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The chirping of the birds that lived in the trees woke me up but it didn’t start my day off right. I sat up, looking down as the ants that were roaming my clothes.

I jumped to my feet and shook them off, wiping my clothes in a rough manner to make sure they were gone. “Damn bugs. I’m not a bed.” I grabbed my duffel bag and threw it to the side to get them off that as well.

I gathered some dry wood and threw it into my circle of rocks. I grabbed more rocks, clashing them together to create a spark. It took only fifty tries but I got a fire started.

I looked around, spotting a squirrel. “I got you now.” I jumped up, trying to grab it but I missed. “Damn rodent!” I sighed and shook my head. This was pathetic.

“You’re having trouble? I’m not surprised,” a voice said.

I looked back at my brother and sat on the ground, crossing my arms like a child. “I told you not to look for me.”

Jason was leaning against a tree, watching my frustration fester. “What kind of brother would I be if I left you here? I can’t in good conscience leave you out here. You’re not a werewolf. You don’t have any animal instincts to survive.”

“Thank our parents. I’m just a stupid fucking human,” I spat.

He came over and sat down. “Stop saying that. Why are you hating your DNA so much?”

“Because it’s true. Everyone thinks so. Phillip thinks so.” I clenched my jaw as I pictured his ocean eyes judging me.

“Phillip is having trouble with this. How many times do people actually believe people about things like this? It takes a while. When they try to kill him, he’ll figure it out and he’ll feel like a dick for judging you. You’re not a stupid human.”

I looked at him. “What am I? I’m not a werewolf. I can’t bite my mate. I can’t smell his scent. I can’t sniff anyone out. I’m just a human. I have to survive on my wits and right now, I’m struggling to do just that.”

“You’re doing a good job. You found out who’s trying to kill you. Jessie and I won’t let that happen. Phillip may not believe you but I do.” He grabbed my hand, squeezing it. “Jessie believes me about believing you and she’s going to help us. I may not be your mate but I’m still your other half. I hope my support matters.” His eyes begged for my love.

I nodded and looked at our clasped hands. “I’ve spent months dealing with the hate from this town. I’ve put up with that. I know why now, and it hurts me that I’ve had to come to the realization that the people hurting me in the grand scheme of things are friends to Phillip. I don’t want to have to make him see them that way. I don’t have a choice. I want him to live.”

“Do you want to live?”

“Of course.”

He nudged me. “There you go. You’re putting your lives first. It’s not wrong. You care about him. It’s a tough decision but it had to be made. You’re a strong woman, Shani. You’ve made it this far. You can’t just give up now.”

“How can I not contemplate giving up? I finally made a friend. I finally had a chance at a good future. I lost all of that based on my stupid decision. I wish I could take it back. I wish I could keep it to myself and fight alone.” I looked at the dirt that covered the forest floor.

“No. I won’t let you fight alone. You matter to me and I’ll make sure you’re safe.” He got off the ground, pulling me with him. He bent down and grabbed some leaves, throwing them in the fire to hopefully slow it down. He stomped his shoe onto the leftover embers. Bending down and grabbing my duffel bag, my brother led us back to the pack house.

I wasn’t ready to face them again.

As we arrived, I stopped at the sight of Phillip. He was talking to Whitney. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I looked at Jason and tugged his arm. “I have to get out of here. I have to go.”

“Shani, you can’t run from your problems. You have to face them.”

“I can if they’re werewolves who hate me and want me dead.” I tried to get my hand out of his but my brother didn’t let me go.

“I’m right here. I will have your back,” he reassured.

Giving up on resisting, I let my brother take me over to the very people who’ve made my life worse.

Phillip looked at me and turned to Jason. “Yes?”

“I want you two to talk this out.” He gestured to me.

“Talk?” I scoffed. “Not going to happen.” I cocked my head at Whitney.

She faked a gasp. “What did I do?”

“You know damn well what you did. Don’t think you can fool me.”

“Shani,” my brother whispered.

Phillip cleared his throat, standing in front of Whitney. Was he fucking serious? “She never did anything to you.”

“You expect me to talk to this asshole?” I turned to my brother.

“Shani,” he warned.

“What?” I shouted. “He doesn’t know shit about mates, and I’m the human here. Mates are supposed to talk. They have to work together no matter what. When the first problem arises, he runs. He doesn’t want to see me. He accuses me of things. He lies to me. He doesn’t know shit about being a good mate. I’m tired of apologizing for something I never did.”

Phillip said something that crushed my heart. “You’re just like they said. The town was right about you.”

My brother stepped forward, putting his hand out. “Stop. You need to stop judging her. I believe my sister. She has never lied to me but I’ve lied to her a million times. You’re a hypocrite for judging her. If she says Whitney and Sawyer are bad, they are and I won’t let her feel like she’s alone. She has no reason to lie. She likes you. She really likes you and she wouldn’t lie to you to just get this kind of treatment.”

Whitney grabbed onto Phillip’s shoulder, knowing it would anger me. “I never said anything.”

“Oh my gosh, the way she’s clinging onto you. Are you two sleeping together?” I gasped. “Is that what this is about? Are you fucking her?” I yelled.

Phillip dropped his jaw. “How could you assume the worst? You know what kind of guy I am.”

“Do I? You assume the worst of me now. I don’t know you anymore. If you were screwing her, it would finally make sense as to why she comes before me. You believed I wasn’t the killer. How can you believe that but not believe this?” I let go of my brother’s hand.

Phillip rubbed his face. “Because I’m the killer!”

Every single one of us, including his ding dong Whitney, stepped back in surprise. Whitney swallowed, looking up at him. “You’re killing wolves?”

Phillip ran his fingers through his hair. “I was killing them because they were attacking my mate. What the hell was I supposed to do? They’d keep going after her until they won. She couldn’t do it so I did.”

I grabbed Jason’s shoulder, stumbling over my feet. “You...you killed all those werewolves after I left. I didn’t want to kill anyone. I just wanted to show them I could fight back. I wasn’t trying to kill them.” My eyes shot up to meet his.

“I had to. They tried to kill you. I was trying to make sure you were safe. You can fight humans but you can’t fight wolves. You would have died.”

I stepped forward. “I’ve survived so much. You don’t know what I’m able to live through. You don’t know me so stop assuming.”

Whitney decided to open her big mouth, “He’s just trying to help you out. Stop being so rude.”

I raised my eyebrows. “That’s rich coming from you. You’re the reason he has to help me out to begin with. You want me dead.”

“I would never do such a thing.”

I raised my fist but my brother held me back. “Violence isn’t going to solve anything.”

“It will if she’s dead. The wolves will stop coming after me.” I glared daggers at her. Her green eyes were smirking, and only I could see it.

Jessie came out to see the commotion. “What’s going on?”

I put my fist down. “My mate is a killer. He is killing his own kind and yet when I tell him who’s sending wolves after me, he won’t believe it. I’m not important anymore. Nothing I saw matters.” I wanted to throw a punch at someone.

Jessie looked at Jason. “What’s happening?”

“Phillip and Shani are fighting. It’s a pretty big fight,” he answered.

“He is putting them first and he refuses to believe me. He thinks I’m making it up for some damn reason. My theory is that Phillip is sleeping with Whitney. I wouldn’t be surprised.” At this point, I wouldn’t be. I didn’t know him anymore and Whitney was gorgeous, as much as I hated to admit.

“What’s wrong with a human and werewolf?” Jessie asked. She looked at all of us.

Jason and I said nothing. We knew we had no problem with it. Phillip spoke before Whitney could slip up. “This. Humans want to claim they know pack members better than the actual members. They don’t.” He kept his eyes on me the whole time.

“I have tried so hard Phillip. I’ve tried so damn hard to make you understand I am not the enemy here. If your sex toy wins, fine. I’m not going to waste my time. I’m done trying. I’ll keep fighting. I’ll fight until I die but don’t be surprised when I’m dead and your girlfriend doesn’t care. I don’t understand mates but I take it you’re rejecting me. I’ll accept it. I accept whatever comes my way.” I turned and walked away from the house.

It wasn’t a surprise when Jason and Jessie followed me back to the cabin. I threw my bag down. I put my hands on the counter, leaning my weight on them.

Jessie rubbed my back, putting her cheek against my arm. “I’m sorry. I know I wasn’t supportive of this. I’m sorry. I can’t imagine how this feels.”

“I feel empty. I don’t know how to feel emotions right now. He pulled me in to throw me away like that. How can he really put Whitney so high up?” I looked at her.

She shrugged. “I don’t know. They must be good friends. She’s a good actress. I’ll give her that.”

I nodded, wiping my face. “I guess this is my life now. She won over my mate and I didn’t. I don’t have what she has. What is it that makes her so much better?”

Jessie joked, “A perfect body? I’m not too sure. I wish I could relate but I don’t. You look better than she does. She’s also clingy. You can at least fight your battles. She hides behind him.”

“That doesn’t matter. She still won.”

Jason came over to us. “Phillip can screw off. He’s the one who lost. He lost you. He doesn’t know what he’s missing out on.”

“I’m never good enough for him. This is what my life holds. It holds a future without a mate. I will be alone. I better get used to it and fast. I won’t be moping around. I refuse to let him control me like that. The asshole is going to regret what he did. I’ll make damn sure he regrets ever treating me the way he did. I’ll find a way.” I straightened my posture. “He’s going to feel like an asshole when this is over.”

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