I ducked as a hard fist came for my face. Crouched, I swung my leg to trip Liam, only to have him dodge it and grab my ankle, making me stand up on one foot. I used the momentum against him and spun into the air, knocking him in the chest with my other foot. I leaped backwards, doing a flip and steadying myself with my hands.
Letting go of my foot, Liam stumbled back, clenching his chest and smiling at me for a second while catching his breath. In an instant, he was back in front of me, aiming another punch for my midsection. I deflected his blow by jumping to the side, and latching onto his wrist, and twisting it behind his back.
Liam jerked his leg out and hit my knee, making me lose my balance and let go of his arm. He spun rapidly, charging into me and knocking me onto the mat in a heap.
I ignored the ache in my head as it hit the mat and kept going. I kneed him in the stomach and used his momentary distraction to roll on top of him, grabbing his hands and pinning them to his sides, sitting on his legs.
Liam didn’t fight me, even though we both knew he was five times stronger than I was. He could have easily overthrown me. That’s why I had to learn to use momentum instead of brute strength while fighting—I was too weak to be considered dangerous otherwise.
“Time!” Claire and Derek shouted simultaneously from the corner of the wrestling room, signaling the end of our match. “Liam—8. Elana—12.” I smirked and got up, offering him a hand. He grabbed it, but hardly used my support as he got up.
“Good job, little sister. Next time, I won’t go so easy on you.”
We both knew I could have won, even if he did try to overpower me there at the end. I let it slide, though. I strode over to the coat rack on the side of the wrestling room to grab my over-sized hoodie and sweat pants, slipping them on over my tank top and shorts.
“Your turn,” Liam said, pointing at Claire. She eagerly jumped up from her spot in the corner next to Derek and yanked off her own hoodie and sweats. We were alike in more ways than one.
Claire and Liam have been wrestling ever since she woke up six days ago. At first, he was surprised at her strength and skill, getting his butt whooped every time. Then he started to figure out how to use momentum and actually stood a chance. Granted, Claire still always won.
I took Claire’s chair and signaled them to start as Derek pressed start on the timer at the same time. In the matter of seconds, Claire had Liam’s body pinned to the floor, unable to move. His face was red with either struggle, anger, or embarrassment, but at this point I could guess it was the latter.
The moment Liam arrived, Spencer tried a bunch of things on him, trying to figure out why his mind control didn’t work. Spencer tried time and time again to wipe his mind of just the simplest things, but just hours later, he would remember it again. We still have no clue why, but in the meantime, Stephan wanted some to take some self-defense like I had to. Only they wanted him to work more on using momentum, not guns like I had to. Junto was his instructor, but Liam still insisted on practicing with us every day before dinner.
Derek pressed stop on the timer, proving they only wrestled for a few seconds. Jumping up, Liam and Claire started another match. Derek pressed start and the wrestling match began. Claire lunged at Liam, grabbing for his legs. He jumped to the side, spinning around on top of her and crushing her with his weight. Claire twists under him and flips her body so their positions are reversed. Twisting his arm, she uses her extra strength to turn him around on the floor so his back is on the mat. Liam bucked against her, trying to keep his back off the mat. However, with Claire’s extra strength, he had no choice but to admit defeat.
Derek pressed stop on the timer and Liam frustratingly got to his feet, swinging his fist in the air. He wasn’t used to losing, especially to his little sister’s best friend.
Derek and I watched closely as Claire tried to show Liam how to avoid what just happened. I’ve got to admit, I was pretty entertaining watching my teacher from age five be taught by a girl younger than him.
My humor evaporated when I remembered why he was here. No matter what Trysten or Nathan said, I knew all this was going to blow up in our faces any time. I just hope I can get us out of this mess before someone else gets hurt.
Apparently, there were four Shade packs in the area—the Blackmoor Shade Pack, Night Shade Pack, South Shade Pack, and the Thornton Shade Pack. Each pack had their own family color of some sort. The Blackmoors were purple, Souths yellow, Thorntons blue, and the Nights green.
When I walked into my room the day Claire woke up, I saw a chartreuse dress lying on my bed. It had a tight fit on the top, complete with modest short sleeves, then flowed right under my chest. Layers of thin fabric worked together to reveal a deep, solid color on the bottom. In-between the two layers was a silver beaded belt sewed into the fabric.
Now that it was finally time to wear it though, I couldn’t find my motivation to enjoy it.
I reluctantly pulled the dress on. I hated dresses, they made me feel like I had to look and behave perfectly. I very much preferred to stick to my jeans and T-Shirt, but I guessed that might be inappropriate in this case.
Liam doesn’t have to go, and neither do Derek and Spencer. I envied them. Liam was too soon added to the pack and needed to be registered, Derek was too young, and Spencer was picked to stay home and babysit the two. Lucky him.
I finished zipping my dress and ran into the bathroom, seeing Claire already in there with her make-up and hair supplies scattered across the long counter. Claire’s dress was similar to mine, but it was an emerald silk and had a gold belt instead of silver. She was applying some black mascara, making her bright blue eyes pop. Her wet hair was pulled into a clip, still not having been done. I joined her, grabbing her make-up and applying it lightly. I also didn’t like make-up. It made me feel fake.
The dress really wasn’t my color. It made my already pasty skin look even more ghostly, and my blonde hair look too light. Next time we go out, I am picking my own dress. Maybe one that will go with my looks instead of against them.
Claire helped me with trying to make me blend better with my dress by applying my make-up. She twisted my hair into a loose side bun, slightly tucking my bangs into it. She left a few tendrils of crimped blonde hair out of the bun and a silver hair clip. After sticking a few bobby-pins into my head to hold it still, even I couldn’t deny that I loved my hair-do.
Claire curled her newly-died black hair and stuck some bobby-pins in it, keeping it secured to the left side. She also added gold dangling earrings, a few bangles, completed with a matching necklace, and she looked stunning.
“Why do we have to go to this thing, anyway?” I asked, digging through Claire’s jewelry box for some accessories to complete my look.
“I actually don’t know. I’m guessing it’s just an annual thing to make sure all the packs don’t try to kill each other,” Claire said from next to me, sticking a few more bobby-pins to secure her hair.
“Then why do we have to come? We will be leaving soon anyway.” I picked up another silver necklace, held it up to my dress, and put it back.
Claire tightened at my words. I guess she hasn’t thought about leaving. She resumed her posture. “Well, you can ask them once we get down there.”
I nodded and huffed in frustration. I would never find the right necklace. Closing the jewelry box, I stepped away from it. “You ready?”
Claire looked at her reflection in the mirror one last time before turning to me. “Let’s get this over with.”
I slipped into my silver pumps, Claire in her gold ones. Why they thought it was a good idea for me to wear heels? Beats me. With the heals, I was as tall as Goliath.
Claire hooked her arm with mine and started towards the stairs. She was used to wearing heels, so she was my stability for the night.
Everybody but Jules was already gathered in the foyer, dressed up. Hyene was in a beautiful green dress similar to my color, but made of a shiny silk like Claire’s. She had done a French twist in her hair, which was straightened, and she looked beautiful. You could tell she’s done this before.
Lydia had a forest green dress on, and Stephan’s bow tie matched it. He looked sharp in his tuxedo, which every guy wore.
My breath hitched and I lost my footing as I saw Nathan. Claire grabbed my arm to steady me, her strength holding me up as I placed my feet back under me.
He was in a tux, like his father, but he made it look sin-worthy. His black slacks clung loosely to his hips, black vest covering a pure white tuxedo shirt. He had on a bow tie that was the same color as Claire’s dress, but he made it look so much better with his combed black hair and melting chocolate eyes.
I realized my jaw was hanging open and I closed it quickly, feeling embarrassed I was gawking at him again. Claire and I descended the stairs quickly; I didn’t like having all the attention.
I noticed Junto’s bow tie was the same color as my own dress and it finally snapped in my head. They had arranged our dates. A twinge of jealousy and hurt raced up my spine. I tried to force it to stop. It doesn’t matter that Claire is paired up with Nathan. It’s not like they are dating or anything. And besides, you have no right to him.
But even with my internal monologue, I knew I was just lying to myself. And more than anything, I hated that it bugged me so much.
Junto smiled at me. “You look ravishing tonight, my dear,” he said in a playful tone. He obviously saw this as a joke or something.
I couldn’t help but smile back. I think I’ve spoken to Junto a total of three times since I’ve been here, but I like him. He’s really sweet. But, apparently he’s Nathan’s best friend too. Good thing he is nothing like him. “As do you, my dear sir.”
And I wasn’t lying. This may not have been my color, but it was his. It accented his dark skin perfectly and made his eyes pop. He stuck out his arm, bent at an angle. “Shall we?”
I grabbed hold of his arm. This seemed so normal to him. Like he has done this a thousand times. I was grateful that he knew what to do, but at the same time, it irritated the crap out of me. What kind of organization has a nineteen year old already used to events like this?
“So, I have a confession to make,” I whispered at Junto, trying to make sure nobody over hears our conversation. Even though they are all Shape Shifters and I knew they very well could.
Junto looks at me expectantly. “I have never been to a formal event. Well, unless you count funerals.”
Junto cracks a smile, obviously entertained by my nervousness. “Don’t worry. As long as you stay by me all night, no harm shall come to you.”
I gave him a sarcastic smile and lightly elbowed him in the ribs, but I doubt he even felt it due to his rock-hard abs. No wonder him and Nathan were such good sparring partners.
“So what is this thing we’re going to?”
Junto’s lips quirk up slightly. “Sorry, I guess I’m not used to people not knowing what’s going on. This is a Shade pack meeting. Every year, we have four of these, just where we show up and make sure we don’t all kill each other. But, it is also when the common Shifters can imprint.”
Junto’s face went pale as soon as the words left him mouth. Was he not supposed to tell me?
“What’s an imprint?”
Junto looks around to room, scanning everybody around us nervously. He has officially confirmed my suspicions. I wasn’t supposed to know. “Junto,” I press.
He looks back in my direction, but looks anywhere but my face. He stares above my head. “Yeah, it’s this thing where one Shifter’s spirit recognizes another Shifter’s spirit as their soul mate, so they do this kind of bonding thing that unites their spirits.”
Why was I not supposed to know that? “And that can only happen at these events?”
Junto shifts him gaze to his shoes. “Yeah, but—“
Stephan cleared his throat, capturing the attention of the room. Junto looks relieved and looks up at his leader, still avoiding my gaze. “Okay, so we are going to separate into vehicles to save some parking. Hyene, how about you take Jules, Claire and Elana in your car. Junto, take your truck and drive Nathan, Blake and Trysten. I will drive with my wife and meet you there.”
Everybody waits for Stephan to head for the door before dispersing into their assigned cars. I hadn’t seen Jules until now, but I silently wished I hadn’t. I don’t know what else I was expecting, but I guess perfection wasn’t it.
She had on a perfect strapless dark green dress. It hugged her body gently to the waist, then puffed out slightly as it came down to her ankles in a similar manner to my dress. Silver beads covered her torso in a random pattern and her hair was curled and pinned to the side, also having a few sparkles in it.
To say at the least? She could have been mistaken as a goddess.
Why did she have to be so dang perfect?
I brushed off my jealousy and hopped in the back seat of Hyene’s car. Her signature pop music echoed lightly from the speakers, barely loud enough to hear the words. Instead, Jules was rambling, talking about how this was going to be ′the night’ and how she would meet ′the one’. My eyes fluttered, obviously not interested in what Jules was talking to Hyene about in the front. Instead, I stared out the window, watching the snow-covered trees pass by in a blur.
I have been training non-stop. I didn’t think it was possible to be this tired, but yet reality is proving me otherwise. Ever since the event at school, I haven’t returned. Stephan said he was trying to get this all sorted out, but who knows how long that would take. But, even though I don’t have to stress about school, my schedule was kept busy. All training times were doubled, scheduling more time with Spencer, Nathan, and Derek.
Derek has training with me every day. I felt so bad for him, having such a traumatic experience so young he was taught to only trust two people when it came to things like fighting and working on his ability. He won’t even go in a room without me or Nathan.
Blake tried to teach him at first, but he completely freaked out and didn’t let Blake near him. It took hours to calm him down. After that, Stephan decided only let me or Nathan train him. Nathan was busy now teaching Liam guns, so that left me. Granted, I have had enough wrestling lessons to know what to teach, I just wish someday Derek can learn to trust again.
My yawn silenced my thoughts. I felt my eyes droop again as I aimlessly watched more snowy trees pass. I allowed my mind to go numb with worry as I finally let myself sleep.