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Fighting for Madera

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When Madera Lehtonen leaves class Friday March 21st, 2014 to drive home for her younger brother's birthday party, she knows two things: First, she is going to be the next Alpha of her pack (I mean, it's the Madera Groves Pack... she's named after it for crying out loud); Second, her childhood best friend and future Beta Kaison Herrera is not her mate, but she desperately wishes he was. But as the weekend home challenges what she knows, she finds herself in a political fight for not only her pack, but her mate.

His Eyes Look Like Coming Home

March 21st, 2014

Madera County in California was known for many things. It was the geological center of the state; it was home to countless groves of Orange trees; and it ran up to the southern border of Yosemite National Park.

For those in the werewolf community, it was home to the Madera Groves Pack.

As the driver of the Black 328i convertible passed the green sign boasting entrance to the county with her brown hair blowing in the wind created by driving with the top down on the 152, she couldn’t help but think of the fact that the county wasn’t just her home.

It was her namesake and future.

Madera Lehtonen didn’t get to come home as often as she liked. When she had been accepted into the Electrical Engineering program at Stanford University a couple of years before, it had been a dream come true. Their Engineering school was ranked highest in California, and was number two in the nation. As an added benefit, Stanford was only a three hour drive from Yosemite Lakes, where she’d grown up.

It didn’t take her long to realize three hours was anything but a quick trip home, like she’d thought it’d be. Her plans to come home once a week became every other week, then once a month, before becoming an occasional weekend visit, which usually coincided with a break from school, or an important event back home. And as the future Alpha of the Madera Groves Pack, she hated being away for so long.

Madi knew what she was doing was important. Going to school to get her degree was not only a betterment to herself, but when she came home and used her degree to design products for Lehtonen Lights, she would also be helping provide for their pack.

Despite her altruistic motivations and her parents’ support, the four years it would take to earn her degree was dragging, and Madi felt as though she was letting the pack down by not being there for training, even if they never said as much.

That was why she had ensured her car was packed for her trip home before she’d left her apartment for class this morning, and why she had run out of her last final to get to her car, and on the road home. Most of her classmates weren’t leaving for spring break until the following morning—at the earliest—but she wanted to spend as much time back home as she could.

As she drove into range of her favorite radio station, Madi turned on the radio. The chorus of Taylor Swift’s “Everything has changed” featuring Ed Sheeran began to float through the speakers of her car, making her use the nob on her center console to turn up the volume. There was a non-pack related reason she was excited to come home, and this song reminded her of him all too well.

She shook her head. There were a couple of non-pack related reasons to come home. For example, her brother Eero was home for the weekend, which was a rare treat. He had started racing in a karting league when he was 8, and as soon as he realized he loved it, he started entering as many races as there were weekends. When Madi graduated high school, and moved to Stanford, she rarely got to see Eero, since he was away at a race when she could come home to visit. Then Eero caught the attention of the Italian Alpha Allesandro Santoro, who happened to own the Santoro F1 team, and Eero moved to Italy to pursue his dream of racing in Formula 1, meaning Madi’s already scarce time with her brother got even smaller.

Spending every minute she could with her brother while he was in town was her priority this weekend. She was going to be there with the pack to celebrate his 18th birthday, and spend any time he would give her for the next couple of days with him, catching up.

She definitely wasn’t going to waste her time with Eero talking about the other reason she was excited to come home: Kaison Herrera.

Kaison’s father Scott was the current Beta of the pack, so her family and the Herrera’s had grown up together. Even though Kai was a couple years older than Madi, the two of them had been best friends—even closer friends than Madi and Adriana Herrera, who was Madi’s age.

Because they had grown up together, it always felt like Kai was off limits. Despite that, she had a perpetual crush on him. When she had moved away for college, she expected her crush to fade with the distance. So far, her draw to him had only gotten stronger, making Madi hope there was still a chance of them being mates.

Kai’s 18th birthday party was the first time Madi had allowed herself to start fantasizing about what it would be like for her to look at Kai and have the Mate Bond snap into place. He was two years older and went to a different school than her, so she had never seen how popular he was until he was surrounded by girls his age at the party; he kept her—his best friend—by his side the entire night.

With a hope awakened that maybe he felt the same for her as she felt for him, she had spent the next two years dreaming of all the ways the bond might snap into place on her 18th birthday. She knew that the likelihood of a mate bond solidifying on her 18th birthday was rare. There wasn’t just one soul mate out there for everyone, so a mate bond never snapped into place upon the first adult meeting with a soul mate. The bond grew slowly, developing with the human relationship, until one day, the full strength of it snapped in place. Madi convinced herself the years of friendship with Kai meant they had the human relationship, and the mate bond was just waiting until she was of age before snapping into place.

When the day of her birthday finally arrived, and she felt nothing more than the deep friendship she’d developed with Kai, she’d been devastated. He was at her side the entire night, ever her rock of support, but instead of feeling the sparks she’d hoped she’d feel when he gently touched her arm, or drew her into a formal dance position for the slow dances, she just felt his worn, warm skin.

The trip back to Stanford after her 18th birthday was the first time she was grateful Kai had accepted admission into Fresno State, instead of Stanford like their childhood plan had been. She had been glad for the distance. She couldn’t imagine having to watch as Kai bonded with someone else.

The last year and a half of distance had been both a blessing and a curse. The idea of anyone else bonding with Kai drove both her and her wolf, Artemis, nuts, but she was too far away to be forging a bond with him herself… if such a bond was possible; she was beginning to think it wasn’t.

Madi called and talked to her parents at least once a week, and her mom was her personal encyclopedia for all things happening in the pack. That was how, despite not talking much with Kaison in the last year, she knew he had moved to the packhouse since her last trip home.

Her mom had told her there was no mate, and Kaison hadn’t so much as had a girlfriend since she left, but his move told Madi all she needed to know. Kaison could feel a mate bond beginning to form, and was preparing for his mate to recognize it and solidify their bond.

That was why, as much as she longed to go home and see Kai, the possibility of getting home and having him tell her he had bonded to someone else made her dread it at the same time.

He was her future Beta, and she knew she couldn’t avoid him forever, but she needed time to get over her childhood crush. Right now, she knew she couldn’t handle being around him only to watch him dote on someone else.

Despite knowing it was a terrible decision, Madi turned her car off the highway, and headed towards the place she knew almost as well as her own house: Herrera Orchards.

Orange Grove Days

As Madi pulled onto the dirt road that she knew would take her to the office the Herrera family used to manage their orchards, she was painfully reminded that she could never go back to the Hide’n’Seek days of her childhood. Somehow, the trees around her were both familiar, yet unrecognizable at the same time. She could almost see a younger Kai jumping out from behind one of the trees to surprise her with an orange peel as his smile. But as she drove into the orchard, the dirt road was wider than she remembered. Instead of being so narrow only one car could fit between the trees on either side, two cars could now easily travel it—one in each direction. In the middle of the wider road, there was a booth with a large sign with a new logo boasting Herrera Orchards

Her mom had told her that Kai had been using the classes he was taking for his degree to make changes to the family business, but to see the changes…

She stopped as she passed the booth, noticing

Heroes

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