I stood with my arms crossed over my chest. My hip was slightly cocked and I glared at the toxic triplets as they tried their hardest to intimidate me.
Intimidate me? The future Shifter Queen, the future ruler of the Underworld, the fated mate of Hades? Pfft, good luck to them!
“Stay. Away. From. Our. Brother!”
Scout put extra emphasis on the word ‘our’, just in case I hadn’t been aware that Felix was their property, not mine. But he wasn’t their property at all, he was their little brother and he was my best friend.
“What are you going to do about it?” I snapped.
Matilda took a step towards me, she was taller than me and used this as an advantage as she looked down on me menacingly. I rolled my eyes. The girl, regardless of being nearly three years older than me, was a twig. All three of them were. They were tall, lanky, supermodel wannabes and thought they were the Goddess’s gift to men.
We could snap them like a twig without even breaking a sweat.
I smirked at Lynx’s words. She was right, I would snap them all like twigs with my eyes closed and my hands tied behind my back…right before my mother flogged the shit out of me.
“What am I going to do about it?” Matilda hummed, making a tutting sound and looking around, “Hmmm. Your little sister starts high school next year, right? One word and we could ruin her. Don’t tempt me, Claudia”
I clenched my jaw, the sounds of my teeth grinding filling up the space around us. Charlie cringed at the noise and Scout, maybe from seeing how pissed off I was, took a hesitant step back.
“You wouldn’t dare,” I hissed.
Fucking sour-faced bitch!
“Felix is my best friend, that’s all!”
Charlie snorted and my gaze moved past Matilda to her.
“Bullshit” she grunted, “If you were just friends then why was he in his room crying all night after he got home from hanging out with you?”
I blinked several times, with what I could imagine being a dumb look on my face. This was news to me.
“Crying?” I echoed.
Scout nodded and crossed her arms over her chest to mirror my pose.
“Yeah. Something happened, we’re not stupid, Claudia. What did you do to Felix?”
I hadn’t done anything! We’d hung out like we did most afternoons after work. We sat by the creek and threw pebbles into the water. Felix even walked me home…which was different, he never used to walk me home. In saying that…he had seemed a bit odd when he was saying goodbye. It had been awkward.
“Nothing happened. I would never do anything to upset Felix. He’s my friend”
Matilda groaned and dropped her head back dramatically. For someone that was nearly twenty-three years old, she hadn’t matured since she was a teenager.
“Claudia. Like I said before, do I have to spell it out for you? Felix turns twenty tomorrow. He is a hot-blooded male wolf. You are a hot-blooded female…whatever you are. You spend all day with him. Day in and day out. Perhaps he doesn’t look at you the way you still look at him”
My brows knitted together as I took in what Matilda was saying. What was she saying? That Felix didn’t see me as his best friend anymore. Maybe because he was verging on his first shift he had outgrown our friendship. Perhaps he was bored…
Perhaps he wants more…
“No. Ha! It’s Felix! We don’t…He doesn’t…No. You’ve got it wrong” I stammered.
“Goddess damn it, Claudia!” Charlie barked, “Felix is fucking obsessed with you, he has been since he was about sixteen. Clearly you did something last night that made it obvious to him you didn’t feel the same way and now he’s heartbroken. Stay away from him!"
My mouth opened and closed several times but no words came out. I didn’t know what to say. If Felix’s sisters were telling the truth then how had I been so blind?
“Excuse me” I finally managed to spit out, “I have to go”
With that barely audible departing not, I was gone. I could faintly make out one of the sisters mutter ‘good riddance’ and I high-tailed it towards home.
The day after tomorrow I would be twenty years old. In the human world this milestone meant absolutely nothing, but in the shifter world…It meant everything.
I would experience my first shift and the connection between my animals and I would be complete. No longer would Lynx just be a sassy little voice in my head, but she would be part of me. She would control my animals and I would finally be able to reach my full power and potential. I felt like I’d been waiting for this day forever. I just wanted to get it over and done with.
In saying that, though…I wasn’t just your average shifter. I was a tribrid, a Shifter Queen and…a future Goddess. That’s right, a Goddess! As everyone so keenly liked to remind me, I was important. It was written in the stars, or some crap like that, my mother’s first living child would become the next God or Goddess. Talk about pressure. My mother and father had tried to hide this fate from me for so long but when it became obvious to all the kids at school that I was somewhat different, they finally sat me down and explained to me what Atropos had told them on my first birthday…well, a version of it anyway.
Eleven years ago…
“Kids can be arseholes”
“What?” my father grunted, looking in my mother’s direction, “They can be!”
My mother’s face softened as she turned back to me, stroking my hair as she sat next to me on my bed. I’d been sent home from school, my teacher sending my father an apologetic mind link to let him know I was suspended until further notice. I watched her face pale and her body tremble when she’d received her Alpha’s not-so-warm response. I would have hated to be in her shoes.
“Claudia. I know it’s hard” my mother soothed, “Kids can be cruel but you are so powerful and amazing, you need to concentrate on ignoring them instead of letting your anger get the better of you”
“I can’t help it, Mumma! They made fun of me because I was talking to Lynx. I keep forgetting to talk to her in my head, not out loud. Then they said I was crazy and weird…I didn’t do it on purpose! I promise. It just…happened”
My father sighed and sat next to Mum on the bed. My body rolled into them as the mattress dipped and groaned under Dad’s weight. I giggled and his face lit up.
“There’s that smile. Baby girl, you are not crazy or weird. You are so bloody special, to us and to the whole shifter world. These other kids can’t see that now but they will one day and they will love you unconditionally”
I nodded at dad’s words and shuffled up so my head was resting higher on my pillow.
“Yes, my darling?”
“Did you ever make someone…disappear?”
My mother paused for a moment and I knew by the look on her face and dad’s that they were taking through the link.
“Stop doing that!” I cried, “Talk to me!”
“No. I haven’t” She answered calmly. My mother paused again before taking in a deep breath and letting it out slowly, “Claudia. There is something that your father and I need to tell you. We weren’t planning on telling you until you were a bit older but I think now is probably time…after today’s events”
I swallowed dryly and looked between my parents. They appeared nervous and I knew from the rapid beat of their hearts that whatever they were going to tell me was huge. Maybe I would finally have an answer as to why I was so different from all my friends, or the reason I had so few kids that wanted to be friends with me.
“You, my dear, are beyond special. Zeus himself handpicked you, before you were even born, for a very important task indeed”
“Zeus!?” I blurted, cutting my mother off.
The God of Gods! I’d read about him in all my Goddess-Mother’s books. Moira’s library was way better than the one at school and my favorite things to read about were Gods and Goddesses. I couldn’t believe Zeus had chosen me…me…for something.
Wait till Felix hears about this!
“Yes, Zeus-” my mother continued.
I noticed the muscles tick in my father’s jaw at the mention of the deity’s name and it gave me the feeling that he didn’t share the same love of Zeus as I did.
“-You see, when you turn twenty, you’ll experience so much more than just your first shift. You have another level of power inside you, power which you experienced today, that is just waiting for you to harness it in full. You…my love…have the power of the Gods within you”
“Really?” I breathed; my eyes wide as I stared back at my parents in disbelief.
The Luna and Alpha almost looked sad. I couldn’t understand why, as I was ecstatic!
“Yes, really,” my father confirmed.
“But why? What does Zeus need me to do? What’s my special task?”
“He needs your help running one of his realms”
“Which one?!” I was almost jumping out of my skin now; it was as if all my Christmases had come at once.
My mother patted my shoulder and gave it a little squeeze.
“When you’re a bit older we will tell you more, there is still a lot that we don’t understand, but at least now you know that you are not crazy or weird. Now, Daddy is going to have a chat with your teacher and you are going to go stay with Uncle Flynn and Auntie Fern in Point Invictus for a few weeks. Flynn is going to help you control some of that power and then when the new school term starts, you’ll be ready to jump back in. Sound good?”
The only person cooler than Zeus was Uncle Flynn – I’d never tell Zeus that though…if I ever saw him.
“Yay! I’ll pack my bag right now!”
I stormed up the stairs of the packhouse and went straight to my room. I knew my mother had heard me come home and I gave it ten seconds before she sensed my foul mood.
“Claudia? Are you ok?”
My bedroom door opened and my stunning mother stepped inside, her beautiful blue eyes searching my face.
Three seconds. Damn, she is good.
“Yes. No…I don’t know. Aghhh!”
I groaned and threw myself back on my bed, then waited for the mattress to dip as my Luna came to join me. Without a second’s hesitation, my mother joined me, her body flopping down next to mine on the bed. We both stared up at the ceiling for a few minutes in silence before her fingers felt around and entwined themselves in mine.
“I’m all ears, when you’re ready”
“Does Felix like me more than just a…friend?” I asked hesitantly.
Mum sighed and squeezed my hand.
Shit. That’s a yes if I’ve ever heard one.
“He loves you, he always has. But yes, I think as you’ve grown older his feelings have developed into something more, I wasn’t sure if he’d ever say anything to you though”
“Well, he knows what your future holds”
“You mean Hades?”
That was fair. I had a fated mate out there, I’d never met him before but I still remembered that day my parents broke the news that I was fated to the God of the Underworld. Suddenly the whole ‘hand picked by Zeus’ gig was seeming like a punishment rather than a dream.
“So did he try to kiss you or did he tell you that he liked you more than just a friend?”
“Neither. His sisters told me”
“Ah,” my mother answered.
She knew how difficult the triplets could be. They’d been like that since birth, apparently. The girls had always been jealous of my abilities. They had power too, they were wolf-mage hybrids afterall and the daughters of Fern Creek’s Beta, but they had absolutely nothing on me.
“They are protective of Felix and that will never change, I guess they just don’t want to see him get hurt. Ignore them though, after tomorrow that boy is going to have a lot more than just you on his mind, trust me”