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Chapter 9: Comparison

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I come downstairs in the morning to a quiet house—no leadership meetings to eavesdrop on like yesterday. Theo was out of the house most of the day, and I went to bed without a discussion between us.

As usual, Maude is the first person I see. She's sitting at the small table in the kitchen, reading. She shuts her book at the sight of me.

"Hungry?"

"Something small would be nice."

"Toast?"

"Yes. Thank you." I sit in the chair across from her drawn-out one.

"Any requests for dinner?" Maude leaves the table and rounds the counter. "Elise is wondering. The kitchen's a little sparse, so she's making a trip to the Gardens."

"Ask the Alpha—whatever he wants is fine."

She smirks. "Funny. I asked him earlier and he said the same thing about you."

"He did?"

"Oh, before he left, he gave me a note to give to you. It's just on the counter there." She points at the countertop nearest me from the opposite corner of the kitchen where the bread box is. I stand up, swipe the single paper, and sit back down. He's written only a few sentences to tell me Corbin's mate is coming by at noon.

"The Beta's mate is coming to meet me."

"Should I prepare some refreshments then?"

I look up from the short message. "Refreshments—sure. Thank you."

"It's been a while since I've cut little finger sandwiches. The men don't appreciate them—they eat them in one bite—but the Alpha's mother likes her afternoon tea. She used to sit by the window with Alexa and try to teach her how to sit, drink, and eat properly, but Alexa was too restless. She couldn't sit still, so she talked and talked until her mother got rid of her."

"Sorry, Alexa is...?"

"The Alpha's sister. I thought you would know about her by now."

"Theo hasn't spoken about his family much, but I remember Elise mentioning that she visits."

"Occasionally. Surely once she finds out about you, she'll show up. That girl is a know-it-all, drama queen, mated to an Alpha on the coast, and if she's good at one thing, it's getting what she wants."

I ask, "Do you think she'll like me? Approve of my match with the Alpha?"

Maude laughs once. "Both his sister and mother will be thanking the Goddess when he tells them he's mated."

"You don't think he has already?"

"Alexandra isn't here, is she?" The toaster pops. "Butter, jam, or peanut butter?"

"Butter's fine."

Closer to noon, I freshen up and assist Maude with the snacks, and while we're doing so, Elise shows up before heading to the Gardens. She enters the kitchen, placing a bag of her things on the breakfast table.

"What's going on?" she asks and comes to the counter to oversee our work. Maude constructs the different sandwiches, and I cut them into finger-sized rectangles.

"Beta's mate is coming to meet Celeste."

"Oh?" Elise's brow lifts. "Sounds fun. Careful with the sandwiches—she's pregnant."

"I know, everything is safe, no soft cheeses," Maude assures.

"So, Celeste, what will it be for dinner?"

I smile nervously at Elise. "Chef's choice?"

"Really? Neither of you want to decide? Is there a reason you and the Alpha seem so, I don't know..."

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