OLD HABITS DIE HARD
“I hope I see my Mom, even if only for a moment. I want to tell her I’m sorry for what I did to her, for my part in her dying even though I never meant for any of it to happen– and for now throwing that sacrifice in her face. It is the last thing I want to be doing, it truly is but a future of what I’m facing – experiencing this pain on any sort of ongoing basis is beyond my abilities.”
**trigger warning: this book contains scenes of sexual assault, suicide**
PENELOPE, OLD HABITS DIE HARD
“Are you running a fever, Penny?” I should know better than to try and hide anything from my surrogate father – he never misses a thing. My mother died giving birth to me when she was just fifteen – abandoned by her own family for ‘whoring’ herself out without waiting for her mate, or so I’m told. So when she died - I was left behind and the pack didn’t want me. If Alpha Martin – now known as Alpha Daddy - hadn’t been visiting, I’d have been killed. He intervened and ‘adopted’ me and his pack – the Blue Moon Pack, has raised me ever since. I’ve never returned to my old pack, nor will I as I’m still not welcome – my reputation still precedes me even now, nineteen years later.
Everything went wrong for my poor mother during her delivery – including me coming too early. As a result of being more than two months premature, I have some health issues that will persist for the duration of my life. I don’t consider them a burden – my own mother isn’t even alive today, so every day I wake up in the morning is another day I consider a blessing.
The biggest difference between me and other she-wolves is my size – I’m a runt through and through. You don’t have to be large to be impressive, my she-wolf Nova reminds me. She’s right – we may be small but our petite size allows us to be great at maneuvering in tight spaces and out of sticky situations, the few times we’ve ever found ourselves in one. Because of my health, Alpha Daddy and the rest of my pack family are extremely protective of me – always have been.
I couldn’t love them more.
As a human I stand 5’0” which puts me nearly a foot shorter than most she-wolves and far shorter than the males, and my nickname doesn’t help – ‘Penny’, for Penelope. It is also for the coin, which is small and can fit in your pocket, just like me when I was first born – or so the story goes according to Alpha Daddy who named me since no one in my old pack cared to. He truly is like my father – I assume I’m a product of teenage groping in a backseat but no one knows for sure, my biological father never stepped up and it doesn’t matter because I have a father, just not in the ‘traditional’ sense. Truth is, I have dozens of daddies throughout my pack family and I couldn’t ask for more because the same is true for my moms. Of course having my own mom alive would be preferable but I can’t change her path, I can only make the best of my own and that is precisely what I have done. I thank the Moon Goddess everyday for putting the Blue Moon Pack in my path.
Also, unlike most she-wolves who are slim and lithe – I’m… curvy which is a nice way of saying pudgy. I have the breasts and hips I should have if I were 5’10” only I’m a foot short – it’s a lot to fit onto a small frame. I’m built like a pear but it is the form I was given so I walk each step with pride, knowing I was left on this earth for a purpose. It may take years for me to figure it out but in the meantime, I will continue to do as I have been – enjoy life and help those around me so they may enjoy their own as well. It is pretty simple when you think about it.
“Yes, I haven’t been feeling well most of the day actually,” I admit to Alpha Daddy honestly. There’s no point in lying – he’d see through me in a heartbeat plus I’d feel awful about it, he deserves more respect from me than that. I wish I hadn’t run into him – he has enough to worry about with the big dinner tonight without adding me to his list. Now I know he’s going to be trying to do his duties all evening while fretting about how I am – it is just how he is and I love him for it.
Tonight is the opening banquet of the three-day Alpha Summit and Banquet, which is held annually on a rotating pack basis. This year it is our turn to host and everyone has been running around for weeks, getting everything ready. Well, everyone else but me – I haven’t been allowed to do much of anything in case I get hurt or overdo it and get sick. I’m not that fragile but no one seems willing to risk it either, which I take to heart - they’re such a wonderful, loving group of people. Since I haven’t been allowed to help with the majority of the event planning, I have been helping out on the sidelines – making sandwiches for the patrols and warriors in training, helping out at the daycare so the moms could be out doing other things – that sort of stuff. A little bit here, a little bit there but maybe it did all add up to more than I thought and took a bigger toll out of me than I was expecting.
“Yes, you are definitely burning up, Penny,” Alpha Daddy says, checking my temperature by kissing my forehead, just like he’s always done even though I’m now nineteen years old. I want to chuckle at how cute he’s being but I’m rapidly feeling worst and all I want to do now is go to my room and lay down. Likely by instinct and knowing me better than anyone, Alpha Daddy waves over a guard to escort me to my room.
“Head to your room for the night. I’ll send the doctor up – do NOT send her away when she gets there. I’ll be up as soon as I can to check on you, okay?” I nod, agreeing to everything easily but disappointed I’m going to miss seeing all of the fancy dresses and handsome men in their tuxedos tonight at the banquet. I wrap my arms around Alpha Daddy’s waist to give him a hug.
“I’m sorry I’m letting you down,” I whisper, feeling awful that I won’t be there as his ‘date’. This is my first year being of eligible age and my proud, surrogate father was going to introduce ‘his daughter’ tonight to everyone but now that won’t be happening. I feel like I’m failing him yet again, like I have so many times before – all because I’m the useless, sickly runt who isn’t good for anything.
Don’t say that! If you weren’t a strong fighter you wouldn’t have made it this far! Nova reminds me harshly, never patient when I lose myself in a pity spiral.
“The only time you let me down is when you talk about yourself like that, Penny,” Alpha Daddy says, essentially echoing Nova’s sentiments.
Told you for the thousandth time! Sometimes it needs to be said, I guess… when I falter.
“I love you Alpha Daddy,” I whisper, hugging him back before following the guard to my room. I’m going to miss the banquet but hopefully I’ll be feeling well enough tomorrow to partake in some of the activities. The Alphas are in meetings all day but for the rest of us there are all kinds of things planned like beach parties, bonfires and warrior competitions. There is something for every interest – most I can’t do but I always enjoy watching and talking with members from visiting packs, and I especially want to get out there this year.
Maybe I’ll find my mate!