"So what's this tradition?" she asked.
"Over a century ago several packs used to have an event called The Gathering,"
"Ooo, sounds very Stephen King-ish," Jacque interrupted.
Fane smiled at his mate and her never ending commentary.
"The Gathering was brought about for unmated pack members to come and meet in hopes of finding their true mate. It was written into pack law that if a pack was invited the Alpha could not decline or it would be considered an act against the species."
"Bloody hell," Jacque muttered, staring off into nothing as she thought about how this would affect her best friend.
"Does Jen have to go even though she isn't full blooded?"
"Unfortunately, the four Alphas involved have decided that since my mate isn't full blooded it proves that any person with any wolf blood in their genetics must attend because they are possible true mates." Fane took a deep breath and let it out before he continued. "The good news is my parents have to go, and you and Sally can go and act as Jen's help. Naturally, where you go I go, so I will attend as well. There will also be some other mated pack members that will help with security."
"Security?" Jacque asked, confused.
"It's not really the best idea to put a bunch of unmated males together, particularly when there will be unmated females up for grabs," Fane explained.
"Ahh, that's a valid point. So why are they thinking this is a good idea?"
"They feel it's worth the risk since so many Canis lupis aren't finding their mates." Fane wrapped his hand around Jacquelyn's wrist and tugged her to him, pulling her into the curve of his body. She laid her head on his chest as she continued to think about this new development. Fane continued, "The mated pairs will help keep the unmated in line. There will be a pack meeting tomorrow night,"
"What exactly did you mean by Sally and I being Jen's help?" Jacque interrupted.
"Well, a century ago they called them ladies in waiting. They were basically there to help prepare the unmated female for the event by helping her dress, fixing her hair. That was when clothes for women were a little more elaborate. But the Alphas figure it would help the unmated females be at ease if they had a few friends with them."
"So you're telling me that, essentially, we are going to be Jen's servants?" Jen asked dubiously.
"For lack of a better term," Fane agreed reluctantly.
"For the sake of my sanity and future friendship with that nympho, do not tell her that. Can you imagine how she would take that and run a stinking marathon with it?"
Fane chuckled. "We will be delicate on how we broach the subject."
"Of course, she may be too preoccupied with the whole unmated males checking her out thing to really care about having a servant," Jacque added. "Man, if Decebel wasn't in the picture she would be in her idea of heaven – a bunch of hot werewolves checking her out."
"Love, you forget I'm the only wolf you are supposed to refer to as hot," Fane teased.
Jacque snuggled closer. "It goes without saying, wolf-man, you are the hottest of them all."
Fane growled. "Prove it," he challenged.
Jacque leaned back to look into his eyes and saw the desire that filled them.
"Now?" she asked, surprised by the abrupt change in subject.
"We can't solve Jen and Decebel's problem tonight, love, nor can we change whether or not The Gathering will take place. What we can do is love one another. What I plan to do is forget about all others but you, Luna. For the rest of the night you will forget all others but me."
Jacque smiled slyly at her mate. "Bossy much?" she teased.
"I want you," he said simply, not attempting to gloss over his demand.
"And so you shall have me," Jacque whispered as she clicked the bedside lamp off, leaving only the moon to light their room.
"So, for clarification purposes..." Jen sat in the media room on one of the overstuffed couches the following morning. Jacque sat on the floor, leaning against a chair that Sally occupied. Vasile and Alina sat opposite Jen on another couch while Sorin and Decebel both stood on either side of the room, propped against the wall. "Because I have a teeny, tiny amount of werewolf blood in me I have to go to what essentially amounts to a mating dance and let other unmated wolves sniff me?"
Sally snorted with laughter. "Sorry, got a visual."
"Nice." Jacque high fived her.
Jen glared at her two best friends. "If you two are done with your little moment could we please focus on this upcoming disaster?"
"Sorry, Jen. Don't mind us. By all means, continue freaking out." Sally waved Jen on.
"Thank you," Jen said matter of factly. "Okay." She looked back at Alina and Vasile. "So have I covered the basics?"
"It's really not as uncivilized as you are picturing it, Jen," Alina told her gently. "It's like a social gathering. They will divide you into groups, as there are quite a large number of people. In the evenings everyone will gather in the great hall for dinner and dancing. But during the day you will be told where you are to be. A group of unmated females will be meeting in various locations on the estate with unmated males. There will be Alphas and mated pairs present at all times. You will never be alone with an unmated male unless you find your true mate. From Jacque and what you have been learning about the pack in tutoring, you know that there are distinct signs when you find your true mate."
Jen couldn't help her gaze drifting over to where Decebel stood. When their eyes met, Jen felt chills run over her body at the intensity of his stare. Alina's voice drew her attention back.
"You will receive an itinerary once we arrive."
"Tonight at the pack meeting," Vasile continued for Alina, "you will meet some other unmated females who will be attending as well. I think you, Jacque, and Sally should spend some time with them and get to know them. We want you to feel safe, Jen. No one will force you to do anything, and if you happen to meet your mate don't panic, okay?"
"Alpha," Jen smiled ruefully, "when have you ever known me to panic around yummy werewolves?"
A growl resonated through the room.
"Oh, stick a cork in it, B," Jen snarled at Decebel.
Vasile cocked his head to the side as he looked at Jen. "B?"