I hadn’t realized my mother, father and Sabrina had made their way outside at the sound of the black sedan pulling into the drive way. I could hardly contain my excitement at my brother’s return home. I thought fluttered to the forefront of my mind that gave me some semblance of hope; maybe my brother would help me skip this horrid ball. If anyone understood my absolute disliking to the thought of having a mate, it was my brother, Derek. The thought made my stomach flutter with happiness, and my wolf grumble angrily.
My wolf, Sierra, only wanted what was best for me. She protected and supported me more than even Derek did, but that doesn’t mean we see eye to eye all of the time. Sierra believes it would change my life to have a mate, I happen to agree with her on that front. I know that finding a mate will destroy what bits of me I have stowed away for myself. Having a mate will strip all of that from me and more, and leave me nothing more than some man’s play toy and child incubator. The thought of some strange man touching me again made me shudder in fear.
“You alright Claire?” Brandon asked, running a hand through his sandy blonde hair. A look of concern crossed over his face and I stifled a sigh.
“Yeah, I’m just a little chilly.” I shrugged, keeping my eyes locked on the black sedan.
Finally, after what felt like an hour, the door to the sedan opened and out stepped my brother. The two of us locked eyes as huge grins broke out on our face. As my brother approached me I took a good look at his face. He practically glowed with happiness as he made his way towards me. He had the same blonde hair that my mother and sister had, his build had gotten bigger over the months and I wasn’t surprised to find that he towered over me. My brother had always been quite lean like my mother, but he definitely had gained some muscle. He no longer looked gangly, he looked strong, just like a Beta should.
My brother ignored the rest of my family for the moment and wrapped me in his arms. With his extreme height he had to lift me off the ground so I could reach him. I breathed in his woodsy scent that always seemed to calm me and give me a level head when I needed it the most.
“Still staying strong I see.” My brother chuckled into my hair as he set my feet back on the ground.
“Aren’t I always?” I smirked, but he could see the truth in my eyes, Derek always could. A knowing smile played on his lips and I resisted the urge to confess all of my worries to him right there on the spot. Derek always had this calming energy about him, he made you feel like no problem was too big, like you could solve just about anything with a clear head. I wished I could take some piece of that calmness with me wherever I went.
A growl rang out from across the lawn and I quickly took a step away from Derek in shock. A beautiful, tall brunette came out of the sedan with a shocked expression on her face. I scolded myself as I remembered that new mates can become extremely jealous at the smallest thing. I resisted the urge to snap at her, reminding myself that not everyone is miserable at the thought of having a mate.
“Relax Amber, she’s my sister!” Derek called over to her, making a light pink blush form on her cheeks. I watched as she made our way over to us. Amber, my brothers new mate, was beautiful. Her brown hair and brown eyes resembled melted chocolate, as well as the sprinkle of freckles that adorned her face. While she happened to be tall, she was still much shorter than Derek, and had an athletic figure.
“I am so sorry! I don’t know what came over me.” She said to me, sounding breathless, her chocolate eyes met my blue ones and she smiled apologetically.
“It’s all good. I’m Claire.” I replied, wanting to get formalities out of the way.
I heard someone clear their throat and this time I did roll my eyes. Sabrina stepped forward and made her way up to Derek and Amber, her cold blue eyes roamed over Amber.
“Derek!” She squealed, giving him a long hug and Amber a pointed look. Could Sabrina be any more ignorant. While I hated the idea of having a mate, I cared if Derek was happy. If having a mate made Derek happy, then I already considered Amber a part of the family.
While Derek welcomed the rest of the family, I made my way over to Amber. Hazel and Brandon followed me after saying their hello’s to Derek as well. I could hear Derek telling mother and father the story of how he and Amber had met, a story that seemed to be quite interesting.
“Welcome to the family.” I smiled at her, and was surprised to see that her smile met her eyes.
“You don’t know how much I appreciate that. Derek talked about you loads, I could tell you’re important to him.” She replied, a look of relief crossing over her face. I could feel my face break out into a grin as well, knowing that no matter how the rest of my family feels, I’ll always have Derek. And now I’ll have Amber as well.
“See, having a mate isn’t so bad.” Sierra said smugly.
“Doesn’t make me want a mate either way.” I replied stubbornly, giving a mental shrug as Sierra huffed.
“Think the rest of your family will be as welcoming?” I heard Amber ask quietly as she snuck shy glances to the rest of my family. I looked on at them and watched as my father clapped Derek on the back, his face beaming with pride that someday he would have grandpups running around, continuing on the family line.
“That depends on how submissive you are.” I hear Hazel say, sarcasm dripping from her voice.
“I heard this pack was big on being submissive to your mate, but I didn’t believe it. Things aren’t like that in my pack, you’re more equals than anything.” She replied confused. I couldn’t help but be surprised at her words. I never noticed how other packs interact with their mates, so I couldn’t tell the difference either way.
“Don’t let them boss you around though.” I stated, my mouth set in a thin line.
“Sometimes men need their heads knocked straight.” Hazel laughed, giving Brandon a pointed look that caused him to raise his hands in surrender.
“Oh most definitely not.” Amber replied, a sly glint in her eyes which made me like her even more.
“I think were going to get along swimmingly.” I laughed along with Hazel.
After awhile of chatting amongst ourselves, my mother, father and sister began to head inside. Before the screen door shut I could hear my mother calling Derek and Amber inside, telling them to come grab some lunch. I took this chance to ask Derek about the idea that had formed in my mind, my desperate attempt to get out of attending this summers Moon Ball.
“Derek, before you go in can I talk to you?” I asked quickly, causing him to raise his eyebrow at my worried face.
“What’s up, something wrong?” Derek frowns at me, wrapping his arm around Ambers slender waist. I keep my eyes plastered on Derek’s face, trying to keep the blood from rushing to my face.
“The Moon Ball.. Sabrina told mother that I would try to skip out and now she won’t let me. Can you help me out? You know how I feel about all of that.” I tried to keep my voice even, but I couldn’t help the uneasy tone that had taken over. I watched as Amber frowned at me, then looked to Derek for an explanation. A knowing look flashed over Derek’s eyes as he recalled exactly what had happened that night.
“Claire..” Derek trailed off, his eyebrows closely knit together. I could tell that he was thinking long and hard about something.
“Could I speak to Claire alone.. if thats alright with you guys.” Derek asked, looking between Hazel and Brandon with a serious expression on his face.
“Yeah sure, were gonna be in my car down the street. When you’re done we can go shopping!” Hazel said smiling at me, but I could tell she was still confused.
“Do you mind if Amber stays?” Derek asked sincerely. I could tell by the look in his eyes that if I wanted him to send her inside, he would.
“..She can stay.” I nodded, instantly regretting my answer.
“Where to begin..” Derek trailed off, his hand coming up to run through his blonde hair. I noticed the gesture from my father, he would do the same thing when he was stressed out. Their hair seemed to be constantly a mess from all the times they run their hands through it. I kept my mouth shut and rolled my bottom lip in between my teeth, anxiety flooded through my veins as I anticipated what he was about to say.
“Claire.. I think finding a mate would help you.” Derek said slowly, a sad look coming over his face. I kept my eyes trained on his, not wanting to look at Amber’s confused gaze.
“Derek, it wouldn’t. I can’t give a mate what they want.” I replied adamantly, my arms snaking around my body as if I could protect myself from the words he was speaking.
“You might be surprised Claire.. Not everyone is like mom and dad. Your mate is made to love you, help you, and heal you. It could fix what’s been broken inside of you for so long.” Derek spoke softly, but the words didn’t lessen the blow of what he was saying. Why did everything have to come down to finding a mate. I felt as though I had no say in my life, what I wanted didn’t seem to matter, the only purpose I had was finding a mate.
“You’re wrong.” I said choked out, turning so they couldn’t see the tears that sprung to my eyes. “Tell mother I went shopping with Hazel.” I managed to shout as I turned and began walking down the street. Derek didn’t try to stop me, he knew that I needed some time right now.
Don’t cry, don’t cry. I chanted this to myself a hundred times, willing the tears to dry and fade from my eyes. After a few deep breaths, a headache, and a small pep talk, I made my way to Hazel’s red Ford Fusion that was parked down the road. I plastered a fake smile on my face as I hopped into the passenger seat, and ignored the confused stares from my friends. The knot in my stomach that was once forgotten, was now growing at an unprecedented rate.
“So.. he’s going to help you?” Hazel asked in a confused voice, her disappointment shining through her words. I ignored the stab of pain that made it’s way to my chest and answered honestly.
“No, he thinks finding a mate will be good for me. I disagree, but whatever. I’m just going to try to make the best of it, and if I happen to find an opening to escape then I will.” I shrugged as if it was no big deal, but in reality my insides were reeling.
“That means I’m going too then.” Brandon shrugged giving me a small smile. Something in his eyes seemed different, something was off. I tried to make a mental note to ask him about it when we were alone.
“Dress shopping it is!” Hazel shouted as she put her car in drive and slammed on the gas.