I yawned and blinked my eyes trying to wake my mind up from the nights sleep. I turned to my side and was stabbed with a twig. Dammit, I must still be in the woods. I sat up and looked to the ground beside me. Dammit. Derek’s human form laid on the ground, eyes shut with his mouth slightly open. What the hell was I thinking? Obviously, I wasn’t. I slapped my hands into my face and rubbed my eyes.
“I know the face of regret when I see it, Em.” Derek slid his body up on his elbows and smiled at me. “I’ve taken many drunk females home and they had that face when they sobered up.”
“I can’t regret something that didn’t happen.” I realized what a mistake I was making halfway through devouring of each other’s faces. The hesitation in me must have showed because Derek backed off faster than a wolf caught in a hunter’s back yard. Yet he still pulled my naked form into his and held me tight to him all night. Stroking my hair until the darkness of sleep took over me.
The truth was, even though Derek and I’s relationship last night didn’t get past a few kisses, I still regretted it. I was using him to cover up the pain of my mother’s death. Not only her death, but the unsolved mystery that clouded the whole wreckage of the building. No one ever figured out who started that fire, or why. And that tore me up inside more than I ever cared to admit.
“No hard feelings.” Derek stood to his feet and his voice brought me back to reality. “I know you better than you think I do and I know this—whatever this is—doesn’t go past last night. It was fun while it lasted though.” He chuckled. “But seriously, Em, I know when something is going on with you and I understand you aren’t ready to talk to me about it, but when you are—” His hand grasped my shoulder and I nearly jumped from the surprise of the tender touch. “I’m right here.” I couldn’t speak. I didn’t know what to say to him. I was never one to open up to anyone, but yet again I wasn’t one to put myself in situations like last night. “I’m headed to work. I’ll see you around.” I smiled in acknowledgement towards him as he took off in a jog into the woods. I could hear his footsteps turn into paws as he ran farther into the trees. I followed suit and dropped to all fours, shifting into my auburn wolf. I needed get back into my routine of a normal life again.
I took off running straight to the pack’s training center. My wolf snuck into the doors and walked past all the wolves until I got to the unisex locker room. Wolves didn’t hide their bodies like humans so there was no need for a women’s and a men’s locker room. Six showers lined the back wall while the rest was full of lockers and benches. I shifted into my human and stretched my bones out. They were sore from the shifting back and forth and I needed to work them out. I reached into my locker and pulled out my spare clothes that I always kept in there. Work out shorts and a skin-tight black tank top meant to compress my skin for excess sweating. I pulled on my sneakers and pulled my hair back into a tight pony. I was planning on being here a while and I didn’t want my ponytail stopping me mid-workout.
I started with a warmup of stretching then the treadmill to get my heart racing. I jumped off and went to the crowd of Omegas that were huddled in the back by the mats. They were practicing hand to hand combat as usual. Omegas were first of the line warriors. If there was a threat the Alpha called to them with his Beta at his side. Any wolf in the pack could help defend the territory but the Omegas were trained to do so and lived in the pack house close to the Alpha’s. I could definitely handle my own against them in the trainings and was even offered a spot to join them, but just as I denied any romantic persuasions, I also denied the position. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to help defend my pack, I just didn’t want that much spotlight on me. I tried to find peace in my life at the bar. A simple life in the pack by myself.
Alex was the wolf that tried recruiting me to the Omegas. He was a damn good fighter; our pack had a lot of those. Which is probably why our pack has the least amount of rouge attacks of all the surrounding territories. I don’t want to say that it had anything to do with our Alpha but—
“Emma!” Alex waved me to join his group. There were a few Omegas but defiantly not all of them. “You want to join us?”
“If you’re up to it.” I stepped onto the mat and raised an eyebrow at the four wolves in front of me. “Who’s first?” I had a lot of aggression to get off my chest and sparing with four of the pack’s skilled warriors seemed like the best way to do it.
Roland was the first to step onto the mat with me. His brown eyes narrowed, and he towered over me just slightly over six foot tall. I watched his moves; he was expecting me to make the first swing. I made a fake jab with my left hand and he jumped, his body flinging himself towards my swing. I lunged my right fist out, connecting with his left ribcage. He let a moan escape his lips which let me know I caught him off guard. I never spared with Roland before, so he didn’t know I wasn’t new to the game. I hooked my right foot under his ankle and brought his weight to the ground. I dropped to one knee and thrust my palm to his chest.
“You know, I’m slightly embarrassed for our pack knowing that if a rogue were to attack, you’re on the front line to stop them.” I usually wasn’t into the smack talk during spars, but this was entirely too easy.
“I won’t take it so easy on you next time, Princess.” Roland smacked my hand off him and stood to his feet, taking his stance next to his buddies. Alex’s hand swung out and smacked Roland’s chest.
“Let me show you how it’s done.” He stepped up to me.
“Please do.” I countered.
I took Alex down just as I had Roland. He put up more of a fight than his packmate but not by much. By the time Ryan was on his back like the rest of them I was beginning to wonder if the Omegas spent any time at all in the training center or if I spent too much time here. I was surprised to feel a mist of sweat across my chest and forehead. Emmett was the only Omega left to spar with me. He was the biggest of the four and I’ve sparred with him before. I had my work cut out for me if I was going to take him down. He thrust his fists towards me, and I dodged each one. He had size and strength on me, but I had him in speed. He threw another punch to do and I blocked it with my forearm, but he twisted and grasped my arm, yanking me into his body.
“I thought this was going to be more of a challenge.” Emmett smirked down at me.
“You talk too much.” My knee came up and connected with his ribs. He doubled over and gasped. I wrapped my arms around his neck and pulled with every bit of muscle I had until his body flung over mine and landed hard on the mat. He groaned in pain and I took just a second to catch my breath.
“If this is over, I’d like to have my men back.” Daniel’s voice startled us all.
“Sorry for the delay.” Alex apologized and started towards Daniel. The others followed suit except Emmett who still lay on the mat. I extended my hand to him and he took it with a smile. I pulled him to his feet, and he brushed himself off.
“You’re good Emma.” He stated it like he was trying to convince me. “I don’t know why you don’t accept the offer and just become an Omega.”
“I don’t need a title to protect my pack.”
“I meant it when I said you talk too much.” He laughed at me and rubbed the back of his neck as his gaze fell to the ground.
“Maybe I could talk too much over a drink?” He didn’t look up at me until the words were out of his lips. “Maybe a drink that you’re ordering instead of serving for a change?” Was he asking me out? Was I thinking about it?
“Emmett…” I just made out with Derek because I was using him to make myself feel better. I didn’t need to use Emmett too. I wasn’t Natalie.
“Right.” He sucked air into his lungs. “I should catch up with Daniel. Nick hates it when we’re late.” He chuckled softly and began to walk away from me.
“What time?” I asked right before he walked out the door. He turned to me and smiled.