Part 3

"How could this happen?!" The veins in her father's neck stood out as he swept the breakfast dishes from the table with his thick forearm.

Jade blinked away droplets of milk from her eyelashes, frozen in horror as a waterfall of plates, cereal, and glasses crashed to the floor.

"I, uh, I d—don't—" Jason stammered, shaking his head. He reminded Jade of one of those rickety old ventriloquist dummies as his teeth chattered, struggling to explain something he couldn't have foreseen.

'But you foresaw it, didn't you?' Jades’ conscience whispered. 'You saw it coming and you never said a word.'

Jade hung her head.

'Because I'm to blame for this,' she concluded.

"You won't be able to beat him," her father was saying, pacing through the shards of broken china. "That boy is a monster. Even if we fought him four on one, we wouldn't win."

'Four on one. Is he including me in that number?' Jade wondered. He was obviously counting her uncle Alexander—the current leader of the pack—himself and Jason. That made three. 'Am I number four?'

The thought of fighting Theon terrified her. At three times the size of an ordinary wolf, he could tear his enemies apart limb from limb. He'd singlehandedly defended them from a rival pack, killing over thirty of their strongest fighters before they had surrendered. 

"He's never shown any interest in leading before now," her dad was saying, shaking his head. "What are we going to do?"

"I—I could just concede?" Jason suggested. "I'm allowed to let him have it, right?"

His face twisted in fear—and as Jade stared at her brother, she realised this was the first time he'd made such a face. He was strong and brave, stalwart, and dependable—the perfect leader, bred and trained from birth.

"You think Alexander will let you give up without a fight?" Father scoffed. "He'd sooner see us all dead than hand over the reins to a commoner."

Jade coughed, finding her voice. "Maybe I can talk to him... convince him... I don't know—"

"You're friendly with the lad?" her father asked, screwing up his nose as though she'd just admitted to making out with a homeless person.

"Well, I'm friends with his cousin Katie. Maybe she could talk him out of it," Jade suggested. 

Her father didn't appear impressed with her efforts to think up a solution, but Jason nodded with enthusiasm, his eyes sparkling with hope.

She backed away towards the door, eyes sweeping over the destruction before she left. It could wait.

Running at top speed it nevertheless took a good half hour to reach the not-so-nice side of town. She could smell Theon before she could see him, as usual. He had an odd scent, unlike any of the other males she'd encountered. A smell of danger and death.  

He was in the garden with the rest of his pack, including that awful new member. Jade tried to remember where he'd arrived from and why, sure she had been told at some point, but the information sat out of reach, as if encased in a bubble of thick glass. It was odd because Jade had an amazing memory. She rarely forgot anything after learning it.

Surprisingly, as she pulled the gate back, she found Theon was sitting among the others as the new member paced before them. He turned and paused his speech, giving Jade another of his narrow eyes looks. 

'Fucking brat,' she thought. 'How dare you look at me like I'm the scumbag?'

She felt their eyes on her, judging her and mentally undressing her as she strutted into the pack. An Alpha herself—she was confident she could beat any of his betas in a fight one on one. As a pack, they might prove troublesome.

Yet, as she breathed in their scents, something was odd. Different. The new guy especially—his scent was similar to that of an alpha, and a powerful one. But something about it was off...

"Can we help you?" Theon asked, dripping sarcasm.

"Erm." Jade shook her head, gathering her thoughts. "Can I have a word with you, Theon?"

"Sure." Theon planted his hands on his thighs and stared up, waiting for her to continue.

"In private?" Jade shook her head as if this should have been obvious before mentally scolding herself. If she was going to plead with him, it was probably better to drop the attitude. "Erm... please?"

He scoffed as he stood, taking a step to loom over her. He bared his teeth in a creepy smile. "Are you sure you trust me?"

She didn't, in all honesty. She was afraid to be alone with him. Of every male she knew, he was the only one who could destroy her with ease. Even her own brother wasn't a match for her, as much as her family insisted he was the prodigal child. They overlooked her skills and talents and fawned over him for one reason and one reason only: gender. If she had been born with that precious Y chromosome, she would be the one on the chopping block right now. 

"I trust you," Jade lied, keeping her head held high. 

This caused both Theon and his pack to burst into laughter, a tinny and mocking sound that followed her as Theon led her into the house. She'd been to this house many times, to see her friend Katie, but it had never felt quite this daunting.

The first time she'd seen it, with its crumbling paint and worn carpets, she'd had to fight to keep her face neutral. Being from a rich family, she'd had no idea how other people lived.

After a few visits, the shabby home had grown on her. There was no need to take off shoes, panic over every spilt crumb or keep everything perfectly in its place. It was the same with Haley's home. The relaxed atmosphere of their home lives was just one of the reasons she loved hanging out with her two best friends. 

Now, as she tailed Theon to his bedroom for the first time, her heart began to race. Signs on his bedroom door warned of danger—a 'trespassers beware' poster that he'd probably stolen from a work site or factory.

As she entered, she frowned at how neat and clean he kept his room. A couple of dirty tea mugs and a shirt were the only things out of place. Her eyes immediately went to his bookcase, and she wasn't surprised to see mostly comic books and WWE DVDs. 

His bed creaked heavily as he sat and shrugged. "Well. Spit it out then. What do you want to say to me?"

Jade's mouth opened and shut as she tried to recall the speech she'd come up with on the run down here. For some reason, his presence was causing her brain to malfunction. Why? Why did he have such an effect? Could it be one of the special powers he was rumoured to possess?

Looking into his eyes, she saw no humanity. What good would it do to plead with him? 

'Maybe I made a mistake in coming here,' Jade thought, but as she remembered her brothers face contorting in fear, she knew she had to try.

Jade fell to her knees. 

"I'm sorry," she muttered, looking down. "I'm sorry for antagonising you over Jason's election win. I should have shown more grace and decorum."

She swallowed and glanced up, looking into his yellow eyes. "Please accept my apology."

His blank expression became a frown as he stared down at her for the longest time. "That isn't what you want from me. Why don't you ask for what you want? Hmm? Why did you really come here?"

"Please," Jade whispered with quivering lips. "Please don't kill my brother. He's just a kid..."

"He's our age." Theon frowned.

"He's younger. They moved him forward a year in school because he's such a genius," Jade scoffed, using air quotes over the word genius. Her family had always overestimated Jason's talents. 

"Hmm." Theon raised his brows and shrugged. "Well, he can always concede the fight. That's a rule."

Jade placed her hands on the knees of his spread legs, pushing herself closer to his face. "But no... our family won't let him. We'll be disgraced. Cowards."

She shook her head, feeling tears well up behind her eyes. "Please, Theon. You don't want to lead. It's boring!"

Looking away from her face, he stared down at each of her small hands in turn then back at her face with one eyebrow raised. His face was loaded with the question: why are you touching me?

She snatched her hands away as though he were made of molten lava. "I'm sorry."

"It's okay, you just surprise me. You... a high and mighty Goldman deigning to touch a commoner like me." He smiled and chuckled. "Both of you act like your above everyone else. I guess your parents are to blame but still."

"Jason is an awful snob but he'll be a good leader and he doesn't deserve to be slaughtered in a pointless fight," Jade argued, her voice becoming high pitched. The others outside could probably hear every word, but she didn't care. "I beg you, Theon, please don't do this."

"Pointless, is it?" Theon mused, ignoring her heartfelt plea.

As he rose from the bed Theon's lower body brushed against her face. He smiled down at her and pressed a finger against her nose. "I have heard your plea for mercy, and I will consider it."

He turned away, walking toward the door before turning back to her. "But if I do decide to spare your brother, in return, you will become my mate. Do you agree?"

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