**Finally! A flash for you. What do you think, wanna see more of these guys next time? Enjoy!**
“Are you sure about this?”
I met my best friend’s eyes in the full-length mirror where, a moment before, I was on my third attempt to tie the bowtie, despite having practiced for the past week. It could have done with the nerves currently swirling in my gut and making my hands shake. I gave her a small smile.
Saoirse bit her lip, her brown eyes wide in her pale face. “But are you sure sure?”
I turned then, to face her full on, and took the jacket from her hands before she could crush the collar with her tight grip. She let it go without a fight and took several steps closer to me. Her hands trembled a little as she reached out and straightened out the tie.
“It’s not like I have a choice,” I said softly.
She squeezed her eyes closed for a moment, then took a shaky breath and opened them again. “We could run away.”
I chuckled and shook my head. “And what would your husband and child say about that?”
Saoirse wrinkled her nose. “Don’t be silly. They’re coming, too.”
I laughed then, a real laugh, and it broke the tension in the room. I cupped Saoirse’s cheek in my hand and then tilted her gaze up to mine. “I’m going to be fine. Really.”
“But you don’t even know him.”
“I know enough.” And that was true. Perhaps I’d only been promised to the Alpha of the West pack a month ago, and maybe we only had had a handful of conversations, but it was clear we’d get along fine. It wasn’t the marriage I’d dreamed about when I was young, but it wasn’t a bad match. And though I didn’t know Bryce Young well, I could tell he was a good man at his heart. I didn’t bother to say it out loud because she and I had that conversation before. Multiple times.
“I just worry.” Saoirse finished with my tie and then smoothed her hands down my shirt before taking one step back. She took the tuxedo jacket from me and then motioned for me to turn so she could help me slip it on. She brushed her hands along the shoulders, tugged on the hem, and then walked around me to fix the front. “You look very handsome, Ryder.”
“Thanks.” My voice came out a little scratchy and I cleared my throat. “It’s going to be fine. Bryce will be a good mate. He’s a good man. His pack is kind. And it’s not far. We’ll still see each other.”
“We better.” Saoirse tipped her head back and breathed hard through her nose to keep the tears at bay. “Let’s go get you married.”
I nodded but my feet seemed rooted to the floor. “Give me two minutes.”
She opened her mouth, but then closed it and nodded. “I’ll wait outside.”
I watched her go and only when the door was closed did I let out a harsh breath. I was a mid-pack wolf with no real prospects. Becoming an alpha mate would be a definitely step up. Not that that was the primary motivation for me to agreeing to the mating. My alpha had arranged the set up to forge an alliance between our packs. Bryce had made multiple visits to our pack, met with everyone, before he asked me, directly, if I’d be willing to accept his hand.
To be fair, arranged matings were archaic, but there were parts of wolf shifter culture that hadn’t yet gone away. The most sure fire way to align packs and create alliances was to intermingle members by mating. Like all wolves, Bryce was pansexual. But the fact that he’d chosen to mate with a cis male was rare. I couldn’t give him biological children, and most alpha’s wanted to that. We hadn’t discussed it, mostly because we hadn’t had a lot of time to talk, but I was sure that he’d use a surrogate if he was the type to want biological children.
A soft knock on the door interrupted my thought spiral. I wasn’t sure how I’d fallen down that path and it took me a second to get my mouth to work.
“Ryder, darlin,” Bryce’s voice rumbled right through the wood and into my chest, despite the five feet separating me from the door. “Can I come in?”
The door creaked open and Bryce stuck his head in, smiling at me, before he slid in and shut the door behind him. He was tall, wide shouldered, and fit, which wasn’t a surprise given his status in the pack. He was handsome too, at least by my estimation, which definitely helped. I found him attractive, and knew that wasn’t going to be a problem between us. I really liked his smile, and the way it lit up his face. The way his eyes crinkled at the corners when he really meant it.
But most of all, I liked the sincerity in his voice when he talked about taking care of his pack. I liked that he was determined to see to the needs of his wolve above all else, and that when he told me of his plans, he asked what I thought and really listened to my answers. I liked that he wanted to include me in things and not just dictate how things would go.
“I wanted to check on you. You all right?”
Once again, my mind had wandered off. I smiled and I didn’t even need to force it. When Bryce stepped in close and slowly reached out, telegraphing his actions, I let him take my hand. The warmth strength there was somehow reassuring.
“Yes.” I squeezed his hand. “You look amazing.”
He didn’t preen, as most alphas I knew would, but his gaze brightened. “It’s you who looks amazing. You’re so beautiful. I noticed it right away. It drew me to you.”
“Oh,” I said, on an exhale. Really? How did I not know that?
Bryce’s grin turned a little wry. “Did I not tell you that?”
“Not in words.” My voice was soft, and I unconsciously stepped closer to him, until there was barely an inch between us. “It’s good to hear.”
“Well.” Bryce grinned, and cupped my cheek. “I’ll make sure to tell you more often then. You should know, without a doubt. But it’s not just your looks though. You know that right? Talking with you is a treat. I think, together, we’re going to have a great life.”
My heart cracked, but not in a bad way. More like it was expanding, making room for this man standing in front of me. It might not an ideal situation, or the one that I dreamed of, but everything seemed to be lining up just as it was supposed to.
I lifted his hand and kissed the back of it.
“I think so, too. Let’s go get married.”