“Tessa, let’s go! It’s time for training,” a voice echoed up the stairs, but Tessa was lost in thought, glaring into the swollen, red eyes of her reflection.
“An Alpha must be strong,” she repeated under her breath, hoping the mantra would erase all of her sadness and self-doubt. “It’s almost been a year. Your family might be gone, but your pack needs you,” she reasoned, wiping the tears away.
In order to prove she was strong enough to claim her birthright as the pack’s next Alpha, her focus had to be on the long, hard road of challenges ahead and not stuck in the past. Her father’s influence was gone and Tessa knew she needed to surpass everyone’s expectations with the little help she had left.
“John is outside and it's rude to keep him waiting,” her Grandmother shouted again, sounding very impatient.
“Coming,” Tessa called out, brushing the lingering tears from her cheeks before racing out of her room and down the stairs. “I’d be lost without you, Gran,” she smiled gratefully, giving her Grandmother a quick kiss goodbye before rushing out the door.
“What happened? Bad hair day or something,” John scoffed, glaring at his watch, then at her with his shallow eyes.
“At least I have hair,” Tessa thought, biting her tongue to fight the urge to speak her mind. She knew it was only a few minutes past six a.m, but his comment and attitude bothered her more than his disapproval of her running a little late.
“Ignore it for now,” she thought, taking calming breaths as she followed him to the office in the packhouse. He was still her Beta and the only person who could teach her the ins and outs of pack politics. Not getting along with him was nothing new, but her father entrusted him to watch over his family so it counted for something.
After hours of reviewing contracts, and listening to conference calls, Tessa peered at the clock and saw it was finally time for combat training. She rushed out of the stuffy office until she reached the open fields where her Uncle Tyler was waiting.
“Keep your guard up or you’ll be running laps around the border until morning,” he growled after Tessa took a right hook to the jaw. She wiped the blood from her lip with a smile and charged ahead.
“Today is the last time I’ll be knocked to the ground,” she thought, using her new determination to take down her Uncle.
“I’m not interested in spending time with girls my own age, Gran. The only wolves I need are my Beta and Gamma,” she assured her worried Grandmother after telling her she dropped out of school to finish at home.
Tessa’s classmates were intimidated by her strong aura and began fearfully avoiding her like the plague, but she didn’t care. She was excited to dedicate her free time to continue training the younger pups how to fight.
She loved the way their expressions shined with excitement after winning a sparring match. Their smiling faces brought up memories of her younger brother and being able to feel his presence among the group meant more to her than anything.
“If we all work hard, Blue Ridge can be the strongest pack in the region,” she proudly declared, drilling her values into the minds of all her fellow warriors. Her ambition motivated others to learn how to fight. Everyone young and old, men and women became determined to know how to defend themselves.
By the time her 17th birthday grew near, Tessa’s training paid off and she became undefeated in human form, even against the strongest warriors. She broke every record held during the Warrior exam and no one dared to dispute her claim as Alpha. The sheer pride, loyalty, and respect she felt coming from her warriors overshadowed the girl who used to cry alone in her room until she became a distant memory.
“Now all I need is my wolf,” she smiled with hope shining in her eyes.
One night, Tessa heard a clear conversation between John and her Grandmother coming from the kitchen. “Do you think she can handle all of this alone,” she heard her Grandmother whisper, but it sounded like she was beside her in the bedroom.
“Who knows. I think we’d better pray she finds her mate soon. A strong male figure is what this pack needs,” John mumbled and Tessa became enraged. She reached for her doorknob, ready to rush downstairs and curse him out when she crushed the metal knob in her hand like a piece of paper.
“What the hell,” she thought, examining her palm.
Catching a glimpse of her reflection, Tessa rushed to her mirror and noticed her once dark hazel eyes were glowing. Her wavy honey blonde hair was thicker, her skin was clearer and she suddenly felt the urge to be outside.
Rushing out the door, Tessa was met by a gorgeous full moon hanging low in the sky. She became wrapped in a warm, peaceful sensation until her first bone snapped in her shoulder and a searing pain overtook her body.
Tessa wanted to scream but forced it back. “An Alpha must be strong,” she repeated in her mind like a prayer.
She could feel her Grandmother and John rush to her side. Both were shouting words of encouragement and comfort, but Tessa couldn’t make them out over the sound of her bones breaking and blood rushing in her ears like a storm. Her vision blurred as she fell forward to the ground, shifting for the first time.
When she opened her eyes she saw the world in a new light. Her body was sore as she stood tall, digging her claws into the dirt, but she felt a pleasant connection with the earth and the need to run calling her name.
Before taking off for the woods, Tessa felt a presence at her side and found John staring at her with wide eyes. He seemed surprised by her enormous towering frame which fueled the flames of Tessa’s pride. She knew she didn’t need a male by her side.
“Alpha,” he whispered, stepping back to bow his head in respect. Tessa huffed her approval then walked off into the woods where she picked up the pace.
After a few blissful hours of running, Tessa relaxed by the lake near her home. Her reflection was breathtaking with her eyes glowing brightly in the moonlight. The feeling of peace returned to her body when she laid down and closed her eyes to finish making the sacred connection with her wolf.
“Deep breaths, in and out,” Tessa thought as she relaxed. It didn’t take long for her to hear a low growl resonate within the back of her mind.
She took a breath again and patiently waited until her wolf’s sultry voice entered her mind. “We are finally one,” her wolf softly said.
Tessa released a powerful howl to the moon as thanks to the Moon Goddess for this blessing. The peaceful forest erupted with a joyous response from her pack and her mind link was flooded with congratulations. It was finally time to be the Alpha she was meant to be.