" Jonah, the Appletons are getting here today. You didn’t make any plans for after dinner did you?” Jonah looked up from where he’d been working on his chemistry homework to see his dad looming in his bedroom doorway.
“You told me not to,” he muttered.
“Why have you been so resistant on this, son? It’s not like you.” Bryce Spellman came over and sat on Jonah’s bed. His dad was big, way bigger than him, broad-shouldered and thick-chested. He was what a pack alpha should be. Jonah was tall too, but he was rangy and thin. Soft. He’d already been having trouble at school with some kids who thought he was too soft to be what he was—the future pack alpha. Sometimes Jonah agreed with them.
“It’s just Warren and his crew, Dad. I told you I can handle them, and I have been, but I just don’t need another pack alpha’s son to add to the mix. It’s more trouble than I have the energy to deal with.”
“Max is a beta. He’s also your age, not Warren’s.” His dad clapped a hand on his shoulder. He wasn’t trying to be rough, but Jonah flinched a little. He felt like he was always wound super tight. “Do you want me to have a chat with Derek?” his dad asked.
The last thing Jonah needed was to drag Warren Lopez’s dad in on it. Derek Lopez was a great guy, and he’d probably try to make things better, but nobody would ever let Jonah forget it if he didn’t fight his own battles.
“Please don’t, Dad. That’s not gonna help, and you know it. So, Max… he’d be mine?” Jonah got an eyebrow raise for that. “You know what I mean. He’d be in my pack?”
The bigger packs always subdivided a bit. Alpha wolves who weren’t pack leaders formed their own little subpacks, especially the teens and younger adults. His crew still had to follow Jonah’s dad, of course, but they listened to Jonah as well. Warren had his own crew, and they didn’t listen to Jonah at all. Half the time, they sneered at Bryce too. At least his troubles with Warren were isolated. Most of the younger alpha wolves didn’t give Jonah any grief. They knew he was next in line for pack alpha, and nobody wanted to anger Bryce Spellman. Warren and his crew still needed to learn that lesson.
“Yeah, Max’ll be one of yours. I think it’ll be good for you two to bond a little over the long weekend. That way, Tuesday morning, the others won’t be so resistant to a new wolf.”
Like Jonah needed something else to make his life harder. The addition of a new guy, one who ran away from his own alpha father wasn’t exactly a social plus. He’d make it work, anyway. That’s what alphas did, right?
“Just give him a chance, son. Max hasn’t had it easy, and he’s a good kid just like you.”
Jonah thought of how long Max had been being regularly beaten. His dad had told him it was since it had become clear a year or so ago that he wasn’t ever going to turn into an alpha wolf. He couldn’t imagine his father being ashamed of him like that for something he was born with. It had to be bad for them to leave their pack and move. Nobody took that step lightly.
“I will, Dad. I’ll give him a chance.”
“Good.” His dad ruffled his hair like he was still ten years old and not a few months away from seventeen. Jonah swatted at his dad’s hand and got a chuckle for his efforts. “See you at dinner. You know, it would be nice if you went over to meet him on your own before your sisters and your mom get their claws into the poor kid. I’m sure he’d appreciate seeing a boy his own age before the tidal wave of females crashes over him.”
“Yeah. Just let me get my chem homework done. I hate doing it last minute.”
His dad nodded and got up to leave. Jonah had just gotten his pencil out and found his place in the book when he felt another presence in his room. Definitely female this time…. Bethany. Of course.
“Hey, squirt. Whatcha want?” Bethany had been hovering around him a lot more since she’d started ninth grade in the fall. His friends had taken to walking her to her classes, making sure none of the freshman boys got too close. He loved them for it, but he didn’t want her getting any ideas about socializing with the juniors.
“The new boy just got here. I saw their car pull up. Are you going over there to say hi?”
Jonah didn’t have to smell her hormonal fifteen-year-old girl scent to know the word boyboyboy pulsed in her brain. It was obvious to anyone with eyeballs. Great. Another thing Jonah didn’t need.
“Not yet. I’m going to go over there alone in a little bit. He’s gonna be one of my betas. I need to get to know him. By myself,” he added with emphasis.
“Can’t I come? Mom said he’s cute.”
Jonah shuddered. “Absolutely not. He’s a junior.”
“I’m not in prep school anymore, Jonah. I’m allowed to talk to boys.”
“And I’m allowed not to like it.” He gave her his big-brother stare down. He could always use his alpha voice, but he refused. She was his sister, not just a typical beta. He’d leave any necessary disciplining to his parents. “Listen, he and his mom are supposedly coming to dinner. You can meet him then. Please don’t flirt, though. It’s embarrassing.”
“I don’t flirt.”
It was pointless to argue with her. “Okay. You don’t flirt. Just… don’t with him either. I’ll give you all the dirt when I get back from checking them out. Let me finish my homework first.”
“You’re such a nerd.”
Jonah growled softly.
“Fine. I’m leaving.”
Jonah finished his chem homework pretty quickly. Then he pulled out Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities to get his assigned chapter out of the way. Jonah didn’t get what the big deal was with the book, but he figured he’d get his reading done since he also didn’t want to go over to the garden cottage to play welcoming neighbor… mostly. In a weird way he did. It was as if he were putting it off, but a part of him couldn’t think about anything else but the mystery boy on the other side of the garden. He sighed and snapped the novel shut.
Might as well get it over with.