Six Months Later
I often thought back on the talk I had with Beta Ned. He was quite understanding about my situation, clearly seeing himself once in my position. While his words did nothing to lessen the pain, they helped me understand what to expect.
I would never feel true happiness--not the way I would if my mate had accepted me. Atlas would always carry a piece of my soul within him, tethering himself to me. Even accepting his rejection would not remove that piece of my soul. Accepting rejection would only dull the mate-bond, making the pain fade as quickly as it had come. There was no taking back that piece of your soul. Once the Moon Goddess picked two mates, they would remain mates for life.
Beta Ned asked why I had not fought for Atlas, why I had not tried something else instead of running away. I told him the truth--that I was weak and broke easily. He disagreed of course, but I already knew the truth. Beta Ned told me I might be better off accepting the rejection but can only do so in person.
Sometimes I whispered the words to myself before bed, building up the strength to say them should I ever meet Atlas again.
“I, Raelynn Tress--accept your rejection, Atlas Andino.”
The first hundred times my voice would break, and I would dissolve into tears. My heart ached, searching for the one I called mate.
* * * * *
The summer was just beginning in Northern California. The end of May was here, the intense heat just beginning. I was used to the unrelenting heat, spending my entire life in Texas helped me on that front.
I used Beta Ned’s advice, trying to manage the pain Atlas brought me daily. Even a thousand miles away, he still managed to get to me. I would still wake up at night, the invisible flames lapping at my skin. The thought of Atlas with someone else still hurt just as it had the day I left, but I no longer had the urge to scream. My face would no longer contort in agony when the painful flames came out of nowhere. I would simply lie in bed, waiting for the pain to finish.
I had not gotten stronger in the six months I had lived in Mom’s pack. I was still the same Raelynn as I had always been. My friends called me Rae, something that finally grew on me. They were the only ones I had let call me by my new nickname, as if I had a choice in the matter.
Nicki had begged and pleaded with me to start training, claiming it was the most fun she has ever had in her life. I could not help but think how funny it was. Nicki was your typical preppy girl. Heels, skirts, handbags were her passions. Yet she was an absolute beast when it came to fighting. You would never be able to see it judging from looks alone, but Nicki was one of the top twenty warriors in the entire pack.
I resisted her plea’s to train, claiming I did not have a violent bone in my body. I was right, at first.
After all, violent people are created by their surroundings, by the things they experience in life.
After awhile Nicki relented, but she would constantly bring up how this pack needed new warriors. The Night Walker pack produced the best werewolf warriors in the world. They often sent the finished recruits to other packs. The warriors would train other werewolves or help protect the packs against rogues and the occasional vampire.
That meant our pack was subject to quite a few rogue attacks. They were never anything serious. The most rogues we had attack were three, and their training was severely lacking from what I heard. Being the future Alpha, Liam was always the first on scene. He trained with the other warriors, something I admired.
Liam and I had grown much closer, just as my Mom and Beta Ned had. Mine and Liam’s friendship always teetered on the edge of more. We both had an unspoken truth between us.
I could never love Liam the way we both needed—and Liam had a mate out there in the world, destined to meet her someday.
I was not sure if I could ever physically be with someone other than my mate, but that did not stop the thought from crossing my mind. Liam left me breathless, but I chalked that up to his similarities with Atlas. Sometimes when the light hit his hair just right, I could almost mistake the two. Even six months later, it was still a struggle to not think that way.
Beta Ned and my Mom entered their own kind of relationship. Mom had even resumed her training, updating what she already knew. It was strange thinking of my Mom out there training, but she had been born here. It was unconventional, but it worked for them. They loved each other greatly but lacked the physicality of normal relationships. I think they use each other for support, as they’re without their mates. My mom, with her mate dying many years ago and Beta Ned, his mate rejecting him in his youth. Neither could ever fully love the other, and yet they formed a bond.
Beta Ned never tried taking the place of my Dad but served more as a friend.
It was six months into my new life when everything changed.
I had always been so firmed in what I believed. Bad people were bad, good people were good. There was not an in-between. People never possessed both.
Some were born strong, meant to lead. Other’s were born weak, meant to follow.
I was secure in my beliefs, never once having a reason to doubt them.
It was just a normal day. I had just gotten out of school. Liam and the rest of our friends took me to one of the diners in town. We laughed and talked about life. Nicki complained about some of the people in the training course. Dustin and Kris made childish jokes while Tyra rolled her eyes at them.
Only Liam, Nicki, Dustin and Kris were in the training program. In the Night Walker pack, training is optional. Many werewolves go through the training program regardless, wanting to defend their pack.
Tyra, much like me, didn’t have an aptitude for fighting. She had three older brothers, all in top twenty pack warriors. Her family never expected her to carry on the tradition. If anything, her family treated her as dainty. She was their only daughter, and she enjoyed the special treatment.
Nicki had quickly surpassed her twin brother in the training ranks, but he never minded. Dustin rarely took anything seriously, but he was still a formidable warrior.
It was tradition for the Alpha of the pack to hold number one in the rankings, something Liam prided himself on. Every weekend there would be fighting matches, other werewolves would fight against Liam for the number one ranking. Each time he managed to come out on top.
We left the diner after stuffing ourselves with food, heading back to Liam’s house as we had for the last six months.
The weekend was rolling around the corner. I had spent nearly every weekend with my group of friends, but it hadn’t grown old yet.
The five of them brought light to my bad situation and made me forget about it for the time being. Nicki and Tyra would pull me into their fashion related arguments while Dustin and Kris would crack jokes. Liam could always tell when something was wrong, being the one I confided in the most.
After six months I had told all of them the truth. They each knew why I was here. For once, even Dustin and Kris stopped making jokes. Everyone knew how serious being rejected was, but they never treated me any differently. Even when I felt torn in two, Liam reminded me I wasn’t broken.
“I think she should wear the plaid skirt Monday.” Nicki scoffed, giving Tyra a hard look.
The five of us were piled in Liam’s gaming room. I was struggling to play some first-person shooter game, but Nicki kept dragging me into her argument.
“That skirt is going to show her entire backside.” Tyra rolled her eyes, “What she needs is that cute dress I had her pick out.”
“Rae!” Nicki whined, “Rae will agree with me. She loved the black skirt I got for her last week.”
“Why don’t you let me pick?” I snickered, grimacing at the screen as Liam shot my character.
Liam spun around in his chair, a sly grin on his face.
“There’s no way were letting you pick.” Tyra shook her head, her curls bouncing in every direction.
“Yeah, not happening.” Nicki shook her head.
“If you two can agree on that, you should be able to agree on what I’ll wear Monday.” I rolled my eyes, but I couldn’t help the amused grin that formed on my face.
Nicki and Tyra bickered constantly, but that was how they showed their feelings. The two of them were like an old married couple.
“Y’know, I don’t appreciate your attitude.” Nicki scoffed, turning her head to look at Tyra.
“I’m gonna have to agree.” Tyra nodded, giving Nicki a sly smile.
“Don’t you two dare.” I warned, glaring at the TV screen.
Liam, Kris, and Dustin had been trying to teach me this game for months. They needed four players on their team, but Nicki and Tyra couldn’t stop bickering long enough to learn. In six months, I hadn’t gotten any better at the stupid game.
A startled yelp left my lips as Tyra and Nicki jumped on the bean bag I sat on. It was one of those giant bean bags that fits up to five people. The sudden motion sent me rolling to the side, nearly falling off.
All at once our eyes fogged over as the mind-link clicked in our head.
“Rogues at the Southern Border.” Liam’s Dad snapped through the mind-link. There was panic and fury in his voice. “At least three hundred. All warriors get to the Southern Border.”
Confusion swirled around the room, thick and pungent. There had never been an attack of this magnitude before. Vampires and Rogues were always gunning for this pack, wanting to wipe out the pack that produces strong warriors.
“What’s happening?” Tyra was the first to speak up, pulling herself from the bean bag.
“I don’t—I don’t know.” Liam had the same look on his face. “Dad should’ve heard something about this. There’s never been an attack this large before.”
For once, I was the only one not in a confused stupor.
“Well get down there!” I snapped at the four of them.
For just a minute, they looked shocked at my outburst. My face flushed red, but I didn’t stand down.
“Rae.” Liam frowned, “He’s calling all warriors. Your Mom’s gonna be there.”
Liam was right, my Mom would be there. The thought made my blood run cold.
I wasn’t one for acts of bravery or spontaneity, but I couldn’t comprehend the thought of my Mom’s life in danger. I felt helpless and alone. There was nothing I could do here.
Liam, Dustin, Kris, and Nicki left the house and shifted in the woods. They let their paws carry them to the southern border.
“I don’t know what’s going through your head, but I don’t think I’m gonna like it.” Tyra shook her head, her lips pulling down in a frown.
“Isn’t the preschool near the southern border?” I frowned, “Aren’t their families and houses down there?”
“There are.” Tyra nodded. Her house was near the Southern Border as well. “But Liam and the rest of the warriors can handle this.”
She didn’t sound convincing. Her voice was unsure, her eyebrows kitting together.
“I think we should go down there.” I gulped, fear flooding my stomach. Fear chilled my blood and sent it rushing through my veins.
I was growing antsy just sitting here. My fingers twitched and tapped against my thigh; my lip raw from being picked at. With an attack this size, they needed all the help they could get.
“I don’t thin we should go down there.” Tyra shook her head again.
We both knew it was the right thing to do, and yet we remained still. Fear does that to people, turns them into cowards. Or perhaps they were always cowards to begin with, it just took a heaping dose of fear to make them truly realize it.
‘I think we should go.’ Lila repeated my words from earlier and urged me to make the first move.
“I’m going.” I told Tyra; my voice much stronger than I expected. “I’m going to stay out of sight and keep behind buildings. I have to do something to help.”
“I guess that mean’s I’m coming with you.” Tyra sighed, slipping her jacket over her should