A/N: Yay for werewolves!
Jade chuckled into her napkin as Tiffany tried to bat her eyelashes at one of the waiters.
She commented to her friend. "You put way too much effort into it. Boys like to chase, not be chased."
"Well, human boys could be different," Tiffany retorted. "I would hope so. Surly, these human girls don't have to put up with the nonsense that we do."
"I think they have it worse," Danielle said. Jade and Tiffany looked at her. "Think about it. We at least have a protocol about dating and marriage. Humans are a lot more lax, so they're not sure what they're supposed to do or what's expected."
Jade rolled her eyes. "Of course you would find the logic in everything, Ellie."
Danielle just smiled and shrugged.
"I don't care what either of you say. My time is ticking up, and I'm not leaving here without a cute boys' number."
"We're going to be here awhile, then. I knew I should have packed a sleeping bag."
"Shut up, Jade."
Danielle cut in. "Tiff, why do you think you don't have any time?"
"I don't need your psychoanalysis, Ellie."
"Answer the question," Jade ordered in a mock-trial impression.
Tiffany shot both of the a glare, which caused her to miss the waiter again. "Now, look what ya'll have done! Fine, I'll answer. Derek has been acting weird lately. I think he's about to make a pledge to me."
Jade and Danielle exchanged incredulous looks. Jade spoke first, "He wants you for a mate! I didn't think he would be that serious for another year or so."
Danielle said, "Have you thought about if you want the wedding before or after Trial?"
"The only thing I've thought about is how little I've experienced the world," Tiffany huffed.
"What's that supposed to mean, and how does trading numbers with a guy factor in?"
Tiffany looked despondent as she said, "I haven't seen any of the world yet, and it's the right of every girl to have several flings before she settles down. I've only even had Derek as a boyfriend. Where's the fun in that?"
"You are lucky to have a guy who cares that much about you already. The only thing a fling will do is hurt you when the breakup comes around."
"Yeah, Ellie, you're right."
Jade remained quiet throughout the rest of her friends' talk. She had had several so-called flings. They hadn't gotten very far and nowhere near the intensity that Tiffany and Derek or Danielle and Cory had. No particular guy had ever stuck out or had even attempted a serious relationship with her. The feedback she had managed to scrounge from other people always led back to "She was too much" or "I just can't handle that." Her father had gifted her with a touch of his rebellious side, and now she was paying for it.
"You okay, Jay?" Danielle had a slight frown on her round face.
Jade's mind snapped back to the present. "Totally. Just thinking."
Tiffany laughed. "You actually take the time to think?" Jade made a face. "I do wonder about you sometimes. You feel things, not think about them."
Jade gave her a devil's smile, "You should focus on your own impending doom instead of worrying about what goes on in my head."
Tiffany groaned and went back to ranting about how she wasn't ready for that kind of commitment and complaining about how that waiter was intentionally ignoring her.
"I think you are loony, Tiff."
"Oh, so you want to be mated off, Jay?"
"I was talking about the waiter avoiding you."
"Forget about him. What would you do if you were in my shoes?"
Jade contemplated the question, even though the other two knew what her answer would be. "I would make enough of a ruckus to post-pone everything until I wanted to."
"But would you ever want to?" Danielle said insightfully. Jade shrugged and reached for her drink. "That's what I thought. You're going to have to get serious at some point, Jay." She turned her attention back to Tiffany.
Jade resented the fact that her friends thought so little of her. If she had a steady boy, then maybe she would be more serious. Christmas break was approaching, and graduation wouldn't be too far behind once spring hit. Most of the other teens of the pack had paired off, preparing for the next stage of their lives. Jade felt jealousy in the back of her mind. Humans chose their spouse whenever they wanted to. The werewolf mindset was different. It was to find a mate as soon as possible, and compromises were made in that pursuit.
As much as she hated to admit it, Jade felt that nudge—the instinct—to find a mate, but none would pledge her. Rather than mope about it, she tried to smother the fire out of it and pretend she did not feel the call.
"…won't be too bad. Who knows, it could be a blast," Tiffany was saying.
"You have her convinced, Danielle?"
Danielle wore a triumphant smile. "Quite possibly. And since Tiff has made the all-but-official announcement, I'll make mine. The reason I wanted us to have this supper together was because I wanted it to be special when I told you that Cody pledged to me last night."
Jade's jaw dropped, and Tiffany squealed, "How could you wait so long to tell us?
Danielle's petite frame puffed up with delight. "I've been dying from the moment we got here, but you guys, I'm so happy. I really can't describe it. It's like I was drifting around, but now I have an anchor. He was so romantic about it to, candles and tons of fresh flowers. We haven't discussed it yet, but we'll probably follow tradition: the wedding ceremony, then he goes to Trial, then we'll be together when he returns."
"Ellie! That's so awesome." Tiffany got out of her seat and gave her a hug. Jade mirrored Tiffany's gesture, but felt strangely hollow at the news.
The food—brought by a female waiter—was delivered shortly after, which gave Jade a break from fawning over Danielle. Werewolves were not very picky when it came to food, unlike bloodsuckers. It could be human food as easily as it could be raw meat. Jade did feel happy that Danielle was thriving, but the imminent change that would accompany Danielle's union with Cody, as well as Tiffany's with Derek. They were all seventeen going on eighteen.
Jade was already eighteen, turning nineteen in three months. She had been held back in second grade.
Always behind. Never good enough.
Tiffany said, "Now, we just have to find Jay-Jay a man."
"Leave me out of it" was Jade's instant response.
"Come over to the dark side, Young Jaywalker." Tiffany gave her a friendly punch on the arm, and they all laughed.
An hour later, Jade was dropped off at her house by Danielle. As she pushed the front door open, her mother called out.
"It's me, Mom," Jade hollered back.
"Oh, Jade. Have you talked to Danielle today?" she said as she came out of the kitchen.
"Hey, sweetheart" Jade heard from the couch. Walking up to its back, she spied her father's light red hair at one end and the rest of him stretched out across the length of the couch, feet hanging off the other end. She ruffled his hair.
He growled playfully back, shot an arm out, and yanking her over the couch. After properly tousling her strawberry blonde hair, he allowed her to escape.
"Neal, don't get her riled up." Jade's mother chided.
"She's not five, Evelyn. Besides she can take it. She is Irish after all."
"That's what worries me. Jade, you did just come from dinner with Danielle and Tiffany, right?"
"I did. Cory pledged to Danielle, but I'm assuming you already knew that."
"Her mother called me a couple of hours ago. Isn't it so exciting?"
"Mmmhmm…I'd wager that Derek won't be far behind with Tiffany as well."
Her father looked around, clearly confused. "I missed something."
"Yes, you did, Neal. You should really keep up with pack news," Evelyn said, exasperated, but Jade still caught the undercurrent of fondness. Her father may not keep up with the latest gossip, but Evelyn enjoyed recounting every detail to bring him up to speed. She faced her daughter. "I don't suppose Joshua phoned you today?"
Jade resisted rolling her eyes. "Mom. Josh gave up on me almost five months ago."
"Jade," Evelyn scolded, "you shouldn't talk like that. He was a very nice boy. He would have made a fine mate."
"Mom!" Jade moaned as her father said, "Leave the girl alone, Evie."
"She's almost nineteen. We need to face the fact that she's getting older and still does not have a mate. It's peculiar is all I'm saying."
Jade attempted to let the comment role off but knew her Irish temper was on the rise. "This isn't the eighteen hundreds, Mom, and I'm not a spinster," she snarled.
Neal had age on his side when it came to controlling his temper. "That's not what your mother meant, sweetheart. One of the boys will come around soon."
"No, they won't," Evelyn snapped back, "Not with her attitude. Wolves want girls who won't be headaches. Nice, smart girls."
Jade felt the low blow. "I am not a straight A student and never will be. Get over it!"
"I'm past caring about straight A's, Jade. I just wish you would get at least one." Jade clenched her fists and knew that heat was rising to her cheeks. "Jeremy was just fine in school. A's with a few B's. What's so hard about that?"
"Mom, I am not my brother," Jade warned.
"Silence! Both of you," was her father's fierce command. He had stood up, and watched the two women of his life through slanted eyes. Jade's temper cooled significantly in wake of her father's. One of the primary things that got under his skin was when his daughter and his wife fought. "I will not tolerate this dissonance in my house. Jade, go to your room. Evelyn, I will speak with you here."
Evelyn sat sedately while Jade stalked away. Down a hall and to the right was her modest room. Light green walls and cherry oak furniture met her as she shut the door. The cutesy quilt that lay folded neatly at the end of her bed was a relic from her childhood. It had been her blanket for as long as she could remember, and Jade was to the point now that she preferred it for more sentimental reasons rather than actually thinking it was pretty. The pastel colors reminded her of something that a baby would have in the room. Yet, it remained there; her ever vigilant guardian.
She fell on the squishy bed, saying to the quilt, "Hey, Pinkie. How's it going? I must admit, I've had an interesting day." She gave it a loving pat before reflecting back on the conversation that put her here.
Hearing the squeak of her sentinel floorboard, Jade sat up to face whatever mood her father was in. He knocked then entered.
Neal stepped towards his daughter. She was so beautiful to him, and she took after his side of the family more than his wife would admit. Her older brother Jeremy was the exact image of Evelyn, so Neal never did connect with him as much as he did with this spitfire girl. She would not back down from a fight of her own will. Even now he saw the resolve in her eyes to argue whatever came out of his mouth.
She paused, debating her strategy. "Hey, Dad. What's up."
"Your mother is worried about you."
"I know she nags and nick-picks at you, but she really does care for you."
"She should find a new way to show it."
Neal nodded his agreement while pulling a chair over to her bed to sit on. "You are right, but that is a matter for another day. For now, we need to hash out some details and make some arrangements if possible."
"And what does that entail?"
"Your mother has a point: you are bypassing the age of usual mating."
"I still don't see the problem."
"You don't see the problem or you won't accept it?"
Jade faltered. "A bit of each, I guess."
"Do you want a mate?"
She did not budge.
"I suspect you want more than you let on. The drive for one rarely skips any of our kind. The ones who don't find one usually become loners for the rest of their lives. Is that what you want?"
"Of course not. Because everyone knows that loners are slightly unhinged. So have you exhausted all the possibilities of our pack?"
A depression settled on Jade. "I've wagged my tail at pretty much every single boy within an acceptable age range in our pack. No one wants me."
"I didn't want that much detail, sweetheart," Neal sighed. "But you can't let them get to you. There's some lucky guy out there who will make the world shine brighter for you. If he isn't in our pack, then so be it. I don't care where he's from."
"I don't want to be so desperate that I have to go begging at other packs. Ours is large already. Mr. Right isn't here, so he probably doesn't exist."
"What? Are you scared or something? Jade Cleary, that does not sound like my little firecracker talking."
"Your little firecracker has run out of spark, Dad."
"I don't believe that one ounce."
She flopped back onto her bed. "Then what would you have me do? Go to neighboring packs and say, 'Hi, everyone. I'm not good enough for any of the guys back home. Could you spare me one of yours?'"
"Your mother has a plan." Jade rolled over and whined into her pillow. "You know our pack is mostly Irish, but we merged with part of a Greek pack a few generations ago."
"Some of them still keep in touch with their former pack. Do you remember Danielle's great-grandfather George? He was one of the ones who originally joined our pack when theirs became too large. Evelyn had a chat with him, and he has consented to tugging some strings. You can go and stay with the other pack, scouting for a guy in the process."
"Dad, what are you smoking? I can't just leave. What about school, my friends?
"The boys who have pledged will Run right before Christmas so they can celebrate the holidays together. I will put money down that you will be miserable throughout the break. Your friends won't be the same people once they have a mate. Their focus and priorities will shift dramatically, more so than you think they will."
"Normal people don't just change schools their senior year. It's ludicrous."
"Sweetheart, I hate to be the bringer of bad news, but you have no options here. You are already older than a good portion of the mated teens. If you wait any longer, even the Greek pack will run out of eligible wolves."
Jade's eyes shot daggers at her father. "You can't make me. I won't go. I'll just be alone for the rest of my life."
"I know it will be tough, but it's in your best interest. I will not stand by and watch my baby girl struggle through life on her own."
"I won't be alone, Dad. I have you, Mom, Jeremy, and my friends."
"How often do you see Jeremy?"
"Um, probably twice a month."
"And why do you think that is?" Jade didn't answer. "It's because he has a mate, and he's quite content to be wrapped up with her rather than his biological family. The same thing will happen to your friends. You'll grow apart in correlation to your increasingly different interests. They will want to trade tips about their husbands and eventually about their children. Where will you fit into that?"
"So you realize that I'm right."
"I don't want to go to some strange school," Jade whispered, shoulders sagging.
"You will be just fine. You're Irish and a Cleary to top it off. Who could resist your charm?" Neal moved from the chair to the bed and placed a comforting arm around his precious girl.
Jade gave him a worn smile. "Sure, Dad. I'll be fine."
A/N: Okay, guys. I gave you a story, what do ya'll think?
Totally into it? Ridiculous? Gimme the next chapter? What were you smoking? All those names threw me off? I'm reviewing to get you pumped about the next chapter?
Remember, if you guys get excited about a story, then I will too...