The first thing I noticed when I got home was that my Aunt Eve had made my favorite dinner, Honey Garlic Pork Chops. The second thing I noticed was that Grandfather was there. I hadn't noticed him first because his car wasn't there and the food overpowered his scent, otherwise I would have smelled him long before I had seen him. No matter the circumstances, Grandfather used them against me, pointing out my lack of tracking his scent as further proof I was not one of them. I wish he would stop it already; I already knew I wasn't a wolf.
"I see you are the same as ever, Trinity."
"It's nice to see you too, Grandfather." I lied, with just the slightest hint of sarcasm in my voice. "To what do I owe the pleasure of having you visit me today?" I asked him. He grimaced. Grandfather knew I was forcing myself to be polite to him.
"I have come bearing warnings for the upcoming full moon gatherings. And I have prepared your attire for tomorrow's event."
"That is very kind of you Grandfather, but I already had something picked out." I told him. I had not expected him to buy me an outfit for the gathering.
"Did you buy it new for this occasion?" He asked, already seeming to scoff at my answer as if he was predicting an unfavorable response.
"No, but it is something that I have not really worn before."
"Then it is unacceptable. This is too important of an event. You must have a new outfit for tomorrow night and each of the subsequent events. There is still a chance you will meet your mate and be bonded from there onward. You must make the best first impression possible. For what other purpose did I spend my time and money training you?"
"I wouldn't know?" I told him, sounding annoyed. This was typical behavior for Grandfather, of course, but I had expected it to end when I turned eighteen and proved to be useless to him. But apparently, he was still hoping to marry me off to someone dumb enough to mate with a girl who had no wolf.
Grandfather had his secretary show me the dress that I would be wearing to the gathering tomorrow. It wasn't too bad, thank the Goddess. It was a dark midnight blue that would complement my pale complexion nicely. It was made of silk and felt wonderful to the touch. The hidden undertones in the blue were shining as the light hit it.
The front was cut a little low for my taste, but from there it went up into three straps on either side of the bodice, the straps went over the shoulders to connect and then fan out in the opposite directions. The straps connected to the sides of the dress and another purely decorative set of three straps came out across the lower back connecting in the middle.
Altogether, the straps created an elaborate design across the back. And with the bodice going up so high with the straps, the plunging line in the middle didn't seem so bad, but time would tell when I tried it on. It must have been either specially made or hemmed to be perfect for my height. Compared to the other women in the pack, I was short. Like, really short.
The average woman in the pack was around five-foot-nine. Some were taller, and some were shorter by only a margin of a couple inches. Me on the other hand, I was five feet five inches tall. Almost half a foot shorter than all the women. And considering that all the men were taller than the women, that made them all tower over me.
There were the few rare cases where a man was closer to the height of the women, but none was shorter than five-foot-ten in the entire pack. That was another reason I was considered a freak among the pack. But the height could have been overlooked if only I had shifted into a wolf by the time that I was eighteen.
"It is very lovely, Grandfather." I told him, which was the truth. "But you did not need to go through the trouble of getting something so obviously expensive." I told him, reminding him that he was supposed to have cut me off. How am I supposed to go on in peace if you show up at random like this?
"I most certainly had to. Who knows what kind of monstrosity you would have chosen for tomorrow evening? You are the only unwed female in our family, we must put our best foot forward." He was of course slipping into his old ranting again. Couldn't you ever just do something because you love me or cared for me, Grandfather? Is that too much to ask for? I asked myself while consciously trying to hold back the emotions that threatened me. Emotions had no effect on Grandfather, I had learned that long ago.
Grandfather had apparently decided to stay for dinner, which was unusual to say the least. But once he was gone and life was back to normal in the house, we were all able to relax. Even uncle Wesley got tense when Grandfather was around. But soon, the night was over, and the day of the dreaded gathering had arrived.
I was so nervous about that damned Harvest Moon Gathering that I couldn't sleep and was awake before the sun was even up. I went for my usual morning run earlier than I typically did so instead of just running the streets of the compound until I got to the exit and then running either to town or half way, depending on my mood, I decided to run out of the gates and then into the woods.
The ground there was more difficult to run on, but it also felt so invigorating to run in the woods. Having grown up with the forest nearby had given me a deep love for running among the trees. The dark canopy of leaves above me, the musty earthy smell of the dirty churning beneath my feet. The smells of the forest were so familiar to me that I would recognize them anywhere.
I was running at nearly top speed when there was something in the way the forest smelled that I didn't recognize. Something that stirred something deep inside of me. Something that made all the hairs on the back of my neck stand at attention and all my senses go on high alert. They simultaneously screamed danger and I want more at the same time. I knew whatever, whoever, it was that I should not stick around.
There was someone else in the forest, or they had recently been there. Someone who smelled like chocolate, coffee, cinnamon, and the forest after the rain. It was sweet, spicy, and robust, and mixed with my favorite smells of the forest. It intrigued me to no end, but something told me that I needed to get away from that area, away from that scent, right away.
I turned around and ran as fast as I could back to the road. I ran back through the gate of the compound and didn't stop until I got back home. By the time I got there, my heart was about to burst out of my chest.