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"Mother, are you sure this is proper attire?" Leanna asked nervously, staring at her reflection with doubt.

"Of course sweetheart, don't fret about it." she smiled kindly and squeezed her daughter's shoulder.

Leanna stared at her lavender colored knee-length dress that contrasted with her pale skin and her chocolate brown locks that were gathered up to her scalp in a sensible bun with a few wisps fanning her face. The make-up was light with a little eye-shadow and blush to flush her cheeks. Her shoes were simple silver flats that accentuated her short physique. 

"This ceremony requires our best. The Alpha is returning." her mother explained as she put the finishing touches on her own dress and turned toward an anxious-looking daughter.

"Let's go." 

She reached out and grabbed her daughter's arm, leading her outside where the warm summer air blew around them, her mate waiting outside. He was dressed in a simple tux but to her, he looked absolutely handsome.

"Go mingle, you'll be fine." she whispered to her daughter and gave an encouraging push.

Leanna took in a deep breath and stepped forward, heading toward the brightly lit pack house. The backyard held lanterns that burned in the dark night and on the patio were tables lined with a variety of different foods. 

The pack members lingered around, talking and laughing. Toward the center were the kids who were dancing and chasing each other while toward side and near the trees were the teenagers and young adults.

She fiddled with her dress, unsure of how to approach the crowds. She was a relatively shy girl and the thought of actively seeking out a person to communicate with terrified her. Everything in her wanted to crawl back into bed and hide underneath the sheets until morning.

Taking in a deep breath, she moved over toward the buffet and grabbed a plate, piling it with a variety of foods; mashed potatoes, biscuits, steak, steamed vegetables, spaghetti, and buttered bread. Like all werewolves, her appetite was big as her body required much more calories than the average human.

It was one of few things she wasn't shy about as everyone else's plate was piled as hers.

She grabbed a seat by the door where the air could cool down her skin. In the safety of her food she allowed herself to people watch, taking in those who were her age, eighteen.

She noticed that a few were already mated despite their young ages. Wolves were considered adults once they could control their ability to shift and had reached the age to mate, which was sixteen.

She was so caught up in her thoughts she didn't hear someone come up behind her and tap her.

Startled, she jumped and dropped hee food. She had to fight the tears that sprung to her eyes.

My food.

She looked up, her eyes landing on the amused face of Brandon, a fellow packmate a few years older than her and the Beta's brother.

"Thinking hard, Anna?" he asked teasingly, using the name she oh so despised.

She huffed, "You made me drop my food. All I'm thinking hard about is how far I can kick you." she muttered quietly, crossing her arms.

He chuckled and leaned against the wall, passing his hand through his messy red hair. She took in his appearance and noticed he looked flushed, his shirt windblown and pieces of dirt clinging to his jeans.

"Late night run?" she asked curiously, looking up at him.

He shook his head, an easy smile on his face. "Nah, just a quick border patrol to make sure all is in good hands."

"But all the guards are out there. Only the Beta or Alpha can check that out." she thought out loud, glancing out into the forest.

Brandon cleared his throat, "Special occasions call for special circumstances."

She looked at him again, curious but not enough to push him.

"Okay," she smiled, "how's Elena?"

At that his troubled thoughts cleared and a bright smile lit his face.

"She's wonderful. The pack doctor has her under strict bed rest orders but of course she's hard headed. She's been dying to shift, especially with the monthly run. She feels left out being the only one here, apart from the guards." he shook his head, his thoughts lost on his mate.

Leanna nodded her head, again glancing off toward the trees. Her wolf was beginning to stir, but she couldn't tell if it was from nerves or something else.

Probably nothing, she thought, attempting to the wolf inside.

She busied herself grabbing more food and as the night continued to go on she found herself enjoying the festivities and forgetting about the odd stirring in a wolf. Had she been listening properly, she would've heard what her wolf had been yelling for hours.

The groups moved toward the center, dancing as the music became more lively, and those who were mated danced off to the sides, murmuring sweet words and whispering lyrics to each other, Those unmated drank themselves silly, enjoying their time with friends. And the children danced in a small area away from the adults and teens, playing hopscotch and running around in circles.

Leanna found herself shaking her hair out of its updo, the music pounding in her skull, the beat swimming in her veins, replacing the blood. She found herself being as lost in the music in public as she lost herself in the privacy of her room.

She danced with her best friend, Addie, and Brandon who allowed himself to let loose after Elena let him know, several times, that she was indeed fine with her books and snacks.

Almost everyone seemed to forget that the party was for the Alpha who was returning after a nine year absence. 

The older adults worried silently, wondering where their Alpha was. He was a strong man who could defend himself at any costs, but he was needed back home.

As the night darkened the party seemed to burn with life and Leanna found herself on a high.

She never wanted the night to end but as she stumbled off to the side, giggling to herself, her senses gradually came back.

Her feet throbbed with pain, her chest was heaving for air, her skin coated in a thin layer of sweat. Her eyes were bright with joy and her hair was disheveled. She grabbed a water bottle, drinking the contents down quickly and walking toward the back door, the cool air a contrast to the night's heat.

As she calmed down, she felt her knees shake and smiled to herself, closing her eyes.

It was then that she felt her wolf going wild inside her, growling to her attention. She frowned, taking in a deep breath. 

The scent of soap and spice hit her and she stood up straight, glancing around for the odd combination. The smell was filling her senses, as if it were very close to her.

Her wolf howled with excitement, the sensation making Leanna's fingers tingle. She rubbed them absently, the scent becoming stronger every second, making her dizzy. She leaned against the door for support as the scent filled her chest entirely.

Electricity filled her body, burning hot like a fire but just as cold as ice. Her feet staggered, and she looked around, alarmed.

Her wolf was yelling something over and over but the words were unintelligible. Fear filled her with the weird sensation and her eyes wildly searched for the cause of it, to see if anyone could feel it.

But the partygoers never broke their fast-paced dance and were completely absorbed in the music. Everything was normal to them.

What's happening, she thought frantically.

She felt something warm grab her waist and her skin erupted at the feeling, craving the hot and cold it gave her. Her body was pressed against something hard yet soft and a deep voice whispered,

"Mine."

Just then she could make out her wolf's words.

Mate!

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