A Dormant Howl

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Chapter 1

Good times, good family, and good friends

Desi – Year 2004

A name is an important and powerful thing: give a thing or person their name, the images and feelings that are associated might very well dictate their destiny. My name is both dramatic, decidedly feminine, and a mouthful, to boot.

My mother always had a thing for Shakespeare, especially her favorite play, Othello. Rather fitting, I suppose, as it rivaled her own romantic history with my father. Their mating and subsequent marriage was once considered by our clan to be a forbidden pairing.

Ever a feminist with a flair for the dramatic as well as the tragic, she named me for both the tragic Venetian heroine and a close blood relative (my father's sister) who was like a second mother to my father. He took her death very hard. But life is fragile when you're mated to a non-beast. Upon my birth, I was dubbed Desdemona Corah Ada Patchett; thankfully, my close friends and family only use this sparingly and refer to me as Desi. Unless of course, I've done something wrong, then...

"Desdemona Corah Ada Patchett! Where are you-- get back here!" I hear my papa bellow as I ran past him. I did not bother to listen to him as my legs pumped, my lungs burning as I ran and ran and ran until I had nearly cleared the boundary line. A sob broke through as I passed the fence that surrounded my family's land-- the border that marked it as Patchett and Lycan territory outsiders. Tears blurred my vision, causing the highly decorated sign with the colorful streamers and balloons to turn mottled and discolored.

As my steps neared the road, I heard a faint howl and a quartet of voices, cobbling together in various tones, grunts, and growls. They were beckoning me, warning me...ordering me. Don't go beyond the boundary. Don't leave the homestead.

"Desi-- Desdemona? What are you doing? Where are you? Roland, where is--?" I could discern my mother's worried, near panicked tone as I ran. It caused me to stumble, fall to my knees. But I kept running. Then I hear my father's voice. The anger and hurt in his tone made me run faster.

"Desdemona Corah Ada Patchett, where in the blazes--?" Papa howled through the mind link. I winced and whimpered, trying my best to block the voices...just a few more steps...just a few more...then I heard theirvoices.

"Desi? Desi Doo, where are you? Damn it, girl--" He said, voice worried. It nearly made me stop...I was only a foot away from the road. Then he spoke.

"Desdemona, get back here! Right now! Do you hear me, Desi? You stupid--" My foot stomped onto the road, and the mind link vanished. I was alone now. I was finally alone...and miserable. And yet I continued to run straight into the forest-- no one would harm me here. No one would find me, or so my puerile thirteen-year-old brain hoped. My scent was masked, by all accounts human. I had my Mama to thank for that bit of my DNA.

As my mother was not a full-blooded Lycan but was born a human, I took after her side of the family's genetic pool. Weighing just 7 pounds and measuring just fifteen inches long, I was considered small by Lycan standards—the proverbial runt of the litter, if you will. I even looked delicate, resembling an antique porcelain doll: fair hair, smooth newborn wrinkle-free skin, and pouty lips that were shaped as if always ready to bestow a kiss. Because of this, all the men in my life, my father included, treated me as if I were either a treasure or doll: delicate, worthy of a pedestal...and easily broken.

That mostly changed when I turned six years old. Tired of sitting on the sidelines and watching my brothers and other pups in my age group receiving the customary training, I begged my mama to bend papa to her will and let him train me— right alongside the full-blooded Lycans. And, like all self-respecting six-year- old girls, I whined and pouted to get what I wanted.

"Please, mama-- I want to be where the big kids are! I'm Lycan!" I wheedled, kicking my legs angrily and shaking my fists. My mother pursed her lips, biting her tongue. At the time, I thought she was angry at my defiance and demanding nature...it wasn't until later I realized she was trying to laugh at my attempt to prove my point.

As the saying goes, the man is the head but the woman is the neck: my papa- a burly beast of a man six-foot- three Lycan general of great renown -listened and bent to my mama's charms and agreed to let me train. Ofcourse, I did have an advantage or two up my sleeve: as the youngest and only girl with two older brothers, I had gotten used to some rough housing. And second, my father was the general-- which meant I got a few private one-on-one lessons to "toughen me up."

As I ran through the forest, jumping over heavy boulders and dodging under hanging branches, I thanked him wholeheartedly for this. Though he was our clan's General and Head Tactician, my Papa was also a business owner. As someone who had to train Lycans, it also seemed reasonable that he teach the humans who were apart of our community-- either by blood or by virtue of their mates --have some training in both hand-to-hand combat and self-defense training. For the more advanced and stronger clients (aka clan members), they would often do the more rigorous and potentially hazardous training at a designated secret location where no unsuspecting humans could discover our activities.

While our family owned and operated a very successful ranch/farm, Papa some how used his charms on my mother to open a side business in town. He promised it would be a hobby - a side job that Papa took on as a labor of love. He always loved to train the youth. Give them something to do other than raise hell amongst the tourists and townies. As it grew in popularity, Papa soon discovered, he couldn't run both the ranch and the dojo, so he hired help and took on volunteers - making the deputy sheriff Jurgens general manager and one of RJ and Jensen's classmates - Max Dixon - a part time manager who just so happened to be a level five Brown Belt in Krav Maga.

The Silver Bullet Gym and Juice Bar was in the main part of town, nearest town hall and the police station. This allowed us some prominence within the public eye as well as made us sync with the human authorities as well. It was a good cover, and one we attempted to maintain at all costs...

"Now remember, my little one," My papa said as we entered the Silver Bullet Gym and Juice Bar, all eyes turning to stare at us as we entered, "we are out in the real world, now. I will not go easy on you here, nor will your brothers coddle you."

I glanced at the humans and Lycans that were working out or sparring with one another. In human form, Lycans were still deadly but were careful to do no harm to the humans, especially as most who trained there were relatives or possible newcomers. I looked at Papa, scrunching my nose in confusion.

"RJ and Jensen don't coddle me, they infuriate and bully me," I pouted, stomping my foot angrily. My papa let out a bark of laughter, but quickly sobered as we entered the Kids Club-- a small sparring studio for Lycan children during the week and human children during the weekend.

"All the more reason to take this seriously. Never underestimate your opponent, and try to keep your friends close--"

"--and enemies closer. I know, Papa." I whined, pouting again. That's when I stopped dead in my tracks at the sight before me. Standing shoulder to shoulder an at arm's width apart stood four rows of Lycan students. They were ranked from eldest to youngest, with my older brothers and two other boys standing at the end of each of their rows. The other children who were in my age group or a couple years older looked at me as I entered with my papa, curiosity written plainly on their faces.

"Everyone take your positions. We are going to do some warm-up stretching and sparring to start-- nothing too strenuous --then we will begin with the more advanced maneuvers. This is Desdemona-- your newest spar mate and my daughter. I am trusting you to make her feel both welcome and teach her what you already know."

I might not have been the most skilled in combat, but I had other skills. Despite being small and only five-foot-three, I used my size to my advantage. At thirteen, being the smallest had its advantages-- I could move faster, climb higher, and manage to out maneuver almost everyone. Except for what had just happened...I had been blindsided and shocked beyond all reason. I could not keep running from everything...especially after what I saw.

As I continued through the forest, I began to feel exhausted. Finding a stream, I waded in up to my knees, cupping my hands in the water and dousing it all over my face, exposed arms and neck. When I felt that I had cooled down, I cupped my hands in the water again and drank deep. That is when I noticed my face and frowned, feeling both anger and disgust--at myself and them.Not my family, but the members of my pack...and what they had done. I continued running, unable to stop myself from comparing my face and body to that of the pair who had created me.

My mother is a beauty. Papa always scoffed at the fact they were mates. But, you don't argue with fate and destiny. A big, bulky moose of a man who loved fights, bikes, and beer. While Mama was a prim, proper, soft spoken farm girl who loves horses, cattle, and sheep. But, she always knew how to look pleasing for Papa. Whereas I would be happiest in my grove of wild flowers deep in the forest. Or, somewhere high up in a tree, chewing on a reed of wild grass – no shoes or socks on my feet. I liked wading in a creek, fly fishing, and hunting with my crossbow.

As I came to a stop in the forest, I heard my stomach growl. I had barely had any food back at the party, and now I was alone-- deep in the forest. I needed to eat...and I didn't have a knife or even my crossbow.

Damn it, you stupid, stupid girl!I growled, angry at myself. I sighed, looking back at the way I had come. I took a tentative sniff as the breeze swept past me...musky earth, cool spring water, bat and wild animal feces, wildflowers...Papa and my brothers. I took another sniff of air, and sensed them-- two other males, full blooded Lycans...Alpha, and Beta blood.

I shivered, looking from the right to the left. I had not been gone for a half hour, maybe forty-five minutes, and yet they had somehow almost converged on my location. My blood pounded in my ears: I couldn't face them, let alone explain things...not like this. Not wanting to explain or be caught just yet, I moved and blended into the background, once again lost in plain sight. It was relatively easy, my body and now dirty birthday clothes blending into the background, as I went around in a way to try to get home. Then I heard the crack of wood and ducked behind a boulder, making sure my scent was hidden from the breeze...

"Damn it to hell, where is that blasted girl?" A young man bellowed, sounding petulant. I shivered, curling closer into myself as his voice washed over me. Tanner...why was he here? I could feel anger and...something else radiate off of him. Then I heard a growl.

"Don't call her that, she cannot be far." Another voice, cooler and more worried, ordered. Warmth spread through me...Jeremiah. I nearly gave myself away when I heard more creaks and snapping of twigs, announcing the arrival of two other less than thrilled teenage boys. I groaned inwardly-- Gog and Magog, or Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum as my friends called my older brothers, had arrived.

"Any sign of her? I thought you guys could call her!" The eldest snapped, huffing angrily. Tanner growled, then there was a smack as Jeremiah shoved him. There was a loud sniff, then a sigh as another voice spoke up.

"She's close by...Jerry, try calling her again. See if we can pinpoint her location." My other brother, Jensen, asked. I felt my heart beat in double time-- partly out of fear of being found, partly because I hated to pain my brothers. Then RJ said something, and my sense of fealty to my brothers shattered.

"I swear, the moment we find her, I will tan her hide!" He snarled, shaking a nearby bush as he stomped off. Jensen and Jerry both scoffed, equally annoyed but no doubt agreeing. Tanner was more vocal.

"Get in line-- those sweet cheeks belong to me, and she deserves a good thrashing!" He sneered. I glowered, my small hands bunching into shaky fists. I then heard a fearsome snarl, then four synchronized whimpers.

"If anyone thrashes my girl, you will all be unable to walk for a damn month. If you two had done your job-- hell, if all of you had, maybe we could have caught her before this. Why are you all just standing there? Keep searching!" My papa snapped.

I heard the boys all mutter something as they took off, running double time past my hiding place as my father proceeded from behind. I glowered, watching as the bushes trembled in their wake. I stuck out my tongue-- would serve them all right if they could not walk for a month. Especially Tanner-- it was his fault I was in this situation in the first place.

As I run back, careful to cover my tracks as best as I can, I cannot help but think about my family-- especially my brothers. Despite coming from the same parents, we are entirely different in terms of looks and personality.

While I took after my mother in terms of size and looks, this did not lessen my importance or thelove of my father. Roland Patchettwas all Lycan and just as impressive and intimidating— at least to other members of the clan and outsiders. To them, he was the Lead General of the SilverBullet Clan— one of the most important and fearsome men to hold this rank. He was fearsome and legendary to those who had heard stories of our clan. To me, he was simply Papa.

Burly, ruggedly handsome at six foot three, papa had rich hazel eyes that could change to match his mood/ Despite his position within the clan and his status as a full-blooded Lycan, he only ever had eyes for my Mama, his one true Mate. My older brothers take more after him in looks, though less so in demeanor and personality. Being four years older than me, my meathead mutts for brothers are four years older than me and have made my existence a nightmare since the day I came homefrom the hospital.

It's not uncommon for Lycans to have twin births. But what makes them rare is, they were twin births between a human and a lycan – plus, they are mirror image twins. Mirror image twins are rare in the lycan community because they have opposite dominance. Where one side of one twin is dominant in one, the other makes up for the other's weak side. It makes battles difficult because they can't be separated from one another or they're vulnerable. Their defining characteristics are in their eye colors. RJ's left eye is blue, where his right is green. Jensen's left is green and his right blue. That would mean their beasts are opposite in color, too.

Draco is RJ's beast. His body is tall and lean muscled – grey with black speckles. Drake is Jensen's beast. He's a foot taller, bulkier, and a minute older than Draco/RJ. Drake's flesh was a deep grey color with silver speckles dusted throughout his chest and back.

While both my brothers grew to look more like my father, both had their own personalities and traits that made them distinguishable and unique from the other. Ever the pesty domineering older brothers, they managed to always watch me and, looking back- I am thankful for them always being there for me. Honestly, I thought that living with them would give me more than enough testosterone...I was never more wrong.

I thought I had enough testosterone living with my brothers. Nope, not even close. They had two other males watching me like a hawk. Papa calls them the Guardians of my virtue. As a girl, I gasped and blushed or rolled my eyes but when I became older and grew to be more interested in boys, the name made sense. And sometimes, in my heart of hearts, I wondered: who would protect their virtue from me? Blushing slightly and feeling slightly queasy, I broke out into a run before memories and sights I should not have seen threatened to make me vomit all over the forest floor....

When I was younger, I never could fully comprehend the need for bodyguards my father insisted I had. What six-year-old little girl requires a wall of four ten-year-old boys taking her to her first day of first grade? As I got older I began to notice and got more curious about the guys around me. I noticed their bodies changing. They shot up and firmed up - overnight. Between the ages of thirteen to sixteen I'd be lying if my hormonal mind didn't day dream about what it would be like to have my first kiss with the soon-to-be Alpha and Beta...

Jeremiah Josiah Oisin Nolan (future Alpha to the Silver Bullet Clan). We grew up together. He took on the role of surrogate older brother, but as I grew older there were times he'd look at me with eyes that changed color. I was the only one besides his parents and sister who would be permitted to call him Jerry. And believe me, I used that to my advantage more than once. Prime example was when I lost first baseman on the softball team in eighth grade.

"Come on Jerry – would you deny a heart broken sistersome ice cream therapy?" I stood there – standing outside the passenger side door of his black 1969 cherry Camaro with drooping eyes and a plump pout of my bottom lip. His reaction surprises me – still.

He growls, his normally hazel eyes shifting to Crow's ice blue orbs; not knowing exactly what it means, then flashing back to my Jerry's deep hazel-green satellites. "Do not refer to yourself as my sister as you do that motion with your bottom lip." He snarled as his eyes shifted from my lips back up to my eyes. All I could muster was a gulp as I lowered myself into the front seat of his car.

Jerry is an overbearing, intimidating, yet mysterious ape of a man. He is a strong personality but he's gentle and kind when he needs to be. His parents raised him to be a leader, but to lead with mercy. He's an experienced athlete, captain of the football team, baseball, track and field, and the wrestling team. But, he loves nature-- I suppose that is one other thing we have in common. Our favorite activity we do together is fishing, white water rafting, tubing, and just sleeping out in the open field of wildflowers.

While Jerry is my constant – nearly obsessive shadow, there is someone who just lingers. When I least expect his presence, he pops up out of nowhere, just watching me – the future Beta of our clan – Tanner Wilcox.

Tanner is a quiet storm of a presence. He's a man of few words, but when he speaks – people listen. Tanner was born a Beta but with Alpha blood, but that is a story for another time. Tanner and Jerry had a healthy competition, but I think Tanner forced himself to submit to Jerry even though Wren raged under the surface. Tanner had always been an inch shorter than Jerry, leaner muscle mass, but beautifully defined as he got older. His sport of choice had been fly fishing, sailing, he was captain of the swim team and loved the high dive.

As we grew up, Tanner taught me how to shoot – he's the marksmen of our little group. Tanner had always been an eye full. He grew to be someone that every unmated female desired-- I even joked about it with him once, for which he scowled and left in a huff --but for some reason he never paid attention to their advances. It was as if he only had his eye on one female...

Shaking my head, memories come unbidden...writhing bodies, moaning pleasure and speaking of unspeakable and atrocious feelings...I cannot help it. I scream in horror and rage, forgetting the need for silence...then I hear it. They have found me...I run again, not wanting to see Tanner or Jerry. Or have my father catch us, if they find me first.

A little family history

Our clan's history is a sordid one. It all started back in Ireland. Alpha Seamus is Jeremiah's great grandfather. It was because of Alpha Seamus that Alpha Josiah decided the clan needed to be led into a more progressive and inclusive way of life in order to survive.

Over time our people quietly became tired of the shackles Alpha Seamus kept around our necks and limbs. They were crying for relief and Jerry's father would soon be that savior. It took time after Alpha Josiah took control for our people to embrace the changes he wanted to implement, but the first step was to convince the Council to allow the Clan to mingle more among humans versus staying separate, the shift in clan politics- including how Omegas were treated. It wouldn't happen over night, but Alpha Josiah was determined to show the council that adapting to the twentiethcentury would ensure our survival.

For those who disagreed with the new Alpha, they left for our cousin clans. But for those that were hard nosed, they made their presence known when they had to vote on policies Alpha Josiah wanted to implement – Lycan and human mates were first on his to do list.

Then, he wanted there to be a shift from dogmatic patriarchy to equality and equity in termsof gender politics within the clan. Which meant for those who left, he needed to diversify the council.

Missing Pieces

You could say my parents were the catalyst to Alpha Josiah's revolution to gain control of the clan. Because of him no matter his age, it was his fortitude that made it possible for my parents to finally date in the open and mate in private. Shortly after Alpha Josiah took over, my parents had their wedding and mating ceremonies. And in honor of both my parents' heritage, it was a spectacle to see.

"It is an honor to behold the joining and finding of two souls – making them one under the spectacular moon. With the boiling cauldron – the offerings made to the Goddess Cerridwen, we ask that she bless the first ever lycan and human mating in our clan's history." Alpha Josiah took my father's left hand, laid it upon my mother's right shoulder and laid my mother's left hand and laid it upon my father's right shoulder – signifying their bond is now sealed.

I had been told by Mama how the crowd cheered after Alpha Josiah blessed them.

Alpha Josiah didn't only overthrow his father for my parents. He did it for the family he was having with Luna Beatrix. Jerry wasn't an only child. Jerry had a younger sister – my best friend Natalie – Natty as I called her. I always thought that's why he was so possessive over me. Natty was the spinning image of Luna Beatrix, with her rich curly black hair, natural rosy blush on her cheeks, and a smile that made her eyes glow. Despite her strong resemblance to her mom, she did manage to snag her father's eyes: so beautiful, warm and vibrant. It was hard to believe anyone so alive could be taken away so easily.

Our sisterhood was fated to come to a devastating end. She was six – leukemia. It destroyed all of us. In our race, it is unheard of for human diseases to hurt us – even kill us, but you see there was something no one knew in the clan. Natalie wasn't a Lycan. She didn't have a spirit beast to protect her. Which is strange to happen when both parents are Lycans and of pure blood. Our clan doctor said it's rare but the gene (I call it a curse) can skip a generation.

She was taken to all the best doctors and even to our Druid Sorcerer, Lennon. Lennon thought he could perform a ritual that would grant Natty a beast of her own. But her body hadn't matured yet. It was another failed attempt.

After a while, even the chemotherapies stopped working and she took a decline and her poor little body gave out. My soul sister died peacefully in her mother's arms.

Natty was the first person I knew that died. And according to my Mama, I took it very hard. That's probably why Jeremiah and I became so close. I won't ever forget that day, it was the first time Jerry kissed me and when Tanner caught us, I swear I heard him snarl at his best friend. Why would an innocent peck between a six and ten-year-old infuriate a little boy so much?

Keep your friends close – your enemies' closer

After Natty passed away it took me time to open myself up again to make friends. Mama and Papa thought it would be best to enroll me in an elementary school that was integrated with lycan children and human children. That's where I met my three best friends – all humans. Though I had been unsure about being in school with humans, I soon found my rhythm and enjoyed myself.

While most of the humans at my school were related to or had ties with Lycan families within the community, a small minority were unaware of our existence. However, in case some of the humans were potential future mates of Lycan pack members, the teachers found ways to integrate the lesser fantastic parts of the Silver Bullet Clan's rather sordid and bloody history into the curriculum. Including our ability to transform into beasts, though this was seen as more of a folktale to scare small children-- or at least that is what most of the unvetted and untied humans thought. And our clan members were all right with this assumption.

Though a secular school, due to the religious and ethnic makeup that made up our community, religious theory and history classes were added to the curriculum as well. Most of these classes were for junior high and high school students; however, parents who wanted their children to learn or "pick their culture's" religion were allowed to attend as an elective. That meant I learned a great deal about Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and also the lesser known (and my own clan's official religion, Druidism.

"So you worship trees?" One of my human best friends, Daphne Miller asked just before the start of Local History. My other two human friends, twins Lucie and Leigh Anne Rothschild, giggled. Our newest addition to the group, Tameekah Grant, elbowed me playfully as she said, "So, your official religion is Tree-Hugging?"

They all giggled but before I could explain what my family's religion actually was as my parents had explained it to me, the teacher walked in with a girl trailing along behind him. All talk within the classroom stopped, everyone facing the front of the room as we stared at our teacher and the newcomer.

"Good morning, class," Our first grade teacher, Mrs. Lipinski said, smiling at all of us. She motioned to the newcomer at her side, who for all we knew could be a statue versus a living, breathing.

"Good morning, Mrs. Lipinski!" We all chimed in happily, though I stared at the girl who was with her. I felt uneasy, though I for the life of me could not fathom why.

"Today, we have a new student. Her family just moved here from up North, and will be joining us for the semester. Please try to make Merigold Newton welcome." She was...different. Even then, at six years old I could sense something-- deep in my gut. Just then, a baseball slammed through the classroom, shattering the glass and letting in a blast of still cool morning air. The air brushed over her, ruffling her curls into her face and sending her scent all over the room.

Honey, earth, and something dark...I froze, dropping my textbook onto the floor, and there was a collective gasp as well as some mutterings. My friends stared at me and the others in the class. My teacher who was also human but mated to someone within the clan, took in our mixed reaction.

"Yes, she is...special, like many of you." She said carefully, only to receive bursts of laughter from some of the boys and one or two girls. Merigold frowned at them, her brown eyes turning molten in fury. She glared at me, the full-force of her eyes searing me with barely contained malice. As if it were my fault that the boys were laughing.

"What's her problem?" Tameekah asked, noting the way the new girl had stared at me. Merigold took her seat at the back of the room, ignoring the looks of the others that stared at her. I shrugged my shoulders, not entirely comfortable to reveal what I knew, especially as my friends were "uninitiated" in terms of pack or Lycan life beyond legends and local history.

"No clue-- must not like being referred to as special, I guess," I said as honestly as I could, glancing back at the girl. Some of the girls and one or two of the boys shrank back in their seats, keeping their eyes either on their textbooks or on teacher.

"Special, my butt," Daphne sniffed, looking back at the drawing board. "She's just bright and shiny-- something for the boys to either torture or share cooties with!"

"Ewww!" We all gasped, giggling. When Mrs. Lorenzo stared at us, we all clammed up and tried to focus. However, I could still feel her eyes on me...if only I had known how prophetic Daphne had been.

When I got home from school that night and we were talking at the dinner table, I told Mama, Papa, and my brothers about her. My parents had this funny look on their faces, as though the taste of the soup had been soured. Wiping his mouth on his napkin, Papa spoke in a gruff tone as he relayed information about the family.

"The Newton's are new to town-- full blooded Lycans, from what I have been told. Originally they were apart of our clan, once upon a time but for some reason migrated up North to one of our cousin clans. They have come back and our Alpha has welcomed them with open arms. Which means, I will likely be training their daughter and your classmate, Merigold."

He looked at me then, his eyes warm yet brooking no argument. "As the general's daughter, you are expected to be as welcoming as possible-- and that goes for all of you. They might be Omegas, but that does not mean they should be looked down at. Anymore than they might want to look down on you for being part human. Understood?"

"Yes, Papa," I answered quietly, taking another bite of my dinner. I heard him chuckle, the feet of his chair screeching against the floor as he stood. "However, that does not mean I want you to be a doormat either. Fight and stand up for yourself when necessary."

The rest of the semester, I watched the new girl with interest. She really knew how to stand out from the crowd: a pure blooded Lycan. I overheard my parents talking about her and her family one night when I should have been asleep. Though her ancestorswere originally born of a higher rank, her family had all been born omegas. Had Alpha Seamus failed to be overthrown and his brothers deposed, they mighthave still been treated like scum.

As a child, she was soft-spoken and not one to make a spectacle of herself, often keeping to herself. I tried my best to be kind to her, inviting her to hang outs with my friends...but she would just glare at me and say, "No thanks. I have better things to do." She was not mean, at least not then...I thought she was being shy. I never even saw her attend training sessions. When I asked Papa, his face would darken and he just would say, "She didn't make the cut." It surprised me, but I never brought it up again.

Meri's mother was a business owner. She owns the sweet shop on the main street in town, called Meri's Sweet Treats and her father is a math teacher and football coach at the high school.Despite her lowly pack status, no one could deny her radiance – mocha skin and wavy milk chocolate hair that framed a heart shaped face and set off her deep brown eyes. A boy in our class described them like pools of molten chocolate—ones he would happily dive into and never resurface from.

Then everything changed...as soon as we turned thirteen, she became someone, something else. I growled as fresher, more recent memories assaulted my mind. I should have known, should have sensed that she would pull something like this...but Tanner? My protector, friend, and third shadow? Damn it. I continued to run...I could feel them closing in. Soon they would find me...

As she grew up, she became a lanky, statuesque beauty queen with looks to kill for, if the boys' babbling can be believed. Her attitude, though, was perhaps the biggest change: as she grew into her looks, she used them to her advantage—hanging onto any and every guy who looked her way, taking anything andeverything they had to offer her. I honestly don't know how her parents handled her.

Though we were at least civil as kids, as was expected, that changed upon reaching junior high as she became the high school beauty queen stereotype: all beauty, total bitch, and all around nightmare. I could never under shake a feeling that there was something...off about her. And apparently, she thought or felt the same...sneering at me, spreading rumors, and doing everything to harm me short of physically harming me. She would never have survived that.

I couldn't understand why she was so put off by me. I considered myself a meek thing – nothing special. By the time I was thirteen I had only grown to about five feet four inches. I barely had meat on my bones, and would be no filling out any time soon. In fact, Jerry and especially Tanner always get onat me about how scrawny I was. And then there are my looks. I wasn't anyone's competition – especially Merigold Newton's.

My lifeless, long wiry dark brown hair, pug nose like Papa's, and deep sharp hazel eyes like Papa – I didn't consider myself a raving beauty like Meri was growing up being. So, I couldn't understand the dirty looks, the snide comments, and the cruel nickname – Dirty Desi she gave me. Her antics and attempts at humiliation also had an adverse affect on my relationships-- especially with Tanner and Jerry.

"Can you believe that?" I snarled, talking to Jerry and Tanner about my problems. Two weeks before my birthday, and I had almost had a conniption fit. I was lucky neither Meri or I didn't end up in the principal's office. Somehow, both my protectors had somehow sensed my unease as I left the school and, as my brothers were nowhere to be seen, picked me up to take me home.

On the way home, I spilled the beans on what had happened. Meri, her clique, and her newest flavor of the week had thought it would be a brilliant idea to write a dirty limerick about me on one of the bathroom stalls. Quite a feat, since Meri had all the grammatical skill of a gibbering baboon.

"I think you're overreacting. It was just a harmless prank," Tanner reasoned tartly. Jerry chuckled, giving me a playful pat on the arm. "Seriously, though, I wouldn't worry about that girl-- she's miles beneath you in terms of brains. Karma will get her back."

"Yeah, and probably via something venereal," I snapped. Tanner turned then and stared at me, eyes blazing and mouth twisting in a half snarl. "Watch your mouth!" Jerry glanced between the two of us, and gave his friend a shove. I just stared at Tanner, shaken and not understanding why he had reacted like that.

The next day at the end of school, is when I saw Meri and Tanner talking. Normally, this was not a huge deal-- the high school and the middle school shared the same property and some of the same facilities. But for a high school senior, he seemed way too keen to hear what she was saying. And she...just the memory and thought makes me want to vomit.

The way she dangles herself in front of Tanner makes me sick...and the way he barely does anything to dissuade her actions makes me feel cold all over. I told Jerry once about my suspicions-- he laughed it off, saying he was just humoring her.

"She's a teenager, he's nearly an adult-- he won't do anything stupid like that. I'd tan his hide!"

"You wouldn't! Jerry, that's not--"

"Oh, calm down, Desi Doo-- I was only joking. Seriously, though, put it out of your pretty little head. Tanner and Meri-- nah, no way. She's still too young and even if she was...nah, nothing to tempt him there."
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