Shifted

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Chapter 27

“Again!” Yelled Jackson, his voice booming in the otherwise empty gym.

I grabbed Emmie in a way he had shown me and tried to force her down with my foot - not that I managed. The only thing I accomplished was getting even more disheveled and out of breath.

“It’s impossible, I can’t,” I scoffed, throwing my hands in the air, finally having enough of making a fool out of myself.

We were doing this stupid throw for who knows how long, and I was beyond unsuccessful. My legs were aching, my arms were aching, and so was my back.

“Come on, Gem-Gem, you’re doing fine,” Emmie gave me an encouraging smile as I collapsed on the floor, fed up.

“That’s actually a bull, Emmie,” Jackson shook his head. “But you’re gonna stand up, so I can show you again how to do it properly, Princess,” he ordered me, earning a scowl.

I wasn’t doing shit. Me and my wolf refused to listen to some lesser male who wanted to push us around without -

“Oi, don’t gimme that look unless you want me to stop teachin’ you altogether, Princess. Your idea, remember?” Jackson interrupted my hateful thoughts, and I sighed, starting to regret I asked for his help in the first place.

Begrudgingly, I made myself stand up and prepare for another round. Jackson circled me, nudging me when he saw something off with my position. Finally, when he was satisfied, he stopped in front and, with a patient of a saint, explained once more how to do the throw.

“Remember, you want to step to my side, lock me to your body and force me off my balance, pulling here... and here.” He roughly tugged on my elbow and my t-shirt around my collarbone. I felt myself lifting my foot as I was forced slightly off balance. “And, for God’s sake, do the swing only when you feel me losing my footing. Okay, get ready,” The boy clapped his hands and backed away, his movements energetic and restless.

I tried to remember what he told me, I did, but when he grabbed me, I acted purely on impulse. I clutched his elbow and collarbone and made a motion similar to one he demonstrated, however, I forgot to step to his side. When I lifted my leg to swing it behind his, I ended up tangling with him and tripping over. A very girly squeal left my mouth as we landed in a heap on the - thankfully soft - mat, me on the back, Jackson on top of me. His brow ridge smashed into my upper lip, and I blinked away the pain. I felt a stinging sensation radiating from the wound as the warm blood flooded my mouth, its coppery taste assaulting my buds.

The boy groaned, slowly sitting up as he put his hand over his eye, a bit disoriented from the sudden hit.

Emmie’s alarmed voice reached my ears a second later.

“Shit, Jackson, back away...”

But before the boy had even a chance to stand up, a low rumble echoed through the gym.

My “teacher” turned paperwhite, whipping his head around, still on all fours with me under him. He barely managed to mutter a curse before Emmie’s cousin was on him, lifting him effortlessly off me and throwing him to the side. Jackson landed on a hard floor, gliding a little before he stopped while Bennett leapt towards him, ready to get another piece of him. I sat up, yelling my protest just as Emmie rushed between her cousin and the groaning Jackson, her hands lifted placatingly.

“Jackson was merely teaching Gemma how to make a throw,” she explained, placing herself in such a way she was shielding the boy from Bennett’s fists.

“Jackson should know better, Emmie,” grunted Zack, his face an epitome of rage.

“It’s not his fault. We tricked him into this,” I threw in, standing up and pressing the palm of my hand to the pulsing, busted lip. From how it hurt, I knew my mouth was going to look like a textbook case of a lip surgery gone wrong.

Bennett’s loaded gaze landed on mine, but I met it head-on, unyielding in my resolve.

“I want to be able to defend myself,” I stated firmly.

“There is no need for you to defend yourself. I’ll protect you,” he said confidently. Nonetheless, I had a slightly different opinion about the matter.

“You can’t always be there, Zack, and you won’t,” I lifted my chin stubbornly. “Your loyalty lies with the pack, you’ve said it yourself. I can’t expect you to be able to come to my every beck and call. I’m no damsel in distress, and I’m fed up with sitting around and waiting for others to do the job for me. I’m a beta female, and I should start acting like one,” I stated heatedly, not sure if I got that right. Yet, something in Bennett’s eyes glimmered as he regarded me cooly with a strange, calculating expression on his face.

“If all it takes is this marking-thing for Jackson to teach me fighting, then let’s have it done and over it,” I added, before I lost my nerve. I wanted to show Bennett I was serious about my safety and willing to compromise.

But of course, I must have said something wrong again. The fact, I realized, only after all three pairs of eyes landed on me with various states of stupefaction in them as the tense silence followed.

Jackson blanched, Emmie’s cheeks turned red, while Bennett mumbled a curse under his breath, gripping his nose bridge with his two fingers.

“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” was his gruff response.

“What? Isn’t the marking-thing all about being bitten on the neck? Did I get it wrong?” I frowned, looking at Emmie for confirmation.

The girl cleared her throat.

“No, but...” she started slowly, avoiding my gaze.

“But?” I proded.

“Oh, for God’s sake!” Jackson lost his patience. “Markin’ is all about shaggin’, Princess. You mark each other durin’ consensual sex. That is what we call matin’. And just so we’re on the same page here, it is forever. You don’t get to unmark and unmate each other and go your merry way when things go south. That’s what the big deal is about.”

Shit.

Had I really proposed a PDA session in front of Jackson and Emmie? I opened my mouth, then closed it, then opened it again, finally opting on collapsing limply on my backside instead.

One look at me made Zack exhale heavily. He motioned the others to leave, and I noticed Emmie nudge Jackson as they made themselves scarce. My supposed mate sat down next to me, drawing his one knee close to his body and leaning his arm over it. He regarded me thoughtfully, seemingly waiting for the questions to arrive. And they did, with a fury of a madwoman.

“Any more things I should know about mating?”

“You can only get pregnant with your mate,” Bennett decided to rip the band-aid off. I groaned, hiding my face in my hands.

“Do I even have a choice in the matter?”

“You mean, on having babies or choosing a mate?”

“Both,” I still refused to look at him.

“You have, on both. Though you may find yourself pretty much unwilling to forsake your mate in favour of somebody else,” he stated through gritted teeth. The last thing he said rang so close to what I actually felt that I believed him.

“So you’re saying you’re doomed with me?” I tried to joke.

Was I doomed with him? Would I want to choose somebody else now that I started slowly falling for Zack?

Bennett regarded me with a heated look.

“I’m saying that I wouldn’t like it any other way, Gemma.” Gosh, he was serious.

“When were you going to tell me about marking? I don’t want to agitate you or whatever, but I’m not sure I’m ready for such commitment. I only turn eighteen next month. And I need Jackson to teach me. I need to be able to defend myself in case that psycho gets too close,” Bennett growled his annoyance, however, I ignored him. “But I don’t want anyone to get trashed because your wolf gets jealous,” I sighed, feeling a splitting headache forming behind my eyes. “Is there any way out?”

The boy nodded slowly.

“Everybody already knows you are off-limits, so there’s that. Your fight with Jackson surprised me, is all. You can obviously continue to learn, but I’d rather teach you myself,” he said, not looking at me.

“Wait, did you just say you’ve already deterred other guys from me?” I wasn’t sure if it pleased me or bothered me.

Bennett’s grin was predatory as he stated firmly, “You’re mine.”

“Not yet,” I pointed out.

Instead of getting angry or hurt, Bennett’s eyes flashed as if he recognized a challenge in my statement. His smile only broadened.

“For now,” he agreed as my body shivered to the promise behind those two words. “I’d love to continue this conversation, but, unfortunately, I need to go,” he smoothly changed the subject, standing up. “Have someone treat your wound. My mum should have a first aid kit stacked somewhere in the kitchen. Once you become a full-fledged werewolf, cuts like this will heal in no time. As for now, you have to go through the normal process of healing.”

Bennett placed his thumb on my lower lip, his touch as light as a feather. He gave me a quick peck on the forehead and left a second later, his stride purposeful and full of rough energy.

Suddenly, I was all alone.

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