Prologue + Chapter 1
Jessica only has to survive a few more days, to her eighteenth birthday. She’ll run away with her insurance money, escape her father’s abuse, and go to college. Since her mom died and her stepmom fled, she has suffered his abuse alone. But she has hope for a life her mom would’ve wanted for her...until her father loses his mind and does the unthinkable.
She had no idea that evil like this existed as she feels her life slip away from her. Something dormant in her tells her to fight back, and she finally does. But it’s too late. As she lays on the cool forest floor, blood oozing down her head, she knows he won.
She waits for the final blow, but instead, she hears her father’s horrified yell...and a low menacing growl.
She awakes somewhere that can’t exist and is surrounded by caring people and two brothers who are especially interested in her well-being.
As a new world unravels around her, she learns the existence of paranormals and that she isn’t as far from their world as she believed. She learns that fate has a plan for us all and that evil, human and paranormal, will stop at nothing to take it from you. She also learns that whether they are her savior, or she is theirs...is yet to be seen.
Another day, just like the last…few thousand. I’m stuck on repeat. That’s exactly how I’ve felt for ten years now...since the scourge war. I get up before the sun and make my way to the dining hall. There are few people in there this early and I enjoy the peace and quiet of my solitude as I eat by the door, nearest to the outside.
As always, my mind wanders while I watch the world awake. The forest all around us seems foreign lately. Like it no longer belongs to us. This has always been our kingdom but if that were true, my life would look very different. I quickly eat and discreetly get out of here.
I make my way across the field to start my training as the fog is beginning to lift. It gives my weapons a mythical appearance as the remaining fog clings to the blade and wisps around it as though it had its own purpose. Everyone sees these long training sessions at the firm as my commitment. But they don’t know me at all. This is all I have now. The anger that I keep at bay, it’s the one place I can let it go.
As others make their way out, the beta sons immediately find me to spar. We shift to our wolves, and I forget anyone else is around. I don’t try to hurt anyone. But like me, they heal quickly. So, no one frowns upon it. I’m just stronger than anyone in the pack, including my father, and it’s understood that those who train with me will get hurt. But those who train with me will get better and become stronger, so they don’t shy away from the risks. I never try to cause serious injury. I never go for a kill. Ever. I just must be my best. I need them to be their best too. It’s not personal. This is about survival now. Survival in the forest, just feet away from where we battle each other.
I go numb when I train. I feel nothing. I don’t even feel tired anymore. The other wolves seem so impressed by my endurance. They have no idea that this numbness feels isolating. I have felt alone for a while now, regardless of how many people try to be by my side.
After morning training, I clean up in my room and hurry to my father’s conference room. Most of the Alpha meetings are held there. It’s located on the first floor of the main house. My brother is usually there before me as I take a seat on either side of my father. Our job, now that we are of age, is to become future Alphas, like our father. So, we listen and learn what it means to run a pack by shadowing him.
Once we are dismissed, I walk with Josh to eat in the dining hall. We methodically play our roles as the Alpha’s sons around the others our age and I immediately leave to check on mom. It’s not as though I can’t link to her and ask, “Hey Mom, how’s your day?” But she deserves more. She absolutely deserves my presence. It also keeps her from worrying about me as much.
I find her easily with her large detail following close behind.
“Busy day?” she asks immediately.
“Nope. Things are quiet,” I casually confess.
“Good,” she smiles as her detail backs up to allow privacy. These men have known me since I was born and are like family. So much about our relationships are based on respect, kindness, and instinct. They understand our roles in the pack, but they respect our role as a family. They distance themselves discreetly and I hardly notice anymore.
Mom sits in the grass and places her arms around her bent knees as I sit down beside her. I fill her in on the meeting with dad. Nothing significant. We talk about everything even though she could easily just read my mind and know but she told me long ago that she didn’t use her gift that way. She is too kind to just randomly invade someone’s privacy. That’s why the goddess gives special gifts to Lunas. The Alpha may be the leader and protector of the pack, but the Lunas are chosen because of their heart. No one works harder, cares deeper, or loves more than a Luna. There is no better person in the entire pack. With that love and care is the strongest trust. A Luna would never defile the trust we have in her unless it was for the safety of the pack.
Today, as though she had something on her mind, she asked about the females around the compound, and I gave her an eye roll. Mostly because I’m not talking about this with her, but secondly, it’s not likely that I’m going to find my mate in any of them. Deep down, she knows this, but I think it feels like something normal to ask. Things aren’t normal anymore, so I guess we’re all just feeling our way through the unknowns.
I have a lot of friends that are girls. A few have made it obvious that they would accept more from me. They know the hierarchy of the pack, they know my responsibilities, but they know, just like mom, that the world has changed. This means it could’ve changed for them. I just don’t know enough to give anyone answers. The girls or my mom. So I avoid a lot of awkward topics with both.
“You’ve seen her more recently than I have mom. You tell me,” I say, lifting one eyebrow at her.
Bailey is as great as most of the girls here. I hear talk. The guys think she’s beautiful. I don’t really see her that way. Not even a little. I guess I’ve never let myself. We’ve been friends since we were babies but that doesn’t mean I have a clue if I could care for her. She’s not a female noble so I haven’t considered it. Not even once. I haven’t been drawn to her, and from what I’ve been told, it should hit me like a ton of bricks. A life-changing, unexpected need for this person. A need that can’t, won’t, go away. There are a lot of attractive girls with a strong athletic build. After all, they’re wolves. Parts filled out well on the females that transitioned recently like me. Luckily, I haven’t had to suffer long with their new physiques. I’m not blind...I noticed. But am I about to discuss my urges with mom? Hell no! I’m not acting on them either. If I can’t have them as a mate, why would I even try? I would hurt them by giving them hope. That would hurt me too. I would be disrespecting their families. Worse of all, it would hurt the pack. But more importantly, if my mate is out there somewhere…one day it might hurt her.
I always have it in the back of my mind now…a strong pack survives. A weak one…well, we’ve heard the nightmares of those packs.
So, fulfilling a selfish urge stays pushed away because I can’t just act like the other teenagers. The responsibility of being an Alpha’s son is too enormous. Instead, I stay preoccupied with the constant threat of this war going on.
Now, almost as though they rehearsed it, my dad appears. He glances at me briefly. It’s heavy with gratitude but it doesn’t linger. His gaze is too urgently pulled towards my mother. I often wonder if she secretly tells him when our visit is wrapping up. Does he patiently wait so as not to interrupt my time with her? I am beginning to understand that there are some things between them that I just may never know. I find comfort in that though.
I refrain from shaking my head at them in playfulness. My brother, sister, and I have made fun of them for years...ever since we were old enough to understand that they weren’t normal. They are only separated when duties call for it. They never apologize for it either. Like the fact that they are up before most everyone else to spend time alone with each other. The kitchen crew rotated each week fixing their breakfast. It’s served in their bedroom, “We always start our day together,” my father once told us. Then, as soon as my father leaves for meetings, Mom heads to the school.
As our Luna, Mom cares for the sick, guides the school, and handles the scheduling of all the work on the compound. Once her workday begins, you will seldom see her without her large leather scheduling book in her hands. She knows who is out and where. At all times.
Then my father finds her. It’s not hard to do. She is his mate. He could find her on the other side of the world.
As I help mom to her feet, my father reaches his hand out to touch her side. To brace her. It’s delicate and something I desperately want. But what they have is rare. What they are was chosen. Their love is so deep that they can not only smell it, but they can also taste it. It courses through them like their own blood. They are so much more than lovers. It was as though they were created for each other. They are always their best self together.
I guess that’s why I refuse to settle. Why would I?
They imprinted almost the second that they met...it was that instant. Mom still gets emotional if she talks about when they met. She had only turned a few days prior when my father was drawn to her. He was twenty-one years old and said it felt like an eternity before he found her. And he has cherished every year with her since that day.
And my destiny is looking nothing like that.