"Shh, hush. She didn't win. She bought herself a reprieve, nothing more." Costin stroked her hair gently and held her close.
Peri stepped up to Sally with Rachel at her side. "You did well, young healer. Desdemona is strong. She will be back and we must be ready."
"What are we going to do?" Sally asked as she raised her head from Costin's shoulder.
"The only thing we can," Peri told her firmly. "Prepare for the worst, hope for the best."
"I want you to head back to the Tavern with the other females," Decebel told Jen as she nuzzled his neck.
"What are you going to do?"
"Vasile and I need to deal with the Serbian pack. I will let you know what happens when we are done."
Jen narrowed her eyes at him, knowing something was up, but he wasn't spilling.
"Fine, keep your secrets. Just remember,"
"Don't write a check your pretty hide can't cash, Jennifer," Decebel interrupted his irritated mate.
Jen turned from him with a snort and followed Jacque as they caught up with Alina and the others. Vasile had given his mate the same orders.
Decebel watched his mate leave with the others and had to hold himself back from following. He didn't like letting her out of his sight, needing to make sure she was okay after the brutality she had just endured, but the Serbian pack had to be dealt with.
He walked over to Vasile and they both phased back into their wolf forms.
"Who is the highest ranking pack member alive in the Serbian pack?" Vasile's voice boomed across the field. One by one, the Serbian wolves moved toward Vasile and began to phase back into human form. When they were all standing in front of Vasile and Decebel, they all knelt as one, all except a large, dark haired man.
"I was fifth in the pack rankings, Alpha," the wolf responded without looking at Vasile. He stared at the ground instead. Decebel watched the wolf's body language and it was apparent that he was not dominant enough to lead a pack.
The wolf stepped forward toward Decebel and knelt, he bared his neck and briefly met his eyes.
"You defeated our Alpha, your pack defeated our top four. We owe you fealty and submit to you."
Decebel's jaw dropped, but he composed himself quickly. He looked at Vasile, who didn't look surprised.
"It is the old way. You defeated their Alpha, technically you are now their Alpha," Vasile told him. Decebel was unable to read the emotion on his Alpha's face.
"What do you think?" Decebel asked.
"I hate to lose you as my Beta, but you were destined to be an Alpha. And we cannot ignore the benefit of having such a strong alliance."
Decebel understood that Vasile had to look at how this would affect and benefit their species. Decebel hadn't even considered being the Alpha of a pack again. He was content as Beta, even if submitting to Vasile did not always settle well with his wolf. He looked out over the kneeling wolves. They looked broken and lost. They needed a leader. They needed someone who would care for them properly, someone to bring their pack back together. Decebel could do that. And he had just taken a woman as his mate who was more than capable to assist him.
"Are there any who will challenge me?" Decebel asked the wolves.
One by one, they averted their eyes in submission.
"I am not like Thad. If I'm to be your Alpha there will be changes, there will be drastic changes. I will not tolerate division, or disloyalty. I will not tolerate mutiny or cruelty or hatred. You will be unified, you will treat your pack mates as well as other packs with respect. You will submit to me and my mate. If you cannot do this, you will be banished from this pack. Am I clear?"
As one they answered, "As you say, so shall it be."
Decebel stepped toward the kneeling man in front of him. "Your name?"
"Drake, Alpha," the man responded quickly.
"Drake, tonight I will ask you to gather our pack." Decebel used the word “our” to immediately establish ownership and let them know he would take care of them. "Follow us back to the Tavern. We will discuss in more detail where we go from here."
He nodded once and stood, turning back to the others.
Decebel turned to Vasile, trusting Drake to do as he was instructed. "Well, this is not exactly how I expected my evening to go."
Vasile chuckled. "Well, you're alive, your mate is alive and, for now, we have triumphed. It could be worse."
"I won't celebrate just yet. I have to tell my mate that she has just become Alpha of a broken pack." Decebel turned with Vasile, heading back in the direction of the forest and the Tavern.
"I think by now you should know that Jen likes a challenge – thrives on them. She mated you, after all." Vasile lunged into his phase before Decebel could respond and Decebel followed suit.
"How are you?" Decebel asked Jen as they lay on their bed. Two days had passed since the battlefield, since Decebel had dropped in Jen's lap that they had just inherited a pack. They'd made it back to the Romanian pack mansion and in a few days time would be heading to the Serbian pack headquarters to discuss the changes that were coming.
"It's just a lot to take in, Dec," Jen told him as she traced the markings on his bare chest.
"I can understand that. Are you upset?"
"No. Apprehensive, unsure, somewhere between freaking out and laughing – yes." Jen smiled at him despite her words. "I know we've talked about the why of doing this. I know it's what's best, but what's best doesn't always mean easy. In fact, the two aren't usually friends."
Decebel smiled at her and pulled her closer. He kissed the top of her head.
"We have another issue to deal with," Jen told him.
"Sally," Decebel murmured.
"Yeah, she doesn't know."
"Well, she turns eighteen tomorrow, doesn't she? Seems like's she getting ready to know whether she wants to or not."
"Jacque and I talked about it with Peri and agreed that we think it's something we should tell her privately and you and Vasile should talk to Costin, seeing as how he has taken a keen interest in my girl."
Decebel raised a single eyebrow at his mate. "You and Jacque decided this, huh?"
"Yep. So you might want to grow a -"
Decebel growled, "Do not finish that sentence, mate of mine."