Many, many years later.
I was blessed.
The Goddess had looked down on me and finally righted all that was wrong in my life.
Duke and I had spent so many years together, raising our pack of "misfits" and doing all that we could to ensure that they had the most stable, loving pack to grow up in. Together, we were reshaping their future, rerouting their path so they were no longer outcasts, delinquents, destined to repeat the mistakes of so many before them.
With our help, they now had prospects, ambitions, a dream to reach for in this scary, confusing world.
Thousands of wolves had passed through our packs. A lot of them were angry and borderline feral, some were timid, thrown out of their previous packs for being weak. By the time they left us - if they left us - they were strong, confident, trained to the best of their abilities.
It hadn't taken Duke a long time to come to terms with the fact that he would never be a father - after all, neither of us had god examples to learn from. The biggest thing he had struggled with had been the death of his friend.
Losing Khaos had changed him. He began to see evil in places where he had always seen good. He began to question people's motives and intentions, where before he had been willing to trust. I was okay, my heart was always well protected, but Duke's had been worn on his sleeve, and that had been a hard pill for me to swallow.
I didn't want Duke to change. That's when my wonderful friend, Alpha Theo, had stepped in. I don't know what happened on that long weekend away, and all Theo would ever tell me was that it was "men's stuff." Although he followed it up with a wink to let me know he was joking.
Just as Theo hadn't intruded on me and my secrets all those years ago, I let them keep theirs. Whatever he did, it seemed to work. Duke came back with his eyes ever so brighter than they had been before, and that was enough for me. I dedicated my time to replacing his unhappy memories with some happy ones, determined to show him that the world was not evil - there were just evil people. But that's what our pack was for.
We would protect anyone against the evil forces that joined together to ruin lives.
As for myself? I had a secret, special place in my heart for Khaos. I would always regret that I hadn't had a chance to get to know him, that I never got to let him know who and what I was to him. We were cousins, and I would always treasure the brief moment I got to know him - even when he was being an ass to me. I understood that anger.
Over the years, there had been a few rumours that Khaos had been spotted, but all of our research proved fruitless. We searched, but nothing ever came to light and so we let it go. If the rumours were true and he was somehow still out there... well, I had to trust that he believed that he was doing what was best for him. He wasn't one to run and hide, so there had to be a reason why.
I didn't fully believe that though. In my heart, I knew that Khaos was dead. He had been slaughtered by the parents of his mate. I had heard that she was pregnant at the time of his death, and so perhaps the sightings of Khaos were actually those of his doppelganger son. I was tempted to try and hunt them down, but would that achieve anything? What could I bring to their life, other than heartbreak and sorrow?
Surely I would just be a reminder of all that they had lost?
Would they even trust me, knowing who my true father was?
So, I kept putting it off, and as the years went by, I lost my courage. Too much time had passed and it felt wrong to intrude. I became embarrassed, fearful... So I kept Khaos and his family in my heart, and I prayed for them every day.
"Penny for your thoughts?" Duke asked, sitting down next to me and interrupting my reminiscing. I had been sat on the stone steps of the packhouse, smiling the odd Hello in response to a greeting. But mainly I had been watching the pack members come and go, the way they interacted with each other, the little things they did to make life easier for one another.
We really had achieved something remarkably special here. Over the years, the weight I had worked so hard to shed had slowly crept back on. But it didn't matter. Duke worshipped my body, no matter what size I was. If anything, the curves I now possessed seemed to turn him on more than ever.
"I was just thinking how lucky I am - how lucky we are. And remembering those that perhaps haven't been so lucky."
"That's all we can do, Grace. We cannot change the past, as much as we might like to some times. So long as we hold the memory of our loved ones close to our hearts, they're never truly gone. Their legacy will live on through us, and all that we do to ensure that they are remembered.
I smiled at him and rested my head on his shoulder, tucking my face close into his neck and running my lips softly against the mating mark I had made. I felt his skin move and knew that his own face was breaking out in a smile similar to my own.
If we were lucky, we would have many, many more years like this together.
We sat like that a while, only moving to link our fingers together when a commotion at the gates startled us.
"Alpha! Luna! There's something at the gates!"
"SOmething?" I asked with a frown, getting to my feet instantly.
"She's... well she's a wolf, Luna, sort of..."
"Sort of? Is she a null?" I asked, remembering all the times that word had been thrown at me when my parents fooled the pack into thinking my wolf didn't exist. It would make sense that a null would seek us out for protection.
"No Luna, her wolf is there, and believe me when I say that's one powerful fucking wolf. But she's something else.. something.. more."
"Open the gates. We're coming."
I looked at Duke and he nodding slightly, giving me his support. We had never turned anyone away before, and we weren't about to start now.
"What is happening here?!" I gasped as we reached the gates. 6 of our guards had this young woman pinned to the floor, but even in the mass of bodies, her aura was remarkable.
It was a shame about her appearance.
But I'm sure underneath all that blood and dirt, there was a remarkably stunning woman to be found. The amazing clarity in her blue eyes was a stark example of her beauty.
"It appears your wolves can't handle a bit of blood - let's hope none of them ever saw Carrie. Can you imagine their reaction to the prom scene? It's embarrassing actually."
"Release her," I demanded, ignoring her sarcasm.
"Luna... She killed our best guard."
"Oh please," the stranger laughed, "I showed him mercy. If my mate found out that another man had laid hands on me like that guard did.. wow. Let's just say his ending wouldn't have been anyway near as pleasant as the one I delivered to him. You heard your Luna, kindly remove yourselves, or I'll have to do it for you."
One of our more cocky guards laughed at her, "I find that hard to believe considering we're the ones who have you pinned down. You don't have a limb free to budge an inch, nevermind throw us off you."
"Oh, I do love a challenge," she grinned.
I stumbled back as I watched the transformation take place. Gone was the beautiful, dishevelled young woman, and in her place laid the largest, angriest looking bear I had ever seen.
The guards were thrown off her as her arms more than doubled in size, her torso swelling, her snout enlarging.
The guards had stumbled back as well, but they quickly gained their composure and shifted themselves, circling her in their wolves forms. I could tell by the glazed look in their eyes that they were using the pack link to communicate with each other, planning the best form of attack to bring this beast down.
She flipped herself onto all fours and projected out to me, "call them off. Now!"
"How did you--"
"Now, Grace. I won't ask you again."
"Wolves! Stand down! She is not a threat to us! She would have attacked you all by now, and yet she hasn't budged an inch! Let's not test her patience, shall we?"
One by one, the wolves obeyed the command of their Luna and shifted back, glaring at the bear in the middle of them.
The woman waited until the last wolf had shifted and only then did she allow herself to shift back.
But she wasn't done yet.
She looked down at her naked body and made eye contact with me, grinning smugly for a brief moment before she closed her eyes and whispered under her breath.
My mouth fell open as clothes appeared on her body.
"Cool party trick, huh? If I could find out how to bottle that, I would sell it for megabucks. Strippers would pay a lot of money to have that in reverse, but I guess I'm shit out of luck."
"How..." I repeated for the second time, at a loss for words.
"I messed with a God that I had no business messing with. But that's my burden to carry and it's not why I'm here."
"Why are you here?" Duke asked, stepping in front of me ever so slightly.
The woman rolled her eyes, "I'm of no threat to your Luna."
"With all due respect, I'll make that decision on my own, and until I know why you're here, she stays where she is and I stay where I am."
She sighed dramatically and for a brief moment, I swear the blue in her eyes flashed red, but it was gone before I really had time to register what I saw. "As it happens, Duke, I don't actually have anything to say to you." She locked eyes with him and I watched in horror as his feet were lifted off the ground, and almost as if he was being taken away by a gentle breeze, he floated to the side, landing back on his feet with a soft pad.
"Please, don't push me. These powers are not meant for good, and it takes a lot of effort on my part to hold back."
"Luna Grace, I apologise for the way I first meeting took place. This wasn't what I intended."
"Why are you here?" I demanded
"That's not really what you want to know, is it? You want to know exactly what I am. Well, my name is Antheia, and I'm a hybrid. Part wolf, part bear. I wasn't born this way, not like my sister in law Sophia - she's a wolf and a panther. No, this particular gift is courtesy of a mister Alpha Jeremy, and his warped experiments. "
"That's impossible!" Duke raged but Antheia simply glared a look of derision his way.
"Doesn't pure ignorance just speak to the evil in your soul? You watched me become a bear, your wolf is practically begging to submit to mine. Don't embarrass yourself any further by ignoring the obvious facts. I'm a hybrid, and your fear and lack of understanding won't change that."
"So... so what can I do for you?" I asked, wetting my lips nervously.
"I need your help." She replied, looking back in my direction.
"Yes. Your help," she mocked and then looked at me sheepishly, biting her lower lip, suddenly appearing much younger and more vulnerable than she had been. "I'm sorry - my attitude sometimes gets the better of me. I am my father's daughter after all."
"And who is your father?"
"Khaos?!" I spluttered, "but that's... that's -- "
"Impossible?" She interrupted with a laugh.
"He was. I don't have much time to explain, but trust me when I say he's not dead." She reached into her back pocket, rolling her eyes once more as the guards around her tensed, "oh relax, are you guys on steroids or something? I'm getting my phone. Flick through that," she demanded, tossing the device my way. "You'll see years of pictures of me, Khaos, my mother Violet, my brother Eros, and my darling little niece Vivian."
My eyes misted over as I did as instructed, seeing the happy family, their entire life flickering before my eyes. "I can't believe it... I don't understand."
"Grey sacrificed his brother to the God Hades to bring back my father from the dead - I'm sorry for your loss, or I'm happy for you. I don't know your feelings towards your father, so take your pick which one. But all I'll say is that the world became a better place when Fang left it. Now, back to why I'm here. I know everything. I know you know who I'm talking about when I mention Grey and Fang. I know your connection to my father. And I know you're the only one I can turn to right now. You better start believing in the impossible, Grace, because I need your help."
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