Cernunnos - 47. Chapter 47
The eve of the council meeting bore weight on Arric’s mind. He waited patiently for the remaining minor leaders to arrive. I don’t think Shea’s going to like the second item on the agenda, but it needs to be brought up. At least Key’s had it on his mind since breakfast a few days ago. He might have a couple nominations.
Seeing how they had been involved since the beginning, he allowed Cyn and the Turbins to attend. As soon as Kieran, Walter, Pierce, and Greta arrived, Arric immediately started. “Let’s start with reports. Greta?”
The elderly woman rose. Readjusting her glasses, she flipped a few pages in a notepad and addressed the group, “Financially, we’re solid. The only damage we’re taking is the overtime pay for the hunting and tracking teams. Funds are holding, but if we increase hours or pay, we’ll start losing money. Other than this, not much regarding finances.”
“Understood.” Arric motioned for Greta to sit. I didn’t expect any issues, but if there were any, I’m sure she would’ve found a way to fix it. “Pierce, you’re next.”
With a grumble, the poshly-dressed bear stood. “The humans are maintaining vigilance, but are constantly asking when the search will be over.”
“Typical,” grumbled Shea.
“Agreed, but their leaders are rightfully concerned,” Pierce pointed out. “They’re impatient creatures just like the rest of us.
“I also got in contact with Ronnet and the medical board. Morgan’s done some damage.” The statement garnered everyone’s attention. “After numerous follow-up calls with some families, there was some malpractice over the last year.”
Arric whispered, “Longer than Hauser’s introduction to Eike’s hunts.”
Pierce nodded, “Yes. The board assured me of their dedication to assisting the affected patients…” He trailed off, only to shake his shoulders and lower his voice, “Morgan fucked with over thirty FP shifters.”
Gasps and swears littered the manor. It took everything in Arric’s power to remain calm. He wanted to snarl and let loose a series of threatening growls, but knew he’d have the chance during Morgan’s sentencing. It’ll be hard not to rip his fucking throat out! “Tell the board once I sentence him, we’ll have his bank accounts drained and distributed to assist the families.”
“Will do. Aside from that, nothing else to report.”
Taking a moment to collect his emotions, Arric paced the living room. Passing the couch, he saw Kieran’s concerned face. After a deep breath, the alpha calmed himself. Funny… I thought my emotions were contagious ones. Just seeing him made everything better. “Shel—”
The second his mistake was uttered, everyone’s mood dampened. Clearing his throat, Arric restated, “Shea, how are the teams?”
His enforcer parted from the deer, whispering soft words of assurance. “The SFBI and I agreed the Kettle is secure. Alpha Rogier offered to use their pack’s day of forest play to perform a thorough search to give us and the feds a breather. After meeting with Walter, the plan is to have teams perform routes in town and throughout the local rural areas. Any personal hunting in the Kettle is to be done in teams of five, or three if there is a delta among the group, and must be approved by a member of the council.
“In other news, Wendel called for an investigative team to snoop around Alpha Donovan’s police force. I haven’t gotten any information on their findings yet, but I’ll be the first to know.”
Pierce’s head darted towards Shea. “Was this planned?”
“Yes and no,” Arric answered. “We suggested it to the SFBI agents, and they already had their own suspicions. Our pack has no involvement, but we’ll be notified if our ally is acting against the FP community.”
The bear kept an irritated scowl as he bowed his head. “I meant no disrespect. I’ll get with the chief and mayor to inform them—”
“No,” Arric interrupted, “you’ll keep this to yourself. I don’t know if they have connections to Milwaukee’s leaders, particularly their police station’s. This is the SFBI’s investigation, and I want no disturbances for them.”
Pierce narrowed his eyes. “And no way to trace it back to our pack, right?”
“We merely suggested it. Milwaukee’s being quiet in regards to Eike and they’re not being forthcoming with FP-related cases.”
The bear blinked and took a long breath. “Understood, Alpha. If they’re hiding information, I’ll put my faith in the agents. I apologize for interrupting, Enforcer.”
Shea nodded. “No problem. It does involve the pack’s image, so you were within your right to speak.” The two council members shared a smile and gave their attention back to their leader.
Arric continued, “Let’s move on. I believe Walter has the first item.” He stepped back, allowing his beta to take the floor.
On cue, Walter cleared his throat. “Yes, I do, and it’s great to see everyone tonight. I’m not one for mincing words or delaying the inevitable, so I’ll give it to you straight. I’m stepping down as Pack Beta.”
Greta and the Turbins gasped, while Pierce sat ramrod-straight. Once the room’s volume fell, Walter chuckled, “I’ve had a wonderful time in this position, especially with all of you. Many laughs have been shared while handling varying issues. But I’m growing old and weary, and I long for more time with my Vivianne.”
“Oh, posh!” Greta exclaimed, “You’re no older than me, you old fart!”
“This is true, but my mind isn’t as clear as it once was. I believe it’s time for younger blood to lead. Earlier this week, I gave Arric a few nominations to replace me. At this time, I hereby nominate three people in this room. Pierce, Jaime, and Kieran.”
The three looked at one another. Kara was swift to latch onto Jaime’s hand. Pierce was the first to speak, “I respectfully decline my nomination.”
Walter smirked. “I anticipated as much, but you deserved the mention.”
“Uh, Beta Haynes?” Jaime raised his hand meekly. “I… I also decline my nomination. I don’t feel ready for such a position.”
“Completely understandable, Jaime. Kieran?”
All eyes fell on the scribe. Kieran looked to the floor, inhaled deeply, and nodded. “I accept.”
Arric did his best to hide the incoming smile. Uncontested. Still… “At this time, are there any additional nominations from the council?” He patiently waited. The only movement he saw was Greta turning in her seat, only to place a hand on Kieran’s knee. She supports him. Ever since he took the scribe and historian roles, he became a grandson to her. After ten seconds, he smiled and said, “Then as Pack Alpha, I hereby instate Kieran Pritz as the new Pack Beta.”
Being the first to, Arric started clapping. Immediately after, everyone joined in. Kieran rose with blushed cheeks and advanced. Walter latched onto the lycan’s arm. “Make me proud, son. Keep our alpha’s head on straight.”
Confident, Kieran smiled. ‘Sure thing, Walter.”
With Kieran swapping places with Walter, Arric posed the next article. “With this exchange, our pack requires a new youth leader. If I’m not mistaken, Beta Pritz has a nomination in store.”
Kieran grinned. “On behalf of the children at the Mead Public Library and advanced-placement high school courses at Lakeland University, I nominate Walter Haynes as youth leader.”
After a healthy snicker from Greta, Walter harrumphed, “Now, didn’t I just say I wanted time for me and my mate?”
Arric snorted, “Please… Viv would kick you out within two days of your retirement. You’ll need something to get you out of the house.”
Kieran gleamed at Walter. “The kids keep asking about you. They miss it when you substitute teach. Imagine those bright and happy faces when they find out you’re their new teacher.”
Despite the apparent grumbles, a smirk came to Walter’s face. “All right, all right! I guess I can teach part time, so long as you substitute for me when I need a day off.”
“You got it!”
With his new beta to the right, Arric prepared himself for the final item on the agenda. It feels too early to bring it up, but with everything going on, I have no choice. “The final topic of the evening isn’t something I bring up with excitement. I’m opening the floor for nominations for the hunting commander.”
Silence flooded the room. Just as he predicted, no one seemed to be ready to move on. I’m not either… but we have to.
“Alpha,” Kieran said, “I nominate Saige Brymer. She exacted revenge for Shelly’s death after she fell.”
“Nomination for Saige is heard. Is there another?”
Shea sighed. “I nominate Kara Turbin. As the leader of the Tracking Trio, I’ve seen Kara take down unannounced foes in the blink of an eye. Her mind is always on the mission.”
“Nomination for Kara is heard. Is there another?”
Several moments went by with unease. Arric saw the restlessness in Kara’s face. She’s not angry, but determined. I’m interested to see what Saige’s emotions would be like in comparison. “If there are no others, then we’ll wait for next week’s meeting. Kara, do you accept the nomination?”
“Yes, Alpha,” she muttered.
“Then you and Saige will be interviewed by the council next week, provided she accepts the nomination. Are there any additions to the agenda for this evening?” Arric scanned the room and saw no interest. “Then this meeting is adjourned."
As expected, Walter was the first to approach him. “You two did this on purpose, didn’t you.”
Arric grinned. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Educator Haynes.”
“Oh, balls! I intended on leaving here without a title.”
The alpha studied the older lycan. His behavior’s changing already? He seems a little stuck-up and disgruntled. That might change in a day or two, especially since he’s the educator now. That usually warrants a kinder overhaul.
Now Key, on the other hand, is acting as I expected! Kieran’s grin was wide, but what captured Arric’s attention was the confidence. His eyes aren’t slouched anymore, and his hands are on his hips, not in pockets.
“Hey, Alpha?” The sound of his boyfriend’s voice snapped his thoughts. “I feel… different.”
“That’s to be expected, Beta.” Walter gave a half-smile towards Kieran. “Your position will give your wolf confidence in order to provide our leader valuable advice. You’ll find any second-guessing nonexistent. I won’t be surprised if your dopiness is erased.”
Arric shook his head. “I’m not sure about that. He’s still Kieran. If anything, he’s become more dedicated.”
After a short half-hour, all the council members left, leaving Arric, Kieran, Shea, and Cyn to themselves. They opened a bottle of Bordeaux, and quickly discovered Cyn’s distaste in bitter wines. Not wanting the cernunnos to be left out, he revealed his stashed bottle of cream liqueur. It’s mostly for my coffee, but I think he’ll like it.
Once Cyn took a large swig, Kieran wrapped an arm around Arric’s waist. “That was sweet of you.”
“Like I can’t do sweet things,” he growled.
“No, but the old you would’ve taken a lot longer to do that.” Kieran pulled on the alpha’s waist. “I want to ask you something, Alpha.”
They ventured towards the bedroom hallway, stopping short of the room. Arric could smell the confidence and desire floating off the beta. “What’s going on, Ke—”
A finger pressed against his chest. Kieran’s smile lowered. The thin lips were still curled, but Arric saw their mischievous intent. “Before your emotions get me drunk, I’m using my end of our relationship agreement.”
“Agreement?” Arric assumed he meant being the conduit of permissions. “What’d you have in mind?”
The finger looped in a circle as Kieran’s other palm landed on the alpha’s pectoral. “I want to do more than kiss tonight.”
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