Growing up, I was tossed from house to house.
And, considering my options were limited due to the sparse number of people there were, you would think that someone would have enough sympathy to take me in for good, to provide a home for me.
But, I was tainted. I had psychological issues, I was angry all the time, and I disrespected adults. Everyone was just too busy to worry about a child that wasn’t their own.
All except one, Karen Tucker, the only person akin to being a mother figure for me.
She was a young doctor-in-training, and I was her first step to becoming independent.
At the time, I couldn’t have been older than 9. I was a wiry, tall brat with a tendency to get myself into trouble with any superior I came across.
And she? Well, I hated her guts.
She had a face that screamed something was missing, whether it be that all her facial features were pinched to one place, or her nose was too round for her angular jaw. Her hair was long and platinum blonde, various braids she strategically placed throughout.
I never learned to braid, I never did anything with my hair, nor would let anyone touch it.
The first thing I had done when they introduced me to her was smirk and insult her face.
The thing about Karen, she was kind and patient, a small, knowing smile always on her thin lips that never wavered.
I had hated her with a passion, doing everything in my power to get her to be rid of me.
But, she was adamant that I was good, that I was worth keeping. The only people left in her family were her ancient grandmother who could barely blink her eyes open, her sick mother who she doesn’t talk to due to a past conflict that was never elaborated on, and unfortunately for me at the time, a younger brother by the name of Carter Tucker.
I remembered before Karen left for her doctor training every morning, she’d drop me off with her half-asleep grandma, and I’d become so angry. It were as if I was watching the grandma instead of her watching me. She was an irritated old woman who despised children, specifically me, and yelled at me for every little thing I did, demanding me to clean around her small shack-house.
Sometimes, Karen’s little brother would be there to watch over the nearly dead grandma. He was scrawny for a 12 year old and we’d chase and pick on each other, I mainly picked on him for his height considering I was younger and taller than him.
Carter and I essentially did not like each other at first, but he was something to do to prevent boredom.
There’s this one distinct memory where we combined our mischievous forces to accomplish a childish prank. His grandma had fallen asleep while watching us and we had gone to the nearest trading center to trade a few cents Carter had earned from carrying supplies from the supply truck every time they came back. We had bought a can of icing and giggled the whole way back to her house. We then proceeded to use a quarter of the can to smear the delectable chocolate icing across a dirty, sodden sponge. We put the sponge that looked like a cake on a chipped plate and sat it next to the sleeping old woman, so she’d have something to eat when she woke up.
As she bit into the sponge, me and Carter couldn’t hold back our giggles as she realized that it wasn’t a small cake. Her face had turned an ugly shade of red and she exclaimed my name in pure outrage. As punishment, she made us finish the rest of the can, and that didn’t sound much like a punishment at the time, but I had a bad tummy ache for days after.
When Carter wasn’t there with me, I’d run away from her small hell because it wasn’t as if she could chase me. People had come to know me as the troubled child I was, and would call Karen, so she could take me back to her Grandmas because Karen was the only one I’d let escort me.
Nearly half a year had passed and my 10th birthday had come and gone, and she... grew on me.
I remembered the day it really clicked that this could be my home when the usual deadline for me going back to the Foster Unit passed, and she had asked me if I wanted her to braid my hair.
I was as reluctant as could be to trust her, yet as she softly brushed my long tresses, I grew a liking to her. She was comfortable in money, and she smelled good, and I got used to her.
Raiders were running low in numbers despite the new recruits of people we received daily.
And, because of her profession, she had been obligated to go along with a supply truck in case someone were injured.
She had dropped me off with Carter and her sick mother instead of her Grandma that night, planted a kiss atop my head, and left with a wave.
It didn’t occur to me that that would be our last moment together, because I didn’t even bother to utter a goodbye.
Carter and I had fooled around all night, making forts out of tattered sheets and wooden posts and telling ghost stories and old folk tales to scare each other.
Then, the following morning happened.
They came with the news of Karen’s death, and asked if Carter’s mom would be willing to adopt me to which she replied she’s not stable enough to.
That was the last straw.
I didn’t smile much after.
“Benedict Greene you are being questioned in regards to the rebellion underground facility, and how it ran for nearly 10 decades without proper authority’s knowing.”
I silently regarded each wolf on the high council. The one who seemed to be in charge was hauntingly beautiful. Bronze skin and fine golden hair, a large Roman nose perched on his face that gave him a regal appearance, his malicious stare caused goose flesh to travel down my arms, selfishly happy that his glare wasn’t directed towards me. An amazon-like woman flanked his right, her jam colored hair pulled back in a tight braid, stretching her non-feminine facial features back. And to his right, stood an ebony-colored man with dreads brushing his waist, his shirtless, lean physique on full display, he silently watched with intelligent eyes, and I took a step back as we made intense eye contact, to which I quickly looked away.
The Alpha nudged my back, traveling here was absolute hell. His hovering personality clashed with my independent one, and we argued in his wheeling vehicle he called a car about how my behavior should be for this event.
He had told me all the rules he conjured up in his head for me, and insisted that I stick close to his side. I was convinced that I’d break all of his rules by the time that we got to the looming building, but now that I’m inside with these monsters, I decided that wouldn’t be the smartest of ideas.
We stood in a large white marble room with numerous historical paintings lining the walls, I glanced to my left and spotted a terrified looking Nova being coddled by the mongrel. He was anxious because of her anxiety, and I nearly vomited in revulsion as he softly cupped her face and leaned in close to skim his nose across her cheek. The Alpha shot me with a warning look as a sarcastic remark almost lurched out of my mouth.
We weren’t the only humans in this room, numerous recognizable faces were clustered in a group, but some, well some faces I couldn’t find.
I spotted Benedict Greene, an expert raider in his prime time, retired nearly three years ago at an old age, who was being questioned. His wife, Mary Greene, was a weeping mess in the cluster of people, and a wolf slapped her on the back of her head to shut her up. My fists clenched and I took a step forward, but the Alpha only shook his head with darkened eyes, and I received the message loud and clear.
Nova and I were separated from our people- the only wolf’s mates. I stood in a high podium with the Alpha, while everyone else are compiled to lower ground on a small platform, wolves guarding them in a square-like shape.
Benedict was the first to be questioned, he was the most violent and loud entering this area, which I’m assuming is why so.
He kept his mouth clamped shut and eyes straight ahead, not even bothering to spare the much more intimidating wolf a look.
After a few more beats of silence, the wolf in charge who I’ve come to know to address as Markus chuckled a wry, terrifying laugh, “So now you decide to be quiet?”
I’m not sure I’m familiar anymore with werewolf hierarchy, but from my inference, these guys are pretty damn important, maybe even more so than an Alpha, and disrespecting him will not go unpunished.
Benedict proceeded in his silence.
“Very well, if you do not wish to talk, I’m sure I can think of a way to convince you to do so,” He said calmly, gesturing to Mary Greene.
I gasped in horror as they roughly grabbed the hysteric woman who fought diligently to escape the intimidating wolf’s large arms, failing miserably as one of them grabbed her grey-peppered hair and pulled hard, causing her to yelp in pain.
Benedict’s face was a picture of pain as he witnessed his wife being forced to her knees as an aggressive wolf kneed her back. I leaned forward, it were as if I was watching a horrible dream play out right in front of me.
“Tear her shirt and whip her until he talks.” Markus seemed amused as he watched their pain.
Benedict looked at his wife with glistening tears, “It’s okay,” she whispered while maintaining eye contact with him, her voice cracking as they prepared to tear her dirty shirt.
“This isn’t fair,” I snarled, the Alpha only answered by grabbing my hand in what I assumed was his way of comforting me. I responded by wrenching it away from him.
“Better yet, he can do it.” Maniacal laughter echoed into the mausoleum like waves, vibrating into my bones and shaking my very essence.
This was a monster. This is what plagued my nightmares and why I decided to become a raider.
They didn’t even get to touch her before Benedict relented, his face the picture of defeat and heartbreak.
“I’m so sorry,” he let out a defeated whisper echoing off the walls. I knew it was directed at us- our people.
“We have spies, okay? We have humans with high positions who give us information! Now let her go, I beg of you!”
“Ben, don’t!” Mary cried.
My heart clenched as I was torn, he gave us away, but the expense of his wife was on the line, he couldn’t have just watched.
“How do you communicate with them without being seen by patrols?”
Benedict is nearly weeping as his eyes transitioned between the council and his sob-ridden wife.
“We used an electronic communication device, it had been in our care for generations, we destroyed it and any other evidence and connections once we were caught.”
“And, just what were you planning to do with all of that silver in the raiding truck, I know there is no purpose of bringing it if you were just going to steal supplies.”
Benedict paled, “I don’t-”
Markus interrupted Benedict with a hand motion, causing him to stop short and watch in horror as two werewolf soldiers stepped forward; one grabbed his wife to hold her in place while the other licked her porcelain back with the whip, causing her to let out a screech in pain.
I wanted to look away, but I couldn’t.
Just as he was going to strike her again, Benedict finished, “Our expert raiders had planned to kill an important werewolf ambassador that night with the silver! Only a select few were in on it!”
Markus guffawed, “Werewolves have been immune to silver for centuries, old fool!” He shook his head, then smiled sadistically while gesturing ominously to his wolves, they seemed to understand what that movement meant because with one quick blow, Mary Greene’s neck was sliced.
My legs fell out from underneath me, and the Alpha wrapped his arms around my waist to keep me upright, turning me around so that my face was pressed into his chest.
Small gasps left my mouth as I fisted his shirt, clinging to him like a life line.
“I’m so sorry, love. I won’t let that happen to you, hush cara, I’ve got you. I’m so sorry you had to witness that.” He murmured quietly in my ear as tears bled onto his expensive suit jacket.
This is the first time I’ve cried in seven years.
I tried my best to even my breathing, but the panic didn’t recede. With a push away from him, I spared a glance around, traumatized by what I’m seeing. Humans are in an uproar, wolves taking them down by force. We fought with everything we had, but in the end, it’s not enough. They’re faster, stronger and larger in numbers; they’d obliterate us.
Nova was shaking like a leaf in the mongrel’s arms, and I’m sure his repeated kissing the top of her head didn’t help.
“If everyone does not stand down, you will be executed!” Markus’s admission was effective because everyone stopped moving in fear, save for a few older men who were quickly put in their place. I watched some of our best raiders being knocked unconscious in the matter of seconds.
I wrenched my gaze away from the horrible sight in despair, innocent people are hurt because of these monsters, and I can’t do a thing.
But you can.
“Nova Dawson,” Markus called looking up from the list of names, searching for the small female, when he spotted her, he regarded her professionally and respectfully. She is a mate, she is held at a higher standard than our people.
“I’ve been made aware that your father, Devin Dawson, was appointed leader, do you know the whereabouts of him currently?”
I looked away from Nova and to Markus in shock, Devin is alive?!
I heard a hoot from the crowd and then a sound of something hard slapping against bone as a werewolf beat the boy to his back.
“N-no,” Nova whispered shakily, the mongrel came up behind her and clutched her hand, squeezing it for reassurance.
Markus scrutinized her under his nose for a couple of seconds before nodding his head, dismissing her indefinitely. And, then he looked up to me. I gasped as his amber eyes peered into the deep recesses of my mind.
The background noise faded and we became the only two people left in the large room. Icy chills traveled throughout my body, and sweat drenched my forehead, I could feel my face draining of color.
His mind was an open book in front of me. His memories there for me to explore, and mine, his. With meticulous care, I flipped a page and skimmed over its contents as a scene played out before me.
I saw a young boy who diligently fought his older brother, but it was as if no matter what he did, his brother already knew what move he was going to make. The boy was cut across his angelic face and let out a snarl, a warm feeling of rage spread throughout my body as he got back up to reciprocate. And then, Markus shut the book abruptly, effectively pushing me out.
We both reeled backwards when the odd feeling dissipated, leaving a migraine in its wake, Markus seeming to be thrown off his game while I sat in confused wonder. Regaining his composure, he furrowed his brows as he stuttered, “Mya Collins, come forward.”
I looked behind me to the confused and worried Alpha and asserted myself, “Don’t follow me, I don’t need your help.”
He whimpered, but let me go, not before grabbing a stray piece of hair from my drenched forehead and tucking it behind my ear.
Then, with all the courage I could muster, I walked towards Markus.
He regarded me in an once over, “Mya Collins, it is your duty to give up any information regarding the Rebel group-” something told me he already knew all of the information, that he had seen and now knows everything I know.
There’s something else going on here.
For some reason, him being unsure gave me confidence, I feel as if I have the upper hand. But, I couldn’t be too cocky.
I’m determined to negotiate the lives of my people, and am willing to do anything to save them.