~12 years later~
I watched the males with intense scrutiny. My eyes zeroing in on the way their back muscles flex and the sun-kissed tan skin that was before me. The way their forms bent and arched as they listened to my instruction. My eyes were looking for any signs of weakness within my fighters. As usual, I found little to none. Despite their dislike and contempt towards me being their warrior trainer, they listened to superiority. Only because Alpha Connors would more than likely have their head if any of them showed signs of disrespect towards me. That’s happened once before, and Alpha Connors made sure it never happened again.
On their own accord, my eyes sought after Mason, the son of Alpha Connors, and my heart clenched inside my chest. As the next in line to be Alpha, Mason needed to attend all of the training that a regular pack warrior goes through.
I wouldn’t call myself the strictest of leaders, but my training was definitely brutal. As the only female to ever be assigned the pack warrior’s leader, I needed to prove my worth to the rest of the bunch. Within the ring, I was respected and feared. No one picked a fight with me. No one challenged me. I was the best of the best. A warrior for a reason. But outside of the training grounds, within the actual pack, I was discriminated against. Frowned upon for not being born in like all of the rest.
“Rivers, please, give us a break. My arms are ready to fall off their sockets!” Gabirel, one of the only wolves who spoke to me in such a way, groaned from across me. They’ve been up since seven in the morning and it was now nearing noon. I glanced at my watch, scrunching my nose at how fast time went by. I suppose that was enough for today.
Nodding my head, I waved my hand in dismissal. “One more lap around the border and you’re free to go for the day!” I shouted, smiling mischievously at all the groans I heard from the fellow male warriors. “In wolf form,” I added, feeling quite generous for the day. They’d be able to knock out the lap in less than five minutes in wolf form. The series of groans went to small sighs of relief in seconds as each of them jumped into a shift. In no time, the sound of harsh paws pounding the dirt ground was heard. My small smile was bittersweet as I looked at Mason Connors’ Alpha wolf. His fur was a beautiful milky brown with eyes of golden-honey and he stood much taller than all the other wolves. His large built representing power. Control. Alpha.
It also just so happened that Mason Connors was my mate. I had known we were mates since the day I first shifted at ten years old. Much, much younger than all the female and male wolves together. I told no one and said nothing to Mason until the day he shifted at fourteen years old. A year after I shifted, since we’re three years apart. The irony of it all being that I am still unaccepted by the pack. You are part of the pack if you are born into it, or mated with another from it. Yet, even though I am destined to be mates with none other than the future Alpha of the pack, Mason wants nothing to do with me.
At eleven years old, heart break came after me again. The Moon Goddess once again destined me for another life without love. The moment Mason found out we were mates, he shunned me. He did not reject me, no. He did something worse. Ignored me and mated with all the other females around him. It was an unbearable agony, as I was always able to tell when he would bed another she-wolf.
I felt the kisses he gave her. I felt the gentle caress of his touches on my skin. But they were never real. Mason was a cocky, egotistical jerk and though I’ve tried many times to reject him, he’s never accepted it. A rejection only works when both parties reach a mutual understanding. The only reason Mason hasn’t accepted my rejection is because he wants me to continue to feel pain. He wants me out of the pack and as soon as he becomes Alpha, that’s exactly what he plans to do. I could challenge him for the Alpha title. I know I would win against him. I’ve seen him spar and fight and I took note of the weakness in his left shoulder as he goes in for a kill and the other few minor errors in his form that leave him open and vulnerable for attack. My job is to fix those errors, but as my own form of revenge, I am satisfied simply knowing I could hurt him back if needed. I’ll never challenge him for the title. In fact, the only reason why I’m still in the pack is because of Alpha Connors. My only friend in this pack. The only one to ever show acts of compassion and kindness. I stay because there is no where else to go from here. But I also know Alpha Connors is nearing his deathbed. Old age is nearing.
Since his mate, the Luna, died in the same attack that killed my pack, it significantly decreased his lifespan. I thought losing your wolf was enough to kill you, but as it turns out, losing your soul mate was much, much worse. It aged Alpha Connors ten times then a usual wolf. He was going to be with his mate soon again. And I think he was rather fond of that thought. His smiles were always forced, but whenever he looked at me, a spark lit his eyes.
Apparently, his mate had crossed the border into my own pack to meet up with the Luna, my mother. During their conference, the rogues attacked and Alpha’s Connors’ mate almost got away. She was found a mile from the Black Moon’s border. She was unscathed and no flames had reached her skin. But her neck was torn. Alpha Connors was trekking through the woods after having been scarred for life at the sight of his mate. It was a last minute decision to save me. To take me with him. He didn’t even have to vocalize his thoughts. I knew I was just a means of filling the empty void in his heart. Someone else to remind him of his loss and instead make the most out of it.
I never told him what had happened. Never told him a rogue ‘killed’ me. I never told him about my brother that must have gotten away because his body was never found. I didn’t want anyone knowing too much of my history. I didn’t need to give the Moon Goddess another reason to curse me. I didn’t need to get close to anyone ever again because there was always a possibility they would be taken from me.
Though Mason’s constant fooling around hurt like pouring salt on an open wound, I was glad. I wouldn’t have to worry about falling for his charms or distract myself by his all-too kissable lips. He was my mate. I would always feel an attraction towards him. But I also can’t remember a time where love ever felt right. Love only ever brought on heartache and loss. I didn’t need any more of that in my life.
Lately though, it seems Mason has settled down. He’s found a girl that’s not his mate. A girl that has motherly instincts and a deep caring attitude. All the characteristics for a perfect Luna. I didn’t blame him one bit. She was perfect and as she was nearing twenty, having yet to find her true mate, it only seemed reasonable to settle down with the pack’s next Alpha.
I would never make a good Luna, let alone a good mate. I was nothing but damaged goods and the only thing I was ever good at was surviving the unthinkable. I’ve survived burns and bites meant to kill me. I’ve survived the pain of my own mate bedding multiple other women. I’ve survived my entire family being ripped away from the tip of my fingers. I can survive anything thrown my way.
“Rivers, Alpha wants to see you in the pack house.” I nodded my head silently in response to Sara. Sara was probably the only female who ever spoke to me like I wasn’t gum under the bottom of her shoe. She was sweet. She tended to newborns and children in the pack hospital. Sara wasn’t a wolf built for combat in the field, but she still claims to enjoy watching the training sessions to see if any of the men get hurt. She also insists that it still surprises her to see how well they listen to a woman in charge. Apparently, no matter what day and age it is, sexism is still apparent.
I blinked, pausing in my thoughts, as I began to walk away from the pack training grounds. The pack house was not far away, and still I took my time. I relished in the slight wind blowing in the air and almost smiled at the sun glaring down on me. It was a perfect day for a run and I was planning on doing just that after my talk with Alpha Connors. I don’t usually go on runs in my wolf form anymore. The last time I did was a nightmare. The full moon was close and I went for a run at night when all the other unmated wolves went to have some fun.
Since it was relatively rare to actually find your mate, couples often found spouses in their own packs or neighboring packs. Our species has grown dramatically over the years we’ve been roaming this earth, and as a result, mates had been scattered all throughout the world. To this day, I still can’t figure out why the Moon Goddess gets to be in control of choosing your mate. It’s so very cruel that she gets to have a say in your other half, but your other half is across the country.
I should consider myself lucky that I found my soulmate in a neighboring pack, but I’m not. If this was the destiny the Moon Goddess had in store for me, She is far more cruel than I thought.
As I stepped inside the mansion that was the pack house, I frowned. The smell was discreet, but somehow familiar. Like long ago I had smelled this very same scent. I shrugged off the thought, making my way up the spiral staircase to Alpha Connors’ room. He still slept in the same bed as he did with his wife all those years ago. Just as he still kept the pictures of her throughout the house and in his room. He still fluffed up the pillows on the right side of the bed where she always used to sleep. He left the spot open for her, even though everyone knew she was never coming back. It still brought him comfort. I caught on to his unwillingness to let go of her memory rather quickly. Yet, I never brought it up. Some things are better left unsaid and if keeping his mate’s memory alive even though it was killing him inside was his way of grieving, then so be it.
“You wished to see me, Alpha?” My voice was confident when I stepped inside his neat and organized looking room. Just as the Luna always liked it, or so I’ve been told. I was never sure if he knew his son and I were mates, but Mason nor have I ever told him, and if he does, he’s never let on that he does know. Mason might be a vindictive, soulless person to me, but he’s never wished to upset his father even more. Alpha Connors and I share a bond that no one else does in this pack. While I am not blood related and I don’t believe I will cry when his time comes, he is the closest thing I have to call father since my own burned to death twelve years ago.
Alpha Connors looked up from the book he was currently invested in. He looked so much older from when he had rescued me from the decaying bodies years ago. Deep wrinkles etched around his aging skin. Permanent frown marks lined the edges of his mouth, and his salt and pepper hair now looked to be shorter- almost falling out altogether. His dark brown eyes stayed lively as ever when he looked at me, though.
He smiled at me. It was weird. His smile was not the one he usually gave me. This one was sad. A sad smile. He seldom ever gave me of his signature pitying smiles, but for some reason, tonight he was. “Ahh, Evelyn, how was training today? Hope the boys didn’t give you too much trouble.”
My name was Evangelina. Not even my family called me Evelyn. But since rescuing me, it’s all the Alpha has ever called me. What was even more sad, was to find out that his Luna died while pregnant with a baby girl. They were going to name her Evelyn.
Sara was the one to tell me that one day after she had seen how upset I got. I didn’t want to be Evelyn. I wanted to be Evangelina. But after finding out that story, I never complained again. From then on, I was officially Evelyn Rivers.
“Training went well. They only complained a little, but that’s to be expected. Who actually likes running up to ten miles around pack borders and sparring for two hours straight?” I quirked a smile, still at odds about his unusual manner. He was more upbeat around me sure, but never this… interested. Never this vocal about what was going on his pack. To be frank, after Mason shifted into his wolf for the first time, the Alpha stopped performing a lot of his roles around the pack and left them to burden Mason’s shoulders instead. I still never agreed with it. Mason should have got to experience a childhood free from Alpha responsibilities, but he never complained. Mason was the dutiful son and took on the Alpha duties like a champ. It was probably the only quality I adored about him: his work ethic.
Other then that, Mason was a heartless bastard.
The Alpha beckoned me closer, putting his book down. As I sat beside him, the same scent from earlier hit me full force. And still, I couldn’t quite place my finger on what it was.
“Tell me, Evelyn. Be truthful. Is he ready?” There was hope in his voice. A slight uncertainty in it that made me heart wrench. For a moment, I wanted to spite Mason. I wanted to tell Alpha Connors how easily Mason could be taken out with a few simple moves. I wanted to tell him Mason didn’t care about his pack. I wanted to tell him Mason would not raise his future children in a correct manner. I wanted to tell him Mason was not fit to be the Alpha. But I would be lying. And I was so much better than that, wasn’t I?
So, swallowing my pride, I nodded my head. “Yes, Alpha. He’s ready.”
And suddenly, pain hit me again. I was going to lose Alpha Connors. He was going to be relieved from being an Alpha, and then I really would have no one left.
A part of me was fine with it. I wanted a reason to leave. But then Mason became Alpha, I was most certainly going to be cast out of the pack. Then what? I couldn’t join a new one. That was against Lycan rule. One cannot join another pack without being mated to someone in the following pack or they are born into it.
Yet, Alpha Connors took me under his wing and invited me into his pack- without ever knowing I was mated to his son. Was he breaking pack rules for me? Where on earth would I go from here.
“Will you promise me something, Evelyn?” He placed his hands on mine, and suddenly I began to panic. Alpha’s hands were ice cold. Like icicles clinging onto me.
“Alpha! Why are you so cold wha-” that’s when I noticed it. On the side of his bed, on a nightstand where his reading glasses sat, laid an empty bottle of pills.
Oh, Fated Gods no.
“No,” I whispered, emotion seeping into my voice. I told myself I wouldn’t cry when his time came but Goddess this wasn’t fair. “Alpha, no.” That’s what I had been smelling. The scent of decay began to linger in the air. I remembered the smell from being around my own parents those years ago. Alpha Connors was slowly dying right before me.
“Hush, my little Evelyn. I told you I’d protect you. Now, I need you to protect yourself. You’ve been such a kind soul these years I’ve greatly enjoyed watching you grow and I bet your parents were looking after you as well,” he smiled, a pained smile. My lips quivered, helplessness taking over my demeanor.
There was nothing I could do. I could smell the organs shutting down. I see how much it hurt him to breathe. As if each word pained him more and more.
His grip became stronger. “Promise me, Evelyn. You’ll find happiness. Protect your mate at all cost when you find him, yes? I’ve taught you how to fight and how to protect yourself. You’re going to do so much good for your wolves, Evelyn. I’m so sorry about my son. But I promise, know the Moon Goddess has something better in store for you.”
He knew? “Alpha, how did- what…” I couldn’t talk. I could barely move. The color began to drain from his face. The kind eyes now dulling even more. The grip on my hands loosened considerably.
“He is ready, Evelyn. And so are you.”
Just like that, the second father figure in my life died. This time, right in front of me. He slumped over onto me, and I let out one of the most painful cries I could muster.
I couldn’t stop myself. It was as though I was taken back to the hours spent lying with my dead parents, hoping and praying for them to come back to me and make everything better.
At the sound of my strangled cry, the door burst open and several scents hit me at once. But I couldn’t move from my position.
The world around me became but a distant background buzz. Alpha Connors was dead.
Finally, I was pulled apart from the dead Alpha and pinned with a dark look from Mason. His lips moved, but I couldn’t hear anything. I watched as several others laid the Alpha on his bed. Probably not knowing what to do with him yet. We weren’t prepared for a funeral so soon.
Mason’s hateful glare made my stomach churn but I was too numb to acknowledge him. I was not going to sit there and be blamed for the Alpha’s death.
“What did you do to my father?” He seethed, full angry Alpha mode taking over. I looked at him blankly, not responding. Silent tears continued to slide down my cheeks as much as I hated it. I had never shed a single damn tear in front of anyone but Alpha Connors.
Still, I remained silent. All at once, my heart felt like it broke a little more. Another crack adding to the emotional torment brought on by life. Another crack and I fear it may break into a million uncharted pieces. It would never be put back together.
As if the Moon Goddess Herself heard my thoughts, Mason’s next words were enough to break the whole damned thing apart.
“I, Mason Connors, reject you as my mate.”
There it was. The final straw.
I suppose I should’ve seen it coming.
The only monotone words I could whisper in my lifeless voice were “I accept your rejection.”
The tears no longer fell. My heart was in tattered pieces, but I would not cry over Mason Connors. I would not cry over what never was or was never there to begin with.
Mason walked away without a second glance, leaving me broken and numb in his father’s room.
An orphan again.
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