“See you at the finish line losers!”
Leaves crunched under my feet as I pushed myself forward, my breath ragged and chest heaving under the exertion. I could hear twigs snapping and laboured breathing a short distance behind me, I grinned and urged myself to go faster. They’re dreaming if they thought they could catch me. I leapt over fallen logs and raised roots, pushing myself further until I saw a break in the trees ahead. My goal.
I glanced to my side at a boy not much older than myself. 'How did he catch up?'
He took advantage of my shock to inch ahead of me, closing the distance to the tree line and throwing me a smirk. I snorted, there was no way I was going to lose. My muscles stretched and ached as I quickened my pace, running alongside him until we exited the trees and found ourselves in a clearing near a small lake. My legs gave out and I rolled in the grass, loose blades catching in my hair and my laughter filling the air. 'That was fun!'
“I won Peach!” A lean figure stood over me, blocking the sun from my eyes.
Hmph! I cringed at the pet name my family gave me as a baby.
He offered me his hand and helped me to my feet, eyeing me with a cocky smile.
I rolled my eyes at him and began to pick the bits of grass out of my hair and brush the dirt from my clothes. I wouldn’t admit it but my ego was wounded, I had a competitive streak that bordered on aggressive and everyone knew it, especially this guy in front of me.
“You just got lucky”
“I guess it’s just the..*cough*...alpha in me” a sheepish expression crossed his features, and then it dawned on me. Of course!
“Oh, hell no! That’s cheating!!” I jabbed a manicured finger into his chest.He flinched away, rubbing where I had so aggressively poked him,
“Ow! It’s not my fault you forgot who I am”, his bottom lip quivered and steel grey eyes grew wide with fake hurt. “No need to be a sore loser, Peach”, his arm draped over my shoulders, he was egging me on, daring me to take the bait.
Fine, two could play that game. I pushed his arm off me and snickered when he lost his balance and stumbled to the ground in a heap.
“Ouch, that’s gotta hurt”, another boy stepped out from behind the trees and into the clearing with us.
I stood smugly with my arms crossed over my chest before turning my attention to my brother.
“What took you so long?”, lucky my reflexes were getting better or the backpack Lucas carried would’ve left a nice mark on my face.
“Well, someone had to carry your stuff. By the way I’m not a pack mule, next time I’ll leave it behind”
I poked my tongue out at my older brother, “Thanks” I stripped down to my favourite red bathing suit and shoved my clothes into my bag.
“Hey Lucas! Hey Kierce!” The three of us turned to the water and saw three teenage girls waving in our direction, they gestured for the boys to join them.
“Hey June!” A girl with butter blonde hair waved at me, “Are you coming in?”
My brother Lucas chucked his towel and shirt at me before diving off the small bank and surfacing near the girl that greeted me. His arms wrapped around her before launching her unexpectedly into the air, her high pitched squeal escaping before she was submerged. We laughed as she came up for air coughing and spluttering, hitting some water into my brother’s face in mock anger.
I noticed him brush the hair from her face and planting a kiss on her lips, her face turning a bright shade of pink. I gagged loudly with an evil smirk, I couldn’t help it, it’s so gross seeing my brother being...affectionate. It’s cliché to say if looks could kill then I’d be dead but it’s definitely fitting because the daggers he was throwing my way would have me resembling a dartboard. 'Wait until I tell dad!'
“Are you coming in?” Kierce repeated Ava’s question.
“Yeah, come on in June”, Ava urged, she's genuinely a really nice girl but her friends...not so much. I leaned in closer to the dark haired boy next to me and whispered behind my hand.
“I think your psycho girlfriend will try to drown me” I nodded in the direction of the other two girls that were with my brother’s girlfriend. A mousey red haired girl and her minion glared at me. Kierce grimaced.
“We broke up. She’d rather give her attention to anyone else with a dick”
Made sense now why she was shooting lasers my way, “That sucks”
Kierce shrugged, “It’s fine, it’s not like I was going to make her Luna or anything”. I nodded in understanding, Shelby had a reputation and Kierce was well aware before they hooked up.
“How is someone like Shelby friends with Ava by the way? I mean Ava is a doll, literally made of everything sweet and good, and Shelby is...not. It doesn’t make sense.” I’d never been able to wrap my head around this, maybe Ava was just too sweet for her own good.
“They’re family friends, practically grew up together”. That sounded oddly familiar and if he had been paying attention he would have noticed the mischievous gleam in my eyes.
“Oh, you mean Ava is stuck with Shelby the same way I’m stuck with you!? Poor girl” Omph! His elbow connected with my gut playfully, “Hey! You’re not meant to hit girls!” Kierce smirked down at me.
“Girl? I don’t see a girl here. Plus who would ever believe that such a nice guy like myself would hit a girl”
“Your mum”, my eyes gleamed again. He knew his mum would believe me over him any day.
He stared at me defeated, mouth hanging open, “Nark!”
“You know it. We girls have to use whatever we can in our defense. Best thing to use against you is your mum… mama’s boy”
“Hey would you two get a room or get in the water! We’re losing daylight!”
" As if you’d let us get a room!” Kierce yelled back at Lucas. My jaw dropped as Kierce jokingly gave me a flirtatious wink. Leaping out of my reach before my fist could connect with his shoulder, he launched himself into the safety of the water. He surfaced poking his tongue out at me and waved before making his way over to the group waiting for him.
At a distance I saw my brother land the punch I intended to give him, the sounds of playful splashing filled the air as they began wrestling and dunking each other under the water. 'Hmph, boys! ' I couldn’t help but roll my eyes.
Grabbing my backpack I pulled out my sketchpad and pencils and sat on the bank, my feet dangling over the surface of the water.
This was our hidden paradise.
Laying back on the grass I let my sketchpad fall to my side and flexed my stiff fingers, a small red indent on my index finger marking where the pencil rested against my skin for too long.
Sigh, what bliss. I didn’t want to go to school tomorrow, the idea of presenting my speech in front of the class filled me with dread. The only upside of highschool is the classes dedicated to helping weres, such as myself, to hone their instincts and skills and learn to control their shifts, unfortunately I didn’t have any of those classes but I did have art, it was the only thing I'd have to look forward to. I closed my eyes to the sun and soaked up the warmth. I heard the faint sounds of footfall off to my side but didn’t bother looking to see who it was, I already knew.
“Don’t you dare” I warned seriously. I heard a distinct grunt before a small thump and peeking out of the corner of my eye I saw Kierce sitting next to me, legs crossed and leaning back on his arms, a small pout adorning his face.
“How did you know?”
I snickered, “I know you and you never could be very quiet, you might want to work on that.”
“Hardy-har-har” came his reply. Silence fell between us, it was comfortable enough.
Kierce decided to break the silence first. “Do you think much about your mate?”
I whipped my head back in his direction with my eyes wide with surprise. 'Well that’s unexpected'.
“Um...I suppose? I mean, I still have just over a year until that’s even an option. Why, are you worried about it?” I was truly interested in the direction this conversation had taken. I sat forward, bringing my knees to my chest, resting my hands and my head atop them. I stared at him. We had always been close, Lucas, Kierce and me and could talk about almost anything. Our parents were really close friends, our mums were best friends and so were we, the Three Musketeers, and it had only been recently that I discovered that maybe I liked him a bit more than just friends... Typical cliché. I rolled my eyes at myself.
“Well I’m 18 in a couple of weeks. I’ll be able to find her then...as long as she’s over 18 too” I noticed him quickly glance at me out of the corner of his eye and then look away. 'Weird'.
“You don’t want to find her?” I probed
“It’s not that…” his brows furrowed in thought, “it’s just...what if she’s not the right one?”
My eyes widened again “What if your mate isn’t the right one? How could she not be?” I’m getting confused by his trail of thought. 'What does he mean if she’s not the right one?'
“Nothing...never mind. I’m being stupid”. Silence fell again. I turned my gaze back at the lake, my chin resting on my knees, my mind far off somewhere.
“I don’t think you should worry”, I began. “I mean, if you’re worried that someone like Shelby could be your mate and the future Luna of your pack then I don’t think you should be. Your mate is made for you, you were born to be Alpha, so, whoever she is...she was born to be Luna too. She’ll be perfect for the pack...and for you.” I kept my gaze dead ahead, hoping my voice sounded supportive and optimistic but feeling a tiny pang in my chest. 'Stupid crush'.
I felt a light touch as my auburn hair was moved and tucked behind my ear. A shiver sped down my neck and I snapped my eyes to his, completely shocked. A small smile played on his lips, “If she’s who I think and hope she is then she’s definitely perfect.”