A Dormant Howl

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Chapter 5

When I’m supposed to shift

When Lennon was no longer looking, I hastily grabbed my things and ran from his cabin. At one point, I thought maybe he had followed me, but I reasoned he couldn’t and wouldn’t. I somehow managed to make it to school, gave my teachers an excuse about not feeling well-- I even had a decently forged doctor’s note.

“Hmm, I see. Well, Tameekah has your history coursework. Please let us know next time when you are running late,” My teacher sniffed, pocketing my note before turning away-- effectively dismissing me. Sighing, I had left her office to meet up with my friends by my locker when I saw Meri. I groaned, feeling instantly more exhausted than I had earlier.

“Well, good morning, Dirty Desi-- nice to see you actually make it,” She cooed, her mouth parted into a malicious smirk. I walked up to my locker, intent on ignoring her and exchanging my things for my stored books-- Tameekah and my other friends had my locker combination, as I had theirs, especially in the case of emergencies. Closing my locker with books in hand, I turned with a plastered smile on my face-- acting as though it was the first time, I had seen her.

“Merigold! What a surprise to see you here, slumming and with your legs closed. What, no takers for the morning rush?” I sneered, shouldering past her. I heard her scoff, before feeling her lycan strength grip my arm. I bit back a scream, turning to face her. Her face was twisted into a malevolent snarl, perfect white teeth bared in warning.

“I’d be more careful, Desi, especially walking in those woods. It’s not safe and it would be a shame if anyone discovered what you were doing,” she warned, her lips forming into a smirk. I realized then that she was threatening me. I yanked my arm from her bruising grasp, but quickly moved into her space. She flinched, moving a step back-- a memory of me tossing her aside flashed through my mind’s eye.

“I appreciate the warning, but what about you? I doubt your parents or the Beta would appreciate your little clandestine meeting with Tanner-- pretty sure you would not want to get him into trouble, especially considering the age difference,” I said, my voice dripping venom. She jumped back as though she had been stung while I had felt instantly sick to my stomach. I did not want to do this or use Tanner-- but I had to protect myself, and him. Even if it meant having a draw with Meri.

“Just...just shut up,” She whined, flouncing away from me. I shuddered as I watched her, chills crawling all over me. Despite being a beautiful girl, Meri was also the ugliest girl and Lycan I had ever met. Turning and seeing my friends waiting for me, I walked down the hall and continued to my classes.

I probably should have just gone home, called off sick-- anything. I had barely been able to focus on class, feeling exhaustion and anxiety settling into my bones. But I had to keep up the illusion that I had been at school all day. And I would have been damned if I allowed Meri to bend me any more than she had or make me run home like a dog with my tail tucked between my legs.

When I had returned home at the end of the day, I was exhausted to the bone. I could barely walk; everything was so sore and my mind muddled. Meri, Tanner, Lennon and his venomous spewing-- all of it made my headache a thousand times over. As I cleared the forest’s edge that was right off my family’s stables, I heard the distant laughter of my brothers, Jerry and Tanner. Though they still were under training, they must have just gotten back from a ride-- it was one of the few things they still did together as a group.

As I passed by the stables, I saw Tanner standing outside unsaddling my papa’s favorite horse, Jersey. We had briefly made eye contact-- his face froze; the smile he had fading instantly. I heard my brothers laughing and joking inside with Jerry, and I knew he had not ratted me out. Though, in retrospect, it likely was more to do with protecting his sordid secret and meeting with Meri than protecting me.

As we continued our little stare down, I noticed his face drop. He almost looked hurt and dejected. I couldn’t understand why. Just for a fleeting moment, I lost my confidence and found my feet begin to move toward him. Until I caught a whiff of what smelt like rotten eggs. My eyes adjusted as an all too familiar female form came into view – Meri! That’s when Tanner stiffened up. His chest puffed like he took a defensive stance. From ten feet away, I could hear him growl and hiss. That sent a cold chill down my back and I found myself submitting to him, but only for a mere second.

As fleeing as I found myself backing off, I adjusted – standing my ground. Standing tall in my petite 5’4” frame, I raised my left hand proudly – no pretense or apologies and raised my middle finger to the heavens – flipping off the Beta in waiting. His snarl grew louder and as he held his bitch back, that just made me even more agitated. So, I put the final nail in the coffin, built up enough phlegm in my throat and let the spit fly. Just when I thought that would cause him to combust, he didn’t respond but just turned on his heel pulling Meri with him and entered the stable to return Jersey to his stable.

The incident now still stands out to me-- everything about that day in the forest is always in sharp focus, especially as It’s been two years since I visited Lennon’s eerie domain, deep within the forest. Though I was given some answers, I had no desire to return. Though my one regret is how I had tested my own bond and mind link with Tanner. Two years, and he still has not acknowledged me or tried to talk with me.

What hurt the most was that Merigold was always lurking around him. Every time I saw him arrive at school; it was to see Meri. Clan events, meetings, or stores in town-- she was everywhere and all over him, like a fly to shit. It put a strain on his friendship with RJ, too.

The day after my meeting with Lennon, RJ and Jensen came home from a lapse in training. I had been upstairs, trying to focus on my homework when I overheard the noise-- slamming doors, rattling cabinets, broken glasses and my mom’s screaming. My homework forgotten, I grabbed my crossbow and charged down the stairs. As I neared the kitchen, I fit in a special tranquilizer dart into the bow and moved forward.

“RJ, can you please calm down--?” I could hear my mom saying from the kitchen. Coming to a halt just outside, I flinched at the sound of glass breaking and Mama’s cry of alarm. Mustering up my courage, I shoved open the kitchen door and aimed my bow, ready for anything.

“That was my grandmother’s best china! RJ, stop it!” She snarled, Rubi overtaking my mother. Her tone was strained.

Jensen was standing between RJ and Mama, his arms outstretched to keep RJ and his beast – Draco from Mama and Rubi. His face was drawn in pain and worry, while RJ looked angry and brokenhearted. No one noticed me from the door, but I lowered my crossbow fractionally.

“RJ-- I know you’re upset, I can understand but you should not take out your anger on your family,” Jensen insisted, inching towards his twin. Roland rounded on him, his beast taking control now. He grabbed Jensen by the throat, shoving him into the refrigerator. I did not hesitate-- I hefted my bow and, taking careful aim, fired. The bolt struck RJ’s beast in the shoulder, causing his upper body to convulse. A low, dangerous growl escaped his lips as he turned to me.

That was the wrong mistake to make, little girl, the beast in front of her snarled, his eyes glowing with rage and sadness. His muscles did not relax-- his adrenaline must have been at an all time high. He was not going to go down easily. His cold tone slid over me like ice, causing me to shiver, yet I did not look away. Instead, I knocked another bolt, never once taking my eyes from them. Rubi then stood in front of me, body crouched into a protective stance.

You will not hurt our child – Draco, she snapped, baring her teeth at him. Then Jensen shoved RJ, slamming him onto the table with his lycan strength as his own beast came out to play. I readied my bow, aiming it between the two in case one of them turned on the other or me and Rubi.

Be sensible, brother-- what is done is done. She is beneath you, not worth your sadness, Jensen’s beast – Drake reasoned. RJ’s beast receded, her brother coming to the surface with a broken sob. Rubi’s stance relaxed, but she did not let Mama come back.

“My mate...my own mate...rejected meee!” He wailed, howling in pain as tears streamed from his eyes. I lowered my crossbow in complete shock. Rubi gingerly took me in hand, leading me closer to the table where RJ was now reclining, his body starting to relax as my tranquilizer began to take affect.

I am sorry, blood of my blood-- no cub should have to suffer this, Rubi chuffed sadly, running a clawed hand gently over RJ’s face. His face contorted into a ferocious snarl, his beast trying take control before he faded into oblivion.

I will never forgive her, or Wren-- I wash my hands of them both! May the goddess bring nothing but strife and blood to their union! He wheezed, snapping his fangs and baring his teeth at all of us. I hoisted my crossbow, ready to fire when Jensen slammed his fist into his brother’s face, knocking him out cold. RJ instantly relaxed, his head smacking into the wood of the table with a low groan as he slipped into unconsciousness.

I will take him to bed-- let him sleep it off, Jensen/Drake whined sadly, hefting his fallen twin’s body over his shoulder. Mama was back now, nodding her head and pulling me out of the way. As RJ and Jensen passed her, her hands trailed over their heads.

“My poor boy,” She sighed as she watched their retreating forms. I turned to Mama, a thought on my mind. I opened my mouth, unsure if I should bother asking. Mama seemed to read my thoughts and, bidding me to sit down, began to clean up the broken mess my brother had left in his wake.

“Yes, RJ met his mate a while ago-- some time before your birthday. But the girl rejected him, saying she wanted nothing to do with…” Mama stopped speaking for a moment, the broken shards of great grandma’s china cutting into her skin as she showed a human burst of anger.

“Nothing to do with...what?” I asked slowly. She stared at me, her broken heart and anger apparent in her eyes. Blood dripped down onto the counter and the floor as the shards dug into her palms, shattering and grinding into porcelain specks.

“She said she could not and would have nothing to do with a half-breed Lycan, whose rank was beneath that of a Beta!” She snapped, pounding her fists onto the countertop. Blood splattered across the counter. I flinched, my finger jerking against the trigger of my crossbow.

“Upon my soul, I have never seen a more distasteful or abominable girl than that Merigold Newton, or such a backstabbing bastard in sheep’s clothing than that of our future Beta, Tanner Wilcox,” Mama sneered, moving away from the counter to drop the remaining shards and porcelain dust into the trash bin.

My crossbow slipped from my hands, my entire body trembling as her words hit me like a full-force gale wind. Mama turned, staring at me with confused eyes when she realized what she had just said. Eyes widening, she opened her mouth to say something when I spoke first.

“Tanner...and Merigold? He knew Meri was RJ’s mate-- and yet he still went after her?” I bellowed, my breathing uneven as anger roiled and stampeded throughout my blood. I fell back into a chair, dumbstruck. Mama was there, trying to talk to me but I could not hear her-- my mind reeling and recalling everything.

Tanner and Meri, my birthday party, RJ’s sadness and visits with Lennon...her insistence on hanging all over Tanner, rubbing her newfound champion and playmate in my face...it made sense, and yet also no sense. Tanner was our friend, my protector since childhood, and yet he was with Meri...none of it made sense, and yet it did at the exact same time. No wonder RJ was so mad...he had cursed them by the goddess. In a moment of passion, yet, but he had cursed them...I hoped, for his and Tanner’s sake, that the goddess took it as anger versus an actual curse. But Merigold...was it so wrong of me to hope she would be cursed? Again, everything hit me like a monsoon, and my inner dam broke.

Leaning into Mama’s arms, I began to sob-- for my brother, for myself, for what we had all lost. After that, I tried not to talk about Tanner around my brother, though as time wore on, he managed to accept their relationship, though I could still see the hurt and resentment in his eyes. I, however, never could accept what Tanner had done to my brother, though I bit my tongue over discussing it with him or anyone else.

In many ways, the experience of watching my brother deal with his rejection and betrayal at the hand of one of his closest friends allowed me to appreciate my current situation much more than I would have. My life was so much better knowing I didn’t have to worry about the heartache that came along with shifting and finding my mate. Somehow, the weight was taken off my shoulders knowing that the outcome would only be a disappointment.

Since Papa’s passing, Mama has been helping me suppress my beast for the last four years. It has been about two years since I have visited Lennon-- I have never gone back or attempted to discuss what happened. I think Mama knows what I did, though she has never talked about it with me. As is the case, what is done is done-- I got some answers. Though I have more questions, I have no interest in discovering or receiving them from Lennon. Besides, I have more fun and glorious things to think about right now.

My sweet 16 is just a week away. I wasn’t planning anything big, just my immediate family, Luna Beatrix, Alpha Josiah, Jeremiah, Beta Wilcox, Beta Female Marjorie, and. I knew my mother would be inviting - Tanner. Though Jeremiah has taken over the role of clan Alpha, Tanner has yet to take over as Beta. Though there has been talk amongst the clan, no one has risen to challenge this odd event. Because it is not a clan decision, but rather that of the Alpha and Beta. And truthfully, Beta Thomas doesn’t believe his son is ready to handle the responsibilities that come along with the title of Beta. As is evidenced in part by his lack of regard for RJ’s feelings about screwing and pursuing his best friend’s former mate and his continuation of a somewhat public relationship with Merigold. Many of the elders stand behind the Beta’s decision; however, it will only be a matter of time before everyone grows restless and demands a shift in power.

Alpha Josiah had never been the same since the battle that overthrew his father’s ironclad claws. He had been mortality wounded while my father saved his life, my father lost his. That left Alpha Josiah in the clan hospital with only the best care, but even the best care – both western and clan medicine couldn’t mend. Although Jerry had a year left to study, Alpha Josiah just couldn’t compete anymore. The revolution left his once strong, lean muscular body riddled with arthritis and constant enflamed scar tissue. No matter how much the tried to remove it, it appeared to be more would grow surgery after surgery. So, now he’s bound to a walker or an automatic power wheelchair.

I was so proud of Jerry when he cam to visit me the night his father told him he was going to be Alpha sooner than expected. Jerry always shown great promise in his leadership qualities.

I remember watching him in his wall mirror in his bedroom – adjusting his black satin tie so it would be perfectly lined with the buttons of his black dress shirt.

“Hold on two left thumbs.” I giggled as I made my presence known, he now sees my refection behind him. Jerry crouches down so I can fix the mess he considers a tell tied tie. “Is Alpha Jeremiah Nolan nervous – scared?”

As I finished tying his tie, he stood to his full 6’4” human height. We stood mere inches apart. I felt something electric as his fingertips gingerly brushed a loose strand of hair behind my right ear.

“At this moment Desi Doo there is only one thing I see that actually scares me…” his head was creeping so near to my lips that I could feel his warm minty breath tracing loops across my lightly glossed petals of pink flesh. Just as I anticipated his next move, we were interrupted by an obnoxious snarl that could be heard from the hallway…


Two days later -

“So, you’re really not going to have a party this year?” Leigh Anne asks me one day. We are standing in line in the school’s cafeteria, waiting to have our food to be plopped onto our trays. The smell of the lunch lady’s Soup Du Jour tickles my nose, making my mouth water-- chicken noodle soup made from scratch, with baking soda biscuits, and baked Roman apples with fresh whipped cream and vanilla bean ice cream. I was so thrilled I had not brought lunch from home today!

“Yeah, I didn’t really want to do anything too big this year,” I said absently, watching the lunch lady ladle some of the soup into my bowl. I closed my eyes, allowing the warm scent of the herbs, onions, and carrots fill my nostrils. Sighing blissfully, I moved down the line as the cafeteria attendants placed biscuits and dessert onto my tray.

“Oh, come on girl-- it’s your sweet sixteen! You should be partying, living it up and shit!” Lucie interjected, tossing a pear onto my tray. I smiled, wondering if we could maybe do a last minute Sweet Sixteen-- the dress, the limo, the party for all parties. Though we had enough money to hold a party and more than likely the Nolan’s would want to contribute to my birthday-- it would be a big clan event, no doubt. Then I thought of who I would have to invite, and I grimaced.

“Yeah, the last time I tried having a fun party and “live it up,” I caught Tanner and STD Meri screwing in the laundry room,” I glowered, barely holding back a dry heave. My girlfriends’ gave a collective shudder and momentarily dropped the subject. A couple of the girls from Meri’s little crowd saw us and moved off, presumably to eat outside. How that girl managed to have such a following despite screwing almost every boy in school was beyond me.

“But still, it’s your sixteenth-- you got to do something fun,” Tameekah reasoned, lips forming a sad little pout. Soon, Daphne and the twins followed suit, hitting me with the puppy dog eyes and pouty lips. Sighing and rolling my eyes, I bent to their will. Partially.

“I already have plans with my family and the clan. We can do something the week after my birthday. Deal?”

“Deal!” They all chirped in unison, causing us to all giggle and shove one another playfully. I was just about to take a second bite out of my baked apple when the devil incarnates came skipping over to our table. The smell of her cloying anti-itch cream tickled my nose, instantly causing me to drop my spoon.

“Well, look who it is . . .” Meri said as if to sound mocking. I blinked, wondering what the hell she wanted. We all gawked at her as if saying, yeah this is our lunch period. Where else would we be? Lucie leaned back in her chair, giving Merigold the once over. Leigh Anne followed her twin’s movements, narrowing her eyes and pursing her lips. Then Lucie spoke up.

“What do you want, Merigold? Hasn’t Dorothy dropped a house on you yet?” Lucie drawled, annoyed. I bit back a choked snort, covering it with a hard cough as Meri’s face reddened and her eyes flashed angrily. The anger cooled in her eyes as she stared at me, a knowing smile on her lips.

“I’m actually surprised to see you here today, Desdemona,” she cooed, ignoring Lucie’s retort. “A little bird told me you favor early mornings and skipping class for...umm...Candle-Einstein meetings.”

I bristled at her insinuation, knowing she was talking about my past meeting with Lennon when what she had said struck me. Daphne caught on as well, looking at Merigold as though she had a second head.

“Don’t you mean, clandestine?” She sneered. Merigold huffed, tossing her hair in annoyance. I noted the small tick in her jaw-- the bitch really did not like getting called out for her looseness, let alone her own incompetence and stupidity.

“That’s what I said, bookworm. Ugh, fuck off already, you dumb human-- this is between me and half-blood, Dirty Desi,” she sneered right back. Her lips curled as she took in my plain (i.e. more modest) clothes. I felt the blood in my veins begin to boil, my teeth grinding as she insulted one of my best friends. Full-blooded Lycan are not, that did not give her the right to talk down to my friends who, as far as I was concerned, were worth more than fifty full-blooded Lycans like Meri!

“Besides, I hear you and our priest are especially close,” She said, her lips curling. “Considering your interests in all things wild, I would call your slumming in the woods rather intriguing, especially if everyone knew who’d you’d rather spend your time with...and how you spend it,” she hissed, her subtle barb meant to cause a stir. My friends all looked at one another before staring back at her. She smiled wickedly, thinking she had somehow managed to do damage. Little did she know how much I detested Lennon, or how deep my distrust in him ran.

Realization dawned on me, snapping me out of my growing animosity. She was baiting me. I could tell by the way she stood-- as she had the high ground, she was trying to cow and dominate me, make me be the lesser or weaker opponent.

“I mean, what could you possibly learn here at school when Lennon and the others are so fond of you?” She cackled, finding her own words amusing. I pushed my tray away, no longer hungry but feeling utterly queasy-- anti-itch cream and cloying Axe for Women body spray can do that --before leaning on the table. She had my undivided attention-- I was eager to see what she could say, if anything.

“Really? I’m surprised you even have time to notice anything going on around you, considering you usually do your best work on your knees,” I said curtly. She blanched at that, then frowned.

“How dare you--” She began, her hackles rising. I cut her off quickly, continuing my initial thoughts. “You know, in fact, I am surprised you bothered to show up at all-- I figured you’d be too busy on your back or on your knees to pay school much attention, let alone my comings and goings.”

The other girls lost it, pounding the table and howling in laughter. Our table earned some odd looks, but I stood my ground as Merigold seemed to momentarily wilt. For a moment, I wondered if I had gone too far. I almost considered apologizing-- but then my memories of RJ’s anguish and her own shortcomings as a person stopped me.

She snarled, her beast coming to the surface for a moment, claws extending and eyes glittering with malice. A few kids, including Lycans from our pack, darted away from our table and my friends made to move. For a moment, I feel my own sense of mortality as I watch her eyes flash, changing color and her claws extend as her beast tries to come to the surface. I wonder if I should run when I hear something-- footfalls.

Catching movement out of the corner of my eye, I see a couple of teachers and coaches-- Lycans and shifters alike --approach Merigold. Despite having already been blessed with the arrival of her beast before me, I am satisfied to see that the more mature Lycans within our clan are there to make sure she does no one-- including my human friends --any harm. She is still new, she can barely control her anger or fight back her beast...what a malicious, despicable creature her beast must be-- a match made in hell.

As a teacher pulls a dart gun from his hidden side holster, he takes aim at her. Both she and I notice, with some shock, that it is her father who has her in his sights. Her face darkens, lips curling back to reveal jagged teeth.

“Meri-- get Lavinia under control. I know you can do it-- we don’t want any problems here. Get her under control...now,” Mr. Newton reasoned, his own beast coming to the surface. His eyes changed, flashing a molten gold color. Meri snarls, licking her new fangs. He removes the safety from his weapon and aims it. Soon, she relaxes, her beast once again under control. He comes to stand next to her, but she glowers at him, causing him to stop short. With pursed lips and misty eyes, he turns on his heel and leaves the cafeteria.

“Now,” she says in a sing-song tone, “where were we?” My friends have returned to their seats, the moment of a beast let loose at school momentarily forgotten. No doubt some of the teachers, including Meri’s father, will be reporting to our Alpha. It will only be a matter of time before the news of Meri’s newest show of feminine Lycan power and idiocy will make it to the Beta’s household.

She posed her hands on her hips, as if she was ready to read us to pieces only, when she looked around, there was no one there to back her up. Any of her posse or friends who might have stood by her cannot face a scandal or a rumor-- especially something like this.

Not even her precious Tanner Bear is here, I growled inwardly. I suddenly shuddered, wondering where that thought had come from when I heard Meri unleash a low dangerous chuckle. Hearing that I looked up at her, noticing what she was wearing. She looked as plastic and as made up as a Barbie doll, her barely there mini brown plaid skirt and matching blazer made her look like a businesswoman inspired stripper. I was surprised she had even bothered dressing at all.

Despite not having the back up of her minions, Merigold merely scoffed and was about to flip her hair and storm away, but then decided to impart a final thought. “Oh, dear Desi-- I almost forgot to tell you,” she sneered, bending down so she and I were eyes to eye, puffing her chest out so hard I thought her breasts might pop out from their ill-fitting bra. Biting back my revulsion, I carefully kept my eyes on her, and my hand grasped around my knife-- just in case I needed to defend myself.

“I’m so sorry but my Tanner Bear won’t be able to make it to your sweet 16 party,” she told me, lower lip sticking out in a mock pout. My skin prickled in chilling horror, but I did not let my anger or hurt show. As if she won the war, she cleared her throat as she straightened, her hand trailing over the contours of her all too visible cleavage.

“Instead, he’ll be with me . . .” she said breathlessly, her smile turning malicious and her eyes flashing in challenge. For a moment, no one said anything. I just glared at her and shrugged. Why was she still here-- what, was she waiting for my reaction? Well, don’t flatter yourself, bitch-- I didn’t care enough to respond. Without realizing it, I unleashed an unladylike snort.

“Yeah, right-- I doubt our Alpha or our current Beta will let you get within ten feet of him. Besides, what are you still doing here, clan whore? Fuck off already,” I snarled, and she gasped, nearly leaving a puddle on the floor. As I stared at her, I felt her eyes go wide and her mouth drop open in horror. I did not understand what I had said that had caused her to be so shocked-- she and I had traded barbs before. What was so different?

Before I could say or do anything else, my friends backed me up, as well as did a few other people within earshot who were not fans of her (or had been on the receiving end of one of her itchy sessions) and managed to boo and catcall her out of the cafeteria. In the hallway, I overheard our principal and her father call her into the office...she was done for, at least for today.

I returned my attention to my baked apple, frowning at the melted puddle of frothy whipped cream and vanilla bean ice cream. I had a new problem-- my errant protector and beta-to-be, Tanner. Don’t get me wrong-- I was slightly hurt that he wouldn’t at least make an appearance, he was at every birthday party I could remember. He had already almost thrown over RJ for the whore...would he really risk losing our friendship as well?

“Are you okay, Des?” Leigh Anne asked as she squeezed my shoulder. They knew I was a Lycan. The whole town knew we existed, and they felt safer for it. “You’re not really hurt by her, are you?”

Clearing my throat and honestly trying not to cry, I shook my head no and then drifted off. My mind opened and, almost without thinking, I reached out and tried to link with Jerry. I know I probably shouldn’t have-- especially over something so damned trivial. He had more important things to do as Alpha and was likely in a meeting with the council. But in almost an instant, I felt his presence in my mind, feeling a warmness that was distinctly him pour through the mind link. I felt at ease...almost. Then I remembered why I had sought him out, my mood instantly changing. He sensed it, too, and tried to reach out-- his tone comforting.

Hey, Desi, what’s --?

So, Tanner really won’t be at one of my most important birthday parties in my life? Really, Jerry? How could he stand me up on my sixteenth! I hate him!

Who told you he wasn’t coming? I’ll rip their throats out! I could feel his growl reverberate in my chest. I involuntarily flinched at his tone, halting my answer. I didn’t want to answer because I knew how mad he’d get. He hated when people messed with me-- especially Merigold and her cronies. In fact, I couldn’t ignore just how possessive and protective he’s been getting as I have been getting older.

Tell me, Desi! Tell me-- who told you? He asked, his voice strained. He was becoming more adamant and if he didn’t control himself, Crow would come to the surface.

M-Merigold. I whimpered, unable to hold back the feeling of sadness and betrayal. Even in my mind, my voice quivered. For a moment, I did not hear him respond, then I heard a deep, resonating growl which tapered off into an intensely heavy sigh.

I’ll speak to him. To tell him to keep his whore on a leash. I know you can’t avoid her at school, but just keep company with Lucie and the rest of the girls. Okay, babe? He ordered gently. I squealed so loud my girlfriends looked at me like I had two heads. Babe. He had called me BABE! And he used his Alpha voice on me. Ugh, I got chills.

Suddenly, my feeling of excitement morphed into chilling realization. Momentarily the link disconnected as my mind began to reel and the gears began to turn. Chills-- why was I getting chills? And his tone-- his Alpha tone should not have worked on me! Had my runes stopped working? Uh oh...realizing I had left him; I quickly reconnected with him and gave him my committed answer.

Okay, Jerry. I’ll stay away from her. Will I see you later? I responded a moment later, unable to keep my excitement out of my thoughts. I felt his rumbling chuckle before he answered

Do you want to see me later? Jeremiah inquired. His voice as smooth as velvet. I felt warmth spread over my cheeks, unable to suppress a girlish giggle. He was teasing me now. Two can play this game.

Maybe. It should be a nice night; would you like to meet at the spot? I secretly hoped he would say yes.

Tell you what, you bring the blanket and I’ll bring the s’more stuff.

Okay, see you then. That was the bell. Bye, Alpha . . . I cooed, unable to stop myself from laying it on thicker than usual. It took him time to say anything back. When he did, his voice was gruff-- he was close to losing his composure.

You know better than to call me that when I’m around clan officials, Desi. I’ll decide what your punishment will be later. He groaned. I giggled again, imagining him at his meeting and being unable to hide his feelings from the elders within the council. The new, big bad alpha was still a pup, after all.

Oh, I’m shaking in my hi-top Converse, Alpha. I cooed defiantly. I heard him growl, causing me to shiver again.

Oh, you should be, Des. You should be. I laughed as my friends giggled, having a feeling they knew what was being said by how red my face was getting.

“Oh, Desi-- you so have it bad for your Alpha.” Tameekah chided as she skipped down the hall to her locker.

“Stop spreading vicious rumors, big mouth!” I playfully yanked her ponytail back.

We said goodbye to Lucie, Leigh Anne, and Daphne before heading off to our next class. Despite not being a Lycan, Tameekah and I had Lycan history together with Merigold. Thankfully, the class was now taught by my mother, who would not let anyone-- human, Lycan, or anything else --to get away with anything that was less than toward. She had been teaching the class back and forth for four years, trading off with another Lycan teacher each semester.

This was something instituted by Alpha Josiah before he passed over the role of alphaship to Jeremiah: He wanted inclusivity within the town and the clan. So, he went to the school board and requested the curriculum be expanded to lessons about lycan culture, history, and laws. This way there is transparency within the human community and the clan. Everything has been running smoothly for the last ten years.

This was the last class of the day, so I stayed behind with Mama to clean up and we’d pick up dinner and drive home together. As we got into the car, Mama started up the conversation-- going over the tried and true areas of discussion. Despite my being a teenager, being Lycan meant there were more interesting things happening behind the scenes. Despite her years as a Lycan, it always surprised her somehow when things were different than her human high school days.

“How was your day, honey?” Mama asked as she always did. “Anything happen today?”

Rolling my eyes, I knew where this was going. Stupid clan mind link. Slumping back in my seat, I closed my eyes and sighed dramatically. “What did Jerry tell you?” I motioned. I cast her a sideways glance, barely moving my head as I watched her shrug in nonchalance.

“Oh, nothing too important or gruesome. He just mind linked me today, asking if he could see you tonight for a one-on-one birthday celebration.”

“Oh, did he now?” I drawled, feeling as though she was not telling me everything. Scrunching up my face out of frustration, I sighed, “He didn’t tell you what happened with Merigold at lunch?”

“He might have.” She admitted, keeping her eyes on the road. Momentarily taking her hand off the wheel, she reached over and squeezed my hand. She could tell on my face that Tanner hurt my feelings. She was a mom; she knew things without a mind linking ability.

“I can talk to Marge, if you want?” She offered gently. I grimaced, only imagining the hurt that woman must go through-- knowing her only daughter was not only one detention slip away from becoming a true two-dollar hooker. Then I shuddered, imagining how Merigold would also likely try to twist things around so I and my friends were the instigators.

“No, Mama. It’s bad enough that Jerry’s going to confront Tanner. I don’t even know why it upsets me so much,” I admitted sadly. She gave my hand a squeeze before removing it and turning the wheel as we took a left. Biting my lip, I wrestled with something for a moment. After what had happened during lunch period and Jerry’s use of his Alpha tone, I had to confide in her about my suspicions that the runes may not be working anymore.

“Mama, I don’t think the runes are working anymore.” I admitted, watching her carefully. That nearly made her stop short, causing us to nearly rear end another car in front of us. After much honking and swearing, my mother sheepishly continued driving.

“Why do you say that?” She asked, her voice sounding strained. I watched her face, noticing that it had changed drastically from her deep rosy color to bed sheet white.

“Well, while I mind linked Jerry, he came off very flirtatious-- more than usual. And his alpha voice worked on me,” I began, listing off some of the most memorable parts of our conversation. I hesitated slightly, swallowing the lump that formed in my throat, remembering the term of endearment he called me.

“Was there anything else?” Mama asked, her voice stiff. I nodded, blushing slightly-- preparing for her to snarl or tell me I had imagined it. Taking a shaking breath, I said, “Umm...yes? Well, he...umm...he called me ’Babe’.”

“H-he d-did . . .” she whispered, her eyes looking into the distance. I froze, concern rising in me. Then I stared hard at her, suspicion taking root. Did she-- was I detecting a sense of knowing from my mother?

“Mama, a guy doesn’t call a girl that’s only a friend, babe.” I reasoned blandly. Mama tittered nervously then, casting me a quick glance.

“They don’t?” She squeaked innocently. Mama almost sounded like she didn’t know any better. Almost.

“No, Momma. They don’t.” I deadpanned, feeling suddenly put upon and put out. The rest of the drive home, we sat in silence. Suspicion and concern rose inside me, anxiety and thoughts running through my veins. She knew something-- something important. What was my mother hiding from me?

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