A quick authors note; you CAN read this first book as a standalone. It does not end on a cliffhanger, but you must read this to understand book 2 and 3.
The flickering of the fluorescent light at the graveyard served as a reminder that everything was indeed temporary.
When I was unable to differentiate reality from fantasy, the faulty lamp served as my only guidance. And in that moment, I wondered how much life there was in that remaining lightbulb, as if that was my biggest concern right now.
The droplets of rain that escaped the grey sky embraced the xenon streetlamp almost to bring it comfort. The sun was reserved for the summer, but the gloomy-damp weather argued otherwise.
They say both the good and the bad in life are temporary, but why did the latter feel permanent.
"Lyr," my best friend's familiar voice brought me out of my trance. "Let's head back inside."
Turning to the sound of his voice, I narrowed my eyes at the boy before me. The Alpha's younger brother, and my best friend of many years, Jaxon glanced at me with sorrowful eyes.
His usual emerald green eyes were tinted with a crimson red shade. His black curly hair was damp from the rain and hung over his eyes. He looked exhausted.
"Already?" I asked, my voice harsh.
"It's getting late," Jaxon explained, reaching over to hold the umbrella in his hand over me. "The rain is getting heavier and you're getting wet. We should go back inside before you catch a cold."
Instead of taking the umbrella, my gaze dropped from him to the ground. My eyes roamed over the flower covered soil until the tombstone came in to sight.
At first, the words displayed on the piece of rock were clear, but the words slowly blurred out as they registered in my mind.
Anna Theresa Dane. My mother.
My knees gave in and I found myself clinging on to the soil for dear life, pleading for it to give my mother back.
The tears that I had seemed to suppress finally made an escape, and my screams in pain echoed through the rain.
"Lyra, please," Jaxon pleaded and attempted to hold on to my arm to get me to stand up.
His attempt failed and I fell deeper in to the soil as I cried for the only person that I had known my whole life.
Three days ago, I had returned from school to find her unconscious at home with no explanation. For sixteen years, that woman had been my family. My only family. Now that she was gone, I wasn't sure what to do.
Where did the orphans in the pack go? There were no orphans in our pack. Once you lost your parents, and had no blood-related family, you had to go. Considering I fit in the latter description, I knew there was no place for me in the pack.
The tight grip on my shoulders tore me away from the world inside of my head, bringing my attention back to Jaxon.
His lips formed a line. "Ava is worried, let's head home now."
"We can't leave her here, Jax," I quickly responded in a panic, glancing up at him.
Jaxon let out a shaky breathe. "Come on, Lyr."
"Everyone left already. She will be alone if I leave too," I argued, tears prickling at my eyes.
"She's gone," Jaxon said, softly, his voice faltering. "She's not coming back."
My brows twitched at his words, and I turned to glance at him. Tears clouded my vision, making the boy before me appear blurry. "Why?" I asked him, dumbfounded. "How could she just leave like this?"
"Come here," he muttered, before kneeling down next to me and placing his hands on either side of me, bringing me flush against him.
I wasn't sure how long we remained in that position, but I emptied all of my emotions on to my best friends shoulder. Once my tears had dried, Jaxon helped me up and guided me away from my mother's new home.
My peripheries were cold and numb. The grey skies had been covered with a black cloak. The further that we got away from the graveyard, the more my heart ached. She was really gone.
There were so many unanswered questions. I was raging. I was hurt. I felt lonely. The thought of that last word made me cry silently in to Jaxon's chest as he carried us back to my house.
It was wrong for me to think that way when I still had Jaxon and Ava, my other best friend. But without my mother, everything else felt incomplete. And it was incomplete. How was I to exist as part of the pack without a family? It was impossible.
Ava was waiting for us back at my house. She wrapped me in a blanket and seated me on a stool by the kitchen island. A plate filled with hot food was placed in front of me, but I just stared at it absent minded. As expected from her, my best friend of the past five years nudged me out of my thoughts.
She tucked a strand of her auburn curls behind her ear and eyed me with her big brown tapioca pearled eyes. Placing a hand over mine, the girl sat beside me, before she muttered, "Nothing I say will cheer you up, so in the meantime I will make sure that you eat and take care of yourself. I'm not losing you as well."
"Ave," I whispered to her. "She's gone."
Ava glanced at me, sadly. "Baby girl, she will always be with us, you know that."
"I don't know if I can do this, Ave."
"Of course you can, because you have to. We will get through this together, the three of us."
Ava, Jaxon and I had met in school. All of us yet to find our mates. Though, we were the same age, I felt like they were always taking care of me.
Before I could say anything to the pair, Jaxon spoke. "You don't have to think about anything else but get your health back on track. We will deal with the rest later."
Ava nodded in agreement. I knew they were talking about my place in the pack. It was a given. We didn't have to speak about it blatantly to understand.
The pack was heavy on familial bonds because only families could ensure Wolves were strong and maintained.
A lone orphan wolf at the age of sixteen didn't exactly scream strong and it was the opposite of what the pack wanted. It would hinder the pack. I would hinder the pack.
"Whatever happens, we are here. We will protect you," Ava assured, giving me a sad smile.
"And you will be staying here, with us," Jaxon chimed in, a serious expression plastered on his face.
I knew that they were trying to remain positive for me, but the fear displayed in their eyes told me otherwise. The three of us knew once you became a lone wolf, you no longer served a purpose in the pack. It was a rare position, as most Orphaned Wolves had other blood-related family to turn to.
As for me, aside from Jaxon and Ava, whom were not my blood-related family, I had no one to fall back on in this pack.
"We don't know what will happen," I muttered in a low voice after what seemed like minutes, the words escaping before I could stop myself.
My words caught Jaxon's attention, as he dropped the sandwich that he had been munching on down on to the kitchen island, his eyes completely fixed on mine. His damp curls back at the graveyard had now slowly come back to life.
"I won't let my brother do that to you," he sneered, anger evident in his voice.
"Jaxon, you can't—"
"No, Lyr," he snapped, cutting me off. "You aren't just another wolf in the pack. You're my best friend, for crying out loud. I won't let them do that to you."
My brows scrunched up at his words, completely understanding whom he was referring to— his family. The same people that authorised the abandonment of lone wolves, as we had witnessed in the past.
Ava must have felt uncomfortable with the silence as Jaxon and I shared a subconscious stating contest. He arched a brow at me questioningly, but the auburn haired girl spoke.
"Enough has happened already," she said, softly. "Let's deal with the aftermath later, okay?"
"Ave's right," Jaxon added, before he picked up the sandwich he had dumped earlier. "Perhaps, we should prioritise our health for now and deal with what may happen later."
"Good," Ava continued, a little more cheerfully. "Glad that's discussed. Now, eat!"
Sighing, I turned my attention to the untouched food on my plate. I could feel the two sets of eyes bore in to my soul as the only two people I had left in this world watched me take my first bite. Only then did I realise how dry my throat had been and I choked on the first bite.
Ava dodged to the sink to get me a glass of water and Jaxon got up quickly to come to my aid, stopping in his tracks when his eyes landed on something— on someone.
Before I could follow in the direction of his gaze, a hand lodged on to my back with much more force than necessary, causing my coughing fit to end abruptly. My head tilted to the side, taking in the new arrival.
I gasped when I realised the hand that had so forcefully slapped my back to end my struggle to breathe was none other than Jaxon's older brother; Alpha Gabriel.
My eyes widened at his presence. What was he doing here? Was he here to tell me that I had to leave the pack now that my mother was gone? Already?
"Alpha," I said respectfully, quickly getting up from my stool and bowed my head ever so slightly.
The fork that had been dancing between my fingers dropped loudly on to the china plate in the process, making me wince.
"Leave," Alpha Gabriel's husky voice urged.
I knew it.
He wanted me to leave the pack now that I didn't have any parents. It made sense. No one wanted an orphan in their pack.
Before my thoughts could go astray to another universe, Jaxon grunted, "I'm not going anywhere," meanwhile Ava uttered a 'yes, Alpha' simultaneously.
I glanced between the trio in confusion. Ava shot me a panicked look before disappearing out of the front door. Jaxon was stood leaning against the kitchen island, not phased by his older brother.
Then I realised, Alpha Gabriel had been asking them to leave, not me. I wanted to feel relieved, but the confusion I felt only multiplied.
Was it that bad?
"Little brother, you always find a way to get on my nerves," Alpha Gabriel sneered.
Jaxon snorted. "Whatever you need to tell her, you can tell me too."
He wasn't asking, he was demanding. Maybe it was a sibling thing that I would never understand, but it was always astonishing to me how Jaxon had no fear when it came to his older brother.
Alpha Gabriel growled lowly. It made me cower back completely. He had authority and a single growl was enough to make anyone submit to him. But Jaxon didn't budge at the threat.
He cocked a brow at his brother and the pair must have mind-linked because Alpha Gabriel eventually sighed and rubbed at his temple.
Clearly, his little brother was a pain in the ass. And quite obviously, that wasn't the reason he was here in my house.
The Alpha, with grey eyes, turned his focus on me. With every ounce of energy, I forced myself to look at the floor and not at him. I was intimidated. I could count on one hand the amount of times that I had met Alpha Gabriel.
He was tall standing at six-foot, his body build large enough to make anyone scared of him, unlike Jaxon who was lean with muscles but not enough to intimidate a soul.
Alpha Gabriel was not playful but rather serious, unlike Jaxon who was rarely ever serious and treated the world like it was his oyster. There was no denying that both brothers were nice to look at.
The older brother had taken the Alpha title over a year ago at the age of eighteen shortly after the late Alpha had passed away, but was yet to find his mate. Most Wolves found their mates at eighteen; with Alpha Gabriel being an exception.
"I understand that you have no parents," Alpha Gabriel started saying with no remorse behind his words.
At his words, I stiffened. My eyes concentrated harder on the wooden floor. Coming to terms with my parents absence was a lot harder when I heard it come from someone else— and I hated it. I was trying to calm the storm in my heart, awaiting the words that I knew were coming.
"Do you have any idea what happens to orphans that have no family?"
"She has family!" Jaxon argued, his voice hard.
"Jax, I don't want to deal with you right now," Alpha Gabriel snarled, sending a death glare toward the younger boy.
Jaxon's eyes were a darker shade when I turned to look at him. I shook my head at him. I didn't want to cause problems for him. His brows tightened in return and I quickly darted my eyes back to the ground when I felt Alpha Gabriel's eyes on me.
"You have a decision to make," Alpha Gabriel declared, his voice full of authority. "As your Alpha and unlike other circumstances, I am giving you two options. One, leave the pack, your existence will be wiped. You will become a lone Wolf and to never set a foot in my territory again."
"And option two?" Jaxon beat me to the question.
I silently prayed option two was better and that Alpha Gabriel would let me remain in the pack. How would I survive out there in the wild on my own?
Everyone was aware that our neighbouring pack was the enemy. If I was to be kicked out of the pack, it would be the end for me. The enemy would kill me the second I set a foot in their territory. Was I destined to live a life like that? Destined to never even meet my mate?
I couldn't understand. Frankly, I didn't want to understand. I wasn't sure what I was expecting, but it was far from what was to happen next.
My prayers went unanswered and I felt my whole world come crashing down on me at the latter option. If I had thought today had been a bad day, at his words, I completely collapsed to the ground.
His words echoed, "Option two, stay in the pack as my provisional Luna and marry me when you turn eighteen."