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I walked home, glancing at the trees in front of me. My boots made a crunching sound as I stepped on leaves and twigs that echoed into the woods. The sun had set long ago and darkness overtook the forest.

Two eyes glowed from the dark that settled in front of me.

I shook my head, pulling out a knife. “You have got to be kidding me.”

A growl bounced off the tree trunks and soon after, a wolf came running from the trees. It lunged at me but I dodged the animal, spinning until I faced it again.

When the wolf jumped up to attack, I pushed the blade of my weapon into its chest, getting a yelp from it.

The wolf landed back in the dirt, staying still. I looked at it and put my blade away, nudging its paw with my foot. “Don’t mess with me. I know exactly why you’re after me and it’s never going to work.”

I walked the rest of the way home, stopping after closing the front door. “What?” I asked my brother who waited for me.

“Where were you?”

“Getting attacked by werewolves. Oh, wait, that can’t be true. Werewolves don’t exist. I guess you won’t know where I was then.” I shrugged.

Jason sighed. “Shani, I just want to make sure you’re safe. I know how this town is. I know about the wolves. I know about the murders you’re linked to. I want you to be safe. Who knows what this town is capable of? They’re crazy people. They could very well burn you at the stake and assume you’re a witch just as well as a murderer.”

“I’m not a witch and I’m not a murderer.”

“You think the town knows that?”

I pushed myself off the door, walking to the kitchen. “They know. Trust me.”

Jason followed me in. “How do you know that?”

“Because there are things you don’t know about me.” I turned to look at him.

Jason crossed his arms, tapping his foot.

“Because I know why they hate me. They hate me because I’m human. This entire town is made up of werewolves. I’m mated to a werewolf and that is not allowed so they hate me for it. I’m the scum they are trying to scare away. I know their secrets now. I don’t scare that easily.” I grabbed my stomach.

His eyes shifted to my stomach. “Are you pregnant now? Is that it?”

I glared at him. “You moron, I just told you why they hate me. I am not pregnant. I haven’t had sex in two years. Phillip and I are not dating and we won’t be for a good while. I just feel sick. Just because a woman feels sick, does not mean she’s pregnant. Nausea comes to all women, pregnant or not.” My previous meal was coming back up. I ran to the bathroom, holding my hair back as I let out the contents of my stomach.

My brother stood at the doorway. “Maybe we should take a test to be sure.”

I looked at him after flushing the toilet. “You can’t be serious. I’m completely positive I’m not pregnant. It’s been two damn years.”

“Maybe it’s like that movie where the woman ends up pregnant and finds out she was raped in her sleep.” He gestured.

“You mean the one where she dies over and over and a magical demon boy brings her back to life after raping and killing her so he can do it again? Yeah, highly doubt that’s happening to me.” I rolled my eyes. “And so what if I was? It’s my responsibility.”

My brother got out the mouthwash for me. “I’d still want to help. You’re my sister. I just want to make sure.”

“I’m pretty damn sure I haven’t done the one act that leads to pregnancy.” I grabbed the cap of the bottle filling it. I drank and swished it around in my mouth before spitting it into the sink. I put the mouthwash back in the cabinet.

We both heard a knock on the door, wondering who could possibly be here. Nobody besides Maggie knew where we lived.

Jason went to answer the door and he turned to me as I walked out of the bathroom. “It’s your boyfriend.”

I looked at the visitor and narrowed my eyes. “How do you know where I live?” I asked Phillip.

“I asked your boss. She seems really nice about it. Something about fate and us getting married. I had to talk to you more about this situation.” He came over to me.

I sat down on the couch. “Is Maggie a werewolf, too?”

“No, no. She’s just a really interesting human. She doesn’t even live within this town. I believe she may live on the outskirts like you.” He sat next to me, putting his arms along the back of the couch.

I faced him, pulling both of my legs up on the couch. “Tell me, Philly, what else should I know?”

“There’s...one way to get the wolves to back off on you.”

“What’s that?” It sounded like a good idea. I needed to get them off my case.

He coughed a bit, beginning to sweat more than usual. “Can I ask you to keep an open mind?”

I eyed him. “Depends on what it is. Are you asking me to sleep with them? Oh shit, are you asking me to sleep with you?”

Jason came over, clearing his throat. “What the hell is this? Wolves? Sex? Don’t tell me you’re having sex with animals.”

“Oh my gosh, Jason, no!” I rubbed my eyes. “I’m not having sex with anyone! I already told you that werewolves exist. You can’t believe it.”

Phillip looked at my brother and sat forward, shaking his hand. “I’m Phillip. Nice to meet you.”

My brother observed his movements and looked at me. “Phillip? This is Phillip? He’s...”

Phillip looked at me, waiting for an answer.

I finished my twin’s sentence, “He’s not my usual type. It doesn’t matter. If I end up liking him, I do. He’s a really good guy and he deserves a future with a woman more than any other boy here. I just might see how good he is for me. This is...the werewolf I’m mated to.” I gestured to Phillip.

My brother looked between the both of us, processing this information.

It was awkward and silent as both of them were processing everything happening all at once. It was quite the introduction to each other but it would have to do. I didn’t have time to waste on them keeping their secrets.

My brother shook his head. “No. Werewolves don’t exist.”

I rolled my eyes. “Yes. Werewolves do exist.”

Phillip cleared his throat, putting his hand up. “I’m here, and I do exist. I’d like to be included in this conversation, thank you. I also want to add that I don’t want to be told I don’t exist. I know what I am. I’ve known since birth. I change into a white wolf. I’m apart of a pack.”

I looked at him. “Are you the alpha?”

Phillip laughed a little, shaking his head. “Do I look like the alpha type? I’m just Phillip. If I was the alpha, the town and those attacking you would have stopped long ago.”

Jason spoke up, “This is absolutely shit. I refuse to believe any of it. You two can have whatever cult you want. Leave me out of it.” He left to his room.

“Sorry about him. He’s a knucklehead.”

Phillip nodded, looking at the floor. “I came here to talk about something, something that could help the wolves stop hunting you.”

“Go on.”

“You’re my mate. You’re a human; I’m a werewolf. It’s kind of forbidden. There’s this thing that werewolves can do to their mates, to...claim them. We call it marking. I basically would bite you to mark your neck so the others know you’re my mate. They couldn’t harm you because if I mark you, you’re now bonded to me. If they hurt you physically or emotionally, they hurt me as well. I feel what you feel—as long as you have the mark.”

I squinted, multiple things running through my brain. “So you want to bite my neck to tell the other werewolves I’m yours to say I’m off limits?”

He nodded. “Yeah.”

“Hell no. You are not marking me. That’s absolutely crazy. You are not putting holes in my neck permanently to just show your crazy pack that I’m your mate. Especially since I don’t return your feelings yet. Here’s another idea. How about we fight them off like normal people and change minds? How do you think interracial couples handled it? Did they bit each other? No.” I crossed my arms. “They had to fight back like everyone else. Welcome to the real world, Philly.”

He rubbed his neck. “I thought you might react like that.”

“What gave you that impression?” I leaned back against the arm of the couch. “The fact that I fight my own battles or that I don’t like you romantically? I don’t like the idea of you claiming me. It’s weird and gross. If we date, that’s enough to show people that we’re together. If we get married, that is definitely enough to show people we are together and only with each other. I don’t need a bite on my neck to show that. I don’t want to go through this pain to be seen as your mate when I already am. Being your mate should be enough.”

Phillip smiled a bit. “I see your point. I grew up in the werewolf culture and I’m used to our way of mating. I never thought a human would be my mate.”

“Are you upset that I’m a human and I’m your mate?”

He shook his head. “No. Your species doesn’t matter. My feelings are real no matter what you are. Your personality is what gets me. You’re strong and you don’t let anyone bring you down. All these people here are treating you in an awful manner and yet you don’t let it bother you. You’re a very interesting person. You have a lot of good points and I like talking to you. We can laugh or be serious. That’s especially good for me.”

I nodded. “Well, good. Because we are different species and our cultures are different. We have to compromise. However, I will not be marked. Please understand why I can’t go through with that.”

Phillip’s eyes darted to the floor before landing back on my own. “It’ll be a while to get used to that because it’s something I sorta looked forward to. I’ll try, though. I don’t want to do anything you’re uncomfortable with.”

This boy was amazing. Damnit, why didn’t I have feelings for him? “You respect me even if you want to mark me. That’s shocking but wonderful. I think it’s good. I want to like you. I really do. Just give it time. It takes me a while to develop any kind of romantic feelings.”

He chuckled, fixing his glasses. “No worries. If you and I get married in the end, I don’t care how long it takes to get there.”

I sat back, admiring his features for a moment. Phillip was not a bad looking guy. His blonde hair was a beautiful gold shade and his blue eyes matched that of the ocean. It was as if his face was that of a golden sun beaming down on a blue ocean with white waves. That was exactly what he reminded me off.

As sweet as Phillip was, he could very well be where the ocean met the forest in human form. He had secrets to him, secrets I were still discovering. Phillip was built beautifully and whoever made him deserved the credit.

Phillip made a perfect husband. The only issue stopping me was my lack of romantic feelings for him.

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