“Ri!” Brayden’s head popped out of the doorway of Riannon’s office right as she was wrapping up a discussion with the headmistress regarding the pack’s primary school budget. “Do you have a sec?”
“Yes, we are done here,” she responded. Ria handed the papers to the woman in front of her, who, in turn, gave her a sympathetic smile. The Luna remembered with clarity that she was the one who had stood by her until the very end. She was one of the reasons she managed to squeeze in a little extra cash for the school.
“Luna, Alpha.” The headmistress bowed her head and left, leaving the husband and wife alone for the first time in a while. For the last few days, Riannon sought to avoid Brayden at all costs. She recalled too well that every meeting in her past life had ended badly. Back then she tried to keep her dignity and chose to not approach him first. They had meals together with pack members as always, their work meetings with Beta, Gamma, and so on, but other than that, every time Bray wanted to talk to her, Riannon would find a perfect excuse to escape. There was no point in talking to him since nothing could be changed. She debated telling him the truth about her rebirth but promptly swept that idea under the rug. He could easily decide she was crazy and use his judgment against her during their divorce when she endeavoured to take her pack back.
The silence was getting awkward.
“Long time no see,” he offered in an attempt at small talk, moving in closer while she remained behind her desk to make it harder for him to get too close to her.
“Yeah, it’s been a while,” she responded. Ria threw herself back in her chair before asking, “Is it about the Alpha Ball?”
“Did you get my flowers?” he asked.
The flowers kept coming. He was probably still feeling guilty.
“Yes, they are lovely,” she forced herself to say with barely a smile, “Thank you. So, did you come to speak about the Alpha Ball?”
They already had this conversation. He caught her in the office and broke her heart.
“Yes,” Brayden pulled the collar of his shirt to make it easier to breathe while Ria watched him with an indifferent expression that was clearly making him uncomfortable. “It’s about Roxy, I mean Roxanne.”
“What about her?” she pretended not to know what it was about.
“Listen,” he prompted, as he sighed and averted her gaze, “I kind of promised her I would take her to the ball as my partner.”
“Oh, really?” Riannon tilted her head, “I wonder when and how that happened?”
“It’s,” he cleared his throat, “a long story. Please, understand. My wolf is dying when she is unhappy. Besides, she has never been to a ball like this.”
“Oh, my!” Ria gasped and shook her head. “Should I maybe take Enzo with me? He hasn’t seen an event like this either. Come to think of it, neither has Cole.”
She mentioned the hottest single warriors of the pack on purpose. A growl emerged from her husband’s chest. Served him right!
“What is it with you lately, Ri?” he looked at her in disbelief. “My Luna will not be going with someone else!”
“Oh, but it’s okay if my Alpha goes with someone else? How is that fair?” She shot her brow up, challenging him. Brayden hated to be challenged.
“Maybe you should sit this one out then!” He snarled at her, and for the first time, worry crept into her psyche where there once was none. She needed this ball. She needed it badly.
“No, thanks,” the Luna declined, crossing her hands on her chest. “I received my own personal invitation. Besides, it’s important to mingle with other Lunas for the sake of our pack. We still need to organise our student and warrior exchanges and a couple of mating events for over eighteens. Or do you expect Roxy to be able to deal with all that instead of enjoying her first big event? What kind of Cinderella would she be if she had to work again?”
He exhaled deeply through his nostrils, and she knew she had managed to win this round.
“Fine,” he grunted, standing up, “but you will go with Ash. He is going anyway since he is the pack’s Beta.”
“Now you are sucking the fun out of his life too?” Ria chuckled, “I am sure he has a girl to escort and impress.”
“He has already agreed to be your plus one,” Brayden informed her. “He’ll protect you there as well.”
“How thoughtful,” she remarked, deciding to just go with it. Getting rid of Ash would be easy anyway. He would see some Alpha’s daughter, and off he would go.
Brayden prepared to leave but hesitated at the door and turned to look at her once more.
“Ri,” he offered when he caught her eye, “It’s just a transition period. We will get through this, and everything will be fine.”
“I will never take another Luna except for you.”
“I still love you. It’s just that she had such a hard life and I am not a monster. She is just a sweet girl, and she will never take your place.”
Lies, lies, lies.
“Thank you for affirming me,” she nodded. “I needed to hear that, Bray.”
She even forced a smile.
“Look, when the ball is over, let’s take a day off. Just you and me. What do you think?” He soothingly suggested all of a sudden, and she looked up at him in surprise. This was new. This hadn’t happened in the past.
“We’ll have to check our schedules for that,” she managed to respond as she stretched her lips further. “But it’s a nice idea.”
“Then I’ll see you around?” He suddenly looked relieved, as if he had just rid himself of a burden.
“I am your wife, am I not?” she chuckled, watching his smile fade.
He left, and Ria’s phone buzzed with a notification informing her the dresses should have already arrived.
She paused for a quick second. It worried her that he offered a day off together. Was it a good sign or a bad one? She wanted to change the events that caused so many disasters. However, this particular bit wasn’t in her plans.
In the end, she was late for the fitting when she entered the room packed full of the most important females of the pack. Maya was there, along with their friends Tatiana and Aria. They greeted her in their usual friendly way. On the other side of the room sat Harper and her minions.
Harper was Brayden’s sister, and for some reason, she had never liked Riannon since they were young. She was one of the first to openly support Roxy. She was the one who opened the door for others who hadn’t known what to do and actually promoted the evil redhead monster.
“Bring in the dresses,” Ria commanded firmly. She wanted to be done here as quickly as she could manage.
It was a tradition of the pack to outfit the ladies together who were invited to the Alpha ball and for the pack to pay for their chosen dresses . After all, they were all representing the Silver River pack, and it was important to let other pack communities see how well they were doing.
A few omegas rolled in clothing racks with the most beautiful evening dresses from exclusive high-end designers. Their Luna was always the first one to choose her evening gown, and then the remainder chose theirs according to their ranks. The rest of the clothes were sent back.
Riannon knew too well which dress she was going to pick but still pretended to look at them all to avoid suspicion.
“What about that emerald one?” Harper suggested a colour which would never suit Riannon’s blonde hair and blue eyes.
“Do you like it?” Ria asked as she reached for the hanger and placed the gown on her chest with a smile. “It’s Zac Posen.”
“Beautiful!” her sister-in-law sneered.
“Then I will leave it for you,” Ria returned the facial expression and kept moving through the rack. Soon she reached the gown she had in mind … She remembered that dress well. Peach-coloured and shiny with loads of rhinestones covering the top.
She had spent enough time perusing. Moving to the mirror, she took the dress with her.
Any second now …
The door opened, and Roxy barged in, gasping, “Oh, my goddess! Luna! I am so sorry! I’ll just go away, so I don’t ruin your mood.”
She was already doing it. Implying that just the sight of her was affecting Riannon.
And it did. But it was manipulative to bring this up.
“Stay,” Ria offered and smiled gently, noticing how everyone was watching the two of them. She continued, “You are going to the ball too, and you need an outfit.”
“I already bought one,” Roxanne mumbled, “From all the money you gave me. I got it at H&M.”
One of Harper’s minions snorted.
“This will not do,” Riannon turned and sighed, “You need a dress good enough for your new status.”
“And what is that?” Harper couldn’t help but ask the provocative question.
“Member of the Silver River pack,” Ria replied without any hesitation, “Look around. What do you like?”
A little sob emerged, and then a timely sniffle followed. Everybody turned to see the crying Roxy.
“This is so sweet!” she whined, “You are such a great Luna to take care of someone like me. I never had such a beautiful dress in my life!”
She pointed to the one that Riannon was holding.
“I thought I’d never—have—an opportunity,” She stuttered.
She burst out crying and Ria did her best not to roll her eyes.
“You can have it,” she stretched her hands with the garment towards the omega and pretty much everybody in the room was in shock.
“But Luna!” Aria gasped, “You need to be the first.”
“That’s fine,” Riannon shook her shoulders, “I saw a red one that I also liked back there. Roxy can have this one since it’s the one that moved her to cry like that.”
Roxanne seemed a bit startled, and Luna came closer, pushing the tasteless peach dress, which was good enough for a middle school prom in a quaint village.
“No, really.” Ria smirked, “I want you to have it.”
Their eyes met, and Roxy gaped, realising that she had just been tricked.
“Now go to your room and try it on. It will look beautiful on you.” Or hideous.
As soon as Roxy left, Ria quickly went back to the rack and grabbed the first red dress she saw.
“I’ll take this one.” She walked out of the room as quickly as she could, followed by Maya. “Choose what you like, ladies, she called out over her shoulder as she left.
They came straight to Maya’s bedroom, and as soon as they closed the door, they burst out laughing hysterically.
“Oh, my goddess!” Maya chuckled, “This was fun!”
“Indeed,” the Luna agreed, throwing away the red piece of fabric she had chosen. Because the real gown that she was going to wear to the ball was right here in her room. It was the most beautiful dress she had laid eyes on. A stunning red wine-coloured off-the-shoulder gown made of silk chiffon draped beautifully around her breast and down to her waist, creating a geometrical pattern while flowing freely to the ground.
A gown fit for a queen. In her past life, Ria hadn’t even ordered it for viewing as it was way out of her budget. This time around, she saw it again and thought to herself, why the hell not?
The last time she went to the Alpha Ball, it was the most awful experience for her. Roxanne was wearing a beautiful white dress looking very like the little innocent omega she loved to pretend to be, thus gaining everyone’s sympathy.
At the same time, Riannon gained pity from the Alphas and was mocked by some of the Lunas who never liked her. It was enough humiliation to come as the third wheel for her husband and his mate, but to top it off, Brayden spent the entire evening by Roxy’s side. Ria had been in a sour mood the whole time, although she did still manage to make a few negotiations.
This time, she knew what to expect and was ready. This time, she was going there to work.
“Do I look nice?” Maya grinned as she stepped out of the bathroom in a fitted royal blue gown.
“You took one too, I see,” Riannon giggled as her friend twirled in front of her.
Today was a success, thanks to Maya. She was the one who received all the dresses before the pack omegas got them and brought Ria the one she had wanted without anyone seeing her.
“Of course,” she remarked and placed her hands on her hips. “We are leaving this pack, so I am not going to save them any money.”
“Just don’t shout about it around the mansion, okay?” Ria rolled her eyes, “It’s a secret after all. You do look nice.”
“Thanks!” Maya seemed to agree, “Shame I am not going with you. There is always next time, right?”
“When I am the Alpha, and you are my Beta, you will attend it every year,” Luna promised and winked at her.
In the evening, Ria finished her makeup and hair and walked out to the main part of her bedroom to find a blue box on the little table beside a new bouquet. She opened it and saw a luxurious and probably crazy expensive diamond necklace. Attached was a simple card with a single word etched on it. Sorry.
“Huh.” She bit her lip, remembering that Brayden had previously given it to Roxy. He had also given her a pair of ruby earrings which she never wore. That changed too.
However, now wasn’t the time to think about all that.
She put the necklace on since it was the perfect finishing piece and left for the ball.
Walking down the stairs with the skirt of her dress flowing beautifully, she took a brief moment to admire her as she looked at it. Most of her hair was up, with a few curly locks falling down her bare shoulders.
“You look beautiful tonight.” a male voice made her flinch.