Chapter 1: Ebony
“Evander!” I whisper harshly, motioning for my son to return to my side. I hug my daughter, Chloe’s, head close to mine as we take cover behind thick brush.
“Stay quiet, don’t make a noise,” I warn, although they already know the drill.
The three rogue males move through the trees, talking loudly amongst themselves about a woman they ran into an hour ago. They talk about how they raped and beat her. I should try to find her once they leave to see if she’s alright.
You know you can’t do that, not with our pups around, my wolf, Raven, warns.
She’s right. I can’t help her, even though I want to. I can’t risk exposing my children to anyone who could harm them.
I bite my lip as the men walk out of view, staying put for a few more minutes as their voices fade. I think the coast is clear.
“Alright, it’s safe now,” I tell my children as we emerge from behind the brush and continue walking through the woods to find a place to call home for the next week or so.
Evander, my six-year-old, questions with a tired yawn, “When will we be able to stop moving, mommy?”
I sigh, taking his little hand in mine as my three-year-old sucks her thumb and grips my other hand tightly. “I’m sorry. You know how it is. We can’t stay in one place for too long because our scent will be too strong, and bad people will find us.”
I close my eyes, remembering the day of Chloe’s conception and how Evander had to watch from afar as I screamed in horror as that horrible man raped me. I’m thankful Evander’s conception was consensual, albeit unplanned and initially unwanted. I’ve gone into heat three times, which makes hiding my scent nearly impossible. Each time a lonely rogue found me and had his way with me. Only twice did they result in pregnancies, and only one Evander witnessed. I lost the baby the first time, which devastated me to no end. Taking care of children as a rogue isn’t easy, but I love them with all my heart, and I would have loved that boy or girl just as much as I love Evander and Chloe.
I push the thoughts out of my head. I need to console the children I have right now, not myself. I don’t have time to think about the horrors I’ve faced, only what’s ahead and how to survive till tomorrow.
It was easier to move around when I could travel in wolf form, but my kids can’t shift yet, so I haven’t been able to use Raven’s speed for six years now. I only shift for hunting when I have my kids tucked away in whatever home base we set up. I’ll need to hunt soon, we haven’t eaten anything substantial in three days, and Chloe is going through a growth spurt.
I find a fallen tree in a perfect triangle shape. I’ll build a lean-to and conceal the hut using the thick brush surrounding the area.
“Alright, kids, we only have a few more hours of daylight. Chloe, why don’t you take a nap, and Evander, you can help me collect some long sticks, okay?”
He nods, saluting like a soldier before he marches off to complete his orders. I’m glad he’s been able to maintain some childlike enthusiasm and happiness; I didn’t when I was his age. I felt like a thirty-year-old at three. My mother was a rogue who gave birth to me when she was thirty-seven, so I was very unexpected. She was a member of a small rogue pack, and when she suddenly died when I was only three, they stepped in and helped raise me. When I was fifteen, another group of rogues attacked us. I escaped, and I don’t know how many of them survived. I ran so far into the woods that I couldn’t find them again. I’m not even sure if any of them lived, so maybe there was nothing to find? Either way, I’ve been on my own since then.
Do you smell that? Raven asks as I pick up some branches, and take a deep breath in.
Territory markings. I didn’t think we were anywhere near a pack?
I’m not sure which pack it is, but this is definitely territory lining. We’ll have to move shelter.
I glance back at my children. Chloe is napping peacefully, despite how chaotic the world around her is, while Evander dutifully collects wood.
No, we’ll just be careful. This is a great spot, and daylight is almost out. We are going through all the trouble to make a shelter, so we’ll stay here. Plus, the scent isn’t strong, so the line is probably a mile or two away.
So be it.
“Jeez, Pax! What’d you get yourself into now?” I ask as a grin sweeps across my face when I see his condition.
He stomps into the mansion, his nose completely busted and eye black.
“I’ll tell mom you’re making fun of me again!”
I roll my eyes. I hope to the Goddess he starts becoming less unbearable when he’s out of his teenage years. He’s eighteen now, and I can’t fucking stand him!
“Well, why don’t you go over to mom and dad’s wing then, huh? Why the one I live in?”
He groans, sitting down at the kitchen table where I’m having a cup of decaf and reading an update from the treasurer.
“Because I don’t want mom and dad to see this, obviously! Plus, Diana is going to grill me about this if she sees.”
I chuckle, shaking my head. “Well, why don’t you tell me what happened? Let’s fix the problem.”
“Stop trying to Alpha me!”
“I’m not trying to Alpha you! I’m trying to give you some brotherly advice. Plus, if you don’t tell me what happened, I’ll have to let mom know…” I trail off, raising my eyebrow.
He concedes, “Fine! Fine! I’ll tell you!”
He folds his hands, looking down. “I just- There’s this girl-”
“Oh Goddess, it’s always about a girl!” I cut him off, unable to stop myself from laughing.
“Stop! Just because you’re waiting for your mate or whatever doesn’t mean the rest of us have to!”
I shrug. “Hey, I get it. Anyways, continue.”
“Well, there’s this girl that I like, and I think she’s really hot, and I also like talking to her and all that. I was going to ask her out, but then this guy, Derek, comes up to me and starts getting in my face talking about how I’m going after his girl. So, I was like, well, she’s not your mate, so she’s not your girl. Besides, I never heard her say anything about him when I talked to her. We started yelling at each other, and he got in my face, so I asked him if he wanted to take it outside after school.”
“Really, Pax? Isn’t your name supposed to mean peace or something? Why does everything have to be a fight with you?”
“Oh my Goddess, are you going to let me tell this story without attacking me!”
“Fine! Fine! Sorry!”
He rolls his eyes, crossing his arms over his chest. “Well, we started fighting, and he got in a couple of punches, but I swear he looks much worse than I do! I fucked him up! Problem is, the fucking principal saw, and I got a detention. The bigger problem is, it’s my third detention this quarter which means I have a three-day suspension.”
My jaw drops. “Fuck, mom and dad are going to be pissed!”
“I know! It’s my senior year, so I don’t want them to ground me and ruin it! I’ve been doing so much better recently.”
I stare at him incredulously. “Really? Third detention this quarter, and you’re doing “better”?”
“Well, those other two were for a good reason! It’s not my fault Mrs. Bailey’s tests are stupid, and it’s my right to tell her they’re stupid. And I still maintain that I didn’t knock down the trophy collection on purpose.”
I sigh, not knowing what to say to him. He’s been like this since middle school. There’s no reasoning with the kid.
“Well, you’re going to have to tell them. Might as well bite the bullet.”
“Fuck, man,” he says as he buries his head in his hands. “I just don’t know what I’m going to do. With Diana moving out next week and you living in the Alpha’s wing, mom and dad’s attention is going to be completely focused on me!”
“Well, try to be on your best behavior is all I can say,” I pause. “Are you going to miss Diana?”
He scoffs, rolling his eyes. “Miss Diana? Fuck no…” He trails off, his eyes falling to the floor. Diana found her mate, the future Alpha of the Greenwood Pack about two territories north of us, at a gala we threw a few months ago. He’s going to be Alpha within the next two months or so, which means she’ll be Luna soon, hence why she needs to move there. They courted each other for a while, traveling back and forth to make sure the pairing wasn’t a fake, but they’re totally in love. It’s kind of gross, actually. Pax and Diana always had a close relationship, and even though Pax is in a hyper-masculine stage of his life and refuses to admit it, he’s going to miss her.
“Well, you’ll always have me. I’m only a half a house away.”
“Yeah, that’s right. You’re just busy all the time with Alpha shit, and I can’t deal with mom and dad constantly nagging me!”
“Well, they nag for good reason. You need to get your wolf under control. Remember all the stories dad told us about his problems with mom? That’s what happens if you don’t learn to control your wolf’s anger.”
“I know, I know,” he answers, brushing me off as teenagers do when confronted with wrongdoing.
“Well, I have to go to bed. I have an early meeting tomorrow. Go talk to mom and dad.”
He sighs, standing up, and I open my arms for a hug. He begrudgingly walks into my arms, and I pat his back as he eases into it. “Love you, little bro.”
“Love you too, Aeneas.”