I wake up in a cold sweat and look around until the room slowly begins to become familiar in the eerie blue early morning light. The sun has yet to rise, but there’s no going back to sleep after that dream, or should I say memory? I think it’s a memory, but I’m not completely sure. I have no idea how young I was when the dream first started, but it has faded over time.
I toss the covers and pad to the shower to get the sticky clammy feeling off of my skin. The hot water helps to calm me, but my mind continues to race thinking over the dream. I crack my neck under the water as the steam fills the room. My hands are still shaking as I hold them up and look them over. I bring forth my power, but it’s not the same as in the dream, it feels different. The white glow fades back into the palms of my hands and I let out a deep breath.
I wash my hair and body then decide on getting dressed. The sun is up but it’s a cool day so I dress in a sports bra, sweater, and leggings. After blowing my hair dry, I put it into a long braid. The house is quiet, but I know it won’t be for long. Dr. Mason’s shift at the hospital starts soon. He’s going in early because Kya is coming home today.
Kya is my Luna, but she is also my mentor. Over the summer she and Dr. Mason worked with me to hone my healing abilities. She’s like the sister I never had. That’s why I’m living in Kya’s old bedroom with the Mason’s now. They treat me as close to family as an orphan can get. Dr. and Mrs. Mason are better to me than my parents ever where. I even have scars to prove it.
Dr. Mason is pouring a cup of coffee as I enter the kitchen. “Morning, Honeybee. Another nightmare?”
“Yeah. Did I wake you?” I’ve been having these nightmares periodically. They’ve both awaken me out of them a few times.
“Oh no. I had to get up anyway. Would you like me to fix your headache?” I always have a headache after I have them. He always offers to help, but I always turn him down. I don’t know why I do, I trust him, but when his healing combines with mine, it makes my skin crawl. The same happens with Kya and it’s even worse when she uses Alpha Redd’s power. I had to suck it up when I first started practicing healing, but as I got better controlling my power, I no longer needed to rely on theirs.
“I’ll be alright, thank you.”
“Kya will be here today, so I’m going to get an early start at the hospital.” He sips his coffee then drops two slices of bread into the toaster.
“I’m so excited to see her, I’ve missed her. Do you need me to help get everything ready?” I ask as I pour a cup for myself.
“Chelsea will need all the help she can get. We’re going to have a pretty big crowd. Alpha Ramirez, his Beta, and his sister will be joining us along with Mark and his family, Troy and Regina, and Chase and Alana. If you want to invite any of your friends over, that would be fine. You work tomorrow, right?” His toast pops up and he butters it then adds cinnamon and sugar. I had never seen that before coming to live with them, but I’m hooked. He hands me a slice and I take a seat at the table.
“Yeah. Jason is going to pick me up.” Jason is one of the strays, that’s what we call our little group, the whole pack has caught on to our nickname too. Jason has also been my best friend since we met. We work together at the diner that just opened up in the South West corner of the territory. He bought a beat up old truck as soon as he could and has become the designated driver for the rest of the strays. The diner has quickly become a popular hang out for our pack, but humans frequent it so we have to be on our best behavior.
I took the job because I wanted to get out of the mandatory training, while still pulling my weight for the pack. I stall have to attend weekend training, which starts in about an hour. I wonder if Alpha Redd will be there or not? I hope not. He’s a great Alpha and he saved our lives and everything, but he’s harder on me when it comes to training. He knows I hate it, but he still pushes me.
“I gotta get going, Honeybee.” Dr. Mason kisses the top of my head with a one armed hug. I look up at him with a smile at the care he has for me.
“Yeah, I have to get to training. I’ll see you later.” He waves with his go mug in his hand. I head upstairs and grab my change of clothes. I leave early, having no desire to hang around an empty house.
Of all the strays, Virgil, Jason and I are the oldest. We all turned 16 just after arriving in this pack. First Virgil, then Jason a month after Virgil. I’m a week later so the three of us are pretty tight. “Hey, Nat.” Virgil calls out. He and Jason wait for me to catch up to them and we walk to the training facility. They both still live in the pack house. I miss living there, but I love the sense of family that I get from the Mason’s.
Jason holds the door for me and my mood dampens. Alpha Redd cocks his brow at me, I guess he can feel my disappointment. “Nat. You’ll be working with me today. We’re in human form.”
I swallow then nod. “Yes, Sir.”
Jason and Virgil give me sympathetic looks. They never work one-on-one with him or Beta Chase for that matter, but I do… a lot. I don’t get it. Why do they have to single me out? I drop my bag and pull off my sweater. The guys join me for a quick jog to get warmed up. By the time we get three laps in, the rest of our age group trickles in and begins their laps. Virgil, Jason and I get an extra two laps in then make way to the mats. Virgil teams up with Chad, a monster of a man that should age out of our group soon, while Jason teams up with Able.
Alpha Redd leads me to the back of the room and Beta Chase watches over the training. Bruno shows up just before I get into position, great. “Focus, Nat. I know you hate this, but it’s for your own good.” Alpha Redd tells me then quickly gets me into a choke hold from behind. He’s stretching my neck, but I know damn well he’s hardly using any strength. “Come on, Nat. Get out of this. You know how, just put your knowledge into action.” I grunt as I strain against his arm. His grip slightly tightens and breathing gets more difficult. I strain against his arm, but it does no good.
Alpha, please. I can’t do this.
“Yes, you can, Nat. I know you can. You have to trust your knowledge and put it to work.” I grip his wrist and side step. “Keep going. Come on, Nat.” I send an elbow to his gut, but he backs up so my strike does nothing. Tears begin to cloud my eyes and darkness begins to set in. Alpha Redd lets go of me and I fall to the floor. I look up to Beta Chase, Bruno, and Alpha Redd looking down on me. Alpha Redd shakes his head. “Switch it up." He calls out to everyone. Bruno pulls me to my feet then takes Alpha Redd’s place.
Alpha Redd crosses his arms over his chest as he watches on. Bruno attacks head on. I dodge a few attempts, but he gets me to the ground with his elbow across my throat. Natalie, you’re not getting up unless you get him off of you. Alpha Redd tells me. “BRUNO. DON’T LET HER UP.”
His Alpha command hits Bruno and his arm gets heavier on my throat. I’m so fucked. I kick my legs, but nothing happens. “I’m sorry, sweetie.” Bruno whispers. I know it’s not his doing. Panic is beginning to set in.
Natalie. Lock your elbows and get control of his arm. Focus. You can do it. Alpha’s voice enters my mind and I do as told. Good. Now get your legs around his. I struggle for a minute, but do as instructed. I push Bruno’s arm and flip us over. I get to my feet then grip my knees and catch my breath. Alpha Redd gives me a nod. “I knew you could do it.” He yells for everyone to switch and I’m done. I walk off of the mat and grab my bag. “Natalie!” Alpha Redd calls out. I ignore him and walk through the door and to the woods outside.
I drop my bag and let my power out on the nearest tree in frustration. My palms turn blue and the tree burns where I touch it. I let out more force and the tree begins to whither until it falls to the ground. I let go of my power and try to catch my breath as I slowly begin to calm. An arm grips my throat from behind and my frustration quickly returns.
Please, Alpha. You know I can’t do it. Tears pool in my eyes and his breath calms. He lets me go and sits on the fallen log.
“That’s the thing, Natalie, you can do it, you just don’t like to. I know it’s hard for healers to fight, Kya is my mate for fuck sake, I know how hard it is, I get it. Healers have to fight, sometimes even more than other pack members. But this isn’t fighting, it’s defense. I’m trying to protect you, Natalie.”
I shake my head and wipe a tear away. “Protect me from what? You’ve already brought me into your pack, and I’m grateful, but Alpha, you single me out. I’m the only one in our age group that you spar with, if you can even call me consistently failing, sparring.”
Alpha Redd pulls me into a comforting hug. “I’m not trying to single you out. I know you think that. You have to understand, you’re a natural healer.”
“I know what I am.” I shove out of his embrace, which in actually he lets me.
“Then you know how big a target that makes you.” I knit my brows having no clue what he’s talking about. “Natalie, natural healers are rare, you know that, right?” I nod and wipe at my face. “There are so few of you that no other pack this side of the Mississippi has one, but my pack has three. I purposely haven’t told anyone about you because they would want to take you to their pack, maybe even force a mating. Do you get it now? Besides your mate, I’m the only one that will protect you, which is why you need to learn to protect yourself.”
My tears fall and this time I let him comfort me in his powerful arms. “I’m sorry, Dec. I had no idea.”
He pulls back and keeps me at arms length. “I’m sorry it makes you uncomfortable. I do know how you feel, I feel it every time Kya trains. But that discomfort is not enough to keep me from doing my job as your Alpha.” He wipes my cheeks. “I care about your safety. I care about you, Nat. I feel each and every one of my pack members.” Alpha Redd gets to his feet and looks around scratching his head. “I don’t remember this log being here.” He whispers to himself then looks back to me. “I’m going to get Kya. She’ll be joining us in the training room tomorrow. I’ll let you work with her on your self defense. I’ll see you later, Nat.” Alpha Redd stalks away and I look at the tree. How did I do that? I pull my power to my palms and the white light glows until I let my power fade away.