But when Lucien nipped her a little hard and she made a noise in reflex, he was quickly beside her, bussing his head against hers. If that hadn’t been enough of a surprise, he then licked the spot he had hurt. At this Caia jumped back, wary of the intimacy in his action. Was it intimacy? She had no idea, she was just getting used to this whole thing. Lucien seemed to sense this, and turned, gesturing with his head for them to return to the rest of the pack. She was grateful. She ran with him, managing to keep pace with him even though he was extremely fast. They were upon the pack within minutes, racing by many of the members. Of a sudden she was flanked on either side by a brown lykan female more long and languid than she, her laughing blue eyes drifting questioningly between her and Lucien. The other lykan was larger and sinewy, his sandy pelt and soft eyes so like the human version of Sebastian, Caia almost found it comical. She enjoyed the playfulness of Jaeden and Sebastian, who seemed to want to ease her into the play much more slowly than Lucien had. So caught up in her new friendships and this bizarrely, wonderful experience with them in lykan form, Caia didn’t notice the black wolf who sidled up near them, her paw striking out deliberately. She heard the choking noise of laughter, however, when she found herself tumbling hard into the dirt. Surprised by Alexa’s deliberate trip, Caia shook her head, slowly pushing herself back up on all fours, aware of Jaeden and Sebastian’s annoyance and the wary presence of Lucien, who had reappeared. His hovering and questioning eyes demanded reassurance that she was alright. She dipped her muzzle and watched as he thankfully eased back. Alexa, however, just as dangerously beautiful as a wolf as she was in human form, twitched her nose from Caia to Lucien, her wolf eyes narrowing in irritation, her hostility palpable. Her back went up, tensed, her hindquarters bent, and Caia realized she looked ready to pounce on her. In barely a second of blurry movement Lucien was in front of her, growling in irritation, making Caia’s heart pound. He wasn’t going to fight this small female over her, was he? Never had she been so grateful for the silliness of Jaeden and Sebastian together as they dispelled the moment by throwing themselves playfully at Alexa. She at first continued in aggravation, snapping her jaws near their throats.

But soon realization must have dawned on Alexa: they had diffused a situation in which she would have found herself out of favor with the Pack Leader.

The last thing she wanted.

Caia gazed up at her ceiling, her muscles weary from the most energetic night she had ever spent as her wolf self. It was a pleasant, physical exhaustion that had taken over her previous mental exhaustion, and for this she was thankful.

Tonight had been an unexpected one. She had feared losing something special by running with the pack, but instead she had touched what it really meant to be a lykan. There was this incredible freedom in being in wolf form. A freedom in expression; to show affection that she might not normally show as a human; a childish, animal playfulness that was frowned upon in human society, and yet was probably the most fun she had ever had. More than anything it made Caia feel a part of something, a part of a family, like she had done on Friday night with Lucien, and with Jaeden’s family. It was intimidating, and scary, and exhilarating all at the same time. She turned on her side, her eyes drifting out of the window and into the dark of the trees where she had played merely hours earlier.

Still, what was she to make of the pack?

Jaeden and Sebastian she got; Irini and Aidan; Magnus too, and even Ella. But Lucien? She felt something for him. Attraction? She didn’t know. She had never felt it before. Whatever it was, it was making her dream of him. And after tonight and his long, languorous perusal of her, she imagined she would be dreaming of him again. Caia sighed, and flipped onto her back. She couldn’t have feelings for Lucien. She just couldn’t.

Alexa would kill her for starters.

9 - By Artemis’ Will

The next few weeks with the pack seemed to drift by quickly in a massive blur of new emotions and experiences. Her friendships with Sebastian and Jaeden had deepened surprisingly fast, particularly with Jaeden who was her constant companion. If anyone had asked her just a few months before how she would feel about that, she would have readily replied that she disliked the idea of having her privacy intruded upon so much. To constantly be surrounded by people? No thanks. But these weeks with the pack had changed her. If she came home to a quiet house, which was a rare occurrence indeed, she felt her mood darken, an inexplicable anxiety pressing on her chest. Part of her resented this chip that had been knocked out of her fierce independence, and another deeper, hidden part of her that she was reluctant to accept, was glad of the company and happier than she had ever felt. She was also gradually getting to know the rest of the pack as they sought advice from Lucien. Moreover, she had enjoyed another run with them, wherein it was easier for her in wolf form to have fun with others, out-with her circle of friends.


It was beginning to feel like home.

And soon there was celebration within the pack as Aidan and Irini announced their plans to mate. Irini was fighting Ella not to go overboard with the ceremony and party she planned to have at the house. Caia was happy for Irini, and intrigued to see what the ceremony entailed. After all she had never been to one.

“Is it like a wedding?” she asked Ella one Saturday afternoon as they shopped for dresses. Caia had tried to tell Ella that she wasn’t an evening dress kind of person, and Irini had tried to back her up. Ella had put her foot down. No, no, no. Caia was to wear a dress in the same shade as herself and Irini.

“So, it is like a wedding?” Caia asked for the fifteenth time. Ella was so preoccupied at the moment it was like pulling teeth to get an answer from her about anything.

“No, and yes.” She smiled, holding up a bronze silky thing in front of Caia. Caia wrinkled her nose at the color.

“No, and yes how? That’s not really a good color on me.”

“I agree,” she tut-tutted, and shoved the thing back in the rack and started shuffling through more. “Irini, how’s it going in there?”

Caia’s gaze wandered to the changing stalls as Irini called from behind the curtain, “I never knew dresses could get this complicated. I don’t think this color will suit Caia.”

“I think it’s going to be difficult to get a color that will suit us both,” Caia replied doubtfully.

“This is a nice shade,” Ella mused, pulling a dusty pink satin dress off the rack.

Caia took it from her and held it up in front of her, gazing at her reflection. “It’s actually quite pretty,” she relented.

“Ooh.” Irini appeared from behind the curtain, wearing a long citrus colored gown.

“Oh no.” Ella shook her head at her appearance.

Irini sighed. “I know, Mom, told you so. I look like a giant tangerine. Anyway I was oohing at Caia’s dress.” She gestured to her. “I like that color. I think it would work with our coloring, too.”

Ella nodded contemplating the situation like the world depended on her decision. “Yes. We’ll find dresses to match.”

“Shouldn’t I try it on first?”

“Well, duh.” Irini laughed. “I can’t believe it. I’m going to-” she stopped abruptly as a sales lady walked by - “Be getting married,” she finished instead. “And you’re trying on an evening dress. My world is all askew.”

As Caia trundled reluctantly into a changing stall, she called through the curtain, “So you never answered my question...”

The sales lady had gone. She could hear Ella sighing. “No. It’s not like a wedding, in that there are no vows. One of the Elders, in this case Magnus, recites the binding ritual in Greek in front of the rest of the pack, who stand as witnesses. Then the ceremony is over and we go and have a party... yes, like a wedding reception.”

“Soo... the color co-ordinated dresses?”

“Political propaganda, if you like. I suppose they are a bit like bridesmaid dresses, except we wear the same color as the bride. I want everyone there to see you as my family.”

Caia didn’t know what to say. She would thank her but Ella would only shush her. Apparently she was supposed to be used to Ella’s kindnesses by now – the rest of the pack just expected and assumed such loyalty. She heaved a sigh and pulled the curtain back. “So... is it OK?”

Irini and Ella turned to her and gasped.

Caia’s face fell. “That bad?”

“No.” Irini laughed, and pulled her out to have a look in the mirror. “You look stunning.”

Caia grimaced. That was taking exaggeration to a new level. Then her reflection appeared and she stared wide-eyed. The color of the dress was just the right shade for her peaches and cream complexion, making her hair seem lighter and her eyes greener. For once she actually felt pretty.

“It’s nice,” she admitted, nodding shyly.

Ella and Irini laughed. “I think it’s a winner.”

Caia had thought finding one dress would make the task of finding Irini and Ella one easier... but no. By the end of the afternoon her feet were killing her and they had been in every dress store in town. They had eventually found a dress for Ella, and Irini was in the changing rooms trying on their last three options for her.

Ella for once was relaxed. “We’ll get shoes later. I’m too exhausted to go on.”

Thank goddess, Caia breathed.

“I just can’t believe this is finally happening.” Her eyes sparkled like a typically ecstatic mother-of-the-bride. “You know, Irini and Aidan had a thing when they were younger.”

She nodded. “I’d heard something like that.”

“Yeah, Irini was the popular girl of the pack back then.” She smiled fondly remembering. “And very sought after. Dermot and Aidan were her avid followers.”

“Dermot? Alexa’s big brother that...”

Ella nodded, her expression somber. “The very one. Thankfully, Irini had seen past Dermot’s charm and straight into his ambitions. Every time he came around to ‘see’ Irini he was always seeking Lucien. But Aidan … aww goddess, that boy had it bad. It was like something out of a nineteenth century novel, flowers and chocolates, kisses on her hand. Irini loved it,” Ella tittered, and then her expression became bittersweet. “Aidan was so despondent when she left.”

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