Thirteen years old
I glanced at Eros by my side, once again walking me home. He had joined the track team at school, and I knew walking me to my house every evening made him later for practice, but he never once complained, taking the punishment the coach gave him without once even considering leaving me to walk by myself.
Many times I had tried to tell him I was safe, and nothing was going to happen to me, especially not now my mother had reconnected with his parents - Khaos had almost given me a person guard he was so paranoid about losing us again. Luckily, Violet had talked him down from that concept. I had no idea how she did it, Khaos scared the shit out of me but she had no fear of him, often standing up to him and putting him in his place, easily dismissing him with her attitude and sarcasm.
I wished I could be more like her - she was so confident in herself. In fact, I wished my mother could be more like her. She still hadn’t worked up the courage to introduce my father to her old friends. I knew she was concerned that he was... different to them but surely, they would understand that mates were mates - from what I had heard about the two of them if anyone were going to understand that you couldn’t help who you were mated to it would definitely be them.
Eros surprised me by taking my bags out of my hands and throwing them over his shoulder - he was always looking out for me and from the slump in my shoulders, I guess he thought I was struggling.
“Penny for them,” he grinned, making me smile. I guess I was wrong. He always knew when something was wrong. He always had.
It was still slightly awkward between us. We had always had an easy friendship, but since that day our parents met, things had been weird. I sometimes wondered if it was all me, that I had imagined the moment we almost kissed, or I was exaggerating what happened between us when we watched the moon together. Was it all in my head? Had I imagined something that wasn’t there? I had wanted to speak to Eros the next day about it, but he had smiled at me and continued in his normal friendly way, so I lost my nerve and tried to put it behind me. But I couldn’t. Would he have kissed me back if I had leant in a bit further? Was he holding my hand to comfort me, or was it something more?
“Sophia?” Eros asked, a frown creasing the skin between his eyes when I didn’t reply to him.”
“It’s just my mum,” I replied, “it’s not healthy the way she hides away.”
“Is it Jeremy?” He asked. He didn’t know exactly who Jeremy was, or what meant to us, how he connected to our lives, but he knew that there was something about him that kept my mum a prisoner of her own fear.
I nodded, “she’s so terrified of him finding us she won’t even let people visit our home.”
Eros simply shrugged, surprising me with his maturity as he responded, “She has her own reasons for doing what she does. I won’t lie, my mum has often asked me about the two of you. Both my parents know you’re not quite the same as us, but we both love you all the same. When you and your mum are ready, you’ll open up to us. In the meantime, don’t let your mum’s worries become your worries. You’re safe with us, my father will see that nothing happens to the three of you and I will always protect you, Sophia, never doubt that.”
I stopped outside my gates and looked down at the floor. I knew he wouldn’t want me if he knew what I truly was. “There are some things even your father can’t protect us from” I mumbled sadly, ignoring the comment he made about himself. I had fallen into the same trap last year. He had said things then that had sent butterflies skating around my stomach, and I didn’t know how to deal with the new way he made me feel. I thought not addressing it would help me get over how he was making me feel, but the more I kept silent, the more I strained against my own restrictions and yearned to let him know how I felt. It felt as though I was going to burst if I didn’t get it off my chest.
Eros grabbed my chin and raised my head to look at him. “Then you seriously underestimate what my dad is capable of - or what you mean to me” he placed a gentle kiss on my lips before turning around and heading back in the school's direction.
I watched his retreating frame until he was out of eyeshot, and still, I stared at the space he had been.
He was the best friend I had ever known, and I was so close to ruining everything by telling him… what? That I loved him? That I wanted to be more than his friend? I wished I had normal parents – I couldn’t exactly ask my mum about stuff like this. She was getting more and more paranoid of Jeremy and she would just dismiss my questions and tell me we had much more important things to be worrying about. I would know when the time was right. The bond would see to that.
I was sick of hearing about the bond.
The bond didn’t help when it came to the way I felt about Eros.
He was amazing. He never asked questions when it came to my family, always accepting what he knew without wanting more. I knew he wondered why he had yet to meet my father, why he was always busy on the nights my mum visited his pack.
We didn’t dare reveal him just yet. Experience had taught us that once they knew what he was, and in return what I was, we would be shunned. I was lucky that my smell was mostly wolf, but once other packs had found out, we were outcast before we even had a chance to collect our belongings.
We lived alone now - for a while, my uncle Owen had lived with us, but he left one day never to return. I was only three at the time and knew that he had more than likely returned to Jeremy’s pack to throw him off the scent. It would keep us safe if he was still in the pack pretending not to know us. That’s what my mother said, anyway, and I believed her more than I believed my dad. My father feared the worst, thinking that Alpha Jeremy had found him and killed him, and was constantly pushing us to move on, away from this place. He never wanted to put roots down for too long, and we had already been here well over a year.
Feeling as though the weight of the world was on my shoulders, I turned into the house just hoping and praying that Eros was telling the truth and he would never leave me. I had no idea why, but he called to me, to both my human side and the animals that lived within me.
“Sophia!” A childish voice called out. “Sophia!”
I turned just in time to catch Antheia as she threw herself into my arms. She was as beautiful as an angel, her long blonde hair streaming behind her. I loved her like my own little sister, and I was almost positive she loved me just as much in return.
“Hey, beautiful!” I grinned at her, setting her back down on her feet. “You’re looking more and more grown-up every time I see you!”
“Look!” She grinned, pushing her tongue through the gap between her teeth. She looked so adorable – and positively mad.
“When did you lose both of them?”
“Biting Axel,” she said proudly, pointing to the young pup who was shyly hiding behind the legs of his mother.
“Antheia,” I laughed, “you can’t bite people! We’ve talked about this.”
She folded her arms over her chest and stomped her little foot. “My dad said I could bite whoever annoyed me. Or he would bite them for me. Axel should say thank you it was only me. His whole head could fit in my dad’s mouth.”
“Your dad indulges you far too much,” I said, shaking my head.
It was true. Antheia was the most spoiled little girl I had ever come across. But for the most part, she was also the sweetest, kindest child there was. I had seen her many times helping the elderly members of her pack cross the road or offering to go into the shop for them – often adding to her stressed mum’s shopping list. There was just something about Axel. The two of them were friendly enemies.
“You sound like my mum,”
“Antheia!” Axel’s mum called, “it’s time to go home, princess!”
“Bye, Sophia!” She grinned, sticking her tongue through her teeth again before she ran over to join Axel and his parents. As soon as they were next to each other, they began to hit and scratch each other, causing his mum to pull them apart and instruct them to walk apart from each other. They made hand gestures behind his mum’s back.
I laughed as I watched them. Those two were going to be trouble when they were older.
I just hoped my parents let me stay around long enough to see it.
I turned the corner and refused to look back. I was mentally kicking myself for not telling her how I felt. For an entire year I had been focused on what had happened between us the night she spent at my pack. I kicked at the dirt as I walked, wishing I had an ounce of the self-confidence my dad possessed.
I grew up in a house where feelings were always discussed. Nothing was off the table, and nothing was off bounds. No matter what our questions were, my parents made sure that we were told the truth. I had known for a long age about sex and the way our bodies were designed to work. My dad had recently taken me to the side and had a chat with me, “man to man”, as he put it. He told me that he didn’t care who I saw a future with, so long as I treated my partner with respect. He told me his version of events about taking my mum from her pack – which was actually my mum’s version, since he couldn’t remember other than what she had told him. He said he was an arrogant bastard, and he never should have taken her that way. But in some regards, I respected him for that. He knew what he wanted, and he took his chance before someone took the woman he loved away from him.
And then there was me. I didn’t want to ask Sophia to spend the rest of her life with me, I just wanted the chance to hold her, to occasionally kiss her, to be privy to the way her mind works, her secrets. I wanted to be her boyfriend, as stupid as that sounded. I wanted her to care for me the way I cared for her. But I was too much of a coward to take my chance.
She just wanted to be my friend, and that shit hurt. It hurt more than I ever thought would be possible.
I heard the shouts of my name and I grinned as I responded to my teammates, sticking my middle finger up at them as they called me names and demanded I join the rest of the game. I put Sophia to the back of my mind as I rushed over to join practice. I had to accept that she didn’t feel the same way. I was young. There would be other girls.