Chapter 1-Hazelnut Coffee
It was snowing out which meant that the skies were gray and people’s moods were gloomy. It was the middle of March and people were becoming anxious for summer again and it didn’t help that it was snowing out. I didn’t mind though. Well, I should say that my wolf didn’t mind. As a matter of fact, my wolf loved the snow. The minute that I woke up this morning and looked out the window, he wanted to be let out and run until he couldn’t run anymore. I sighed. I hadn’t shifted in almost two months and my wolf needed exercise, to go hunting. I promised that I would let him out later, but that now wasn’t the time. Now, I had to go visit my aunt who lived in the city.
So here I was, walking down the street of Carlton, the city closest to my pack, off to visit my aunt that I hadn’t seen in at least two years. I’d always had fond memories of my aunt Margaret. She was my mom’s sister and used to babysit me and my younger sister when we were younger. She always played games with us and watch movies and gave the best hugs. In fact, that’s always the one thing that comes to mind whenever I think of her, her hugs.
But that all ended when she and her mate decided to move away from the pack and into the city after they had their first kid. I couldn’t say that I agreed with their choice. I would never be able to live away from my family, from the werewolf world. Margaret almost lived as if she was human now. But none of that mattered.
I hadn’t seen her since the funeral. And I didn’t want to see her now.
If it hadn’t been for my younger sister, Carly, breaking into my room, stealing my pictures of Everly, my most prized possession, and then holding them over the fireplace, threatening to burn them to ashes if I didn’t go, I wouldn’t be here right now. So I put on some sweatpants, got in my car, and drove 4 hours to Carlton to see my aunt.
God, I hated my little sister sometimes.
I looked down at my hand to where Carly had written down our aunt’s address, double checking it and then looked back up at the building that I was standing in front of. Margaret’s apartment building hadn’t changed a bit since the last time I’d been here. It was still dirty and small and nowhere near the quality of the house that she would have if she still lived with the pack.
I begrudgingly walked up the front steps to the door where there was a metal box attached to the wall with a list of names running down it. I pressed the button next to the name Jones, holding it down a few seconds longer than necessary.
A high pitched voice was suddenly heard through the speaker, “Oh, my dear boy, you look awful.” I blinked and looked down only then noticing the camera above the metal box. I gave it the harshest glare you could possibly give to a camera, even considering flipping it off. My aunt never did have a filter. I heard a sigh. “C’ mon up. Let’s get you out of this weather.”
My aunt lived in apartment number 42 which just so happened to be on the top floor of the building. There was also no elevator. So when I finally got to her door, I was more than a little pissed off. I knocked once and waited.
The door flung open and there stood my aunt wearing jeans and an obnoxiously bright yellow sweater. She didn’t look any different since the last time I’d seen her. It was a perk of being a werewolf, you aged well and easily stayed in shape. But that wasn’t the thing that made me upset when I looked at her. Margaret looked so much like my mother that it hurt to see her.
“Jace,” she breathed out, looking me up and down. “What on earth are you wearing?” I looked down at my sweatpants and stained sweatshirt, then at my socks and sandals, then back at her. A look of pity was all over her face.
I scoffed and shoved past her, making my way into her living room where I plopped down on the couch. I spread my legs wide as I sat and crossed my arms over my chest. Margaret followed in shortly after.
“Well, I’m here. What now?” I asked, kicking my feet up onto her coffee table.
Margaret looked from my wet shoes on top of one of her magazines to my face. She quirked her head to the side. “Would you like something to drink?”
“I like scotch if you’ve got it.”
Margaret smiled tensely. “How about something a little less strong? It’s still only twelve in the morning.” She looked behind her into the kitchen. “I could make some hot chocolate, or coffee, or tea, or even some lemonade if you’re feeling a little more adventurous-”
“Coffee,” I said. “Black.”
She pursed her lips. “Okay,” she said and turned to make her way into the kitchen, out of sight.
I looked around the room. It was small and bright with windows lining two of the light blue walls. I was sitting on a yellow couch on top of a red rug. There was no doubt that Margaret loved bright colors. There were plants all over the place, hanging from the window rod, on the bookshelf, next to me on the side table. It made me wonder how she kept all of them alive even in the winter. The apartment was small for a family of seven, but it was somehow still cozy and inviting. It felt like a home. I clenched my fists at this thought.
Margaret came back into the room holding a tray with two cups of coffee, milk, and sugar on it. “I hope you don’t mind, the coffee is a little old. I made it about an hour ago. It’s still hot though.” She stepped on a toy action figure as she walked, cursing and almost dropping the tray before kicking the toy under a chair. There were toys all over the floor. I didn’t understand how anyone walked around here.
“Where are your pups?” I asked. She had five kids, four boys and one girl. I was surprised they weren’t here. It was a Saturday. I was expecting a house full of rowdy little kids running around.
Margaret came around the long way, setting the tray down on the coffee table. Then she grabbed her cup and walked straight into my legs, knocking them off the table and onto the floor. I glared at her. She sat in the chair next to me and smiled. “James took them out for ice cream.” I lifted an eyebrow, looking outside at the blizzard and then back at her. She sighed. “I wanted to talk to you alone.”
“Afraid the big bad wolf would eat your children?” I asked, leaning to grab my coffee.
She ignored my question. “So how have you been? I haven’t seen you in quite a while.”
I’d always hated small talk, even before everything happened. It just felt so unnecessary and incensiere. “Did Carly ask you to talk to me?”
Margaret took a sip of her coffee. “She did. She’s worried about you. Said you haven’t left the house in almost three weeks.”
I took a big gulp of coffee, not caring that it was still steaming hot and then immediately spit it back into the cup. It tasted awful! Like animal piss or something.
Margaret laughed. “Sorry, I forgot to mention it’s hazelnut coffee. It’s James’s favorite.”
James was Margaret’s human mate. It was rare for a wolf to have a human mate, but it still happened sometimes. James was also the reason that Margaret moved away from the pack. He has said he didn’t feel comfortable around the pack members as they were all werewolves and he was a human. We intimidated him. What a wimp. He finally convinced Margaret by saying he wanted to live near his family where his kids could go to the same school that he went to when he was growing up. Her kids don’t even know they’re half wolf. I guess it makes sense. They have all the qualities of the human side of a werewolf such as beauty, strength, and accelerated speed, but they didn’t get to have a wolf. They could never shift. It was one of the great debates within the werewolf race, whether or not it was okay to mate with a human even when it meant depriving your children of their wolf, half their soul.
I remember when Margaret had decided to move away with James. It was quite the scandal. The entire pack was in a frenzy, trying to convince her not to leave and become human and ignore her race, her culture. But the mate bond is too strong, you can try to escape it, but it would be one of the most difficult things you’d ever do. Everyone was so upset that she was leaving and at my young age, I didn’t understand why she had to. I hated James for taking her away. I didn’t even have her during one of the hardest moments of my life. My parents had been killed by rogues only a short month later. I was alone and Margaret was gone.
It’s safe to say that I still hate James.
I was so lost in thought I barely even noticed when Margaret said, “Okay, enough!” I snapped my head up at her. “Enough of this moping around, of not living up to your full potential! You are an alpha male! And you need to start acting like it! Your pack needs you.”
I set my mug down on the table, a little startled by her sudden outburst. I had never seen her angry. I looked down at my hands, frustrated. “I’m not Alpha anymore.”
Margaret gasped. “What? You gave away your title?” I nodded. “When? To who?”
“About 3 weeks ago. To Kyle.” For many years, Kyle’s father, Richard, had taken over as Alpha. He was my father’s Beta so it was his natural right to take over after the death of my father. I was supposed to take over as Alpha this year around my 21st birthday, but I can’t do it. Not after everything that has happened. Kyle was supposed to be my Beta. But now he’ll be Alpha.
“Does Carly know?” Margaret asked.
“No. No one knows. The official ceremony won’t be until this summer.”
Margaret suddenly leaned forward and used one of her hands to grab mine and then put her other on my cheek. I looked at her. It took me aback. No one had shown me this kind of affection for a long time. “Jace, I know you’ve been through so so much. You’ve felt more pain in these last few years than anyone should ever have to feel in their lifetime. And it’s not fair. I know that. It’s so not fair.” Her eyes started to brim with tears. “I know you want the pain to stop. I know you want to give up. But you can’t. You’re stronger than that.”
I sat back, shrugging her hands off me. “That’s where you’re wrong. I’m not. I can’t take care of an entire pack.”
She sighed. “What does your wolf think about this?”
I gritted my teeth, looking into my mind for my wolf. He was in the very back of my mind, laying, barely even moving, not listening to a thing that we were saying. This was how he was now. For almost a year he’d been like this, only moving when he wanted to shift and hunt for food. It only made me sadder to see this. He used to be so strong and powerful, playful even. And now he had been degraded to this.
“He doesn’t care. He doesn’t care about anything anymore,” I whispered.
Margaret shifted, hesitating before asking, “Your bond with her was that strong?”
My eyes snapped up to her. Had she really just asked that? No one from my pack would dare ask me a question such as that. Maybe Margaret had forgotten her place since she left the pack. A deep growl came from my throat.
“I know, young Alpha. It hurts to talk about her,” she said. I growled louder. My wolf brought his head up, sensing my distress. “But do you really think that your parents would want you to live like this? That Everly would want-”
My wolf came forward, taking full control of my body, bristling with fury. “YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT SHE WOULD WANT!” He spoke deep and harsh, stating his dominance over the room. Standing, he started to pace around the room, breathing deeply, chest rising and falling. He felt like breaking something.
“Oh, dear,” Margaret mumbled, watching us. “The bond was that strong then.”
My wolf bristled again. Our canines came through our gums and fur started to sprout from our arms.
Margaret raised her hands in surrender. “It’s alright, young wolf. I mean no harm.” My wolf stared at her and continued to pace as I tried my best to regain control over him. He wasn’t having it though. He didn’t like the blatant disrespect that he was receiving from Margaret. Margaret just sat and waited patiently for us to regain our composure.
After a few more minutes, my wolf had finally started to calm down and slowly gave me back control. But he was still wary of Margaret, watching her through my eyes, making sure she didn’t overstep again. He would be ready if she did.
“Please sit back down, Jace,” Margaret said.
I breathed out deeply, a little embarrassed by my wolf’s outburst. Only young wolves, hardly out of adolescence, couldn’t control their wolves. I hadn’t lost control over mine in years. I slowly sat back down on the couch.
“I can see the pain in your eyes,” Margaret said, sadly. “If I would’ve known that you were depressed-”
I clenched my fists. “I’m not depressed,” I stated loudly.
Margaret sighed. “Okay, then. Do you want to maybe talk about your parents?”
I gaped at her. What was she trying to do? “No.”
“How about Carly? How is she doing?”
“What are you, a therapist?” I asked.
She narrowed her eyes at me. “If that’s what you need me to be.”
I stared at her and then shifted in my seat, very uncomfortable. “Carly...” I took a deep breath, thinking about my sister. “I don’t know how Carly is.” I then realized that it was true. Now that I thought about it, I hadn’t had a real conversation that wasn’t an argument with Carly in months. I couldn’t even remember the last time I saw her mate, Zach. I started to pick on the couch cushion beneath me.
“You guys used to be so close. And now she’s calling me at six in the morning saying that she’s scared because you won’t talk to her, to anyone for that matter, saying that you keep having nightmares. She’s scared you’re going to hurt yourself as your father did.” Carly said that? Why didn’t she say anything to me? “She misses you. She doesn’t know how to make you happy again without making you upset.”
I took a deep breath. “I don’t know...” I picked harder on the cushion. “I don’t know how to be happy anymore.” My wolf whimpered in my head.
Margaret stood and sat next to me. She took my hands in hers. “You can learn again. Life isn’t over just because you feel like it is. You have so much more to live for.”
My shoulders slumped. “But not...not-”
“Not her. I know. Not Everly.”
My wolf came forward, taking control again, grabbing the coffee mug off the table and throwing it at the wall. It shattered and fell to the ground, spraying coffee everywhere. But this time it wasn’t out of anger, it was out sadness, pure, raw sadness. He stood, grabbing at our hair, tugging and pulling all the while snarling deeply from our chest. Margaret ran over to us and grabbed our arms, trying to pull them away from our head.
“Shh... I know, young wolf. It’s so incredibly hard to lose your mate. If I ever lost James, I wouldn’t know how to go on living,” she said frantically.
"I don’t want to talk about this," my wolf snarled, trying his best to push Margaret away without hurting her. He liked the woman but didn’t like what she was doing right now. He shoved a picture frame off of the fireplace mantel, watching it shatter on the floor. He heaved in huge breaths of air, his chest rising and falling again.
“But you have an entire pack to take care of, who will take care of you! If you just let them!”
“Stop, please stop,” My wolf whimpered out. “I can’t do this...”
Margaret wound her arms around us, hugging her body tightly to ours. “Everly would want you to be happy!”
That was the final straw. My wolf shoved Margaret off of us, not caring if he hurt and proceeded to run to the door already getting ready to shift so that he could run into the nearest forest and as far away from his problems as possible. But before he even reached the doorknob, he was tackled to the ground. He fell straight onto his stomach, struggling to get back up as Margaret sat on his back and grabbed his hands to bring them behind him.
“LET ME GO!” My wolf howled out. He didn’t know that Margaret was so strong and in his weakened state of not being let out in so long, he found it harder than he thought it would be to get her off. He could’ve thrown her off, but he didn’t want to hurt her and, honestly, he had no more fight left in him.
“No!” Margaret yelled. “If you won’t talk to me, then I will use force! I will not let you die like your father did!”
After a few more minutes of my wolf growling and trying to bite Margaret, he finally was reduced to whimpering. He stopped moving, just letting himself be before giving me back full control. I laid there, face on the floor when I began to feel tears running down my face. Margaret, feeling my surrender, began to release my hands and slowly slid off of my back to sit next to me on the floor.
I slowly sat up, putting my back against the door. The tears continued to fall silently down my face. “I miss them,” I whispered, my voice hoarse. “I miss her.”
Margaret moved to sit next to me and brought my head down to lay on her shoulder. I didn’t fight her this time.“She was my best friend.”
“I know, Jace. I know.”
“I can’t be Alpha without her. I can’t do anything without her. How am I supposed to take care of an entire pack if I can’t even save my mate and parents?” I cried out. It wasn’t fair. It just wasn’t fair.
“You have so many people to help you figure it out. You’re not alone, Jace. You never have been.”
We sat there silently for a few more minutes before Margaret said, “I’m sorry I haven’t been there for you.”
I took my head off her shoulder. “It’s fine. I should be able to take care of myself.”
“Everyone needs help every once and awhile. And that’s okay.” She put her hand on my knee. “I think I was mourning. Mourning the loss of my sister who I loved so much and then the loss of her mate, a man who was so kind hearted and was always so nice to me.” I looked at her and she gave me a kind smile. “I was hiding from anything that reminded me of them. And that’s why I stayed away from the pack, from you and your sister. I’m sorry that I wasn’t there for you.”
“It’s oka-” I began to say.
“No, it’s not okay. But I promise to be there for you now. Whatever you need, I’m here.” She squeezed my knee. I smiled and nodded. “Okay, so let’s make a deal then.”
I rose an eyebrow at her.
“You promise that you’ll come visit me at least once every two weeks and I’ll promise... to never make that hazelnut coffee for you ever again. That sound good?”
“You don’t wanna come visit me and see the pack?” I asked. She hadn’t been there in two years. Surely she missed it.
“There are some people in the pack who I have severed ties with and have told me they never wish to see me again so I think it’s best if I stay where I am,” she stated sadly. “But I would be willing to meet you halfway.”
“Okay,” I said. “That sounds good.”
“And next time, will you wear some actual shoes?” I looked down at my socks and sandals. “I know you’re a werewolf and can’t feel cold, but that doesn’t make it any less disturbing as a mother.”
“But they’re easy to put on.”
Margaret just glared at me.
I laughed. “Yeah, I’ll try my best.”