
Titus started to snicker. "You though I was twenty. Predicting people's age isn't something you're good at."
I slumped back in my seat and folded my arms. "Be thankful for that."
Titus put his arms around me and kissed my cheek. "What are you suggesting?"
"Nothing much," I gave him a smirk. "Cradle robber."
I paced up and down the room with Titus looking on from the bed. I was so nervous for River. This had to work. He deserved to find a mate and get his happily ever after. I glanced at my so-called happily ever after lounging on the bed just in his underwear, scratching his stomach. He burped and blew it in my direction. Let's hope River did better than me.
He threw his head back. "I'm bored, and you're making me uptight. River will do fine."
"What if he's not chosen?" I went to the bed and sat by his feet. "He'll be devastated."
Titus sat up and put his arm around my shoulders. "We'll find the right man for him. Whether it's here or another pack, River will eventually find a mate."
I leaned against him. "Thanks for staying with your dad last night. I think it helped River a lot."
"Well, let's hope River gets a yes from this guy, so you and I can have the room all to ourselves."
Smiling, I kissed him. "In civil tradition, we should do it in human form."
He whined and nuzzled my neck. "All take anything right now."
I laughed and patted his cheek. "Poor pup been worn out the last couple weeks."
"Punishment sucks." He rested his chin on my shoulder.
"That's why it's called punishment."
I fell back on the bed, and Titus rolled on top of me. He pressed his lips to mine while I ran my fingers through his hair. The door flew opened, and we both jolted upright.
"Dad!" Titus snapped. "Knock, please. What if we'd been right in the middle of it?"
"Oh my god." I covered my face as it started to heat up. No shame, never an ounce of shame with these creatures.
"River is missing."
I rose to my foot. "What do you mean? The interview?"
"A disaster and an insult to our pack," he stated. "He ran out of there crying. I can't find him. His scent is lost in everything else that is going on, and it started to rain. If we don't hurry, I doubt we'll find him before the main storm hits."
"I'll get my shoes."
Snatching them from the closet I sat down on the ground to put them on.
"What'd they do?" asked Titus.
"Embarrassed him. Told him to take off his clothes and had him shift back and forth as they told him everything wrong with his appearance." The alpha clenched his fist. "I didn't come all the way here for this. They laughed at him, so they laughed at Northern Ridge. We're done with Midfield. As soon as we find him, we're packing our things and leaving."
He took a deep breath and met his son's eyes. "This is a lesson Titus, the honor of our pack is reflected in how they treat our members. Even the omegas. They bear our name. To insult us in such a way," he ran a hand down his face, "I've destroyed packs for less."
I sat quietly on the floor. Was he talking about war with Midfield?
Titus slid off his underwear and shifted. "I'll take the woods in front of the mansion."
"I'll do the garden," I stated.
"I'll run around the back wall and make sure he didn't find a way out."
We all nodded and hurried off to look. It took some wandered to find an exit, but I finally spotted one. I jogged down the hall. An extremely tall man turned in front of me heading the same direction. He opened the door and stepped outside.
I slipped past him and put up my hood. "Excuse me."
"Wait." He grabbed my arm.
I turned back and recognized his face. "You?" I jerked my arm free. "You're the one that asked River's name. If I had known you were going to treat him like shit, I never would have told you." Turning sharply, I marched off down the path.
"Please, wait." He ran after me. "I didn't mean for this to happen. I care about River, I do. I want him to give me a chance."
I spun back around. "My alpha told me what you did to him. You think it funny to make people take off their clothes and take turns insult them. He might be traditional, but that doesn't make it okay. Not in the way you did it."
"It wasn't me," he begged. "I would never do that."
Clearing my throat, I folded my arms. "Who are you?"
"I'm Troy. My brother's the next alpha. The current one is retiring soon, and he wants to mate off his son before he does. David gets to choose his mate first, before I get to. He was the one who did that to River, not me. They're mad their line is no longer in the top spot. They took it out on River, because of me and my brother. I'm sorry."
Thunder sounded in the distance. I needed to find River fast.
"Look I just want to help find him before the storm gets here," said Troy. "Please, I just want to ask him to consider me as a mate. I swear." He rubbed his forehead. "I just want to make it work with him."
I nodded. "Okay, but I'll warn you Xavier is close to declaring war on Midfield because of that little stunt. If you're lying and embarrass River any more, Xavier might just do it."
He nodded as his eyes scanned the garden. "Then we have nothing to worry about."
Troy raced off down the path with me right behind him.