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Chapter 15: Ceremony

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"The sun is setting," Maude comments as she works on my hair, standing behind me. I sit still at the vanity built into the bathroom counter between the two sinks. I wasn't sure what hairstyles suit a Luna ceremony—thankfully Maude offered to help.

"He still isn't here," I mutter.

"You know, I haven't seen a Luna ceremony, but I've read about them. Usually, the idea of dressing up and worshipping under the full moon makes me think we're spiritually stuck in the old days—when everyone was shifted more than not—but the meaning behind the Luna ceremony is kind of refreshing."

She goes on to explain, "The Luna is modeled in the Moon Goddess' image, covered in white and cut moonstones to reflect the Goddess' divine light and purity. Traditionally, a Luna's role in the pack is to keep her people faithful. The Luna was thought to be closer to the Goddess than anyone else; the ceremony isn't to instate an Alpha's mate as his Luna, but, rather, for the Alpha to thank the goddess for giving him a Luna. The Alpha accepts the Goddess' gracious gift, and the fated couple is cleansed and blessed. By doing the ceremony, the Alpha is thanking the Goddess for you and promising to be good to you."

I stare at my reflection. "You read that?"

"A few months ago. I managed to get my hands on a book that's a collection of some of the first written accounts of traditional ceremonies."

"Maude, why do you work here?"

"What?"

"I just think you have wasted talent. You're so smart and always reading about something new. I'm sure the school would love to have you."

She scoffs. "Me? A teacher? I don't think so. Besides, it's an honor to work in the pack house. The Alpha doesn't just let anyone work here."

"I know. It's obvious why he'd want to here: you don't half-ass your work, you're punctual and honest, you're always willing to help, you're a good problem solver—"

"Alright. Enough. What do you want?"

"Nothing. I just think you could do great things—maybe hold a more influential position."

"Thanks for letting me know." She reaches for some hairpins. "I haven't seen the Alpha around the pack house since Alexa left. Elise said he hasn't been back for dinner either."

"He's busy planning his attack, and apparently it takes all night because I've been sleeping alone. He told me that sometimes he doesn't sleep, but he has to, right? He's just sleeping somewhere else. On the field, I guess."

Maude comes to my side. "Wherever he's sleeping, he's sleeping alone, don't worry about that."

"Do you think he doesn't want to do the ceremony?"

"I think he's busy strategizing and preparing for the attack like you said." She steps back. "Now look at how nice your hair looks."

I turn my head as I admire her handiwork: a romantic half-up half-down style suited for the bejeweled headpiece I have yet to see. "It's beautiful, thank you. It's too bad moon water is going to be dumped all over it."

She tweaks the hair on the back of my head. "Well, maybe the officiant will pour it gently, just look afraid of the water."
I turn to her. "Should I put on my dress now or wait for Theo?"

"The officiant will be here after sundown." Maude mulls it over then decides, "Put it on now, but you'll have to be careful. If anything gets on the dress, there's no time to remove it. That old fabric is terrible with stains—I'm expecting to be in the laundry underworld after you're done kneeling in the grass and soaking in moon water."

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