I heard Callan, I heard them all of course... my friends, my family, pack members, all wanted something from me and what I had to offer was never enough. Sure dear old dad was the hardest on me, "How is it that my only son can barely pass the training orientation?! As the alpha's son your spot should have been a given! Instead I have to watch in disgrace as you struggled your way through. How weak and pathetic you've let yourself become. What a waste of Alpha blood." Orientation day had been particularly hard and yes I could have trained a bit harder to prepare but what good would that have done? Oh, I've made the mistake of seeking Dad's approval in the past and it only made things worse. The closer I got to meeting his expectations the harder he was on me. Relentless, demanding, cold, cruel and calcualting… all words I'd use to describe our Alpha, my dad. Sure when it came to threats to your pact those were qualities you looked for in a leader, but those were what I'd grown up with. Every day was an excuse to prepare me for how unforgiving the world may be and how there was no room for weakness. Words like sympathy, fairness, kindness or compassion were qualities he couldn't afford to have in a son, and did whatever necessary to ensure that.m, even if it meant using the ones I love. But that's when things changed, when he did the unforgivable, and I stopped trying. At least this way he's not involved in my life anymore and had given up on me. I swore I wouldn't give him that power again, even if it meant living with the daily insults.
"Em, what's going on? You should be hyped, your birthdays up next! We gotta plan something big, huge even! Maybe we can invite some of the females from the eastern pack, I saw you eyeing them when they came for the council meeting, don't even try to deny it." He searched my face for any indication that he was on the right track and must have seen something because next thing I knew he was jumping off the table and running off with the other guys bouncing off ideas of what needed to be done.
Now that the guys had left, Amber must have thought it the perfect opportunity to come up and talk. Talk, talk, talk and yet we never got anywhere because I told her time and time again that I simply wasn't interested in anyone, especially her but I didn't say that, and yet she still kept trying to sell me on the idea that we would be the perfect couple. Trying to beat her to the opening line I said "Hey Amber, sorry wish I could stay but have to get to gym class" and got up before she had a chance to get settled at the table. I just couldn't sit through another 15 minute one sided conversation on how we had been destined to be together because of our families and bloodlines, not to mention the creepy app that somehow knew what our baby would look like, I'll let you in on a secret, it was NOT CUTE no matter what she says. The guys all thought I was nuts seeing as how she was apparently the hottest girl in school right now, whatever, she did nothing for me as all she did was talk about herself and never tried to actually get to know me.
Going into the locker room I quickly changed out of jeans and into some more comfortable shorts and a t-shirt. I entered the gym, stopping to tie one of shoe laces when I heard this laughter that was…light, care free and oh so genuine. Lifting my head I tried to see where it came from but only saw some of the guys on the bleachers. Walking closer, I noticed that there was a girl in the middle that had their attention. Girl somehow didn't fit her description though, not with the confidence, power and ease that seemed to just drip off of her. Who was she and why hadn't I seen her before? Lost in my thoughts, and probably drooling if I were being honest, I didn't hear when Zane called me over.
"Hey Emery come meet my cousin, Alexandria" Zane repeated, then got a swift kick to the shin that looked like it hurt. "Alex, my name is Alex, no one calls me Alexandria if they know what's good for them" she said through gritted teeth with eyes on Zane who smiled as he rubbed his shin. Then she stood up and reached out her hand in offering while giving me the once over not so subtly.
"Nice to meet you Alex, I'm surprised Zane never mentioned he had a cousin coming today or that you'd be as... (beautiful, strong, breathtaking) ...um as tall as you are?" What was I saying! Someone with a brain please try and save mine who has clearly left on vacation.
"Yeah, I guess I got the tall genes in the family." Followed by an awkward chuckle and a sideways look at Zane. I could feel my cheeks heat up from embarrassment. "I came as a surprise, I happen to have a free week in my schedule and decided to come cheer on my little cousin here as he tries out for warrior training". Even though she said this jokingly you could tell that there was some pride in her words too. Zane didn't like the little cousin part that was for sure but just the same you saw that he was happy to have her there.
"C'mon now, you're not even a year older than me." he replied followed by sticking out his tongue. "Seriously though don't let the cute act fool you Em, this girl's the real deal. She's the first female warrior in her pack and definitely kicks my butt when we spar. That was a couple months ago though and I've been hitting the gym more these days so why don't we have a rematch now to see if that's still the case? Unless that is, you're scared. I mean I wouldn't blame you after looking at these guns, wouldn't want you to break a nail". With this he got up, did a couple dramatic stretches and went up to the mat. Alex lifted an eyebrow, giving him the chance to rethink the challenge, then let a slow smile spread across her face. Yep I was a goner, the intensity in those green emerald eyes were enough to make me forget to breathe. What would it feel like to have her look at me that way?
"Alright Zaney, just remember you asked for it" then she stretched and I was not the only guy caught staring at least. She wore leggings that hid none of her toned and powerful legs, taking off a jacket she had a tee that was tight enough to show off lean defined arms and cut just above her leggings that when she raised her arms you could see some of the abs she no doubt worked hard for underneath. Everything about her exuded strength and power. Her long black hair was being pulled into a pony tail and then she made her way over to him. I got closer to watch and saw as some of the guys were placing bets. Zane was not small by any means. At 5'10, muscles that he had no shame in flaunting and the fact that it didn't look like he was going to stop growing any day soon had others steer clear of him if not for his easy going personality and jokes. Still, something about how Alex carried herself made me think that she just may have what it takes to make the big man fall.
"On the count of three" Callan shouted "One...Two...Three!" Zane moved first and made a lounge that had Alex duck and reach to flip him over and sent him flat on his back! He got up in an instant ready to try again. Alex was fast, but graceful? I don't know how else to describe it. She moved with speed but made it seem like a dance. Zane would go to make a grab and it was almost as if she saw it coming and would move before making contact. Another grab. Another dodge. He was getting a little frustrated at winded at the failed attempts. She was playing with him! Alex saw the opening and made a grab for Zane legs to flip him over but he did it on purpose, used his weight and instead grabbed onto her waist to throw her down, which lasted all of 2 seconds because then she took her legs wrapped them around his head and pulled. Down he went and what a way to go! She twisted and made the hold on his neck that much stronger. He pulled at her vice-like grip but it was no use as we could tell by his red colored face. He had to tap out. Alex got up and helped Zane, then surprised me by telling him how he almost got her a couple times and then went over some moves that would have helped him. She didn't gloat and was smiling with a hand on Zane back as she talked him through what to do and went to get some water.
"Man did you see that?! I need to find me a woman with that type of muscle, though maybe not so much that she makes me look as bad as Zane right now" Callan laughed. "I knew I should have bet on the warrior" he said shaking his head. "Anyways back to this party, your birthday's this Saturday, are you finally going to let Amber in or do you have your sights set on anyone else?" Tearing my eyes away from Alex is just shook my head and told him there wasn't anyone in mind. "Hey you never know Saturday morning you could wake up and realize Amber's the girl for you, she hasn't felt the mating pull to anyone yet and there's only of couple of us that haven't turned 18 yet." The mating pull. Every 18 year old waits for the day where they wake up and finally feel that pull the draws them to the person they were meant to spend their life with. Both have to be 18 so sometimes one has to wait to find their mate till they're old enough too. That other half to their soul that makes life worth living and all the nonsense. Most of the kids in our grade had their birthdays already except for 4, me being one of those 4. It was fun to see others come to school burst through the halls and recognize their mates for the first time. Their eyes taking in each other as if they hadn't seen each other every day in the halls or in class. Tou couldn't help but get caught up in the moment, lots of cheers, claps and whistles are heard when it happens. Then, you'd see the crowd look around trying to guess who was going to be next, to the human world it might come off like a fairy tale but that wasn't always the case. I had seen that the mating pull didn't guarantee you a love filled life and that we all didn't get happily ever afters.
My eyes searched out Alex again as our teacher came in and we lined up for class to start. Why did she have to come for gym, maybe she'll leave now and save me the humiliation I prayed. No such luck, Alex went to the bleachers and got comfortable. Coach Smith opened the door to the field and blew his whistle, "Today is training day boys. It has come to my attention that some of you (he looked directly at me) were having trouble with the orientation course. Now I'm not gonna have my name soiled because you all forgot how to breathe and run at the same time! Outside on the double, I've prepared a course of my own to see what, or who, the problem is." The next 40 min were going to be the longest of my life.
Outside was the track now lined with jumping hurdles and a what looked like a 20 foot wall with a rope of both sides, followed by huge heavy tires and a long stretch to run at the end..yay...not! After surveying the obstacles course from hell I scanned the outside bleachers for Alex. She was there front and center cheering on Zane trying to get him pumped. I never believed in the Moon Goddess, wanting to be in control of my own future rather than her destined fate. At that moment however I prayed with my eye squeezed shut. Please, please uh, Moon Goddess, I know I haven't spoken the best of you but if you can do the biggest favor and not let me make a total fool of myself I promise I'll be more respectful.
After a couple minutes stretching, we lined up next to each other and the start. We were all going to be timed and the results were going to be posted later with recommendations so we could prepare for the next round of orientation. Waiting for the whistle my heart was beating frantically and mouth kept repeating its whispered prayer hoping to be heard. The whistle blew and I ran like I was escaping a fire. Which was a coincidence considering my legs felt like they were burning. While many passed me I wasn't doing too bad and was starting to feel like my prayers had been heard. I jumped over the first 2 small hurdles with room to spare. Getting winded the 3rd jump was not as clean and I managed to knock it down with my back leg. No time to pick it up I advanced to the wall. Luckily I wasn't the first to approach it because I didn't have a clue as to how to go about getting up. Watching the others ahead of me I noticed the strain in muscled arms being used the hoist themselves up as they walked their way up and then down the wall. Looking at my arms I knew there were going to be issues. Up next I prepared myself by wiping my sweaty palms on my shorts and approached the rope. Getting started was impossible it seemed. I jumped up to get some room to lift my feet like the others before me did but my feet still could reach up high enough to start walking. After my second try I could feel my neck turning red from embarrassment and the feel of someone watching. I turned my head quickly and sure enough that gaze it'd witnessed minutes ago we now locked on me. I turned back around, angry now, that all that praying and begging was for nothing, I was alone and if I wanted something done it would always be up to me. This time as I jumped up and stomped up that wall not realizing that I was actually doing it until I reached the top. Pulling my leg over took some work and after accidentally looking down I now was unbalanced and terrified of falling off. Leaning out my hands burned and ached as they groped the rope tight. Looking over my should I saw how others were bouncing off, down in 2 leaps. I tried and ended up with rope burn on my hands but made it down at least, on my feet and not my butt I'd like to add. Taking a breath I went to the tires which felt like they weighed a ton! Getting a grip i tried to use that anger again. This time against my father who no doubt called the school to complain about the coaches training that landed me here I the first place. I squated down and pulled up feeling something inside of me stir. The tire come up surprising me and I was able to push it over. Two more times we required to move past and by the end of it my arms and legs were shaking. How was I going to run after that. Bent over at the waist I slared 2 seconds to breathe the took off. Still angry and embarrassed I didn't realize that I was now passing soe if my classmates! Thank the Goddess, finally! Coming closer to the finish line I searched for Alex to see if she was watching my victorious moment. When I found her eyes on me I turned my hed forward, just in see that I was too close to the person in front of me. My legs were moving on there in accord and there was no way to stop them in time. Smacking into the guys back with my hands as I tried to brace for my fall we ended up taking down 2 others with our fall, everyone tripping over the other and rolling onto the ground. Lying on my back I cursed everyone in my head wishing that the ground would just open up and swallow me whole already. With no such luck I saw Zane and Callan come my way nd help me up. Looking at the bleachers, Alex was gone. Well at least I didn't have to see the look on her face. "Thanks guys. How bad was it?" After a look to eachother, Callan spoke "It was better than orientation. You even passed 2 guys! Talk about improvement, I saw you hurling those tires, someone hitting the weights like I said?" He arched his eyebrows at me and smiled. Shaking my head I turned to Zane, "Where'd your cousin head off to?" "Oh Alex, she had to go check in with her Alpha to get updates. Why do you ask?", his eyebrows knitted together in confusion. I stammered to come up with what I hoped was a cool response, "Uh, you know, wouldn't want to miss another opportunity to see you you get your ass handed to you". At that he started laughing, "Yeah, whayever man, she may have put me in my place but at least I got in a couple good shots. Next time she's going down, you'll see". At seeing him start his flexing routine I shook my head "Whatever gets you through the night, you keep telling yourself that". Thankful that he didn't see where my interests were I headed off to the showers.
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